With Mirai Nikki’s end, so ends the 2012 winter season. Let’s spare no punches: thank the lord this shit season is over. In retrospect, it may have been a blessing in disguise. It’s always the darkest before the dawn, and we’ve transitioned from the worst season in ages to what’s shaping up to be one of the best. The winter season has bettered our appreciation for what we have today.

But that didn’t make this season anything less than a chore to sit through. So, why am I rehashing the misery now? Three reasons:

  1. The team wanted to write an awards post on winter season, but we’re having a tough time reaching a consensus. I’m not sure if we’ll get to it, and I want to make sure the season gets its good-bye.
  2. I did a first impressions roundup post for the season, and I thought a final rankings of things would show how much the shows changed from their first episodes. Spoiler: the shows got worse.
  3. I liked some of the shows this season and wanted to give them props for being good. I also disliked a lot of the shows this season and wanted to give them props for being awful.

So, here: a final ranking of all the shows that I watched that finished in winter (so no Aquarion EVOL, Mouretsu Pirates, or Spherical Cats). My graphics dictate this list must be divisible by three, so I  planned on doing the “Top Twelve Shows of Winter.” But I finished exactly twelve shows, and “Top” would be a bit too generous. So, here. “The Twelve Shows Renn Finished This Winter, Ranked.”

Warning: There are spoilers for winter shows in this post. If you see a show you haven’t finished, but want to finish, don’t read the blurb on it!

12: Writer Mari Okada wrote Black Rock Shooter in her sleep. Proof? (1) Okada’s written a dozen shows over the last year; the only time she has left is naptime. (2) No conscious person could have thought up this garbage. When the girls weren’t fighting (and okay: the fighting was beast), they cried, fed each other  dirty-colored macaroons, got choked by their hot counselor, and cried some more. And when their tears dried, they cried without tears, and ruminated over the meaning of friendship and a highly original metaphor involving caged birds and freedom. The worst part? Somewhere in the web’s vast expanse are otaku who believe this is how real girls behave. That’s no less than nightmare fuel.

11: After the premiere, I pegged Another as one of my most anticipated of the season, noting that it failed as a horror, but gripped me as a mystery. I won’t say it stopped gripping me as a mystery; I watched twelve episodes of drawn-out fake-outs, corny music usage, and fetishized violence just to see who the “Other” was. All that said, it failed as a mystery, too. The solution was provided by the power of bullshit non-revelations and a deus-ex-machina that could have finished the show six episodes ago. Another had potential, but it ended up another crummy horror anime. At least I got another source for terrible puns.

10: I don’t think there’s anything left to be said about Guilty Crown. Dozens of fall previews covered the awesome cast and staff. Dozens of first impressions post covered the gorgeous animation and grand-scale plot. And dozens upon dozens of hilarious blog posts covered the spectacular fail of the show that should have had everything, and been it, too. I’ll add my two cents, anyway: Guilty Crown buckled beneath bad writing and the weight of its own ambition. It wanted to be an edgy science fiction show; it wanted to be a block-busting mega-hit. It wanted to comment on the human condition; it wanted to sell Inori figurines. I respect Guilty Crown’s material and artistic goals. But I can’t respect Guilty Crown, unless it’s as a big-budget joke that extended its punchline for far too long.

09: Two ways to watch Inu x Boku SS. One is as a sweet romance, and it is that–if you’re a teenager with an idealistic, unrealistic view of love. The other is as young adult novel trash. Misunderstood and wealthy teenage girl meets misunderstood and adoring young man. And he’s tall and blonde and handsome! And he’s a butler! And he sparkles! But I’m a teenager at heart, or at least an unashamed fan of trashy novels, so I could watch it both ways and be happy. To the show’s credit, it wrapped up the story in an appropriately cheesy way, and it showcased Studio David Production’s best animation and directorial work to date. Do I recommend Inu x Boku? Not… really. Did I enjoy it? Immensely.

08: Thermae Romae is the greatest cheap advertisement for a live action, Japanese movie ever. It’s composed of six twelve-minute episodes and created in Flash, but it’s still cohesive and looks kinda hip. The content amounts to a string of bath and toilet jokes, but the jokes are pretty funny, the height of low-brow humor. But how am I sure this is the greatest cheap advertisement for a live action movie ever? There are a lot of future projects I want to see subbed from Japan, and this movie tops the list.

