Was 2011 a great year for anime? What’s exciting is that a lot of people seem to think that it was. It made me happy to see a community less convinced that anime was going downhill and more convinced that it was climbing back up. From my perspective, it wasn’t as stellar a year as 2010, though being such would’ve been an incredible achievement. 2011 had only a couple of shows that I loved and only one that I’d consider among my favorites, but those shows appeal to me in such a way that they signify a future full of more things that I’m going to love (and with the Bakemonogatari sequels on the horizon, that looks pretty damn likely).
But I don’t want to just talk about 2011 in anime, because I was interested in such a variety of things this year. I’m going to talk about everything that I found really awesome about my 2011.
Things That Kicked Ass In 2011
I gave serious consideration to writing a full-length fanbook on Homestuck after reading it (for four days, nonstop). I’d do it, too, were it not for series creator Andrew Hussie frequently doing more thorough analysis of his own work than I’d even be capable of. And if he didn’t, there’d still be the hugenormous fanbase doing it already.
Homestuck is so far beyond the impossible that it’s very difficult to compare to anything else. The most I can think of is House of Leaves, which felt overwhelming when I first read it, but looks tiny compared to the endlessly gigantic Homestuck. And when I say gigantic, I don’t mean in length, though Homestuck is certainly the longest thing I’ve ever read by far. I mean in density—the sheer amount of shit that lurks behind the text and images (and flash movies and video games, etc). Because the series is so overwhelming, it’s difficult to say anything about it except point out just how overwhelming it is. I don’t even try to get others to read it—I haven’t pushed it on a single person as of yet, even though it might be my favorite thing that is a thing. It’s easier to just talk about it with Homestuck fans, which thankfully are the ones who introduced me to it, so I’ve got them.
Best of all, this is the gift that never stops giving. I read the whole archive while it was in the middle of a two month break creating the final flash movie in Act Five. Then once it came back, boosh, I’ve got reading material every single day. It’s a beauty to watch unfold.
2. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica
Also a gift that kept on giving me more than I expected. While at first I went gaga over the soul-crushing third episode, my marathon of the series later left me kind of underwhelmed—but only because I didn’t know it was going to play a role in redefining what I look for out of a favorite series. In 2011, characters became way less of a defining factor in why I love a series, not because I don’t love characters, but because I learned how to *make* my love of characters. And of plot, too, which became something important enough to me that I’m watching and loving Zeta Gundam. (That kind of says it all.)
Madoka was awesome because it gave people a show to love like no other and, I think, brought together the fanbase. It certainly made me feel more connected to the people at Otakon in a big way, seeing how huge the series was at the con. It also showed me how much harder it is to distinguish between the “hardcore” anime fanbase and the casual one in this age where every anime that comes out is readily available in a million easy ways. (All that separates us now is whether we download the shows for the better picture quality.)
Watching the first three episodes of Madoka at Otacon made me fall in love with the show all over again, and, perhaps with anime fans on the whole. Plus, unlike Homestuck, you could easily push this on just about anyone. I think if you wanted someone to get into modern anime, this should be their entry point.
3. The Philippines
I spent a whole month there! With ghostlightning! It was the most awesome thing I’ve ever experienced. Being with ghostlightning did so much to redefine my tastes and outlook on things that it makes me want to rewatch everything I’ve ever seen with my new perspective.
Hanging out with ghostlightning was an invaluable experience. It was like having a bridge built to an entire island of “self” that I had no way of reaching before. It came as a shocking experience when I came back to America, not for any cultural reasons, but because I couldn’t talk to ghostlightning every day anymore. You might be thinking, “well you talked to him on the internet all the time even before that,” but it’s not so easy—he’s a very busy family man with all the irons in the fire (all of them). Later on, he mused that I came at the perfect time, since he actually had time to spend with me back then. I don’t care if it takes twenty years, until his daughter is an adult and he’s living a little more comfortably—I’m definitely going to come and catch him at another time like that. We’ll have changed so much, and will change so much again… anyway enough of this faggoty bullshit.
Manila was awesome. End of story.
4. House of Leaves
Published in 2000, I got the chance to read this cult classic with perfect timing right before going to the Philippines where we’d discuss it at length and later do something very special with it. As mentioned in the Homestuck entry, this book was quite overwhelming and altered my entire idea of literature. Every bit as much as the plot, I remember the experience of being on my bed, turning these labyrinthine pages upside down to read them, all while listening to Slint’s creepy Spiderland album.
5. Tokidoki Balloon
Whether or not this series of posts successfully got the right reaction from its audience was really an afterthought to the creation of it, which was something endlessly glorious. Ghostlightning and I made a fake show, fake blogs to talk about it, fake comments on THAT Anime Blog, and mixed it all with very real and humorously terrible posts from my early days of blogging and ancient Owen posts, all done with even more stylistic suck than we thought possible. Then we presented the entire package to 2DT, who thought it was a real show. The levels of self-indulgence which happened here are incomparable.
