Acejem Reviews – Year in Review (2011) Part 3

And here is the final part of the Year in Review (2011)  where I have compiled various personal top lists for 2011.

Top OPs/EDs

This is rated based on the song, visuals, choreography and how well it matches the tone of the respective series. Apologies in advance as it was very difficult to obtain some of the youtube videos so they may not be the best quality, have non-English subs or mirrored. One of the videos is even a cover but it has the original video in the background but unfortunately that was the best I could find.

10. Guilty Crown ED

Nice animation, decent pop song by Supercell with a cute focus on the Inori x Shu romance shipping for people who are into that kind of stuff (It is indeed a major part of Guilty Crown).

9.  Chihayafuru OP

Great upbeat pop song that captures the personality of Chihaya perfectly. Well animated.

8.  Ano Hana ED

Personally, the song is a bit too emo for me, but I can’t deny that it matches the atmosphere of Ano Hana. Well Choreographed with the falling flowers too, reminds me of the Toradora ED.

7.  Mirai Nikki OP

The animation budget is questionable, but the song is decent and it is nicely choreographed. However, it matches the tone of Mirai Nikki very well.

6. Un-go ED

Though it doesn’t exactly match the atmosphere of the series, the song is great with its choreography top notch. A very nice “arthouse” ED.

5. Kamisama Dolls OP

First thing I noticed was that the vocalist of this OP is the same person who did the Bokurano OP, which is one of my favourite OPs of all time. Although not as good as that one, this is still excellent, with great instruments, vocals and choreography. Stylish too with its spinning frames.

4. Deadman Wonderland OP

The song is a bit too screamo for my tastes, but man is this well choreographed, probably the best of the year in terms of that of that actually. Considering Deadman Wonderland is a shonen anime about surviving in a prison, it fits the tone of the series perfectly.

3.  Ano Hana OP

Like the ED, it perfectly matches the atmosphere. In addition though, I like the bittersweet ballad and is better choreographed.

2.  Steins Gate OP

Good song, top notch choreography and very stylish with its ticking clocks, flashing frames and moving world-lines. Matches the tone of the 2nd half of Steins Gate . My favourite “arthouse” OP/ED of the year.

1. Dantalion no Shoka OP

Love the song, Love the atmosphere, well animated. Reminds me of Spice and Wolf. If it wasn’t for a real friend of mine strongly advising against the anime, I would have jumped on this immediately because it sees like my type of atmospheric anime. Favourite OP/ED of the year.

Top Female Characters

Despite this year having many great series, it was actually difficult to siphon out female characters that stood out. Like with every year, there was an abundance of tsunderes, kuuderes and it seems that danderes (the quiet, emotionless type) was back in fashion this year. In other words, there weren’t that many outstanding female characters. Regardless, there were some highlights, like the following:

3. Chiriko “Tsuruko” Tsurumi – Ano Hana








Cold, jealous, calculating, but willing to help when the need comes, Tsuruko along with her crush Yukiatsu brought the most personality in the Ano Hana cast. She reminds of Yuasa Hiromi from True Tears and I wouldn’t be surprised if she was modelled after Hiromi, considering the two series are written by the same author (Mari Okada). She is unlike Menma, who is free-willed, easy to upset or please and bluntly honest, in that she is very resistant and tolerant and instead will take subtle jabs at the cast (particularly at her crush) from different angles and is never straight forward. She is also very unlike Anjou, who is so lovestruck with the main character Jintan that she often behaves in a tsundere fashion. Because of her subtle and multiple personality, she was by far my favourite female of that series, and nicely places third in the year for me.

2. Chihaya Ayase  – Chihayafuru








Normally, the main female character in shojo series tend to be weak, submissive and more often than not fall victim to the inevitable “dickhead” male with a heart of gold. Not Chihaya. She doesn’t give a damn.  She will take the initiative and bulldose her way through to get what she wants. Yes, she is loud and obnoxious but man is she entertaining and funny. It’s like if they got the typical shonen traits from a male lead in a shonen series and placed it in a female body. Works like a charm if you ask me. Also, viewers don’t worry. Chihaya may be bullheaded but she is definitely not heartless. She is more than willing to help when someone is in trouble… granted she will tackle it head-on and bulldose through it, but that just makes it more than entertaining as that’s not a common sight in shojos. In a typical shojo, that female will be crying a corner waiting for her “dickhead” prince to come save the day. Chihaya says “NO!” to that.

