2012 was a year in which anime was made. Some of them were really good. Most of them were not. After doing this yearly roundup thing for the past few years, I’m starting to realise that every year is pretty much equal quality-wise. When you have 100+ anime released every year, everything starts to balance themselves out after a while. All things considered, I’d probably rate 2011 higher than 2012, but it’s by matters of degrees than a significant dip in quality. Besides, 2012 had 100% more sexy toothbrushes and shirtless bathing Romans, so its more than capable of holding its own. Here is my personal top 10 anime of 2012.
#10: From Up on Poppy Hill
Technically a 2011 release, this year was the first we dirty pirates could watch it, so this is its first chance to get some credit. Considering how poorly received Goro Miyazaki’s last attempt at a movie was, it’s probably for the best that he went for something a lot less spectacular. From Up on Poppy Hill’s a ambitions are pretty modest. With those lowered expectations, it achieves them pretty darn well. It nails the 60’s feel that Kids on the Slope also had, its drama is low key and competently executed, the characters believable and sympathetic. Far from Ghibli’s best work, but it’s well executed and has their usual level of polish when it comes to the directing. Not as shining an example of the next generation for Ghibli as Arrietty was, but a promising sign nevertheless that the studio will still live after the original duo finally hang up their pens.
#9: Humanity has Declined
Humanity has Declined is one of the most bizarrely cynical anime ever. The cutesy pastel colours and directing style are done to deliberately contrast the deeply cynical undercurrent of utter contempt for humanity and its failings. The whole thing doesn’t really go anywhere or have any ultimate point it appears to be trying to make, but some of the moments stuck with me so much that it demanded a spot on this list. The idea that my marmalade is sentient but has no method of expressing itself so when we stab it with a knife and spread its body over our burnt bread has prevented me from eating marmalade ever since.
#8: Tiger and Bunny Movie
I got to see Tiger and Bunny in the cinema this year, so haha screw you guys I get to include it in my year end list. It’s largely similar to the opening bunch of episodes, but the key is they managed to improve massively on them. It felt like this time they had a handle on where they wanted the story to go. They knew what to do with the characters they created. They explained what Rock Bison’s super power actually was. How the hell did the TV series never do that?
#7: Code Geass: Nunnally in Wonderland
I am a humongous Code Geass fanboy, as I’m sure you are all well aware. Nunnally in Wonderland is taking this thing I enjoy so much, placing it on a stand and then laughing at it. It’s as simple as that, and gosh, do I ever love it for doing that.
#6: Thermae Romae
Thermae Romae has a remarkable amount of depth. In the short 3 episodes it has, it has a lot to say about culture and the creation of it. It sounds like I’m joking, but this aspect of Thermae Romae really resonated with me. Lucius’s internal struggle with his desire to implement the contraptions of the more advanced flat-faced people’s bathing technology versus his pride in Rome’s culture being destroyed by this nation of ‘slaves’ gives the otherwise ridiculous anime an almost melancholic feel to it. All this from some dumb flash anime. The bar for flash anime has been raised. We can no longer accept “it’s just a flash anime” as an acceptable reason for not providing a compelling narrative.
5, 4 and 3 are pretty interchangeable on this list. Nisemonogatari is the bottom of that pack because I figured I shouldn’t be giving too much credit to a sequel that wasn’t as good as the original. The weird thing about the -monogatari franchise is it ignores and blatantly goes against some of the things I consider vital to telling a good story, but its those things that it ignores that makes it so unique. The meandering, self-masturbatory dialogue and the animation style wandering all over the place, ignoring such basic laws of physics with the architecture. Its these things that make Nisemonogatari fascinating. Oh, and toothbrushes.
#4: Future Diary
If Future Diary had not stumbled as frequently as it did, it would probably be up there as one of my favourite anime ever. It has this refreshing approach to storytelling in where it ignores inconvenient barriers to telling an exciting story, such as logic. Future Diary doesn’t feel the need to explain how a character got to point a to point b or how this terrorist was able to story a motorbike up her skirt. What matters is character motivations to why they did these crazy things, and Future Diary is utterly fantastic at that. It’s several thrills a minute utter insanity and I love it for that. I just wish it was a bit more consistent.
#3: Girls und Panzer
On the opposite side of Future Diary, I can’t see any way I would improve Girls und Panzer, at least without significantly changing the core of the series. Perhaps the characters could be more engaging as people, but the entertainment lies in these girls acting all moeblobbery while doing something as ridiculous as full scale tank battles. The battles are so well directed, switching angles from first to third person at the exact right moments, hitting the Great Escape-inspired soundtrack at the exact right moments. It’s audacious in all the right ways. Roll on those last 2 episodes!
#2: Daily Lives of Highschool Boys
Daily Lives of Highschool Boys was a godsend. It was a mocking satire of a whole heap of genres in anime I was growing to despise. From self-important shitty highschool romances to anime about a bunch of girls being insufferably nice to each other, its mockery of these shows was exactly the kind of satire I like. Not one of those pussy ‘loving’ parodies, where it does all the same things but occasionally points to itself and says “LOOK AT ME, I’M DOING THOSE SHITTY THINGS BUT IRONICALLY”. No, it straight up poked holes in their entire concepts and was marvellous because of that.
#1: Aquarion EVOL
I feel like I’ve been writing about why EVOL is amazing so many times recently that I’m starting to run out of new ways to say it. The ridiculousness of its actions is matched by how much exuberance it puts into each of these actions. But the extremes it goes to is all in aid of how much it truly loves it characters and their stories. Each arc the characters go through are well defined and executed. They all feed into this much larger narrative about THE POWAH OF LURVE! As sappy as that is, I too am a huge sap. EVOL loves itself and its characters, which is exactly the reason why it succeeds in making us care. It is far and away my favourite anime of the year, and I only love it more over time the more I think about it.