This picture needed to be used somewhere.
Well now that the season is over and I’ve gotten around to watching the final episodes of everything, some thoughts on the six shows I watched this season. Some I had high expectations for, some low; some met those expectations and some didn’t. It certainly turned out to be a season of surprises in many regards, in ways both good and bad. But it was a fun season, and now join me as I look back on the 2009-2010 Winter Season and Sora no Woto, Hidamari Sketch: Hoshimitsu, Baka to Test to Shoukanjyuu, Ookami Kakushi, Hanamaru Youchien, and (the first half of) Durarara. Random awards will be given out, limited to shows that started in the past Winter Season.
Durarara: There tended to be a lot of reversals of expectations this season. Durarara looked like the clear winner series for me, and it was very strong for a long time. However when it reached its midpoint at the end of the season, it felt like it lost a lot of steam. The show promises much, but once the main story completely took over the narrative (as opposed to earlier episodes that were just about the characters, their lives, and their pasts) it started slipping. Especially the big reveal about the origin on the Dollars, which fell completely flat for me. That was supposed to be impressive? It’s just a flashmob. However, given it’s promise I hope the second half of the season will recharge my interest.
Sora no Woto: Much more than the ‘K-ON joins the army’ many of us expected, Sora no Woto would have easily been my favorite of the season if it weren’t for a very spotty ending. The setting and history of the world was top notch, the characters had a fair amount of depth to them, the mixture of cultures and technologies was cool, and a great mystery seemed like it was always just beneath the surface of everything and everyone. However the ending felt rushed and not in keeping with the realism that was a big part of the show. Much like Crusader, I enjoyed the first eleven episodes immensely, but the ending drags it down a lot.
Ookami Kakushi: A show I only initially had a bit of interest in developed a great mystery despite fairly weak characters. It was a show I eagerly look forward to every week as more was revealed and added to the central mystery…then it destroyed itself in such a thorough and stupid fashion that it felt like they fired the staff and used a random plot points meme generator to finish the rest. I haven’t seen a show so completely ruin itself at the last minute like this since Blue Gender or Gundam SEED: Destiny. But then came episode 12. Completely dropping any pretense of plot or seriousness, the show delivered a final gag episode that completely and utterly broke me. Laughing-randomly-for-an-hour-afterwards, send-me-to-the-insane-asylum broke me. It might not be as entertaining if you only saw that episode, but seeing a once good show go bad and then completely throw itself out the window was an amazing sight. Episode 11 was like your computer’s hard drives being fried. It really sucks. Episode 12 was your now broken computer suddenly bursting into flames. All you can do is watch it and laugh. Following the series and commenting on RabbitPoets‘, Blindability‘s, and Shinmaru‘s posts made all parts of the experience a lot of fun, and they have my gratitude.
Baka to Test to Shoukanjyuu: Seemed like it might have potential at the start of the series, and boy did it deliver. It rose far above its fairly generic premise and brought me a huge dose of comedy, along with some very SHAFT-like creative visuals and fun characters. Deep it is not, but for pure fun nothing this past season really topped it. Hideyoshi as the ‘third gender’, DAAAWWW-some Shouko and Himeji, the running gag where the girls paired off Akihisa and Yuuji as a yaoi couple (where the opening image is from) and much more. It’s not perfect (Akihisa’s sister was meh, Minami’s stalker/admirer was a rip-off of Railgun’s Kuroko) but it was greatly entertaining.
Hanamaru Youchien: Despite the fear of many, including myself (I described it in the winter preview as a “sign of the End Times”), Hanamaru Youchien did not descend into some even-more perverted Kodomo no Jikan. In fact it was really a very cute and innocent type of comedy. What was even more surprising was that the focus wasn’t entirely on the children, and a pretty good relationship between Yamada and Tsuchi developed and played out with almost equal time to the kids’ antics throughout the show. Furthermore Gainax was very creative with their varied ED sequences and music, adding another fun element to the show.
Hidamari Sketch: Hoshimistsu: Despite never watching the previous season, I got talked into giving the series a try by Jesus159159159 at Sea Slugs and I did not regret it. A very light and fun comedy driven by some great characters. Two new characters were added for the season, and despite them being a little sparse in terms of screentime at first, they became very well integrated into the show. I’m also a huge sucker for SHAFT’s animation style, and I really like the way they used some of their usual techniques with some new ones in the show.
