As this fourth/fifth week of the Winter 2012 Season reaches its end, things have reached their zenith as far as meaningful posts go; where once I could rant about Ano Natsu de Matteru with the best of them, I’m now left staring blankly at my word processor. My only explanation why, of course, is my lack of monthly review post for January. In order to convince myself that getting this out of the way will make Ano Natsu an easier series to cover, I’m going to do just that and say that the season as a whole has been remarkably uniform in hovering around what I’d define as adequate.
It’s not that there aren’t good shows; pretty much everything airing has its own merit. Hell, maybe Amagami SS+ and the last season of Zero no Tsukaima do for all I know. None of them really excel though, as loathe as I am to say it. There’s barely anything that makes me clamor for more week to week, but I watch nearly everything that the season throws at me at the very least with passive interest. Since I haven’t dropped anything and I know that we all have busy schedules to attend to, I’ll just make this my Top 10 of the season so far. A follow-up post for the rest is still pending. It was a tough call, but here are the worst to best for my Top 10 as of this writing:
10. Senki Zesshou Symphogear
I’ll get it out of the way now that Symphogear is not good by any stretch of the imagination. The plot relies on conveniently timed events, a collective that has about as much a reason to be wrecking the city as a feral pack of butterflies, and a synopsis that screams “We don’t know what we’re doing either!” at the top of its lungs. All of this is helped tremendously by the surprisingly limited animation that comes into play during any scene that isn’t a fight. The fight scenes barely work, the plot’s a load of hilarious shit, and nearly everything about it reeks of half-hearted design, but it somehow makes this much better than it ever would be if it were strung together well. It’s all this that comes together to make Symphogear the so bad it’s good pick of the season.
Here’s the other so bad it’s good pick. Another so bad it’s good pick, if you will. After a promising (I still abide by the notion that it is) beginning that seemed to take its time setting the atmosphere for some real scares later on, it went from a capably by-the-books Japanese horror into Final Destination-style antics. It’s a show that has a great setup, but knows not how to best utilize it, instead killing off characters seemingly at random. This understandably frustrates many people, but I love it for these reasons they same way I love Symphogear. The only reason why I rate this higher is because the production values are much more crisp, occasionally giving certain moments the sinister edge they were looking for.
8. Papa no Iukoto no Kikinasai
I know, I’m surprised I’m rating this so highly too. PapaKiki can be very annoying at times, especially our pig-headed protagonist who doesn’t have the decency to wake his niece up when she unknowingly clings to him in her sleep, but it proved to be quite the surprise, growing more mature with each subsequent episode. It’s no Usagi Drop, but it’s way better than I ever expected it to be.
7. Aquarion Evol
Aquarion Evol shares a few things with the previous two entries, namely the silly plot and an annoying protagonist. But this is where I draw the line from enjoyably mediocre to actually kind of good. Just as Symphogear seems like an extended homage to the goofy OVAs of yore, Aquarion is everything good about mecha distilled into an easily marketable, infectiously cheerful package. It can hardly be called original, its main gimmick being the interactions surrounding the two genders and a mech piloted by both saving the planet from alien abductors, but it’s original enough to stand on its own merit. Easily the stronger of the two mecha series introduced this season.
6. Tantei Opera Milky Holmes 2
The first season of Milky Holmes was a string of barely coherent words uttered by a drunken madman with an inherent speech impediment. The second season is all that, but fighting with an exact copy of the madman with frozen mackerels as weapons. It’s complete nuttery, relying on the stupidity of our heroines, and Twenty’s nipples, to keep the energy flowing without pause. Episode three in particular showed this off, easily being the strangest episode yet. If you haven’t seen it yet and are in the market for weird, give it a shot. And if not, it can be safely avoided.
5. Mouretsu Pirates
Awesome OP: Check
Pirates in space: Check
Cyber warfare and strategy: Check
Wine drunk in unconventional ways: Check
Badass pirate momma: Double Check
I think I’ve made my case.
There is very little that actually happens in each episode of Nisemono. It’s all dialogue and neat artistry with no reprieve, taken to its logical sexual extreme. While I’m not usually one for fanservice shows, Nisemono pulls it off with such aplomb, and with such beautiful artwork, that I can’t help but respect what it does.
3. Mirai Nikki
As Future Diary just grows more and more insane with each coming episode, my love for it swells to the point of bursting. I love Yuno’s psychotic spells, I love how each of Yukiteru’s opponents are all delightfully unhinged in some kind of way, and I like that his main conflict is whether he should keep Yuno around or not. It’s not a smart series, but it knows how to entertain better than almost everything else out there, and that counts for a lot in my book.
2. Daily Lives of High School Boys (Nichibros)
Nichibros is the best (intentional) comedy of the season, without a doubt. It manages to have Milky Holmes’ kookiness while remaining down to earth, painting the male cast in a sympathetic, yet not altogether saccharine light. It thankfully doesn’t follow in the trend of ‘Cute Boys Doing Cute Things’, instead opting for a trend in punchy comedy that rarely fails to deliver. However, the high points of the series are the high school boys’ counterparts, the high school girls. They’re brash, rude, and given over to sweets as one of their cardinal desires. In short, Nichibros manages to completely buck the trend of ‘Cute Students Doing Cute Things’ and make it a wonderful romp in the process.
1. Natsume Yuujinchou Shi
Yes, even with everything else that’s airing, Natsume manages to take my top spot by not only keeping my attention from week to week without fail, but continuing to introduce stories that are heartwarming without going overboard and nauseating the audience. In a schedule that refuses to give much leeway, a touch of Natsume in my week is just what I need in order to relax, and for that reason among others it earns my top spot.
Well, possible commenters, what are your choices for the season? Where do your lists and mine diverge? Feel free to tell me.