2011 So Far – in chart form

We like charts here on RABUJOI. This one plots the ratings of all the anime series we’ve reviewed so far in 2011. We’ve included Summer 2011 series, even though we’ve got 5-6 more weeks of episodes in those seasons. When the Summer season does conclude, we’ll update this chart.

So what do we see? Well, while we deem a 2.5 rating to be “Average”, our actual average is closer to 3.5, which we deem “Standout”. This is because there’s a lot of anime out there, but we try to only watch the best. There are exceptions, of course: the main outlier here is Morita-san wa Mukuchi, which rates just above 2 or “Mediocre” (UPDATE: As of episode 7, we’ve dropped Morita-san :P). There are a lot more series out there we’d probably rank this low or lower, but we don’t have the time or the stomachs to sit through them.

So why do we watch Morita-san wa Mukuchi? Well, it’s only three minutes long; hardly a major investment. So it isn’t that we rate high. We just watch series that regularly deserve above-average ratings. Thus when a truly brillant series comes around – like AnoHana or Mawaru Penguindrum, you’ll see a lot of 4s. At the end of the day, it’s all subjective. We also just like charts. Did we say that already?

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Spring 2011 – Best (and Worst) Openings and Endings

Best Opening: [C]: Control: The Money and Soul of Possibility. A very slick, confident, adn frenetic beginning to a show that also possesses those qualities. A virtual camera zooms into a 1000 yen note, a dollar, a Euro, and a black MIdas bill, and the designs on those currencies explode and fly by with impressive depth and detail. I also like how the financial district’s giant spinning coin is presented.

I didn’t include [C]’s ending, because while it was pretty good, the School Food Punishment song sounded too similar the one used for the Eden of the East ending, which had far better visuals.

Runner-up: Deadman Wonderland. The WWE-grade metal lyrics of this season’s runner-up are kind of silly, but there’s nothing wrong with the music itself; it’s harsh, dark, and unyielding, like the series itself. The mostly red palette and multi-layered, highly-textured visuals also match the show’s mood quite well. While hardly subtle, they also show the dual personalities of both Shiro and Minatsuki. Sweet on the surface, but terrors lurk within.

Best Ending: Ao no Exorcist. I discuss the music and visuals of this ending at length here. Suffice it to say, It’s a great concept, very simple and very nicely executed. A really elegant yet satisfying ending. (Sorry, that video was removed!)

Runner-up: Deadman Wonderland. A peaceful shot of a Ferris Wheel glowing at sunset combined with a soothing, upbeat dance track makes for a nice respite from each episode’s pervading darkness and despair. The slideshow of photos – which didn’t mean much the first time we see them, are given more gravity as the series has progresses: they’re snapshots of the character’s pasts. In each case, they’ve all changed quite a bit, except perhaps Ganta and Shiro.

So, what were the worst openings and endings? The World God Only Knows II was a beginning I don’t think I ever watched in its entirety after the first time. They were clearly trying to replicate the novel and IMO very successful opening of the first season, and failed miserably. See it here. The ending is also something I skipped every time.

Hanasaku Iroha has a pretty (if not altogether original) opening that’s hampered by a subpar vocalist. Watch here, but be forewarned: it’s shrill.

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko though, takes the cake as the most obnoxious vocals by far, and the visuals just seemed a bit lazy and uninspired. If you’re a aural masochist, you may get your kicks watching it on a loop. As for the ending, it’s just a cutesy-cutesy Arakawa-type sequence with Etsuko Yakushimaru’s shy vocals putting me to sleep. Venus to Jesus was infinitely better.

Aside from having one of the dumbest, laziest logos for a series I’ve ever seen, Tiger & Bunny‘s opening and ending are notable only for their crushing genericness. The blatant product placement didn’t bother me so much.

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 12 (Fin; Until the Blu-ray)

Can the wrong in a lifetime’s worth of indifference and passivity be righted in one glorious moment? It kinda is this week, the final episode of Denpa to air on TV. Makoto has been dreading the day of the big game, but Yashiro’s words moved him; he takes a stand and makes his big entrance as the hero for once. And he does a fairly nice job.

