Spring 2011 – Check-in

A brief look at where things stand with a month or so to go in the Spring season:

Dororon Enma-kun Meerameera: A. Go Nagai updated for the 21st Century with a killer soundtrack and incredibly filthy humor. A cast full of industry legends having great fun with bizarre and silly material.

AnoHana: A+. Without question the best series of the year for me so far. Complex, interesting and believable characters that grow and develop naturally. Involving and interesting premise. NoitaminA strikes again.

Ao no Excorcist: B. A very solid, well-produced shounen adaptation that doesn’t do anything new but does what it does extremely well.

Deadman Wonderland: B+. A tall order, adapting this excellent and highly disturbing manga in one cour. Manglobe has done a good job so far – they’ve captured the horror and injustice of the manga and managed to cram a lot into 7 episodes. But it’s still hard to see how this can end in 12.

C: B-. An intellectually interesting series that has never really grabbed me dramatically. Inconsistent animation, relatively bland lead and erratic pacing have all hurt, but there’s an interesting “Pokemon for adults” idea at the heart of it and the show occasionally strikes gold.

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko: B. Preposterously moe fantastical slice-of-life with the best-looking character designs of the season. Refuses to take itself seriously enough to breathe life into the semi-serious events at its heart, but always entertaining and Maekawa-san is one of the best characters of the year.

Yondemasu yo Azael-san: B-. Occasionally very funny ecchi-fest that often seems more interested in offending than entertaining. Production I.G. continues to make some very odd choices lately.

Hanasaku Iroha: B. The most maddeningly inconsistent show of the Spring – and also probably the most visually stunning. The shipping wars erupting over it are amusingly silly, but when the show focuses on its coming-of-age heart (all too rarely) it’s capable of greatness.

Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi: C+. If there were ever a guilty pleasure this is it. Gloriously, proudly stupid with an oddly deranged streak and pronounced shotacon obsession.

Hyouge Mono: A-. The oddest and perhaps smartest show of the season. Maddeningly slow with the subs, but worth the wait. A study of aestheticism, the thirst for power and the nature of love set during the Sengoku era. You’ll never see a stranger and more charismatic lead or a more layered depiction of Oda Nobunaga.

Moshidora: C+. A very odd series about the management of a high-school baseball team with Pe-tah Du-ruck-ah’s book as a guide. Heavy-handed and clumsy dramatically and full of cliche, but with a good heart and a novel idea to salvage the day.

Showa Monogatari: B. A nostalgic look at family life in Japan in 1964. I love the portrait it paints of a simpler Tokyo, and the family drama is fairly compelling. Not lavishly animated but with a very interesting look to it.

Steins;Gate: A-. A sci-fi comedy with the best dialogue of the season and an increasingly compelling (if obtuse) storyline. Terrific cast, good pacing, cool Akiba locales. Lots to like here.

Tiger & Bunny: B+. Possibly my favorite lead of the season (along with Jintan in AnoHana) is Kotetsu. Both cynical and idealistic, he’s unlike almost any other male lead in anime. Inconsistent, but generally quite entertaining and now, finally rolling out an underlying plot.

Still watching:

Gosick – Getting better, generally speaking. Keep the focus on Victorique and Kujo, building towards a blockbuster finale it looks like.

Fairy Tail – Just keeps on rollin’. Very solid and witty shounen with just a hint of depravity to it. And Lucy is still incredibly loveable – and hot.

Dropped: Dog Days, Ore-tachi, Astorotte no Omocha, Sket Dance.

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