1. Ohana Matsumae  – Hanasaku Iroha

Much like Chihaya, Ohana takes the initiative, tackles problems head-on but is in no way heartless. Someone else is being punished for something Ohana did herself? Ohana says to leave that person alone and that she’ll take double the punishment. A worker is taking a day off for a wedding, but suddenly you’re understaffed? Ohana will chase you half across the country and get you to work. But Ohana has one slight edge over Chihaya and that’s her ability to be playful. A friend of Ohana’s has a crush on someone, Ohana will prod you to death till you spill the beans (and then probably proceed to tell that person upfront that that particular friend likes him…). Also, she makes the funniest faces. Like the time when her mother forgot to attend a parent-teacher day and she made omlet rice with tomato ketchup that spelt out “I hate you mommy” whilst pouting like this. The most pure-hearted, outgoing, entertaining and imo best female character to follow this year.

Top Male Characters

Male characters were a lot easier. There were plenty of great male characters, both main and supporting roles. What’s even better is that there was a significant number of males that aren’t teenagers but adults in their 20s or 30s. That’s pretty refreshing to see in an era where teenage casts dominate the anime scene. Anyways, here are my favorites males of the year:

3. Kyubey – Puella Magi Madoka Magica







I’m not actually sure what gender Kyubey is, but for the benefit of doubt I’ll classify him as a male. Regardless, if you want an interesting antagonist this year, then Kyubey is your main bet. If you think he’s just another fuzzy little mascot character then think again because this fella is one manipulative specimen. Because of this guy, I will never look at the term “contract” in the same light ever again. There is however one misconception. He is not evil and a “bad guy” per se. A character of “evil” alignment usually does something for themselves and often illustrates selfishness. If I had to give Kyubey alignment then he would most likely suit “true neutral”. Anyways, be it a character of good, evil or neutral alignment it does not sway from the fact that he turned the magical girl familiar convention on its head.

2. Rider “Alexander, Iskandar, King of Conquerors” – Fate/Zero

All hail the King of Bros… I mean Conquerors. Fuck it. He’s the king of bros. If you are looking for GAR this year, then look no further than Rider. Technically a supporting character, but he does get significant screen time and whenever he’s on screen, just about all viewer attention is diverted to him and for good reason. Why? Well Fate/Zero mainly consists of rather stonecold, ruthless or reserved men, with its respective servants being either outrageously evil or stubbornly stoic and honorable. Rider says “Fuck this” to all of that and rides headstrong in his chariot pulled by two massive bulls. Not to mention he’s quite the sociable guy too. He wants a party? He’ll bring in a keg of wine and put you in a reality marble with all his brosmen in arms (Yes, he has a GAR Noble Phantasm too). Only criticism I’ll give him is that he overwhelms every other servant and character in personality. But I should fault the series itself than the character for that, which I will do so later.

1. Okabe “Mad Scientist” Rintarou – Steins Gate







Rider might be the most GAR character of the year, but Okabe is not far behind. Also, GAR is not the only trait that makes a awesome character. Whilst not being as macho as Rider, Okabe has many traits that Rider does not and that is why he is clearly the better male character. So what traits does he have other than GAR? Why his mad scientist persona of course. He possesses a vocabulary of non-sensical blabbery, whacky habits and a maniac laugh that at first glance people will think he is insane. But no, even within that eccentricity lies a logical, calculated and caring man. Using Triple R’s words, Okabe is the Mad Scientist with a heart of gold, but also one who uses his head instead of charging head-on. Some may argue that’s a sign of multiple personality disorder, I’d say that’s a damn good character that is multi-dimensional. And entertaining/hilarious to boot. Want to be directed to the a single best character of the year? Look no further than to our mad scientist.

