Unlike last year when it was hard to create a list because I felt there only were a handful of good series, it is now hard due to there being too many good ones to choose from.
I hate lists.
Take my placements with a grain of salt, as everything ranging from #11 to #5 is basically equal in my eyes.
But since this list is a part of Ani-Bloggers Choice Anime Awards 2012 I must order them. Besides, really, it is all for fun and not some bloody matter of life and death (except for some rabid fans).
Before you ask, let me tell you that the reason for anime from 2011 being on the list is that they were first available in English this year. A certain long-running series appears to be eligible too.
Now then, time for the best anime of 2012!
Best Anime of 2012
#12 Binbougami-ga! – 7/10
13 Episodes | Comedy, Parody | Manga | Sunrise | Summer 2012
I would suggest also reading THIS post on the series.
Binbougami-ga! came from nowhere and stole my heart thanks to its charming cast of characters and fun, if loudmouthed, comedy. The fantastic voice actors also added a lot to the experience and provided a lot of variety to the characters on-screen.
In all honesty this series is nothing particularly special. I just happened to fall in love with it.
#11 UN-GO Episode: 0 Inga-ron – 7/10
1 Movie | Mystery, Supernatural | Anime Original | Bones | Fall 2011
An overlooked series called UN-GO happened to be one of best from the last year. It was a mystery anime that actually succeeded in having actual mysteries while not spoon-feeding the viewers. Plus it had at tight atmosphere and well-written characters.
But when it ended there were still a couple of questions left to answer, such as “Who was Inga?” and “What about Shinjuurou’s past?”. These were vital questions in understanding the characters, yet we were never given any concrete background information. We only had small hints and the characters reflecting upon their past, but that were all.
This is where the prequel movie comes. While it never was badly needed in the first place, it actually enhanced the experience of UN-GO a lot. But it also works well as a stand-alone!
If you would like want to watch something unique, then UN-GO is a good choice as long as you like mysteries. And, you know, conspiracy theories and social commentary that works is a nice bonus.
#10 K-ON! Movie – 8/10
1 Movie | Comedy, Music, School, Slice of Life | Anime Original, Manga | Kyoto Animation | Fall 2011
When I first heard of a completely original K-ON! movie it was not without me being utterly confused over how a movie about cute girls doing cute things would actually work. But as I sat down and watched it every little bit of doubt vanished. K-ON! still had one more story to tell and this was an important one.
Taking place both before and during the ending of the second season it works as a sort of extended ending to the franchise as a whole. It gives the viewers a bigger perspective on the ending while also providing the usual cuteness K-ON! is known for.
And it worked.
At the end of the movie I felt satisfied.
In many people’s eyes K-ON! is a plague that haunts anime, but they are nothing but silly. K-ON! was about having fun and growing up. This movie is a prime example of that. Now, it is time for the haters to also grow up.
#9 Hotarubi no Mori e – 8/10
1 Movie | Drama, Romance, Supernatural | Brain’s Base | Fall 2011
The short story is that this is Natsume Yuujinchou without Natsume. Everything is virtually the same: the spirits, the relationships, the drama and so on. This does not mean it is bad, however. It would be a strong episode.
In roughly 40 minutes Hotarubi no Mori e tells the story about Hotaru who meets the spirit Gin as a little girl. This is all there is to say. It is a touching story told in a short amount of time. Give it a try. If you like it, you should also take a look at Natsume Yuujinchou.
#8 Kimi to Boku 2 – 8/10
13 Episodes | Comedy, Romance, School, Slice of Life | Manga | J.C. Staff | Summer 2012
For further reading, check THIS out.
At first Kimi to Boku may seem like a “cute boys doing cute things” series, which is partially true, but if you shrug it off like that you would be missing the entire romantic aspect. You see, Kimi to Boku actually handles the romance in a more mature way than many other anime. This alone is a reason to love it.
Add bits of character growth to that and you have something enjoyable. To quote myself from earlier this year:
“In fact, the latest episode of this second season made me fangasm like I have never done before. I just could not stop cheering, feeling excited and being completely… crazy over what happened. It actually dared to do that?! MADNESS I SAY!”