Best OP Sequence
Durarara – Uragiri no Yuuyake by Theatre Brook
Nothing else this season could hold a candle to this absolutely amazing OP. The music was great, the kind that gets you fired up for every episode. And the visual flow introduced a large cast of characters well and in a stylish way reminiscent of the opening sequence to the movie Snatch. There hasn’t been an OP this good in quite some time, and it’s likely to remain on my short list of favorites.
Best ED Sequence
TIE: Baka to Test to Shoukanjyuu – Baka Go Home by Milktub; Hidamari Sketch: Hoshimitsu – Sakura Sakura Saku by Marble.
BakaTest used this one for their first opening, changed it up for a few episodes, and then returned to the original and best. Like Durarara it had some good rock music, and combined it with some cool poses of the male characters. And then for the last episode the different couples were paired up together for more of that GOOD END feeling. Hidamari had an ED sequence with a very different feeling from the show, much more reflective and sentimental than the nearly 100% comedy of the show. Beautiful visuals and transitions combined with a great song that feels perfectly attuned to the theme of friendship that permeates the show. Excellent.
OTP of the Season
Shouko X Yuuji (Baka to Test to Shoukanjyuu)
Shouko was not afraid to use force nor trickery to claim her prize, and for that level of tenacity in the pursuit of love, I salute her. Yuuji may have endured stalking (really, it’s just ‘deep love‘) and physical restraint, but he was so tsundere for his consent-is-not-required future bride it was clear he had reciprocating feelings. After their day of being set up by their classmates Yuuji kept it from being so one-sided. I DAAAAWWW’ed several times at this couple, and it was both funny and cute to see their back and forth.
Nihon Hikkikomori Kyoukai Conspiracy Award
You may have thought that this was just a Gainax comedy, but the truth is far more insidious. Declining birth rates in Japan have been a major topic of discussion for some time, with an aging population that will be supported by an ever decreasing number of people in their working years. Financial and social collapse looms, and the shadow leaders of Japan have decided to take action. Through their vast conspiracy, these leaders proposed, financed, and green-lit Hanamaru Youchien. By portraying young children as always cute and pleasant and never whiny, messy or annoying, Hanamaru Youchien subtly pushes its viewers to find the prospect of having children more appealing than any tax credit or social welfare scheme possibly could. Just as planned.
Loss of Sanity Points Award
Sakaki’s elaborate and insidious revenge plot was stopped by…being hugged off a cliff. Let me repeat that, because it bears repeating: HE WAS HUGGED OFF A MOTHERFRAKKING CLIFF! Ookami Kakushi self-destructed in such a total and complete manner that everyone was left in either a state of RAEG or with a WTF look on their face for hours afterwards. And then episode 12 just completely changed all the dynamics, threw plot out the window, added a bunch of gag comedy, and had THE COLD-BLOODED ENFORCER OF THE OOKAMI LAW WEARING A PINK RABBIT-FROG OUTFIT. The fits of crazed laughter are coming back just thinking about it.
Hideyoshi (Baka to Test to Shoukanjyuu)
Awarded for it’s impact in the community and for being something we’ll be talking about long afterwards. Hideyoshi, the ‘third gender’, saw the bar set by other traps, stole it, and constructed a system of parallel space elevators to hang it tens of thousands of kilometers above the Earth beyond the reach of all who went before him. Not even Mako-cakes rivals his greatness. The washi pronoun using, lusted after by male classmates, ultra-trap has been responsible for swaying the sexual orientation of Shinn and inspiring a wave of trap-love among viewers. Complete with his own changing room and fanservice shots, Hideyoshi will be the trap that all other traps aspire to in the future.
EO’s Favorite Show
Baka to Test to Shoukanjyuu
When I think about my favorite show, it comes down to how much I enjoyed it. I got some incredulous comments when at the end of this past summer season I picked Sora no Manimani over Bakemonogatari as my favorite of that season. Bakemonogatari was definitely better in terms of artistry and witty conversations. It was very close. But I got more enjoyment out of SoraMani. This time Sora no Woto and Durarara were much more original with more developed settings. And Sora no Woto would have clinched the favorite series title if it didn’t end as it did. But BakaTest beat out the other contenders because I got the most enjoyment out of it. It had some cool touches to its animation, fun characters, wacky and enjoyable plots, and made me eagerly anticipate every new episode. I’m quite happy to know that a second season is coming sometime in the future.