About This Item

Unique ID Code: 0000153155
Added by: Jitendar Canth
Added on: 15/1/2013 18:19
View Changes

Videos and Info
  • Log in to Add Videos, Interviews, Etc
  • This article is lonely!

    Places to Buy

    Searching for products...

    Item Images

    This item has no attached images.

    Tags For This Item

    MyReviewer Best of 2012 - Anime Part 2

    Yesterday I got things off to a flying start with the first four entries in the top ten UK anime of 2012, interspersed with some categories of my own devising to make sure nothing of value gets left out of this review of the year. Let’s get straight back to the awards with...

    The Best Otaku Show of 2012

    Inline Image
    The otaku show is the anime equivalent of The Big Bang Theory, a show about the very fans that it is aimed at. You don’t get too many of them to the pound, as there’s always the risk of the creators alienating the very audience that they are aiming at, by cutting too close to the bone. You don’t want your fetish for anatomically correct inflatable Rei Ayanami dolls rubbed in your face, or is that just me? But 2012 saw four such shows in the UK, with The World God Only Knows deftly converting extremes of fandom into a very entertaining supernatural comedy. Then there is Princess Jellyfish, a rare look at the female side of fan fervour, a show which I loved, on discs that I loathed.

    But the winner of this award has to be a US back catalogue title that I have long wanted to experience, and last year I got my chance. The winner is Genshiken, the tale of a university anime/manga/video game club, or to give it its full title, Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture. It follows a young student through college life, with focus on his passion for the more nerdish pursuits, in a club which is less intense than the formal manga and anime clubs, and which attracts the more laissez-faire brand of fan.

    I thought, This is the sort of show that I thrive on, something different from the usual anime clichés, something with intelligence, heart, and a message relevant to fans. Genshiken is an ode to the otaku. It's a useful reminder that while what it is that we may be fanatical about may be completely different and mutually exclusive, the fact that we are all fans is something that we have in common.

    UK Anime Release of the Year #6

    Inline Image
    A sequel making a best of the year chart? Say it ain’t so! You expect sequels to be worse than the originals, that’s practically a law of nature, and it is fair to say that opinion is divided on Black Butler’s second season. But for me, the episodic nature of the first season was a little hit and miss, and that series took a while to come good. Black Butler Season 2 is firing on all cylinders from the start, with a dark and atmospheric prologue that initially belies what follows. But this time Black Butler develops a single story, and they way it develops is engrossing and revelatory. And it also introduces a new damaged protagonist with a pet demonic gentleman’s gentlemen. Ruggles of Red Gap this ain’t. Best of all, it comes with a third disc chock-a-block with OVA episodes.

    My thoughts, If there is one issue that can irritate with anime, it's that of indefinite conclusions, those stories which just tail off halfway, or get non-canonical conclusions from the anime creators, or which are deliberately left open-ended by the creators in the hope, usually vain, of a second season. That hasn't happened with Black Butler. Season 1 got a conclusion, and I would have been happy enough with that. But they pulled Season 2 out of their hats, and made it fit perfectly in that continuity, so it doesn't seem out of place. It's also a complete story, beginning, middle and end, and it concludes on the perfect note. It's very rare that you see an anime series as complete as this one. If I do have a minor criticism, it's that it delivers the unexpected so often, so many plot twists, that it does begin to feel like the boy who cried wolf. It's worth it in the end though.

    The Best Fan Service of 2012

    Inline Image
    It’s time to appeal to the lowest common denominator, those shows that hit below the belt before they stimulate the grey matter. Sex sells, but it helps if the show’s good too. Too many shows get by on a little animated T & A without thinking to put something below the bonnet. And it’s easy to simply dismiss even those shows as beneath consideration. Of course it’s these very shows that wind up as our guiltiest pleasures, so I’m taking the time out to celebrate this year’s finest panty shots and jiggly boobs. Freezing takes the biscuit for fan pandering, a girl combat anime that gives its combatants the special powers to regenerate their clothes, so when they get beaten naked, they can re-clothe themselves at will, only to get beaten naked again. How many times in one fight can a girl be stripped bare? At least in the second series of Sekirei, the girls have the decency to stay stripped once they have lost their fights, and Sekirei isn’t as nasty with the way it treats its characters. We’re in a whole other league when it comes to fan service with the second series of Strike Witches, so much so that the animators had to censor themselves, even for home video release.

