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Anime Editorial

The Best Anime of 2011

The Best Anime of 2012 is now up!

This post is spoiler-free.

One of the primary problems faced by the Anime industry today is being endlessly trapped in this vicious “moe” cycle. Faced with the failing economy, emphasis on extracting money from the Type B target audience have become larger and larger with the stingy Type A audience becoming more and more unwilling to spend money even on quality series that are worth buying.

Having been bombarded by mediocre titles year after year with only few annual gems, our hopes heading into the year were at an all-time-low. SHAFT’s Madoka★Magica quickly swept away this sterile feeling and refilled our hearts with passion once again. Seemingly on a roll and without any explanation, we were unexpectedly hit with quality shows season after season. Even the fanservice anime this year were of a higher quality.

As I look back and reflect upon the year which is now behind us, this is the first time since I started writing these annual posts that there has been so many excellent series that I actually cannot fit them all in here. There is no doubt in my mind that 2011 has been the best year that the industry has seen since 2007 – and the year all of us have waited for. Join me and Ryhzuo as we look back and find out just why this year has been so memorable.

Introduction by ImperialX

Genre Winners

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Action

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Action is most commonly associated with series that aims at shounen as their primary demographic. It’s true that “Action” and “shounen” are probably not the first things that pop into their head when that title is mentioned, since “Plot” and “Characters” will come first. After all, people do spend twice as long talking than they do fighting in this prequel to the extremely popular visual novel Fate/stay night. Regardless, ufotable has proven to us in this spectacular adaptation that it is possible for a TV series to have movie-level animation. The action scenes of Fate/zero are absolutely top-notch and the best this industry has seen yet on television. The visuals of this series will doubtlessly set a bar for action anime to come in the following years.

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As is what can be considered to be one of the founding forefathers of the modern shounen genre, it’s hard to look past Dragon Ball, in whatever shape or iteration, when considering nominations for best Action. The original Dragon Ball manga is something I hold very close to my heart. Dragon Ball Kai is a largely faithful remastering of the original Dragon Ball Z series, retaining all the important story elements while culling large chunks of unnecessary content. The only gripe we have is that the animation itself wasn’t remastered, but that may be a good thing for purists. Everything good you’ll remember about the series is still all here, so if you’d like a trip down nostalgia lane, look no further than Dragon Ball Kai. (Oh, and the English dub is pretty good too, if you’re like me and saw the original dub first.)

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Adventure

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As with all the other categories, it was very hard to decide on one for this category because 2011 just had so many shows that I loved so much. In the end, however, the sequel to Kaiji takes the cake for me in Adventure anime this year. Everything we loved about Kaiji from season 1 is back in this gripping psychological thriller that will keep you hooked until the very last episode. Everything you’d expect from a good thriller is here – adrenaline, wits, psychology, philosophy and more ZAWA ZAWA! Be warned though for people planning to pick up season 1 to watch this – this anime is not pleasant to view. It deals with the darkest parts of human nature, and is definitely only for those who do not have their innocence anymore.

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Looking back on the year that has past, I can definitely say that Ao no Exorcist probably wasn’t the anime I looked forward to most every week, nor was it the one that seemed the most well crafted, or gave the most food for thought. What it did do best though, was instill a sense of excitement and wonder, and for me there is no better anime of 2011 that perfectly encapsulates the word “adventure”. Every episode is a new discovery and every new character is you’ll grow to love or hate. Like every good shounen/adventure, Ao no Exorcist doesn’t just weave a narrative, it creates an universe where amazing stories surely persist long after the credits have rolled. Twenty-six episodes is not nearly enough to do justice to everything the world of Ao no Exorcist has to offer.

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Comedy

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I was slightly worried at first when I heard the news that the second season of Working!! will have a different director handling it. After all, I wouldn’t want anything to ruin the sequel of one of my favorite comedies last year! Pleasantly enough, the transition was smooth. The new Working!! not only retains everything that made season one such a charming show such as character interactions and slapstick humor, but it also sees an improvement in animation. Colours are more vibrant and really adds to the overall feel of the show. Just one of the few 4koma adaptations that worked out really well. It’s a fun watch, so I’d recommend the first and second season to anyone. It’s quite sad Baka Test Ni! and Ika Musume won’t be able to make my choice this year.

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Do you have a weird fetish for moe anthropomorphic loli squid characters ~de geso? Me? Totally. Ika Musume was IPX’s favorite comedy of 2010, and in the few cases where the second season outshines the first, it certainly would have probably made it again had this year not been just pretty awesome in general. Very little has changed since we last saw little Ika-chan, she’s still as fun loving, as clueless and as adamant about her half hearted invasion of the surface world as ever before. ‘Why fix what isn’t broken’ applies here well I guess. From fluid animation to a wonderful soundtrack and a story that will have you in giggles, nothing to complain about here. Bring on season 3, and more shrimp de geso~

Some readers may wonder why Gintama’ was not selected in this category. As our response, we here at Blickwinkel feel that Gintama is enough of an popular and established series that we no longer needed to mention it. It was our unspoken rule not to award it this category because frankly speaking, it would probably win every year.

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Drama

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Madoka is one of the rare dramas that isn’t bundled with romance, and it does it damn well. The quality of drama is predominantly dependent on how much the characters of the series synchronizes with the viewer – just how deep a viewer can get into the characters’ shoes. Madoka has just the right number of characters for its length, and through masterful directing and scriptwriting, every single main character with their respective backstories are ones that you can sympathize with. Madoka wastes not a single second in its 13-episode run; delivering strong, genuine drama through its amazing action scenes, powerful character interactions and philosophical ambiguity. Manly tears were shed throughout this show, and I don’t blame myself.

