Best Anime of 2011

Due to some computer issues, I’m pre-emptively posting this list. It’s all worth it, because 2011 was a great year, with a lot of awesome shows! So which ones made my list? Starting from the bottom:


Gosick made a splash as THE lolita romance of the year- probably the best romance of the year, for that matter. It’s not perfect, with some arc issues and a slightly off ending, but between some interesting cases, a lovely romance, and having a whole lot of atmosphere, this ended up being one of the best of the year, and almost every episode worth the watch.

2. Chihayafuru

A show about cards and card games that gives Hikaru no Go a run for it’s money! Japan has a way of making these seem interesting, and it really shows, with well-chreographed action and some great characterization that makes this a fun show. While it’s still airing, I’m eagerly anticipating the rest of the series!

3. Redline

Racing is hard to make exciting, but with some great characters and some solid characterization to back up what would otherwise be something that adrenaline junkies could get into, this movie ended up being a treat both visually and otherwise. It’s not deep, it doesn’t make any profound statements, it’s just a good, fun watch.

4. Steins; Gate

Steins;Gate started out slow- it built tension slowly, perhaps a bit too slowly, but then built into a frenzy of action and mystery that really made this shine during the second half. While those initial issues mean it’s not at the top of the list, this still has a solid story and hilarious characters that make this an anime that was both entertaining and moving when it got going.

5. Fate/Zero

I admit to not having seen the anime of or played the VN of Fate/Stay Night, which this is the prequel to. Even so, this manages to be an engaging story in it’s own right, drawing you in from the start with action and intrigue up the wazzoo- I’m having few problems following what’s going on, which makes this a worthy investment of my time. While there are some weaknesses in how it presents the story, this most definitely stands out in this year’s anime!

6. Hourou Musuko: Wandering Son

Here’s to an anime that treads new ground in dealing with gender issues and identity! Doing so with grace and sensitivity, this manages to make people think about these issues, perhaps in ways they’d never thought about before. While the anime does have it’s flaws, mainly in how it starts the story and the rather open ending, for the most part this overcomes them and ends up being a touching and beautiful story.

7. Maruwaru Penguindrum 

An anime that is fascinating, visually and in how it makes you think. There are multiple layers to it, and the Fabulous Max factor brings this to the forefront of Fabulous Max anime this year! Why isn’t it higher? I’m  sure it’s because I haven’t quite finished watching it, and still am unsure of some of the things it’s trying to say- but I have to say, it says them with style!

8. Ano Hana

Ano Hana- a story that speaks to the grief and loss that we all experience in our lives, and one that deals with the effects that it has on children, nonetheless. It treads into territory that few deal with realistic emotions, with a hint of the supernatural that ends up making this piece rather than breaking it.

9. Madoka Magica

What can’t I say about this anime? It treads into darker territory than many, many magical girls dare to. It’s a deconstruction, but manages to be one of the most beautiful and hopeful shows that deal with the same things.

And finally, my pick of the year:

10. Bunny Drop

I can’t imagine a show that deserves this title more. It doesn’t say anything deep, but it is about something that’s important to everybody. What is the meaning of family? How do we build those bonds? There is nothing more heartwarming than seeing those things come to fruition onscreen in this show, where they care for each other and love one another, even if things aren’t always smooth sailing.

And with so many good shows, we even get honorable mentions!

Kimi Ni Todoke – 2nd Season aired this year, and managed to pull off a fantastic ending to the first season- while still being incredibly open-ended and feeling incomplete. Still, it’s definitely one of the best romances that aired, and when watched with the first season, will make any romance lover jump for joy.

Hansaku Iroha pulled off some fantastic writing, being sweet and having lovely characters- for the most part. The show dragged on a little more than it should have, the middle dropping all of the plot it had set up for the first half for filler- decent filler, but prolonging unnecessary drama. Still, this ended up with strong episodes, and overall was a fantastic show.

And with that, my year unofficailly ends. Hope you all had a great one!

“A Friend At A Time” – Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth (anime) – 8/10 Snowballs

It is not down in any map; true places never are.  ~Herman Melville

Genre: Historical/Slice-of-Life/Drama

Review Status: Complete (13 Episodes/13 Episodes)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed in America.

Art/Animation: This is very historically accurate, with clothing and hairstyles kept true to the time. It looks really good, with bright and vibrant colors, and the animation is very nice for a slice of life series.

Dub Vs. Sub: There is no dub for this anime.

Summary: In the late 19th century, Yune, a young Japanese girl, travels to Paris with the help of a Frenchman named Oscar. Once she arrives, Yune takes a job in Oscar’s nephew’s metal shop. Claude is uneasy with hiring such a young girl and, at first, Yune has some trouble settling into her new surroundings. However, over time, these individuals find – in spite of their vastly different ages, cultures and pasts – a special common ground and understanding. (The Anime Network)

Review: One of the hardest things to do is to travel to another country, to someplace where the language is strange, as are the people and customs. It was even harder a hundred years ago, when this anime takes place, when the only way to communicate was via letters that took months to cross the ocean- if they managed to arrive at all. This anime takes a special look at how different things are in different countries, with Yune being surprised and dismayed at the differences between the nations. She isn’t the only one who is at a loss, though, with those around her often confused by her actions and customs. This gets in-depth into Japanese culture from a historically accurate Western point of view, where bathing every day is strange and wasteful, soy sauce is unheard of, and kowtowing is distasteful.

