The Top Ten Series – Best of 2011
So for productivity on the blog 2011 wasn’t a good year for me – however that didn’t mean that I didn’t watch an awful lot of anime; Cara watches all of the things! I picked up 63 shows this year (11 are still on-going) – yet despite that rather large number it was remarkably easy to pick a Top Ten! When compared to 2010 I feel that 2011 wasn’t as good – the number of quality shows was probably superior in 2011, but I have stronger feelings for the good 2010 shows (Drrr!!, Katanagatari, Arakawa, Shiki, FMA:B etc). Still 2011 had some great shows that managed to crack into my Top 50 – so that’s a very good thing!
For this list I take into consideration all shows that ended their run in 2011 – most of them will run entirely within 2011 though. The Top Ten movies/OVAs/ONAs will be in a separate post that I haven’t written yet.
10. Star Driver (Autumn 2010)
Star Driver was an unholy amount of Fabulous fun. It didn’t make a scrap of sense most of the time, but that really didn’t hinder my enjoyment much. Only the latter half of the show aired in 2011, but that’s the part of the show that was the most fun to watch in all its ridiculousness. Who can forget the Glittering Crux and their flamboyant outfits (and that sparkly peacock feathered affair Sugata ended up in) with the reflexive secret signal of KIRABOSHI~! (you’re doing it now aren’t you?), the hip-shaking transformation sequences (Dazzling the Stage! GINGA BISHOUNEN~!), the singing, the HoYay and the awesome mecha designs!? Star Driver provided more than enough entertainment value to be included on this list – so what if it made very little actual sense!?
9. UN-GO (Autumn 2011)
UN-GO is the sole representative of Autumn 2011, mainly because the other show’s I liked are continuing on into 2012. However it’s well deserving of its place on this list simply because it was one of the most intelligent shows to air this year. After a lacklustre start, the series finally got into the swing of things and presented some extremely well written mysteries and raised some interesting issues – it’s remarkable just how much UN-GO managed to fit into its limited 11 episode run; a great example of how best to utilise the noitaminA timeslot. We didn’t get all the answers, but the finale was still satisfying – and it was refreshing to not have a show feel dumbed down for the viewer. Looking forward to that prequel OVA!
8. Level E (Winter 2011)
Another show that was just very clever and intelligently written – Level E shows us that you don’t have to be crazy and stupid to deliver top-notch comedy. Level E was a strange show that consistently managed to pull the rug out from under me, even when I was expecting some sort of twist! It’s a collection of short stories, which seem to have no real connecting line – except for the brilliant Prince Baka. Baka is a character you’d be hard pressed to forget, as the sheer levels of arseholeness he revels in (while still being awesome!) were nothing short of amazing. The best moments of the show revolve around Baka, be that he demonstrating how much of a master Troll he is, or getting his just desserts in the end – everything involving the man was brilliant. Level E was just an exceptionally clever show that made me laugh like a madwoman on occasion, definitely needed to be on this list.
7. Kaiji S2 (Spring 2011)
Kaiji is amazing show to watch weekly. The nail-biting wait between episodes only served to notch up the already fevered tension levels. Watching Kaiji is a rollercoaster experience – the epic highs and lowest lows can sometimes be contained within a single episode as we watch Kaiji dancing along the razor edge between glorious victory and a fate worse than death. This second season of Kaiji wasn’t as tightly plotted as the first season – there were only two arcs and they were overly long, yet I still adored this season because the production team decided to just go all out with their ridiculous metaphors, OTT narration and bombastic soundtrack filled with ZAWA-ZAWA! Kaiji S2 was an extremely entertaining ride.
6. Usagi Drop (Summer 2011)
Usagi Drop is one of those rare, quiet little shows that I genuinely loved. The strength of this show is in its writing and acting, everything serves to showcase the heart-warming relationship between Rin & her adoptive parent Daikichi. I never thought that a show about the trials of parenting would prove to be quite such compulsive viewing! The characters shone in Usagi Drop, watching their daily lives unfold in an unhurried and simple manner was a joy and I couldn’t help but fall in love with Usagi Drop. Quite an achievement given my inherent dislike of small children and slow slice of life shows – just goes to show you that when a show is superbly written it becomes a must watch.
