Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Favorite Anime of 2012

Making a 2012 list for the Aniblogger's Choice Awards is a really big step for The Anime Guardians. It's officially been a year since I started this blog, and participating in a worldwide poll will help to gain some much needed visibility; it's easy to make a blog and have it fade away into obscurity as life takes its toll and other things take priority. This list is special to me in that I'm not going to do my usual "anime critic" thing. This is a list of favorites based on the shows I saw this year (trust me, there's a lot I still haven't watched from 2012). The order in which the anime are listed isn't entirely significant: with the exception of Sword Art Online and Chuu2, the others can be rearranged and I wouldn't mind too much.

And with that, I hope you enjoy the list!


12. Sword Art Online: The First 14 Episodes

A-1 Pictures.

Oh man, I can rant for days about how problematic the series was from a narrative standpoint - in fact, I did just that for GoBoiano for 14 weeks straight. But despite all the asinine arguments I've had with SAO's irrational fandom, I'll admit that the first arc of the series was rather good. There was a lot of potential in the VRMMORPG theme that resonates with all of us who can't imagine living without the internet. Watching Kirito beat the living shit out of everyone he crossed paths with was exhilarating the first 9000 times, but no one likes a Gary-Stu for long. The garbage pacing of the series and complete lack of direction is what eventually wore me down. The lesson here? Books and anime are two different mediums, and fanboys never seem to understand that. I haven't read the SAO light novels, but I'd bet money that it's better than the show.

11. The Labyrinth of Magi

A-1 Pictures.

When the series was first announced, I thought the early pics of Morgiana in chains meant Magi was going to be some creepy BDSM ecchi. I fell in love with the series after it was released, and then thought the Magi series would be the male counterpart to Madoka, especially since I haven't heard of magical boys before. It isn't either of those, really. The series is lighthearted and adventurous, and Aladdin's role isn't as grave as restoring balance to the universe. Magi's appeal is almost Disney-like - but better because its anime.

If anyone wants to watch the series to see Morgiana pull a Kirito and overpower everything in sight, I wouldn't judge, not one bit.

10. Another

P.A. Works.

Another is a special anime on this list: it's both the only true horror series and the only winter 2012 series. I might have replaced Another with Dusk Maiden of Amnesia if the latter show didn't annoy me with its non-committal ecchi/horror/romance mash up. Another had a lovely Final Destination quality, and I admit that I jumped a good number of times out of pure shock. My GoBoiano coworker Julie blogged recently about how anime has a difficult time genuinely frightening people; Another makes a decent attempt at shattering that myth.

9. Tari Tari

P.A. Works.

My sister hilariously called me an "emotional ass nigga" for watching Tari Tari. It's a title I'll wear proudly. Tari Tari was genuinely tragic, but oh so beautiful, and I loved every minute of it! And the animation, done by P.A. Works, is near cinematic quality, no joke. This is the kind of show that helps audiences realize the designation "slice of life" is a misnomer - most of what happens in these shows is certainly plausible, but far from ordinary.

I almost forgot Tari Tari is about music. The group spends enough time dilly-dallying so that they're not often productive. Anyone who wants a show about music that's not always about music should definitely tune in.

8. Space Brothers

A-1 Pictures.

First things first: when I was in elementary, I wanted to be an astronomer. Space was my second home. Am I biased towards liking shows about space? Not necessarily. What makes Space Brothers unique is its attention to realism and careful pacing, creating a rather plausible - and especially touching - struggle to accomplish one's dreams. Our protagonist isn't predestined to be an astronaut or taking up an inheritance to a pirate ship (sorry, Bodacious Space Pirates), but has fears and reservations that can jeopardize his dream should he fail to overcome them.

7. Kokoro Connect

Silver Link.

This show better be coming out with a second season! Kokoro Connect mixed the drama and tension of high-stakes games with deep characterization in a school-club setting. The tired, well-worn idea of body swapping in the first arc gives way to lack of impulse control in the second arc and reverse-aging in the third; through these experiences our tightly knit cast comes to know more about each other - and themselves -  than they ever cared to. And the villain responsible for this mess is written so well he became one of my favorite characters in the show.


