Who’s Had a Good Year in 2010?

It’s December, the time when the anime blogosphere reflects on the year that’s been, so we can expect a swathe of “the year in review” articles coming soon. Our own “Year in Review” article will be published in the first few days of January (here’s last year’s for those unfamiliar to our yearly tradition), and it’ll be the sixth one we’ve done since the site started back in 2005. We’re in the initial stages of planning, making up our minds which anime we want to discuss, which we believe are representative of the year that’s been and which we think, individually, were the best of 2010. In between the usual banter and debate that goes on behind closed doors (:P) I’ve noticed a few trends that have already appeared in the titles likely to make our list. (Above image from oreno.imouto.org, yes, I was also surprised they had anything from The Tatami Galaxy.)

I get the impression that a lot of the reviews to come of anime in 2010 are going to be negative. The Winter season was decent, but I’m still not prepared to stick my neck out far enough to call it “good”, Spring had some pleasant surprises, Summer was an atrocity against anime, while the jury is still out on Fall. However, in between the forgettable and disappointing anime that have made up the year, a few figures and groups can stand proud of what they’ve achieved in 2010: directors, seiyuu, studios and even timeslots. Here are a few of them:

Noitamina

It’s a bit weird to compliment Noitamina for its achievement in a given year because technically, being a timeslot, it hasn’t “achieved” anything… all it’s done is displayed anime. But the anime it has displayed have almost all been wonderful. Starting back in the Winter season with Nodame Cantabile ~Finale~, Noitamina has followed it up with The Tatami Galaxy, House of Five Leaves, Shiki and Kuragehime. Nodame Cantabile ~Finale~ was a fitting end to one of recent anime’s most torrid romances, The Tatami Galaxy is going to feature highly on many people’s “Anime of the Year” lists, Shiki has picked up its feet with some of anime’s most terrifying moments, and Kuragehime might be the feel-good comedy of the year.

Hanazawa Kana's second best performance of 2010.

Hanazawa Kana

And a big reason for that is the vibrant energy of Hanazawa Kana in the lead role as Tsukimi. I find it interesting that it took Kuragehime for people to really start to take notice of Hanazawa, because she’s been doing good work all year. Off the top of my head, the only female vocal performance of 2010 that I can think of that rivals what the range and prowess of what she’s doing in Kuragehime is her own turn in Kobato at the beginning of this year. In between, she’s been the reticent Tenshi in Angel Beats!, the enthusiastic Kozue in Occult Academy, and the sardonic Kuroneko in Ore no Imouto. I daresay she’s a superior version of the cute voice of Mamiko Noto, because she has much more range. She can do anything from the submissive (Nadeko in Bakemonogatari) to the sly (Zange in Kannagi), energetic (Kobato) to introverted (Sora in Sketchbook). And this is the year where, fortunately, people finally started paying attention to her.

Shinbo Akiyuki

Yes, Shinbo hasn’t rocked our world this year with anything of the quality of Bakemonogatari or Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, and yes, I hear all the arguments that his style is becoming stale and predictable. However, despite our inflated expectations of his work, the most prolific director in anime right now has had a fairly solid year. Hidamari Sketch × Hoshimittsu was as good as any season in the franchise. Arakawa was a quirky and delightful comedy that showed glimpses of greatness. And Soredemo Machi has done everything I ask of a comedy: it’s been funny. Shinbo’s only genuinely disappointing anime this year was Dance in the Vampire Bund, which despite the controversy it stirred, never reached the potential it threatened to at the beginning.

AIC

Before you think I’ve completely lost it, hear me out. From a critical perspective, AIC has made some terrible anime this year: Ookamikakushi, Strike Witches 2, Amagami SS, Mayoi Neko Overrun!, Asobi ni Ikuyo. But they’ve put themselves on the map because of it. They’ve emerged from the shadow of the now defunct Gonzo to become the recognized leader of generic, mind-numbing, fanservice anime. And just like Gonzo before them, they don’t spare a cent went animating them. Amagami SS, Ore no Imouto, Shukufuku no Campanella… these anime are just glorious on the eyes, each vivid displays of colour, motion and appealing, moe character designs. Their first offering of 2011 will be immensely more serious than anything they’ve shown this year: an adaptation of Shimura Takako‘s Wandering Son, airing on Noitamina. Whether it will be good as J.C. Staff‘s adaptation of Shimura’s Aoi Hana will be a crunch question for AIC.

