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.”

The World God Only Knows II 12 (Fin)

I wasn’t expecting a masterpiece, and I was expecting just an isolated, mostly irrelevant slice-of-life episode that drove home Keima’s ideals once more (like last season’s finale), and I shouldn’t have expected the series to resolve itself in just one episode, but I was still pretty disappointed with this final week. Last season’s finale was more unhinged. This one was kind of recycling ideas, and the presentation of his ideal dating sim was a major let-down. It just felt kinda lame, and the horribly-drawn character just seemed like an excuse to…horribly draw something.

There’s a semi-serious mention of the show “continuing” for yet another season, which explains the filler-like nature of this episode. After all, Keima and Elcie still have collars that bind them together until a certain number of souls are caught. Now, considering the number 50,000 has been tossed around, perhaps their contract will never be fulfilled, and Keima is simply doomed for life to make girls fall in love with him and then lose them.

And that’s the flaw of this season: for all the girls whose lives he’s changed by releasing them from loose souls, Keima remains stubbornly static. He just goes through the motions. He hasn’t changed one bit. This season resolved nothing. At the end of every arc, he seems to dump whatever emotional investment. I can’t help but wish he’d develop a little more beyond discovering new schemes for conquering. But he doesn’t care about reality, and so none of the relationships he forms ever have any lasting emotional effect on him.

It’s a shame, and if another season is just going to continue the by-now tired formula, it’s going to be very hard to watch.
Ah, screw it. It’s just good, dumb, light entertainment. I’m actually glad that something deeper and more serious isn’t being attempted; I can go elsewhere for that…and I will. Whether I watch next season totally depends on how much is airing that’s better than this. Rating: 2.5

The World God Only Knows II 11

This week’s cold open is a stark contrast to last week’s. Both are of Nagase in her apartment; last week’s was full of confidence and energy, while this week’s was full of doubt and lethargy, feeling that she can’t do anything right, that she’s a bad teacher; that she can’t fix Keima. But she doesn’t head to school, she heads to a wrestling match to clear her head. Of course, Keima is waiting there for her with a ticket for the exact same seat, courtesy of Elsie. This was a deliciously devious way to get Jun on the same level as Keima, by basically giving her no choice but to share the narrow seat with him.

During this intimate match, Keima starts to get why she likes it so much; it’s a total effort. Not just the wrestlers, but the officials, staff, and spectators all contribute to create a passion you don’t often see elsewhere. Having been to numerous sporting events, I can vouch for the excitement of being among as many as 70 thousand fellow fans. Ideals do exist in the real world – and these events are one of them. Things are black-and-white; one side is good, the other evil; and if you don’t win, you lose.

For most of the episode, Keima is just upsetting Jun, but there’s most definitely a method to his madness. Jun puts her class out by entering them all into a marathon, and when they balk and deride her excessive care for them to bond, she accuses them of being selfish. This reinforce’s Keima’s theory that like the basketball team in the past, Jun is always “crushing” people with her ideals, and they’re always balking at the pressure she puts on them. But Keima doesn’t think she should change – he thinks she should keep doing it. Why worry what others think? He doesn’t.

No one can tell you how to live your life, and if you want to live it by trying to push and fire up and motivate others to follow your ideals, so be it. There are costs, of course; not everyone will respect or even like you, but life is full of challenges, and like Jumbo Tsuruma, one cannot back down from them, but must push forward. By comforting her when she needed it most and restoring her faith in herself and her ideals, Keima helps Jun Nagase end her student teaching stint on a high note. He also nicely sets up a scenario in which she could see him as something other than a student (literally when she’s done the stint), thus making it okay for her to kiss him, something she couldn’t do while at school. This releases the loose soul, and ends a final conquest arc that was as unique as it was enjoyable. Rating: 4

The World God Only Knows II 10

Things aren’t going well with the conquest of Ms. Nagase. He plans to pick up the pace by pissing her off, which basically worked for all previous girls, but all of his tactics prove ineffective. Her strong initiative is constantly throwing him off guard. But when she tries to play PFP with him and airs out what she believes his problem is, he rudely rebukes her, bruising her confidence that is already weakened by the loose soul.

That a loose soul entered her as soon as she returned to her old school turns out not to be mere coincidence: she was the captain of the school’s last powerhouse hoops team, and there was clearly some kind of trauma from a falling out with her team after winning the championship. When Keima tries to learn more about Nagase (and become equals with her) through her senpai and former teammate, Ms. Nikaido, he learns that she’s always been depressed. He may not be able to afford her birthday, e-mail, or BWH, but the basketball hint seems to be enough to get him back on track.

And none too soon; while he was trying to warm up to the cool-as-ice Nikaido, the rest of the student body, who once welcomed Nagase enthusiastically, start ostrasizing her for being too passionate. Again we see that the common bond they share is that of ideals over reality, albeit in different ways. She insists kids should be encouraged to be the best they can be because they all have limitless potential (a fairly American point of view), and doesn’t like teachers breaking the cool, hard facts of life to them.

She wants everyone to have an ideal life, even if they don’t care. By being worn down by both teachers and students baffled by her excessive passion, Keima finally has the opening he needs. All that’s left is for him to make her reveal that past that’s haunting her, learn to see him as a romantic interest, not a student, and pull that nasty ol’ loose soul outta her. Rating: 3.5

The World God Only Knows II 8

Since there are only three official “conquests” shown in the opening sequence, I knew this second season would go one of two routes: longer arcs, or buffer episodes. I watch this series to see Keima scheme and conquer women’s hearts using his knowledge of dating sims. So any time an episode fails to deliver that, I fear I’ll be disappointed.

