Anime Review: Recap of the Fall 2011 Season (after watching the 1st episodes)

Anime Review Fall 2011 Season:
A recap after watching the 1st episode of everything

Hey, I just finished up watching and reviewing the first episode of every anime series/special/OVA for the Fall 2011 season, which has been subtitled so far. So, it’s now time to take a look back and rank everything from best to worst. I’ve done the same thing for the previous six seasons as well, and you can find the recaps here:

First, by the numbers: Compared to a relatively poor Summer 2011 Season, the Fall Season (defined as shows that debuted between September 22nd and December 21st) was a mixed bag — a handful of potentially good shows (albeit no clear stand-outs), plus the regular mix of formulaic dross. So far, I have found 43 different series/shows/specials where the first episode has been subtitled into English (as of right now, there may be more released down the road). Out of those, 30 are continuing series with multiple episodes — I must stress that so far I have only viewed and reviewed the first episodes only. 16 out of the 30 multi-episode shows received a “thumbs up”, 14 receiving a thumbs-down. Of the remaining 10 single-episode shows/specials/movies, 5 received a thumbs-up and 8 received a thumbs-down. Here’s a quick look at what I consider the best, the worst, and everything in-between. To see the individual review, click on the show’s name below.

Highest recommendation: MUST SEE TV!:

    NONE. – When comparing the “best of the best” for this season, there were plenty of series that showed some promise and that I enjoyed. But when it got right down to brass tacks, there wasn’t anything that I could clearly label as “Must See TV”, worthwhile recommending to everyone unreservedly. Maybe I’m getting a bit jaded after watching hundreds of hours of anime, but nothing grabbed me and shook my by the collar this time around.

Strongly Recommended: – (Most likely I’ll watch the entire season)

  • Mirai Nikki Episode 1 – Looks like we have a little bit of Battle Royale mixed in with a little bit of Death Note. To be honest I do not expect this to be some deep-thinking, intellectually-challenging mystery; more like a fast-paced action romp. Which is fine, a “popcorn flick” is perfectly enjoyable every now and then. Looks like this will replace the “Deadman Wonderland” slot in my anime viewing schedule.
  • Chihayafuru Episode 1 – If I had to pick the “best” debut episode of the whole season, this would be it. Chihayafuru seems it will have the right mix of light-hearted, heartstring-tugging moments and angsty teen drama, I have high hopes for the future episodes. Don’t let me down like Hanasaku Iroha, please!
  • Guilty Crowm Episode 1 – First off, Guilty Crown was gobsmackingly beautiful to watch, my eyes were just glued to the screen the entire time, drinking it all in. But where this falls just shy of “must see TV” is in the plot, which is shaping up to be somewhat hackneyed. It may be awfully pretty to watch, but if there isn’t a story to back it up, it can’t carry a whole season.
  • Last Exile: Fam the Silver Wing Episode 1 – One of the most anticipated shows of the past few years, finally the return of the series that launched a Gonzo Empire. To say that expectations were through the roof would be an understatement. So, it was no surprise that it received a mixed reception; after all, how could it ever live up to the impact of the Last Exile series from a decade ago? As for me, I was more forgiving, and am optimistic about the future direction of the series. And if they kill off Dio quickly with some gruesome, horrible death, then I’ll be hooked for life.

Moderately recommended: – (Worth watching, and there’s a decent chance I’ll watch the entire season)

  • Un-Go Episode 1 – I’m not exactly sure what to make of this after just one episode — mostly with the “weirdly traptastic” Inga character. On the other hand, I do like the idea of the “Defeated Detective” who solves the mystery but never gets the credit, as well as the strong-willed Rie as his foil. I feel this show will ultimately rise or fall based on how interesting the characters are, rather than the mysteries themselves. After all, I’ve been let down time and again by so-called mystery anime series in the past couple of years.
  • Shinryaku! Ika Musume Season 2 Episode 1 – Second verse, same as the first. Quite literally, this picks right up as if there never was a break. Same characters, same jokes. I gave the first season very high marks, but the return of the “same old, same old” was enjoyable, but by this point predictable. I hope they end up adding something new to the repertoire, or it will go stale pretty darn quick.
  • Ben-To Episode 1 – Har, a nightly no-holds-barred battle for half-priced lunchboxes? The concept is redonkulous, to say the least, but perhaps because it is so far off into left field is why I found it strangely alluring. Ben-To could be the sleeper hit of the season.
  • Toradora: Ben to no Gokui Special – Wait, what? New Toradora? Yup! Sort of came out of nowhere, and it really is simply an average episode that would fit right in the middle of the series.
  • Lupin III Movie: Blood Seal Eternal Mermaid – A televised feature-length movie marking 40 years of Lupin anime, and refreshing to see they remain true to form with the original concept rather than try to “update” a classic. This received a solid “B” grade from me, making me think it’s high time to go back and sample so more Lupin shows from the past few years.

