2012 Anime Year in Review, Part II: #11-20

NY Sakamichi no Apollon - 09 - Large 27[2] DKNN

All in all, this is a pretty darn impressive group of series.

In some ways, the shows that don’t make a Top 10 list may be as good a measure of a year as the ones that do.  Certainly, they’re a better measure for depth in terms of quality series.  There are some very fine shows on this list, and I think it reveals 2012 to have been the deepest anime year since 2008.

When you consider the sheer volume of anime I watch these days – around 100 series this year – making the Top 20 is in itself a pretty good accomplishment.  But even so, it’s only a year as strong as this one (Spring in itself was loaded) that shows like the top two on this list would be on this list at all.

11. Natsume Yuujunchou Shi.  It’s still hard for me to believe this series isn’t on the Top 10 list, but I couldn’t put it there at the expense of any of the ones that did make it.  I loved the start and end of the season as much as any Natsume Yuujinchou (which remains among my favorite series ever) and the ending is phenomenal, but there were several episodes in the middle that were by NY standards fairly ordinary.  In another year, for sure a Top 10 show.

12. Sakamichi no Apollon.  See above – astonishing that it didn’t make the list, but in the end, it simply had too many stumbles in the second half.  Watanabe Shinichiro did an amazing job trying to fit this huge story into one cour – in lesser hands it would have been a disaster – and delivered some of the finest individual moments in recent anime.  Amazing soundtrack as well.  But the narrative structure falls apart in the final third, and it just misses out as a result.

13. Fate/Zero. Truth be told if I’d ranked the first cour, it would have made last year’s 10 Best list.  F/Z – like Urobuchi Gen’s prior series, Madoka Magica (which did make the 2011 list, and the first cour of F/Z was better) is proof that a show can be superb and still be overrated.  The second cour made some questionable choices in terms of narrative (the two-episode flashback, placed where it was, really ground the momentum to a halt) and the ending didn’t work for me.  Again – an excellent show with some individually sublime moments and stellar production from ufotable, but enough flaws to just miss the cut.

14. Natsuyuki Rendezvous.  Likely to be remembered as one of NoitminA’s swan songs, a terrific josei romance that never would have been made without NoitaminA.  Difficult, stubbornly refusing to pander to the audience, a romance about people making the best of what life (and beyond) offers them.  For my money the finest work of Fukuyama Jun’s career.

15. Another.  After the first 10 episodes, I would have guessed Another might have made the Top 10.  Fabulously atmospheric, chilling and scary – though with very little true horror in the first few eps, which brilliantly set up the midgame.  But the ending really lost me big-time – it was a disaster, to be honest, and brings down the overall score substantially.

16. Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou.  Another series that was Top 10 material, but struggled in the second half.  The first few eps are some of the funniest anime I’ve ever seen, and it’s fantastic to see a series make fun of the gender stereotypes that have become the norm in anime in the last few years.  It almost seems as if a lot of the best material was used up out of the gate, because most of the episodes from about 5-11 simply aren’t nearly as funny as the first four, though the series recovered somewhat at the end.

17. Mirai Nikki.  A very solid and faithful adaptation from Asread of one of the best trashy thriller manga of recent years.  Mirai Nikki is smarter and more profound than it lets on, but mostly it’s shocking, absurd fun – and the anime mostly captured that.  There were times when the low-rent nature of the production showed and the mostly unknown cast isn’t uniformly good, but MN is a series that takes well to that sort of approach. 

18. Inu x Boku SS.  A series that I didn’t even watch for the first few episodes, then puzzled over just what I was watching.  A very strange yet quite charming series, with no regard for traditional narrative and an intriguing combination of otaku and fujoshi elements in a very cute and smart package.  By the end I was pretty much hooked.

19. Sankarea.  For my money this may be the best-looking TV anime DEEN has ever produced.  It’s not perfect and the ending is completely unsatisfying, but director Hatakeyama Mamoru did some wonderful things here – taking the best of the SHAFT style and losing the annoying aspects.  It was overshadowed in a tremendous Spring season, but Sankarea was a very, very good series that doesn’t neatly conform to genre stereotypes.

20. Koi to Senkyou to Chocolate. Sort of the opposite of Natsume Shi – superb in the middle, not so much at the start and finish.  I really enjoyed the political aspects of Koichoco, and for the most part it was a very dignified and thoughtful take on the romance VN genre.  After a somewhat formulaic start it came on quickly and was really superb for a stretch, but once again the ending was a real trip-wire.



  1. f

    I'm surprised KoiChocco made it on this list. I certainly did like it, but the ending left a bad taste in the mouth.

    Anyway, Happy New Year, Enzo! Here's to an equally great 2013!

  2. V

    Sheesh, Inu x Boku SS and Sankarea made the list but Tari Tari couldn't make it. Heck even Mirai Nikki, which was a train wreck, made the list.

