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?

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.”

Puella Magi Madoka Magica 12

And so, the best series of the Winter 2011 season ends – in late April – not with a whimper, but with – what else – the re-making of the entire universe. Madoka can make any wish, so she decides to wish for there never being any witches. This pisses off Incubator, but it happens. Of course, there’s a price to be paid. That price is, no more Madoka. Aside from episode 10, this is the only time the heroine is a maho shojo, and she’s nothing like any other; as her newly-gained godlike powers allow her to free the souls of maho shojo from soul gems all over the world, so they’ll never become witches. No maho shojo, no witches.

Of course, even though Madoka makes sure to be as explicit and detailed with her wish as possible, the universe proves just as devious as Incubator. The new universe she creates still has Maho Shojo, but they fight “magical beasts” rather than witches. Ah well, close enough! Kyubey is still around, but it seems he’s more of a friend than a trickster. Also, in the realm/void between the end of the old universe and the birth of the new one, Madoka and Homura say their goodbyes, and Madoka gives her her hair ribbon. The result of this is, Homura is the only person who remembers Madoka. Even for her brother, Madoka is just an imaginary friend. While Madoka is now free of her fate, Homura can’t be all that happy her best friend had to sacrifice her entire existence in order to eliminate witches.

While this series has never been shy about highly abstract settings, especially when dealing with witches, the whole end-of-the-universe transition was a little sudden and overwrought, with whispers of End of Evangelion. The naked space Madoka and Homura bordered on silly-looking, and their tearful goodbye, while earned, bordered on sappy at times. Despite these issues, the series ended strong, and now complete, I can count it among my favorite anime series due to its highly original and entertaining twist on the maho shojo genre. It’s also perhaps Akiyuki Shinbo’s finest non-comedy series. Don’t be put off by the girly opening and frilly costumes; this series has true grit. Rating: 3.5

Series Mean Ranking: 3.750

Puella Magi Madoka Magica 11

I feared the month-long hiatus would have killed most of the momentum gained after the milestone tenth episode that chronicles Akemi Homura’s odyssey through time and space to protect Madoka. Those fears were mostly allayed by yet another episode that may not have been as action pack as last month’s, but was certainly full of crucial information and more startling revelations. Kyubey figures out Homura’s power, but is never worried about it, and in fact is congratulatory towards Homura. This is because he believes by pressing the reset button so many times, Homura has allowed Madoka to become a more and more powerful magical girl, and thus her karmic burden grows more and more immense.

This is one last ef-u for Homura, who has apparently been working so hard to avoid exactly what her actions have caused: a ridiculously-powerful Madoka. Worse still, even in this timeline, there is no way Homura can prevent Madoka from contracting. Everyone else is dead; Madoka is responsible, and even though she knows Kyubey is up to no good, she is compelled to lend Homura a helping hand, even if it means abandoning her family. Madoka’s mind is made up once Homura finally opens up to her about what’s going on and why.

Homura initially tries to fight Walpurgisnacht herself, but not surprisingly fails, despite some impressive pyrotechnics (which seemingly destroy a fair amount of the city). Bloodied and beaten, Homura lies amongst debris, and for once, hesitates to turn back time; doing so would only hurt Madoka more, in her mind. With Homura down and out and no more magical girls extant, Madoka has to step in, stand tall, and make a bad deal with a cold, logical alien; taking her mother’s advice to stop being so good and do something bad for once. Rating: 4

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Postponement Update

“Due to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, the broadcast of episodes 11 and 12 have been postponed, though [a producer] mentioned the delay will allow extra time for the animation studio to improve the drawings for both episodes, with the staff aiming to have the final episode released by the middle of April 2011.”

Puella Magi Madoka Magica 10

Did all that just flipping happen? After fleshing everyone else out previously, all that remained was Homura’s story. We got it, and it was fucking epic. Nothing in this episode would have made any sense without knowing everything that preceeded it, and at the same time, this added so much more dimension to an already excellent series by throwing time into the equation.

