AniBloggers Choice Awards: TWWK’s Top Anime of 2011

In 2010, I had a general rule that I roughly kept.  I watched 2-3 new series per season – one of high quality, of enjoyable, but of questionable quality, and then maybe one other that hooked me.  Despite trying to keep this rule in 2011 to avoid burnout, I couldn’t help but watch more new series than I’d ever had before.  There were a number of excellent shows this years, and several more that I didn’t get to watch.  And so when Kiddtic proposed an AniBloggers Choice Awards on his site (and later made a final, more structured setup), I jumped right on board.  It also helps that I love me some lists.

After shuffling series back and forth, day after day, unable to settle on a satisfactory ranking, I settled for a little different approach.  The series (and movie) below are placed into categories based on where I would roughly place them in my Anime Planet anime list, based on rankings from one-half star (worst) through five stars (best).

The Bottom Three: 3 to 4 Stars

Guilty Crown
Though without the bits of substance that stylistic predecessor Code Geass possessed, Guilty Crown is similar to that series in that both are entertaining and pwetty.  I just wish someone would tighten up the writing, because I don’t think Guilty Crown is too far from transitioning to “good series” from a mediocre one.

Kamisama no Memochou
I knew (and expected) little of God’s Memo Pad, which is often the point when a series will surprise you (in a good way).  Stylistically cool and full of at least somewhat interesting characters, the series begs for a second season (which, with further character development, could be better) – but please, if you’re going to claim Alice is a genius, show us how.

Art by しゃもじ

Last Exile ~ Fam, the Silver Wing
This series has definitely been a head scratcher for me.  The blogosphere has featured widely varying opinions on the sequel, and even on a personal level, my thoughts are up and down.  Thus far, though, an annoying lead combined with supporting characters who mostly don’t engage me like those in the original (with Millia being the exception) have particularly been disappointing aspects of the show.  But certain scenes (and even entire episodes) are punctuated with airship awesomeness and as of episode 8, the series is looking up.

Middle of the Pack = Still VERY Good: 4 to 4.5 Stars

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (AnoHana)
This wasn’t the perfect show that it could’ve been, or that I thought it might be.  But still, the emotional payoffs in AnoHana felt honest and raw and less manipulative than they may have appeared.  I’ve seldom seen shows deal with the themes of loss, death, adolescence and friendship with as much tenderness and style as in AnoHana.

AnoHana group
Art by ナカマチ

I’ve added many items to my lists of favorites because of this show.  I’ve added new members to my favorite new characters list (Chihaya); favorite games I’ll never play list (karuta); favorite team/group/club list (Chihaya’s karuta club); and most of all, favorite shows about growing up list.

First few episodes withstanding, the second season of Working!! has been just as addicting and fun as the first.  Despite the somewhat cumbering inclusion and emphasis on previously minor or entirely new characters, Working’!! is an excellent show.  It seems that the animation staff and/or the mangaka whose work the series is based has figured out how to use each character most effectively.

Almost Perfect: 4.5 to 5 Stars

Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below
I approached Shinkai’s latest film expecting another trip down the “beautiful but somehow dissatisfying” aisle, but ultimately found the film to be his best work.  Powerful, beautiful, and for once embracing the warmth that has been lacking in his previous, this film is a major achievement.

Mawaru Penguindrum
Along with Madoka Magica, Mawaru Penguindrum could easily have placed number one on my list.  It’s that rare series that engages me intellectually while still being thoroughly enjoyable.  It’s a show that I want to understand better, but which can still be greatly enjoyed without knowing the context of what’s occurring and the deeper symbols of events and ideas in the show.  But most of all, Mawaru Penguindrum is terribly creative in its animation and storytelling – and that’s what makes this show something special.