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There’s a fine line between drama and melodrama, and as a drama series becomes increasingly good, it also edges ever so closer towards this dangerous line. AnoHana is one of those corner cases where the line is more of a grey smudge; it’s very difficult to tell where the merits end and the silliness begins. If you’re a regular reader of BlickWinkel, then you’d have seen my previous article on this anime and thus my rather unsavoury opinion of it. However, I do also acknowledge that I am largely the more critical one percentile. In it’s merit, Ano Hana was bold to attempt a pure drama while many others now days prefer the safer drama-comedy mixture and pulled it off comfortably well. For viewers in general, AnoHana will likely be a very satisfying, occasionally exasperating, and certainly watery experience.

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Ecchi

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Every season, there are a bunch of shows made solely for fanservice, but it takes effort to make one that’s actually good. Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai goes beyond that, and sets a new gold standard of what fanservice shows should be. It covers every major female anime character trope – the tsundere, the ojou-sama/otaku, the pervert, the loli, the imouto, and even the trap. The fanservice is incredibly blatant, but it’s never annoying. One of the biggest problems with fanservice in ecchi anime today is that it can get so blatant it becomes a turn-off. This is never a problem in Haganai because of brilliant animation and character design. Overall, there’s just nothing to hate about this show and everything to like if you’re a straight guy. (Or lesbian, if you swing that way)

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Mystery

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I was actually going to skip my nomination for mystery this year, because nothing initially satisfied me enough to justify a nomination. After all, GOSICK was already taken and Detective Conan doesn’t count as a 2011 anime. If you were to ask me what UN-GO in the first few weeks of airing, I would say it’s a terrible anime with poor character development, incohesive plot, terrible pacing and overall just boring. However, imagine my surprise that all of those opinions have changed completely for the better by the time I reached the final episode, earning itself a spot here. In the end, its mysteries aren’t that well thought out but the ending is still polished enough for it to be justified as a good series. This series really justified the mediocre noitaminA season for Fall ’11.

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Detective stories never die out, they’re just reiterated as whatever is fashionable at the time. For Hollywood, it was gun-slinging wise-cracking R.Downey Jr. portrayed Holmes. For Japan, it turned out to be a gothic loli tsundere known as Victorique de Blois. Though for an anime with such an obvious moe-pandering main character, there contained a surprising amount of intelligence and depth in its story. The mysteries themselves are very thought out and the deductions reasonable and logical, if only a bit simplistic. The selling point of Gosick however, aren’t the mysteries themselves but the interesting characters around which they revolve around, making up somewhat for the linearity of its plot. Gosick, though not spectacular, fits comfortably as mystery anime into a nice corner niche of it’s own.

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Romance

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A lot of people may be angered by the second absence of Kimi ni Todoke II in our Romance category. The main problem that prevented me from choosing KnT this time is exactly the same as last year – it’s just so incredibly cliched and slow-paced. Sure it’s sweet, but it also makes you want to tear your hair out sometimes in frustration to all the misunderstandings and various other shoujo tropes. Kawamo wo Suberu Kaze is a refreshing break from these cliched, unrealistic shows that provides a realistic and philosophical look at a woman’s life. It won’t make you shed tears, and it won’t be comfortable for you either, but at least you can watch it knowing it’s something different and not directly ripped off some other romance series which came out the years before.

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Ah, sweet sweet yaoi. Admittedly, because Kyo-Ani decided not to animate any Key visual novels this year, we have a shortage of the pool of candidates we usually have for selecting romance anime. That isn’t to say that Sekai-Ichi Hatsukoi is a half-assed choice by any means, in fact rises above where so many others fail to, delivering a surprisingly mature and sincere narrative that is faintly but warmly reminiscent of Honey and Clover. Sekai-Ichi Hatsukoi must be commended on it’s very dignified approach to it’s subject matter; frankly speaking it puts many hetero-romances to shame. Like also shoujo however, it is still plagued by the occasional unforgiving trope of it’s genre. No – watching this won’t make you re-question your own sexuality. Man up dammit.

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Sci-Fi

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Steins;Gate is incredible for a number of reasons. For one, it’s an anime about time-travelling anime where the science actually makes sense. Too often have we seen Sci-Fi series dabble with pseudo-science and toy with concepts which you know the writer have no idea about. This is a problem that has plagued the entire Sci-Fi genre, let alone time travelling, which so far have been poorly handled in the anime medium except for the Suzumiya Haruhi franchise. Steins;Gate is the first anime that I can proudly declare to have completely nailed it from the scientific perspective. It is well within the realms of acceptability and just the sheer thought that went into the scriptwriting gives Steins;Gate the edge it needs to claim my nomination for the Sci-Fi anime of 2011.

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If there’s one thing Steins;Gate did better than ChaoS;HEAd, it was not sucking. In fact out of all the anime this year, Steins;Gate is probably among the few that sucked the least… OK, the analogy kinda fell apart quickly. The point is, even if we remove the Sci-Fi tag, Steins;Gate still stands on it’s own as an example of outstanding narrative and pacing, interesting characters and excellence in animated direction. The most common problem with Sci-Fi is that authors often get carried away with their ideas and forget important fundamentals, and I was happy to see that Steins;Gate firmly grounded itself in it’s foundations, never running away with itself. It goes without saying that the Sci-Fi aspect is something that Steins;Gate nails beautifully, provoking thought from even the most die-hard of Sci-Fi junkies.

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Slice of Life

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You saw it right. My pick isn’t Natsume Yuujin-Chou San. It’s not Hanasaku Iroha either. My choice is precisely A-1′s iDOLM@STER as I enjoyed this show the most out of every slice of life show this year. The iDOLM@STER follows an episodic nature for ¾ of the series, covering young idols are their everyday lives. There are barely any fanservice or harem tropes, which is perfect for this show’s atmosphere. The animation is bright and vibrant, and the soundtrack is a very high quality collection of the multitude of tracks available from the game. The collection of music present in the anime makes K-ON! looks incredibly shabby in comparison. Towards the end, The iDOLM@STER picks up the pace later for a satisfying finale, making me realize just how much I loved the characters.