It's not Lelouch! Get over it.

Scamp from The Cart Driver

If there’s a blogger who’s taken the bull by the testicles this year, it’s The Cart Driver‘s Scamp. His new blog turns one year old on Christmas, but in that time his influence has grown enormously. He’s written almost 300 articles in that time (a touch over double what our staff of a dozen has done during the same period), each opinionated, informative and full of energy. He spearheaded May’s Aniblog Tourney, doing much of the heavy lifting to make it a success, and his seasonal charts have become just as popular as those from Chartfag’s Den of Lesbian Enterprise. I don’t always agree with Scamp, nor do I think he’s the best writer on the blogosphere (not while Baka-Raptor‘s still around), but his penchant to just say what he thinks is refreshing. His articles cover a varied mixture of episodics, editorials, meta and post series (No Anime is Dropped Forever was particularly good) and there constantly tends to be something new and interesting just around the corner. Back in January, I advised him to do something mean­ing­ful and ful­filling with his site after leaving Bokutachi no Blog. Only he knows when he’ll achieve this, but 2010 has been a good start.

While there have been a few notable people involved in anime that have had a good year, unfortunately the list of those who have had a bad year stretches on much longer. I’ll take a look at some of the more notable examples in my next post.

19 Responses to “Who’s Had a Good Year in 2010?”

  1. From a critical perspective, AIC has made some terrible anime this year: …Mayoi Neko Overrun!

    The FUCK you say?

  2. I’m new to the anime blogsphere but yeah Scamp definitely one of the stand out bloggers out there. If you didn’t mention the year, I wouldn’t know that he’s more or less started blogging about anime the same time as me. Just goes to show the influence he has.

  3. Why am I not on this list?

    Just kidding.

    Seriously, though, AIC’s had a great year, despite the fact that their anime are awful.

    I’d also argue that Brains Base had a good year, but then again, they don’t have bad years. They’re probably the most consistently good animation studios out there.

  4. AIC has made some terrible anime this year: … Mayoi Neko Overrun!

    Mayoi Neko Overrun was a big bomb I seen from AIC.. It had too much fanservice, inconsistent story, opening theme was horrible and it was very generic… That is a good reason why I dropped it like a rock, it was so horrible. This basically teaches everyone who are making Anime not to change the directors every episode!

    As for Scamp, he has an effluence in the blogosphere even though I don’t necessarily agree with all his opinions. He already got a good audience already way before he had his own blog, which explains why he got really popular in 1 year… plus the Aniblog Tourney.

  5. Actually, Noitamina’s Fuji TV co-produces pretty much all the shows they broadcast, and they also take part on the planning of the series. So complimenting them is not weird at all IMO.

  6. You forgot the key fact about Noitamina this year: That it was expanded to an hour long. This meant they were able to take some risks, such as the strangeness of Tatami Galaxy to the double cour length of Shiki. It’s one of the absolute highlights of the year that Noitamina was doing well enough to warrant expansion. Anime isn’t dead yet!

  7. @TIF
    Here’s where I’m honest: I haven’t seen Mayoi Neko Overrun!. Or Asobi ni Ikuyo. Or Strike Witches, even. But everything I read about them suggested they were fanservice and/or crap. If you have an alternative opinion which needs to be expressed to the world, you know what to do. *Hint hint*

    @kluxorious
    As chikorita157 said, he’d made his bones before The Cart Driver. What’s impressive about Scamp is that everything seems to be well coordinated with him. His announcement of his new blog at the apex of last year’s Twelve Days of Christmas, the organization of the Aniblog Tourney, his two year blogging anniversary, etc. I get the feeling he comes up with these ideas long before we ever hear about them. That way he gives them time to properly stew.

    @Akira
    Yeah, the thing about Brains Base is, when don’t they have a good year. The only recent anime of theirs’ that I can remember sucking was Akikan.

    @chikorita157
    That’s pretty much the news I’ve been hearing on Mayoi Neko Overrun!. It sounds like classic AIC, to me.

