I don't mean this to be some vote contest like the annual OP award campaign is, but a lot of anime/manga came out in 2011 and not everything was talked about, and we only have a few more days to give recognition to those titles. So, as the Fall 2011 season comes to a close, and we too turn the page on this year, feel free to give awards to titles you enjoyed/didn't enjoy and tell everyone about them. Next season is pretty ugly looking, so maybe hidden gems or loud bombs from last year would be worth looking over to bide the time. Be sure to give a brief description, and feel free to comment off of each other's awards. Try to make it one award → one title.
Terek's Awards: Best Overall, Most Underrated, Most Overrated, Most Ambitious, Guiltiest Pleasure, Most Mediocre, Biggest Bomb, Biggest Implosion, Most Likely Title to Check On in a Year, Nobody Talks About This
Note that an asterisk * indicates the title is an adaption, but the flagged title is the 2011 release.
Best Overall - Puella Magi Madoka Magica (anime)
Madoka was one of the most popular and engaging anime titles in 2011, and popularized a lot of literary critic terms like "deconstruction" and "subversion". I wouldn't say Madoka did anything exceptionally well, but it was a solid, well rounded title that balanced plot, characters, and atmosphere. It was a thrill to watch and talk about, and didn't require a degree in anime to appreciate.
Most Underrated - Fate/Zero (novel/anime*)
This might raise some eyebrows. F/Z is very popular, but it hasn't seemed to click with new viewers. Many of the most passionate voices supporting the series are established TYPE-MOON or Fate/stay night fans, and since the anime is basically a novel to anime transcription, it maintains a novel's prose and is merciless to fans who have inadequate translations or aren't constantly paying attention. For a brand as recognizable as Fate/, FZ is a quality work that isn't getting the attention it probably should.
Most Overrated - Steins;Gate (visual novel/anime*)
I bleached about this anime a lot, but it's not really all that terrible. But it isn't very good, either. It has an intriguing premise, but so-so execution, and is marred by forgettable, shallow characters who hardly develop over the series length. At times, the author struggles with keeping a consistent logic/organization of ideas and everything comes across as amateurish. I haven't seen a show with as much bloated enthusiasm for a "quirky" otaku title since Lucky Star.
Most Ambitious - Mawaru Penguindrum (anime)
A candidate for Guiltiest Pleasure, Penguindrum will top many anime of the year lists, for good reasons. It has an interesting plot but is thematically driven with undertones of strong social criticism. Symbolism is omnipresent, referencing famous anime both as a time constraint and to illustrate points. The viewer is perpetually challenged toward critical thinking. It's well directed title, but too abstract at times, though I suspect this abstraction is not all of the cultural references being understood yet.
Guiltiest Pleasure - Mirai Nikki (manga/anime*)
Most Mediocre - Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai. (anime)
Ano Hana shares a lot in common with Steins, and these awards are almost inter-changeable. Both had good premises mauled by their characters, though Steins developed its plot better, while Ano Hana managed its character stories more effectively. However, I consider Steins better because it continued to tease/thrill the audience in its later episodes, and made noticeable, incremental progression with each episode. Ano Hana twiddled its thumbs for every episode after the first and continued to stagnate well into its final episodes, with a pedestrian, tepid resolution. "Meh" = perfect one word summary of this title. A lot of people share my sentiments, though, Ano Hana doesn't share the same lop-sided praise Steins gets.
Biggest Bomb - Guilty Crown (anime)
I dropped this anime 400,000 times…in 12 seconds.
Aspiring to be this season's Geass, Guilty Crown exemplifies everything with anime gone wrong. It is an unholy marriage of incongruous ideas and massive budget, creating a dense, cluttered, incoherent chaos. One can't apply logic, reason, or a liberal coat of paint to this title and expect to come away with anything satisfying. Though I wouldn't call it a waste of time - I actually use the 22 minutes during which Guilty Crown flashes before my eyes to ponder the philosophical mysteries of the universe, like what is the meaning of life, do humans have a destined love set at birth, or if God is omnipotent, is he omniscient?
Biggest Implosion - No.6 (novel/anime*)
No.6 was so popular at one point a wikia was made dedicated to the franchise, which has promptly been abandoned. Like several other titles, it had a strong early premise, but didn't live up to its initial suggestions. Unlike the similar Ano Hana that spluttered, breathless, across the finishing line, No.6 didn't make it that far - it did face plant right into a landmine, resulting in an almost hilariously bad, comic self-destruction. sniff Smell that? It's the sweet scent of anime immolation.
Most Likely Title to Check On in a Year - Magico (manga)
This is a manga released earlier in the year about a mage and his bride. It was marginally unusual premise, but didn't feel like a very strong title to me - it came across as average, un-exceptional shounen. But it's still around, so I am hoping that the author will move beyond the basic conventions he's used to get started and present something different sometime in the future. I'll probably take my own advice and ignore it until sometime in late 2012, if it is still alive by then.
Nobody Talks About This - Shakugan no Shana III (light novel/movie/anime*)
So weird. Six years ago, Fate/stay night and Shakugan no Shana were two of the most talked about anime titles. But even with the most dramatic part of the entire series, Shana III isn't getting any love. Heck, I'm not even watching it. What gives? o_O