Not The Best of 2011 Show

So, it’s almost the end of January 2012.

I’ve tried every possible displacement activity. I’ve written all my thank-you letters for holiday gifts. I’ve put every engagement and reminder for the coming year into my new diary. I’ve even done my tax return.

Time to face the fact that I still can’t be bothered to write about the anime of 2011.

Yes, there were some nice new series. Puella Magi Madoka Magica was more than just another excuse for overage guys to lust after underage girls. There were huge robots stomping the hell out of everything in sight. Mazinkaiser SKL was as insane as you’d expect from Go Nagai, whose work always delivers exactly what it says on the tin. There was yet another kiddie-Gundam. Even though Gundam AGE has a bit more story and a bit more thought than some of the recent entries in the canon, maybe I should finally accept that the Universal Century is well and truly over. There was a pretty new Studio Ghibli movie from Miyazaki father and son, who have apparently healed their much-publicised breach over Tales from Earthsea.

But what sums up the anime of 2011 best for me is that, here in the English-speaking West, the most-talked-about title was premiered in 2009 and released in Japan in 2010.

Redline has been hailed in terms that would seem extravagant if applied to the Second Coming.  Critics have vied to lose control of their bladders in public homage. Luckily, the film doesn’t take itself nearly as seriously as some critics do. I enjoyed it. Try as I might, though, I just couldn’t ditch my sense of proportion.

It’s a stunning visual experience, one of those movies where you could watch it several times and still find something new in the pictures. It was apparently in development for seven years, thus siting its conception in 2002, well ahead of the lacklustre Andy Cheng live-action street-racing feature of the same name from 2007. Although it’s director Takeshi Koike’s feature debut, Koike’s extensive experience and the might of anime studio Madhouse ensure that it’s edited with visceral cunning and magnificently paced.

What a pity, then, that the story is the usual boy-racer fusion of Top Gun and Top Gear. Writer Katsuhito Ishii says he wanted to make a movie for rural Texas rednecks who love their cars, and he’s done it beautifully. I just can’t get excited about it: been there, done that. The opening monologue of Tetsuya Nakashima’s 2010 masterpiece Kokuhaku, delivered by a middle-aged schoolteacher in sensible shoes, gave me more chills and thrills than the whole of Redline.

When I think of the anime of 2009, it’s Summer Wars, Yona Yona Penguin and Mai Mai Miracle – all three from the same studio as Redline – that get me excited. In 2010 I loved Fullmetal Alchemist, and very much enjoyed both Hetalia and Arrietty. There was nothing in 2011 that delivered the same thrill, the sense of finding something to explore beyond the surface of the image.

Never mind. Maybe, out there in 2012, there’s a new anime that will knock my socks off. It’s happened before – not often, but often enough to keep me interested. It can happen again. Fingers crossed.

7 thoughts on “Not The Best of 2011 Show

  1. “Even though Gundam AGE has a bit more story and a bit more thought than some of the recent entries in the canon, maybe I should finally accept that the Universal Century is well and truly over”

    Origin was announced, and Unicorn is going strong. We can have our UC cake and eat AU too.

    I echo your thoughts somewhat on 2011, but I also find it hard to complain. With Redline, Unicorn and Mazinkaiser SKLL, my demographic is clearly being served, which is more than I can say for a lot of previous years.

  2. Concerning Redline, I do agree that the story line is very thin, but, honestly, the stunning visual art just makes up for it. I watched that movie in 2009 during the Locarno Film Festival and I must say that I was really taken by the cinematic and graphic aspct of this animation movie and the lack of plot really didn’t bother me. And as soon as possible, I hope to be able to buy the blu-ray disc.

      • It may be my bias for all things Showa. But I thought the characterization was much more interesting, the stakes seemed higher, the story had more depth. There was just more for my brain and heart to grab onto. Arietty only really had one level. Kokurikozaka worked on several.

      • I’m sure Arrietty’s appeal was heightened for me by understanding the context of the original book. Even though the movie was resited into the present, I could still feel the echoes of the original’s era.

  3. Did you check out Kunihiko Ikuhara’s newest work Mawaru Penguindrum from last year? It is a difficult series that talks of familial ties, fate and acceptance. It certainly stuck out as one of the most complex narratives to hit anime of recent.

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