As promised in the Disney Afternoon episode of Spoony Bard, I am presenting my picks for this year’s top 10 anime. In my opinion this has been one of the best years for anime in a long time, with a slew of fun and unusual shows to watch, along with a few surprise hits. Without further delay, here are my favorite series from 2011, starting with number 10.
10. Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai (I Don’t Have Many Friends) A.K.A. Haganai
Kodaka Hasegawa is a transfer student of St. Chronica’s Academy, a catholic high school full of students who fear him because of his blond hair, giving him the label of delinquent by ignorant classmates. He eventually runs into a girl named Yozora talking to an imaginary friend she calls her “air friend”. She convinces Kodaka to help her form the “Neighbors Club” at the school, as a means to make real friends and develop an actual social life.
The real fun begins when a girl named Sena shows up. She is very popular and comes from a wealthy family, yet is arrogant so she has no friends. Sena and Yozora instantly clash, and Yozora becomes brutally cold towards Sena. Yozora loves picking on Sena’s busty, full figure, often calling her “Meat”. The fights between these two characters alone could make this show work, but the Neighbors Club gets even more recruits as the show moves along. The crazy members include a freshman scientific genius and pervert named Rika, an effeminate, gender confused boy named Yukimura, a child-genius teacher and nun with a swearing problem named Maria, and Kodaka’s sister Kobato, who is a crazed fan of an anime show called “Full Metal Necromancer”, to a point where she dresses and role-plays herself as a vampire.
This show and it’s insane cast of characters had me laughing and watching to the end. This 12 episode series is full of comedy, fanservice, and “Meat” bashing, and will bring a smile to the face of any anime fan. It’s only failing is it seems to have ended right as a major development in the story popped up, so here is to hoping for another season!
9. Kyokai Senjou no Horizon (Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere)
Horizon is a show that has made it into my top anime of the year by doing what it does best: having fun. Horizon wasn’t made to change anime forever or provoke philosophical discussion. This show is a crazy mix of comedy, sci-fi, fan-service, action, politics, and fantasy, and it will keep on blazing its own crazy path of fun with or without you. I got hooked after my first episode, but this is a show viewers will either love or hate.
Horizon takes place in the distant future, where the Earth is no longer habitable, and what little area that is left and is survivable has been divided into dimensional territories. The universe of this show is actually very detailed and in-depth, as one could write an entire article simply explaining it all. All there really is to know is that there are cool fights featuring an unusual blend of magic and technology, busty girls in skintight outfits, really cool airships, and tons of comedy. This show is certainly not the next Evangelion, but it delivers lots of fun and plenty of action to anyone willing to give it a chance. It ends at 12 episodes with an open ending, and a second season is very likely to come in 2012.
8. Hidan no Aria (Aria the Scarlet Ammo)
Not far into the future, a special school known as Tokyo Butei High School has been formed to train teenagers to fight criminals in order to deal with a dramatic rise in crime. A boy attending this school named Kinji is attacked by a notorious criminal with a vendetta against the Butei known as the Butei Killer. Kinji’s life is saved by a high-ranking female Butei named Aria, and eventually the two of them join together to bring the Butei Killer to justice and to clear the name of Aria’s mother, who has been wrongfully blamed for the actions of the Butei Killer.
A unique element of this show is that several of the characters are descendants of famous historical characters both real and fictitious, for example, Aria is a descendant of Sherlock Holmes, so her intuition is almost always correct. The main storyline is often sidelined by harem-comedy antics with bits of fanservice, and does not conclude after its 12 episode season. As of now there are no plans for a second season, but there are fans out there, I included that have been hoping there will be at least one more season. This show was far from perfect, but it was a fun ride with a decent helping of action and cute characters.
7. C3 Cube x Cursed x Curious
C3 is about a boy named Yachi that receives an unusual package from his father, a heavy black cube. This cube turns into a cute girl named Fear, claiming to be a cursed tool from the inquisition era used as a torture device. She now hopes to free herself of the curse of her past, however there are many who would hunt her down for her power or simply to destroy her for her terrible deeds of the past.
The fights between Fear and her enemies are the highlight of the show, as Fear shows her dark and sadistic side using her awesome weapons and powers to fight the enemies of Yachi, his friends, and herself. Yachi also has several friends that come to his aid as the show moves along, including a girl that turns into a sword, and a female classmate that uses cursed tools to fight alongside of him. This show features some very unique animation sequences, with many unusual and abstract art styles. It is also a strange yet fun mixture of humor, action, drama, and fan-service all rolled up into one package.
6. C- The Money of Soul and Possibility Control
C was so odd in concept that I couldn’t help but keep watching. In C, people can be invited to the hidden realm known as the financial district, where someone can exchange their future potential for wealth. The catch is, within the financial district members must make “deals” every so often to stay. The “deal” is a battle between two members of the financial district (called entrepreneurs) and monster-like beings called Assets. The winner can take the wealth of their opponent; however a loss can result in going “bankrupt”, where your future can fade away.
That’s right; they have decided to turn economics into a high stakes game of Pokémon. The actions of the members of the financial district and the results of “deals” tend to have far reaching consequences, making major changes to the “real” world. Losing a deal is devastating to someone when the return to the real world, where they see what truly happens when you have spent “your potential”. The over the top asset fights and the mysteries behind the financial district and its effect on the real world kept me watching to the end, which was unfortunately abrupt at only 11 episodes. The ending came in felling a little rushed, but it did at least draw to a conclusion.