Top Animes of the Year

And for the finale, the top animes of 2011. But a word of disclaimer. The following are my gut feelings and not what “objectively” were the top. There may have been series that may have done certain elements than the ones listed, but for whatever reason I may not have listed it. Thus, please do not take offence if a said series is not mentioned or if it ranked too high or low your tastes. Also, I have included movies in this list, and the way I determined what year they were is based on the DVD/Bluray release dates and NOT their theatrical release dates. The reason for this is because otherwise it will be impossible for non-Japanese fans to watch that particular series, and I do want to be able to recommend good movies. Anyways, here is the awaited list:

12.  Fate/Zero

Studio: Ufotable
Director: Ei Aoki
Series Composition: Gen Urobuchi

Fate Zero was one of the most hyped shows of 2011. It is the anime adaptation to the prequel of Fate/Stay Night and based off the light novels Gen Urobuchi wrote in 2008. Type-Moon fans were ecstatic to hear that Fate/Zero was not by Studio DEEN, who are notorious for butchering good source material. In addition, ufotable had prior experience with the 7 Kara no Kyoukai movies (another Type-moon franchise), which were critically acclaimed. Ufotable also brought back in veteran Yuki Kajiara to compose the BGM for the anime.

Fate/Zero indeed started off magnificently with its one hour pilot episode, and built a foundation of each of the masters and concluded with the summoning of their servants. It continued to be excellent until the halfway mark, mixing excellent dialogue and action scenes. However, from then on the series started to show flaws. From then, one started to question the pacing of the series, as the series became more and more dialogue centric and characters somehow conveniently avoiding death. Isn’t this series technically a survival game, where the last survivor gets granted a wish of their desire by the Holy Grail? Because of that, shouldn’t some competitors be eliminated by the halfway mark?

Furthermore, there was one particular servant that largely overwhelmed the significance of every other servant. That servant was Rider. Rider was an excellent character, arguably the best character in the entire series. But this came at a cost of some rather dull characters, or characters that simply did not get enough screen time. For example, Saber is supposed to be a main character of the series, but whenever she was on screen, it showed nothing but her getting owned in both combat and in verbal interactions (particularly against any verbal arguments with Rider). To add further injury, Fate/Zero’s 1st cour ended rather poorly, as instead of building up to a midpoint climax, it spent the majority of the episode… once again in dialogue, but this time in Waver angsting about how useless he was.

Nevertheless, Fate/Zero was still overall a very good watch, but was not excellent. Although the dialogue and action scenes were largely great, it could have been better placed, and a better midpoint conclusion could have been made.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10

11.  Mawaru Penguindrum








StudioBrains Base
Director and Series Composition: Kunihiko Ikuhara

The director of Sailor Moon and cult classic Revolutionary Girl Utena comes out of hibernation and decides to create a zany, whacky and artistic show. An anime original at that too. I’ll say this write off the bat, this show is WEIRD. Fortunately, it is the good kind of weird, and not one for the sake of trying to minimise budget expenditure as much as possible (*cough Shinbo x Shaft). Except for the cardboard cutout figures of background characters. That was obvious budget cutting.

To this very day, I am STILL not too sure what the show is about. One moment it seems to be about family, in another fate/destiny and how to transfer between fate/destiny lines (Steins Gate style) whilst in another it’s just shenanigans in the form of penguin antics, which were quite funny btw! In fact, Penguindrum was probably one of the funniest series of the year, despite not being a comedy.

Penguindrum is an arthouse series and rather than telling a coherent, followable story, it is portraying a sophisticated painting, but one that keeps your eyes hooked on a weekly basis. It constantly switches between real time and flashbacks which can make it difficult to follow at times. Despite that it was pretty interesting! Perhaps I would have liked it more if I was induced with alcohol or LSD during the episode sessions :p.

However, when it came to the crunch, just being interesting is not enough to award a very high score. Although it is without a doubt the most unique and experimental piece of the year that actually had production values to back it up, it may leave viewers lost to figure out what exactly they are watching.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10

10. Un-Go








Studio: Bones
Director: Seiji Mizushima
Series Composition: Shou Aikawa

In the anime medium, good mystery series are very rare. In fact, I can’t remember the last good mystery anime I saw. The thing about mysteries is that there are two ways to botch it up. The first is to make the mysteries too easy in that there leaves no element of suspense or thrill and whereby the viewer can guess what it is without much difficulty. This is Scooby-Doo and this actually insults human intelligence. The other way is to it so difficult that it is virtually impossible to find out that some outside supernatural element has to come into play. This is what Phi-Brain is doing. The good mysteries leaves the viewer confused but if they try hard enough, they are able to figure out the mystery one or two steps behind. Un-go largely follows this pattern. It is also part of the 2011 anime original repertoire.

