Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 in Review

So happy 2013 everyone! Meant to have this up slightly earlier in the day but oh well, it's not like my posts don't usually go up at this time. Obviously this is where I talk about 2012 stuff so before that two notes. One, I managed to semi-burn out on, well, everything sometime last spring/summer and while I managed to deal with it and keep moving through everything that has certainly colored my opinion on stuff and I doubt that I'll ever try and consume as much media at once that I did before my burnout. And I think a lot of my burnout came from extra stress from school and such and since I'm in my final semester of my senior year of college I'm going to have to deal with it a bit more. On a more personal note, I finally figured out that I'm asexual this year (and aromantic to boot, apparently I have no interest in personal relationships beyond friendship) which on the one hand I'd like to think doesn't matter that much when it comes to reviews. On the other hand, it certainly explains why I'm not that fond of romances and seem to be harsher on them than most people I know so I think I should just toss this out there and not have to mention it every time. So yes, I am going to be harsher on romances than most and that is simply going to be a bias of mine, although I certainly can enjoy them sometimes as I believe this list should show.

Lots of good stuff this year but not a lot of great stuff for me. I've calculated that I at the very least tried out 53 shows this year, 17 of which I dropped and 6 that are still ongoing. Of those 36 I didn't drop there are 12 titles I would buy for sure (three of which are unlicensed and all made my top five, I feel so hipster) and probably a dozen more I would buy given the right price and excess money on my part. Despite all of that, unlike last year where I could easily pick my top five it was hard to choose my top five which I think was because most of the shows I liked were more character driven, not the plot driven ones that grab my heart and run away with it, so I am hoping for some more plot driven shows in the upcoming year. So, in a rough order, my top five.

Hyouka Yep, the show I almost didn't watch ended up being one of my "will buy in a heartbeat, someone license this thing already" titles. I was hesistant about the idea of everyday mysteries but that turned out to be the perfect way to have mysteries that were believable in their setting and gave all the characters a chance to slowly grow and understand themselves more. Plus, dat artwork, I'm actually sad whenever I look at the ads for Tamako Market (Kyoto Animation's winter show) because it's so simple compared to what they did here. So yes, fingers crossed that this thing of beauty gets licensed and that the writer writes enough more for another season or two.

Chihayafuru In retrospect I wish this had been on my 2011 list instead of Last Exile Fam (and is also the reason for my "show must finish in 2012 rule") but where Fam was stronger in the first half it was the second half of Chihayafuru that the character development really got going and it was another series that was just amazing in that department. I still have my quibbles with it, Chihaya took longer than I liked to start developing but I still adored the show in the end, is it time for the second season yet? (Also another entry into the "dammit people license this!" category)

tsuritama I was really worried going into this show, the only other series by this director I had seen was [C] which, to put it politely, did not quite fit. But lo and behold not only did this show work but they also pulled off the tricky pacing of "first half episodic/unconnected, second half plot heavy/connected" trick and in 11 episodes too! True Un-Go did it last year but plenty of people can't get that balance between developing the characters and then easing into the plot to work in a 26 episode series, they had some series constraints here. And honestly, this series made me care about a group of guys who had to go fishing for an alien to save that world, that by itself is a pretty big accomplishment, Sentai you're putting this one out soon right?

Natsume Yuujinchou Shi I almost forgot this season even aired this year (I'm sorry, yes I'm a bad fan) and I'm not sure how since not did this season adapt some of my favorite arcs of the manga but it also finally (finally!) delved more into Natsume's past and his family which is what we've all been waiting for. At this point the writing has become a lot more comfortable with itself and is willing to have multiple episode (/chapter) arcs and it feels so much stronger for it. And the show got licensed at the end of last year and started coming out this year too, huzzah! Now I just need to save up for the releases this year, NISA you are amazing (and should probably license all the unlicensed stuff on my list, just saying).

My Little Monster And that's why I made sure to get that review up tonight, because I realized that this one was going to slide in and make it to the fifth spot on my list. I just enjoyed the hell out of this show, it made me laugh and sympathize with the characters more than I expected and yes, it was another title I didn't expect to like and didn't even plan on trying when the season started. I'm quite happy to be wrong here and wish desperately that it would get a second season (and licensed but I'm starting to sound like a broken record here).