My favorite anime of 2011. I only regret that I wasn’t watching it at the time that it was popular, and didn’t have any watching buddies afterward, either. While Madoka has been awesome to look back on and Fate/Zero has been awesome to experience with so many people, Steins;Gate is a more lonely watching experience, but nonetheless a show I care about much more than the others. It had some of my favorite dialog in anime and characters that were constantly entertaining to watch. It was hilarious when the show reached the arc where its visual novel roots suddenly became apparent, but it handled that element with such confidence that it came out the champion of the genre, and along with the new genre it’s helping to form alongside Madoka and Fate/Zero.
7. Video Games
Getting a lot more recent now. Towards the end of the year, I’ve found myself getting back into video games at long, long last. I’ve played through a number of short action games in the past few years, and even got highly into some of them (Uncharted 1, the first game I’ve ever gotten 100% completion on), but I’ve never taken the medium back into my heart and called myself a “gamer” again, even though I’ve wanted to. Something (probably—no, definitely being a NEET) finally awakened within me to start walking down that road.
The seeds were planted with Dark Souls, which I haven’t played enough of to call the best game ever, but it probably is, if just because Demons’ Souls graphics are so shitty in comparison that I can’t bring myself to play it anymore. I watched like three of my friends play through Dark Souls, and I’m a huge fan of it, but my gamerdom just didn’t awaken enough to keep me playing it. (Also Skyrim came out and my brother hogged the PS3.)
What watered the seeds was something totally unexpected: MapleStory Cygnus Knights for the iphone. I got an iphone 4 this year as a sort of packaged deal with a driver’s license and responsibility, and while waiting for hours in a variety of cancer wards, I started playing games on it. First was simple stuff like LineRunner, which I got bored of easily, so I decided to play an RPG. That’s when MapleStory came along and reminded me why I used to be such a big fan of the genre (and later also reminded me what I hate about the genre when it sent me on a gazillion fucking fetchquests and made me grind for hours, but I digress).
What next occurred was my brother’s excitement over the idea of getting a 3DS for Christmas. One of the games he was considering was Cave Story, an adaption of a cult favorite freeware Metroidvania shooter. On a whim, I gave the game a shot, and again was reminded what I love about the genre (as well as what I hate once again, such as ridiculously difficult bosses and multi-path stories).
The last screw in the gamertag was Persona 2: Eternal Punishment. Again, playing it was a whimsical decision that I didn’t expect would amount to much, and then a week had passed and I’d logged more than fifty hours in the game. And I changed my Christmas list to contain four more Shin Megami Tensei games.
8. Hourou Musuko
At the time of this writing, I still haven’t finished the show, and who knows if I will by the time this post goes up, but it doesn’t change how I feel. Nor should it—however good those last episodes are, Wandering Son is a story with lots before the beginning of the show and lots afterward. But it doesn’t mean I necessarily want to jump and read the manga. Rather, I just enjoy thinking about it as a very long story.
Why was this show so much more interesting to me than every other pastel-colored well-written adult drama? Probably because it was about adolescent sexuality, which is an endlessly fascinating subject to me, so it wins by default. Nothing wrong with that. But more importantly, and already discussed elsewhere, Saori. Wow.
9. Trial of the Golden Witch
The story is here. I’d reproduce it, but I know nobody gives a shit anyway. The long and short of it is, my friends and I have recorded something like 100 songs this year, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
10. Live Shows
Two bands that I’ve been wanting to see for years, Agalloch and Protomen, I got to see this year, which was very cool. Both were “holy shit I’m seeing my favorite band” kind of sensations. Seeing The Dear Hunter with Manchester Orchestra was more memorably for being my first long out-of-town drive by myself, but it was still a good show. Then there was Mastodon, who I can always count on for a good show. Oh! And I almost forgot about STEELY FUCKIN DAN. Also, I was in one.
11. Fate/Zero and Ben-to
I’ve banded these two together with great purpose: I watched them both while they were airing, while blogging them. I more or less episodically blogged an entire season for the first time this year, and it’s something I’ll never, ever do again, but am glad I got to do once. These two shows were the only ones really worth watching this season, and I loved both, though neither as much as I thought I was going to at the start. Still excellent entertainment, and in totally different ways, Fate/Zero being more of the high-class brilliance, and Ben-to more the Anime Is Awesome brilliance.
12. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
A cool book all-around and excellent way to follow up House of Leaves, but what was really special about it for me was the tale of a guy raising his little brother and being ultra-close with him. I’m even closer with my brothers than this guy, but it still resonated with me a lot.
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13. No Name
Just a quick shout-out to my best friend, the eternally nameless. There were a bunch of times this year where I got really wrapped up in myself or depressed, and then I remembered I have this fucking amazing friend and everything got better.