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Everyone’s idea of slice of life is different, hence everyone will have different ideas about what makes a good slice of life anime. For some, it’s the whimsical on-goings of fictional school life, from secret clubs to swimming pool trips and secret romances that tickle their fancy. For me however, life is life, and any anime that can depict life at it’s most raw and basic form is golden in my books. It should be no surprise then why Usagi Drop is my pick for Slice of Life of the year. Pure, raw, simple, magical.

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Production Winners

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Plot

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This is the first time Penguindrum has gotten mentioned in this post and I can barely contain my excitement. Penguindrum probably has the best pacing of any anime series I’ve seen to date. Within the first few episodes, it has already established more plot threads than most two-cour shows. No episode ends with you not getting your mind blown at least once, and rewinding your ‘understanding’ of the show back to square one despite these plot threads being perfectly intertwined. You don’t even think Ever17 had a story until it blows your mind after four tedious arcs. Penguindrum not only makes you aware there is an amazing developing story, but blows your mind every single episode anyway up to the end. Now that is an achievement.

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In a sense, Puella Magi Madoka★Magica is a lot like Shakespeare. You’re introduced to it rather begrudgingly, but as you continue through the story you warm up to it more and more, until eventually you reach the conclusion and fireworks of epiphany and wonderment are set off. Then you set it aside and decide to never touch it again because you know if you actually tried to analyze it from start to finish your brain would explode and turn to jam from the sheer strain and effort. Three days later, you start your marathon of this series again just because you couldn’t sleep due to thinking of the plot. Madoka’s story really is just that good. Really. (IPX edited in that last sentence, he’s such a Madoka junkie hahaha). They’ll be talking about this one for years to come.

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Animation

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Animation can mean many different things. It can mean the elements of an anime you literally take for what you see, such as the fluidity, framerate and the graphics. It can also mean more abstract concepts such as symbolism and artistic touches. For the former, Ryh already chose the obvious contender so I feel there’s no point stating it twice. Penguindrum probably has better usage of symbolism than any anime made in the past fifteen years in both quality and quantity. More thought goes into directing and drawing one episode of Penguindrum than what is spent most whole series we see today. It’s just such a joy when you see so much effort being put into an anime series, as Steve puts into every Apple product.

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A relative unknown in the animation studio industry up to 2010, Ufotable is probably best known for their works: Kara no Kyoukai, an absolute gorgeous piece of art, and Sonic X, an atrocious monstrosity of which we will never speak of again. It looks like they managed to hit the right side of the coin with their latest work however, Fate/zero’s animation is every bit as amazing as you’d expect it to be and more. Vivid, fluid, detailed and spectacular, everything you need to make an action enthusiast drool at the mouth. It’s when you see things like these when you wonder if all the other studios with supposedly good production values are all just slacking off and deliberately setting a low benchmark. way, where is their remake of Fate/stay night?

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Soundtrack

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While there is no competition for iDOLM@STER when it comes to the collection of songs, the best OST of the year goes hands-down to Madoka. Composed by Yuki Kajiura in her distinct style, the OST matches flawlessly with the animation. The variation is large, from the lively piano tracks that lead off the show; reflecting upon all the is good about being a magical girl, to ones that is much more serious in nature; denoted with heavy usage of violin, echoes, synths and chants. Overall, despite being somewhat repetitive, this soundtrack complements with its anime counterpart better than anything else this year. Every time you listen to the OST on its own, you are reminded of the amazing plot of the anime. It is truly mesmerizing and deserves this award.

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Perhaps the most unimaginative choice of this entire article. Nevertheless, K-On!’s uncanny ability to land all of it’s catchy singles and amusing character songs on the Oricon charts must be commended for, because every little exposure anime gets is a tiny step the industry takes towards mainstream. I also think that K-On! songs kick ass, so that helps. The new songs and music in this movie are K-ON! at its best. The original soundtrack for this movie has been remade to differentiate itself from the TV series without losing any of the original charm and style. In general, the music is perfectly cohesive with the mood of the show and there’s just no reason not to choose this.

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Cinematography

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You know what? I don’t care if I’ve mentioned this series too many times. If it deserves to win all these categories, who am I to give it to another show? Madoka, Star Driver and [C] actually came fairly close to claiming the prize from me, but Penguindrum showcases unique, incredible cinematographic techniques episode after episode. Most of it are absolutely amazing uses of lighting, but if I were to go in detail, there would actually enough material to fill an entire book. There has never been an anime that spurred such commotion in the community for cinematographic analysis alone – and that says enough about just how amazing this series is from a director’s point of view. Ikuhara, you magnificent bastard.

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Thinking back… I can’t remember the last time I saw a cross-cut, a racking focus, panning shot, an extreme closeup, a fade transition, an aerial shot, a camera tint, a reverse angle, AND a tracking shot all used in 1 episode of anime. Cinematography techniques are still somewhat scarce in the industry so it always excites me whenever an anime like [C] puts them to use, and to good effect. Frankly speaking, some of the scenes in [C] would even make Shikai Makoto green with envy. It really is such a shame, because if only they tidied up the rest of the anime, it could have definitely been something special, and as is such I sadly have to add the following disclaimer: If you haven’t seen this anime yet, unless you’re a really hardcore cinematic tryhard, don’t bother, everything else isn’t that good.