Yune slowly grows to know the family that she’s come to stay with, with Oscar as the diplomat between the gentle Japanese girl and his harsh and unyielding nephew Claude. Their interactions provide much of the drama in the show. They really don’t know how to deal with each other, because their cultures and histories shaped their personalities so much. Watching them come to understandings and expanding their worldviews can be a joy to watch.

As others join the cast and Yune’s world expands, she finds that there are commonalities between their cultures as well, and she finds allies and friends that are willing to understand her in turn. Each of the relationships grows in its own time, feeling natural and unhurried. Yune herself can feel a little too sweet and perfect at times, but this might be my on ignorance of cultural appearances. The supporting cast makes up for it most of the time, with characters that have other, more severe burdens on their shoulders that are shown- even if left unresolved at the end.

This is very much a slice of life series, but has an underlying plot that becomes apparent around halfway through the series. There is tension between Claude and the Blanche family, but what exactly caused it remains a mystery until later in the series. Soon after that, Yune and Claude must deal with the lingering effects of their families, the guilt they feel, the anger and sorrow that it’s left behind. This particular plot feels a bit rushed and leaves the anime with an ending that, while decent, doesn’t feel as complete or final as it could have been.

Overall, this is a sweet series that brings cultural differences and understanding to the forefront.

Recommended: 10+. There’s one swear, d-word, in the entire show. You see Yune’s bare shoulders at one point.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Aria (anime and manga)

Emma: A Victorian Romance (anime and manga)

Usagi Drop (anime)

“For One And For All” – Revolutionary Girl Utena (anime) – 9/10 Snowballs


Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good.  Luckily, this is not difficult.  ~Charlotte Whitton

Genre: Action/Drama/Fantasy/Shoujo/Psychological

Review Status: Complete (39 Episodes/39 Epsiodes)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed in the US

Art/Animation: It has fairly typical 90’s character designs, with sharp faces and features and more angular bodies. It still looks quite good, though, with lots of bright colors and lovely animation, especially in the action scenes.

Dub Vs. Sub: I only had the sub available, it was very good.

Summary: Utena has it all. Beauty. Passion. Faith. A sense of justice. She is the idol of her classmates at the exclusive Ohtori Academy. And yet, she is driven by a childhood memory of a prince on a white horse who comforted her when she was grieving over her parent’s death. He gave her an enigmatic signet ring emblazoned with a rose crest, and this memory drives Utena to do the impossible: To become a prince, herself, as she duels the members of the Student Council to protect the mysterious “Rose Bride.” *back cover of 1st dvd case)

Review: Revolutionary Girl Utena has a reputation that precedes it, of being a story of female romance and layers of symbolism. While this is only partially true, this is a story of people, of gender identity, of ideals, of life and death, all shown in minute detail and symbolism that overlap each other, with lots of double meanings to the symbols, things becoming clear in the second half that weren’t in the first, or things from the first half becoming obscured in the scheme of things.

The overlying story is that of Utena, a girl who’s unknowingly drawn into a dueling competition against others by virtue of a ring left her by a childhood hero, and to protect Anthy, the Rose Bride, from those who would use and abuse her. This is far more than that, though. No one is perfect in this anime- Utena herself is a deeply flawed protagonist, and has a number of inner struggles between the ideals that she held as an inner child and the woman she is growing into. Those she fights against are equally deep and flawed characters that can draw both pity and disgust in how they try to deal with their issues. The Student Council she fights against are constant characters through the anime, which means there is room for character growth in the series, and it is carried out as well as Utena’s. Even Utena’s friends and allies are not without their problems and issues, brought to the forefront during one arc where they are given the space to become true characters that really stand out, and sometimes highlight the struggles those in the Student Council deal with.

Woven through this are strong themes that help move the story along- innocence, love, adulthood, nobility, all shown through the trials and struggles that Utena, Anthy, and the Student Council deal with. They’re highlighted with symbols both obscure and not, from the butterfly in the interview room to the color roses that the duelists have, and even the little ‘plays’ that occur during the show. Much of it has multiple meanings and a few different ways of being interpreted, both on an individual episode level and on a higher level through the show. I know that I didn’t catch it all with one viewing, and a good amount will probably need multiple rewatches.

Both of these things lead to an ending that’s shocking, even bittersweet in meaning. This is, in many ways, a deconstruction of the fantasy genre and it shows. There is a lot of meaning packing into those last few episodes that really

Overall, this is more than what it appears to be, and is a wonderful watch for it.

Recommended: 16+. There are some incestuous relationships (one is sexual, but seems to be more like abuse than an actual love affair), and a few sexual relationships depicted either in implication or by seeing them in bed together (not having sex, just being in bed together). Some romantic and sexual are homosexual. Partial nudity- the important bits are covered or not shown, or during the transformation scenes it’s Barbie-doll nudity.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Maruwaru Penguindrum (anime)

Puella Magi Madoka Magica (anime)

Rose of Versaille (anime and manga)

Princess Tutu (anime)