Mildly recommended: – (Watchable, not sure if I’ll continue for the entire season yet or not)

  • Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai Episode 1 – Somewhat of a surprise, it has started out with the basic plot of Haruhi Suzumiya-lite (sans supernatural stuff), but I fear this will take a hard turn in the direction of a tiresome high-school harem comedy. We’ll see.
  • Hunter x Hunter Episode 1 – Yup, it really is nothing more than your run-of-the-mill shonen adventure series. Only this one seems like it is done well.
  • Tamayura Hitotose Episode 1 – The sequel to the lackluster four-part Tamayura OVA from last year starts with a prequel set-up episode, which was actually sort of nice.
  • Kyousou Giga OVA – It was confusing as all hell, but fun to watch even if I really didn’t understand what was truly going on. I would be interested if they would do some sort of sequel or follow-up series where they give enough time to tell an actual story rather than throw colors across the screen.

Slightly recommended: – (Not sure if I’ll watch the entire series or not, but signs don’t look good)

  • Working Season 2 Episode 1 – It’s back for more antics from the staff at Wagnaria. The first season was actually the very first show I reviewed two years ago, and ultimately I was frustrated by the same repeated jokes (especially the whole “fear of men” nonsense) and it ended up with a tepid “C+” grade. Hopefully they can move beyond the rut that developed in the first season, but initial signs are not promising.
  • Blue Exorcist OVA: Kuro no Iede – Meh, just a one-off Blue Exorcist special where they feel like they have to cram in every single character for a bit of screen time. Fine enough if you like the Blue Exorcist series, meaningless if you do not.
  • Deadman Wonderland OVA – Meh for this one as well, a single-character prequel to the Deadman Wonderland series. Just as above: Fine enough if you like the series, meaningless if you do not.

On The Fence: – (Watching for now, but chances are I’ll drop before the series completes)

  • Chibi Devi Episode 1 – Just a cute little diversion that only received a passing grade because the first episode was “not crappy”. But if I’m going to watch future episodes, it’s going to have to step up its game. I’m not holding my breath.
  • Bakuman Season 2 Episode 1 – Picking up immediately after where the first season left off like it was yesterday. Mind you, I dropped the first season from my review schedule last year (“C” grade), and this continuation is equally as tiresome.
  • Phi Brain Episode 1 – I want to like this show, I really do. But I was majorly put off by the less-than-stellar first episode. Plus the character designs somehow bother me.
  • Fate/Zero Episode 1 – This should have received a thumbs-down, after all I panned all the other Fate-related stuff I’ve seen before, and this was nothing more than a long-winded-yet-confusing set-up. But I felt it was kind of unfair to drop an action-oriented show based on an opening that was 90% boring exposition.
  • Gdgd Fairies Episode 1 – Wait, what? Yeah, it’s unbelievably stupid, but the thick schmear of sarcasm tickled my funny-bone. As long as they don’t take themselves seriously at all, I might continue to watch. Or it might delve to far into the Adult-Swim-only-watch-if-you’re-stoned territory.

Slight Thumbs-Down: – (Includes shows that may be decent by not within my interests, or shows that I might be convinced to give a second shot if enough people recommend them)

  • Shakugan no Shana Final Episode 1 – Confusing, confusing, confusing. Then again, I am jumping into the middle of a long-running series without explanation. There just wasn’t enough of a hook to get me to go back and check out the earlier episodes, though.
  • Cross Flight B-Daman Episode 1 – Bah, yet another in the endless parade of kiddie toy-based anime crap. If you’ve seen one, you’ve pretty much seen them all.
  • Dragonball Z: Episode of Bardock Special – I’ve never had a scintilla of interest in Dragonball before, and this only confirms that my lack of interest was justified. Plus, if you took out all of the screaming, this episode would only be about ten minutes long.
  • Eiyuu Densetsu: Sora no Kiseki Episode 1 – On one hand, it sure is well produced and quite attractively animated. On the other hand, I didn’t have a clue what was going on, this was aimed squarely at the existing fans of the video game ONLY. I *wanted* to like this, but it’s a hot mess.

