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Acejem Reviews – Year in Review (2011) Part 2

December 27, 2011

And I’m back for Part 2, where despite 2011 being a great year, will be devoted to the disappointments of 2011. Here are some notable examples:

Persona 4: The Animation

To be honest, I should have seen this coming. Studio AIC don’t have the best of records when it comes to production values, and I should have known that with Seiji Kishi as director it’s going to be one fratboy slapstick comedy series. But no… having played the Persona 3 and 4 games (which of what I played was largely great), I had to have expectations of it and have those brought down lack a sack of bricks. But the silliness or abundance of “anime comedy” isn’t the main problem, but rather in how “blindly loyal” it is and its terrible pacing.

This anime takes loyalty to the source material literally. To give examples, the anime even shows the transition of days in between loading scenes, stat updates halfway through the anime, the ‘cartoony flashes’ during when personas are summoned and much more. I mean damn, this is an anime, not a game. You don’t need to migrate every single cinematic, little animation and interface. An anime adaptation is supposed to filter out unnecessary elements and improve on its source material, not blindly copy it.

Talking about blindly copying, the creators obviously don’t know how to ignore minor and non-important social links. I recall an episode where in 22minutes they packed in two FULL social links which would have been 8 or so hours from the game. Wtf. That’s just poor planning and being greedy. The pilot episode was one of the worst paced episodes I’ve seen in my entire anime career and the show still continues to dwell into unnecessary optional social links instead of sticking with the main plot line. If they keep it up they are going to rush the main plot line which would just make it suck more than it already is.

Furthermore, Persona 4 is one of the best selling titles of 2011, with its first volume having nearly sold 40k DVDs and Blurays. Another piece of evidence that sales =/= quality.

I will admit though, they did do one good thing and that was the MC. In the games MC was a mute, but in the anime they gave him some personality. The MC’s dry humor is actually quite funny at times, though it is rare in comparison in level to the amount of generic slapstick comedy. This dry humor is the only reason I’m watching this actually (and to bitch about it on a weekly basis with a real life friend), and perhaps the hope it will eventually get better (which I doubt).

C: The Money and Soul of Possibility Control

The Noitamina timeslot has some of the most interesting conceptual shows available in the anime medium. Unfortunately, some of the time it is butchered by poor production values and poor pacing and C was unfortunately a victim of this. C was conceptually quite interesting, combining “Digimon-style” battles with financial and commercial elements. The financial jargons were both intriguing and funny, involving terms like microeconomics, macroeconomics, options, futures, long (buying), short (selling) etc. At one point, it provides a social commentary on why bailouts are bad. It also isn’t everyday attacks by “assets” are named after economic terms like “Overheated economy”. I’ll be honest, having studied commerce with a finance major in university, it was quite amusing.

Unfortunately, despite being intriguing, the anime looked like ass. Furthermore, the last third anime was a complete trainwreck that made Code Geass R2 middle episodes look like a masterpiece in comparison. I mean it was bad enough that the ending was spoilt by the Opening (Valkyria Chronicles OP2 anyone?), but heck it was even worse because not only was it rushed as hell, but it made asspull deus ex plot twists and it made no sense at all.

To be honest, I don’t know who to blame for this. Arguably it could be noitamina for its restrictive 11 episode format. Or Kenji Nakamura for being a shadow of his former glory after Mononoke. Or don’t blame anyone at all and just dismiss it as a unforunate anime that got shafted with a shit budget. Or perhaps a combination of all of the above.

Guilty Crown

Production IG, production staff that was involved with Death Note and Code Geass, noitamina, this PV, and a kickass first episode (and arguably second ep too). What sick lineup and potential. I mean it can’t be anything but awesome right? Wrong. Although spectacle wise, Guilty Crown is amongst the best looking TV series of the year, the same can’t be for its plot and characters. Now its plot isn’t terrible per se, but when an interview such as this takes place, you can’t help but think how much on a high horse the production staff are on. Cutting edge TV show with action and plot? I lol’d. Same for its characters. The main female character Inori is a poor man’s version of a dandere popularized by Rei from Neon Genesis Evangelion, whilst the main male character Shu is a buried man’s version of Shinji fused with Makoto (School Days) level of indecisiveness and manipulation regarding females – See his treatment of Hare in episode 10. The character just screams “hate me” with big neon lights flashing above his head.