Boys are also interesting to watch. What a crazy world we live in, huh?
#7 Hidamari Sketch x Honeycomb – 8/10
12 Episodes | Comedy, Slice of Life | Manga | Shaft | Fall 2012
This is the fourth season of Hidamari Sketch, people. It is as it has always been: cute, funny and awfully sweet. But it is not only more of the same this time around.
What makes Honeycomb stand out in comparison to the other seasons is the bigger focus on graduation and life. As time passes in Hidamari Apartments the graduation and eventual farewell of Sae and Hiro looms closer. In almost every episode some issue concerning this is brought up, whether it may be keeping in touch with friends or what you want to become.
To further strengthen this aspect the first-years Nazuna and Nori have finally been given the screen-time they deserved while the third-years Sae and Hiro often were absent, focusing on their studies. This created a wonderful whole, although it is a tad bit disappointing that it was never fully realized.
Honeycomb ends on a really boring “non-ending” episode and the worries of Hidamari Apartment’s inhabitants are left hanging. It is not until we have a fifth season we will see the conclusion and now the wait for it will be painful to bear.
#6 Hunter x Hunter (2011) – 8/10
60/? Episodes | Action, Adventure, Shounen | Manga | Madhouse | Fall 2011
60 episodes later and Hunter x Hunter shows no signs of slowing down. Everything with this long-running adaptation is as great as always, nailing every little scene perfectly. It also does justice to the source material, which, I can tell you, is not your typical shounen manga.
The actual fights are few and far between (and executed in the most exciting way ever) while most generic clichés are thrown out of the window (our main character is not the best). Instead it is all about mind games and strategy, which was most apparent in the recently finished Yorkshin arc.
What makes Hunter x Hunter work so well is that you are never able to guess what will happen. Here characters actually die or are hurt, while twists are well thought-out and not completely pulled out of the author’s ass. The world created by Yoshihiro Togashi is logical and have rules that are not bent in favor of deus ex machina.
Madhouse has taken great care of Hunter x Hunter and have only missed one little detail from the manga (which will most likely be fixed in the DVD release) so far. Certain scenes that were too brief in the manga has been slightly extended here, with dragging ones being shortened; creating a much better whole. Hunter x Hunter is everything you could ask for when it comes to a great shounen adaptation.
There are still a few aspects to pick on, sadly. First of all the music is still poorly used in scenes, which really becomes grating due to its bombastic nature. When it fits it really fits, but more often than not it comes off as bad. Another thing is that there every now and then are episodes that are executed worse than the rest for no explained reason. They lack… “directing”, for the lack of better words.
Luckily, these problems do not have a great impact on the overall enjoyment, but their existent still saddens me. Especially the music should be easy to fix, I mean. But anyhow, Hunter x Hunter is something I look forward to each week.
#5 Wasurenagumo – 8/10
1 OVA | Horror, Supernatural | Anime Original | Production I.G | Winter 2012
Have you heard of the “Young Animator Training Project”? If not, maybe you should look up in case you are interested in short and fresh stories. With funds from the Japanese government it is a way to promote young animators while supporting the Japanese anime industry.
Wasurenagumo is one of the better.
That is all I will tell you.
Just go and watch it.
#4 Tsuritama – 8/10
12 Episodes | Sci-Fi, Slice of Life | Anime Original | A-1 Pictures, noitaminA | Spring 2012
Believe it or not, but I actually despised Tsuritama when it started. The characters were really annoying, especially the lead Yuki making mad faces while being socially inept. Haru was a big bother too, being completely out of this world with this cheery voice. Add a lack of anything resembling a story and it simply did not appeal to me, despite its quirky story about fishing of all things.
Never would I have thought I would start liking it after a handful of episodes. This is all thanks to a great sense of character and plot development. In the span of 12 episodes every character in the cast had grown in some way and the plot became grander as it went on.
I almost cannot help but think Tsuritama made me dislike it on purpose, because it only makes me see the series’ growth so much more than I otherwise would have had. In the end, I completely fell for it hook, line and sinker.
The colorful and bright visuals help well with the fishing aspect of the series, with the soundtrack and characters establishing its quirky nature. Towards the end I cheered with all my heart for our ragtag team of fishermen as they went to catch the craziest fish ever.
