41 CommentsYear in Review / By Scamp /

Top 10 Anime of 2011

2011 was a fairly good year for anime, especially compared to 2010. There was actually strength in depth, rather than a few stand outs hiding a mountain of crap. Instead of doing some stupid award ceremony, giving awards to anime like Guilty Crown just because they had really good animation, I’m simply going to list my top 10 favourite anime of the year.

Some quick criteria:

10: Kamisama Dolls

I was going to give this award to Tiger and Bunny, but changed my mind at the last minute because conforming to popular opinion is for pussies (although my top 5 will instantly mark me out as a conformist pussy but shut up). I liked Kamisama Dolls a lot. Yes the animation was awful, and yes it had an incredibly immature approach to sex appeal, but I still liked it because of how each character was just a touch insane. They were all trying to escape from their hometown and live normal lives where there wouldn’t be any rape and murder, but kept getting drawn back in due to dated traditions, stuck up old farts and their own inability to control their feelings. Realistically Kamisama Dolls only made the top 10 because most of my favourite anime from the Autumn season had the audacity to air for more than 3 months, but it Aki and co. still hold a little space in my heart.

9: Fireball Charming

While not quite as good as the first season, Fireball Charming was still an absolute gem in the world of animated shorts. The CG is so fantastic that it doesn’t even dawn on you to call it CG animation. Drossel and Gedechtanis still make for a hilarious double act, each of them apparently skipping several lines in their script sheets, leaving you to work out what on earth that apparently non-sequitur response was supposed to mean. The world building is rather shockingly good for something that’s just a weird comedy, flowing perfectly with the dialogue. It’s a fantastic little series and if you somehow have not listened to me and haven’t watched it yet, take a good hard look at what you are doing with your life.

8: Children Who Chase Lost Voices

from Deep Below

I’m still shocked at how much I ended up enjoying this. I spent my time gnawing at my own arm during Makoto Shinkai’s other movies to try get something interesting to happen. Thankfully he tossed that stupid story aside when he made Children..(although kept his strange fascination with clouds). He clearly went for a Ghibli feel with this movie, and actually succeeded, sometimes even surpassing many of Ghibli’s attempts. It manages to create a properly flawed female lead and a villain who is actually sympathetic. The magical world they travel to is an amazing sight. The themes of loneliness and accepting death are woven incredibly well into the story. It’s a very uneven movie, but the strengths far outweigh the flaws.

7: You Are Umasou Movie

Far and away the biggest shock of the year. I thought it would just be some dopey kids movie, but what I got instead was a fantastic tale of a dinosaur and his little friend Umasou. The animation was lacking, being mainly big solid colours, and it’s certainly not the most sophisticated, but it made up for it with its heart. The story is both heartwarming and heart wrenching, in a way that actually deals with proper emotions rather than cheap nakige inspired bullshit (hi thar Ano Hana fans). It’s the anime that I got the most emotionally invested in this year, and it managed this by using big goofy looking dinosaurs. That alone deserves some kind of award.

6: Un-Go

When it didn’t get things right, Un-Go was confusing and irritating, solving its mystery plotlines before I even got a chance to get to grips with what was even at stake. But when it got things right, it was mature, witty, clever, DEEP without being pretentious, and utterly brilliant. Don’t come here if you want a mystery anime, for that’s not what Un-Go’s main focus is. It’s about a post war society in which censorship for the sake of public security has gone into overdrive. It’s a fascinating study of how nationalism can contort a nations’ ideals all while focusing on a small cast of memorable characters. Really looking forward to that prequel movie now.

5: Mawaru PenguinDrum

It may have taken him 14 years before he made another anime, but it’s safe to say that there’s no chance of Ikuhara become more sane. PenguinDrum is a bizarrely brilliant piece, happily embracing the absurd in its story and running with it. Where pregnant frog potions can become important plot devices, child crushing machines are both metaphors for child abandonment and actual real machines, and a trio of penguins follow the main characters around with apparently no effect on the main story. Sure it has problems, not least the nonsense bullshit ending, but it’s such a memorable and unique experience that there’s no way I couldn’t include it amongst the top anime of the year.

4: Bunny Drop

It’s rather fitting how in a year when Noitamina starting producing otaku pandering bullshit with loser teenage male leads having magical girls fall into their lives, the best anime produced for that timeslot this season was a back to basic josei manga adaptation with Bunny Drop. This is the real pains but also the real rewards of parenting. Not some sort of magical power bestowed upon you by hours of nappy changing. A change in ideals and what you consider important in your life. The pursuit of happiness is no longer attached to how many drinks you can chug before you die, but now attached to the happiness of your child. It depicts this all in a limited timeframe through various characters, giving us a complete view of the picture. It does peter out a bit, but what we got was still fantastic.

