It’s been a year since my last post on antiotaku, and while I still think it was wise to end the blog when I did, I had a sudden desire to offer some reflection on the past year in anime. Perhaps the recent passing of Halloween has implanted some desire to have this blog, zombie-like, rise from the grave. Primarily, I have that urge because, from the standpoint of an anime consumer, things have never been better.
I don’t want to make it sound like the industry as a whole is sound—there are plenty of questions about how anime studios will continue to fund their work and the viability of the world anime market in an era of fansubs. But, if you are someone like me, an American who watches a fair amount of anime in any given season, the last year (really year and half) have been remarkably positive. Here are just some of the reasons why:
Four weeks ago, bear informed me that he would be retiring from anime blogging. With that knowledge, I had to make the decision whether to try to keep antiotaku running on my own, or let it die a graceful death. I had, during the spring season, taken over posting duties completely, but that was during the victory lap portion of my graduate degree work, followed by two months of comparative vacation. Making four posts a week regularly took a greater toll during the summer season, when my new job officially started, and writing five to six posts a week, which keeping this site afloat would require, seemed particularly daunting.
I decided to review every new show this season as a stalling technique, a way to keep content flowing at the production speed I would need to maintain year-round. That, I figured, would not commit me to covering any particular series until I made my decision. It would also provide me with the knowledge of whether I could consistently put in the 12 or so hours each week that it would take to keep five posts coming. Having done that for the month of October, I found my answer.
It is with sincere regret that I announce this will be the final post on antiotaku.
American TV has slowly started experimenting beyond the standard “debut every series in September and see what sticks” model, but it’s still the case that fall is the season where the big ticket items are debuted. Similiarly, the big anime seasons tend to be spring and fall, with the winter and particularly the summer season left to left to flounder with continuing shows and one or two decent new offerings.
That was certainly the case last summer, as noted by our very tepid awards post for summer 2010. It was not the case in winter 2011, with some remarkably solid offerings including Madoka, which is still the most likely candidate for show of the year. It’s also not the case here, with some strong continuing series being equaled or bested by shows that debuted this season. Neither of us were prepared for how remarkably strong, on balance, this season’s offerings were.
It’s unfortunate that the strength of the best series of this season eclipsed some other gems. When the most competitive category is “Best Show We Didn’t Cover,” that’s a good sign that summer 2011 was a great three months for anime. And that remains true even though the second most competitive category was “Most Offensive Series.”
As bear didn’t have a chance to watch most of the summer shows, this post is written entirely by 3HM.
It’s difficult to just talk about a Gundam series absent any deeper context. As one of the two most venerable mecha franchises in anime history (the other being Macross), there were Gundam episodes coming out before I was even alive. And although Sunrise has been willing to effectively reboot the series on more than one occasion, there are certain tropes that always seem to apply to any show with “Gundam” in the title somewhere.
Gundam AGE is another reboot, with no acknowledged ties between it and any of the predecessor series beyond the bare minimum: the name Gundam for the hero’s “mobile suit,” the usual mecha designs, and the annoying spherical robot named Haru (see above). In fact, there are enough differences, at least in the opening episodes, that I feel an initial review is warranted, even though my pledge to cover every new show this season didn’t extend to kids’ series.
When I got down to looking over the offerings for this fall season, there were three works in particular that I singled out as pathetic pieces of trash that wouldn’t even be worth one episode to watch through. Those series were C3, Mashiroiro Symphony, and Maken-Ki! As it happens, I was wrong about the first two; neither would qualify as high art, but C3 is far more effective in its drama and Mashiroiro Symphony is far less offensive in content than I was expecting.
By contrast, Maken-ki! was exactly what I was expecting: non-stop, unmitigated perversion. It’s pretty upfront about being as trashy as possible, such that I don’t even know if this review will do justice to how disgusting it is. To do that, I’d need to break my own personal rules about what was acceptable to include as a screen cap.
Slice of life shows can sell themselves in one of two ways. The first way is through humor, trying to create funny situations out of normal events. Usually this happens either from making the cast a bit crazy, or appealing the common absurdities of everyday life. The other way is something which I think only exists in anime: through a wistful celebration of youthful innocence. This is the sort of show where nothing really happens, but it doesn’t happen in a soothing way.
The thing about the second method is that it never really appealed to me as anything worth spending my time on, at least on its own merits. That’s not to say I’ve never liked a series that fell into the second camp, but when I did, it was for another reason. Natsume Yuujinchou, for example, has actual drama and character development (not to mention a real plot every episode) to keep the show engaging. You and Me has a low level but constant sense of humor. Even Ikoku Meiro no Croisée played around with dramatic themes involving class divisions in a modernizing France.
I went in to Tamayura: Hitotose not expecting any of those things, and was almost pleasantly surprised during the first episode. Not enough to put up with the return to soothing nothingness in the second episode, but it was a surprise.
Well, having taken a season break after wrapping up their lovely but ultimately flawed Gosick, it looks the animation studio Bones is ready to try their hand at another mystery series, this time set in a near future Japan. And like with Gosick, the mystery trappings of the show are just that: trappings. It’s clear that the heart of the show is elsewhere.
I suppose that’s a good thing, because if Un-Go was meant to be a mystery series, it fails horribly. Thus far the mysteries have been mostly predictable and easily solved (particularly in the second episode). The feeling of a just resolution that comes from seeing the guilty be caught and punished is also absent, for the guilty more or less get away with it. This show is not about crime solving because solving crime is about discovering the truth. This is show concerns itself with a more basic question: whether it is possible for the truth to win out in an age of mass media and government manipulation.