It is part episodic and part continuous, structured into 4 or so detached arc until its last arc (which is 3 out of the 11 episodes) brings it all together. Unfortunately, the first and last episodes of the series is rather poor, but the other arcs remain largely excellent. The other criticism is that although it could have very well been possible to not implement supernatural elements to uncover a step or two on the path to solving a particular mystery, it elects to do so, somewhat cheapening the final outcome.

Nonetheless, it was a great mystery series… at least for the anime medium. Noitamina continues its tradition of providing interesting conceptual shows that are outside of the slice of life/moe heavy industry the anime is currently in.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10

9. Chihayafuru (After 12/25 episodes)

Studio: Madhouse
Director: Morio Asaka
Series Composition: Tomihiko Itou

It’s been quite some time since I watched a good shojo series (No, Kimi ni Todoke was not a good shojo series in my eyes). However, to be techincally exact, it is a josei series, meaning it is aimed for at young adult women rather than teenage girls. The director of Gunslinger Girl and Nana comes back to direct the anime adaptation of the winner for the 2011 Kodansha Manga Award for Shojo. The first thing that came into my mind was that why was this not on the noitamina timeslot, as all josei anime adaptations traditionally have been. However, it may be a blessing it isn’t, as slice of life adaptations on the noitamina timeslot tend to get 1-cour treatment, which will not do justice to a popular award winning manga such as this.

One of Chihayafuru’s main strength lies in its main character, Chihaya. As explained, in the top characters section, Chihaya is a very fun and entertaining character to follow, and it is a blast to see an assertive, shonen style character in a demography where submissive, weak female leads dominate the scene. Chihayafuru is a upbeat and optimistic series and although there are elements of drama, it doesn’t dwell on them for long. Instead it focuses on the character development of the cast, using the card game Karuta and the Karuta club as a plot mechanisms to drive this development. It ended on a well placed midpoint conclusion where it sets up the next major arc very nicely after finishing the “flashback arc”, “recruitment arc” and the first “tournament” arc. In other words, pacing has been exceptional thus far.

However, if I had to criticize Chihayafuru, it is the lack of emotional attachment. Being an optimistic and upbeat series, I find it difficult to care much about the other characters or the plot outside of Chihaya herself. The series is most entertaining when it involves Chihaya doing what she does best (bulldosing the plot), and the series is the least entertaining when it focuses too much on the Karuta scene as the game itself isn’t that interesting, particularly if it doesn’t involve Chihaya. In other words, Chihaya carries the series.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10

8. Ano Hana

Studio: A-1 Pictures
Director: Tatsuyuki Nagai
Series Composition: Mari Okada

Ano Hana was originally a series that little hype preceding its airing. After it finished, sales wise it is the most commercially successful melodrama series post 2000, solidly defeating even the mighty Key/Kyoto Animation trio of Air, Kanon and Clannad, selling an average of well over 30,000 DVDs/Blurays per volume. So what made it such a megahit and within the top 5 selling titles of 2011 thus far? In essence, it used the popular Asian TV dram conventions founds in K/J dramas are fused  them with what Key/Kyoto Trio popular, to create a solid hybrid, anime original production.

Nagai and Okada are no amateurs when it comes to slice of life and drama, as the duo have previously worked on creating romantic comedy favourite Toradora. Nagai has also directed the second season of personal favourite Honey and Clover, whilst Okada did a large library of stuff explained in Part 1 of this blog.

However, this was not a series I enjoyed as much I thought I would given the staff and premise (I like drama a lot!). The chief criticism with Ano Hana is that it tries too hard to make you cry using corny and depressing dialogue. This was particularly prevalent in the 2nd half of the series, where one or more characters will burst out in tears per episode and the series expect you to join in with them. In other words, it was too melodramatic. Furthermore, some of the plot twists were disappointing, the most notable one being the one at episode 8 where Menma was revealed as a ghost, shutting down all theories that it was a hallucination by Jintan. Instead, it followed the footpath of Key using supernatural forces to explain plot holes, giving it a “been there and done that before” feel. I also worry for Ano Hana’s success on the noitamina timeslot, as it does discourage the more mature, subtle slice of life/dramas that have proceeded it such as Honey and Clover and Hourou Musuko.