    But the winner is Rosario and Vampire: Season 2, a show that makes the best of its fan service, while delivering a genre mash-up, supernatural harem comedy, with an engaging story, likeable characters, and the sort of daft antics that harks back to the anime comedies I used to watch ten or so years ago, and it elevates the panty shot and boob jiggle to a whole new level. The synopsis says... Tsukune looks to be a typical high school student, but his grades are bad to the bone. Rejected by school after school, he finally gets accepted by an academy that's more than a little out of his neighbourhood. Unfortunately, it's a school for monsters and Tsukune is the lone human! While forced to hide his secret, along comes a cute - but hungry - vampire girl named Moka. Beneath her cute and clumsy exterior, she too is not exactly as she seems...

    I thought, Rosario and Vampire Capu2 actually ups the ribald sauciness compared to the first season, and that actually makes it more fun. Random acts of nudity and sexual inappropriateness and awkwardness do much to distract from the fact that this isn’t the manga. As a result I enjoyed the comedy in the second season a lot more, and was glued to the screen for the duration of the run.

    UK Anime Release of the Year #5

    Inline Image
    This is my number 5? After you’ve recovered from your faint, and come to terms with the fact that I’m probably the sole reviewer on the planet that doesn’t think Puella Magi Madoka Magica is the best thing since sliced bread, I can explain that it is at least as good as a toasted crumpet with melted cheese, i.e. very delectable. This was the year of Madoka, as this ‘earth-shattering’ show took over the world, and its various English language releases were pounced on by fans the world over. The spiel was that it did for the magical girl genre what Evangelion did for the giant robot anime, totally reinvented it, taking it in dark, subversive and unexpected directions. And it is true, it does do all that. The problem for me is that Evangelion did do it first, and once you know how Evangelion, and School Days, and all these genre redefining shows subverted their particular genres, Madoka becomes less of a shock. It’s still a very good show though, released on some excellent Blu-rays, and in the UK at the best bargain price on the planet.

    My thoughts, Madoka Magica is a show that simply must not be spoiled. I managed to avoid the hype, and most of the spoilers floating around forums, and took the show in at face value, and I have to say that it is the most satisfying anime that I have experienced this year. But its twelve episode story so intertwines its characters, world, and narrative that just discussing one aspect out of context will serve to spoil it. I’d love to talk about the various characters and their traits, I’d love to discuss the story, I’m aching to talk about the twists and turns, but it’s like tugging on one string of a tapestry. To do so risks the whole story unravelling and the story is something that really needs to be experienced firsthand, without the comments of an overeager reviewer spoiling it for you. I also have criticisms of the show, and I can’t even talk about those for the exact same reason.

    The Best Comedy Show of 2012

    Inline Image
    Comedy never gets its just rewards when it comes to best of lists and awards seasons. I suppose it’s the weird suspicion that something as ephemeral, light and harmless as a comedy, something solely to make us laugh, isn’t meaningful and weighty enough. As if dark and depressing is of greater value than daft and silly. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather watch School Rumble than Casshern Sins. I watched neither last year, but shows which did tickle my funny bone include, Squid Girl, Rosario and Vampire, The World God Only Knows, and Gintama the Movie. But the show which tickled me the most last year was the inspired Baka & Test Season 1. In a medium where inventive premises abound, this show had the most bizarre...

    When a fight breaks out at Fumizuki Academy, nobody throws a single punch. Instead, the students utilize the school's technology to summon Avatars, pint-sized stand-ins with battle powers based on academic ability. That "academic ability" part is bad news for Yoshii: he's an idiot, stuck in lowly Class F with the slackers. If these misfits want to escape their dump of a classroom and earn some respect, they'll have to fight their way up the ranks and take on Class A, the Academy's brightest students. It's going to be tough, that's for sure, but once the underachievers of Class F get motivated, they don't give up - and Yoshii can't even spell surrender!

    My thoughts, Baka and Test: Summon The Beasts doesn't work despite its clichés; it works precisely because of them. The creators know that they aren't delivering anything original or groundbreaking; they know that we have seen it all before. They succeed by making every clichéd element that goes into Baka and Test, as good as it could possibly be. The characters are at the peak of their archetypes, the situation comedy is written extremely sharply and timed perfectly, and every beat hits you with another gag that just works. You may have seen it all before, but you haven't seen it done as well as this. It makes me look forward to Season 2 to see just how much further they can push the envelope.

    UK Anime Release of the Year #4

    Inline Image
    Jun Maeda is best known for his KeyVisual/KyoAni collaborations, the gentle, romantic, comedy/supernatural mysteries that are designed to make grown men cry. There’s something warm and nostalgic about shows like Clannad and Kanon that indicate perfect design, micro-metered perfection, a sense that you are in a safe pair of hands that guide you through the rollercoaster of emotions that lead to the eventual happy ending. But what would you get when a creator like Jun Maeda lets his hair down? What do you get when you throw away the rule book and go wild? You get Angel Beats, which starts off by killing off all its characters, and then keeps on killing them! Manga Entertainment brought this series to us in brilliant Blu-ray form, and I was glued to every single episode.