14. Crazy Ikuhara Shit
I decided to put Mawaru Penguindrum on hold until it’s over (which it should be at the time you’re reading this), but between that show and the realization of Enokido Yoji’s involvement in the explosively popular (to bloggers) Redline, crossed even with the renewed North American release of Revolutionary Girl Utena spawned a veritable rennaisance of looking at those men’s careers, and how they intersect with each-other and so many others. I put a lot of work into making those connections, and I find it one of the most interesting studies I’ve conducted into the background of anime. Then Ani no Miyako made it even more awesome.
15. I Hate Bee Train
Easily the best god damn blogging idea that I’ve ever had. 2011 was all about me falling in love with fail thanks to the influence of ghostlightning and Shinmaru. I learned how much fun it is to rage and hate at things if you let yourself enjoy it, and it’s turned out that watching Madlax has become a very enjoyable viewing experience for me. I sit through mind-numbingly trite bullshit and then I tear it a new asshole, and I love every minute of it.
I didn’t know what to expect when I started it. All I knew was that it was surprisingly addicting, and for a while I was really proud of my weekly post release schedule. That schedule’s fallen to shit about now, but when I remember, I’ve still been picking up episodes and trashing them. The best part is how it went from simple rants to more crazy shit like comics, videos, and an erotic hatefiction that is the hardest thing to read in the world. It’s sad that Is That You, Moatilliatta? no longer holds the crown as my favorite of my blogs, but against this, there was simply no competition.
16. Cirno and Purple Steve
Speaking of side blogs with release schedules that I was really proud of until they completely fell apart, CAPS was totally awesome for its short life. It was doomed to die because I just didn’t have that much interest in the plot, but what I wrote is some of the best, most complete chapters of fiction that I’ve written. It’s one of very few stories that I re-read and am actually kind of proud of. CAPS wasn’t the only thing I wrote this year—I started a shitload of unfinished projects, like I always do, though I got much farther in all of them than I usually would. This is where I’d link to a million side-blogs, but I’ll just leave them where they are unless requested. Also, a shout-out to Yahtzee Croshaw’s novel Mogworld which inspired me to write CAPS, and which I forgot I read this year.
17. Being a (Paleo)Lolicon
I don’t really know why, but being a lolicon was awesome this year—that’s the impression I get. One of my favorite revelations this year was the realization that I have a passion for lolis. Here’s a way of putting it: I love anime. My little brother loves anime. But he also has a passion for mecha, and as such enjoys mecha anime on a level unattainable by other anime. Likewise, I have a passion for lolis that isn’t necessarily the same as my passion for anime or any other thing. The way in which I love lolis and don’t give a shit about mecha even as I enjoy anime with those in them is the exact same as the way my brother loves mecha and doesn’t give a shit about lolis.
Coupled with this realization is simply that I’ve owned it. I always owned it, but now I own it without feeling like I have to explain myself. I spent lots of last year talking about my sexuality, and I hate all of those posts in retrospect. Bunch of tryhard nonsense. That’s why I was a little ambivalent about being in 2DT’s sex podcast, but I think it turned out really well, and I described something in there integral to the way I think about loli and every other kind of sexual thing that I probably can’t phrase any better than I did then.
I’ve got a post on 2011 in music, but of course the new stuff was hardly what I spun all year. The main things I remember listening to were a shitload of Mindless Self Indulgence, Portugal. The Man, and then Steely fucking Dan courtesy of ghostlightning getting me into them and the two of us making all kinds of memories by singing their songs everywhere we went. I got into drone and doom metal a lot this year, and listened to enough Boris to get completely fucking sick of them. Then of course, while I mentioned them in the 2011 music post as well, there was Shinsei Kamatte-chan, who became my favorite band (besides maybe Agalloch) in a heartbeat. I probably listened to more of them than anything else this year, and used their songs in more videos and wrote more short stories based on them. Then of course a metric fuck-shit stack of other bands I’m not gonna list.
I’m at ends a bit with driving right now, because on the one hand, I like driving, and on the other hand, I’m terrible at it, which makes me hate it. Somehow, I went from getting better at driving to getting worse at it, probably as the new experience smell wore off. In the time since getting my license, I’ve driven at least once every day. That probably sounds like something everyone does, but remember, I’m a NEET with a limited social life, so it’s actually kind of impressive. Mostly, though, it’s amounted to an excuse to spend more of my dad’s money on fast food. Oh well.
People kicked a special amount of ass this year. Whether it was people who were doing so much to help my family while my mom was going through chemotherapy, or people generally being people out and about and me coming to appreciate them more and more. I met insanely cool people this year, from everyone I got to hang out with in the Philippines to the people who’ve come to be my “group of friends” over the course of 2011.
And that would be a really romantic way to end this post, but I’m not a romantic, so…
Of course! Fucking alcohol! And cigarettes! Adulthood! I got hammered on one unforgettably glorious night in the Philippines, and later on another unforgettably glorious night in December on my friend’s 21st birthday. I spent most of the night sober and covered in my friend’s puke, but it was pretty awesome. It’s all Mike’s fault, though somehow he still wasn’t able to help me “become a man.” Oh well, there’s always next year.
And a bunch of other shit, but I’m lazy. Happy new year.