John Sato’s Unexpected Surprise Award

Hi everyone! I know my name has been mentioned around here a few times, but for those of you who don’t know me I’m John Sato. I’m yet another anime/game blogger from the depths of the internet. Mystia was kind enough to let me tag along for the last few posts of his retrospective, so here goes nothing!

Without a doubt, the biggest, most unexpected surprise of the year as far as anime goes is Girls Und Panzer. For those of you unaware, this series follows a group of high school girls that decide to take up the traditional female martial art sport of – bizarrely enough – tank warfare. It sounds like. . .well, it sounds like a terrible idea, to be perfectly blunt. The magic is in the execution, though. Between its phenomenal pacing, actual characters, and superb action, Girls Und Panzer turned out to be the series I was most personally engaged and invested in this year. Considering the limited amount of time I’ve had to watch anime lately, and the fact that the core concepts of shows like K-ON hold little appeal to me, I think that’s rather impressive. Even if I liked it less, however, I’d still have to give it this award, since I fully expected it to be horrendous and it’s at the very least watchable.

Games are another story entirely, however. It’s hard enough trying to pick a game that was an unexpected surprise; it became almost impossible when I realized the lack of games I’ve played that were released this year. I would pick Eador: Genesis for this, but I don’t think it counts because it’s only the English translation that came out recently, not the game itself. That being the case, I think the winner of this award has to be Hotline Miami. This is a game that has surprised me every step of the way. When I first saw it, I thought it was ugly and uninteresting. I took one look and said, “No. I’m not playing this.” The first surprise came a few weeks later when my brother had me listen to some of the music. I’ve always been pretty open to new music, but this stuff really caught my attention. I still wasn’t convinced that I wanted the game at all, but I knew I liked the soundtrack, at least.

That was what sold me, ultimately. I listened to more and more of the tracks and decided that I just had to see the game that made use of them. So, I went out on a limb and bought the game, and then came surprise number two. I didn’t just enjoy Hotline Miami, I thought it was amazing! I was addicted in minutes and almost couldn’t stop playing, even after beating it a couple days later. During that time, surprise number three came along in the form of the story. I’d completely fallen for the way the game told its surreal story, and ended up enjoying more than I have any other video game narrative in a long, long time.

I can’t compare any of these surprises against each other and determine the most unexpected, but I can say that Hotline Miami as a whole has earned and deserved the most unexpected surprise award from me. The only true 2012 runner up I can think of would be FTL, for convincing me that a game can be fun and addictive even without being able to beat it.

That’s it for this post. I’ll see you again tomorrow as Mystia and I make our picks for the best anime of 2012! To steal borrow my compatriot’s words, have a good’un!

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About John Sato

I'm a writing & math tutor who blogs about anime and video games.
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