    @Kazu
    Noitamina has been an incredibly important influence in anime since it started way back in 2005. Where anime in general seems to be getting more and more inane and generic, they’ve stayed classy. I think that this has been their best year ever, if not then very close to it. I was kinda hoping that Noise would be some healthy competition for them (even though it was also started by Fuji TV), but it unfortunately only lasted three seasons.

    @Scamp
    It’s very pleasing that Noitamina has been able to expand, isn’t it. I don’t think their offerings this year have been innately more risky than what they’ve shown in the past, like Trapeze or Mononoke, but if that gives them impetus to show more anime in the same vein, then that’s gonna be awesome. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what comes from Fractale next year. Yamamoto is one of moe anime’s best directors (and also one of its biggest critics these days) and Azuma Hiroki is the world’s leading academic on otaku culture. I have no idea what they’re going to serve up, but it may well be a much bigger leap from Noitamina’s standard stuff than The Tatami Galaxy or Shiki.

  8. great summary of 2010, this.

  9. I sometimes wonder how Noitamina goes about keeping itself from showing any losers. I suspect it comes down to being very selective on both ends; the production studios only send in their more creative out-of-the-way works because they stand a better chance on Noitamina, and Noitamina itself makes sure to keep only shows they are confident with. That’s all speculation, but they’ve been churning out top class works for years, so I can only say “keep up the good work.”

    I’d also contend the notion that Kobato is Hanazawa Kana’s 2nd best performance this year. Amano Touko of Bungaku Shoujo rivals Tsukimi for her best role this year, and these are the only two that I think come close to her Sora performance (which is still her best bar none). Kobato still seems to play off the excessive cuteness in her voice even when stretching her range, while it’s refreshing to see her buckle down and do a serious voice in Touko in the latter half of the movie without relying on the cute characteristic so much. Most of her other roles are ones that fit her perfectly but don’t really push her (Tenshi, Nadeko) or are solid roles that stretch her pigeon-holed position but don’t seem to come out enough because she isn’t the main character (Zange, Kuroneko, Kozue).

    I think I’ve already gone over my problems with Shinbo, which I might hypocritically say doesn’t affect Hidamari as much as Arakawa and Soredemo. I still think he’s good, but he needs to go back to using his tricks in such a way that amazes and makes you feel the show couldn’t live without it (Yes, I think Arakawa and Soredemo would do the same with or without his meddling).

    And I seem to have dodged all of AIC’s work for some reason :<. I don't know if that's a good or bad thing.

  10. My AIC can’t be this horrible.

  11. I don’t know who any of these people/entities are except Scamp/The Cart Driver. I’m terrible.

  12. @Sebz
    Thanks, although I don’t consider this a summary of the year. More a taster for our Year in Review article. :)

    @Elineas
    I haven’t seen Bungaku Shoujo but if Hanazawa is as good as you say she is, I’ll have to check it out. Hanazawa is pretty much reason enough for me to watch an anime, something which I say about quite a few directors, but hardly any seiyuu.

    @omo
    AAARRRGGGHHH!

    @Baka-Raptor
    I’ll let you use your eyes as a valid excuse for your ignorance this time, seeing as how they’ve been abated for the best part of this year. 😉

  13. Hanazawa was solid in the Bungaku Shoujo flick, but I thought the movie was pretty bad. If people hate Kirino, they should see Aya Hirano’s character in Bungaku Shoujo. Jesus Christ.

    Can’t really think of a noitamina series I’ve seen that I didn’t enjoy on some level. Probably the closest would be House of Five Leaves, and that’s really only because the slow pace didn’t quite work for me. I don’t think it was actively bad or anything. It’s a pretty crazy success rate, especially given that there has been such a wide variety of studios who have created/adapted works for the time slot.

  14. Scamp: Grabbing the bull by the testicles, crushing it, and then making soup out of it.

    And yes, he’s not the best one around, nor do I always agree with him. But hey, he has sense, and that alone is enough to buy me into reading a blog with interest.

  15. I only just joined the anime blogging scene a month, month and a half ago, and I already agree with you on Scamp.

    Hopefully I can be half as awesome as he is (when it comes to producing a lot of posts, anyway) in the upcoming year.

    I quite enjoyed reading this post!

  16. I hate Kana Hanazawa , except for Tsukimi role, of course …

  17. @ekka4shiki

    You sir, are FAIL.

  18. @AC

    why ? i just hate her …

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