I like baseball settings, so I’m not annoyed in the slightest that this episode was all about baseball on the surface. But baseball can be a metaphor for countless things. Baseball is a sport with roles. There are background roles, temp roles, and lead roles. It’s all about specialization. But sometimes, one player has it all on their shoulders. The stress of this leads the ace pitcher of the market district, Maekawa’s dad, to go AWOL.

Sent by his aunt to look for him, Makoto finds him and finds a kindred spirit in terms of how he sees himself, the world, and his role in it. After he convinces him to come back with him, there’s a priceless and extremely hilarious scene where Mr. Maekawa, who has to sit behind Makoto on his bike, sternly interrogates him on his intentions with his daughter. Makoto just has to carrry everyone on his bike…

So yeah, Makoto gets out of his funk and steps out of the shadow of his doubt and fear and just goes for it. He manages to hit Hanazawa’s pitch, but it’s a pop fly until Yashiro apparently changes the wind to carry the ball all the way into the drink for a home run. Unfortunately for him, the only kiss he gets is from his aunt. It would seem that while he may have learned to be more assertive, Makoto still needs a lot of adolescence points before attaining his ultimate goal. The true conclusion will come in a few months. Rating: 3.5

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 11

This episode is a turning point for Makoto, in which he actually openly reveals truths about himself to others. Since he was a youngin, he’d always been okay with giving up on things if he percieved them as too hard. We haven’t seen a lot of that, of course, because everything in the series has come to him very easily and with little or no effort.

Most of the episode is a series of conversations with all of the girls in his life. He’s kind of become a player of sorts without having done anything. Maekawa invites him to her house and makes him lunch, and then they play Mario Kart. How awesome an afternoon is that? Then a phone call with Ryuushi, that’s interrupted by an attention-starved Erio. His encounters are also sprinkled with the blindingly-white-haired space cadet Yashiro, who acts as a guru of sorts – with wisdom beyond her years.

As Makoto, Yashiro, Nakajima and Hanazawa (the latter two on a date) watch Ryuushi play basketball, Makoto recalls how he handled his apparent athletic inadequacies. He simply prevered observing. Playing the onlooker. This harkens back to something Maekawa said verbatim; she may be growing weary of being the onlooker. Makoto innocently thought she was talking more generally, but she was talking about her role in the show, watching Makoto progress with Ryuushi. She may not want to give up on him after all.

Ryuushi isn’t the best basketball player, but Yashiro blabbers on about her esper potential. Everything Makoto has heard thus far is stewing in his head and finally erupts in a “cheer” to Ryuushi that’s actually the most personal, heartfelt commentary he’s delivered yet…including his narration. It’s just the ticket for Ryuushi, and Yashiro has a look of knowing satisfaction. Well done, grasshopper. Makoto still faces tough choices. Will he give up and simply observe, or get off the sidelines and act? Rating: 4

2011 So Far

With most of Spring 2011 all wrapped up and the Summer 2011 season starting this weekend, it seemed a good time to line up all the series that have aired this year (excluding Fall 2010 carryovers) and see what’s what so far:

Episode # : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 AVG

AnoHana 4 4 4 3.5 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 3.955
[C] 3.5 4 4 4 3.5 4 4 4 4 4 4 3.909
Hanasaku Iroha 4 4 4 3.5 3.5 3 3 4 4 4 4 4 3.769
Puella Magi Madoka Magica 3.5 3.5 3 4 3.5 4 4 4 4 4 4 3.5 3.750
Deadman Wonderland 4 3.5 4 3.5 4 4 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.727
Level-E 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 4 4 3.538
Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.450
Fractale 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 3.364
Kimi ni Todoke 2nd Season 2.5 2 2.5 3.5 3.5 4 4 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.5 4 3.308
Sket Dance (First Half) 2.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3 4 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.308
Ao no Exorcist (First Half) 3.5 3 3.5 3.5 3 2.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3 3.273
The World God Only Knows II 3.5 3 3 2.5 3 3.5 3.5 3.5 4 3.5 3.5 2.5 3.250
Tiger & Bunny (First Half) 3.5 3 3 3.5 3 3 3 3 3.5 3.5 2.5 3 3.5 3.154