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Miscellaneous

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Biggest Disappointment

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Yamakan didn’t rise to fame because he directed a few episodes of Suzumiya Haruhi. He rose to fame through many controversial comments regarding the industry dying to the moe-boom. With him putting his career on the line for FRACTALE, threatening to quit his job if it fails, the expectations for this “Jesus” noitaminA series that will supposedly save in “dying industry” is off the charts. As we all know, FRACTALE ended up as a Miyazaki ripoff that didn’t bring anything new to the table, and ended as a complete train wreck that made absolutely no sense. To me, after all the hype for this series from the former episode director of Haruhi putting his career on the line, this disappointment far overshadows everything else this year.

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I always believe that it’s better to take one step forward and two steps back, than to stand still and not move at all. Certainly there are bigger upsets and failures of anime for this category (Fractale and [C] come to mind), but like we always say here at BlickWinkel, we don’t penalize for effort.  For me this year, J.C. Staff’s nonchalant attitude towards the medium, their consistent mediocrity and refusal to seek innovation and improvement has disappointed me the most. Hidan no Aria represents everything that is bad about J.C. Staff: relying on existing franchise popularity and outdated tropes to perpetuate and stagnate the industry, offering no hint of inspiration or even enthusiasm. May you forever rest in peace in the catacombs of genericness, Hidan no Aria. Ahem.

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Biggest Surprise

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When I first saw the promotional poster for Level E on Random Curiosity’s seasonal preview, I didn’t pick it up due to a lack of interest in the art style. I didn’t actually hear anything about the series until the first few episodes were shown at my university’s anime club, WWWA. Those of you who have seen the show would know what I’m talking about, but let me just say that the show trolled me and everyone in that room in the biggest way possible. Everyone in the room were in hysterics when we realized just how much we were trolled by the baka-prince, and I remember tears rolling down my face in laughter. This show went from one that I would have otherwise skipped to one of my favorites that season. Without a doubt, the biggest surprise of the year for me.

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After the disaster that was Iron Man and the appalling mess of Wolverine, the last thing anyone expected was for Madhouse cough up a good western-inspired anime. But whilst they dropped the ball quite badly with Marvel, they seemed to have managed to find a hidden gem in the form of Supernatural the Animation, an adaptation of the original American horror series created by Eric Kripke. Supernatural the Animation isn’t perfect by any means, but it displays great proficiency in portraying the western style bro-buddy chemistry of Sam and Dean, a humorous and dynamic relationship. Their movement and expression based comedy translated so amazingly into anime I couldn’t even believe it myself. There’s hope for Madhouse yet, just put more production value into the next one please.

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Most Under-Appreciated

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Despite the amazing successes this franchise has experienced inside its own national borders, I’m incredibly saddened by the lack of popularity Tiger & Bunny has outside of Japan. Many people are probably instantly turned off upon gazing at the first episode and seeing the blatant advertising, clunky CGs, bad animation and cliched characters. However, this series really deserves more love because it slowly develops into a very solid anime. Throughout the middle and leading up to the end, the plot really kicks in and will doubtlessly surprise you just how much better the show is getting episode by episode. With one of the best endings of the year, you should definitely see this show which I’m 99% you didn’t see.

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Shinbou Akiyuki, perhaps known best for his directing of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, Bakemonogatari and Madoka is rapidly becoming my favourite director in the industry due to his unique and quirky style of fast pace dialogue and imaginative still shots. Here in Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko we see the extent of how a good sense of animation and stellar script can transform what could have been a haphazard pacing disaster into a work of narrative brilliance. Special mention also goes to the seiyuus for delivering what at times can only be described as nightmarishly difficult dialogue. A tragically misunderstood anime for it’s sometimes confusing plot.

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2011 in Review

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Worst Anime Series of 2011

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If Haganai is the gold standard of what fanservice shows should be, R-15 is the gold standard of what fanservice shows shouldn’t be. The worst anime of 2011 from me is only slightly better than the monstrosity that is Musahi Gandou and Mars of Destruction. It’s almost apalling to think that an amazing studio such as AIC was behind this. Everything about this anime is horrible. The premise is stupid. There are animation mistakes every few minutes. The characters are completely retarded and cliched to the core. The censorship is larger beyond belief, and even the uncensored BDs are unwatchable because the fanservice is so blatant and inappropriate that you want to tear your head off. Watch it if you want an anime which was made solely to insult your intelligence.

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Good and bad are inevitable consequences of the world we live in. When we do good, we celebrate it and benchmark it so we can challenge ourselves further. When we do bad, we acknowledge and fix the mistakes, resolving to improve ourselves the next time. But sometimes, we just get something so awful that all we should do is bury it and pretend it never happened. Onii-chan no Koto is one of these cases. There’s absolutely nothing redeemingly good about it, it’s so appallingly bad in every single respect that it only serves two purposes. One, as a how-to guide for everything NOT to do when making an anime, and two, so I have something to put down for this category.

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Best Anime Movie of 2011

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There are very few anime that I find hard to talk about, and K-ON! is one of them. In my 6 year career of anime watching so far, I don’t recall any show attracting such a large amount of diverging opinions. None of that will be talked about here, though. Nothing will be said of the huge cultural effect this series has had in the mainstream industry. Nothing will be said of moe – the “cancer that is destroying anime”. Nothing will be said of its huge fanbase and equally huge legion of antagonists. All these things act as smokescreens, and diverge our attention away from just purely looking at this series for what it is. This is a truly deserving series with only one simple goal in mind: to make you smile, smile and smile some more.

The K-ON! Movie is an original story set before the graduation of the Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Mugi, making the timeframe of the film lie just before the ending of K-ON!!. This means that one final look into the girls’ high school life before they head off to university in K-ON! Season 3. As a manga reader, I can tell you that everything you have known about K-ON is about to radically change, and this movie is fantastic just for giving us this original K-ON feeling just one more time before we leap into the next stage of their lives.