3: Steins;Gate

One half sci-fi mystery, the second half a ball-busting thriller, Steins;Gate was the VN adaptation this year that convinced me that there was some stories of worth in that fetid mire of a medium. The characters were entertaining and well-rounded. The directing was magnificent, giving the setting this grey-filtered feel of oppression as though they really were living in a dystopian society even though they were just living in the moe-infested Akihabara (which sounds like a pretty horrific dystopia to me har har obvious joke). Most of all though, it had Okarin. El Psy Congroo. He carried this show with his charisma and his ego. One of the greatest anime characters of all time, he should be held up as an example to other anime in how much a great main character can do to improve your story over Yuji Everylead the Bland.

2: Arrietty

Technically came out first in 2010, but the DVD/BD release was in 2011 which is when everyone got a chance to see it, and that’s when I got a chance to see it in the cinema. Arrietty is fantastic. By keeping the story much simpler, it allowed for it to shine in the other areas it was much better at. The directing was a masterclass, especially the opening borrowing sequence with Arrietty and her dad. A simple story meant that it didn’t turn nonsensical at the end and the obligatory Ghibli environmental message was worked surprisingly well into the story with grace and clever subtlety. Porco Rosse is still my favourite Ghibli, but this Arrietty comes a close second. Fantastic movie, really do try to check it out.

And finally, my #1 choice, which shouldn’t be of any surprise to anyone.

1: Rio ~Rainbow Gate~

OK I’m joking.

The real #1

1: Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Shaft/Shinbo used to be a combination that produced crazy visuals for the sake of crazy visuals, rarely having much to do with the story. But around the turn of the decade with Natsu no Arashi and Arakawa Under the Bridge, they finally toned down their crazy animation techniques and made what was left enhance what was actually going on. Madoka Magica was them back to craziest levels of animation combined with their newfound ability to make this animation style relevant. It’s the anime I had been wanting them to make for years, one that only gets better the more I think about it. Madoka Magica is Shaft’s masterpiece and it’s far and away my favourite anime of 2011.

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40 Comments

  1. Gunslinger
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Haha really gave me a shock there at Rio Rainbow gate . Also what happened to all the url’s ?

  2. Posted December 31, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    The bottom 5 were surprising, and the top 5 made sense. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the pattern my top choices followed.

    • Posted December 31, 2011 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

      Was it weird that I wasn’t shocked at seeing Rio? Well, he did enjoy it a lot…

      @Scamp: Thanks for the list, I’ll look forward to watching Children… and Arrietty, and to completing Steins; Gate.

      • Posted December 31, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

        Er, that was in reply to Gunslinger’s comment, orz (btw, get an edit button, Scampy!).

      • Scamp
        Posted January 1, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

        I did have an edit button, but it didn’t work for some reason. I really should get on that

  3. Posted December 31, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    You are Umasou is pretty great, glad it’s getting some love. Same with Fireball. Both of those were right outside my top list.

    And I’ll just delude myself into believing you really did put Rio in your top slot instead of Madoka. Rio >>>>> Madoka

    • Scamp
      Posted January 1, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      You have strange, strange taste my friend. Although hurrah for more love for Fireball and You are Umasou anyway

  4. Edvardaz
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    I disagree with you. Madoka is really good but Shaft’s masterpiece is Bakemonogatari.

    • Posted December 31, 2011 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

      Why cant they have 2 Masterpieces?

      • mcm38
        Posted January 1, 2012 at 1:12 am | Permalink

        There can be only one Master.

      • Posted January 1, 2012 at 1:21 am | Permalink

        I believe the plural is Masterpie.

    • Notturno
      Posted January 1, 2012 at 2:48 am | Permalink

      Bakemonogatari is a fanservice/harem show with flashy effects which plot revolves around original “mysterious” phenomenons. All it has going for it is witty lines and interesting visual effects. It’s episodic like any light novel. Not that being episodic is a bad thing but it prevents something from being called a masterpiece.

      It is not a piece. It’s a lot of pieces put together.

