A Year To Forget For…

It’s been a good year for a few in anime, but a shocking year for so many others. As I hinted in my last article, negative perceptions of anime in 2010 are, I predict, going to be much more common than positive ones. Honestly, I’m struggling to think of a recent year that was as bleak as this one. The last decade had its strongest years between 2006 and 2008, and even prior to that, 2004 and 2005 had a lot of strong titles in a variety of genres, including Gungrave, Gankutsuou, Honey and Clover and Air. I have to think back to 2001 and 2002 to remember years where the offerings of decent new anime were as thin as they are now, and there’s a good chance my perspective of that time was skewed anyway, since that was when I was just starting to get into anime, so my focus was more on viewing a catalogue of the acclaimed titles of the late 1990s to build my “anime cred”, rather than catching fansubs as they were coming out.

The noticeable difference in this year is that there’s just been less made. Starting from 2006, there’s been a steady decline in the number of anime being made, and this year’s numbers failed to surpass any year from the previous decade (going by AnimeNfo‘s count). More qualitatively, there’s been less “great” anime… five, if you go by our reviews, and that’s including Cross Game which a lot of people would argue counts as 2009. And, what I’d argue is the most important part of the anime diet, the “good-decent” anime, have been severely lacking too. I can only imagine how awful it would be to be a mecha fan right now. It’s definitely been a year to forget for them, but it’s also been a year to forget for these esteemed groups and individuals:

Anime no Chikara

In a time where anime fans have cried out for more anime originals to rival the likes of Cowboy Bebop, Code Geass and Gurren-Lagann, Anime no Chikara answered the call with limpness and trepidation. The most disappointing thing about Anime no Chikara is that it was over before it begun… now put on indefinite hiatus by Aniplex after a mere three seasons. I really liked Sora no Woto… except the ending. Everyone seemed to stop paying attention to Senkou no Night Raid after just three or four episodes, while those of us who suffered through the atrocious last three episodes of Occult Academy witnessed a good anime that lost its way. And that was it. All three of these anime share similarities: they all had ambitious ideas and interesting worlds full of things to explore and develop, but they all had scripts that fell short and were hampered by execution problems.

Did anyone actually bother to watch this anime?

Hirano Aya

Oh boy. Hirano Aya‘s downfall has been meticulously chronicled by Sankaku Complex (warning: NSFW, may kill braincells), so I won’t recount too much of it here. A change in career direction, in which she’s had more appearances on variety shows has meant that, from an anime perspective, she’s just been much less prolific than she has in the past. And you might think this is a good thing, depending on your opinion of her voice and popularity. Reviews of her singing in recent years have been scathing, and her vocal work has always been criticized. However, this year she’s seemingly become particularly flaky, with some of her tweets suggesting that she’s gone off the rails and has lost control of the direction of her career. And, say what you want about her voice acting, but it’s hard not to feel sorry for her. She’s been embroiled in one otaku-frenzied controversy after another, following her comments on contraception and her taste in men (seriously, why do these idiots care about her sex life?), which has lead to the usual rampant, vocal criticism from the usual hateful corners of the fandom… which, apparently, she’s forced to read by her agency. That would make anyone depressed. And just recently, it’s been reported that she has a brain tumour. I can only hope she has a speedy recovery. After that, I hope she gets her career back on track, which would seem to require hiring a better agent and learning to ignore unfair criticism.

Anime News Network

Anime News Network has always received the usual flack for the tone of their reviews (I personally have little problem with ANN’s reviewers, with one or two notable exceptions) and their semi-annual season Preview Guides, which seem to be in contradiction with their anti-fansub policy. This year (this season in fact) they suffered through a particularly embarrassing episode when they dipped their toes into the streaming scene. Similar to an incident surrounding Funimation when it first started streaming, an episode of Ore no Imouto that was to be made available on ANN was leaked prior to it even airing in Japan. The fallout resulted in a lot of ridicule and a lot of questioning of ANN’s security, which in review, was simply insufficient. Since then ANN have rectified the security hole that allowed this leak and have resumed streaming Ore no Imouto, which is fortunate for fans of streaming, and of little consequence for those of us outside North America. (Maybe I’m showing my ignorance here, but if security is such an issue, why not just wait until after the episode has aired in Japan before uploading it to the server?)