Luckily, between the characters of Yukiatsu and Tsuruko, they gave sufficient doses of multi-dimensional personality and genuine/subtle dialogue that was badly needed in the drowning ocean of melodrama. Furthermore, Ano Hana ended bittersweet and nicely, unlike the highly compared Clannad After Story, which just ended disastrously.

Regardless, if you want a good melodrama series and a chance to exercise your tear ducts (and join in Jintan’s wish :p), Ano Hana is the best thing available in the last 3 years.

Overall Rating: 8/10

7. Hanasaku Iroha

Studio: P A Works
Director: Masahiro Ando
Series Composition: Mari Okada

Personally, this was a series I was highly anticipating, as it consists of the same studio, director and writer who created one of my favorite romance series of all time True Tears. Plus it’s an anime original. In fact, the creators themselves think it is some spiritual sequel to it, even though I disagree with that notion. Have a look at this and this ^_^’.

Iroha is a difficult show to explain. On a basic level it is coming of age teen drama, but it encompasses elements from a variety of slice of life shows including True Tears, Toradora, K-on, Ano Hana (which it was airing in the same season) and Honey and Clover. It has a misleading first episode where it seems to advertise itself as a melodrama (albeit a different type) akin to Ano Hana, but once sufficient episodes are watched it is clear that making this series a melodrama wasn’t the intention.

In this entire year, Iroha was certainly the one with the biggest rollercoaster ride. It consisted of brilliant first two episodes, 1st cour finish (~11-13) and 2nd cour finish (~22-26), in conjunction with 2 episodes (3 and 17) where I wanted to bang my head against a wall. The episodes in between ranged from decent to great. In other words, the series was pretty inconsistent. However, despite the inconsistency, when the series was good, it was bloody good, ousting even the best of Ano Hana’s episodes. Because of this, it made the series memorable, albeit not completely in a positive way.

Furthermore, it had what I believe was the best female character of the year in the form of Ohana Matsumae, which I explained in detail in the top characters page. It also had gorgeous visuals and high production values, imo the best of the year alongside Redline and Guilty Crown (the latter which unfortunately had little else to offer other than visuals). It had a masterful last episode (might possibly the best ending I saw this year), which took me by total surprise.

Iroha did however, fall victim to what I believe was Okada’s fetish dump. In Part 1, I referred to an interview where Okada wanted to make Ano Hana an erotic slapstick comedy but was denied. I am guessing Ando was more lenient and allowed Okada to indulge in her apparent crossdressing fetish, as each male character without exception was emasculated and put in drag at least once…

Nonetheless, Iroha is definitely not your average “cute girl doing cute things” type of show. It is largely  “moe with substance”  and will be great watch… as long as you can tolerate the rather facepalm worthy bad episodes and elements here and there.

Overall Rating: 8/10

6. Redline

Studio: Madhouse
Director: Takeshi Koike
Series Composition: Yoji Enokido

When it comes to the “rule of cool”, nothing beats the Redline film which came out on DVD/Bluray this year after a long ass delay of 2 years when it first aired in 2009. Although I have never heard of the director or writer, boy did they create one giant visual spectacle. To put it bluntly, this is the most over the top, stylish and coolest thing I have seen this year. This is the Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann of racing anime.

This film doesn’t mess about. The plot is straight forward and the show knows it. It doesn’t try to diverge and implement fancy plot twists. It is meant to be predictable and cliche and if you’re trying to watch this film for the plot, then that person should seriously gtfo because that person is clearly missing the point. It is in no way trying to be deep or intellectual. If  Redline simply is the embodiment of entertainment and enjoyment in its purest form wrapped into 1 hour and 40mins.

The production values for this show is fantastic, and rightfully so as it took more than 7 years to complete the damn thing with everything hand-drawn. That’s right, hand-drawn. They did it old-school baby! It’s also in a classic 70s/80s artsyle which gives it a unique feel and experience for the new generation like us.

