Other than Houkago no Pleiades we’ve pretty much seen what Winter 2011 has to offer, so it’s a good time to look back and assess how things look after a couple of weeks. I confess I was a bit worried going into today – there were several pretty good shows and not many disasters, but a real lack of potential greatness at the top. It was my hope all along that the two Noitamina shows would save the day (as they so often have of late) and, happily, they didn’t disappoint. For the most part, I ended up liking the series I was most looking forward to the best – with one or two exceptions.
The best of the best (will definitely blog):
Hourou Musuko – A+. Without question the best premiere of the season. Sublimely beautiful to look at, full of heartfelt emotion and complexity. This won’t always be easy to watch but it will certainly be moving and involving. This show is why I love anime, and why Noitamina is a great service to the industry and the fans. This one has a chance to be truly great.
Fractale – A-. Yep, Noitamina wins again. Not as brilliant as Hourou but Yamakan has delivered a fascinating, lush, Ghibli-esque first episode that promises to be a high-class production in all aspects. Maybe this season’s Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin – a quality production obviously made by smart, talented and funny people. I hope it doesn’t wander off course in the middle the way that A-1 Pictures show did.
Mitsudomoe Zouyouchuu – A-. Sure, this could be a straight “A” – but though the all-Gachi premiere was a brilliant idea, I just need to make sure the magic is still there when the focus returns to the main characters. In a comedy-starved season, thank heaven for Mitsudomoe.
Level E – A-. Here was our first sleeper of the season. Based on a “Jump” manga that ended in 1997, part “Starman” and part “Men in Black”. It’s old-school, funny, smart, and not a tsundere or loli in sight.
Solid beginnings, with potential:
Gosick – B+. It didn’t grab me until the second half, but when it did, it connected. BONES looks to have captured the gorgeous look and feel of the source material, and could have an excellent series on their hands if the pacing and plotting hold up to the visuals.
Dragon Crisis – B. Sure, the plot is a bit of a mess and KugiRie and Hiro-Hiro are just too on the money. But it’s the best looking DEEN series ever and it has a real flair to it.
Infinite Stratos – B-. This one is a giant ball of cliche, but it’s a lot of cliche we haven’t seen much lately – good sci-fi, battle school, etc. What saves this for me so far is that it doesn’t take itself at all seriously (unlike, for example, Star Driver).
Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica – B-. This was hugely anticipated, but didn’t quite grab me. I like the “pancake faces” and the potential for a twisted take on the Mahou Shoujo genre and Shinbo is always interesting, so I’ll give it time to click.
Yumekui Merry – B-. Not a bad start here – elements of “Pandora Hearts” in the premise and a fairly interesting visual style. Of all the shows that fell into the massive middle of the pack this season, this one may have the most upside potential based on the premiere.
Hanging on by a thread:
Kimi ni Todoke 2nd Season – C+. Not much reason to belabor the point here – this one will probably never really grab me. If you loved the first season you’ll do fine because I see no decline in quality – I just find the lead characters and the story’s risk-averse style relatively uninteresting.
Kore Wa Zombie Desu Ka – C+. As long as this doesn’t turn into a “Princess Resurrection” deal where the jokes are all in the main character getting maimed every week, it has humor potential.
Oniichan no Koto Nanka Zenzen Suki ja Nai n da kara ne!! – C. Yeah, we really didn’t need another incest comedy but it wasn’t terrible – and they popped the incest balloon in the premiere anyway.
Beelzebub – C. Yet another Shounen Jump title that supposedly gets really good after about 50 episodes, but unless it improves I won’t make it anywhere near that long. There’s potential in the premise but most of the humor in the premiere fell flat due to poor timing.
Freezing – C-. This was one I thought had sleeper potential, but the premiere suffered from terrible exposition and some really awkward dialogue. Right now it looks like nothing more than fan-service and gore for its own sake.
Rio: Rainbow Gate – C-. It’s banal and sexist and lazily written, but at least this show knows what it is – and you get exactly what you expect from it. If you want mindless service, this is your one-stop shop and it isn’t terribly offensive.