Many movies have been made with the intent of being a side story to be inserted in the middle of the main story. KyoAni does this better than any other Anime studios that I’ve ever seen and makes no mistake in the execution at every stage of the K-ON! Movie. While I can’t say too much without giving the movie away, this movie is not only a good side-story, but it’s more satisfying than any side-stories I’ve ever seen that inserts itself into the middle of a series chronologically. Naturally, production values are top notch and is completely eye-candy, as expected of KyoAni. In addition, the concert scenes are finally given the blockbuster treatments they deserve.

I’ve said at the start that K-ON is one of the hardest anime to talk about, precisely because that on paper, it’s no different than the plethora of 4girl 4koma adaptations out there. Yet, as we K-ON fans know, that is not the case and K-ON is a very special series. KyoAni hasn’t forgotten what K-ON should be, and the K-ON! movie is everything K-ON!! was, with movie-level production levels. That just makes this movie a very special movie. All I can say is, if you loved K-ON!!, you’ll definitely also love this movie for all the reason you loved K-ON!!.

Many posts can be made for why people enjoy K-ON, as equal number of posts can be made for why people don’t. That’s why I have never written anything regarding why I think K-ON is so good. The people who do not like it will never see its appeals, just as us fans will never understand just what kind of trauma the haters experienced in high school for them to hate such a charming series.

I didn’t put down K-ON!! as the best Slice of Life in my post last year, and I regret that immensely. This time I will have no regrets. Of course, to those of you who will obviously challenge my decision, I will again affirm that I will never talk about why K-ON is good – because to the you who would ask such a question, you will never obtain an answer that can satisfy you anyway. Regrettably, you just don’t have that sparkle in your life to understand.

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Detective Conan movies have rapidly become something of a staple. Long past is the time where we still question the level of their quality. The sun will shine, birds will fly, cake is delicious and Detective Conan movies will always be a great way chill for 90 minutes.

While little kid Kudo will probably forever continue to surprise us in his endless stream of amazing adventures, one brownie point that I can unfortunately no longer give Conan movies are the points for original structure. Solve minor crime, discover plot for major event, spends half the movie uncovering clues, tries to prevent event, catches the culprit, explosive finale, dramatic ending that somehow involves Ran or another character about love or friendship. As elaborate structure as it may be, you just can’t help but get the feeling that you’ve somehow been down this road before.

And that’s as far as my nitpicking will go, because everything else about the film is just… likeable. I mean what do you really expect me to say? What is there that can be said about the film that can’t be categorized under “see every single other Conan film in existence?” I guess all that’s left is to go through the usual checklist.

Story Over the years, Detective Conan has gradually diverged from the traditional detective story. Many writers try to construct their narrative based around an epiphanic finale, where you can look on the episode or chapter and go “Oh, I get it, why didn’t I see that before?” Many of the more recent Conan story-lines, in particular the films, have increasing begun to focus more on the exposition itself, as well as the spectacle, whilst this puzzle element takes more of a back seat role. Whether that is a good thing or not is not for me to judge, all I will say is that it works, and it works well.

Sound Conan’s theme music has become somewhat iconic, and it’s nice that they continually remix and tweak it while still retaining that nostalgic jazzy feel. The original score is good as well, nothing to complain about there.

Animation Um, yeah. Do we need to go over this one? Ok, the production value is amazing, the cinematography has a good movie-esque feel to it and I’m content that the character’s ears are continually shrinking to a more reasonable size. Happy?

EnjoymentI guess all that’s left is to sum everything up with d^.^b. Yeah.

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Best Anime Series of 2011

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Given that this series has already been nominated three times, I don’t think this choice would have surprised too many people. I was sure that Madoka or Steins;Gate was going to take the cake this year, due to them already being superb series that would have won Anime of the Year should they have aired in previous years. How wrong I was.

I’m going to admit this right off the bat – my literature skills isn’t profound. As I have already mentioned countless times before, one of the biggest appeals of Penguindrum lies in its heavy usage of grandiose symbolism. Every time an episode of Penguindrum finishes, the first thing I’d do is hop on AnimeSuki and start going through the sea of posts until I made sure I understood every element that go beyond their literal interpretations. That was how I realized that Pengduindrum isn’t just your average great anime. The most amazing thing about Penguindrum is how it resonates with the viewer regardless of what literal knowledge that person has. As I sit though each episode every week, there wasn’t a single moment where I was confused by the lack of understanding for symbolisms. Even if this show is taken literally without understanding any of the hidden meanings, it’s still an amazing watch.

Sure, the plot is extremely complex and I was rewatching quite a lot, but I was never bored. This series in general excited me to no end. Almost every scene was amazing. Each character that was focused upon were brought out and expressed perfectly through good usage of imagery, soundtrack and animation techniques. It’s incredibly difficult to praise this series without spoiling it, but once you watch it you’ll understand just why I cannot recommend this series enough. Magnificent and creative doesn’t even begin to describe what an anime this has been.

I’m aware that Ikuhara did not purposefully plan every single small detail in this series that gets picked up by observant viewers, but did Shakespeare plan out the result of every single analysis of his works up to this day? Of course not. That’s what a great piece of literature is about – the same thing which made Evangelion so successful. Since the start of my anime watching career in 2006, I have never seen a show like Penguindrum, and you probably haven’t either.

I’ve talked enough about this series already in this post. There is no time to waste – marathon this series as soon as you finish reading this post. In the meantime, I’m off to start watching Revolutionary Girl Utena which I just nabbed off BakaBT.

There’s a space here.

Oh Nichijou, where do I begin?

You often hear me talk about things like narrative, character and setting. Sometimes I’ll stress about important fundamentals like pacing, structure, development. Other times I’ll harp on about minor details like themes and context. Rarely, if ever, will you ever hear me use ‘because it’s awesome’ to praise an anime. But that’s exactly what Nichijou is. Awesome.