Weekly Average 3.4 3.3 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.7 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.8 3.520

Stray Observations:

•  Overall, Spring 2011 was a particularly good season. Even if I included the huge Fall 2010 season in the table above, the top three Spring series would still dominate the podium. Quality, not quantity. Summer 2011 has its work cut out for it.

• AnoHana, just an episode shy of perfection, became a personal favorite. [C] came two shy. These two series couldn’t be more different, but both rocked.

• Best Music: Taku Iwasaki. He provided the excellent score for [C], and has also scored Katanagatari, Gurren Lagann, Soul Eater, etc.

• Hanasaku Iroha sagged a bit in the middle there, but its first half began and ended extremely strong. And even those middle episodes had their charms. Looking forward to the second half this Summer.

• At first I didn’t quite know what to make of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, but it quickly found its stride and ended up one of my all-time favorites, despite its relatively modest score.

• Deadman Wonderland has just one episode to wrap everything up. This show deserves a second season. More than Tiger & Bunny.

• Level E and Denpa Onna both involve “aliens” of some kind – and both scored extremely consistent ratings. Moreso if Denpa’s final double episode is a good one.

 In hindsight, perhaps some episodes of Fractale were ranked too high. This is possibly due to the great visuals and imaginative setting, which carried that series.

• I was harsh in the beginning of Kimi ni Todoke’s second season, but perhaps that was just because I hadn’t quite settled back into the romantic futility. As a result, this series had the most rating variation.

• Sket Dance’s only flaw was its opening episode, with its red herring protagonist. Since then it’s been consistently funny and entertaining, so I’m sticking with it.

• I’m also optimistic about Ao no Exorcist‘s second half, but not as excited about Tiger & Bunny‘s. Prove me wrong, Tiger & Bunny!

• The World God Only Knows II took a dip of .167 below its first season. Hopefully, the third season will arrest that downward trend.

• Best Female Seiyu: Winter: Eri Kitamura as Sayaka in Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
Spring: Haruka Tomatsu as Anaru in AnoHana. She was also Megumi in Shiki.

• Best Male Seiyu: Winter: Level E’s “Prince”,  Daisuke Namikawa.
Spring: Tomokazu Sugita as Sket Dance’s “Switch.”

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 10

Makoto meets his second “alien” since arriving in town. Her name is Yashiro, and he has a sneaking suspicion she’s a local runaway girl he’s heard about. And naturally, Meme invites her in. When her astronaut’s helmet finally comes off, she’s revealed to possess the same otherworldly beauty as cousin Erio, only with glowing white hair rather than blue. Erio’s beauty, btw, is what engenders so much envy and resentment among other girls in the town, according to Hanazawa-san.

Yashiro is more forward with Makoto, and readily insults him, due to the “half-assed” way he and Erio live their life. I’d beg to differ, especially since Makoto pops his phone-call-with-Ryuushi cherry this week as well. He even learns that Nakajima, the guy he played ball with last week, is a guy she turned down, and she heavily hints that if it was Makoto who confessed, her response would have been very different. She also invites him to join her at the town festival. Despite the fact they didn’t meet in person this week, things are moving along very nicely in the girlfriend arena.