Anime fans in general

Here’s where I phone it in a little bit. As I’ve pointed out at the outset, 2010 hasn’t been a memorable year for anime. There’s an argument that you could blame the state of anime at the moment on the global financial crisis, and while there’s certainly an aspect of that which has played a role, it doesn’t explain why the numbers have been in steady decline since 2006. What 2010 failed to offer, compared with previous years, has been variety. If you’re a mecha fan, you’ve had to make do with Star Driver and the Macross F movie. If you’re a shoujo fan, it’s been Kimi ni Todoke and Kaichou wa Maid-sama, the former of which tread water for much of its run, and the latter of which sank like lead (except for the ending). For anything serious, it’s been Noitamina or nothing, and the mystery/genre has given us two of its worst ever anime: Ookamikakushi and Psychic Detective Yakumo. Comedy has been reasonable, with the likes of Working!, Panty and Stocking and B Gata H Kei, and if you’re a fan of moe and/or fanservice, you’ve probably had no issues finding something interesting. If not, it’s been slim pickings.

18 Responses to “A Year To Forget For…”

  1. Of course it has been slightly disappointing, but in my opinion… it was decent considering that I have started in 2009. I feel that it the season could be better, but then again… we can’t really ask much in this rough and slowly recovering economy.

    As for Hirano Aya fans… yes, they have gone overboard by going apeshit by destroying her CDs, posters and even destroying figurines that are voiced by her… This proves that her fans really need to get a life and “LEAVE HER ALONE”.

  2. I feel happy for Hirano. So what if she likes older men? So what if she’s not a virgin? Big deal, she’s like any other woman, and all the more reason why I find her more credible as a person. I’ve never been a big fan of her seiyuu works but simply as a person, I think she should just live her life the way she wants. She doesn’t really owe any lowlifes out there any favors, really.

    And I actually thought that this article would contain a section of the worst anime this year had to offer. But upon second thought, I think “Wait, which year doesn’t have shitty anime?”.

    But you know which studio has been disappointing me rapidly? Madhouse. HOTD started out well enough but it got retarded (remember the bullet-through-boobs scene?). Iron Man is a joke even to average viewers. Black Lagoon – Robert’s Trail has been underwhelming, which is terrible for a big Black Lagoon fan like myself. Rainbow started out incredible but gradually became childish and weary. Yeah, for a studio with such a name, the delivery is less “mad” and wild, and more pedestrian.

  3. Anime no Chikara -_-

    I agree with AC that Madhouse have had a pretty awful year for the most part, not least because their most esteemed director, Satoshi Kon, passed away. But with Tatami Galaxy they’ve saved themselves

  4. For mecha fans, 2010 is the year of Gundam Unicorn.

  5. @chikorita157
    This subset of rabid otaku are human scum (not all of them, obviously, but the portion that take part in this sort of behaviour). I don’t think anything you say to them are going to change their behaviour. What I’d say needs to change is that Hirano needs to stop listening to them. Everyone has their critics. You either use what they say to spur you on, or ignore them completely. I’m amazed by reports that Hirano’s agency forces her to read what these idiots write about her. It’s like they want to destroy her. And then people are surprised by her behaviour in the last twelve months?

    @AC
    Yeah, Rainbow is the big surprise for me. Everything about how it began screamed “winner”, but then it just ran out of steam and turned into nothing. Madhouse has had a couple of decent shows (I’ve yet to hear anyone who’s watched it all the way through criticize The Tatami Galaxy, and I really liked Kobato, even if it was a bit childish), but we hold them up to such high standards, and they didn’t meet those this year. I didn’t really want to be hugely critical of Madhouse this year because they’ve made one of the major contenders for anime of the year. On the other hand, they haven’t done much else.

    @Scamp
    We’ve lost one of anime’s greatest creative minds this year, sadly.

    @Numbers and Space
    But only 2 OVAs have been released. Hopefully there’ll be more mecha on offer next year. I’m not a mecha fan, but anime needs the mecha genre to do well, IMO. Anime is at its healthiest when a variety of genres are firing, not just one of two, as has been the case in the last couple of years.

  6. The steady decline of good anime is pretty sad. It’s like we fans have to make do and put up with all the crappy shit they cooked for us every season. Thank goodness there are at least one series in every season that kinda make me not to loose hope with the industry.