To quote someone whom I have a great deal of respect for, “I think that line of reasoning just not used enough, you know one where you’re like I’m gonna get a fudge sundae because fuck yeeah, fudge sundaes!”. Most of us now would look on at little 11 year old narutards with disdain, laughing at their silly discussions on who is stronger between Guy and Kakashi and what would happen if you mix a Rasengan and a Chidori. Tragic though they may be, nowadays I can’t help but envy them a little.

Nichijou in many a ways has been a throwback for me, to a time where I too was a little noobie who didn’t know my narrative from my plot and every episode was about the spectacle. Nichijou reminds us that a good anime doesn’t need a brilliant story, amazing interesting characters or stellar production value, it reminds us that all a good anime really needs to be is enjoyable.

I even can’t remember the last time when the first thing I would do after watching an episode of anime was to get on Skype or Facebook and talk about how awesome it was. The sort of joy I gained from simply watching it and talking about it with my friends reminded me why I had started watching anime in the first place. In essence, Nichijou is the perfect exemplar of everything good in slice-of-life and comedy; simplicity, ingenuity, and most importantly, love.

Is my love for the show bias? Perhaps. Is my opinion of it unprofessional? Probably. Do I care? No, not really, because fuck yeah Nichijou!

_______________________________________________________________________________

2011 has certainly been an interesting year for us here at Blickwinkel. Whilst we may not have been very active due to college and life in general, we certainly have been keeping our eye on the scene so we are very happy to see that exciting things continue for anime.We kicked things off with an explosive Winter season, where the fallout from the amazing finale of Madoka★Magica lingered for months and great anime like Level E and Hourou Musuko flew under our radar somewhat.

With momentum, we rolled Spring for an absolute beast of a lineup including Steins;Gate, Nichijou, AnoHana, Gintama and Kaiji 2 to name a few, all of which ended up somewhere on our list here. The Summer season was no less impressive, with Usagi Drop and Natsume Yuujinchou San bringing in with them a much needed seinen flavour, as well as returning favourite Baka to Test~ Ni! adding in some stupidity to the mix.

In what seemed like no time at all, we were already well off into Fall again, where Fate/zero spoiled our eyes and Penguindrum blew our minds, while Working!! and Ika Musume II allow slice-of-life fans to indulge in a very light-hearted finish to the year. Needless to say, there was always something to watch, for dabblers, enthusiasts and veterans alike.

As the year winds down, one has to take a step back and ponder what it means to be a fan of anime. Blickwinkel recognizes that the anime community is one that will come and go. Many of us will grow older and find other pursuits to spend our time as many new whelps and narutards continue to join our ranks. While the faces may change, our love of anime will always remain, just as anime will continue to be here long after we have gone.

Though anime may not be a life-commitment, like may things, it will stay with us for life whether we like it or not. So why not enjoy ourselves while we’re here, right? To those who are still with us, and those who are just coming in the door: shut the blinds, turn off the lights and take a seat somewhere comfortable. Let’s see what 2012 has in store for us.

From us here at Blickwinkel, think critical, think forwards, and happy new year.

Conclusion by Ryhzuo

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About ImperialX

Anime fan and tech guru.

Discussion

83 thoughts on “The Best Anime of 2011

  1. still don’t think Dragonball should’ve won

    Posted by Panda | December 31, 2011, 3:39 PM
  2. Fate/zero should’ve won action as well :)

    Posted by Panda | December 31, 2011, 4:15 PM
  3. So many lolicon picks, where’s the picks for REAL men like Kai?

    Posted by Goku | December 31, 2011, 4:25 PM
  4. Transformers the animated series ftw :D

    Posted by Optimus Prime | December 31, 2011, 4:35 PM
  5. Wow all the stuff I have been watching is some what old (Clannad, Darker Than Black, and Mushi-shi). So it looks like I have a lot of stuff to get to watching. Thanks! ;)

    Posted by Michael | December 31, 2011, 5:28 PM
  6. Symbolism overload, the anime.

    Congrats

    Posted by Jeroz | December 31, 2011, 9:30 PM
  7. Madoka didn’t win Series of the Year =/

    Though penguindrum or Steins;gates would have been my runner up anyway

    Problem with Penguindrum imo is they make you bust a nut just to understand half of all that happens in every episode. My head hurts after watching one episode and constantly thinking “THERE IS SO MUCH DEEP AND INTENSE AND SUPPOSEDLY AWESOME SYMBOLISM IN THIS BUT I JUST CAN’T UNDERSTAND WHAT IT MEANS”

    And surfing on animesuki for hours on end to “understand” what actually happened hurts my eyes =/

    Posted by pikachuwei | January 1, 2012, 3:18 AM
    • It’s a shame Madoka didn’t win. That alongside Steins;Gate would most certainly have won in other years. 2011 was just too good.

      Even though we had to spend just as long time on AnimeSuki as watching the show, you have to admit that upon understanding the symbolism, it is indeed a masterpiece.

      Posted by ImperialX | January 1, 2012, 7:41 AM
      • write an explanation for ending of penguindrum pl0x

        my head still hurts from trying to understand all that happened in the last ep and the entire series in general

        so did Shouma and Kanba shift the world to another parallel universe where they never became family with himari and everything is nice and happy?

        ITS STEINS GATE V2! WORLD LINES!

        Posted by pikachuwei | January 2, 2012, 3:13 AM
        • Try reading AnimeSuki forums.

          Posted by Ryhzuo | January 2, 2012, 3:24 AM
        • Not just AnimeSuki. Look around the blogosphere and you’ll see enough blog articles for Penguindrum to write a book with. I don’t really see the need of adding another article to the mix. There are some excellent ones written by people far more skilled than me.

