2012 is ending in a whimper, at least for me, as there are few series I’m absolutely loving this fall. That seems to apply to the year as whole. Looking back at my list of best anime from 2011, there were a number of series that jumped into select company among my very favorites, including Hourou Musuko, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Usagi Drop, and Mawaru Penguindrum. I had yet to see Steins;gate or the first season of Fate/Zero at the time of that posting, but they would have been included in the group as well.
Because of the lack of great series this year, I’m not giving as many shows on the following list. I dropped dozens of series this year, too; they didn’t interest me enough to continue watching, failed to keep my interest for the entire season (ex. Accel World and Eureka Seven Ao), or were dropped for other reasons. I also want to note that didn’t see a number of critically acclaimed series this year, skipping out the likes of Space Brothers, Jorgumand, Kimi to Boku and the latest Natsume Yuujinchou,and stalling on Psycho Pass.
And because I didn’t complete too many shows in 2012, this end-of-year list functions more to show my favorites than those I judge the best. Let me know your favorites in the comment section below.
Merely Okay: 3 to 4 Stars
First, the bad: the series has been, well, boring. It also has way too many girls who act like they have some psychological condition. Luckily, the show has been trending upward lately, and I’m eagerly anticipating the second season. There are also some fun characters (mostly male).
Sword Art Online
One of my favorite shows of last season, SAO has been a disappointment in the fall. The new setting isn’t compelling and the lack of time that Kirito has to free Asuna, which should be pressing the show forward, is hardly emphasized at all. The first season was a lot of fun, though, even if it awkwardly cramped what appears to be a 100-episode show into 13 episodes. Asuna also remains a terrific heroine, but as with Rukia in the second arc of Bleach, her fall into damsel-in-distress mode makes her invisible, and the show is the worst off for it.
Very, Very Good: 4 to 4 1/2 Stars
This series was almost painful to watch, as we saw our characters bend and break over and over again. Tortuous though it was, the series explored a lot of significant issues and offered hope for our characters (and maybe for those experiencing somewhat similar issues). The cast was memorable and the series was addicting.
Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai!
Surprise! No show surprised me this year as much as Chuunibyou, which I watched on a whim. I’m not sold on all the characters, but I did find the leads compelling. And while at first I felt the show was a little trashy and trying to sell me on fanservice and fun rather than on anything solid, the latter part of the season provided some drama and character development that was unexpected.
I really don’t know what to think of this series – it’s a dynamic one for me and could easily slide lower or higher on my list. This is because I’m never sure exactly where the series will go or where it wants to go – and that is one of its strengths, that it provides surprises every week. The world and it’s mystery are amazing, but they also represent a weakness, and it feels there’s not enough time to explore intriguing pieces of this universe (or the important supporting characters).
Almost Perfect: 4 1/2 Stars to 5 Stars
Sakamichi no Apollon
I think the general vibe in the blogosphere for Kids on the Slope was a disappointing one – not enough jazz, too much romance, and not enough episodes – and still, people liked it. I found it better than most. I really connected with the characters and I felt the storytelling and animation was nostalgic, beautiful, and sometimes powerful.
Though not as strong as the first season, I thought the second half of Fate/Zero wrapped the story up nicely. I’m a fan of Kiritsugu and enjoyed the episodes focusing on him. And certainly, the stunning moments of violence and death, along with powerfully emotional and suspenseful scenes, made the show an experience. I really miss watching a show of this quality every week.
As I mentioned earlier, few shows impacted me like the best series of 2011. Still, there were still a few gems for me this season (and perhaps more for others). But here’s hoping that 2013 is a stronger year for anime.