2011 was an amazing year for anime. As 2021 nears its end, it occurred to me that I’d done very little in honor of the many good anime series that are turning ten this year. That’s why I’ve put together two posts honoring my ten favorite anime of 2011. Each of the two posts will cover five anime series, as I share my personal reflections on them. Importantly, my selections are my personal favorites and not necessarily the ones with the highest production quality. Without further ado, let’s review the first five entries.
Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai
(We Still Don’t Know The Name of The Flower We Saw That Day)
When I think of Ano Hana, I think of how cute Menma is and how Jinta’s story with her made me cry a lot. Since I wasn’t watching very much anime in 2011, I didn’t see Ano Hana until years later. I think it was either in 2014 or 2015. I don’t have a specific memory attached to the experience of watching this anime, but I recall that it was one of several “tear-jerker” series and movies that I watched in rapid succession.
Importantly, stories like Ano Hana are usually not all sad, but also contain themes of moving on from trauma and regrets to accept the beautiful parts of reality. For me, that’s what Ano Hana is all about. Reality is messy and dramatic and everyone has issues. People can be bitchy, vindictive, and hard to understand. But Jinta needed a support group, and it was only thanks to the spirit of Menma that he reunited with the friends needed to keep him afloat. And it wasn’t just Jinta– all the teenagers had to deal with something painful, and were able to do so thanks to the spirit of that sweet and innocent girl from so long ago.
My favorite characters in Ano Hana were Jinta and Matsuyuki. There are certainly annoying things about Jinta , but I love his sensitivity and his faith in Menma. He may act grumpy or antisocial, but he’s the biggest softie of them all. As for Matsuyuki, he is probably the most disliked character of the cast because besides being stubborn and arrogant, he’s also pretty creepy with his Menma obsession. Nevertheless, I appreciate this character and can see myself in him– that is, myself when I was in a very bad place psychologically with Borderline Personality Disorder. Compared to some other characters, Matsuyuki’s character arc wasn’t resolved quite as neatly. But I found this refreshingly realistic. Someone like Matsuyuki– or myself– are simply always going to take longer to emotionally recover and calm down.
All I have to do is the read the title Blood-C and it makes me think of startling violence, frightening monsters, epic theme music, and an extremely visually appealing main female character. If I remember correctly, I watched Blood-C in 2013 when I was exploring the horror genre of anime. I loved it, and still enjoy an occasional re-watch to this day. I’ll never forget the first time I watched the scene with the spider-like monster that slaughtered everyone in class. Damn, that was something.
It’s true that this anime is not the best out there; the storytelling style is very simple, and there are problems with the character development. On top of that, series that exist almost entirely for a blood-fest are not everyone’s cup of tea. Even so, Blood-C remains special to me. It’s not only one of my favorite blood-fests, but also a somewhat psychological story that made me love and sympathize with the main character. For me, this anime is less about the obvious horror of grotesque deaths, and more about Saya’s personal horror at being manipulated, betrayed, and having her memories altered.
Naturally, my favorite character in Blood-C is the main protagonist, Saya. Ironically enough, my favorite character besides her is the mastermind antagonist, Fumito Nanahara. I like the way he is drawn and animated, with his particular mannerisms and soft expressions. The voice actor behind him (Kenji Nojima) is also part of why I like the character. Finally, Fumito is a type of villain I have always found intriguing: the intelligent experimenter who can casually throw aside ethics and respect for life in the name of satisfying his curiosity.
To be honest, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Fate Zero is a feeling of “Oh god, not this crap again.” There are certain aspects of this anime I do enjoy, but there are just as many that I dislike. In particular, I get very weary of grim-dark content that is bleak for its own sake. Regardless of my personal feelings, though, I really do respect Fate Zero as an incredibly well-made series. I started watching it in 2013 with a group of friends, but didn’t get into much. A year or two later, I finished it on my own, and ended up even less satisfied. Fate Zero is two things for me: firstly, an entertaining watch with beautiful audio-visuals, and secondly, a lesson in what happens when a writer pours too much of his own depression and nihilism into his work.
This is terribly unoriginal, but my favorite character in Fate Zero is Saber (Arthuria Pendragon). Her design, weapons, and fighting style are simply epic. I also like how she is one of the few characters who actually possesses a set of morals– and boy, do the other characters give her a lot of shit for it! Even though Saber falls into a sort of regretful depression in Fate Zero, she is still a character for whom hope remains. And if you watch Fate Stay Night, you’ll get to see Saber finally make a comeback and reach inner peace.
Hunter x Hunter
Although all of these series are in my top ten for the year 2011, only two of the five are what I would call “anime masterpieces.” Hunter x Hunter is one of those two. I love this anime so much, and it has so much content, that it’s daunting to write about– but I’ll try.
I’m still new to the HxH scene, so I still haven’t seen the old version, and I only watched the new version in 2018. Since then, I’ve already re-watched the show three times. I just can’t get enough of the well-written characters, the exciting story, the detailed fighting system with Nen, and the rich and unique world where it’s all set! There’s so much to love. This may be an unpopular opinion, but my favorite arc in HxH is the chimera ant arc, because it’s the one most full of psychological and philosophical exploration. To me, HxH is about searching and exploring, whether literally adventuring the world or figuratively seeking the meaning in our lives.
Denoting a single favorite character from the HxH cast is impossible, since there are several I love equally. Narrowing it down to three, I’d say my favorites are Kurapika, Killua, and Meruem the Ant King. There are lots of things I like or find interesting about each of these characters, but I only have time and willingness to write one for each right now. I have a strange kind of empathy with Kurapika since, in an abstract sense, we have both made choices that may be self-destructive to our psyches. Killua is awesome, adorable, and clever, and I admire the way he broke away from his toxic family. Mereum is one of my favorite antagonists in all anime, and there are hundreds of things I love about him, including his unique and sharp intellect.
Madoka Magica is the other anime on this list that I consider a 10/10 masterpiece. What comes to mind first is how much I love all the characters and their interactions throughout this epic series. I watched Madoka Magica for the first time in 2014. That was one of the darkest times in my life, and while watching Madoka Magica didn’t exactly help, it didn’t hurt, either. I just felt understood when I watched it. Due to its dark nature, it reflected and described what I was going through in story form. I’ll never forget that feeling of when an anime story understood me so well.
Madoka Magica is for me about the struggle of life for those who were deceived or naïve. How do you survive in this kind of world as it breaks down your ideals and fantasies? As it destroys your wishes and turns your feelings against you? Life is never easy or pretty, at least for me, so it makes sense that Madoka Magica continues showing these characters in strife, even in the third movie after the events of the series. That being said, this anime is not completely “Grim-dark,” but contains a good share of beautiful and cute moments, as well as themes of courage, growth, and hope. The positive elements might not be the most prominent ones, but they are important.
My favorite character in Madoka Magica is Sayaka Miki. Although our personality types are different, we have a lot in common. Particularly as a young adult, I shared her idealism, sense of justice, and the cheerfulness she tried to bring to her less adventurous friends. Sayaka’s story, at least as a mortal human, doesn’t end well. But since there’s magic and souls and whatnot in this anime, she is able to find redemption and purpose as a spiritual being similar to a warrior angel. Her human story is a cautionary tale for me and one I almost fell into myself. By now, though, I’ve matured a lot mentally and emotionally.
Thank you so much for reading and visiting Anime Rants today! Remember, this isn’t the end of my list of best 2011 anime. There are still five left! So next time, we will cover Mawaru Penguindrum, Mirai Nikki, Nichijou, Steins;Gate, and Yuru Yuri! Until then, take care!