Obligatory Valentine’s Day Related Post: Our Favorite Couples of 2011

Ah Valentines Day. A time for anime bloggers to write about romance and dating. As I understand there are also other rituals involved with this holiday but I am not privy to such mystical secrets. So we present to you our favorite couples from 2011.  As with every year with anime there are a fair number of very standard romances, some bizarre ones, some Tomino styled ones, some that never go anywhere, and even some dreadful ones. We both selected a pair that we though were both well written and entertaining. Feel free to comment below on who you would pick from 2011 as well.

Looking at our picks, I realize both of them have pretty sad ends. They aren’t bad endings, but they are melancholy for sure.

Ringo and Shoma (Mawaru Penguindrum)

I won’t say they are the best couple. That is just crazy talk. Everyone in Penguindrum is a crazy messed up person with more baggage than an airport. But Ringo and Shoma are a very fascinating couple and that alone secures their place in my favorite couple spot of 2011. They started off as strangers both obsessed with different goals that happened to be more interconnected then they first assumed. Ringo is an obsessed stalker devoted to seducing the man her sister loved at any cost. Shoma is equally obsessed with trying to find the Penguindrum to save his sister but is amazingly passive in his attempts to accomplish his mission. As the series goes on they both learn from the other as they grow as a couple. Ringo sees the folly in her single-minded devotion and Shoma learns that he must make a stand to get what he wants. Their wildly divergent personalities oddly complement each other. There are several major complications that keep them part when their pasts are revealed but it does not stop them from coming together in the end. Although their time together as an actual couple may be short, it is unforgettable. Their story engaged me and added to the story despite their major dysfunctions.

Jintan & Menma (AnoHana)

From the very beginning we know that the story in AnoHana is going to be a bittersweet one full of the ups and downs of childhood and all the regrets that go along with it. Menma died when everyone was very young and it blew apart the circle of friends, but Menma’s spirit brings them all back together to confront each other and the future. Jintan and Menma’s love is a simple one, afterall it comes from a simpler time, yet because of the tragedy it has distorted everyone’s relationships thereafter. There is a moment between Jintan and Menma that moved me so completely that it is probably why I picked them above all others. They are sitting at the table, like they have so many times before, but now the weight of the past has started to come down and the barrier cracks as Jintan talks about granting Menma’s wish and her disappearing. It was amazingly heartfelt and open. I could literally see Jintan realizing he loved her. Jintan is stuck, but he doesn’t understand why, he has simply put away the past instead of acknowledging it. With Menma’s appearance the wheels start to turn ever so slightly, I find his emotional journey just as compelling as this impossible romance.

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Narutaki & Hisui VS. 2011

We are here on the red carpet in scenic Brooklyn for the 5th annual Reverse Thieves Anime and Manga Awards. All the stars are here and decked out in their finest. There has already been a bit of drama outside before the awards tonight. We saw Hayao Miyazaki punch out Gendo Ikari over a seating dispute. Then one of the K-ON! girls was seen with a male escort which raised a few eyebrows and possibly caused several suicides. There were also some red faces when Sheryl Nome and Ciel Phantomhive showed up in the same dress. But all that aside we are gathered here today to look back and praise the best and the brightest while scorning the foul beasts that waste our precious time. The viewing audience at home is also encouraged to send in their own votes to see how they stack up to the votes of the academy.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #130

GEN Magazine is a new online offering from small publisher GEN Manga Entertainment, Inc.. The first issue features four very different stories from sumo and boxing to oddball comedy to fantasy and finally to horror. The first Wolf was a bit hard to decipher at first, I thought perhaps it was a crime series but by the end it had a dramatic sports feeling. I’m curious how the budding friendship between Shota and Naoto will affect their separate threads. Also on the curious drama end was KAMEN where a masked warrior wakes up to find himself in a war-torn countryside. This story has a familiar, kind of like Guin Saga, feeling. But as with most fantasy stories, one chapter is not enough to get a feel for the world and mythos it is building yet. The drama is finished out with Souls where a mysterious woman confronts a girl’s mother about her past grievances. There wasn’t enough time to build the tension and emotion in the story so the resolution doesn’t produce a great reaction. My reactions were spot on for VS Aliens though with its absurd humor. Kitaro is minding his own business in school when Aya approaches him saying she believes another girl, Sana, is actually an alien. What sold me was Sana’s reaction to the whole thing, I chuckled quite a lot. The art in this anthology stands out because each series is dramatically different from each other but all leaning to the more raw end. While odd at times and indie, it never comes off as pretentious. I enjoyed three out of four stories so I call this a successful first issue!

I want to be clear what it means when GEN Magazine says it is an indie manga collection. For better or for worse this is not the AX Alternative Manga magazine. These are not radically experimental manga that break with the formula and structure of traditional manga. This is your more standard forms of manga from a small publisher that you would not normally think of alongside names like Shueisha and Kodansha. These are standard story types with artists you most probably have never heard of. But this is not a bad thing. Every manga anthology tends to have a different feel. If you had three baseball manga you can pick out which one is from Shonen Sunday, Shonen Jump, and Afternoon just by their style. So even something like the boxing manga in this anthology may have manga tropes you have seen in more mainstream titles but it also has a unique vibe. Like Narutaki said the titles contained within feel a little more raw than you may be used to. You can tell the artists don’t have many (if any) assistants due to smaller budgets so the backgrounds are very infrequent and some of the art looks less polished than you would see in bigger magazines. On the other hand, the titles also seem freer structure and less merchandise controlled than selections from the big boys. The two titles that stuck out for me were VS Aliens and Souls. I just had to say that VS Aliens in my opinion feels very influenced by Haruhi without being a carbon copy. Not exactly sure where it is going but I am curious. I also did not like Souls but I freely admit that horror is my least favorite genre so very few horror manga tickle my fancy. Wolf and KAMEN were enjoyable but I would need a few more chapters before I could give any sort of definitive opinion on them. Wolf reminded me of Ashita no Joe while KAMEN struck my as a fantasy version of Parasyte. Reading GEN left like reading original concept doujinshi with the benefit of the structure and reliability of a professional magazine. It is a magazine for people who want something outside of the mainstream without going into avant-garde pretentiousness.

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