5. Tiger & Bunny (Spring 2011)
Tiger & Bunny took a few weeks to really get going, but once it hit its pace it became a lot of fun and a fast favourite. The chemistry between the characters harked back to old buddy cop movies, which gave the writing a familiar kind of feeling while still being witty and interesting. The supporting cast, while never really getting much development, were colourful and fun to watch and the whole world setting just clicked. The animation suffered from some meh CGI, but the designs were excellent and the city really felt like an interesting place to live. The ending was a touch contrived and we’re wide open for a sequel, but overall Tiger & Bunny was a really fun series with great characters.
4. Puella Magi Madoka Magica (Winter 2011)
Madoka Magica was a phenomenon this year – I doubt there are many end of year lists that don’t feature it somewhere. While Magical Girl shows with a twist are hardly uncommon, Madoka managed to make its own stamp on the genre simply by being willing to really make it’s heroine’s lives utter hell. The suffering the girls go through isn’t your usual Magical Girl fare, Madoka really does go to some grim-dark places. The show is also real eye candy with SHAFTs creative use of different animation styles working extremely well as a means to up the creepy factor of the Witches dimensions. We also get one of the best antagonist characters of the year in the shape of Kyuubey – the sheer level of dissonance between what that cute mascot character says and his outward appearance is pure nightmare fuel; there’s nothing quite so disturbing as an utterly logical unfeeling being, who feels that your suffering is a small price to pay for the balance of the universe. If you haven’t seen Madoka you’re doing yourself a disservice – even if it isn’t your thing, the show is well worth watching, one of the brightest highlights of 2011.
3. Natsume Yuujinchou San (Summer 2011)
Natsume’s third series is sitting very high on my list simply because 2011 marked the year I gave in completely to my love of this series. There is just something about this show that I find extremely soothing and every time I watch an episode / read a chapter of the manga I’m either hit with a wave of melancholy or end up grinning like a loon – any series that can evoke such an emotional reaction in me is worthy of the highest praise. Of course I know that Natsume isn’t everyone’s taste – it’s repetitive & episodic and very reliant on your liking the main characters, the entire show is about Natsume’s evolution as a character, if you don’t like him then you won’t like the show. I however love Natsume and watching him develop over time – majorly looking forward to season four of this delightful series.
2. Steins;Gate (Spring 2011)
Steins;Gate had its ups and downs and was completely reliant on its main character’s performance, but it was still a phenomenal show. It was very clear by the middle of show what Steins;Gate knew exactly what it was doing – it laid it’s plot threads in a very meticulous manner that only hindsight can really fully appreciate, and it was a lot of fun to try and figure out just what was going on and how Okabe was going to get out of the mess he brought on himself. The series completely centres on Okabe, and he was endlessly fascinating to watch. Be it his larger than life Mad Scientist persona of HOUHOUIN KYOOOOMAAAA~! or Okarin who was watching his world fall apart over and over again, Okabe demanded all of your attention – a truly stellar performance by Mamoru Miyano. With a complicated plot involving time travel, it would have been so easy for Steins;Gate to collapse in upon itself – however the show rose to the challenge and delivered one of the most satisfying shows of the year. A must see.
1. Mawaru Penguindrum (Summer 2011)
SEIZON SENRYAKU! Penguindrum is another show that seemed to capture everyone’s imagination this year. A fascinating show to follow weekly, the volume of blog posts this series generated was somewhat boggling! Each episode of Penguindrum had a plethora of layers to appreciate – from the purely superficial appreciation of its brilliant animation and witty writing, to the deep exploration of the meaning of the ideas of fate and love, Penguindrum delivers something to viewers of every level of immersion. For me Penguindrum took the top spot of year simply because it’s the show that I enjoyed thinking about most this year. I loved trying to figure out what everything meant, but at the same time I could also just sit back and let the eye candy work its magic – a show that manages to deliver on both a sensory and mental level is special and for me Penguindrum did that best this year.
So there we go, that’s my personal Top Ten of the year. I doubt there are any surprises here, although perhaps my ranking may raise a few eyebrows. Not a bad year at all – here’s hoping 2012 can raise the bar even further!