      • Scamp
        Posted January 1, 2012 at 10:25 am | Permalink

        The witty lines and visual effects are honestly enough though, because the lines are just that clever. But yeah, not their masterpieces

  5. thresholden
    Posted December 31, 2011 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    Disagree with UN-GO completely, there was nothing deep about that show. Same problem you had with No. 6 which also sucked, why is the state a totalitarian nationalist state? Because it’s a totalitarian nationalist state. Well what was the chain of events that caused this to happen? Not specified at all beyond vague nonsense. UN-GO didn’t go full-retard like No. 6 did but it shared similar bullshit.

    And you aren’t allowed to hand-wave away how sucky the mysteries were by saying the thematic meanings overruled them. The directing clearly set it up as a mystery show and should be judged as such. As a mystery show, it failed to have any subtlety and the resolved everything with “Inga come and do a transformation sequence that eats up 2 minutes while I re-explain to everyone her powers.” This happens ad nauseum.

    It only got worse when they added even more mystical bull with Bettenou. Inga’s stupid “one question” bit was already annoying, adding in Bettenou made it even worse.

    • Scamp
      Posted January 1, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      Aren’t you the same guy I argued with on that other post? Bleh, can’t be bothered arguing again

    • Hanamaru
      Posted January 2, 2012 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      I agree with your feelings on Ungo. That is the same reason why I dislike Code Geass.

  6. Nebulous
    Posted January 1, 2012 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    1. Madoka
    2. Penguindrum
    3. Usagi
    4. Steins
    5. Umasou

    Your list is good too though. I dropped Un-Go after the first episode, and I don’t think Arrietty is as good as umasou or as good as the other anime this year. It was lacking depth, and can be summed up in 2 sentences. Half the jokes in Charming went over my head but I did enjoy it. I hope someone starts scanlating Kamisama’s manga, I want to know what happens next.

    What was wrong with Penguindrum’s ending?

    • Scamp
      Posted January 1, 2012 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      Did you understand the PenguinDrum ending? Me neither

  7. Posted January 1, 2012 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    Neat list. I checked Hoshi wo ou Kodomo after reading your review on it, and I liked it a lot, so thanks. :) I have to watch Arrietty now, too, as it’s the only anime I haven’t seen on here.

  8. Posted January 1, 2012 at 1:20 am | Permalink

    Great list! Rio wait whaaaattt?! Nice job ;D

    Nice for Madoka good number one choice, and Ungo!

  9. Chipp12
    Posted January 1, 2012 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Madoka is Urobuchi’s masterpiece, not SHAFT’s, while Bakemonongatari is more SHAFT’s than Nishio’s (thanks to visuals) – so you can have 2 there~

    • Scamp
      Posted January 1, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

      The writing is Urabochi’s sure, but the directing is a large part of the reason why it’s so good. Hence why I’m happy calling it Shaft’s masterpiece

      • Chipp12
        Posted January 2, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

        I’m just saying that in Bakemonogatari their style really matters, while in Madoka it’s mostly for Urobuchi’s scenario and, to be honest, Geki Inu Curry’s designs of witches and their worlds.

      • Scamp
        Posted January 2, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

        But the animation style in Bakemono is divorced a lot of the time from the actual events in the anime, which is not good directing. Hence I can’t call it a masterpiece. For Madoka, on the other hand, the animation techniques enhance the story. It’s what animation directing should do. That’s the point I was making

  10. Ando
    Posted January 1, 2012 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Hadn’t heard of it before but I’m curious about You Are Umasou since it reminds me of One Stormy Night (Arashi no Yoruni), which I love.

  11. Posted January 1, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Kamisama Dolls? Really?!

  12. Posted January 1, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    Penguindrums ending…argh…. Very pleased to see Umasou and Fireball Charming on that list. I’m still a bit miffed that you favoured Kamisama Dolls over Tiger & Bunny, though.

  13. The Big Guy
    Posted January 1, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Good list.

    As for your hate of visual novels, that’s your own fault. Most of the people on the forum suggested short, excellent games like Planetarian and True Remembrance, but you chose long games like G-Senjou No Maou (which took too long to payoff) and Demonbane (Not a great decision on your part, though it was because of a misunderstanding) instead. Of course you would think the medium is “fetid.

    • Scamp
      Posted January 2, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      Actually I was basing that off what I’ve read about the three highest rated VNs in fandom: Fate/Stay Night, Ever 17 and Muv Luv Alternative. All visual novels that require ‘patience’ to get to ‘the good stuff’

      • kero92
        Posted January 3, 2012 at 5:05 am | Permalink

        you did like saya no uta right? There were people recomeding some fine VN’s and short ones too, like Swan Song. Long VN’s are not necesarily good, i quite hated Ever17 for making me lose my time like that, but I read Umineko and enjoyed it a lot, it’s all about what you like. Also, I hope you consider reading Steins;Gate VN

      • The Big Guy
        Posted January 4, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

        True, those games do require quite a bit of patience (in Ever 17′s case it needs 15-20 hours to set up the real scope of its intricate plot line, and in Fate Stay Night’s case it needs its mediocre first arc to create a foundation for the other two arcs to sparkle), which is why you need to start slowly. I wouldn’t have got through either of those games if I didn’t play visual novels like Phoenix Wright (which had an actual game element to it) and True Remembrance (incredibly charming yet short) to build up some patience.

