[With the holidays and the end of the year comes a time for reflection, as well as the end of the season. What better way to spend it than thinking about our favorite Japanese cartoons! Here are the shows we regarded best over 2012! -Josh]
I find myself looking back at 2012's year in anime with a greater fondness than I have with 2011's, despite the latter having more shows that are simply better. 2012 had no Madoka of its own to crown queen, nor its own Okarin to elect President Mad Scientist. And no, the movies and OVA don't count enough to call those shows "of 2012".
Despite this lack of blockbusters and insta-classics, in 2012 I found myself many so-called "window" shows, the sorts of programs you enjoy enough to just put on and let play in a window while you do other things, like write Top 5 lists.
That might seem like an insult at first, but to me a window show is something I enjoyed watching so much that I can take it for granted, having watched and rewatched it so many times, that I watch again even when I have new material in the pipeline and end up delaying a scheduled recap because I spent time watching what I wanted instead of what I was supposed to watch. And so on.
Now, that isn't necessarily a sign that a show is great, but there's little better indication that a show is one of your favorites. And these shows of 2012 became my window shows.
5.) Moretsu Pirates - Satelight
Admittedly, Satelight's saga of schoolgirls in spaceships was the least "windowed" of my 2012 favorites, but that wasn't out of a lack of appreciation, or that it doesn't stand up well to repeat viewing (though it certainly bears less of that than other four on my list), but I get the impression that Marika Kato, the show's schoolgirl space pirate protagonist, wouldn't think highly of me if I just kept her on loop.
Yes, I know she's not an actual person I need be concerned with impressing, but no other character seems as directly invested in her own show and what happens in it. All the way through Moretsu Pirates, it felt like Marika herself was at the helm, pacing the plot at her own convenience.
Most shows (and most fiction) have their characters getting caught up in events beyond their control and forced to adapt, but rather than be like those poor saps, Marika's in charge of this ship. So what if she has to become a space pirate? She won't drop out of school, she'll manage both, because she says she will. And that's that. Captain's orders.
Honorable Mention: Busou Shinki
Another show confident enough in its characters to risk undermining plot and pacing. Sadly, confidence has to be warranted.
4.) The Daily Lives of High School Boys - Sunrise
"Nichibros" manages the to be both a tribute to and thorough roasting of high school life (more the latter than the former), but the heart of its fun and sheer windowing potential isn't just in that it's a parody of high school life, but of the surreal fictional "high school" setting, that peculiar arrangement of tropes, plots, history and visual language that nerds and the industry that panders to them have built over years.
All that strange cultural debris makes for a deliciously plump target, and Daily Lives of High School Boys was the one this year to skewer it.
Honorable Mention: Joshiraku
"This anime is full of ordinary dialog so you can fully enjoy the cuteness of the girls," is a statement I've never been more glad to see proven wrong.
3.) Humanity Has Declined - AIC Asta
It's not every year that you get a smart show with things to say that's as easily windowed as Humanity Has Declined. Heavy messages and tricky plotting are the anti-window, but Humanity Has Declined manages to cloak its commentary in a colorful aesthetic, and deliver it with the sugar-coated scalpel that is Mai Nakahara's performance as the unnamed protagonist.
Humanity Has Declined is practically a one-woman show, and the fact alone that she pulls it off would put it in the list, but that it has enough virtues besides that simply cements its place.
2.) JoJo's Bizarre Adventure - David Production
Anyone in despair at moe's perceived influence on anime owes it to themselves to watch JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, sigh, and go "this is what anime should be like". It's action, edge and not-for-kids flair wrapped up in the kind of flamboyance that would make lesser males question their own orientation.
Seriously, what other show but JoJo can make dressing in a half-shirt tighter than cling-wrap and striking poses cribbed from Mr. Universe footage look like the manliest thing ever? Well, a couple, but none quite as well as this.
1.) Girls und Panzer - Actas
This one might not be entirely fair, since the last two episodes aren't due until March of this year, but I don't care, because Girls und Panzer is awesome. Nothing else has managed to surpass expectations like it has, and that's not just because "Moe girls and battle tanks" isn't the sort of premise you expect great things from.
From start to (almost) finish Girls und Panzer has been an tightly-paced, expertly executed show, pushing out more plot and character development in ten episodes than many programs can manage in twenty and still not coming across as rushed, all the while blending it in with an attention to detail and care that can only come from genuine love for the subject matter.
If this is the kind of brilliance that results when a director forcefully suppresses his staff's desire to insert panty shots into every scene, then more shows should make like Girls und Panzer.