Moderate Thumbs-Down: – (Pretty terrible, but not the worst shows in the world)

  • Kimi to Boku Episode 1 – Could this be one of the most boring anime shows of all time? I could be exaggerating a bit, but if you’re going to do a light-hearted real-life comedy, you might want to pick characters that don’t immediately put you to sleep.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam AGE Episode 1 – Pretty much Gundam in name only, it’s a kiddie robot show that has much more anime-trope pandering than I expected.
  • Persona 4: The Animation Episode 1 – Wow, a hell of a lot worse than I expected. Maybe this means more to people who are familiar with the video game, but it was just plain odd to me. And the weirdly-shaded faces bothered me to no end.
  • Digimon X-ros Wars Season 2 Episode 1 – Your standard paint-by-numbers juvenile toy-based anime show. At least this was not as excretable as the first episode of the first season I watched last year.
  • Hidamari Sketch x SP Episode 1 – If you’ve seen one Hidamari Sketch episode, you’ve seen them all. This one has the added bonus of swimsuit fan-service (uh, yay?)
  • Sengoku Paradise Kiwami Episode 1 – Does anyone remember one of the worst shows of 2010, Tono to Issho? Nope? Well, consider yourself lucky. This is essentially the same thing, only slightly better animated.

Solid Thumbs-Down: – (Terrible, just terrible. There’s no reason to be watching these)

  • Morita-san wa Mukuchi Season 2 Episode 1 – More of the same: Poorly-told, unfunny jokes about a girl who never talks. Why they continue making this crap is beyond my comprehension.
  • C3: Cube x Cursed x Curious Episode 1 – Kore wa Zombie, only with more fanservice. And more annoying characters. (I think this show proves that you must have a lobotomy to write scripts for anime shows these days.)
  • Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere Episode 1 – Incomprehensible does not begin to describe this. Pick any ten over-used anime character cliches, and chances are you’ll find at least eight of them here in the very first episode. This is only saved from being a candidate for “worst of season” because at least it’s slickly produced and well animated.
  • Majikoi Oh! Samurai Girls Episode 1 – Terrible from beginning to end, essentially nothing more than throwing a fanservice bone to all the horny otaku out there who like to see buxom women fighting each other.
  • Mashiro-iro Symphony: Color of Lovers Episode 1 – “Based on a visual novel” is one of the most damning phrases in anime fandom, and this one does not disappoint in living down to that notorious reputation. I’m getting tired of trying to come up with new ways of talking about how terrible shows of this genre are, just take my word for it. Two years of sampling everything has more or less confirmed every single “visual novel” adaptation is pure crap.
  • High Score Episode 1 – Just the latest in a long line of Flash-style animated humor shorts. And that also means it is just the latest in a long line of failures. One thing the people writing this drek need to remember is that if you’re writing a comedy skit series, you need to include at least one joke.
  • Queen’s Blade Premium Visual Book OVA Episode 1 – Take one drink for every panty shot. Take two for every boobie shot. If you’re not passed out and on the floor by the tenth minute, then it must not be a Queen’s Blade episode.

Oh Dear God Why Does This Even Exist? – (You watched it, now you can’t unwatch it!)

  • Infinite Stratos Encore OVA: A Sextet Yearning for Love – Four different entries in this category this time around, and they all have something in common: They are all extra episodes of specials from godawful shows from earlier in 2011. Not only that, but they are also all puerile harem-based fap-shows, starting off with this Infinite Stratos special where no less than SIX hormonally-soaked girls inexplicably set their sights on loser-boy. Move along, nothing new to see here.
  • Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai Episode 0 Special – Coming up Number Two in the category, and somewhat of a surprise because I gave a positive review of the first episode, but this was so wretchedly offensive I was caught off-guard. Who the fuck thought it would be “fun” to have the cute girls in the club passed out in their own vomit and sputum?
  • R-15 OVA – Coming up Number Three in the category is a follow-up to the soul-crushingly awful R-15 series as an underaged porn writer gets surrounded by every girl in his class who either strip voluntarily or get their clothes ripped from their body by an Audrey II clone, and he ends up writing erotic short stories about them. Makes me wonder how people who worked on this show can go home and look their families in the eyes after working on this pap all day.
  • Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi OVA – And last (but definitely not least), coming up Number Four in the category is an anime special that barely missed out earning the title of “Worst of the Season”. Just like the three specials listed above, it’s nothing more than horny otaku fanboy pandering harem crap. But it has the added distinction of also being one of the weakest shows in terms of artwork quality and animation. Not only that, but the whole scene where the guy comes within a hair of “raping” the elementary school-aged brother (who is wearing a goddamn girls’ school swimsuit at the time) of his best friend…well, that’s one of those moments that I’m afraid I may never be able to expunge from my memory. Fuck you, Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi, fuck you.