    It sucks being dead. It sucks even more to be trapped in a surreal afterlife where you're caught between the living and the dead - where a mysterious, violent Angel is trying to pull you over to... somewhere. What do you do? Well, if you're this group of rough-and-tumble teens, you grab every weapon you can get your hands on and give Heaven hell!

    My thoughts, Once again, I'm reminded of that scene in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, where Tuco wanders into a gun shop, and fashions an acceptably ruthless weapon by picking and choosing the best components from several, inferior guns. There's nothing all that original about Angel Beats, but by taking the best from what has come before, it delivers something fresh, exciting, entertaining, and utterly memorable. Take your Key/Visual Arts visual novels as your base, the Kanon and Clannad that they are renowned for, and incorporate their young, damaged male protagonists who go about solving other people's emotional issues, and in the process their own. Place this into a world which is a cross between Haibane Renmei and the Matrix. Add a female protagonist that has more than a hint of Haruhi Suzumiya about her. Season with a little Battle Royale, and garnish with rock and roll, and you have the recipe for Angel Beats, which may just wind up as Manga Entertainment's anime series release of the year.

    The Best Shonen Show of 2012

    Inline Image
    My least favourite genre gets a best of entry? That’s a turn up for the books, given how much I whinge about the endless tedium of shows like Bleach and Dragon Ball Z. It’s the medium for the young teen and pre-teen male, with loads of bombastic characters, never-ending storylines, and lots of season spanning fights. Yet even in this genre that usually makes my brain melt, there were some gems that sparkled. I certainly didn’t whinge about Naruto Shippuden Collection 11, where the show began to deliver on all that it has been promising for the last six or so years. The first Bleach Movie: Memories of Nobody is a case of a spin-off so distancing itself from its source material that it becomes its own entity, and seeing this story on Blu-ray was a particular joy, while I don’t think a universe exists where I would complain about Gintama. The end of the year saw the UK’s first taste of Gintama in the Gintama movie, and it was delightful. But my shonen pick of the year is a series which has done everything right, even with the long storylines, the epic fights and the bombastic characters. 2012 saw the UK debut of Fairy Tail, and it’s a prime example of just how good shonen can be...

    In the Kingdom of Fiore, powerful wizards make their living by joining magical guilds and contracting out their services to become "wizards for hire." Harnessing the forces of Dragon Fire, Ice, Weaponry, and the Zodiac, four young wizards of the infamous guild Fairy Tail team up to seek their fortunes. Growing stronger with every mission, they travel the countryside helping people and battling rival guilds, but with personalities as different as their magic skills, this team may end up doing more damage than good. Lucy is a 17-year-old girl, who wants to be a full-fledged mage. One day when visiting Harujion Town, she meets Natsu, a young man who gets sick easily by any type of transportation. But Natsu isn't just any ordinary kid, he's a member of one of the world's most infamous mage guilds: Fairy Tail.

    My thoughts, I can’t emphasise strongly enough just how great the storytelling is in this show. It’s got a perfect mix of comedy, action, drama and heartbreak, it can turn on a dime, and it feels wholly natural. You can be laughing one minute, then jazzed by a brief, but brilliantly animated action sequence, and then be welling up the next. It’s the emotional narrative of Fairy Tail that really makes it stand out. You care about all of these characters, heroes and villains both, and that is something that is difficult to accomplish at the best of times. Fairy Tail makes it look easy.

    UK Anime Release of the Year #3

    Inline Image
    If you’d asked me a year ago what my top 3 anime of the year would comprise, I can tell you straight of the bat that I wouldn’t even have considered a show about medieval economics. Spice and Wolf hit completely out of the blue, that’s despite all the hype and Holo avatars that have preceded it. You hear the praise, but then read the synopsis, and the two just don’t jibe. Cute girls with animal characteristics have long been a staple of anime, but the tendency for such characters is to be juvenile, and even childish, while the use of them has usually tended towards the comic. Yet Spice and Wolf turns out to be the most moving, and somewhat contrary to expectations, realistic love story that anime has had in a long time.

