Hello again, dear readers. Sorry for disappearing unannounced; sometimes reality intrudes. But let’s get right back to it!
I’m extremely skeptical of the perennial claim that anime is fading. If 2011 is anything to go by, we’re in a beautiful heyday, more satisfying in some ways than even the Akiba-kei boom of 2006-7. Creativity is in abundance. Things are good. Let’s sit back and appreciate that today, shall we?
So, without further ado, here are my picks for the ACAA, arranged by season.
Winter: Puella Magi Madoka Magica
This takes home the trophy for tight, economical storytelling. Even now, well into the age of the twelve/thirteen-episode show, most shows toddle around as if they had many more, only to crash headlong into a flaccid conclusion. Studio SHAFT didn’t waste a minute with Madoka Magica; once the ruse of the first three episodes was up, we were taken on a thrilling ride to despair and back. And at the end, like all good tragedies, there was bittersweet catharsis.
Shortlist: Hourou Musuko, Dragon Crisis!
So many adaptations crash and burn. Either that or they collapse under the weight of references to the original, a natural consequence of a market that favors hardcore fans. So Steins;Gate was a true rarity, taking its ambitious source material (conspiracies, time travel, the fate of mankind and the love of a woman — things geeks take to like a fat kid to a pudding cup) and making a TV adaptation that was faithful, thrilling, but most importantly, accessible.
Shortlist: Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai.
Summer: Usagi Drop
For characterization and scripting, Usagi Drop is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but where it really shines is its visual direction. Rin and Daikichi live in an organic environment, full of lush colors and detail. Little things, like the fact that people change outfits, do more to vivify the world than any number of gimmicky character designs. In a medium so little-known for subtlety, in Usagi Drop subtlety is king. Or queen.
Shortlist: The Idolm@ster, Mawaru Penguindrum
Fall: Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai
In some ways Akirascuro did a better job of explaining why I like this show, but I’ll still give it a shot. If you look at the above image, it’s pretty much all there: Kobato the goth-fantasizer, unable to call on her dark persona when she has to deal with an overly-friendly stranger. On the other side is Sena, the socially awkward beauty, who wants to be loved like in the erogames she adores, but who doesn’t realize that she’s failing at it and making Kobato very uncomfortable.
It’s a beautiful schadenfreude. Haganai wins for characterization.
Shortlist: Un-Go, Last Exile: Fam the Silver Wing