Last time we took a look at the best of the new releases to hit the UK in 2012 so now we turn our attention to the top shows that aired in Japan over the past twelve months.
As ever the anime output in Japan has been prolific with a number of good shows to make their debut. However the number of “great” shows to hit the airwaves this year has been somewhat lacking in this writer’s opinion. The few that have stood head and shoulders above the others show just how enjoyable and enduring anime can be when creativity and storytelling come together in perfect union. Unfortunately for every true gem there are a dozen gilded lilies with so many of the usual shortcuts and derivative concepts employed to put out any old tosh to make up the numbers.
Fan service, implied incestuous relationships, lazily written shojou dramas and plotless mecha shows are among the usual worst offenders to blight the quality of 2012’s output, making it quite difficult for yours truly to pick a definitive top ten for the year. Therefore some of the titles included on this list, while very entertaining and enjoyable, are more nominal choices as opposed to bona fide best of the year quality shows.
Anyway here are MIB’s Top Ten anime releases of 2012 from the Land of the Rising Sun and as ever feel free to agree or disagree as is your wont:
10. Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! (Even People with Adolescent Delusions of Grandeur Want To Experience Love)
“Chuunibyou” is a Japanese term to describe kids who pretend to live in fantasy worlds and live out these fantasies in public. High school student Yuuta Togashi was once like this when he was in eighth grade but has since grown out of it. Enter Rikka Takanashi, the new girl in town who hasn’t outgrown her fantasy days and drags Yuuta back into his old habits. However Rikka’s issues appear to be psychological and Yuuta just might be the cure she is looking for. A coming-of-age tale with a difference, this is both charming, touching and very funny!
In a year in which people are sucked into virtual reality world of MMORPG computer games has been a popular concept (Sword Art Online, Accel World, Ixion Saga DT), this Battle Royale influenced show was the most entertaining for this writer. Rather than following the same formula of the protagonists being drawn into a video game, BTOOOM! instead has the protagonist thrown into a real life version of the game, where to get off a remote island, one has to collect eight chips implanted into the players hands by killing seven other people with BIMS (small bombs). It’s bloody, visceral, well paced and great fun.
8. Momo e no tegami (A Letter To Momo)
From Writer/director Hiroyuki Okiura – the man behind Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade – comes this Ghibli-esque feature film of eleven year-old Momoko Miyaura who moves to the remote island of Shio following the death of her father, holding an unfinished letter from him. Momo encounters a trio of spirits that may be able to help her find the answer to her questions. It’s a gentle affair compared to Jin-Roh and arguably a tad derivative but it delivers a satisfying slice of heart-warming feel good fantasy entertainment and is beautifully animated to boot.
Read the full review HERE
7. Binbougami ga! (The God Of Poverty Is!)
Arguably the most leftfield choice on my list but there is no escaping the fact that this anarchic comedy is an absolute riot! The selfish Sakura Ichiko has so much good fortune in her life from that selfishness that there is an imbalance in the universe, so the Poverty God Momiji has been sent to extract some of Sakura’s excess good fortune to be spread elsewhere. What follows is an often vulgar, very witty, pop culture spoofing, hilarious battle of wills between the two headstrong women. Who wins? If this gets a UK release, you might just find out.
6. Natsuiro Kiseki (A Summer Coloured Miracle)
I’m definitely mellowing in my old age as I was completely charmed by this series surrounding four school friends – Natsumi, Saki, Yuka and Rinko – who are determined to make the most of their last summer together before Saki has to move away, make a wish on a large rock which grants them in the most eventful and often literal of ways. It’s gentle, predictable fun but its message about the bonds of friendship is bolstered by four likeable protagonists.
The natural successor to Black Lagoon or its illegitimate child? The comparisons are obvious from the opening frame of this series yet it carves a deep enough niche of its own for them to be forgotten just as quickly, rendering BL as a mere reference point. The enigmatic arms dealer Koko Hekmatya and her crew of lethal mercenaries for hire pick up young orphan named Jonah, who hates arms dealers and turn him into a top class assassin as they tour the world in the name of weapons trading. It’s a mixture of political and corporate machinations and corruption interspersed with in-your-face violence and action that makes The Expendables look like wannabes.
This intriguing and unnerving horror series contains one of the more engrossing tales in quite some time, delivered in an atmospheric and eerie style over twelve every tense episodes. Transfer student Sakakibara Kouichi arrives in a new class where the pupils are permanently on edge, except for the taciturn, eye patch wearing Mae Misaki, over the continuing fallout of the sudden death 26 years previously of a girl, also named Misaki. Gruesome, gory, spooky and with a twisting storyline Another is one the stronger horror efforts in recent years.
3. Shirokuma Café (Polar Bear Café)
A one note joke if there ever was one, this series is the biggest and arguably the most pleasant surprise of the year. The animals are not anthropomorphic as usual but can talk and interact with humans with not a single eyebrow raised which makes their personalities and the resultant humour doubly effective. While there is a wide cast list, the central characters are the lazy and vain panda, the excitable Penguin and the laconic and playful Polar Bear. It’s a hard show to explain in one paragraph but once you get it, every episode is an unequivocal treat.
2. Sakamichi no Apollon (Kids On The Slope)
Summer of 1966 and straight A transfer student Kaoru Nishimi moves to Kyushu where he meets local bad boy Sentaro Kawabuchi. The pair of diametrically opposed in every way except for their love of music – Kaoru plays classical piano, Sentaro the drums. However the latter’s love of jazz gradually wins Kaoru over, as do the charms of classmate Ritsuko Mukae, the daughter of a jazz record shop owner in whose basement the boys practice. A high school drama with substance and a smooth jazz soundtrack courtesy of the inestimable Yoko Kanno, look out for the UK release via MVM in 2013.
No.1 UCHUU KYOUDAI (SPACE BROTHERS)
Brothers Mutta and Hibito have dreamed of becoming astronauts since they were kids, but while Hibito achieved this dream, elder sibling Mutta ends up in a dead end job from which he is sacked after headbutting his boss! In his mid thirties and with no direction in life, Mutta decides to follow his younger brother and trains to become an astronaut. Finally, a show that doesn’t featured big boobed school girls, mecha, magical girls, fan service and any other hackneyed anime tropes or clichés, Space Brothers is a witty, intelligent, funny, emotional involving and informative show that stands head and shoulders above the rest of 2012’s output. A future classic without question.
So, there we have it. I’m sure some of you might find your favourites of the year aren’t listed here such is the variety of life and the opinion and tastes of the individual.
Thanks for reading and until next time, this is the Man In Black saying Sayonara!