Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Year in Review: Anime

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny: A step up from its predecessor, SEED Destiny spotlights a new lead character, Shinn Asuka, who alongside Athrun Zala, delivers a far more interesting narrative than Kira Yamato ever did in Gundam SEED. SEED Destiny evokes a more genuine sense of the difficulties in alliance and war, by painting the picture with the ambitions of all the major players, and spinning a much more intricate web of politics and deceit. The later episodes get bogged down by the same clichés that burdened Gundam SEED, but as a whole this sequel is a significant improvement. My rating: 8.25

Full Metal Alchemist (season two): Building upon the revelations from season one, this second half takes a darker path, exploring the origins of each Homunculus and the trials the Elric brothers face from the many factions they cross paths with. Although the series deviates from the manga at points - some ways more distinctly so than others - the story remains focused on the aspects of growing up and familial responsibility conveyed through Edward and Alphonse. The added backstories of Lust and Greed provide extra fuel to the emotional drive. Despite a few episodes that feel out of place, season two of FMA provides a fitting second half to the contemporary classic that is the story of the brothers Elric. My rating: 9.5

Rating for series as a whole: 10

Azumanga Daioh: Part slice-of-life, part comedy, Azumanga Daioh follows a group of awkward and zany girls through their high school years. Whether it's over-analyzing social customs, obsessions with cats, or avoiding one particularly weird teacher, the girls always have an opinion to share. The art style and soundtrack take a minimalist approach, which is appropriate given the nature of this hybrid series. My rating: 8.75

Mushi-Shi: A string of largely unrelated tales fuels work for Ginko, a Mushi Master - one of a rare few who can see and interact with semi-sentient entities that influence the unseen world around humans. The series blends fantasy and ancient Japanese folklore to deliver both a fantastic narrative and genuine sense of wonder. Though many characters only appear for single episodes, they are so memorable and well-developed that it is of no consequence if Ginko decides to take on a secondary role for an episode or two. My rating: 9.5

Eden of the East: A man without any idea of who he is or was, Akira Takizawa returns to Japan to find he is a contender in a national game of sorts, with a vast amount of money and seemingly limitless resources at his disposal. Along with his newfound friend Saki Morimi and faceless voice receiving his calls known as Juiz, Takizawa must figure out who the other contenders are and use the means he has been allotted to 'save Japan', whatever that might mean. The story is told in chunks that reveal enough information to keep the story interesting, but also perpetuate the suspenseful and action-driven parts. My rating: 8.5

Summer Wars: A bit of an awkward high schooler, Kenji jumps at the opportunity of spending time with Natsuki at her grandmother's 90th birthday celebration. Once he gets there, though, Natsuki reveals that she wants Kenji to play the part of her boyfriend to impress the family. Though he is uneasy about it, Kenji decides to stay. One night, he receives a text on his phone containing a complex math equation, which he solves, not knowing it is part of the security code to the digital realm of Oz. A virus known as Love Machine then makes its way into Oz, and Kenji recruits the help of Natsuki's cousin Kazuma in hopes of stopping Love Machine from unleashing all forms of chaos on the real world. The focus on family helps push the film along at a steady pace, though the shift in who assumes the role of the main character late in the film leads to a somewhat awkward conclusion. My rating: 8.5

Full Metal Alchemist: Conqueror of Shamballa: A follow-up to the wildly popular series, Conqueror of Shamballa displays the most creative liberties taken with the series (which is to say, the film is not grounded in the manga in any way, save for characters and locations). While Al regained his body, Ed was sent to the other side of the gate, to our world, just prior to the Nazi regime's rise. The few Homunculi are dealt with in a fitting manner, while Eckhart fills the role of a relatively appropriate yet typical villain. The story is in keeping with the darker tone of the second season, though bits of humor retain the FMA charm. My rating: 9.25

Devil May Cry: Unlike the games, this series focuses on Dante's smaller missions as he faces demons that are generally on a smaller-scale. His life among everyday humans is explored, and his relationship with young Patty provides both comedic moments and a more genuine human element. The art design and soundtrack are both killer, all of which makes the licensed anime series a standout for its kind. My rating: 8.75

Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt: A very raunchy comedy from Gainax, the series takes a while to define itself. It delivers crude sex and bathroom humor in a style not unlike the earliest episodes of South Park, but sneaks in a number of pop-culture references and parodies of shows like Transformers, which may fly over the heads of viewers not so familiar with these other works. Save for the last episode's uncalled-for curveball, the series does a good job of sticking to what it does best - delivering laughs. My rating: 7.25

Halo Legends: A series of shorts set in the Halo universe, Legends covers not only the famed SPARTANs, but the Covenant, Forerunners, and ODSTs as well. A few of the tales come across as a bit too forced, most notably a feudal Japanese duel between two Elites. While anyone familiar with the main Halo trilogy will understand each story well enough, those familiar with the novels and side games will get the most out of this anime collection. My rating: 8

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children: Two years after the conclusion of the classic PS1 game, Cloud Strife finds himself lost in this new peaceful world - that is, until a trio of Sephiroth-lookalikes show up, informing him of their intent to find "mother". Sensing trouble, Cloud and company join forces once more to stop the trio from bringing about a return of Sephiroth and subsequent destruction of their world. This is one beautifully animated film (no surprise, since it is a work by Square Enix). But only a handful of characters deliver any genuine emotions or feel necessary to the plot. My rating: 7.75

Darker Than Black: A reality where superhumans known as contractors live among regular people, hidden in the shadows, Darker Than Black places emphasis on the different organizations invested in the powers the Contractors wield as well as Heaven's Gate, the origin of all Contractors. The bulk of the story is told through Hei, a Contractor known by many as the infamous Black Reaper. On the other side of things is Misaki Kirihara, a security officer who knows each contractor not by name, but rather by their messier codes that are associated with each star in a new night sky. Stellar soundtrack and curious art style aside, Darker Than Black brings into question the concept of what it means to be human, and if Contractors are capable of such emotions. My rating: 9.5

Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer: Following the success of the series, this film explores a world headed toward absolute peace, and the uncertainties that come along with the revelations of the recently-discovered Innovators and Innovades. However, everything is turned on its head when the ELS, metallic shapeshifting extraterrestrials, make their way to Earth, drawn by the quantum brainwaves of the Innovators. While the same characters return and the story's pacing is managed well, the story is a bit off-key when compared to the constant human-centric story maintained through the two seasons of the 00 series. My rating: 8.25

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...