Criticisms? Aside from the obvious Redline is all spectacle no substance (but can you really fault it for that?) the fight with that big yellow blog was too weird and thus out of place. It also consumed a fair chunk of time (15minutes?), which could have been better spent in moar Untz Untz Untz and Zoom Zoom Zoom (techno music, racing and cartoon tits).

If you’re looking to turn your brain off and tune into something amazingly fun, then look no further than Redline this year.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10

5. Colorful










Studio: Sunrise
Director: Keiichi Hara
Series Composition: Miho Marou

Now this is something different. Sunrise producing an anime movie that isn’t mecha. What resulted was one of the best dramas I have seen in the anime medium which came out this year on DVD/Bluray after its theatrical screening late last year. It won the Audience and Special Distinction Award at the 2011 Annecy International Film Festival.

There is a fine line between melodrama and drama, and it is usually more difficult to create an engaging drama. Non-melo dramas do not try to shove emotions down the viewer’s throats but instead are subtle and natural. Colorful was just that and was also very poignant without trying too hard.

Colorful is about a teenage boy by the name of Makoto Kobayashi Makoto who had committed suicide. His soul is given a second in life as he is reincarnated into another teenage boy body where he must find out what he had done wrong in his previous life. It reminded me of an anime series called Haibane Renmei. Although it uses depressing themes such as bullying, suicide and enjo kosai, the movie itself was not depressing. Instead it was genuine and educational and because of that it is very easy for viewers to feel empathy, more than mere sympathy, for its main character Makoto.

It was totally not what I was expecting from a studio like Sunrise who tends to do more action, sci-fi related material. Instead, I got almost a Makoto Shinkai like film in style, except replacing the theme of “distance” with “repentance”. And of course the visuals and music were no where as good :p.

Highly recommended to viewers who are fond of drama, but don’t wish to burst into tears since this film will not do that.

Overall Rating: 9/10

4. Hourou Musuko








Studio: AIC
Director: Ei Aoki
Series Composition: Mari Okada

Following the line of great subtle and genuine dramas comes Hourou Musuko, the anime adaptation of the acclaimed seinen manga series by Takako Shimura. Fate/Zero director Ei Aoki and Ano Hana/Hanasaku Iroha writer Mari Okada had in fact joined forces early in the year to adapt this masterful manga series. It was also on the reputable noitamina timeslot, continuing in the tradition of mature, non-otaku centric slice of life/dramas.

Hourou Musuko is in essence a coming of age drama, dealing with issues such as puberty, gender identity and transsexualism. Normally, such issues in the anime medium are dealt with in a comedic way and make a joke out of it. Not Hourou Musuko as it took the higher ground and tried to make a serious and compelling story out of it. And it my eyes in succeeded in flying colors. Unfortunately, the series was the biggest bomb on the noitamina time-slot alongside Fractal, which is very demoralizing in that I am uncertain whether shows of this caliber will be made ever again.

Nonetheless, AIC, Aoki and Okada did a fantastic job of adapting Shimura’s work, keeping its atmosphere and dialogue faithful. The dialogue in particular was fantastic, which Mari Okada did a fantastic job of adapting. Imo, it is the best lines of dialogue she has written/adapted since True Tears and I would definitely place it a tier or two above the melodramatic and corny lines she wrote in Ano Hana.

Much like Colorful, this series is highly recommended to viewers of the same audience.

Overall Rating: 9/10

3. Steins Gate











Studio: White Fox
Director: Hiroshi Hamasaki
Series Composition: Jukki Hanada

Ah Steins Gate. Since I wrote already wrote a review on it here, I won’t go too much into detail.

Without a doubt, it definitely is one of the very top series of the year both in my books and both in those of the general anime community. A sci-fi anime that isn’t mecha, revolves around the theme of time travelling that doesn’t end up retarded, but instead uses the principles and foundations of Sci-fi classics such as Back to the Future and Butterfly Effect. I’m sold. Sure it took a bit to get the ball rolling, but that 2nd half of the series was beyond amazing. Steins Gate had the best plot and premise of the year.

And Okabe, what a baller character you were. Makes imaginary phone calls, drinks Dr. Pepper, wears a lab coat and has a harem of cute/hot lab chicks. The only thing I was pissed with was the ending… that was anticlimactic. Why do anime creators always insist on an overly happy ending? Sigh, I just don’t get it.