  7. About Aya Hirano:

    I may be completely off base here, (and I probably am, because I don’t really understand the pop idol culture in Japan all that well.) but to me, Aya Hirano seems to be having a rather nice year, with the exception of the brain tumor and her having to read nasty emails. She’s trying to get her name out there by appearing on reality shows, and seems to be making large over the top statements to make sure she’s in the papers. “Bad Press is Good Press” in the U.S, but I can’t imagine it not being at least similar in Japan. She’s constantly in the spotlight, for good and bad things, so, when she recovers, she’ll probably be in good shape for a career revitalization. As long as you still have some talent (debatable, but hey, she didn’t get this far for nothing) and people know your name, it should work out. Once again, please correct me if I am being stupid, because I hate when that happens. (Probably more often than not)

  8. Oh come on, this summer season was tormenting, sure, but the rest offered appropriate compensation. Winter was one of the better seasons in years, fall is shaping quite nicely as well, and with shows like WORKING! updating my Top Moe Girls list after a very long time, One Piece turning out awesomesauce week after week all year long, and shoujo shows like Yumeiro Patissiere, Kimi ni Todoke and Nodame Cantabile continuing their runs, I find myself in no position to complain.

    Had Anime no Chikara extended SoRaNoWoTo’s or Occult Academy’s run for another cour, we might have seen substance, but alas… I disagree the project was over before it even began (what does that even mean?).

  9. @cyth

    I don’t know about One Piece. I’m still following the show closely, but only because I’ve been following it since it first began 2000 (well, I didn’t follow its movies as closely). My perpetual beef against the show is its painstakingly slow pace, which fully explains why the show is still ongoing. Right now, I still find it very hard to believe that the Whitebeard Pirates are still fighting against the Marines when I believe that this arc’s pace should be a lot faster.

  10. @kluxorious
    I think it was Baka-Raptor who made the point that we don’t have to watch shows from the new season. It’s easy to forget, but there’s plenty on offer from older seasons.

    @The Big Guy
    That all sounds fairly plausible to me. The only one who knows for certain whether her career is spiraling out of control, or whether this was exactly as she intended in Hirano herself.

    @cyth
    I can’t say I share your optimism for this current season. Sure, it started out with promise, but at the moment, a few titles don’t seem to quite be living up to the potential that they started with (eg, Ore no Imouto, Bakuman). As far as Anime no Chikara is concerned, what I’m trying to say is that they pulled the plug on it too early. Three seasons isn’t enough to establish yourself. It’s an ambitious idea, which I think means they should have budgeted for a couple of financial letdowns. I know everything in anime is driven commercially, but I’d have liked to have seen them give the timeslot a couple more seasons to try to produce a hit.

  11. Hitting a low slump just as I decide to restart watching anime? ._.

    And FYI, Occult Academy’s last episode was completely, utterly, and irrevocably awesome.

    *prepares for flames*

  12. You forgot to take note that the moe boom was over this year. It may also account for something regarding the decline of interest on some shows (especially moe shows). And since there are other demographics that have a steadily increasing fanbase, catering to all of them means trying to juggle genres that some companies have trouble on making, which leads us to our current situation.

    Still, I can say that some shows have redeemed themselves, and some shows did not (Strike Witches, lol). But that doesn’t answer to our reason of why this year is dull, does it?

  13. One thing missing from recent anime these years is a decent music anime like Beck (Mongolian Chop Squad). Of course , we have Houkago Tea Time and Girls Dead Monster, but we all know that HTT is just moeblob with no real potrait of music scene, while the latter band i mentioned isn’t even the focus of the series.

  14. @ekka4shiki
    Nodame Cantabile: Finale? Or maybe it’s only for classicalfags like myself 😛

  15. You do know that the financial crisis hit at the tail end of 2007 right? The largest hits didn’t take place until the end of 2008, but there was a lot of veiled panic starting from 2007. And I think that if you exclude small OVAs and stuff like that, the picture gets less rosier, with 201 full series/movies in 2007, and crashing down to 148 in 2008, crashing a bit more to 132 in 2009, then down to 108 this past year. Even still though, I don’t really see 2010 as particularly weaker than any previous years. The only thing is that there were less series overall, not necessarily less good series overall. In fact, the number of offerings that I would watch from any previous season has stayed relatively consistent since 2008. It might just be me though, and I can’t really say that I’m your average consumer of anime 😛

  16. Time has passed and I have become far more familiar with the ridiculous negative feedback paradox that is Sankaku Complex. Despite outright hating the site at this point, I have to admit that Aya Hirano is one of the few things where I kind of agree with the festering pool of virginity. When I first heard about Hirano leaving the seiyu business, I was indifferent. She should do what she want, haters can go home and ragers gonna rage no matter what. (Just come back for Lucky Star 2 and we’re all good. >.<) But then she actually opened her mouth and started talking…. and to be honest, she's a bit of an airhead.

