Miscellaneous · Seasonals

The Best Anime of 2012 and Guilty Crown

We survived.
We survived.

Well then. Since I’m another cog in the aniblogger machine (you’re all a bunch of conformist scumbags), I decided to put together my very own list of favorites from 2012. And by “put together a list of favorites,” I mean quickly rush a top 10 list with semi-valid reasons after nursing off a New Year’s Eve hangover. Which, now that I think about it, isn’t really a valid excuse since this is like 4 days after New Year’s day. Whelp!

Anyways, 2012 was an interesting year. Right off a transition from 2011, possibly the greatest year in anime history since 2007, it’s easy to dismiss 2012’s showing as completely inferior in quality, and for this I can offer no defense. Many opinions towards the shows which aired this year are split at best and while there were definitely standouts which instantly separated themselves from the rest of the competition, I can hardly claim that they had the backing and drive of last year’s instant classics. However, what I can say is that 2012 was a great year in its own right, and it never failed to give us something interesting to discuss.  While I claim to be no seer, I can certainly hope that these shows will be remembered for seasons to come.

10. Sakamichi no Apollon

The visual and audial charm succeed in making the music store's basement more alive than any room seen this year.
The music store’s basement felt far more alive than any room seen this year.

Sakamichi no Apollon gets plenty of flack for its brisk pacing and its unsatisfactory ending, and I can hardly see myself running to the series’ defense for this, especially in regards to the latter. The narrative structure collapses upon itself in the fourth quarter, and the ending nearly invalidates all of the conflict between Sentarou and his father. However, what Sakamichi does excel at is delivering and expounding on a genuine, simple male friendship. The relationship between Kaoru and Sentarou is not only developed in full, but also feels real and brought to life. While it’s true that jazz is but the vehicle which moves their relationship, the way that the music is lovingly crafted and utilized to express their growing friendship is nothing short of extraordinary. With every beat of Sentarou’s drums you can feel the energy and vibrance being emitted from the shop’s small basement studio and it’s hard for me not to crack a smile when the whole gang gets together to put on a show.

9. Guilty Crown

A dearly beloved football coach, gun owner, and , Dan Eagleman is true American
A beloved football coach, gun enthusiast, and possible racist, Dan Eagleman is a true American.

Yeah, really.

 Guilty Crown was the perfect storm of terrible writing, horrible direction, hype, marketing, and desperation.  It’s simply amazing how a story as bad as Guilty Crown’s was even written: absurd plot points arise out of nowhere, equally absurd solutions are presented with the flick of a wrist, and the story has a knack for introducing pathetic, unlikable characters without any plausible motivations to drive them. Everything which can possibly go wrong eventually does, and in the most hilarious fashion possible. From Shugenics to Dan Eaglemen, from space cancer to Inori turning into Wolverine, everything in Guilty Crown completely collapses upon itself as it vomits all over the nice kitchen floor. Guilty Crown wasn’t so much as trainwreck as much as it was a burning clown car pileup on the freeway; just when you think it can’t get any worse, BAM!! more flaming clowns keep running outside. And the best thing about clowns? It’s funny when they’re in pain.

But make no mistake, I’m not placing this on my list sheerly out of the external ability to mock (although, who can really deny that that’s a huge part of it?). I genuinely love Guilty Crown and saying that I hate this show would just be flat-out wrong. While there are absolutely zero objective merits outside of its phenomenal visuals and soundtrack, Guilty Crown reached a level where its failures transcended mockability and became worth celebrating. There’s a point where the series just blasts through unwatchable and circles back into amazing. An absolute disgrace to humanity and I’ll be damned if I didn’t call it one of the most memorable (and worst) shows in recent years.

I’m still not giving it above a 3/10 though.

8. Lupin the III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine

Say what you will about the best series of the year, but there's no denying that Lupin the III was the sexiest.
Say what you will about the best series of the year, but there’s no denying that Lupin the III was the sexiest.

Stylish, slanderous, and most of all, sexy, the latest installment in the Lupin the III franchise succeeded all of my expectations with its tremendous visual grit and audacious presentation. While there is quite a bit of backlash from the frequent changes in atmosphere, the series manages to easily maintain itself with its unmatched charisma and surreal grace. From Lupin to the woman herself, Fujiko Mine, the characters emit a sort of radiance that few shows could imitate. And the style! While there are times that the budget wears thin, the bold, gritty art is plenty worth acknowledging. Fun, explosive, and beyond enthralling, I’m proud to say that The Woman Called Fujiko Mine was my first dip into the Lupin franchise.

7. Thermae Romae

So damn moe.
So damn moe.