  14. NoNoNono
    Posted January 2, 2012 at 2:41 am | Permalink

    1. Nichijou
    2. Mawaru Penguin Drum

    3. Madoka
    4. Fireball Charming

    As I have watched a lot of older stuff this year (I am relatively new to anime) I can not put together more than a top 4.
    I did not complete a lot of stuff and Hyouge Mono is not getting subbed although from what I have seen so far it would take a slot.
    I also heard good things about Level E and Steins;Gate I might just check them out.
    I wonder if the Nichijou reair 2012 will also take my top slot for this year (they will edit quite a lot and I think pretty highly of it already)

    Well this was the first year I actively watched anime each season
    so it does not mean anything when I say: “I think this was a pretty good year for anime”

    For each week of the year I had at least one anime I looked forward to.
    It began with PMMM in winter, Nichijou was awesome in spring and continued so in summer where it overlapped with an Penguin Drum directed by the same guy who directed Utena and a lot of Sailor Moon (I have fond childhood memories of the latter and the former is one of my all time favorites).
    So I am looking forward to 2012 as well, may it be another great year.

    • Hanamaru
      Posted January 2, 2012 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      I recommend Level E, but it is flawed. The beginning of the series was cleverly written and witty. After the halfway point, it lost a lot of steam. It seemed like the author just wanted to finish the series and had lost interest in it. It was still good, but it is one of those animes that you see the lost potential.

  15. Posted January 2, 2012 at 4:15 am | Permalink

    Penguindrum’s ending is suprisingly simple when you piece together the bits it’s strewn about throughout its episodes. Or have the Internet help explain it to you: http://kiddtic.tumblr.com/post/14687925089/mawaru-penguindrum-explained

    There’s still a truckload of loose ends, but I think we’re in agreement it was much more good than bad. Still, I can’t quite shake the feeling a lot of the magical bullshit was to fill time. If they had cut down the length of Ringo’s opening arc, reduced Yuri and Tabuki’s roles, and done away with Masako and Mario entirely, it could have been a tightly scripted 13-14 episode series to rival even Madoka’s superlative pace and execution.

    • Scamp
      Posted January 2, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      Yeah I’ve seen that image, but what exactly did that have to do with the story. Why was Kanba chosen in the first place? Who chose him? Why was he required to be chosen?

      • Posted January 3, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

        Being chosen is arbitrary, as the theme of Fate/Destiny is harped on throughout Penguindrum. It’s what the chosen person does with the fruit of fate that the story focuses on. Do they share their love of life, like Kanba and Momoka, or do they let the resentment towards the unfairness of the world rot and fester inside them and turn it into hate, like Sanetoshi. Ultimately, Penguindrum is about sharing one’s life with others, regardless of what untold cruelness fate has in store.

  16. gaby
    Posted January 2, 2012 at 4:24 am | Permalink

    Good list! I agree with most of these choices.
    And yeah, internet has helped me understand Penguindrum’s ending much more.
    Here’s one interpretation that’s been going around that makes the more sense to me (from Eschaton)

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/posts.php?discussion=13101108240A39480100&page=29#706

    Happy new year! Keep up the great posts :)

  17. Erif
    Posted January 2, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    December Roundup – Un-Go top of B grade, Penguindrum C grade.

    Top Anime – Un-Go #6, Penguindrum #5

    HHHHHHHHHHHRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM

    But in all seriousness, I need to watch a lot of these. I just recently got back into anime this season, so Steins;Gate, Usagi Drop, Arrietty, and Fireball Charming are all anime I’ve heard good things about and eager to watch. Puella Magi Madoka Magica however… just doesn’t seem like my cup of tea. :/

    • Scamp
      Posted January 2, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

      Remember monthly roundups are just how it performed that month. PenguinDrum’s ending sucked, but was consistently getting B up until then, while this was the best score Un-Go has ever gotten

  18. Posted January 9, 2012 at 3:44 am | Permalink

    The You Are Umasou movie? This list is fucking approved.

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