I actually read more books published in 2012 than I initially thought (around a good dozen) yet despite that, much like my trouble with anime, I'm having a hard time making a list of five titles that I adored beyond belief, partially because I'd like to have read a larger group of titles. But, of the ones I read, I found myself liking the YA more than the adult fiction and I was surprised just how much I liked most of the books. So special mentions to Unspoken (which I swear is half mystery and half snark, it's like Veronica Mars' British cousin), Team Human (which was also half snark and half a really smart take on some tired vampire tropes) Raven Boys (which I remain a little on the fence about and have decided the best way to figure out where I stand is to read the next book, now), The Book of Blood and Shadow (which took a lot of problems I had with the author's previous books and fixed them, also taking two genres I don't really like, the thriller and the "guys what if historical event was actually like this?!?" genre and made them work very well), and Seraphina (guys it's dragons and politics, that's pretty much made for me). Very happy I got a chance to read all of those this year, although I am at a bit of a loss since I got to everything I wanted to this year I have no idea what to start my new year off with!

Alright confession time, I'm not 100% sure what came out this year. I mean sure I can think of things that came out this year that I want to read but the ones that I can think of off the bat either ended this year or are rereleases of older titles which almost don't feel like they count. Heck, with the gap between publishing in Japan and the US I can never tell what counts anyway, even the series that were scanlated that I read this year generally started years ago. But I have noticed that over the past year that more and more of my budget has gone towards anime and away from manga and I'd like to spread it out a little more evenly and try to catch up with my manga buying this year. Also, I recommend this 2012 list of manga since it matches up rather well with my own tastes (I haven't read We Were There or 13th Boy but I plan on trying them out after seeing all the praise for them over the past year).

This just wasn't a good year for movies for me, I saw only five movies that came out in 2012 (although there are one or two more I wouldn't mind seeing like Argo) and I still liked Hugo more than any of them. Of course, Hugo seems to be that rare movie that I absolutely, whole-heartedly adore which only comes out once every few years but that aside, there just wasn't much that interested me this year. I was frustrated by both Brave and Rise of the Guardians for their overly simple plots and characterization (sure they're "for kids" but that should never be an excuse for a subpar story which I felt was the case here), The Hobbit had serious pacing issues, Wreck-It-Ralph was rather fun, and, as a non-comic book fan, I found The Avengers to be a lot of fun (even if it did everything I expected it to without any twists). So far the new year already looks better for me movie wise, I can at least think of a few titles that I really want to see which I couldn't do at this point last year, and hopefully I'll also come across some gems from years past in all of my Netflix surfing.

TV Shows
This year marks an interesting point for me since I am now actively following multiple tv shows and I'm getting more and more interested in plenty of shows I haven't gotten a chance to try yet. Despite that, I don't have a top five here either since I didn't have five tv shows from 2012 that I whole-heartedly enjoyed (also, like in the movies bit, I saw an older show this year, Veronica Mars, which blew everything out of the water by comparison). I am really enjoying both Elementary and Once Upon A Time and looking forward to more Downton Abbey this Sunday (although I do worry that this show is going to go on and on without a really good stopping point, I like my shows to have stopping points) and I suppose I'm looking forward to more of both Sherlock and Doctor Who, although I have issues with both of those shows lately so my enjoyment is always tempered by a voice in my mind going "but it could've been even better if they'd done this differently!" I did decide not to follow the second season of Grimm since I was frustrated at the ending of the first season but even that show wasn't bad, just, frustrating there. I'm not sure how many older shows I'll be able to try out in 2013 (since 22 45 minute long episodes takes a significant chunk of time to get through) but fingers crossed that I'll be able to try even more great series from years past. 

Finally, if anyone has any suggestions for webcomics I should review when I do my month of reviews in March, send them to me now (here in the comments, twitter, doesn't really matter) so I have a chance to go through them. Right now I've more or less exhausted my to-read folder so I actually have a lot of time to look at new stuff and I always want recommendations for new stuff.