          Posted by ImperialX | January 2, 2012, 8:22 AM
  8. I’m glad Puella Magi won 2 awards. It was well deserved.

    As well as Steins Gate. Best Sci-Fi ever, without a doubt.

    Posted by Anonymous | January 1, 2012, 6:00 AM
    • Actually it won 3: Drama, Plot and Soundtrack. It would have won Anime of the Year too, if it didn’t air in 2011. It’s quite sad I couldn’t choose it.

      Steins;Gate deserved both nominations for Sci-Fi. Really great series.

      Posted by ImperialX | January 1, 2012, 7:44 AM
  9. I am not a K-ON fan, but admittedly, I didn’t give it much of a chance. However, after reading your little section about it I’m almost compelled to give it a proper try. Especially after watching the iDOLM@STER and finding out just how much I enjoy shows that have the goal of making me smile.

    Well, I’m guilty of not seeing both titles listed under the “Most Under-Appreciated” sections, something I feel I must now remedy.

    Posted by Myst | January 2, 2012, 4:16 AM
  10. Sekai-Ichi Hatsukoi is so bored. The principal plot is so so so slow, monotone, it didn’t change from season 1 (not like its closest anime partner, Junjou romantica). On the other hand, Madoka Magica OMG! Best end. Plot, character development and soundtrack are so fantastic and the stereotypes which are expose there are broken or twisted at all.

    And with your post I’ll watch: Nichijou, Mawaru Penguindrum, Steins-gate and Tiger & bunny. ;)

    Thanks for this best 2011′s review ;)

    See ya! And a happy best year to you all. ;)

    Posted by Carlos | January 5, 2012, 1:34 AM
  11. I am mostly in agreement with ImperialX, with the exceptions being The Best plot, animation, slice of life, and especially the best of year. People seem to forget about those 6 episodes in Penguindrum where we just had Ringo gagging for Tabuki-sensei, sure occasionally we had a plot point thrown in, but that stage was really tedious. I’ll admit that my view of Penguindrum has been massively and unfairly skewed due to a growing loathing of the show, but I can’t agree that every episode was perfectly paced.

    Anyway, I’m getting off Penguindrum hate, and onto what’s good, Tiger & Bunny is well deserving of the most underrated anime, though Denpa onna to Seishun Otoko was also a pretty good anime, though it’s in massive need of a second season.

    Strangely, I wasn’t able to come up with a favourite anime of the year, the top 5 was Working’!!, Nichijou, Steins;Gate, Madoka and Usagi Drop. Nichijou was such a wonderful anime and thus I Iove Ryhzuo’s pick for best of year.

    I whole-heartedly agree about Fractale, it was the biggest disappointment by far, the first two episodes were so good, and then it just crashed and burned. Level E was hilarious at episode 3, but I didn’t ever like it that much, I think I gave it a 6 in the end.

    My favourites in the other categories are fairly obvious from my best of year, apart from mystery. I don’t know why, but I seem to have had fonder and fonder memories of Gosick as time has gone on, the second cour was great, witht he penultimate episode being one of my favourite episodes of the year. It had a weak start, but somehow I just don’t seem to remember that. Strangely, UN-GO also had a weak start, but gradually got better and better, perhaps it’ll be a common trait of future mystery animes, a weak start and a strong finish.It’s better than the other way round anyway…

    Posted by Fumoffu!! | January 7, 2012, 1:14 PM
  12. “Ah, sweet sweet yaoi.”

    Son, I am disappoint.

    Posted by Feng9 | January 8, 2012, 2:58 PM
  13. HNNGGHHH- Ao no exorcist hehe ~~~

    I HAVE A LOT OF ANIME TO LIST DOWN NOW. DGSDAJOGOIFJ-
    can’t waitttttt;;

    Is Ano Hana like REALLLLYYYY SAD? QQ ; ^ ;

    Posted by Domoo | January 9, 2012, 11:43 AM
  14. just wondering if can i have that image of madoka in wallpaper size, is just awesome and cant find it in google.

    Posted by shadx | February 16, 2012, 7:51 AM
  15. I only came here to see Stein’s gate
    I saw 2, I am very pleased

    Posted by Anonymous | April 1, 2012, 1:23 AM
  16. i think that persona $ the animation should have been on this list when i first saw the previews i didn’t even think that it was going to be any good but when i watches i feel in love with the main character yu he was truly a enjoyable character to watch even tho it was based on a game i think they did a good job of showing how a game can turn into a truly good anime

    Posted by Anonymous | April 14, 2012, 4:56 PM
  17. gj i was really happy to see stein gate and anohana here

    Posted by Anonymous | April 18, 2012, 12:43 AM
  18. why isnt guilty crown on the list……..it was such a nice anime.

    Posted by shaurya | April 27, 2012, 6:50 AM
  19. which anime awards are these reviews taken out from??????

    Posted by shaurya | April 27, 2012, 6:57 AM
  20. where did natsume yuujinchou shi go?? :D And I think AnoHana is the best Slice of Life anime (2011)

    Posted by abunnytocuddle | May 12, 2012, 12:16 PM
  21. I’m sorry But I didn’t see ONE PIECE & NARUTO SHIPPUDEN in list

    Posted by only me | May 13, 2012, 4:26 AM
  22. guilty crown should really be here

