Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Best of 2011

Let's see 2011 out in the traditional way, with a Ten Best list for the year's anime series.  I make no apologies for my favoritism towards slice-of-life, mysteries, and screwball comedies, or my distaste for mahou shoujo, harem, and shounen. The selections are in alphabetical order.
  • Fireball Charming. This dialog-driven series of shorts, a sequel to last year's Fireball, won me over with its deadpan humor and sensational voice acting. gg did a great job translating this show.
  • Ikoku Meiro no Croisee. A very gentle, character-centric slice-of-life show.  The visuals were stunning, the characters appealing, the situations not melodramatic. Guardian Enzo rated Ikoku as his #1 show of 2011, and it's certainly among my favorites.
  • Hourou Musuko. A delicate exploration of sexual identity issues. From its unique watercolor art style, to the great sensitivity shown to the characters, this show excelled in almost every way.
  • Kamisama Dolls. A shounen show that broke the mold by combining quirky humor and unprecitable plot twists with great action sequences and the usual character types.
  • Mitsudomoe Zouryouchuu. No show this year was a greater danger to one's personal hygiene if you happened to be eating or drinking while you were watching. It's quota of laugh-out-loud, snort-through-the-nose moments was very high.
  • Natsume Yuujinchou San. Even in its third season, this show retains its distinct appeal. The explorations of human-to-youkai interactions and, this time around, human-to-human relationships, were deep and moving. Some commentators have criticized the increasing focus on the human world, but I think that reflects the protagonist's personal growth.
  • Nichijou. This quirky slice-of-life comedy was consistently interesting; the second half was even better than the first. Maybe I'm just a sucker for the Professor, Nano, and the talking cat.
  • UN-GO. This mystery series started slowly but built to a climax that explored not just the characters, but some basic philosophical issues about politics and society.  The best mystery of the year.
  • Usagi Drop. Another very gentle, character-centric slice-of-life show. As a father, Usagi rang true for me. I particularly liked its exploration of the dilemmas of parenthood in terms of everyday events and minor crises.
  • Yondemasu Yo, Azazel-san. A foul-mouthed, foul-thinking screwball comedy that led all others in sheer outrageousness. With hardly a redeeming character in sight, even including the angels, Azazel-san ran gleefully amok week after week, striving for ever-higher levels of offensiveness, and usually succeeding.
Honorable mentions: Ano Hi Mita Hana (emotionally compelling, but saddled with an Idiot Plot device); Hanasaku Iroho (great visuals, good characters, but uneven); Tiger and Bunny (because you have to appreciate commercial shounen tropes when they're done so well); Shinryaku S2 and Working S2 (good sequels, but broke no new ground).

And the best show of the year (drum roll please)? For me, it was Usagi Drop. The exploration of an important area of life that's usually ignored in anime - parenthood; the careful development of the characters; the simplicity (and flawlessness) of the execution; and the lack of teenagers :); made this the best show of the year. The BluRay specials have been coming out for the last few weeks, and it's been a pleasure to drop in on Daikichi’s and Rin's world again, even if it's just for five minutes at a time.

Wishing everyone a happy and peaceful 2011. Thanks for listening!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Catching Up on Orphans

Rather than bore everyone with my opinions on the fall anime season - which can be summarized by, "Watch UN-GO if you missed it" - I'm going to return to my perpetual hobbyhorse, orphaned series.

Things are looking up on a number of them:
  • Love Get CHU. Oyatsu has finished episodes 16-24. With the original Ayu-C1 episodes (1-13) and PracticeSub's (14-15), it's possible to construct a relatively complete torrent. I hope that Oyatsu will finish ep 25 soon. (I might go back and redo ep 14-15 using scripts that Yoroshiku prepared but never released.)
  • Cutie Honey (1973). The estimable Nanto at The Skaro Hunting Society finished this series. A batch torrent may or may not be in the works.
  • Ultraviolet Code 44. Kiteseekers finished this series. They continue to work on Mizu Iro Jidai and Mermaid Melody Pitchi Pitchi Pure. Lime-iro Ryuukitan X is in the queue. Unfortunately, it's a rather long queue, and Pretty Rhythm Aurora Dream seems to have priority, but I have hope.
  • Kiss Dum. Doutei has started in on this series. In addition, Hadena has picked up from the last subbed episode. Personally, I'll wait for Doutei.
  • Yoshimune. ARR released a full torrent. I'll keep the first nine episodes from Frostii-Scramble, which are done better.
  • Jang Geum's Dream. Another full torrent from ARR. Sketchy subs, but complete.
  • Prism Ark. Redone by Blazenar at BitchSubs, and rather nicely too.
  • Perrine Monogatari. Ripped from an HK DVD by Neo1024 and available on BakaBT. The subs aren't the best quality, but they're better than nothing.
  • Souten Kouro. Gotwoot just finished this. If they're really masochists, maybe they'll do Romance of the Three Kingdoms (2010) next.
  • Amuri Star Ocean. A complete torrent was cobbled together from various sources and is available on BakaBT.
  • Saint October. Finished by AOG. The complete series spans several groups: Ryo to start, then mbt and friends, Dyslexic, and finally AoG. Because of the mix of groups (and quality), a complete torrent hasn't been offered yet.
  • Shinshaku Sengoku Eiyuu Densetsu Sanada. After a very long break, digitalpanic and AonE released episode seven. I'm told that more scripts exist, but neither group is known for speed.
  • Porphy no Nagai Tabi. This World Masterpiece Theatre series was started by Seiki Subs, which stalled out two years ago at episode five.  Now Licca fansubs has picked it up and is releasing episodes almost weekly.
Still, there are plenty of shows left from my original list: Hidimari no Ki, Maple StoryGokujou, Charady's Daily Joke (raws available!), Jewel Pet, and Dash! Kappei all remain in limbo.  In addition, new orphans are created all the time in fansubbing's own version of Mawaru Penguindrum's Child Broiler. Ninku has been abandoned at the 40% mark. D4 Princess is stalled at the 25% mark, Lady Georgie at 50%, Patalliro and Maple Story at 60%. Shouwa Monogatari seems like it won't get finished; it's not even listed on Hatsuyuki's site anymore. There hasn't been a new episode of Maicchingu is almost a year. Fighting Beauty Wulong and its sequel Rebirth are available only in awful HK rips.

So, in the spirit of the season, think of the orphans out there and help rescue an abandoned series! You'll feel better for it.