…And finally, the Wild Cardz Memorial Prize for the Worst Show of the Season goes to…

  • Maken-ki! Episode 1 – So, what pushes Maken-ki over the top, earning the dubious distinction of the “Worst of Season” prize above the four turdlets above? Mainly it is because the four shows in the category above are one-shot specials, while Maken-ki is an entire series of insipidness. Yup, like much of the other wank-oriented material in the anime market, Maken-ki is primarily centered around a high-school-aged loser type that serves as a surrogate stand-in for the viewer as he gets surrounded by three/five/eight/eleventybillion girls, all of whom want to jump his junk. Of course most of them have laughably massive udders. Of course they cover the range characters dreamed up in every fanboy’s wet dream, from the childhood-friend-who-secretly-loves-him type to the reticent-moe-I-want-to-be-protected type to the tsundere-I-hate-you-but-I’m-really-sweet-inside type to the…well, you get the idea. Add to that more mammary flesh stuffed into a single high-school class than you can shake a penis-shaped stick at, plus “interesting” camera angles that manage to catch a shot up the skirt every few seconds. Maken-ki may be just another example of the awful harem fanservice genre of anime…but this season, I deem it is the worst example of the lot.

    Yeah, I know that I really rag on these type of shows a whole hell of a lot. But they deserve it. And the overabundance of this anime diarrhea is also part of the problem that is pervading the whole industry in general as it continually panders to an ever-narrowing focused subset of fans to the exclusion of expanding to a wider audience. Making shows that are aimed at a specific audience is fine, but when that because the primary means of support for the entire industry at large, that’s a problem.

    I know that I’m shouting at the wind here, but it is getting tiring to see the Japanese anime industry keep making the same fanservice-oriented pablum over and over again, the same moe-cute-girls triteness over and over again, the same fighting giant robots over and over again. Ninety percent of everything “new” each season is really just a derivative copy of some derivative copy of something that was successful years ago. (Geez, I feel like I’m echoing what Mamoru Oshii said a few months ago above everything being “a copy of a copy of a copy”.) We do not need an endless series of Gundam clones, or K-On clones, or Azumanga Daioh clones, or Sailor Moon clones, or Love Hina clones. There are some gems of shows that can be gleaned out of the pile of trash, but it feels like those shows these days are so few and far between, one or two a season if you’re lucky. The crap-to-quality ratio is just way out of kilter. So yes, I’m going to keep ragging on shows like Maken-ki and R-15 and Mashiro-iro Symphony, and whatever else is dredged up next season.

And as always, there are still a handful of shows from the Fall 2011 season that will eventually be subtitled in the upcoming months (especially some of the movies), and I’ll tackle those as they become available.

So, what’s next? 16 shows among those listed above are moving on to “Round Two”, where I’ll watch the second episodes and give those a thumb-up or thumbs-down. Many of those in the “On the Fence” or “Slightly Recommended” categories will likely be dropped in the second round.

Furthermore, I’m still trudging through the Spring and Summer 2011 seasons, taking my own sweet, sweet time to watch everything. Eventually, a few months down the road, after I’m done with everything from 2011, I’ll write up by “End of Year” recommendations, with a ranked list of the best and worst for the entire year.

Looking forward, I am also going to start reviewing shows from the Winter 2012 Season (those that started airing after December 22nd, 2011). But I am going to be changing how I do some of my reviews, where I watch the first three episodes at once (when available), and post later reviews that receive a thumbs-up in multi-episode chunks. Also, some shows (especially OVAs and specials) will get shortened summary reviews instead of full-length ones. This should speed up the process of reviews dramatically, so I am spending less time writing and more time watching…and so that I won’t end up several months “behind”.

Anyways, onwards!

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