    Posted by chris | May 25, 2012, 9:50 AM
  23. Hi there just a comment on Steins;Gate and a recommendation request for the disillusioned.
    I’ve been far away from Anime for a while, in a large part, because it keeps disappointing me. I’ve watched three episodes of Steins;Gate so far and its happened again. The chrono-perspective shift and anomalies in the first episode were moderately exciting, and mysterious (although I wasn’t caught up enough in its reality to be shocked by a distortion in it). It also seemed moderately zany, which I might have welcomed – anime Dr. Who? Why not! Yet I found the pacing abominable, with roughly one item of development or so per episode (yet Ryzhuo commended exactly this). I read forward on the plot in summary…and felt it sounded like the Butterfly Effect, executed at snails’ pace.
    In short, I would like to not be disappointed by anime, and don’t care what year it is from. My last non-disappointments were Angel Beats! (which might be a favourite anime) and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (made me overcome initial loathing of the manga). I possibly loved the first episode of Darker Than Black (despite a name fit for a woeful cheesy Gosu-yaoi) – Contractors seemed psychologically fascinating, but interest dried half-way. It just got a bit typical (and worse OP/EDs). When younger I was quite a fan of the intrigue and apparent liveliness of complex plot in Gundam Wing, and have tried 00, but half-way through the second season, Gundam love wanes.
    I probably want to watch an anime as detailedly engaging as GITS’s manga, as well directed as its first film, and with the production values of today’s gorgeous HD anime (with additional input from Satoshi Kon from beyond the grave, while I’m at it). This is surely asking for too much, but Kon aside it ought not be.

    I’ve just ordered GITS:SAC on a dusty old recommendation. I hope to acquire more Mushishi (first volume wowed me in its own quiet way). The one episode of Mawaru Penguindrum I watched on your recommendation showed real promise. Looking forward to trying Puella Magi Madoka★Magica (on this count your positive critique has overthrown my anti-moe bias), Kawamo wo Suberu Kaze and Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi too. I’ve never tried the Key game anime (I hear good things of Air, but wonder at VN comparison), and have Ever17 on hidden on myself so I complete my Masters on time. I won’t watch Persona 4 as I bought the game, which likewise is self-protectively hidden. Never watched Elfen Lied or more than the first Serial Experiments: Lain episode.

    Beyond (or instead of) these can you (either authors or readers) recommend something to save my love of anime? I feel I’ve been clueless of developments for the last half-decade at least. I’ve seen enough good-mediocre things before that time not to want yet another. I want something that can really, more-or-less consistently, impress me as I know this medium can, and usually googling rankings tables tells me that Naruto and Bleach are superlative. I beg to differ. (Or, if the two authors chose to compile the best anime of the naughties in a similarly useful post, I’m all ears.)

    Posted by Cian | June 11, 2012, 8:03 AM
    • Give Steins;Gate a chance (at least up to the first threat mail), its pace is like an exponential graph, EXTREMELY snail paced but ends up being an EXTREMELY fast-paced thriller that doesn’t seem to stop as it goes on (been a long time since I have seen such a thriller and its subtle darkening of mood).

      Watched Code Geass? You say you have been away from anime for a long time, season 1 and season 2 make up one of the greatest mecha/action anime with dramatic cliffhangers

      Key – watch Clannad and especially the second season, where all the drama builds up and shows its beauty in design. Must watch Air, I haven’t seen it yet but no one i know so far as described it any less than good.

      Working! & Working !! for some well executed comedy =D

      Usagi Drop – as explained above by Ryzhuo its a portrayal of life in its simplest form, refreshing and simply put, delightful.

      These are the ones that i can briefly think off the top of my head, others are mentioned in your comment, like Madoka for example.

      Oh also, watch Rurouni Kenshin – Tsuiokuhen (only 4 eps).

      Others: http://myanimelist.net/topanime.php if you want impressive anime.

      Posted by Person.Boi | October 7, 2012, 5:54 PM
  24. i really love anime. . . since im child

    Posted by annie rose | June 30, 2012, 11:54 PM
  25. Reblogged this on perfectly44 and commented:
    .

    Posted by perfectly44 | July 22, 2012, 7:34 AM
  26. Ao no exorcist Very amazing

    Posted by perfectly44 | July 22, 2012, 11:15 AM
  27. kimi no todoke is a very good rom-com anime…

    Posted by tomoyo | August 26, 2012, 10:18 PM
  28. Oniichan no Koto Nanka Zenzen Suki Janain Dakara ne’s first episode was pretty funny. They made them non-blood related so the story doesnt seem too morally appalling. But we the viewer can pretend that the siblings are in fact blood related, since thats the direction the anime would have gone if not for the social taboo.

    Posted by hehe | September 23, 2012, 9:13 PM
  29. The best anime 2012 now! is Sword Art Online! No other else

    Posted by zhaks alawiya | December 30, 2012, 9:46 PM
  30. I’m surprised to see Idolm@ster on here, honestly. I mean, I love the anime and music to death, but it always seemed like a guilty pleasure to me. No other westerner could love such a moe-filled, plotless anime the way I did XD Pleased to see it on the list, though!

    I’ll definitely be checking out Penguindrum now. This post has gotten me really interested! If it even rivals Madoka Magica at all, then it has to be something really special.

    Speaking of Madoka Magic, that should’ve been the best anime of the year, in my opinion. I’ve watched all the big name anime like Death Note and Haruhi Suzumiya, but as far as I’ve seen, nothing touches Madoka Magica.

    In any case, great list! You got it right, for the most part!

    Posted by alicefan4eva | May 31, 2013, 5:06 PM
  31. Stein’s Gate for science–seriously? The science in it is as unbelievable as the science in most of fiction. Closest thing to good science in anime was Fullmetal Alchemist, and even that implies nuclear fission and fusion in the palm of the hands.

    I never understood people yearning for believable fictional science when they cannot even identify actual science. It’s like the hailed novel the Andromeda Strain whereas people were so amazed by acidity. It’s was the only actual science they hinted during the research–everyone with a science background and an IQ of 100 could predict it. You want to feel smarter? Pick up a journal, textbook, or whatever medium is associated with your respective level of scientific knowledge.

    Posted by Jesus | September 1, 2013, 2:59 AM

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