Now, I do not dislike the show and definitely don’t hate it (some people are trying to claim it’s the worst of the season, which is ridiculous and exaggerated), and being honest I still actually somewhat guilty enjoy the show. However, I can’t help how disappointed I was coming into think it would be another Code Geass and imagine what it could have been. Given its budget and production values it’s a waste of potential, much like those all spectacle no substance Hollywood movies that plague the cinemas (oh wait, superhero movies plague Hollywood currently…). It’s an expectation thing, and for expectations to be shot down is more demoralizing than a mediocre show that was mediocre from the start.

Fortunately episode 11 kicked things back in gear with Shu finally coming out of his emo phase  but the real test is whether this keeps up. Shu went from loathed to slightly less hated, which isn’t much of accomplishment.

Hoshi wo Kodomo

For those who don’t know, Makoto Shinkai is one of my favourite directors. Having liked Voices of  Distant Star, loved Place Promised in Our Early Days and 5 Centimeters Per Second being my favourite anime movie of all time, it was no brainer that Shinkai’s latest project, Hoshi wo Kodomo, was my most anticipated anime of the entire year. Unfortunately, it was no where near as good as I thought it would be.

I always thought the notion of Makoto Shinkai being the next Hayao Miyazaki was absurd and stupid. However, for whatever reason, Shinkai seemed to take that to heart and try to replicate the old master as Shinkai said in an interview that he looks upon Miyazaki as a role model. What turned out what a half-ass poor man’s version of a Ghibli-like film albeit with some of the most amazing scenery and background art you have ever seen in anime. This is the definition of a dissappointment if I ever saw one.

To use fellow Guardian Enzo’s words, Shinkai is a poet rather than an animator, so when he tried to tell the tale of an epic adventure of a little girl with heavy themes involving life and death  with the melancholic “Shinkai/Tenmon” atmosphere embedded onto it, it almost seemed pretentious and forceful. It fell well short of Ghibli epics such as Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke or Nausicaa Valley of the Wind, which were in contrast plain honest its illustration.

Shinkai films typically have huge amounts of emotional attachment embodied in them, but Hoshi wo Kodomo lacked that. Instead, I ended up watching a glorified Ghibli-copy due to its amazing visuals. The disappointment of the year for me.

Studio Disappointments

Although at this point it is gone beyond disappointment but both JC Staff and Kyoto Animation as studios have failed to catch my attention this year again.

J C Staff is seriously in danger of becoming the next Studio DEEN. Once upon a time J C Staff used to be heavily involved in the noitamina timeblock producing shows like Honey and Clover and Nodame Cantabile, but these days they are nothing but LN/manga adaptation studio 101. And not much has changed with them this year. Yumeki Merry, Hidan no Aria, Kamisama Memochou and Kimi to Boku are examples of mediocre trash they produced, no different from 2009 and 2010. Only the third season of Shakugan no Shana is decent, but that franchise is but a shadow of its former glory and if I was to respect JC like I did during its noitamina days, it seriously needs to step up its game.

However, no other studio has dissappointed me more than Kyoto Animation. In the past year, KyoAni has given us one series, Nichijou which was just another slice of life/comedy shows  with cute girls. Although some scenes had me chuckle (Principal vs Deer for example), it was largely a miss for me. In comparison slice of life/comedy show by the name of Boku wa Tomodachi by AIC, actually made me laugh a significant amount of the time. Sorry Kyoani, you got beaten in your own game by AIC. Not to mention you’re beloved melodrama adaptations (Air, Kanon, Clannad) got absolutely smashed in sales by A-1 Picture’s Ano Hana this year. But what do you do instead of trying to catch back up? You sit on your high horse and think you are too good for the anime industry. I mean it’s acceptable to be arrogant like Shaft is at the moment if you’re actually the “king” of the industry, but you are getting your ass kicked by likes of A-1, Production IG, Brains Base, AIC and Sunrise. Not cool bro. Oh, and I don’t give a damn about the K-on franchise and the movie that came out late this year. Start being relevant if you wanna boast.