But this Yashiro kid has the same bewitching power that Erio has; perhaps more concentrated. And even I can’t explain how she made so much water fall on Makoto when he was fifteen feet away behind a fence, except to concede that perhaps she is in fact an esper as well as an alien. It was certainly the most “supernatural” phenomenon to occur so far, if you don’t count the fact the rather plain Makoto is attracting so many ladies. Finally, was it just me, or did this episode contain an unusual amount of cutsiness? Rating: 3.5

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 9

In the midst of summer, Makoto continues to juggle all the various idiosyncratic women in his life. The one with who seems the most natural, obvious choice to be his girlfriend would be Ryuushi, obviously. They exchange phone numbers, and she starts texting him immediately. She also wants him to support her in sports. Her flirting is also the most intentional and most blatant out of everyone (well, except Meme, but Makoto has no designs on her).

Despite all her odd costumes, Maekawa seems far more mature and sly with her words than Ryuushi. She also seems to relish being a rival to Ryuushi for Makoto’s heart, although we don’t really know if her intention is to win it. Ryuushi’s mostly an open book; Maekawa’s murkier; an enigma. And then there’s the family: Meme annoys and even disturbs him most of the time, but there’s no disputing she is drop-dead gorgeous. His cousin Erio continues to cast an otherworldly spell on him.

This week, with its morning baseball game by the river played amongst people in business suits, space suits, and mackerel suits, aesthetic echoes of Arakawa Under the Bridge abound. It also contained lots of tongue-in-cheeck wordplay and jokes; I particularly liked Maekawa’s comment about “sports fishing.” She also calls the ace pitcher for the opposing team “Hanazawa-san” – before we learn that the short-skirted girl is indeed voiced by Kana Hanazawa. Man, that girl’s everywhere…not that I’m complaining.

So yeah, with three to four very different women around him all vying for his time and attention, Makoto is one busy adolescent. The appeal of this show isn’t just in the charm of the characters, but in reveling in just what a great life Makoto has. Fortunately, he seems to realize this himself, and isn’t constantly moping. Summertime; baseball; a serene town; cuties everywhere – this is the place to be. Rating: 3.5

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 8

This week contained the same events as the previous one, but this time completely from Meme’s perspective. as a newly-initiated member of the 40-year-old club, she decides to aid in “Yamamoto’s” bottle rocket campaign, turning it into a counterattack against aliens. This is to appease her grandmother the candy store owner, who’s certain she’ll meet the same fate as all that cattle that got mutilated by aliens.

Meme is hard to take seriously as an adult due to the childish manner in which she looks, talks, and acts. Truthfully, hearing her saccharine, sometimes downright shrill voice talk so much this week was a bit of an ordeal. But she’s still an interesting character, and the fact that she lives her life how she wants to is admirable: despite having her second love, Erio with her first love, Elliot, she never married, and never plans to.

Whenever the same story is told twice, there are pitfalls; the second telling can get boring. While it lagged at times, the fresh perspective of Meme and the flashbacks of her life in the town when Elliot was still around break up that repetition. That said, this series works best with its core taking center stage: Makoto, Erio, and Ryuushi. But the occasional reminiscing slice-of-life episode isn’t unwelcome. Rating: 3

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 7

This week, Mako gets his adolescence on, by sharing awkward silences with Erio and Ryuushi; enjoying girls’ home cooking; having an impromptu sleepover with Ryuushi, Maekawa, and Erio; seeing Ryuushi and Maekawa in bathtowels; talking with Ryuushi alone under the stars; and helping someone else with their adolescence points. What I thought would be a Maekawacentric episode (it was at first, at least) incorporated everyone except Meme, including the businessman with the odd ear tag, who is so into bottle rockets.

Ryuushi is also quite active, believing she needs to compete with Maekawa and Erio for Mako’s affections. While Maekawa seems pretty content and uninterested in being a rival, Erio is more competitive, in her own passive, sheepish way. As for Mako, he’s just going with the flow. It’s worked so far and there’s no reason to believe it won’t keep working out. He’s fine with letting life sweep him along for the ride; after all, it’s how he came to be in a new town in a new home with a new family in the first place. Rating: 3.5

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 6

This week could have been a really big mess: all the women in Makoto’s life end up under one roof, but he’s able to handle it, and they don’t all start grabbing at his limbs. I didn’t think it would descend to that; the relationships at play here are a lot more nuanced. Meme, Erio, Ryuushi and Maekawa all seem to like Makoto, but in different ways. Furthermore, Meme and Maekawa are willing to let Ryuushi right of first refusal where Makoto is concerned.

