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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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.”

Fractale 11

Well, Fractale couldn’t really have ended any more amicably for our core trio of Clain, Phryne, and Nessa. The Temple is destroyed, along with most of the war-making might of Lost Millenium, but Fractale is still rebooted. And, oh yeah, Clain finally mans up and confesses his rather obvious love for Phryne, which she is only too happy to requite.

Clain also made the mature choice to let Phryne and Nessa go through with the reboot (following them up a very long elevator into an orbital garden). Nessa can’t live forever on her own, and the reboot ends up merging them into a melange; Nessa’s personality in Phryne’s body. This even surprises Clain, but it sure beats the reverse; and being in love with two girls at once wasn’t going to work ;)

So yeah, Fractale was a very nice-looking, if not incredibly-deep series. The bad guys were pretty pathetic (the “father” guy just let Phryne stab him, while the Grand Priestess just let Dias blow her up…wtf?) and the only truly perilous situation was when Clain was shot, but he pulls through almost instantly. And yeah, Nessa’s constant “I love love” declarations wore rather thin. But it still had some nice ideas about overdependence on technology, and how it may even one day merge with religion. Which, if you ask me, is scary. Rating: 3.5

Series Mean Ranking: 3.364

Fractale 10

Clain and Nessa tear after Phryne in the dinghy (why did Sunda leave it there for them, anyway?) while Phryne tries to reason with her mom, the Grand Priestess. As the battle between Lost Millenium and the Temple continues, I continue to be unimpressed with it; huge sky battles should be more exhilarated, but I fear this isn’t the animators’ forte. The CGI models just look like rubber duckies floating around with slapped-on particle weapon beams.

The rather dull battle aside, the psychological stakes couldn’t be higher. Phryne’s mother isn’t any more pleasant than her father, as her syrupy platitudes ring hollow when she coaxes Phryne to her lap, only to strangle her half to death. Apparently her mother is also her sister (in a way), because when she was young she was Phryne too, only she wasn’t up-to-snuff enough to serve as the key to the world. She’s bitter, hence the choking.

Basically, Clain kinda fails hard in the Protect-Nessa-and-Phryne department. His first slip-up was not keeping an eye on Phryne, leading her to run off again. Nessa follows him to Temple HQ, so now both parts of the key are in enemy territory. Finally, he’s on the wrong side of a plate glass window when Phryne’s pederast father sniffs her out and grabs her. That’s three strikes in my book; it’ll take a miracle (or deus ex machina) to get the love-lovin’ trio out of this spot… Rating: 3

Fractale 9

The chips all go on the table in this very solid episode of Fractale. The Temple launches a propaganda war against Lost Millenium, forcing all its various branches to band together and launch a last-ditch assault upon the Temple. Sunda drops Clain, Phryne, and Nessa off at Granitz so as not to lead them straight to the lion’s jaws. A fleet of Lost Millenium airships floating in the azure sky was a regal sight.

What I first thought was, oh great, Clain, the somewhat dull lead, is stuck at the village just hanging out while the airships do battle offscreen. Indeed, there’s not much airship battling – at least nothing approaching Last Exile impressiveness – but that turns out to be okay, as this episode is primarily a poignant portrait of the triad of Clain, Phryne and Nessa – and how they’ve come to love one another. I’m surprised how much development has taken place between these three, and their chemistry has benefited greatly from it.

Then Phryne ruins it by running off again – which just seemed a bit like Deja Vu to me. I share in Clain’s rage upon waking up to yet another farewell note – especially since the three of them just promised to be together forever. Phryne has her reasons – mostly pride and responsibility – but she should also realize by now that she can’t go anywhere on her own and not expect Clain to come to her rescue. All the more so now that he knows what an effed-up dad she has! Rating: 3.5

Fractale 8

We learned many things this week. Nessa, or rather, the Nessas, are really younger versions of Phryne. Phryne was some kind of experiment that failed, but her father is trying to salvage her. Her father is also an all-around evil dude and skeezy perv who will watch her undergo a gynecological examination. Sunda and Co. team up with Dias to rescue them, though Dias seems more inclined to blow up the temple without regard to rescuing anyone.

After Clain saw how corrupt and morally bankrupt society can get living under a fully-operational and immersive Fractale system, he now sees its even more unseemly underbelly, where the powers that be play god, tinkering with flesh-and-blood humans like, well, tinker-toys. After these past two weeks of expose, I can safely say I wouldn’t want to live my life overdependent on or over-immersed in the Fractale system. Especially after meeting Clain, Phryne wants nothing to frikkin’ do with it anymore.

That said, I know that the life I enjoy, one of freedom and opportunity, has been made so by quite a lot of war, and that big societies like ours have their dark but apparently necessary sides to protect their values and interests. But Fractale goes too far. It is authoritarianism and subjugation under a thin veneer of simulated bliss. Futuristic Nazism, complete with human experimentation. In true Ghibliesque form, Fractale is presenting us with some dark stuff without losing its overall optimistic vision. Rating: 3.5

Fractale 7

Fractale deliverd perhaps its most visually dazzling episode yet by dropping Clain, Nessa, and us smack-dab in the middle of Fractale Central: the city of Xanadu. It’s huge, vibrant, and futuristic, but it’s also fake and empty; Clain is the only human there; the rest are doppels – and much of the city’s structure is just 3D projections. It’s strange how one minute Clain’s snapping pics on the airship, and the next minute, he’s waking up in an extravagant, Vegas-style boudoir with an ample-busted doppel woman leaning a bit too far over him.

It’s also a bit strange that Sunda would let him and Nessa fly off on their own in the small airship…Clain did try to spring Phryne, after all, and it’s not like we’ve seen him taking piloting lessons. These oddities aside, the episode finally gives us a glimpse of life with Fractale on 100%, and it reminds me of that Animatrix short about the Second Renaissance, when life for humans became one long party.

Of couse, it isn’t all fun and games; people have to work to afford the privilege of maintaining a doppel in Xanadu; if they can’t they’re kicked out of town. For one brief moment it seemed as though there might be good people here (or at least doppels controlled by good people) but alas, eveyrone Clain encountered there was looking out for themselves, and knowing Clain and Nessa are wanted, tried to work it to their advantage.

Their schemes are thwarted when Nessa shows off her power to totally knock out Fractale at will, but Clain still gets shot. Wasn’t expecting that, but I think we know the answer to the question, “is he dead?”. There are four more episodes and he’s the boring protagonist; of course he isn’t! Rating: 3.5

wawawa….go sleep

Winter 2011 Season Preview

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for – among other things – fewer series to watch. Fall has been fun, but keeping track of so many shows (and not able to let any go) has been taxing. For Winter 2011, only eight shows have piqued my interest so far, but even that may whittle down if a couple aren’t up to snuff. So without further ado, here’s what’s on tap during the snowy time:

Kimi no Todoke Season 2 – Production I.G. – January
Freezing – ACGT – January
Infinite Stratos – 8-Bit – January
Fractale – A-1 – January
Yumekui Merry – J.C. Staff – January
Rio – Rainbow Gate! – Xebec – January
Level E – David / Pierrot – January
Puella Magi Madoka Magica – SHAFT – January