Looking back at the Fall 2011 anime season
As the Fall 2011 season winds down, it's time for me to take an honest retrospective look back to go with my early impressions, to see how well I did at predicting what I'd watch and how much I was seduced by early impressions.
(My reasons for wanting to do this are more or less covered here.)
When I try to order the shows I watched this season, I have a problem; how actively I watched shows doesn't correspond with how good I think they are. I actively watched several shows primarily because they were mindless, undemanding entertainment; other, more demanding shows languished because they weren't quite good enough to overcome the need for more attention and more involvement.
Things I have clear ordering opinions about:
- UN-GO: This is by far and away the best show of the season for
me. It does essentially everything right. I need to write a proper
appreciation for it but in the mean time I want to say that this is
plain the smartest show of the season, and it was not afraid to assume
that its audience was smart too. One aspect that I particularly liked
is that it felt no need to have bad people kick dogs just to make sure
we got that they were bad; instead it was perfectly content to just
let them talk and have the audience draw our own conclusions.
I don't know if we'll get another season of this, but I really want one.
Highly recommended (with the qualifications from the early impressions). Watch two or three episodes and pay attention, then see if you're hooked.
- Ben-To: This didn't even make my initial list of shows
to watch, but once I started doing so it rapidly became my second
favorite show of the season. It's not a deep show but I think it's
very well done for what it is. (I wrote a longer note
In another season it might not have done so well, but for this season it was clearly the best lightweight anime; all of the other candidates were either flawed, too serious at times, or both. Ben-To never forgot that above all it was supposed to be fun, to make me smile, and it handily succeeded.
At this point rankings become split by the watchability versus quality problem:
- C3: Competent but flawed, this was ultimately a lightweight show,
but that's what made it easy for me to watch it on a regular basis. I
found it enjoyable and I like that it never descended into predictable
harem antics; things always kept happening. It's nice enough that I'd
watch a second season if they made one.
(In short, this is junkfood anime.)
- Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon: This mixed just enough action to keep me
watching despite the incoherence, slow moving stuff, and huge amount
of background information needed to understand what was going on.
Sadly it wasn't even really good action.
This was another junkfood show.
If I was smart, I would skip watching the second season. I suspect I'm not going to be that smart.
- Guilty Crown: It's been pretty. The action sequences are nicely
done by and large. The whole thing makes an acceptable, generic action
show (although it may yet end badly). If examined too closely you will
become grumpy, so try not to do that.
I think this is an average show (maybe sub-average), but many of the things that drag it down to average also made it very watchable for me, partly in kind of a train wreck way.
- Fate/Zero: I had a very bipolar relation with F/Z this season; some
times I couldn't wait to watch the next episode, but sometimes I sat
on it for quite a while (eg the Rin episode). I think it's objectively
better than say C3 but it was clearly the less watchable show for me,
partly because it's a lot more serious and heavy; it was never a show
I could watch for mindless enjoyment. It's also moving somewhat slowly.
Fate/Zero has irritated me by going on a season-long pause at a significant cliffhanger. Right at the start of a major fight is not where you should have a three month pause.
- Shana III: Oh, Shana. What can I say about you? The best I can say
is that recent episodes have picked up the pace and interesting things
are now happening. But up until recently, things were slow and boring
(and I did not like Shana as a helpless prisoner, thanks; the Shana
I like is an action heroine). Also, there remain major question marks
over where this is going, so I give it fifty/fifty odds that I will
wind up disliking the ending.
- Last Exile - Fam, The Silver Wing: It's okay. It's decently done and
decently enjoyable. It's not thrilling. I'm interested enough to keep
- Persona 4: There isn't anything wrong with this, it's just that it was never compelling enough to get me to watch it except when I was a bit bored, which is why it's at the bottom of this list. I watched 8 episodes and then stopped for a month before watching the next four, which probably made the pace more tolerable.
- Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai (#4): once it became obvious that this was going to be almost entirely harem antics, not the amusing action of the first two episodes, I dropped it.
In some ways, I did a lot better this season than in summer in that I've remained interested in all of the shows that I started out watching (and even found another partway through). Although it's disappointing that none of them picked up their game, the flaws of Guilty Crown, Shana III, and Horizon were obvious from the start so I'm not going to call myself overly optimistic about any of them.
(If I was less invested in the Shana series, watching Shana III would be a mistake.)
In another way this was not a great season; the only two shows that I was clearly and consistently enthused about were UN-GO and Ben-To, and I encountered the latter because I felt uninspired about watching all of my other options. There's a bunch of decently acceptable shows and one (Fate/Zero) that I sort of think I should feel more enthused about, but the evidence shows that I was kind of meh about most everything.
A little something about Ben-To
Ben-To didn't even make my initial list of shows to watch this season; I only looked at a couple of episodes when I saw a passing mention of it somewhere as the most GAR show of the season and thought that was interesting enough to take a look at it (at the time I was bored with most of my other options).
(To me, 'GAR' connotes a kind of more or less deliberate over the top nature in the spirit of Gurenn Lagann. This is probably not how most people use the term.)
The description is right, at least for my version of GAR. Ben-To has been plain fun (although I could have done without some of its attempts at sex-based humour involving Satou, the lead character). While it follows standard tropes of shonen action that may grate on some, I'd describe it as earnest but not serious; to put it one way, it has a light touch. I think it helps that the premise of 'people fight over half-price bento' is inherently hard to take seriously.
(Another thing I like is that Ben-To's willing to be subtle and not completely spell things out.)
Ben-To is not really about the fighting, either. It spends almost no time on the actual fights or on shonen fighting tropes like the characters powering up (there are a few fights that get animated but not in any real detail). Instead it focuses on the things around the fights, especially the characters, and the characters are interesting enough (sometimes in an over the top way) to sustain my interest.
In a pleasant change it had relatively little fanservice and what fanservice it did have was generally confined to specific scenes instead of being thrown in your face every so often. (In short, no panty shots despite a fair number of girls fighting in skirts. It kind of makes me sad that this is an unusual thing.)
(I will admit that I was probably always predisposed to like Ben-To because it has that rarity in anime, strong female characters that kick ass.)
Its conclusion is satisfying (in a predictably heartwarming way) but isn't an ending. Ben-To is not the kind of show that has an ending that way. I don't think it needs any more episodes; it's said everything that it really needs to say.
Liked: yes, definitely.
Rewatch: possibly but probably not. However, I'm going to have fond memories of it.