Regardless, White Fox, Hamasaki and Hanada have done an awesome job of adapting the popular VN series, and I hope to see future White Fox VN works in the future.

P.S. That piece of turd called Chaos;Head can go die in a fire.

Overall Rating: 9/10

2. Puella Magi Madoka Magica










Studio: Shaft
Director: Akiyuki Shinbo
Series Composition: Gen Orobuchi

If anyone were to ask me the question: “Name one anime that you have to see in 2011”, Madoka Magica will the immediate answer. Even before it started airing, the production lineup that was announced showed tremendous potential. Director Shinbou of Bakemonogatari and Zetsubou Sayanora Sensei fame, writer Orobuchi of highly respected status in the VN industry, and composer Yuki Kajiara, considered the second coming of Yoko Kanno. But did it meet the hype? Myself and the general anime populace says “Definitely”.

Madoka Magica on a surface level is a magical girl show. But, it doesn’t matter whether you hated shows like Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura or Pretty Cure. Heck, I dislike or don’t care about the magical girl genre all-together. The only magical girl show I cared about before this one was the 2nd season of Mahou Shojou Lyrical Nanoha, and that was only because it consisted of beam/laser spam using shotgun shaped cartridges as ammunition.

I would actually call Madoka Magica a psychological thriller more so then a magical girl show. Why? It’s because Madoka Magica takes all of the magical girl conventions and foundations and turns in completely on its head. That fluffy animal companion. He’s gonna be a good little plushie and help the girls on their quest to beat the baddies right? Think again. The notion of being a magical girl. It’s about being gifted with the power to save the world from evil and then be rewarded for it right? Think again. Surely, you couldn’t kill of such a cute cast? Think again. This is as far as possible from your standard sweet, cutesy, girly series aimed at 9 year old girls or pervy 40 year old men. Though it may be an exaggerated claim, some are even claiming Madoka Magica to be the Neon Genesis Evangelion of the magical girl genre. Only the subsequent three movies will tell if that notion holds true.

Apart from its storyline, Madoka Magica has the best BGM and OST of the year. Yuki Kajiara brought her A-game for this, composing superb tracks such as this and this. It was unfortunate she didn’t even come close to it at her subsequent involvement in Fate/Zero though…

Criticisms? Well for starters the character designs could have been better. I’m not fond of the designs of wideface specialist  Ume Aoki. Please keep those designs within Hidamari Sketch. And the background art… Shaft x Shinbou, I appreciate your experimental and avant-garde artstyle, but sometimes you go so overboard it makes me wonder if I would enjoy your backgrounds more if I was induced by LSD.

Overall Rating: 9/10


And for my favourite series of 2011…

1. Usagi Drop













Studio: Production I.G.
Director: Kanta Kamei

Usagi Drop. Likewise with Steins Gate, I have already a full length review here.

Usagi Drop represents what I thought was impossible in the current anime medium. The story of a 30 year old bachelor raising a 6 year old child, without resorting to any otaku-antics whatsoever. Zilch. No stupid slapstick comedy, no sexualization of little girls, no over-the-top melodrama to force your tear ducts to overload. It is the definition of a heartwarming, genuine slice of life show that can be watched by anyone, of any age, no matter how you feel, or whether you are an anime fan or not. That’s right, I could get my mother to watch this and chances are she’ll like it considering she’s a heavy consumer of asian dramas (K-dramas).

There’s nothing more to say really. It doesn’t scream blockbuster but it doesn’t to and it was the show that gave me a smile every Friday night during the summer (winter for me) of 2011.

Overall Rating: 9.5/10

And that my fellow readers concludes my review of 2011. Hope you all enjoyed it as much as I had fun writing it! Merry Christmas and Happy Year!


5 thoughts on “Acejem Reviews – Year in Review (2011) Part 3

  1. That’s a fairly informative summation of the year to people who aren’t familiar with what aired in 2011. Is it similar to how I felt about 2011? Definitely not, but from your own view and indicating things that would perhaps be worth watching from the year, it works.

