Thoughts, Words, Works

2012 Anime Mini-Review Rampage @

I did one last year; why not do it again? Even if I am a month late, here are a few words on everything I finished in the year 2012. Once again, scores are biased a little towards being higher because I don't always finish things I don't like. Sadly, this year looks like the year of sequels, with at most of half of the items not being derived from an existing property, but it's hard to argue with more of a good thing, so here we go:

Working'!! - In the perplexing new tradition of using punctuation to denote sequels, Working'!! picks up right where Working!! left off without missing a beat. The second series has few new characters, which leaves more time for developing the existing characters and their running gags. Definitely recommended. 8/10

Carnival Phantasm - A gag series for Type-Moon fans, filled with in-jokes from Tsukihime, Melty Blood, and Fate/stay night strung together in an eclectic collection of vignettes. Some of the gags are funnier than others, but your enjoyment will probably be directly proportional to how invested you are in the works parodied. I had a blast, but I can't promise the same experience for everyone. 7/10

Natsume Yuujinchou San - The third series in the Natsume Yuujinchou franchise is the weakest. The interactions between Natsume and his newfound friends (spirit or otherwise) are still fun to watch, but this season has the least on the line, ventures least from the routine, and features fewer fascinating side-characters. 6/10

Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Yonin to Idol - A bonus episode for Kami Nomi 2 bringing back girls from previous arcs for a band-vs-idol competition. Not very memorable, but it was a nice touch to revisit past story arcs. Obviously supplemental material. 5/10

The Secret World of Arietty - The only dub I watched all year was this theatrical release. Not bad overall, although the voice acting for the supporting characters was sort of wooden and not nearly as good as the dub for Howl's Moving Castle. It also had some weird choices for insert songs -- not that they were bad, but they really stood out as American in origin. The story was fun, but sort of lacking in depth. 6/10

Nisemonogatari - A sequel to Bakemonogatari focusing largely on the justice-serving "Fire Sisters" sibling duo. In general, it continues the fascinating, wordplay-prone and self-aware supernatural mystery plots of its predecessor while also revisiting the characters and ideas developed in the first series. A word of warning, the fanservice has been turned up several notches, which has unfortunate implications when the heroines are primarily the protagonist's sisters. (Or fortunate implications, if you're into that sort of thing, I guess.) 7/10

Chihayafuru - A combination sports drama and shojo romantic comedy, where the sport is competitive Karuta, a Japanese game about memorizing poems. While that combination may seem peculiar, the execution is excellent, with deep characters and a fascinating take on a niche game. The creator's love of Karuta is downright infectious. 7/10

Guilty Crown - With character designs by redjuice and music by ryo of Supercell, this show was supposed to be awesome, but the writers from Code Geass R2 showed up and instead decided to produce one of the most lazy, incoherent storylines ever: A guy with the power to make weapons of people's hearts joins the most generic terrorist organization ever to fight against the government's oppression after a near-apocalyptic space-virus epidemic. The result is something that's ironically enjoyable at its worst and just plain frustrating the rest of the time. 4/10

Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam - Gonzo's true return to animation was, luckily, a reminder of how the good the studio could be, not how terrible it could be. Perhaps not as magical as the first Last Exile series, the sequel was still a lot of fun throughout, with interesting politics, character development, and a surprisingly well-paced story.

Natsume Yuujinchou Shi - Luckily, the fourth Natsume Yuujinchou series picks up a bit after losing some steam in the third season. There are a couple especially nice episodes reaching into Natsume's past as well as some good stand-alone episodes that remind one of the first season. It's still not as good as the first season, but if you're still on board, it's worth a watch. 7/10

Eve no Jikan - A mysterious cafe where androids and humans can interact as equals. It's a little artsy-fartsy, but it asks big questions and does a fairly good job addressing them. And, as a series of shorts, it's only about the length of a feature film in total. (In fact, they later compiled the series into just that.) 7/10

Higashi no Eden - A pretty popular series a while back. Girl meets boy, boy has a phone that can buy anything, phone saves world. Unfortunately, it does a lackluster job of convincing anyone that the female protagonist is useful, and it stretches suspension of disbelief on credit it can't repay. A pretty fun watch so long as you don't expect to be fully satisfied by the ending, which is left open for two movies. 6/10

Higashi no Eden Movie 1: The King of Eden - The first of two Eden movies, this one leaves the story quite incomplete. It wasn't totally lacking, but it didn't exactly do the series justice. 5/10

Higashi no Eden Movie 2: Paradise Lost - The end of Eden of the East resolves many of the core questions at the series, but in doing so, makes you realize how sloppy the series's writing was. Likely to leave you feeling disillusioned about the entire franchise. 6/10

Kuttsukiboshi - This two-episode amateur anime about a lesbian with telekinesis is a little more than soft porn. At least it doesn't bite off more than it can chew, and ends nicely.

