Thursday, April 7, 2011

Winter 2011: The Awards

The winter anime season for 2011 is just about over, and as expected there really wasn't that much to be thrilled over, in terms of successes. There wasn't much in terms of hype, as a lot of the big titles had been saved for the Spring season, but there were a few gems in the rough. The devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan really did make this season an afterthought, especially with the lack of closure on what was considered one of the best shows of the year, so perhaps we shouldn't be all that picky.

In addition, the departure of winter also signals the departure for Bradley, as he will be leaving the pages of AniMaybe for now. The contributions from him in the forms of reviews of Beelzebub and Star Driver (as well as the late-night tweets) are immeasurable, and I hope that the endeavors for which he leaves are constructive and beneficial. Saraba, Bradley.

Here are our choices for the Bests and Worsts of Winter 2011:

Best In Show (single-season)/ Best Overall

Geoff's Choice: Puella Magi Madoka Magica
To be honest, the past few weeks have made me skeptical of this choice for the best single-season anime show for Winter 2011. As you may know, Madoka Magica's broadcast is currently being delayed as a result of the tragedies over in Japan, likely as a precaution due to its subject matter. I still have my suspects that the show hit a little too close to home, as the apocalyptic imagery in the series did involve "flood damage".

While there could be more development to the characters—Madoka's wishy-washy nature makes Usagi from Sailor Moon look like Sir William Wallace—the rest of the show has been nothing short of outstanding. SHAFT has once again gone for broke with enthusiastic approaches towards animation, some of the scenes bordering on modern art. The twists and turns in the plot were so shocking to behold that I found myself wondering just how the show could end without some miraculous happy ending.

However, the one thing that makes the show animation gold? Kyubey. Never before has there been a magical-girl mascot that is so innocently dastard in its machinations, and I don't recall ever seeing a frothing contingent of fans that have wanted one to die this badly before. Yeah, the likes of Luna, Yûno (Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha) and Kero may not have had a raging fan base in the past, but to have thousands of fans take their anger and frustrations about Kyubey to Twitter and express it so openly is a wonder to behold. It's hard to imagine what fate the critter has in store for him.

Bradley's Choice: Level E
Honorable Mention: Wandering Son

Worst In Show (single-season)

Geoff's Choice: Freezing
While Onii-chan no Koto was high on my "AUGH!" list, Freezing really takes a significant step back in the way females are portrayed in anime. Much like To Love-Ru before it, the show is heavy on the "Panty Blocking Ray" censor smudge, mostly due to the unnecessary skirt flips and shredded clothing during battles. Main characters Kazuya and Satellizer are stereotypes in anime, with Kazuya being the "magical average-boy" patrolling his tall, big-breasted meganekko. The nudity is humiliatingly egregious, and the fact that the partnership between the male Limiters and female Pandora warriors forces the females to take the brunt of the violence just shows disrespect towards women.

Yes, despite the differences in culture one may cite between Japan and the U.S., I dare play the "sexism" card here.

Bradley's Choice: Onii-chan no Koto Nanka Zenzen Suki Janai'n Dakara Ne!
(Dis)honorable Mention: Infinite Stratos

Best In Show (multi-season)

Geoff's Choice: Star Driver
Really, everything I spoke about Star Driver last season still applies to the series here. There is a distinct separation between the show's comedic moments and serious drama, and the production crew has done an admirable job at sticking to the patterns that work. I absolutely loved the twist from the story that involved the twins Mizuno and Marino. Granted, the relationship between our two main male protagonists, Takuto and Sugata, already had a tension to it that felt like it was ripped from CLAMP's X series, but it was pretty inevitable. While I haven't finished the series as of yet, it's an enjoyable romp and, like Madoka Magica, should be viewed as a complete show. Here's to hoping that it gets licensed for the U.S.

Bradley's Choice: Star Driver
Honorable Mention: Mitsudomoe

Worst In Show (multi-season)

Geoff's Choice: Super Robot Wars OG: The Inspector (GT)
It's disheartening that I must choose SRWOG: The Inspector as the "worst" continuing show of the season, as there's likely no significant reason to do so, but the show did have its difficult points. There were displays of mecha that didn't really impress me like they did in Star Driver, and any impressive moments just seemed to be nullified by the use of a complicated plot. There were too many characters for me to really concentrate on, and it didn't help that Obari's directorial presence made it feel like I was watching Gowcaizer. I really did want to get into this show, but sadly the show made me want to watch other mecha shows instead of those from the SRW franchise.

Bradley's Choice: N/A
(Dis)honorable Mention: Kimi ni Todoke, 2nd Season

Most Potential (continuing series)

Geoff's Choice: GOSICK
There are not many new shows that are being stretched to a second season this winter, so GOSICK pretty much wins by default. I still do like the Holmes/Watson dynamic between the diminutive Victorique and her partner Kazuya (no relation to the one in Freezing, thankfully), and the appearance of new characters in each episodical arc gives the show a refreshing reset that we get from detective shows like Meitantei Conan. We do get some carry-over between cases, so there's also this feeling the show will stay in one piece throughout its two-season presentation.

