It's spring, and we all know what that means. Not only is it March Madness, spring is also the changing of the anime guard. We bid a fond farewell to the long fall season anime, and the short winter season anime, and welcome in a whole new batch of spring 2012 anime.
For a thorough spring preview, there's no better site than http://thecartdriver.com/spring-2012-anime-season-preview/
My take on things is a little more melancholy, however. I look at the value of the spring season in terms of, 'what are we losing in order to gain these new series?' If we lose more good series than we gain, then I wish the spring season had never happened. Anime rarely, if ever, covers in full the source material it is working from. Apparently the best business model is to tease viewers with an anime about a source, and then suspend the anime and force them to buy the original source material to learn anything more. This works for manga, video games, books, just about anything you could imagine. So almost every anime dies half-way, working as simply an infectious agent of curiosity into the minds of its hosts, who are driven by a despairing need to know 'what happens' into the high-cost followups of the addictive drug they were hooked onto at a low-price discount.
The exceptions to these models are generally kids' shows, whose high ratings are good enough to be supported by merchandise sales and commercials during the tv show, and extremely good series, whose blu-ray disks sell so well any company would be a blind fool not to make more of the same. ((This happened with Bakemonogatari, K-on, and Madoka Magica)). Unless you're one of these chosen few stellar sellers, your source material will, most likely, never be completed, and the anime will always be more a requiem for lost souls, a dirge to defeat, than the entertainment we hoped for when we began.
So, realistically speaking, the series that are ending, without reaching any true resolution, could not have been continued into the spring season. The business model says they must first sell extremely well, which fulfills business model C, or be retired and the source material needs to attract the remaining fans, which fulfills business model A. But artistically speaking, it's stupid to start a series without finishing it. The only artistic reason for quitting one season so that you can shift resources to another, is if the new story is simply more deserving than the old ones. The spring season, to me, seems unlikely to forward this goal:
This is what we're losing among the worthwhile to watch series (as far as my fact checking is accurate:)
Mirai Nikki, Chihayafuru, Bakuman, Bleach, Papa no Iukoto, Prince of Tennis, Amagami SS, Guilty Crown, Senhime Zesshou Symphogear, Shakugan no Shana, Zero no Tsukaima, Nisemonogatari, and Rinne no Lagrange.
Thirteen series is a giant hole to fill. So what do we get in return?
Continuing ranked series include:
Naruto, One Piece, Smile Precure, Hunter x Hunter, Fairy Tail, and Gundam AGE.
Continuing watchable series include: Area no Kishi and Mouretsu Pirates.
A grand total of eight series. Ouch.
Returning ranked series:
These are sure to be good, even though they haven't started yet, because they're continuations of already good series. These include Fate/Zero and Saki Achiga-hen.
Returning watchable series:
Another season of Kimi to Boku and Kore wa Zombie Desuka? can't be bad, since the originals were fun. This gets us 4 assuredly good returning series.
Complete Unknowns that Might be Good:
We would need 9 of these for the spring season to be as good as the winter season. Which will they be?
Hyouka, written by the author of Full Metal Panic! and animated by Kyoto Animation, should be good.
Uuchuu Kyoudai should be good because the manga has won awards.
The same for Sakamichi no Apollon
Medaka Box should be good because the author is Nisioison, the author of Bakemonogatari and Katanagatari. He's a rather prolific genius, huh?
And after that? None of them really leap out at me. Maybe Sankarea's good. Maybe Kuroko no Basuke, maybe Jormungand, maybe Shining Hearts, maybe Natsuiro no Kiseki. . . If all the maybes are good, the spring anime season will equal the winter anime season in quantity of fun shows, or even surpass it. But that's a big maybe. And the larger problem is that even if a show is worth watching, we lost so many ranked shows from the listing that the overall quality is sure to drop. It's nigh impossible to replace Bakuman, Shana, Bleach, Prince of Tennis, Nisemonogatari, etc, with any equivalent lineup.
It's fine to be excited about the upcoming spring anime season, and I'll be sure to provide first impressions once it's actually arrived. But all signs point to a letdown, a collective deflation of whatever divine spirit that was buttressing the 2011 anime lineup finally falling apart. The old series that started in the fall of 2011 got us this far into the next year, they can go no further. From here on 2012 has to support itself -- and it just can't. 2012 is no 2011.