5. Mirai Nikki (Future Diary)
Mirai Nikki is about a student named Yuki that keeps to himself and withdraws into an imaginary world where he talks to the god of time and space, “Deus Ex Machina”. Yuki uses his cellphone to keep a diary of his daily life, until one day Deus changes his phone to predict the future, and finds that Deus and his realm are real. This gets even more complicated when he finds that Deus has entered him into a survival game with eleven other players, each one with a diary that has similar yet unique abilities. The players of the game must use the diaries to predict the moves of their opponents to eliminate them or avoid being eliminated. The sole survivor of the game will be rewarded by taking the place of Deus as the ruler of time and space.
This show is made even more interesting by Yuno, a girl that has been stalking Yuki and is also a contestant in the survival game. Yuno is a frightening example of what the Japanese call a “yandere” character, or a character that is loving and obsessive in an extreme, often destructive and unhealthy manner. Yuno has devoted herself to helping Yuki survive the game no matter what, and will go to any length to do so. The murderous insanity and obsession of Yuno alone will keep most viewers watching, if anything just to see what crazy shit she will do next. As of the writing of this article, this show is a little over halfway done, and is running into the winter of 2012.
4. Kore wa Zombie Desu ka (Is This a Zombie?)
This show is about a zombie, a pink chainsaw-wielding magical girl, a necromancer, a vampire ninja, cross dressing, demons, a Dyson fan, and magical ninja soup. This show takes every anime cliché in the book and mashes it up into comedy. Not since Excel Saga have I laughed at an anime show so much. Every episode seems to get even crazier than the last, and they even manage to squeeze a story in there. That was strangest element of this show–its almost parody-like humor would sometimes step back for a bit for a somewhat dark storyline, and that seemed to make the show that much more addictive. The humor/serious story mix is a bit much for some viewers, but I couldn’t resist the wackiness this show delivers along its storyline. This was yet another show that pretty much “ends” at 11 episodes, however there were 12 episodes that originally aired and well as a 13th episode that was added with the Japanese dvds. Both episodes felt to be more filler and fan-service grade material, but they are there nonetheless. A second season is lined up for April 2012, so there will be even more craziness to look forward to next year.
3. Guilty Crown
I can’t resist a good sci-fi anime. Guilty Crown is the big “risk-taker” of the winter season, as it is an original show with a fairly high-budget production. Guilty Crown takes place 2039 Japan, 10 years after an incident known as “Lost Christmas” caused an outbreak of a deadly disease known as the apocalypse virus. Japan is ruled by an international organization known as the GHQ, a military force placed in charge of Japan to prevent the spread of the apocalypse virus. Naturally, there are those who aren’t happy about this, and so a rebel group known as the “Funeral Parlor” has risen up against them.
The awesome action really starts when a socially-awkward high school student named Shu Ouma gets mixed up in a fight between the two forces and is infected with a genetic weapon that gives him “the power of kings” also known as the genome void. With this ability Shu can pull weapons and tools from the chests of certain people. These items are known as “voids”, and represent part of the personality of the person they are extracted from. These tools vary wildly from person to person, and have amazing effects. This show is action-packed and full of mystery and intrigue, and I want to watch more and more with every episode. Guilty Crown was one of my contenders for number one this year, and one of the reasons it isn’t is simply because it hasn’t ended yet, also and there have been some incredible shows this year. It continues on for a second season in winter 2012, and until then I’m stuck with lots of questions to be answered.
2. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
This anime was one of this year’s biggest hits. It was a top contender for this year in many rankings, and usually dominates without question. I had a tough time deciding whether or not this should be my number one pick of the year, and if I could have two number one spots this one would be in there. However my personal taste put this one at number two, but keep in mind this show is so close the difference is trivial. When this show was airing I had no clue why everyone could not stop talking about it. Every picture I saw looked like nothing more than a magical girl show for kids. It was a tough sell, but I eventually gave into peer pressure and watched it.
My mind was blown away. What appears to be this saccharin sweet magical girl show turns out to be a dark tale of conflict, deception, and despair– while features the cutest, most heartless, purely evil villain in all of anime. In Madoka Magica, the adorable cat/rabbit like creature called Kyubey approaches teenage girls with an irresistible proposition- he will grant them a wish, in exchange for becoming a magical girl in the duty of fighting witches, dark beings that normal people cannot see, yet are a cause of unusual suicides and murders. However, even this noble task is more than what it seems, and the deals made with Kyubey come with many hidden costs.
The story is filled with major plot twists and revelations, and gets epic enough to where many fans have said this show is the “Evangelion” of our time. As a matter of fact, Hideaki Anno, the creator of Evangelion himself has publicly praised this series. I was shocked by how much I fell in love with this show. The amazing and unique animation, flashy fight sequences, and riveting storyline will hook any anime fan, and has been given acclaim by both critics and fans around the world. As an added bonus, the soundtrack to this show was done by Yuki Kajura, the amazingly talented composer behind the music of the anime series Noir and one of my favorite all time video games, Xenosaga episode 3. The show draws to an incredible conclusion at 12 episodes, however 3 movies have been announced.
I have the only “top anime of 2011” list that does not have Madoka Magica as the top listing, and trust me, even though it was a tough call, this show was my personal favorite. This show is about a group of friends that discover a method to use cell phones to send e-mails to the past, or as they call them, d-mails (short for Delorean Mail). The first half of the show consists of the antics and misadventures the group has experimenting with the d-mails, however the latter half of the show has the group of friends realizing that their actions not only have dire consequences, but that also there are those in the world that are not pleased with their actions.
This show has an oddball cast of interesting and amusing characters that grow on the viewer, and deals a lot with internet and otaku culture. The series itself seems very slow to start, but trust me, after a few episodes almost any sci-fi anime fan will get hooked by curiosity alone, and once things get moving viewers will be holding on to the edge of their seats. This show concludes at 24 episodes, however there is a movie coming soon that will further expand upon the ending.