While we still have a few series waiting to finish up, I thought I’d just give a quick recap of my thoughts on this Summer’s series.
On balance, I’d say this was a good to very good season – especially for traditionally weak summer. There was an above-average quantity of solid, entertaining series though not a lot of true classics. At this point Ikoku Meiro, Usagi Drop and KamiDolls are all certain or likely to make my top 10 for the year – as is Steins;Gate, which finished in the summer. Natsume Yuujinchou San and Tiger & Bunny have a chance to sneak into the lower part of that list.
Ikoku Meiro no Croisee – Without a doubt my favorite series of the season. Equally successful as an adorable heartwarmer and a deceptively deep and complex character drama. Truly a labor of love from Satelight, with great care obviously showing in all aspects of the production. Brilliant, lovable and utterly charming.
Usagi Drop – NoitaminA retires – for now – the “heart” half of its timeslot with an outstanding adaptation of Unita Yumi’s manga. I’m currently almost halfway through the controversial post-jump portion of the manga, but the anime restricts itself to the first half. Wonderfully restrained, it lets the powerful premise do the emotional heavy lifting and delivers a wonderful portrayal of a single Dad as GAR as they come and two realistic, likable kids.
Kamisama Dolls – When I watch a show like this I’m glad anime exists, because you’d never get anything like it in any other medium. A brilliant generalist that excels in more categories than any series this year. Huge and intricate story desperately needs a second season.
Natsume Yuujinchou San – Another great season of “Natsume” from Brains Base. It’s not quite as dear to me as the first two as it focuses much more heavily on Natsume’s connections to the human world, his growing connections to his friends, and actual plots – but that’s just personal preference. Season four coming in January, and there’s no reason to expect any drop in quality.
Mawaru Penguin Drum – Ikuhara returns with a series that flashes stunning brilliance and is never less than interesting. It’s also maddeningly inconsistent, emotionally remote and suffered from a three-episode fixation on its most annoying character. This is not an easy show to understand – or to love – but it’s an important one and as intellectually dense as any anime this year.
R-15 – A really smart, sweet and remarkably deep story about the way romance and lust interact in the human animal. Without question no show this year has a greater gap between actual and perceived quality. Give this one a chance – it’s really good, I promise.
Nekogami Yaoyorazu – A very small, humble adaptation of a Flipflops manga that never failed to put a smile on my face. Superb cast, clever comedy and surprising emotional depth, at heart this is quite a simple series that feels utterly Japanese.
Flawed but Watchable
Nurarihyon no Mago Sennen Makyou – We’re only halfway through, of course, but the second season is certainly better than the first so far. Better pacing, better action, crisper writing. It’s still a bit inconsistent, but it’s generally an entertaining 22 minutes.
No. 6 – I like the feckless, heart-on-its-sleeve silliness of this BONES effort, which was better than its two predecessors on the “Brain” half of the NoitaminA block. It has a 90’s quality to it I really like. Still, it was a mistake to try and cram no much novel material into 11 episodes and the series really suffered for it with a preposterously rushed ending.
Dantalian no Shoka – I get the feeling there’s a series to love hiding somewhere inside “Dantalian”, but this adaptation is so emotionally remote that it never lets you get too close. It’s full of smart people and respects the intelligence of the audience, but it could really do with some deeper character insight and at least a skeleton of a continuing plot.
Kamisama no Memochou – Started off with style and punch, got very boring, then finished pretty well. Just too much of this series was unexceptional and forgettable to rank it higher, though it certainly had some moments and it was never awful.
Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni! – I’m desperately disappointed by this season, which for me has lost almost all the charm of the first. There’s no sense of shared social injustice, the humor has shifted way too heavily in favor of sadism and the deadly-serious flashback episodes felt totally out of context. How this one has fallen so far – and why more people don’t agree with me that it has – it one of the great mysteries of anime for me.
Blood-C – Well, I said in the Summer Preview that I was worried about how this mish-mosh of talents and creative influences would work. The answer is, not very well – alas this show has been pretty much a debacle. I’m enjoying it now only because I’m letting the sheer idiocy of it all wash over me, but this is truly awful stuff – CLAMP should never be allowed within 1000 miles of a “Blood” series again.
Dropped for Various Reasons
Ro-Kyu-Bu, Mayo Chiki, Yuriyuri, Sacred Seven, Itsu-Ten