Of all the females, Ryuushi does seem the most realistic match for Makoto, but (of course) she considers herself a bad person for letting her friends badmouth Erio. Most everyone at school apparently still remember’s Erio; she probably wasn’t any less odd than she is now, and the whole cycling into the sea and dropping out of school doesn’t help matters. Erio also still needs a futon – anyone’s futon – in times when she’s feeling particularly insecure or anxious about the social situation.

Still, despite his lack of experience with girls (which he makes clear he’s well aware of in his narration), Makoto shows poise, if a little denseness where Ryuushi is concerned. The time might come for him to not worry about all the points to be scored from actions he takes, and rather focus on the actions of others, particularly Ryuushi. I don’t think she wants to be “just friends”. An aside: as in most SHAFT series, the close-ups are bangin’. Rating: 3.5

Denpa Onna no Seishun Otoko 5

Underneath a glass-top coffee table while Meme sits on it wrapped in a futon; the inside of Ryuushi’s orange drink box; a forty year-old in twin tails offering her daughter, then herself to her nephew; a ‘cycloptic’ granny — Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko is full of unique angles and images. It’s the same ‘easily-distracted’ camera Akiyuki Shinbo has made a part of his visual style. It especially fits a series in which Mako is trying to bring his cousin back down to earth: back to reality. Because reality can be as, if not more, amazing than fantasies in one’s head.

It’s working, as Erio wants a part-time job. Gravity is pulling her back to society even more than Mako initially thinks: while he finds it odd she’d rather work than return to school. Meme later tells him, Erio is worried about the financial burden returning to school would be, hence working and saving up first. Getting shot down in her first interview – due to her infamous reputation around town, no less – crushes her, but its only temporary, as Meme points them to a candy shop where the old lady needs a hand. Meme does this while watching the end Mimi wo Sumaseba! SHIZUKU! I LOVE YOU!!

Of course, this may be a case of one step forward and two steps back, as the granny candy shop owner turns out to be an alien enthusiast who is obsessed with the possibility she could become a victim of cattle mutilation. The look in Erio’s eyes as this is revealed is troubling. After two seasons of a fairly static Nino in Arakawa, is it wrong for me to want Erio to not continue to regress into childlike eccentricity, and to continue striving to become normal? Rating: 3.5

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko 4

Mako is definitely overthinking things with his obsessive calculations of adolescence. The points system he’s devised (or simply inferred from his experiences) makes sense, but when someone is constantly analyzing rating their experiences, one cannot truly enjoy them. Sure, his cousin is strange, and his aunt is an embarassing tease. But at least two girls in his class are interested in him, and will probably clash for his favor in the future, if how they interact while visiting him in the hospital is any indication.

Ryuushi and Maekawa are both quite strange too, but Mako can enjoy their weirdness because he isn’t related to them. His post-accident convalescence is a good opportunity for the characters to simply chat with one another. But back to that overanlyzing – perhaps it changes experiences, but I shouldn’t say it detracts from them. After all, we here at RABUJOI tend to analyze and rate an episode right after watching it. To our knowledge, our enjoyment of those episodes isn’t compromised by our almost compulsive desire to assign statistics to them and compare them to other works. End digression.

Most importantly, it seems like Erio is going to be okay. Mako certainly ripped the bandage off, but it did more good than harm. It seems like Erio will accept the fact she’s an ordinary earthling, just as Mako wonders whether aliens do exist, and they may have helped speed up the bike so they’d fly rather than fall straight down to more serious injury or worse. Maybe Ryuushi and Maekawa are aliens; they just aren’t going out of their way to announce it like Erio did. Or maybe they’re just eccentric kids. Rating: 3.5