Last season might be long over, but having only recently regained a functional computer I’ve been running a bit behind. Regardless, it is now time for me to give last season’s shows what they deserve, which in some cases isn’t much. In general this past season was terribly disappointing, with a handful of good shows and a horde of mediocre-to-bad ones. Note that the only shows listed here are the ones that I managed to watch the entire season of, and thus does not include shows I didn’t watch at all (Maken-ki!) or ones that I dropped halfway through (Persona 4). And now, on to the awards!
Best Fighting Anime Ruined By Fanservice:
The show suffered from the all-too-common issue of starting off solidly and subsequently experiencing a severe drop in quality. Ben-To was at its best as a parody of high school fighting anime, with all the seriousness of that genre but directed toward half-priced lunches rather than fighting for glory or honor or protecting the world. But that premise can only keep a show going for so long; six episodes, as it happens. After that it was suggestively shaped food and twin girls holding each other in the shower while spouting vaguely inappropriate lines. Oh, there were still some fights, but when the enemy has invincible plot armor until the final episode, the show loses a lot of its appeal.
Final Score: 5
Least Character Development In A Character-Driven Show:
Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai
The video game and visual novel parodies made the early episodes of the show some of the best of the season, but then the other half of the cast was introduced and it all became a generic high school drama pseudo-harem. Additionally, when the premise is that a bunch of teenagers form a club for people who have no friends, I would expect that their relationships with each other would progress over the course of the show. This was not the case at all; the pointless bickering that started in episode one continued right up to the end. Even with the “dramatic revelation” in the final episode, there was never any change in how the cast related to each other. I expected more than just antics, and the show did not deliver.
Final Score: 5
Second Best Fighting Anime Ruined By Fanservice:
While its flaws were generally mitigated by decent fights and moderately good character interaction, the bad still outweighed the good. One of the characters was mentally disabled for the first two episodes, there was some god awful fanservice, and the villains tended to go down in one attack after ten minutes of being untouchable. Yet other than these complaints, all I can really say about the show is that it was very firmly average.
Final Score: 4
Best Non-Shounen Card Game Anime:
I had very little in the way of expectations about Chihayafuru, and I was very pleasantly surprised by how much better it was than most of the shows I was looking forward to. Josei isn’t usually my cup of tea, but when it’s this solid I am more than willing to make an exception. I actually find myself lamenting the fact that I’m not a bigger fan of these types of shows, as the high quality of the characters and story would probably make me rate it even more highly. Regardless, it was very solidly the third best show of the season, behind Mirai Nikki and Fate/Zero.
Season Score: 7
Most Kings Per Capita:
By far the best show of the Fall season. The cast was equal parts amusing and badass, with every character fleshed out with their own motivations and histories. Even with about two dozen important characters in the cast, everyone was interesting and the pacing was generally solid. There were a few episodes that lagged a bit, but even those were better than what most of the other shows offered this season. Being a Fate/stay night fan, I was somewhat irritated that the first episode so aggressively spoiled almost all the mysteries in the visual novel, but it was necessary for everyone unfamiliar with the setting to understand what was going on. I would have given this season a 9, except that the story is only half finished.
Season Score: 8
Cast Most Likely To Secretly Be Robots:
I had high hopes for this show, and while it lived up to them with its stunning visuals and good music, the characters and plot were atrocious. There is a terrorist group cult of personality that’s been blowing up Tokyo to satisfy their leader’s need for revenge against the government. The protagonist gains the ability to turn people’s souls into weapons and household appliances, and joins up with them because he has a crush on the female lead, who would have more personality if she was a cardboard cutout. Then the protagonist blows up the government’s secret giant death laser satellites, and in spite of being a wanted terrorist somehow is able to keep going to school. Up until the last few episodes of the season, the “bad guys” come off as much saner and more understandable than the terrorists who we are supposed to identify with. But even then, the sub-par writing and poorly developed characters mean that the characters have no reasons for their actions. This season was average at best, and I’m not hoping for too much from the rest of the show.
Season Score: 5
Fall 2011 Kaleidoscope Award:
Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon
Horizon succeeded in doing something that no other show I can think of has; after thirteen episodes, I still did not care at all about any of the characters. This was certainly in part because of the enormous cast, all of whom were only three-dimensional if you count convoluted plot as a dimension. The setting was so poorly developed and each of the characters had so little screen time that whenever a new faction appeared or anyone actually did anything it felt like it was just being pulled out of thin air. Add to that the writers’ poor grasp of logic vis-a-vis debates, and the only thing that saved the show from an even lower rating was its shiny visuals. Hence the Kaleidoscope Award: pretty colors, but it doesn’t make any sense.