  3. s

    It was nice and enjoyable. Also totally safe. Very little ambition compared to the others or something like Hanasaku Iroha.

    I would make a case for Tasogare Otome×Amnesia over Sankarea. But this is his list, such a debate is pointless.

  4. V

    Lol, who's debating? I'm just shaking my head is all. I'm well aware that its his choice.

    And Safe doesn't automatically disqualify an anime from being given at least an honorable mention especially considering it was a highly polished title, the same way a so called avant-garde work shouldn't be mentioned if it stank.

  5. A

    I think Tari Tari was a good series too. But not something that would make my top 20. And as for Mirai Nikki being a train wreck, I think that was intentional. I think of it as a very dark Gurren Lagann.It makes absolutely no sense, but is highly bombast and entertaining.

  6. Tari Tari was probably 21st. It is nice and enjoyable, but hardly exceptional. I certainly would have ranked it ahead of Kokoro Connect.

    I disagree that Mirai Nikki was even remotely a train wreck. They did pretty well capturing the essence of the Manga.

  7. V

    It doesn't matter if it captured the essence of source material. That's hardly a selling point. I had problems with the characters and most of all, the broken story. Premise wise, its not much different from BTOOOM. Pitting psychos against each other by equipping them with tools of destruction.

    Deadman Wonderland, BTOOOM, Mirai Nikki are pretty much cut from the same cloth. They're just cheap pulp fiction and nothing more.

  8. F

    Well, i think you miss the point of the anime, certainly BTOOOM and Deadman Wonderland are very similar, but in think what makes Mirai Nikki different, is the mistery and the premise around it, of course if you already know, what is going to happen it lose some of his charm, but in my case, i didnt know what to expect, so i was always wondering where the heck this was going, and kept me hook up till the end. Not a perfect series, but it was really fun to watch.

  9. B

    Speaking of, where the hell is Sankarea season 2? This is bullshit.

    A fine list, but I'd take Koi to Senkyo off. The ending was so far off the reservation that it ruined all the good eps that had come before since it turned out those good eps were setting up for something monumentally stupid. Think I'd replace it with Binbougami-ga personally.

  10. Sankarea tanked in BD/DVD sales, big-time. Anyone but DEEN I'd say zero chance, but maybe there's a 10% chance…

  11. B

    Well that pretty much blows. Just another of those things that I can comfortably blame on Japanese otaku for having retarded taste.

    "We're not gonna buy Sankarea DVD's cause that show was actually pretty good but the latest oppai filled harem show, hell yes, I will pay ALL THE MONEY for it."

  12. s

    What part of Sankarea is not oppai filled harem? How about your retarded taste? Not even your grandma would buy it.

  13. B

    I don't know why I'm bothering to reply when you're being deliberately obtuse but here we go. The only oppai fanservice in Sankarea came courtesy of the MC's neighbor. And it felt like a completely different show every time she was on screen as a result, it was easily the show's biggest misstep. As for harem, I scarcely need to say this because it's so obvious, but when only 2 girls are interested in the MC, that's just a standard love triangle, that doesn't put a show into the harem genre. By your insane troll logic, Ano Natsu was a harem because the MC had two girls that liked him. Sankarea does not even compare to the shows I'm talking about, shows like Highschool DxD. They aren't even in the same sport. You either have no idea how to classify shows by genre or you are intentionally misrepresenting what I said because I hit some kind of nerve with my post. I'm thinking it's the second one but that's more of a guess than anything.

    Also, look up the definition of hyperbole and then realize that when people make grand sweeping statements about entire groups of people it's USUALLY an example of that. At least it is when I do it. Do I literally believe that ALL Japanese otaku are retarded mouth breathers who only buy shows they can easily fap to? Of course not. Grow a thicker skin would be my recommendation to you.

  14. K

    For me Natsume is still top 5 material it's a series that lasts when others are forgotten. But that is why opinions differ, glad to see it as high as number 11 at least.

  15. S

    Ohh those terrible last 'Another' episodes…you know something went wrong when I'm LAUGHING instead of shivering under the blankets. This was a really great anime year. Here's hopping for another in 2013 🙂

  16. H

    Just out of interest, do you consider it curious that no films made it in your top 20? If so what do you make of that?

  17. Not really, since this is a TV series list!

  18. H

    I personally thought that Natsuyuki Rendezvous completely blew it with the endless body switching arc. I didn't buy into that whole setup at all, and it just ruined pretty much the second half of the series for me. I watched week after week in hopes that they would stop that train wreck, but they didn't. I just didn't find anything about the fairy land that Hazuki got marooned in made a connection, and Atsushi was such an unlikeable character when he was acting like his mercurial self, that it really tanked the series for me. Atsushi in particular, I had a hard time figuring out the reason he did anything, it seemed so random.

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