    Lawrence, a travelling merchant searching for profit, finds a naked girl with the ears and tail of a wolf asleep in his cart. Her name is Holo - a harvest goddess with an untamed beast lurking inside who longs to return to her beloved northern home. Armed with his street smarts and her animal instincts, a simple peddler and a forgotten deity begin a journey through the wild countryside. Along their path, the riches of happiness shall be reaped, even as the bankruptcy which dwells in the human heart is exposed.

    My thoughts, The animation in Spice and Wolf is pretty run of the mill, but the series is anything but. If you want something different, something you haven't experienced in anime, then you have to give this show a try, as beneath the economics and politics of the premise, there's also a very different sort of relationship that's explored, between male and female characters who together tick none of the character cliché boxes that you'll be used to from anime. It's also a relationship that develops in a wholly different way from the usual anime pairings. It's thoughtful, it's realistic, and it's utterly charming.

    The Best of the Rest of 2012

    Inline Image
    There was a whole lot of anime released last year, and from a lot of different genres. Naturally some shows lacked the peers to be easily put into a best of category for the year, so here’s a list of some other titles that are worth considering as you look back over 2012, as well as the one that I think is the cream of the crop. MVM had a couple of re-releases at the start of last year, shows which have long been absent from UK shops, and it turns out that after nearly ten years, Fruits Basket still hasn’t lost any of its charm. The beginning of the year saw the final volume of K-On! released in the UK, and if gentle entertainment is what you seek, there still is little better. Ghost in the Shell Solid State Society got a Blu-ray upgrade that is well worth the double-dip, Manga dipped their toes into the subtitle only pond with the entertaining Blue Exorcist, and they had the best vampire show of the year, if not the decade in Shiki (2013-2020 will have to produce something special to top it). They also gave us one of the best 2D animated family movies in a long time in Welcome to the Space Show. But the one title which stands out above even these was Kazé’s release of Roujin Z.

    This Katsuhiro Otomo satire about the care of the elderly being automated in a future Japan is a lot more accessible than his epic Akira, and has as much in the way of laughs as it does action. Manga Video released it on tape years ago, but it has been out of print ever since, and while the US had a rather poor DVD to enjoy, Kazé gave Europe and the UK a trump card in a very good Blu-ray transfer. My thoughts, If you've never seen Roujin Z before, you do not want to miss out on this opportunity. It is the unsung hero of the cyberpunk anime genre, completely overshadowed by its big brother Akira, but this movie is a lot more relevant than the Otomo epic, and has a much more fundamental message to it. For once we get something that the US doesn't, a change from the usual state of affairs. Roujin Z may be a lower budget, somewhat cruder cel animation, but it looks stunning in high definition. The only reason that I have now to hold onto that CPM DVD is the smattering of extras that disc has (a missed opportunity on this Blu-ray), and the awesome b-movie style cover art, against which this Blu-ray case looks rather bland.

    UK Anime Release of the Year #2

    Inline Image
    Kazé again! They’ve given me reason to complain this year, but they’ve also released some of the finest titles, or in this case re-released. My second favourite show of the year is one that I have loved since I first saw it four years ago. This year I got the chance to see it in High Definition, and while Black Lagoon doesn’t hail from a native HD source, Kazé’s Blu-rays serve as an example of how to effectively upscale lower than 1080p material to HD. Technicalities of media transfer are all forgotten when you actually watch the show, a balls to the wall action epic that out-eighties the eighties. The synopsis says...

    Rokuro Okajima is meek, mundane and metropolitan. His business trip to South East Asia turns from pleasure cruise to festival of pain when modern day pirates board the ship and take him hostage. Revy, Dutch and Benny are merciless, maniacal and mean. Together, they make up the crew of the Black Lagoon. Making a living in a city where the most villainous of villains make themselves at home isn't without its risks, but they take on any job available to them. Smuggling guns, drugs, kidnapped children and stolen goods is all part of a hard day’s work.

    My thoughts, I’ll make it simple for you. Buy this show!

    Black Lagoon stood peerless when I first watched it a few years ago, and watching it again on Blu-ray simply reinforces that opinion in 1080p HD. There really is no other anime out there like it. It’s like the nuttiest eighties action movies in content, but with some serious character development into the bargain. The larger than life characters and the edge of the seat action sequences will keep a grin on your face for the duration, while the underlying depth to the stories, the richness of this world, and the way that the characters are explored, makes it stand head and shoulders above anything like it from the eighties action milieu. You’d watch an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie for the action and the one-liners, but you’d never worry about how old Arnie felt about all the death and destruction he was dealing out. You wouldn’t feel emotional and sympathetic about all the random extras that he’d just mown down with a chaingun. Black Lagoon thrills you with its action, and then makes you feel sorry for the protagonists and the villains. It’s a post-modern action movie in the way that most post-modern action movies only dream they could be... but it’s an animated television series.