And that concludes Part 2. Look forward to Part 3 when I go into the meaty parts of 2011 and talk about what I thought were the best characters and animes of 2011. Meanwhiles, please feel to comment, critique or join in my rage of any of the disappointing aspects of 2011.

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5 Comments
  1. First three titles and those studios – yeah, that’s pretty much on the mark. Wasn’t aware the Shinkai film was out, so I’ll have to chase up that one.

    P4 is pretty much an example of if you have a solid fanbase to build from (200k+ sales of the game), you’re likely to have enough interest in the show itself. One would think volume 2 sales will drop off. But if it stabilises at a point still superior to most shows this year, it will be a real blight on the year and an indication you can be behind schedule, have sub-standard production at airing (to the point the show is almost cancelled), adapt content too faithfully and not have to try hard at all in order to cash in. That’s really not an incentive for writers or directors to be creative or innovative – it’s an incentive to pander to the status quo and to formulaic content.

    C is a glaring example of noitaminA not understanding its market and not giving it good treatment to boot. Guilty Crown is a mess, but its shounen style seems to be attracting enough attention for it to be financially justified despite it being unjustified in a creative sense.

    • [c] as an example of noitanimA not understanding its market? I think it should be made clear that during the phase that [c] was airing noitanimA found the success of AnoHana and clearly redefined their market – however [c] was destined to fall into sales obscurity as most other noitanimA did, because of their obviously limited audience. Clearly it wasn’t making enough money to support production costs, and you can see it on see, as Jem mentioned, with the extremely poor budget. I think the studio doing [c] was also doing Skip Beat at the time and wasting half their fucking budget on that, but I digress. Despite all of [c]’s fault I still really liked it and felt that is provided a really insightful compelling message, which is something although a few in ’11, not a lot of anime offer. If you’re taking the economics in [c] as literal then I think you’re interpreting it slightly different to how it was meant to be. .[c] was never specifically about economics, sort of like Steins;Gate was never specifically about time travel – it simply uses economics as a motif to explore various themes and issues. I can’t remember exactly which ones were covered in [c] but there was a main philosophical debate which stemmed out to mirror a sort of Keynes/Hayek contrast. There was some really good directing, but I felt sometimes the animation killed it. The ending was honestly one of the more satisfying endings of the year in that it exceeded my expectations. [c] was never really about the fights either, kind of like how the meat of F/SN really isn’t the fights either. In any case it’s an anime I really enjoyed, and I’d be interested to hear about what parts of it contributed to its ‘train-wreck’.

  2. I remember the protagonist of P4 in the first episode remaining somewhat bland and sort of neutral to everything, with very un-emotive or simply boring responses like ‘yes’ or something like that. It’s good to see that they actually developed his character along the way.

    I still probably won’t watch anymore of it though, lol.

  3. Don’t give up on JC Staff. Bakuman S2 is very good, and I think Ano Natsu has a chance to be special…

  4. totoum permalink

    Well first off about JC staff

    While they havn’t put out any masterpieces and 2011 wasn’t really a good year for them.I feel some of there best work goes by under the radar, otome youkai zakuro,taicho baseball girls , Aoi Hana to name a few from 2009-2010 and hell when it comes to shoujo I preffered kaichou wa maid sama over kimi ni todoke.
    And as enzo said bakuman S2 is a big step up from S1 (there’s many reasons for that,I’ll spare you the essay).

    If there’s any studio I’m fustrated with it’s bones, Un-Go is the saving grace but star driver gosick and No.6? meh.I’ll gladly take the JC staff titles I’ve mentioned above over those 3.

    I’ll definatly agree on P4 and C (I’ll add the french licencor said the studio making it was hit really hard by the earthquake and made a bad schedule situation even worse)
    I got pretty much what I was expecting out of Guilty Crown so there’s no room for disapointment.
    As for Shinkai doing a Miyasaki impression?Yeah,I hope that’s just a phase he went threw nevertheless I think it remains quite good.

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