Final Score: 3
Most Likely To Have Been Written By A 14-Year-Old Girl:
Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam
Gonzo, we understand that you’re short on money, but that’s no excuse for writing a self-insert Mary Sue Last Exile fanfic and calling it a sequel. Fam is the most offensively reality-warping character I’ve ever seen in a show; she’s 15 years old, the most proficient sky pirate in the show, the only cast members who don’t love her are the villains, and she can somehow beat world renowned professional pilots in vanship races. She comes up with the most absolutely idiotic ideas, manages to get everyone else to listen to her, and then succeeds every single time. While the art isn’t nearly as impressive or consistent as that of the original series, it is passable, and all of the other characters in the show are much more tolerable than the protagonist. Even so, Gonzo should be ashamed for this series.
Season Score: 3
Third Best Fighting Anime Ruined By Fanservice:
Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai
While the combat had its highlights, the absurd amount of completely unnecessary fanservice was absolutely disgusting. There were multiple episodes where the entire female cast spent most of their screen time naked, for no explicable reason whatsoever. Granted, it probably wasn’t as bad as Queen’s Blade, but there are very good reasons why I haven’t seen that anime. Although even Queen’s Blade probably didn’t have an episode dedicated to a festival of phallic objects, complete with a giant penis statue competition. The combat almost managed to bring the show back up to average quality, except that the cast kept being fought to a standstill by antagonists whose only distinction was that they weren’t mooks. Until the final episode, where they handily defeated every single foe. I might need to give the visual novel a play sometime, just to see what the characters are like when they’re not all stuck in fanservice hell. Also, if you get Norio Wakamoto, for the love of Deus give him a bigger part.
Final Score: 4
Most Five-Year-Old Sociopaths:
Unique among anime offerings this past season, the first few episodes of Mirai Nikki provoked me to search out and spend several hours reading all the source material. Admittedly, my score for the anime is probably slightly lower for knowing all the plot twists, the show does have some advantages in that it incorporates some side material that helps everything make more sense. Plus it’s in color, so Twelfth was infinitely more amusing. The story does have its weak points, especially the whole episode with Fifth, the aforementioned toddler who tries to murder the main characters by poisoning their food, electrocuting them in the bath, and filling their house with toxic gas. Still, most of the season was of consistently good quality, although I’m dreading some parts of next season; late in the manga, things get confusing, bizarre, and generally of worse quality.
Season Score: 7
Longest Toy Commercial:
Mobile Suit Gundam Age
I feel really bad for the people who were tasked with writing the plot for this show; the entire premise, that there is a Gundam with a support system that builds new weapons and appendages for it on-the-fly during battles, is so exquisitely engineered to produce the maximum number of models from one series that I would be shocked if it wasn’t invented by someone in Sunrise’s toy department. And boy does it show. Add to that the fact that the show takes place over three successive generations of Gundam pilots, which means the first two can’t actually succeed in their quests. Either that or Sunrise has remade Robotech. Regardless, I’m not going to waste my time watching just to find out.
Season Score: 3
Most Parents Killed By Puzzles:
Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle
For some reason I let optimism get the better of my expectations for this series. I was expecting something like Liar Game, and instead I got a children’s show about puzzles. For a while it was my lowest rated show of the season, with its nadir when the protagonist hit a wall because “his brain is rejecting the puzzles.” But after that point, the show stopped taking itself seriously, I stopped taking the show seriously, or both, and it became much more enjoyable. By the end of the season it was almost at the point of So Bad, It’s Good, but not quite. I might keep watching, just to see what outfits the protagonist will wear to follow his princess dress and Super Sentai villain costume.
Season Score: 4
Most Reworked Sequel Series:
Shakugan no Shana III (Final)
I quite enjoyed all of the other Shana series and OVAs that I’ve watched. I would have enjoyed this one, too, except that it isn’t the same show that I’ve watched two seasons of. Its entire premise was changed, the old plot threads were either done away with or contorted to fit with the new story, and there were some major changes in characterization among the main cast. And none of this was foreshadowed in any way, nor adequately explained within the show itself. And then hordes of previously unmentioned characters were introduced, leading to fights between literal armies of people the viewers have no connection to or care about at all. It’s as though J.C. Staff skipped a season and just expects everyone to follow along as though this was the plan all along. I feel an obligation to keep watching since I’ve watched so much already, but I am not looking forward to it.
Season Score: 4
Most Violations of Knox’s Laws:
One of the biggest problems with detective mystery anime series is that they aren’t actually detective mystery series. Nearly a century ago a set of ten rules for detective stories were set down by the writer Ronald Knox, the general gist of which was to allow the reader to have all the information necessary to solve the mystery before The Reveal. Apparently anime mystery writers haven’t heard of these rules, as their series chug along merrily while concealing vital clues from the viewer. UN-GO was no exception, and just about every single episode violated Knox’s Decalogue at least once. Not that they could have helped it; each story arc would have needed to be twice as long to accommodate the buildup that a true mystery requires, and the premise of the show is inherently supernatural. The show itself was actually pretty good as an exploration of its characters, but its efforts to portray itself as a detective series were sometimes painful to watch.
Final Score: 5