Production I.G.

Another Production I.G. sci-fi cop story a la Stand Alone Complex, PSYCHO-PASS hooked me from the get-go. The 1984 themes of taming crime through constant intrusion of privacy isn't a theme I've seen in anime. Of course, Production I.G. extrapolates all the philosophy it possibly can from this seed, at times turning the show into a semi-snooze fest for those wanting more explicit conflicts. By the time the 11th episode rolled along, though, I found myself marveling at the villain's insidious machinations and I'm currently waiting for the 12th episode to air. This show gets better and better.

Did I mention the explosive rounds our characters shoot people with? Future cops don't arrest people, they just blow them up.

5. Muv Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse


I don't expect too many people to agree with my decision to place Total Eclipse on a list of top anime for the year. I expect even fewer people to know what the hell Total Eclipse is! I've followed the show religiously since its summer debut, and admit that in no universe is the series groundbreaking. What it did offer was remarkable consistency, with very few ups and downs. The CG robots were atrocious and even the 2D animation made me nauseous, but Total Eclipse as a whole was never terrible (I think the series flaws became tolerable over time). A show that's consistently above mediocre and strives for nothing more is surprisingly nice to watch. Total Eclipse is on this list because my expectations for it were genuinely simple, and although it occasionally rose above my expectations, it never sank below them either. Call this series my guilty pleasure, if you will.

4. Mysterious Girlfriend X

Hoods Entertainment.

Mysterious Girlfriend X is not a show for the feint of heart, and as cliche as that expression is, it really is an appropriate description for this anime. I wish someone could have seen my face every time the protagonists exchanged saliva. It was so viscous and shiny, like pancake syrup. The saliva was used to communicate all the fuzzy emotions people can't convey effectively through speech or even physical contact, a powerful device that proved so touching I can almost forgive the show for making me as uncomfortable as it did.

A friend of mine says the manga to this anime is phenomenal. I don't plan on reading it anytime soon, but if the anime is truly reflective of the manga then it must be good.

3. From the New World

A-1 Pictures.

Straddling the line between science-fiction, horror and psychotic dystopian apocalypse, From the New World had me captivated before it even aired. It's so... dark! The episodes segue into each other at the moments of maximum tension, just when I'm on the edge of my seat and waiting to see more. The unfamiliarity with the universe, 1000 years ahead of the present day, meant that every explanation offered needed to grab attention or risk utterly confusing the hell out of the viewer. The show isn't over just yet, but it's done exactly what a series should with its first 12 episodes: ignore the fillers and get to the juicy stuff!

2. Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine

TMS Entertainment.

A show I curiously don't hear discussed is the spring 2012 gem Fujiko Mine, and this is utterly disappointing. Did no one watch it? Or does such a show, which sharply deviates from any of the expected fanfare we get from anime, only grab the attention of the die-hard intellectual bloggers I follow? Was no one interested in the unyielding, mature sexuality that seeped from this series' pores? Were the spy game antics too old-school for modern viewers? Did no one laugh at the ridiculous samurai skills of Goemon? Was the animation not shiny enough? Did the plot take itself too seriously? For the life of me, someone please explain where all the Lupin III fans are hiding!

And my favorite anime of the year is...

1. Chuunibyou demo Koi Ga Shitai!

Kyoto Animation.

It figures that Kyoto Animation, who handled Clannad, would yet again reach for my emotions and make me want to cry using slice-of-life tactics. Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! (or just Chuu2 if you can't remember the whole title) was not on my radar at all, even after learning it was made by KyoAni. No blips, nothing. I didn't care at all, and saw the screen caps of a girl with an eye patch as indicative of another show with a moe gimmick to ride on. The darker fare this season such as PSYCHO-PASS and From the New World caught my eye as usual. I've come to realize, however, that people miss out on a lot of great experiences when we remain in our comfort zones. I don't often delve into different genres apart from gloomy sci-fi fantasies, but this time around I'm really glad that I did. Chuu2 is now one of my favorite shows ever. I'm not even going to say much about the show here; maybe I'll write a separate review on it. For now, know this: anyone who has ever had a childhood will enjoy Chuu2, without a doubt.

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