    Maybe it's not her, it could just be the setting. But in any case, I don't really care for the gossipy atmosphere of daytime tv; it seems as if Hirano have moved from a life of whoring her personality out to demented otaku, to a world equally as shallow. She needs to stop whining and take some responsibility as, at the end of the day, everything with regards to her career were her decisions alone. Except for the brain tumour — that just sucks.

    But enough about that….

    It is still unclear whether Anime-no-Chikara is 'actually' cancelled. The head chumps give off the impression that they want to see it (or its spirit) continued. Given the random bouts of information delivered on the home site and various mixed media, it is believable to see that either Fractale or Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica were set to air as the fourth series. I probably have a bit more respect for the project than other viewers, as Sora-no-Woto made enough of an impression on me to continually look forward to their new series. The time slot also had highly detailed background art, shot through a filter that gave off a refined realism washed out with a dystopic sepia. Oto and Night Raid also had amazing soundtracks, easily the best of the year along with (for me) Kobato and Angel Beats. (I can't say the same for Gakuin as it was trolling with Waldstein Sonata for half the air time)

    Noitamina was absolutely spectacular this year, in my opinion. NC Finale started out with more of the same, but eventually gave way to a great ending for a long-running series. Aforementioned spring series was a masterpiece, Kuragehime is fun without being fluffy, and Shiki has been a breath of fresh air thematically.
    And Sarai-ya Goyou was excellent, your review is just plain wrong! Please review the review!!@#$%!

    On Madhouse, I disagree. This was a good year for Madhouse with exhibit A being Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei and exhibit B being Tatami Galaxy. Seriously, Yojouhan was good enough to sit through four couers of Iron Man in its wake. Though, if you are of the mind that the series was 'typical Madhouse' then I see why you would be disappointed. Still, Rainbow wasn't that bad, and despite its lack of ambition, Kobato showed how to take as simple a premise as you can and focus completely on build-up and texture. Speaking as someone who absolutely hated the show at first (for being childish and boring), it really turned into something quite saccharine.

    I may be alone in this (or maybe not) but I'd like to see a second season of High School of the Dead. A few months have passed since it ended, and all of the fluff and idiocy and fanservice have completely fallen out of my mind, leaving nothing but those great moments of atmosphere and harsh but unusually down-to-earth character moments. I want to see those things continue if possible, even if it means accepting the good with the bad.

  17. @AuroraFlame

    As a big fan of Madhouse, I’m disappointed at Madhouse based on the turnout of the quality of its shows on average for the year. Sure, Tatami Galaxy (or Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei, whichever you may want to call it) is a strong candidate for Anime of 2010, but this is just one example. On average, when I look back at the other shows, I can’t help but feel that Madhouse has somewhat lost its edge, particularly in the stylish delivery. Rainbow, HOTD, Iron Man and even Black Lagoon ~Roberta’s Blood Trail~ have the potential to be something good or even spectacular and to me, it needed at least stylish delivery.

    It’s funny that the shows mentioned above have potentially good storylines but they severely lack proper execution, because Madhouse to me has been well known for stylish execution. I look at slightly earlier shows – Rideback, Kurozuka, Blue Literature, Casshern SINS – and notice that they all at least got great delivery. What happened to the show for 2010, then? Independent of material, I think it’s an issue of delivery and execution.

    And don’t worry, I thought Sarai-ya Goyou was a great show too. Maybe the flashbacks aren’t as good as I wanted them to be, but it’s a very charming show.

  18. Okay, this is the first year that I’ve actively payed attention to anime on an episode-by-episode basis. While there really hasn’t been any good action/dramas this year, comedies/slice-of-life and romantic comedies have done pretty well!
    I blame panty and stocking, haha. If Gainax actually spent the time to produce a good actiony, cowboy-beboop’ish anime, I’d say it’d be a good year.

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