A brief, three episode reprieve from what was possibly noitaminA’s worst season ever, Thermae Romae was an interesting treat. As a Latin student who had to study Roman baths for nearly four years (an absolutely brutal language choice by the way), I was heavily anticipating show before it aired, far more than I should have. And surprisingly enough, it didn’t disappointment. While the Flash animation is fairly crude and the references to actual Roman bathing practices are kept at a minimum, there’s a surprising amount of depth given to the series regarding the production and imitation of culture. Not only that, but it’s nice to see a short three episode series so keenly aware of its length. Thermae Romae may be a one-trick pony, but it never overuses its set of jokes. Funny, quaint, and nothing short of charming, Thermae Romae is an easy entry into my favorite ten shows of this year.

6. Sengoku Collection

A real  an absolute triumph, I encourage everyone to watch Episode 18.
An absolute triumph on every artistic level, I encourage everyone to watch EP 18 of Sencolle.

Sengoku Collection managed to completely blindside me. When Sengoku Collection first aired, I, like many others, made the mistake of turning it a blind eye. While the idea of having Sengoku era generals (gender-bent generals, no less!) trying to live life in the present may sound off-putting and restrictive at first, the concept does exactly the opposite: by freeing up ties to the past, the creators are able to creatively tell their stories, completely unbound. The thread which ties these stories together isn’t the era from which the characters come from, but rather a basic, human longing for companionship found within each of the characters. While some of the stories do fall flat, more than several, namely episode 18, can easily be regaled as the best of the year. Gut-busting and hillarious at times, sullen and somber at others, Sengoku Collection was by far the most surprising show to air this year.

5. Chihayafuru

I've never something that looks so boring seem so fun.
I’ve never something that looks so boring seem so fun.

Far more tense than any card game should be, Chihayafuru excels on nearly every level. From an absolutely incredible soundtrack to vibrant, drawn to life characters, Chihayafuru constantly raised the bar for each of the shows airing this year. While Chihayafuru can’t rely on traditional sports gimicks given the stoic nature of karuta, the constant stream of body language and facial expressions tell the viewer far more than any slam dunk or tennis serve ever could. But what stands out most is the fantastic direction; the show kept managing to find ways to make each match more riveting than last, as if your heart would stop if you even dared to look away from the screen.

4. Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita

While there's plenty of debate over the best series of 2012, the best character is a no brainer.
While there’s plenty of debate over the best series of 2012, the best character is a no brainer.

Dark, cynical, and pessimistic, Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita manages to hide quite a bit under its warm, bubbly exterior. Each set of stories chides and pokes fun at the human race, and breezily points out the some of the darker aspects of human nature with a chide, sleazy smile. Jintai riffs on mindless consumerism, high art, and deference to authority nonstop, firing on all cylinders all throughout the narrative. But Jintai never at any time feels like a soapbox lecture; it gets its messages across without drowning in itself by delivering some of the most hilarious moments of 2012. There’s just something about watching a dubious loaf of carrot bread commit suicide which gets me every time.

3. Fate/Zero

Man, this was such a happy series...
Man, this was such a happy series…

I can’t say that Fate/Zero improved much from its 1-cour run in 2011, but I have no doubt that it’s earned its place on my top 3. The animation itself is worth mentioning; the fact that series with as good animation as this was even aired on television is simply astonishing, and we’re all lucky to live in an era where this was made possible. Urobochi Gen’s attention isn’t directed primarily at the Holy Grail War, instead using it as a means of placing his characters into impossible ethical dilemmas. Although the fights and various action scenes keep the viewer on edge, in the end it’s the execution of brutal strategies and the utter ruthlessness of the two opposing leads which sell the show: when Kiritsugu wins an encounter, it’s hard not to feel the sting of underhandedness and betrayal lurking in the shadows. Regardless, what keeps Fate/Zero from reaching its full potential is the way that the show cheaply introduces inner conflicts in the last quarter, namely the Kiritsugu boat incident at the very end. Still, when a show still manages to hold your attention with unparalleled levels of tension, it’s hard to hold it against it.

2. Tsuritama

The level of detail given to the island of Enoshima, form its myths to its inhabitants, is nothing short of phenomenal.
The level of detail given to the island of Enoshima, from its myths to its inhabitants, is absolutely sublime

There’s a difference between using myths for quick character backgrounds and actually using and expounding on them in order to tell a story. Fate/Zero may have taken mythological figures and implemented them into the story, but Tsuritama easily supplants the it when it comes to using those myths to tell a story, without question. From the bright, colorful world to the implementation of Eastern mythology, there’s a meticulous level of craft rarely found in shows today. The world building is quite simply, phenomenal: every small, minute detail introduced is utilized by the story, and the dichotomy between myth and reality makes for some interesting occurrences in the climax.

But what makes Tsuritama so absolutely fascinating is how it not only takes the Eastern myths and incorporates it them into story, but also how it takes its basis and blends it in with realistic, modern-day conveniences. There’s a surreal dualistic nature to the show which is hard to ignore, as fantasy collides with reality and urban civilization crashes into nature. The creator’s vision of Enoshima is simply sublime and unforgettable, and although the density of the lead characters can be incredibly irritating at times, they way that the show lovingly develops its lead four is something to behold. It takes an insurmountable level of creativity to craft something as gloriously realized as this, and luckily, Tsuritama has this by the hook.