07: Ano Natsu de Matteru was refreshing. Refreshing because it was the splash of summer the dark and dreary winter season needed. Refreshing because it was a shameless and shamelessly old-fashioned romcom, where couples actually got together and sex was only vaguely taboo. Refreshing because it had every character in love with someone else, resulting in needless drama. Refreshing because it introduced an extraneous alien plot that didn’t click with the–oh okay, those last two points weren’t refreshing so much as they were dumb and cliche. But in winter, Ano Natsu de Matteru was an oasis of good directing and good graphics, a warm vacation in a season that left me cold.

06: I wanted to love Daily Lives of High School Boys, not least for its abbreviations, which include Daily Dudes and NichiBros and tons of puns between. For a show that looked like cute boys doing cute things (or other cute boys, come to think of it), it wasn’t that cute, but it was kinda witty. The commentary was biting, from its blunt portrayal of girls to its mockery of genre cliches, which included shoujo and shounen and all the crap between. In the end, I couldn’t love Daily Dudes; I couldn’t remember the characters’ names, and I couldn’t laugh much at the string of repeated jokes and SHOUTED PUNCHLINES. But I could appreciate it for mocking all that’s stale with anime, not least the trash this season brought.

05: Last Exile ~Fam, The Silver Wing~ was let down by simplicity. It was a grand-scale adventure plagued by simple politics, simple resolutions, and many simple characters, not least the titular FAM FAIL FAN. But The Silver Wing was still a grand-scale adventure with wonderful world-building and thrilling CG clashes. The conflict vaguely resembled the Arab-Israeli wars, but the countries had the culture, customs, and clothing that were totally anime and all their own. When I watch an adventure anime, I want an adventure, and The Silver Wing did this by bringing its setting to life.

04: I wish I had the courage to play with Nisemonogatari’s puns, but I’m not really sure what to say about this show. It wasn’t awful; it had far and away the best graphics and dialogue of the season, and some of the better characters when their personalities weren’t twisted to fit the non-existent plot. It also had a ballsy toothbrushing scene. There was plenty of Bakemonogatari in Nisemonogatari–no light praise, but not much in light that this show was its sequel. But it was more like Nise took Bake, and injected it with incest, Senjougahara’s absence, and more inane pacing, with the gusto that this was all a good idea. I say this with a posed look, but I’m shaking my head behind it.

03: Oh, Mirai Nikki. While most series scramble with plot holes, to Mirai Nikki, they’re quality storytelling. While most series desire internal logic, in Mirai Nikki, logic is breaking the rules of the game and ramping up a new kind of crazy. Did it always make sense? Not really. Should it have made sense? No way. Sure, there’s an Evangelion influence there, a bit of Battle Royale, but there’s a mix of insanity and trashiness that Mirai Nikki makes its own. The ending was bittersweet and astonishingly milquetoast, but no denying the series provided twenty-six weeks of Yuno and thrills.

02: What’s there to say? It was another season of Natsume Yuujinchou. It’s a slight on the QUALITY of this season that one of its best shows has done the same, quasi-plot-less schtick for fifty-two episodes and likely counting. But don’t let that be a slight on the Natsume’s quality, which has remained excellent for four seasons straight. At its heart, the series is a coming-of-age character study, but it spices up Natsume’s growth with a little bit of everything: slice-of-life, supernatural, action, and adventure. It’s got a small dose of horror, a lot of wonder, and enough charm to keep it from going stale. So, fourth season of Natsume. What’s there to say? Praise, and a lot of it.

01: I mentioned in my first impressions post that Madhouse phoned this in after their awful Marvel project, and I was right. Chihayafuru had all the staples of a Madhouse adaptation of an ongoing josei manga, from the wide-eyed designs to the loud and petty drama to the disappointing sequel hook with no sequel in sight. But while I would’ve liked a final destination, Chihayafuru was about the journey, which was both parts entertaining and heartwarming–no small feat, as the hook here is a dull card game (and the show almost made it cool). The show didn’t have much subtlety or originality, but it had great build-up, great graphics, and a fantastic cast. No need to reinvent the wheel, if you spin it as well as it was spun here.

And that covers everything! To check out the fanart, click the pictures, and the Pixiv page should pop up. A final note on the season: this wasn’t a great season for anyone, but there was a series for everyone. Horror, romcom, comedy, thriller, sports, slice-of-life–you name it, it was there. Since series were roughly of the same quality but very different genres, I’m guessing this ranking will get some disagreement. So this raises the question: what were your favorite shows that ended winter 2012?

Thanks for reading!