Was trying to think of a good post to start back with and decided I wanted to post about the most surprising anime of 2011. It isn’t something we are going to cover in our 2011 Awards Podcast and there were some anime that I really want to talk about. Every year there are anime that come out of nowhere proving to be some of the best anime around and that is what this list is about.

5. Tiger & Bunny

Ok, maybe Tiger is a bit lame at times, but honestly he is a great lead.

This show looks stupid no matter which angle you are looking from. The idea of someone sticking real sponsors into anime isn’t new, but it is the NASCAR vibe that comes off it that makes you facepalm. Not only are they real ads, but the ads are being sported by the characters themselves. What is surprising is how good the anime actually is. The characters, story, action, and even the ads all fit in nicely. The super hero down on his luck theme works very well into the series. Kotetsu proved to be a great lead that made you want to watch more just to see what he would do next. In the end this wasn’t an anime that I would sing high praises for, but it is a solid anime worth watching and it is a prime example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

4. Nichijou

Sometimes you just have to watch it to understand what is going on.

I hated Nichijou. Episode 6 was funny, but 1-5 was hard to sit through.. Some of the bits were funny, but overall I just wasn’t amused by it so much. By the time I was ready to quit I decided to keep going because I thought it was going to be a 13 episode series and I figured I’d just finish it off. It was much to my dismay did I found out, at episode 12 none the less, that it was actually going to be 26 episodes long. I raged hard and wanted to be set free from this awful anime, but that is when things suddenly got better. Maybe it was because it grew on me or maybe it was because the setting changed a bit and I started to find it more amusing, but from episode 14 on the series suddenly went from a pain to a joy to watch. I even looked forward to watching it on Saturday nights and I even raged when there was one night that I couldn’t watch it right away. In the end I really did enjoy Nichijou a lot, but if I were to watch it again, I’d probably just skip to episode 14.

3. Mawaru Penguindrum

I wonder if 1 will let me borrow that when he is done with it.

When we got to see the PVs for this anime I was under the impression that it was a slice of life comedy about three siblings living with penguins… I couldn’t have been more wrong. Even though my first impression was wrong, Penguindrum was a fantastical anime that excited me and each episodes ending made me even more curious about what was going to happen next. The stars of the show were the penguins because it was fun watching them get into their miscellaneous adventures. Both the music and art of the show stood out too. The OST is filled with great tracks you’ll listen to for years to come and the stylistic art makes this series stand out from most other anime. As much as I liked the show I will admit that I don’t think all the pieces of the story fit well at the end, but the ride was still pretty darn good.

2. Nurarihyon no Mago: Sennen Makyou

Nura's back is going to get pretty full once he is done equipping his entire parade.

Season one of Nurarihyon no Mago was extremely ordinary. It wasn’t bad, but it did not stand out from the tons of Shounen series I’ve watched. The characters were bland and the action plentiful, but that was too be expected with a shounen series. After season one ended I was left with a good feeling and was pumped to hear that plans for season 2 were already under way, however, the thing I didn’t expect was how much darker the show was to become. Season 2 right away moved into a much darker setting of the show. They even changed the color tones of the show to depict the darker turn that the series was taking. From the start people were getting killed and the threat of violence was more real than ever. The rest of the season didn’t let up either. I don’t want to spoil it, but when you think things are looking up, well, they really aren’t. The season ended fairly bleak leaving much open and making me even more excited about season 3.

1. Ben-Tou

Some bastards are just too lucky...

Ben-Tou gets number one not because it is the best anime on the list, but because it is easily the most surprising anime of 2011. The premise is beyond stupid and at first glance is easy to dismiss as a POS series. In fact I did dismiss the series at first when we did our fall preview, but when I actually sat down and watched episode 1 I was overwhelmed by how much I liked it. The characters, comedy, and action are pitch perfect. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll get drawn into a series about high schoolers fighting over half priced lunches. If you haven’t seen it yet, then you just don’t know what you are missing out on.