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.
If Kami-sama no Memo-chou is Gosick transplanted to modern Japan, then the Mystic Archives of Dantalian is Index transplanted to the post-Great War era. Former WWI pilot Hugh Anthony Disward (he goes by Huey) receives a peculiar bequest from his late grandfather: take care of his estate, and of Dalian. He’s surprised to discover that Dalian is (or at least appears to be) an adolescent girl, and the protection he is asked to offer extents not just to his grandfather’s huge library, but the mystic archives Dalian safeguards.
In some ways, however, the above comparison is unfair. While Kamimemo and Gosick share many outward similarities, they also are quite similar in structure, with the ostensible mysteries of both shows being window dressing for character development and the plots of individual episodes often lacking. By contrast, Dantalian sheds the action-heavy, conspiracy-laden jumble that was Index’s plot for something far more simple. Dantalian is not really a mystery show or an action show in the traditional sense. It’s not even an exercise in Victorian-themed horror, although it borrows heavily from that genre. What’s driving the show, at least for now, is the unfolding relationship between Huey and Dalian.