Hmm… double checks the date… July 2011… It seems this is a bit late! Well, one of the advantages of being stuck in hospital for a while is that you get to catch up on things that otherwise get deferred. It is amazing how much time becomes available when you have no internet access or television.
This will not be a typical review of the year’s anime as I am not sadistic enough to watch (or even preview) the vast amount of series that I know I am going to find unappealing. It will also not include summaries of each anime as these can be found elsewhere. So, here are some brief opinions on anime I expected to be good enough to invest my time in watching that finished airing in 2010.
Anime of the Year
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
(TV, 64 episodes)
This series was always going to find it particularly tough to impress me despite (and because of) the original Fullmetal Alchemist being one of my all time favourites. And the early episodes, which had overlapping storyline with the original series, had me confirming my opinion of the remake not being worth it. Everything that made the original great was still there, but there was nothing to make it stand out. Then came the divergence of storylines. Many months after I have finished watching this, I am still not sure which ending I like better, although I may lean slightly towards Brotherhood. I think the fact that I am still internally debating which is is the better ending after all this time demonstrates just how good this series is.
A Certain Scientific Railgun
(TV, 24 episodes; DVD, 1 OVA)
I came to this not really knowing what to expect as I had not watched its predecessor (A Certain Magical Index). But it had “Railgun” in the title, so it must be good… Turns out that this is not really a superpowers show. Sure, there are people with superpowers everywhere, but that is considered ordinary in this series. That leaves you with a comedic slice-of-life series with plenty of superpower action spliced on top, which turned out to be an interesting and surprisingly appealing combination.
(TV, 13 episodes; DVD, 1 OVA)
I initially was not intending to watch this series, but people were raving about it… The series does have a good mystery/action feel to it, although some of the comedy is really over the top. Also, the pacing is all over the place with some episodes dragging to story to a near standstill while others progress blindingly fast. In the end I found the overtones of Haibane Renmei and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya too strong to have the series stand out on its own.
(TV, 24 episodes)
Big things were expected of this series, but it was always going to find it tough to escape the shadow of its elder brother Baccanno! This was a show of two halves… During the first arc, I really thought that it was going to live up to all expectations but the second half of the series became only good. That still makes this a very good anime to watch overall (and a serious contender for Anime of the Year), but I was left feeling unsatisfied due to it not living up to the potential I saw early on.
Highschool of the Dead
(TV, 12 episodes)
The zombies take over premise has been done repetitively with very little actual variation between implementations to make them stand out. But the key thing to enjoying a good zombie series or movie is to just not take it too seriously. They are not supposed to be masterpieces of originality, but rather mindless entertainment. And the creators of this series seem to know that and have embraced it fully.
(TV, 12 episodes)
This series was unusual in that it was broadcast with an hour long episode every month across the year. It also had a very “video game” feel to it initially, with each episode bacially being a fetch quest for a new sword (and I would buy the game immediately). The increased time taken for each episode seems to have paid off, with the action scenes being extremely well animated. Despite this, looking back on the series you realize that there is not sword fights everywhere and in fact it spends more time on the dramatic that action, which is somewhat surprising.
(TV, 22 episdoes)
A good horror series, although perhaps with perhaps a bit of a slow buildup at times. The atmosphere of the small town setting is well set-up during the beginnings for the eventual horror later in the series. However, the character design just seems too “happy” to fit in with the storyline, with the pointy hair and weird facial features just seeming out of place, and this somewhat spoils the build up of intensity.
Dance in the Vampire Bund
(TV, 12 episodes)
The series begs the question “What the hell is a Bund?”. Turns out to be a piece of land. Once that is answered, most of the mystery goes out of the series leaving a fairly bland vampire and werewolf series. At least they are traditional vampires and werewolves that kill stuff and not the romantic crap you get these days. The series does focus more on the political than action, but it is really just not intriguing enough to be greatly entertaining.
Eden of The East the Movie II: Paradise Lost
(Movie, 93 minutes)
I was hoping for a lot from this movie. The TV series was one of the highlights (if not the best) of 2009. Then it was followed with the first movie (The King of Eden), which really did not stand up on its own. But I knew that the second movie was following to wrap up the plot so the somewhat poor initial follow-up to a great series could potentially be forgiven. All has not been forgiven… That is not to say the movie was not good. It just can not stand beside the TV series it was following.
Psychic Detective Yakumo
(TV, 13 episodes)
The most average show of the year. I found nothing particularly good about it but also nothing particularly bad. It was just OK. Nothing more to say really…
(TV, 26 episodes)
This is not your usual anime. It is a serious drama without anything to lighten the mood. The first half of this series is dark and depressing. It is perhaps because the first half was was so well done that I found the second half far too cheesy in what seems to be its attempt at being inspirational. In fact, I found it so cheesy that I really just did not care at all what happened to the main characters by the end.
The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya
(Movie, 163 minutes)
After the disappointment of the second season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (not just due to Endless Eight…), I was hoping that this movie would recapture some of the essence of the original. And there were elements of this movie that really did show the greatness of the original series, but they were not frequent enough to overcome what is for me fast becoming a jadedness towards this series.
(TV, 13 episodes)
I generally favour watching short (~13 episode) series given there is very little room for episodes that do not forward the main storyline. Occult Academy is definitely an exception to that rule… The series seemed to have so much potential after the first two episodes, only to be followed by eight episodes of near nothingness. Seriously, if the world is about to end and only you can save it, do not waste your time holding a Christmas party to appease the spirit of some ghost girl. That can wait until later. Then it finishes with what I would usually consider to be a very satisfying three episode arc full of action and drama. However, given the ending is so out of place given the rest of the series, it is just not good enough to make this worth watching.
And there we go… a bit over 100 hours of anime for the year. Lesson learned – never calculate how much time you spend doing stuff.