Homura was once an innoncent, ditzy human, who transferred to Madoka’s school and befriended her. But Madoka and Mimi were already Maho Shojo. When the Walpurgis night comes, Madoka sacrifices herself to save Homura. Not yet a Maho Shojo herself, she contracts with Kyubey with the wish that she be able to change time, as in reset the timeline to the point she first met Madoka, and protect her instead of the other way around.

Not only is the initial role reversal of Madoka and Homura outstanding – Madoka is, in most timelines, a full-fledged, bow-wielding maho shojo) but the fact that things keep going so wrong; Madoka keeps dying and Homura keeps resetting; really drives home how tortured Homura is by the time we meet her in episode one. Hell, things go so awry, there’s even a scene where Madoka has to kill Mami.

So Homura was never so much an aloof bitch; she’s just been downtrodden by so many lives and so many undesirable outcomes, and won’t stop trying to protect Madoka, out of her powerful friendship for her.

This episode cuts back and forth through time so much, but it’s all expertly and confidently held together and is always advancing the plot, without a hint of repetition. I love Groundhog Day-type situations like this, but this isn’t an unwanted causality loop; it’s Homura’s will. The entire series we’ve seen thus far is only one of an untold number of timelines that have already run their course. And yet, Madoka seems almost fated to be seduced by Kyubey – one way or another – fight Walpurgis, and become a witch so powerful she destroys the world.

The episode ends as the series begins, only this time we hear what Homura is screaming in Madoka’s “dream”: “Don’t contract.” And she still hasn’t, as of episode nine. Will this finally be the time Homura is able to defeat Walpurgis on her own, without Madoka contracting? We’ll see. Fantastic stuff. There just aren’t adequate words for how awesome this episode was. Rating: 4 ~Series elevated to Favorites~

Walking backwards or forwards? Both

I didn’t really notice it the first time round, but I’m watching Puella Magi Madoka Magica through with a friend, and she noted that in the ED, the way the figures are animated, you don’t know whether they’re walking/running towards or away from you. It’s a very neat optical trick, and actually fits well with the idea that Madoka is constantly torn between moving forward (contracting with Kyubey) and backwards (going on with her life as a human and let other Maho Shojo sort out the witches). Again, this may have been painfully obvious to many, but I didn’t catch it until my friend said so, and I think it’s neat, so there.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica 9


Yikes, yet another one bites the dust in short order. I’m tellin’ ya, this series has guts. It’s taking us to a very dark place. Sakura is now killed, fighing off the witch Sayaka has transformed into. Homura is now the only maho shojo that currently stands between the looming mayhem of Walpurgis and the city. This puts Madoka in a spot, and Kyubey knows it.

Kyubey also lets loose about what he is and why he does what he does. He and his ilk are after energy. The best way to get it is to contract with girls, turn them into maho shojo, and then wait until they ‘mature’ into witches through the corruption of their soul gems into grief seeds. All witches, therefore, were probably human at one point, and may have been tricked into contracting by Kyubey-types…though they don’t (and can’t) see it as “tricking”.

Kyubey also lacks the capacity for emotion of any kind, so we can’t necessarily label him as evil; he’s no different from a lion on the Savannah. It may seem cruel how they’ll pick off weak or tired prey, but that’s how a predator survives: by exploiting any and every advantage nature throws at it. In this case, human girls are the prey, or rather a resource, that Kyubey coldly, logically coerces into essentially destroying themselves.

This is why Homura, from episode one, has been so determined not to let Madoka contract with Kyubey. Not because she doesn’t want strong competition; it’s because she doesn’t want her to end up ike Mimi, Sayaka, Sakura…or herself. At this point, I really don’t want Madoka to contract either. Why should someone with such a blessed, happy life throw her life and humanity away just to satisfy Kyubey’s hunger for energy?

Still, there’s no reason to doubt Kyubey’s assertion that Madoka would be the most powerful Maho Shojo if she contracted. That could mean she’d ultimately become the most powerful witch. Will Homura be enough to fend off Walpurgis? We’ll see. Meanwhile, I predict it will be most difficult for future 2011 series top the consistent excellence of Puella Magi. Rating: 4

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