There may be a little hesitance to proclaim GOSICK as having "potential" from the show's use of lengthy explanations and not enough drama from battles, but that's usually the case when it comes to detective shows. I'm hoping that we get a solid presentation and a formidable villain that we have yet to see in the cases of some of the other shows from this season. GOSICK will likely be bombarded by the presence of other shows in the spring, but here's to hoping it shines through.

Bradley's Choice: Beelzebub
Honorable Mention: Rio: Rainbow Gate! (if the 'cliffhanger' counts for anything)

Least Potential (continuing series)

Geoff's Choice: Cardfight! Vanguard
(Yes, the image isn't of the actual series, but it's a much more entertaining card fight...)

Does this show have potential? As an anime, it likely is through with its season, as another incarnation of Yu-Gi-Oh! hits the store shelves and television waves soon, but as a card game, I can't imagine Cardfight! Vanguard surfacing as a commercial success. The gameplay is confusing enough as it is, and there's just not enough distinction to keep it separate from Yu-Gi-Oh!'s stranglehold on the card-game industry. If the show was created as a spinoff, it might get sprinkled with some of the pixie-dust from Yu-Gi-Oh!, but as its own entity Cardfight! is merely a paper cut.

Bradley's Choice: GOSICK
(Dis)honorable Mention: N/A

Biggest Surprise

Geoff's Choice: Kore wa Zombie Desu Ka?
While Rio: Rainbow Gate! did surprise me by how mindlessly fun it was, KoreZom was the biggest surprise for me, since it was a harem show that didn't overload on harem devices. The main character Ayumu actually had more brains in his head than most male leads in harem animes, and he was a zombie! While the show didn't particularly end the way I had hoped it would end, I was glad to finally see a main character with a spine.

It's also funny that I was able to enjoy the supporting characters, even if they picked on Ayumu like he was some sort of carcass to vultures. None of them appeared to sincerely interfere with Ayumu's appreciation for the necromancer Eu's company, and it provided a unique dichotomy between characters—we didn't have to hear complaints between the two like many relationships these days. Luckily, the tsundere character (Haruna) was not too meddlesome. While the show ended with a shrug, I was happy to have it do the best of all the harem shows this season.

Bradley's Choice: Rio: Rainbow Gate!
Honorable Mention: Dream Eater Merry

Biggest Disappointment

Geoff's Choice: Dragon Crisis!
I honestly wasn't looking for shows like Dragon Crisis! to save the season, but I certainly saw it as a possible selection for a show that could bring a good story and let the other shows drag the season down. I had my hopes raised quite a bit by the voice actors provided for the main protagonists and their enemy, but I can't say that the show allowed them to shine. The pattern of introducing sub-characters in two-episode arcs was too simple to predict, and they weren't vivid enough to make for an exciting climax.

Come to think of it, I can't really put a finger on why I let the acting alone determine this show to be better than advertised. Rose (Rie Kugimiya) wasn't all that exceptional as a character (read: with the tsun extracted), and Ryûji (Hiro Shimono) turned out to be a serious wimp. Team that all up with a third wheel (Eriko) and what had to be the worst ending theme and animation I had ever seen, and you have hot garbage.

Bradley's Choice: Fractale
(Dis)honorable Mention: Haiyoru! Nyaru-Ani; Starry Sky


  1. I got to say even Puella Magi Madoka Magica caught me by surprise of the Winter season. Thought it would be like the series of past, Cardcaptor Sakura and that with some Artsy SHAFTness added but I didn't expect it to go so dark and tragic and harrowing. Yuki Kajiura put me over the top to go watch it otherwise it would have been on a "I'll get around to it" list. Not that I hate Magical Girl shows as others might. And who doesn't want to roast QB over an open fire by now. There are whole lists dedicated to hating him and wanting to do terrible things :D

    I'm a keeper of my own blog, visits always appreciated

  2. @Freezing Comment:

    O come on! Get a grip! I don't think that the developers were being sexist in any way. And its not like the males in the show disrespect or look down upon the females. Infact, this power actually gives females in this anime more power and kinda makes them the superior of the two.

    And if you still think its sexist, get a life! Its anime, entertainment. And it should be taken as such!

  3. On the Freezing comment:

    There are people out there that see animation as a reflection of a society's view on various cultural aspects. Myself, I cannot look past the idea that Freezing doesn't represent some latent vision of the female as an entity that is meant to be conquered. Yes, Satellizer is a strong powerful woman, as are most of the females in the show, but to see her easily in various stages of undress and battle damage...I can't help but wonder if it is someone's desire to dominate such a female.

    Yes, perhaps I am reading too much into the show and should treat it like a consumable good, but I have never been one who liked throwing wrappers away without considering the reasons the consumable was produced.