I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite movie or OVA of 2011, and maybe my favorite anime of the year – Colorful. I reviewed it here so I won’t go into great detail all over again, but it would be hard to overstate how much I loved this film by director Hara Keiichi and Sunrise. It’s almost painfully non-commercial and thus it’s no surprise that it wasn’t a huge box-office hit. But it did win major awards in Japan and France, and general critical acclaim. This film is all substance and no flash – a unique and subtly beautiful animation style, and a gritty, dark story about a teenaged boy and the pain that drives him to attempt suicide. Colorful is almost painfully realistic at times, despite elements of fantasy, but it never succumbs to despair and darkness. It’s a wonderful movie, the best of 2011.
Elsewhere on the movie/OVA front, it wasn’t a memorable year, but there were highlights. Shinkai Makoto came out with the follow-up to the spectacular 5 CM per Second, Hoshi o Ou Kodomo. While it was indescribably gorgeous and had compelling moments, it was something of a modest artistic success by Shinkai’s lofty standards. Ghibli released arguably their finest work not directed by Hayao Miyazaki since Grave of the Fireflies in Karigurashi no Arrietty. And there were numerous OVA releases of currently airing and older series, plus a few originals, with BONES’ Towa no Quon and the Yozakura Quartet OVAs standing out for me.
Some notes about this year’s Top 10 list:
- By Season: 3 Winter, 2 Spring, 4 Summer, 1 Fall (four multi-cour Fall series might make the 2012 list)
- By Studio: A-1 Pictures (2), Brain’s Base (2), 1 each by Satelight, White Fox, AIC, Production I.G., Bridge and SHAFT
- By Source Material: Manga – 5, Original – 3, Game/VN – 1, LN – 1
I’d certainly call it unusual to have 40% of the list come from Summer, which is traditionally the leanest season for new series.
I would judge this to be a decent but unspectacular year for TV anime. There were several superb series at the top, though nothing I would judge as an unqualified masterpiece à la Seirei no Moribito, Cross Game or Ghost Hound. But there was a lot of quality in the 5-15 range, with several shows missing my top 10 that might have cracked it in some years. Once you get past the top 20 or so, though, I think quality dropped off considerably. There were more unwise sequels, ripoffs, and outright otaku pandering shows than in any other year I can remember. NoitaminA had three shows in my top 10, but overall had a down year, with one mediocre series in every season, and Winter 2012 looks to be the worst NoitaminA block yet in terms of originality and offering an alternative showcase for non-commercial anime. NoitaminA has been so crucial to providing an outlet for quality that its decline casts a disproportionately large shadow. Hopefully the announcement that Sakamichi no Apollon will be joining the block in Spring is an indication that the original charter hasn’t been totally abandoned.
I have high hopes for 2012, but it’s utterly impossible to make a real educated guess as to how strong a year will be in the first week of January. There are some very solid shows carrying over from Fall (Bakuman, Mirai Nikki, Chihayafuru and Fate/Zero) and while Winter looks shallow, it does offer hope for quality at the top. Spring looks as strong as any season can from three months out, but we’ll see. I look forward to blogging the new series starting this week. In the meantime, I’ll be coming out with my “Best of the Best” awards in a little while. Thanks to everyone who helped LiA grow its readership by over 400% since 2011 began – I appreciate all the feedback and support you’ve given the site over the year, and I hope I’m providing a useful and enjoyable service for the anime community. This site is a labor of love for me, and I’ll do my best to make it an even better place in 2012. Hopefully, we’ll grow at the same rate we did in 2011!