Looking back at the Fall 2012 anime season

January 3, 2013

This season is atypical (or at least feels so) in that almost all of the series that I'm following are continuing into the new year (even if one of them, Girls und Panzer, has simply been postponed to March). This is going to make for an unusual retrospective but also gives me no reason (or excuse) to delay writing this. So, as before this is an attempt at an honest look back at the shows of the Fall 2012 season (as much as that's possible with most of them not finished yet), following on my early impressions and my midway views.

(The quick summary is that my midway views haven't changed much with two exceptions.)

In more or less the order of enjoyment and quality, shows that I finished or am still watching:

  • Shin Sekai Yori: The show started out being a mystery, shifted for a bit to being horror, and now I feel that it's more or less become tragedy. With a lot of answers revealed from episode 10 onwards, what's going on has acquired the same sense of inevitability as an avalanche coming down a hill (and I think that poor Saki sees a lot of it coming, after what she's been told).

    SSY is (and remains) my favorite show of the season and, on the strength of the episodes so far, one of my favorite shows of the year. I'm not bothered by the sometimes odd art or the stylistic shifts and the more I see the ED sequence the more I like it.

    (Much like Star Driver, it could let me down during the remainder of its run and fall in my estimation. But the episodes so far are great.)

  • K: I quite liked this in all of its oddity and peculiarity (and frequent use of colour filters and other tricks). It wrapped up with what I felt was an entirely satisfying conclusion. Yes, it doesn't answer all our questions and leaves things dangling, but then life is often like that. I'll be happy to watch the second season when it happens but at the same time I don't think a second season is necessary. K is a rare anime that said enough during its run and came to an actual conclusion.

    Many series would have stretched K's plot out over more episodes, focused on fewer characters, or explained things more; I feel that it's to K's benefit that it didn't make any of these missteps. The end result is something that feels like we're dropping in on the lives of these characters for a bit, even if it's a very eventful period for some of them; they all have pasts and futures that extend off the screen, ones that we are not magically privy to all of the important details of.

    (If you're watching K, this timeline (spoilers) (via) will help. See also and also.)

  • Girls und Panzer: My midway views haven't changed; it remains great and a good sports anime. I just wish that it hadn't had scheduling problems so we could have gotten the last two episodes already; however, I'm confident that they'll be up to the standards of the rest of the show when they do show up.

  • Zetsuen no Tempest: The show keeps surprising me and the characters remain great. I do wonder how it'll sustain all of this for another season but I feel fairly confidant that it's going to manage. I really liked the shock twist in episode 12 and how it now means that I've got no real idea of what's actually going on.

  • Psycho-Pass: This has turned into a show that I can't tear myself away from without actually enjoying it (much like my experience with RideBack). It's wrenching, compelling watching without actually being, you know, pleasant; brutal things keep happening one after another and any successes that the protagonists have are very conditional and partial. It's almost horror and I suspect that people who have bad reactions to horror will actively hate it.

    I expect that at the end of Psycho-Pass I'll be happy that I watched it but also have absolutely no desire for a rewatch.

    (Psycho-Pass is probably a better constructed show than Tempest and Girls und Panzer, but for me it's clearly less enjoyable than either; given a choice I watch either of them before PP. Sometimes I'll watch anything else before PP, simply because PP is wrenching.)

  • Robotics;Notes: It keeps moving slowly but getting places in the end. I have no idea what's really going on so I'm mostly watching to see the characters bounce off each other. I'm sure it's going to go all conspiracy theory and fate of the world on me at some point; I can only hope that it will be well executed when it happens.

  • Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo: The first 12 episodes prospered on the strengths of periodic sharp edges and characters being brutally honest. The end of the 12th episode clearly marks a sea change in the overall plot direction but I'm going to trust that the show's team will keep things edged even with the new direction.

    (Translation: I could easily get let down here.)

  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure #10-#12: Although I bounced hard off the first episode because it was too over the top for me at the time, the ongoing praise for the show has gotten me to try jumping into JoJo's starting with the second arc since it has a mostly new cast, new setting, and a timeskip (I may backfill part of the first arc later, since I understand it has internal breakpoints). I honestly don't know yet how I feel about it. It definitely still has that MANLY SHONEN ACTION thing going on and it's still painting with a roller, but I can also see how it's EPIC in an all-caps way. For now I'm taking it episode by episode.

  • Sword Art Online: It ended. It's flawed. For the rest, I will just quote my tweet:
    In the end, for all that I said grumpy things about #SAO it did know how to be enjoyable and to craft likeable, watchable characters.

    (Okay, see also Evirus's comments.)

Right at the end of December I also finished up two shows from earlier in the year that I feel are worth mentioning:

  • Aquarion EVOL: My views about this compared to the original Aquarion didn't change; I like the original's characters and plot more, but EVOL is far more gonzo. EVOL maintains this right through the end and it gave me a smile throughout; as I put it on twitter, the ending was cheesy but it was good cheese. I think it helps that I knew a certain amount of spoilers when I watched eps 18 to 26, because I could enjoy noticing certain things.

    Andy and Mix remain the best EVOL couple. The drama only improved their status and I'm glad Mix got a happy ending.

    Also, episode 23 is an epic troll. As someone who watched the original Aquarion, I can assure you that the big revelations in episode 23 were definitely not so much as hinted at in the original (at least as far as you'd notice).

  • Joshiraku: This was fun to watch (generally in a low key way) but generally not something that I actively found funny. I enjoyed following the games of verbal tennis and keeping track of the topic shifts even when it didn't make me laugh. To a certain extent I appreciate the chance to see something like Joshiraku simply because it's different and strange; it's a facet of Japanese anime and writing that I don't have much exposure to.

    (The translation notes for gg's Joshiraku subs were also quite helpful and definitely increased my ability to enjoy the show.)

Now declared a miss:

  • Magi (#10): I realized that Morgiana was the only character I actually cared about and she's not the focus of the show. Alibaba is terminally naive and stupid in the finest shonen tradition and I got tired of Aladin's 'I'm an innocent and don't know anything' schtick.

Overall Fall 2012 has been my strongest season of the year, even if I can't call most of the shows in it because they're only half over. Looking back at the other seasons of this year, there are only a handful of shows that I'd currently stack up against anything down to at least Psycho-Pass.

(As always I may be suffering from a recency bias, plus all of these shows except K could still blow their foot off.)

Written on 03 January 2013.
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Last modified: Thu Jan 3 00:52:49 2013
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