Art by みつ_

Puella Magi Madoka Magica
I joined the bandwagon late on Madoka, catching up with the series during the delay in broadcasting due to the Tohoku earthquake.  I soon realized that the critical acclaim for the show was justly earned.  I had a field day writing about various religious symbols in the show, as well as posting similar analyses by other writers.  But more than blog fodder, Madoka brought us compelling characters, interesting and juxtaposed animation, and powerful (and sometimes painful) episodes.

Madoka Magica
Art by ふくたろ

My Last Day
The short film, little known outside of Christian circles, was animated by STUDIO4°C.  Powerful and uncompromising, it portrays the crucifixion of Jesus from the eyes of a thief executed beside him.  It is well worth a watch.

Usagi Drop
Magical.  Simply magical.  As a father, you’d think I had a particular interest in this show.  But actually, I went into each episode thinking, “I don’t really want to watch a show about bonding between a bachelor and his adopted relative.”  But by the end of each episode, I was reminded again what a beautiful, charming, and heartwarming series Usagi Drop is.

My Number One…

Hourou Musuko
This last pick was difficult for me, as it may have been for many of you creating similar lists.  Any of the above four could easily have made it here for me.  But Hourou Musuko was consistently my favorite anime this year.  The sensitivity of the series, the beautiful animation style, and most of all, nearly a dozen compelling characters (take note all you series with similar numbers of characters and not one that’s interesting!) help mold a show that is different, but equal to (or I think better than) the manga upon which its based (which should be noted, has a very different tone).  Even further, watching Wandering Son was an experience for me – a show that moved me spiritually and moved me to think more deeply about long-held beliefs, while still remaining wholly entertaining.

Wandering Son
Art by KL

Licensor of the Year

I looked back at this year’s releases, and a number of companies did awesome, at least in terms of the quality of the series released.  Aniplex particularly caught my eye, with releases including the Rurouni Kenshin OVAs and the infamous Garden of Sinners set.  But because of sheer numbers, both in first time releases (ex. Summer Wars, Evangelion 2.22, Eden of the East films) and rereleases (ex. Last Exile, Noir, Love Hina), Funimation takes the cake.

Winner: Funimation
Favorite Release: Trigun: Badlands Rumble (extras to die for)

What are your top anime for the year?  Are there any recommendations you have for me?


34 thoughts on “AniBloggers Choice Awards: TWWK’s Top Anime of 2011

  1. Reading back my first impression post of Hourou Musuko, I gave it 9/10 but sadly a lot of shit happened the first part of this year and I didn’t manage to complete any of the winter anime including Hourou Musuko and Madoka. Somehow I feel sort of lacking because I know my list would be totally different if I did manage to complete them titles. Having said that Working’!! would probably stays at no. 1 XD

    1. Sorry for the difficulties you had early this year – sounds like you had a rough time.

      And Working’!! as number one? With each episode, that series moves up and up…in fact, if you take out the first few episodes, which just didn’t seem to be on track, and I’d rank Working’!! right up there with my other top anime. SOO good.

  2. Hrm. Since you’ve put “My Last Day” as one of the better titles, I’m thinking that your re-review of it isn’t going to be too off the mark from the first one. Still holding to my first opinion after the re-watch I had.

    Loved Hourou Musuko. Beautiful anime. On a personal level, Usagi Drop topped it, because Hourou left a bunch of hanging plot threads and touched on subjects without really exploring them in depth. It’s gorgeous, though, and definitely one of the best of the year!

    1. I might’ve let the cat out of the bag there. -_-‘

      Anyway, I think you’ll still find my post on Sunday interesting – I indirectly respond to one or two of the criticisms you laid toward the film.

      I can definitely understand you placing Usagi Drop ahead of it (especially knowing you were a fan of the manga even before the series). For me, I would’ve been satisfied placing that show or any of the others besides “My Last Day” (Madoka, Mawaru, or Children…), the only one in that group I wouldn’t consider rating a perfect score, in the top spot. Terrific anime this year…

  3. Wow I forgot about My last Day completely forgot about it, It had pretty good animation for a short film. Im yet to see Shinkais new film but being the Makoto Shinkai fanboy that I am Im sure it will shuffle my top 3 a bit LoL.