Shakugan no Shana III (Final) - The conclusion is Shana at its most pretentious, overwrought, and contradictory. It breaks up the formula with a fascinating dynamic between Yuuji and Shana, but milks it for no gain at length and finally culminates in a meaningless showdown full of new characters and abilities, all of which are underdeveloped. Good riddance. 5/10

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou - One of the original "iyashi-kei" stories, in a short two-episode OVA format. The daily life of an android in a peacefully declining world is sometimes poignant and sometimes a little amusing, and it heals the spirit just as its genre is supposed to. 7/10

Fate/Zero 2nd Season - The second half of the prequel Grail War picks up steam and doesn't slow down. A tour de force for Studio ufotable, it looks and sounds amazing, and delivers hope, tragedy, action, and introspection in monumental amounts. You don't need to like Fate/stay night to appreciate one of the best series of the year two years running, but if you do, you'll just like it more. 9/10

Haiyore! Nyaruko-san - A Nyaruko series with full-length episodes? Sure! It doesn't exactly venture out of the box much, although it has a plethora of fun, reference-full parodies and gag scenes. The shorts did a better job of expressing the Lovecraftian horror at play, but Nyaruko-san's full TV series was still a fun watch, and the opening theme is strangely addictive. (WOO! NYA!) 6/10

Hyouka: Motsubeki Mono wa - A disappointing side episode to Hyouka, which is reviewed a bit further down this list. This episode was basically an excuse for swimsuits, with a mystery so trivial that I found it more confusing why people had to think in order to solve it. 4/10

K-On!! Keikaku! - A OVA helping the transition between K-On!!'s second season and movie by having the girls get passports. It's basically just another episode, and not bad for that. 6/10

Code Geass: Boukoku no Akito 1 - The first part of the Akito the Exiled Geass spinoff is significantly darker than the first series, visually and emotionally. It's not a bad change, and the episode sets up for some good things, but it remains to be seen where it's going in the long run.

Hyouka - The epitome of low-tension mystery has a literature club solving puzzles like, "What is the origin of our club's name?" and "How was this student film supposed to end?" It's supposed to be something of a tribute to traditional whodunnits, but sometimes it feels more like a parody. Kyoto Animation brings their characteristically spectacular animation while the show secretly develops the character relationships throughout; it's something different. If you can slow down to its pace, you might love it; if not, you'll likely be bored. 6/10

Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita - The bizarro adventures of a declining humanity surrounded by mischievous fairies unfortunately peaks early, although the protagonist's dry wit makes it fun throughout. One thing that's easy to miss is that the story arcs are ordered reverse-chronologically. It's also not a show that's above building up for two episodes to a terrible pun. 7/10

K-On! Movie - While the light music club's trip to England is the focus of this movie, I was pleasantly surprised to find that its emotional core was more than that, and it did a wonderful job of addressing the end of the series and consequences thereof while keeping a light and goofy mood throughout. Not just the longest K-On! episode, it's also probably the best one. 7/10

Strike Witches the Movie - Like the K-On! movie, this one is basically just one big episode and follows the end of the second series, but due to where Strike Witches 2 left off, this one has to spend a bit more time getting the band back together. When it finally does, there's not much time before the show is over, so it fails to deliver anything really unique. Still, more Strike Witches is a good thing, and there's nothing truly wrong with this movie that can't also be said of the two series. 6/10

.hack//The Movie: Sekai no Mukou ni - This possibly-semi-retelling of the typical .hack story is baffling to place. While the 3D CG doesn't look bad, the story neither recollects what has already happened nor treads new ground, leaving it feeling like a cheap knock-off of the franchise rather than a new installment. It's not straight-up terrible, but I can't think of a reason someone should actually watch this aside from a sense of completionism for a .hack fan like myself. 4/10

Dog Days' - Pronounced "Dog Days Dash", this punctuated-sequel to Dog Days is again more of the same: lighthearted fanservice-action-comedy with a heart. Somehow, even though there is even less at stake than in the first series, the show brings a smile to my face episode after episode. It's colorful, sometimes funny, and has cute girls. 7/10

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse Recap Episode - While I didn't quite finish Total Eclipse until the day after New Years, this recap episode isn't a bad microcosm of that show: a good premise, bad animation, and a lack of subtlety from trying to hard. It's a shame. 3/10

Natsuyuki Rendezvous - After spending half the year delivering more of the same, the noitaminA animation block returned to its mission of promoting something different with this fascinating drama of a guy who falls in love with a widowed florist only to find that he can see the ghost of her dead husband. While it sometimes meanders, and sometimes gets a little surreal, the characters were deep, their problems sincere, and the show something special. 7/10

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! - Kyoto Animation strikes again with a romance of adolescent embarassments. Once again great animation, this time accompanied by some squirmingly-awkward-funny moments, some spectacular imaginary fight scenes, as well as some real drama. A worthwhile watch, if a bit predictable at times. 7/10

Sword Art Online - One of the most memorable, yet flawed, series of the year. It starts out like a retread of .hack, complete with the same composer doing BGM, but quickly diverges into a wish-fulfilment harem fantasy with headbangingly-bad plot twists. Great animation, artwork, and music, but bound to disappoint on the basis of its amateurish, lazy writing. 5/10


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