Mind you, this could have been worse; Elcie is actually quite a bit more tolerable browsing through a game store than she is cooking or baking, which was the low point of last season. And Haqua is similarly tolerable with her not-so-modest modesty and strained excuse to show back up (shouldn’t she have given a report weeks ago?) So tolerable, but just. Mostly, it just made me wish there were more than three girls to conquer this season. Rating: 2.5

The World God Only Knows II 7

Well, I called it, but it was pretty obvious Chihiro was going to come around and fall for Keima. The early scenes with Chihiro before going to bed, waking up, and going to school are nicely done; just nice, calm, quiet scenes that don’t need any embellishment. The fact that Keima is listed in her phone as “dweeb” is also a nice touch.

Keima’s initial thickheadedness is a little frustrating, but as he’s gone virtually the entire series declaring, almost with a sense of strange pride, that he doesn’t get real girls. When she decides not to confess to Yuta – out of affection for him, he reacts entirely the wrong way and sends her running after a tearful confession of her ordinary-ness. Fortunately, he soon realizes the error of his ways and gives chase, remembering the overarching mission – to relieve Chihiro of the loose soul.

She’s still upset, but her main issue is, she’s allowing external forces decide for her who she is, what she’s capable of, and how to live her life. Keima has always rejected the real world’s conventions while never betraying his own self. After a motivational speech, a well-timed cloudbreak, and a kiss, Chihiro’s loose soul is history, and while her memory of falling in love with Keima goes with it, the Chihiro that remains vows to take charge of her life and not be limited by self-doubt. Rating: 3.5

The World God Only Knows II 6

This week Keima regains his composure, as he discovers that it isn’t necessarily Chihiro’s heart he must conquer. But the fact that his words and actions continue to “trigger events” convinces him she isn’t just a background character. So instead of trying to make her fall for him – he will coach her on how to conquer the heart of her crush, some random kid she just happened to zero in on. This means intricate diagrams, stacks of research, and intricate schemes to interact with said crush.

Chihiro is initially dismissive of Keima’s credentials, but we know the facts: Keima has successfully won the hearts of no less than five real girls, one of them a freakin’ famous teen idol – by applying the same methods as he uses in the gaming world. On the other hand, Chihiro, like Haqua, is just talk – having never scored a single boy’s heart. While Keima can’t give her details (as all his conquests have lost their memories), he quickly demonstrates to her that listening to him yields quick and favorable results: her crush now knows she exists and even talks to her.

Also interesting in this episode is the presence of Ayumi, Keima’s first conquest, who is friends with Chihiro and wants them to make up. Ayumi pairs them the two for after-school cleaning duty that leads to them making up and forming an alliance. Keima muses if a perhaps some of Ayumi’s memories of loving him resurfaced. Elcie surmises that because Keima filled the emptiness of her heart (and removed the loose soul), it stands to reason she’d be a different, more chipper Ayumi. Similarly, there’s a lot of evidence (see pic above) suggesting Chihiro may end up falling for Keima after all (ejecting her loose soul in the process), which would be a nice twist. Rating: 3.5

The World God Only Knows II 2

Well...that was easy. It seems almost like Katsuragi’s heart isn’t in this one (well, his heart isn’t truly into anything but games), as his great scheme to conquer the schizo-tsundere is nothing more than a really long date. They manage to separate her feminine and masculine selves by sharing an ice cream cone, but when she duels with her cuter side, they’re – not surprisingly – evenly matched.

So the opening sequence only shows three women, but the first is dispatched in just two episodes? Granted, this arc really couldn’t go any longer without getting quite annoying. Speaking of annoying, Elcee remains an earsore – which brings us to the big post-ending event: another demon girl appears, named Haqua. Perhaps she is the reason there are less girls to conquer this season: I’m eager to learn what she’s all about – and if she’s more tolerable than Elcee. My guess is she is. Rating: 3

The World God Only Knows II – First Impressions

The World God Only Knows barely skips a beat, introducing a new girl for Keima to conquer who is nothing like the four that have come before her, who were all distinctive in their own ways. One thing I enjoyed last season was the premise of dealing with only one girl at a time – no harems or love polygons – and the fact that the end Keima sought was always to clear the level – not to win the girl for any extended period. It helps him that the loose soul’s out, the girl’s memory forgets him.

This newest girl, Kasuga, is interesting because Keima relates to how far she has strived to master a discipline. As the heir to a distinguished martial arts school, she has worked all her life to reject her femininity, along with everything cute and thus weak in her mind.

Yet the girl who loves kittens and cute boys is every bit as strong as her, so much that she bursts out during a sudden rush of emotion. This is beyond schizophrenia, because Keima and Elsee can see this spectral double. Speaking of Elsee, yeah she’s still the weak link in this series, being overall very obnoxious and tiresome, though she does at least make herself useful with her invisible boa-thing.

The opening and ending sequences – both huge strengths last season, have been replaced with two really awful J-pop songs I already can’t stand. But these foibles don’t overshadow the overall goodness in between them: the sly Keima already has a strategy for winning Kasuga’s heart, and he may have to let her beat him up a bit to succeed. Rating: 3.5