    Interesting choices overall Im loving the ACAA because im getting a wide variety of choices glad to know anime fans watch nearly everything hehe.

  4. That’s an interesting list. 🙂 AnoHana and Mawaru Penguindrum are among the few series this year that I haven’t watched yet (and Working!!, though I’ve not seen series 1 either), but I’ve heard good things so plan to go back to them. I was a little more harsh on Kami Memo, though – I didn’t like the characters, found most of the plot lines weak and/or predictable, and probably wouldn’t watch a sequel if there was one.

    Hourou Musuko is definitely high in my rankings for the year, but my #1 has to be Steins;Gate. Fantastic premise, extremely likable characters, good pacing, animation, music… I just cannot fault it. Other stand out series for me would be Nichijou TV, Mirai Nikki and Fate/Zero. The latter two subject to change since they’re still airing, of course, but I have all the above on 5 A-P stars currently, and that’s much more perfect scores than I’ve given out in any other year.

    1. AAA! I forgot about Steins;Gate! That was definitely a fantastic anime, almost as good as Madoka, Usagi, or Hourou. I was so thrilled with it. I thought I’d be bored because of the decription, but it seriously was packed full of wonderful characters and a solid storyline.

      1. Would you consider doing a top [insert number] anime of 2011 post? I know your blog is straight review, though…I’d welcome the post here if you were ever interested in doing one.

        1. I would, but I don’t think I’ve really seen enough anime from this year to have a good opinion. I’m gonna change that *slightly* over break, but…. We’ll see! If I do, it will be up around Christmas. That actually sounds like fun, so it’s a definitely ‘maybe’.

    2. AnoHana and Mawaru are certainly “must watches,” if only because they’re among the most buzzed about shows of the year. AnoHana walks the line of taking itself so seriously that it’s bad and being absolutely wonderful, and as such, it’s a fun series to discuss. Mawaru has entered the sacred territory that it’s so good, I think the backlash against it has to do with its popularity.

      Kami Memo was a series which grabbed me, despite all the flaws you mention. I thought there was a certain edge to the characters, though, that was unexpected and which helped me distinguish them from similar ones from other series.

      Ah, Steins;Gate…by the time I read a little about the anime (and the plot line is definitely compelling), I was far enough behind and engrossed enough in other series that I decided to save it for later. I think I’ll need to check it out soon, though.

      And about Fate/Zero…would you recommend I watch it even if I didn’t watch the original series? Someone recommended that to me…

      1. I usually watch a set amount of series every season, but make a sort of ‘preliminary list’ before shows even start airing, based on synopses, studio and staff involved etc. Then when the season starts I try to watch as much as possible, but give priority to those I listed beforehand. It does mean I miss some good series from time to time – there was very little info on Mawaru Penguindrum before it aired, for example, hence why it didn’t make the list – but on the plus side, it gives me time to hear more info/opinions on the things I skipped, and there’s nothing stopping me going back to them afterwards. 🙂

        Fate/Zero certainly makes sense if you haven’t seen /Stay Night – it is a prequel, so if anything you’d end up with less spoilers watching /Zero first! Fate/Zero is certainly the better of the two though, with a lot more character development and stunning visuals.

  5. We continue to share a lot of the same tastes, with the possible exception of “Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below”. I thought that movie was a lackluster production, with both characters and story dull and lifeless. It was imaginative, and the visuals were nice, but it isn’t something I hold in high esteem.

    Usagi Drop was an awesome series. So awesome that I continued the story in the manga. It kind of derails near the end into uncomfortable territory, but it was a good continuation of the story.

    Hourou Musuko was excellent, if a little complex and confusing in the beginning due to the amount of active characters and their interactions. Definitely made you consider, as it’s risque premise continued to unfold.