If it were not for the really bad start and the occasionally static animation I would have no doubt placed this as my favorite anime of the year. That is how good Tsuritama is.
#3 Hyouka – 8/10
21 Episodes | Drama, Mystery, School | (Light) Novel | Kyoto Animation | Spring 2012
You know those anime you cannot stop thinking about? To me, Hyouka is just that. The more time passes, the more attached to it I become. I think it all comes down to the fact that I did not realize I loved Hyouka until it was about to end. Maybe it was not actually a case of not realizing it, but maybe that… I did not want to admit it.
The start of Hyouka is painfully slow and does not really have a proper introduction to its setting or characters. It is the kind of series “that just is”. For many it was not until the culture festival arc that the “bang” came and they fell in love with the series. My own bang was during the second arc in which our main characters were asked to help solve an unfinished murder movie.
Here we started seeing the characters growing, especially Houtarou who lost his calm temperament, and the mystery was no longer based on the Japanese language. The latter meant that I, as someone who does not speak Japanese, could follow what happened much easier and actually come up with my own solutions! This is why the ending of that particular hit me so much, as I was completely wrong in the end. It was the typical obvious solution that no-one thinks of!
The mysteries are what Hyouka excels in unlike many other so-called “mystery anime”. Here there are no murders and the likes, but instead everyday mysteries like “Who locked the door?”. This actually encourages you to try solving the mysteries as they follow the boundaries of our own world. Several hints are dropped and the viewers are never left out on details. This is the best mystery anime there is.
What also makes Hyouka shine is its characters, who all subtly develop throughout the series. I am not talking about any world-changing development, but it is so well-executed that I cannot help but applaud. As the series goes on Houtarou becomes a bit more open to his friends, for example. It is not until after you have finished the series you realize how everyone has grown.
In addition to all this we also have Kyoto Animation’s amazing production visuals, easily having created one of the most gorgeous animated anime series I have ever seen. The backgrounds, the character expressions and everything in-between is top notch and helps create a living world in Hyouka. The music, transition between scenes… I cannot help but praise everything in this adaptation.
The only thing holding Hyouka back is sadly one its strengths: the mysteries. The first arc relies entirely on the Japanese language which dampens the experience, especially since it is the beginning of the series. The festival arc also relies on it to some degree, although that one is mostly understandable anyway.
Furthermore, the series could have had fewer mysteries. It is not that they are bad, but the focus on the characters we had in the later episodes is something I would have liked seeing more of. Only seeing the characters go about their normal life would have been a great change of pace as they are interesting enough to hold up the entire series.
But is there anything more than these two problems? Nothing I can think of at the moment. Hyouka started with a whimper and ended with one, yet it is one of the best series Kyoto Animation has produced. I will remember it dearly.
#2 Daily Lives of High School Boys – 9/10
12 Episodes | Comedy, Parody, Satire | Sunrise | Winter 2012
This is hands down one of the best anime comedies I have seen. Not only is it fun on its own or while parodying other series, no, it is also great in how it, as cute little Scamp put it, “straight up poked holes in their entire concepts” regarding other series. Nichibros is something I would call a true anime satire at times.
I still re-watch certain scenes.
It is so much fun.
#1 Natsume Yuujinchou Shi – 9/10
13 Episodes | Drama, Slice of Life, Supernatural | Brain’s Base | Winter 2012
Also read THIS post on the series.
Natsume Yuujinchou is one of those franchises I deeply treasure. When I stumbled upon the first season it really surprised me with how elegantly it handled the themes of loneliness and friendship. The episodic stories about the supernatural were touching and they often affected me in one way or another.
Four years and three seasons later we have reached the fourth and final one. As every other season this one has its own overarching theme: growing up, conflict and acceptance. Throughout Natsume Yuujinchou Shi we learn more about Natsume’s past and we see how much he has grown since we first met him, culminating in a visit to his previous family.
This season is, simply put, a payoff to every longtime fan of the franchise. The heartwarming and equally sad story of a boy who can see spirits has finally come to an end.
It has been a beautiful journey I will forever call my own.