    The Best Live Action Adaptation of 2012

    Inline Image
    All that animation is all well and good, but even the most hardened of anime nuts needs a little live action to keep things fresh. Fortunately filmmakers have been adapting manga and anime to live action for years, and some such films inevitably make it to the UK as well. To be honest, the success rate of manga adaptations is about the same for Hollywood adaptations of comic books, albeit with there being a wider variety of source material to adapt, not just superhero comics. But once in a while the cream does come to the top, and last year offered three (or rather four) movies that weren’t just forgettable. Manga Entertainment began the year with what has turned out to be their final live action offering to date, Gantz: Perfect Answer. Like the Gantz anime, it too created an original ending for its story. Unlike the anime, Perfect Answer was for me, better than the source material. Unfortunately the first Gantz film wasn’t quite as good. Later in the year, MVM gave us the Crows Zero movies, Takashi Miike’s prequels to the Crows manga, high school gang warfare writ large, and great fun to boot. But the winner of this award transcended its source material.

    Third Window Films released Himizu, which took Minoru Furuya’s darkly comic manga tale about a boy trying to find normality in a world that persists in being anything but normal, and set it after the 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami, filming in scenes of actual devastation and by doing so, turned a small story into something much more meaningful, with a lot to say about humanity and how it faces adversity.

    My thoughts, Himizu is a thought provoking and intelligent film with much to say about how people deal with stressful situations. It's also a deftly crafted character study which takes you into the psyches of its characters in a way that few films can manage. Most of all it's a gripping and emotional story that will hold you entranced for its runtime, taking you on just as tortuous a journey as that suffered by its protagonist, but one that is ultimately very rewarding. Once again Third Window Films come up trumps with a Blu-ray release that is very delectable.

    UK Anime Release of the Year #1

    Inline Image
    It wasn’t my first time watching this show, and it wasn’t even the first time that I had reviewed it. But it was the first time that Welcome to the N.H.K. saw a UK release, and given that it’s one of my favourite shows, it’s no wonder that it’s in the top 10 of the year. But given all the other great anime released in 2012, it would have taken something special to make me put it in the number 1 spot, and MVM managed that by giving the show a release that was better technically than the Funimation discs that I imported way back when. When you see a favourite show looking this good, you just have to crow about it. Incidentally, this is the fourth otaku show that I left out of that list in the first award.

    The synopsis said... Sato's life is going down the drain. He's dropped out of college, only goes outside once a week, and sleeps sixteen hours a day. Surviving on a steady diet of internet porn sites, he finds himself falling further into a pit of despair. Then he has a sudden epiphany. Sato decides that the sinister broadcast company known as "The NHK" is trying to transform their viewers into jobless, societal recluses, and they bombard them with images of cutesy anime girls. Unable to resist the charms of such addictive programming, innocent victims like Sato are soon too busy watching TV, reading erotic comics, and playing pornographic computer games to pursue a normal life. In Sato's darkest hour, he has a chance encounter with a beautiful girl named Misaki, who claims that she can cure him of his perverse ways. Is this mysterious visitor an angel of mercy, or a devilish agent of the NHK? Will he get a job and counter the evil organization, or will he submit to his weakness and download porn all day? Swimming in a sea of corruption, Sato prepares for the battle of his life. Welcome to the NHK!

    My thoughts, If like me you got impatient for this brilliant show and imported the Region 1 discs from Funimation when they were released, do yourself a favour and consider double-dipping. The image quality on these region 2 discs, sourced from the Australian Siren release blows the Region 1 discs away. The colour balance and saturation, exposure, resolution, and smoothness of animation is such that it feels like a totally different animation, revealing so much more of the detail than before. Of course everyone should own Welcome to the NHK, certainly every anime fan. It may at times hold up a brutal mirror to the perils of fan obsession, and it may even make you think twice about your passion for anime, as it does to me every time that I watch it. It also makes me feel that such an obsession is justified, if every few years, someone in Japan makes a show this damned good!

    That’s that for another year, and I’ll get back to my regular doses of Bleach and Dragon Ball Z, the sort of shows that make me question just why it is I’m an anime fan. But at the end of 2013, when I’ll be looking back over the year again, it will probably be titles like Code Geass, the Black Lagoon OVAs, Bodacious Space Pirates, Wolf Children, Kids on the Slope, the Cowboy Bebop Blu-rays, Un-Go and Stein’s Gate that will be reminding me...

    Your Opinions and Comments

    Be the first to post a comment!