    Missing Steins;Gate is something you’ll want to remedy. Steins;Gate would be my #1 pick for the best anime of 2011, hands down. None of the others even come close. For comparison, I rate Chihayafuru a 9, Fate/Zero 9.5, Madoka 8.5, AnoHana 9. Steins;Gate is a 10 in my book, along with Darker than Black, Clannad After Story, Death Note, Koi Kaze, Nana, Maison Ikkoku, and Summer Wars (along with a few others). It’s something special. Don’t miss it.

    1. Children: I totally get you. I think I felt very similarly for much of the film…the themes it explores and the resolution was what really got me. And in light of the ending, it changed the way I looked at the entire film. I think I may be in the minority, though, in how highly I hold it.

      Usagi: I did the same, and yes…it get uncomfortable. I think the mangaka had that ending planned all along, but…mannnn, why?!

      Hourou Musuko: Again, you bring up a great point. I’m rewatching the show and it’s terrific the second time around, but I’d forgotten how confusing the show was at first because of the point at which it started. I was lost during parts of the first four of five episodes of the series – it really took me a while to get ahold of who these characters were, inside and out.

      Steins;Gate: Thanks for the rec – along with Fate/Zero (which you also recommended to me before), I think I’ll need to watch this one soon. BTW, it’s very cool to see someone else consider Maison Ikkoku at 10…more people should invest in this series, despite its age.

  6. I have only seen some of these anime and my list would most likely have Usagi Drop as my first pick. I do however agree with almost all of your reviews. Maybe I should do one of these yearly reviews… not sure yet. I still want to see Makoto Shinki’s Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below. I also think that I should now watch Hourou Musuko, which I don’t remember ever even hearing about.

    1. You might know it as “Wandering Son.” I’d definitely be interested in your take on it, and it’s main themes revolve around identity – the leads are a boy who wants to be a girl and a girl who wants to be a boy. It’s not a comedy, however, but rather a sensitive and gentle look at the subject.

  7. I totally agree with all these ratings! Guilty Crown was great, but you’re right, the writing was just… :/ Yeah. I really liked Chihayafuru and Madoka was really near perfect!! So goes Usagi Drop and Working!! I had expected the second season of Working! to be disappointing, but man was I wrong! If anything, it may have actually improved. Thank You, God, for so many great animes and the creative and hard-working people who make them!!

    1. The second season of Working’!! really is terrific and, I think, under appreciated – an improvement on the first season, which I thought was wonderful as well.

    1. Thanks for the article link! There’s this intersection in my life between anime (Hourou Musuko) and real life concerns, as I seek to raise my children in the way I think is best. In the past year, a lot of the issues brought up in the article have run through my mind – unfortunately, most of what I’ve seen in regards to “gender variances,” particularly interviews I’ve seen involving parents of “princess boys” (?), have really turned me off. That article was the best piece of read or seen about this issue (and it certainly helps that a teacher wrote it).

      Oh, and you MUST see Hourou Musuko! Sooo good. 🙂

    2. Wow- I had a look-through on that article, and it was pretty interesting! My parents told me how, when I was a toddler, I hated the all-pink sections of the clothing stores and was allowed to shop in the boy’s section, and remember being bullied a lot because of how I presented myself gender-wise (though I’m still not sure whether they really understood what they meant when they ran around screaming I was “insert whatever slur for homosexual you have here” since we were only in elementary school). So that was an article that I connected with.

      1. You hit on another issue related to this, too – with bullying more severe than ever because of how it can follow a young person everywhere he or she goes, it becomes an interesting question for many parents between how much freedom they’ll give their kids to explore and how much they’ll want to shelter them.

        1. Oh, definitely. But in lots of ways, there’s no way to tell what sort of thing is going to make your kid fall out of line with their peers. I was singled out because I was more physically active than the other girls and I read a lot/wasn’t afraid to speak out in class- things that were seen as either masculine or just plain unfeminine. It just goes to show that there are a lot of gender stereotypes that play out in ways that parents just may never think about.

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