  2. Brofist on the Dantalion OP, that one was awesome too. I wish they’d made Dantalion less of a tsundere than she was, all the other characters had pretty realistic classy dialogue, especially Huey, who is probably one of the most badass MCs of the year.

    Steins;Gate I wouldn’t define as a ‘sci;fi’ series. I mean yeah, it has time-travel and technological elements, but most of those are just vehicles to explore the characters. We never actually go into the future or anything, so it doesn’t actually feel like it’s a sci-fi.

    I’m glad Penguindrum is on the list, but I’m confused as to why Hanasaku is on there at all. I would have thought you would have placed F/Z above both.

    In anycase let me give you a brief rundown of penguindrum’s actual ‘meaning’. I’d simply sum it up as ‘individuals can alter fate through the power of choice’. Penguindrum’s approach in conveying this message is slightly experimental, because instead of concentrating on one motif, Penguindrum throws in dozens and lets us form our own interpretations regarding the connections between them. My own interpretation is that ‘family’ can be looked at as being bound to a certain fate, and therefore non-familial love can be looked at as choice. Of course, there’s also the whole ‘fake family’ that the Takakuras construct for themselves, but I’m already wording this very badly so I’ll stop there. A quick rundown of the symbols anyhow;

    Represent fate (moving from one predetermined location to another)

    This is a pretty basic one, represents love.

    This one has a couple of elements.
    i. Penguins all look the same, and travel in groups of people that are the same; ie. conformism. Penguin symbols (pingroup logos to be exact) were plastered everywhere, this kind of reinforces this.
    ii. Penguins can’t fly – it’s their predisposed condition. They weren’t fated to fly, and they never will. This is why they represent the condition of being in subjection to fate – it’s their fate to not fly, like it’s the Takakura’s fate to receive the punishment of their parents, and it’s Ringo’s ‘fate’ to be an incarnate of Momoka, and it’s every individual’s, argues Sanetoshi’s, ‘fate’ to end up trapped in their own box, by fate itself, leading to isolation and all that stuff, which ties in with families and the apples.
    iii. Remember that cheesy documentary March of the Penguins? Yeah, Penguins march around at some point in their life-cycle, for some reason I’ve forgotten, from one one predefined poitn to another predefined point. Hmm, seem familiar? That’s right, it links in with the motif of the train! Fittingly, what is the last stop on the trainline in penguindrum? It’s the aquarium. The aquarium penguins are all sort of swimming, they have tags on their flippers, they’ve been captured, are they really ‘living’ anymore? The last stop is also where the train comes to a halt, so the aquarium is the destination of fate, death.

    >Himari’s pink Teddy with a pirate eyepatch/Teddies that Kanba used to blow up shit
    When Kanba painted the Takakura house, he was in effect trying to change their fates. But, he sort of fucked up by accidently ruining the teddy bear. It’s the same thing with the robotic teddy bombs, the ‘teddydrums’; it’s kanba’s sort of tabooed methodology to change fate.

    Okay, now the final one uses all these concepts, and a few others I won’t explain here, in tandem.
    The Penguindrum was on a figurative level the apple. Why was it called the penguindrum? Well, as we know, Penguins are those in subjection to fate, and they march. People often march to drums. Hearts beat, and drums also provide beats; hearts are like drums. Therefore, the Penguindrum is the hearts of those in subjection to fate, that can be used to change it.

    There’s a lot more to Penguindrum than this too – if anyone has any questions feel free to ask~

  3. The year of Okada…. aka the year of Crossdressing. 😛 I really need to watch Wandering Son I guess.

    Usagi Drop is definitely a powerful anime; probably one of a kind when it comes to geniune drama and avoids the pitfalls of typical anime.

    Also lol wideface. But wideface or not, Homuhomu is the best!

  4. Really nice write-up, and good lists. I liked your breezy, conversational, and occasionally promotional tone. You should do marketing work for the anime industry. 😉

    One minor point of disagreement, though – I actually think that Madoka Magica is as much a tribute to Magical Girl anime as it is a deconstruction thereof. I went into the reasons why over on the Rabbit Poets blog.

    I would say that one of Madoka Magica’s greatest strengths is that it appeals both to people who love Magical Girl anime, and to people who want to see it subverted. That’s a difficult trick to pull off, and Madoka Magica did it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s