1. Hyouka

Although far from the greatest aspect, the visual direction is nothing short of phenomenal.
Although far from the greatest aspect, the visual direction is nothing short of phenomenal.

No murders, no celebrity scandals, and no supernatural shams. Hyouka is simply about solving the smaller mysteries which we go through on everyday lives. They’re about searching out of one’s everyday routine and daring to venture into the smallest of puzzles we often brush off. This isn’t a story where the characters live their lives by doing absolutely nothing, but rather one which dares them to pursue out from themselves. Hyouka’s mysteries are a challenge; a challenge inviting the viewers to truly experience life and all of its smaller mysteries, to solve even the tiniest contrivances which we avoid throughout our day. But at the same time, none of these crimeless mysteries are dulled down or overly simplified; each mystery presented is given its very own soul.

It’s not only the mysteries which stand out but also how Hyouka dons several masks throughout the narrative, using its genre as the engine which drives it. At times Hyouka will be an interesting character study, and others, it’ll glide effortlessly to an inward study of detective fiction itself. However, these switches in structure never feel clumsy or forced; the different aspects of the core narrative are expressed through the shifting personalities of both the characters and the mysteries, the latter taking on several different styles and influences, from Christie to Doyle, as the story goes on.  There’s an effortless, fluid change between Hyouka’s masks which makes each story more interesting than the last.

Simple yet provocative, gentle but involving, I have no qualms naming Hyouka my series of the year.

9 thoughts on “The Best Anime of 2012 and Guilty Crown

  1. Aww, everyone seems to have included Hyouka in their top 3 or so. Now, I feel less special for having done so. Curse you all for nullifying my hipster powers!

    Nice list. I can`t say I agree on the order of things, but your list is at least acceptable. 😛

  2. Wow, it’s like the blogosphere is conspiring to force me to watch Hyouka. DAMN YOU CLICK AND CO. It looks like I might have to check out Sengoku Collection as well.

    That said, this is a great list! I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed Tsuritama more than Kids on the Slope; the latter certainly had its merits but the former was probably the show I looked forwards to the most every week of the spring. Probably the best show Nakamura’s directed since Mononoke.

    About the only things I’d change is that I’d probably replace Guilty Crown with Aquarion EVOL, and shift the Lupin anime below Mysterious Girlfriend X. But I’m guess I’m a bit weird to have really enjoyed a show about students in high school sharing spit, so whatever. Thanks for sharing with us!

  3. I had a laugh when I listened to this week’s FAPcast with most of the crew there saying Hyouka wasn’t that good. Mostly because I’m completely biased towards Fate/Zero, Humanity Has Declined, and (blegh) Jormungand.

    I’d hesitate to call Fate/Zero’s animation good though. Artwork was really awesome and consistent, but until the last couple of episodes, most of the anime was just stills of people talking, clunky CG fights, and static backgrounds.

  4. Fair top. I, for one, found the year slightly too negative to make one. Well, I am being dishonest; I thought until the very end this year would be a mediocre one, and at the last minute I was proven wrong by Nekomonogatari – the third instalment of a franchise I didn’t even like in the first place. Interesting to find out some of my personal criticism on the shows were expressed by other people you’ve read.

    As someone who lived with Lupin on national TV and watched the original series upon becoming an anime fan, I wholeheartedly recommend having a look at Castle of Cagliostro. Beyond being a simply fun movie, I think the introduction to the relationships between the characters it pulls off can make someone like the 2012 series all the more.

    I’d be interested in what you think of these remarks on the season of Fate/Zero that aired in 2012. For one thing, I found the plot progression significantly worse than in the first season – you liked the execution of the characters’ strategies, I found much of that part heavy-handed. Even though it might have been explicit in Stay Night, the existence of Sabre’s Noble Phantasm in her injured hand should have been disclosed much earlier than conveniently when needed to defeat an enemy, for example; in a similar fashion, the fact that Rider’s ability can shift an opponent is a power that should have been introduced earlier on in the story as it, like many of the twists, amounts to deus ex machina. And the strategic aspect, all in all, lost much of its appeal when the second season suddenly introduced quantity of extremely powerful abilities; in practice, much of the duels were battle of powerlevel, not of wits.

    If I had another major criticism to the series it would be that while the two-episode flashback adds to the lore and the character, it wasn’t relevant to the plot and thus harmed the pacing – especially when the deaths that come after follow one another so rapidly it makes you wonder what in the world the characters have been doing till now, a major pacing inconsistency in my view.

  5. I demand you write about Horizon in the middle of Nowhere and Penguindrum and their english dubs! I demand you like Steven Foster!!!!!!!!!!!!

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