It is time for the most anticipated and respected anime awards show of the year! (De gustibus non est disputandum.) On the Speakeasy we looked back at the trends that defined anime and manga in 2010. This is an examination of the individual titles and characters that made the biggest impact on us this year. We discuss what made us laugh and cry (for the better and the worse.) Feel free to chime in with your picks as well. If you have a suggested category you would like us to use next year just leave us a comment and we will try to work it in next year.
I really enjoy doing this post. Yeah, everyone does one, but that is because they are fun! For good or ill I know what kind of year I’ve had when I do this post.
Best Anime of 2010 or the Junmai Daiginjo-shu of Anime
Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn by Sunrise I know it seems impossible but Gundam Unicorn might actually be the one modern series that a majority of Gundam fans can get behind without their normal bickering. It incorporates the newest and flashiest technology while keeping true to the strength and spirit of the original Universal Century series. If you did not know better you would assume that Yoshiyuki Tomino played a part in the creation of this series for who seamlessly it works itself into the universe. The characters for the series harken back to the former archetypes set by its predecessors while not seeming like clones. Obviously a good deal of money and love was poured into this series because it consistently looks amazing. I look forward to learning the secrets of the Laplace Box and the RX-0.
Runner up: House of Five Leaves by Manglobe An absorbing and atmospheric character based historical drama. Based on seinen manga it is an adult work for both sexes that continues the tradition of great noitaminA anime.
Giant Killing by Studio DEEN When thinking this over, I had to ask myself what was I most anxious to watch each week? What did I want another season of (and thought it could sustain it)? I arrived at my answer pretty quickly. It was Giant Killing’s approach to characters that impressed me throughout the season. Never did the show bang you over the head with who these people were, instead we were shown through small actions, bits of conversations, and of course their approach to soccer. And best of all we got to see everyone involved when it comes to sports from the players to the fans, from the press to the managing staff. Everyone had a role but our main character was not a star or up and coming player, but rather the coach. Tatsumi makes this show and gives a new perspective for a sports anime. Perhaps Giant Killing isn’t the most thought-provoking showing of the year, but it did things just a little bit differently and it never faltered.
Runner up: Kuragehime by Brain’s Base (second mostly because I haven’t seen how it ends yet) This is a very absorbing comedy about a house full of girl geeks whose lives get turned upside down when cross-dressing Kurnosuke takes an interest in them. This is the most genuine depiction of geeky girls I’ve seen to date without being pandering. And it is also turning into a tender romance as well.
Anime Man of the Year or Manlier than Isaiah Mustafa
Toma Kamijo from Toaru Majutsu no Index Yeah. I picked Toma Kamijo. I know everyone just considers A Certain Magical Index the world’s most inefficient Railgun delivery system but I actually like the stories involving Toma and Index as well. Toma has the very unusual power of a totally defensive ability of power negation. From what I have seen characters with defensive abilities are almost always less popular than characters with offensive powers. I think it makes him stand out from the normal shonen protagonist while keeping the fights more interesting and creative in the process. I also find the fact that he is an amnesic interesting in the fact that we knew the character before he gained amnesia so his memory loss is not a back story delaying device. Also they bring up his amnesia just enough that it is a problem for him but never letting it define him. Finally he delivers a running uppercut and flying right hook to a petite nun voiced by Rie Kugimiya. That alone should have earned him an eternal fan following.
Shizuo Heiwajima from Durarara!! This was a pretty easy choice. Durarara!! had its up’s and down’s, but Shizuo was consistently the highlight of the show. A bartender in Ikebukuro, complete with garb, but also the strongest fighter and one of the most feared in the city as well. When he first appears he is hurling a vending machine, and this wouldn’t be the first or last time for that, then we quickly learn he knows a bit about the nefarious Izaya and is a good friend of the headless, motorcycle riding Celty. Yeah, Ikebukuro has a lot of crazy supernatural goings on and Shizuo super-strength just might be related as well. But Shizuo doesn’t want to be violent, it has led him to heartbreak, his control is always on the verge of breaking but we get to see him finally embrace who he is and even see a bit of his journey of redemption.
Anime Woman of the Year or A Good Woman is Hard to Find
Erika Kurumi from Heartcatch PreCure! Narutaki and I certainly had a hard time picking a woman of the year for 2010. I myself had to go to a show for little girls to find someone but within that show there were a great selection of characters to choose from. I picked Erika most because she deviates a bit from my standard choices (I would normally pick Itsuki). She is certainly the most standard girly girl of the 4 Cures with dreams of becoming a world-famous designer. She is energetic, optimistic, and filled with seemingly limitless self-confidence. She is genuinely friendly and loves meeting, helping, and encouraging others. But she is not just a prefect Mary Sue. While she is totally gung-ho about things she is passionate about she tends to be a slacker in all other fields putting off anything she does not care about. While she is super personable she also tends to forget about personal boundaries and tact. She can also be petty and jealous especially when it comes to her sister who has done more than her. But like the rest of the Cures one of the main themes of the show is each of them overcoming their flaws as they grow as people as well as magical girls. She is an utterly charming character who is a great role model for any of the girls watching the show.
Nino from Arakawa Under the Bridge Nino’s weird-status, though perhaps not so weird as her neighbors, puts her on top for me. Yes, she is a woman who believes she is an alien from Venus and has decided to live in an odd commune under a bridge, but that just shows her independence! Her straight-forward and simple approach to the world makes hee way she sees things actually quite perceptive; she clears away the clutter and is even poignant at times. This is shown mostly through he relationship with Kou a guy who at first is completely bogged down by the expectations of society. One of my favorite lines to him was, “We want to know who you are not what you have.” Brilliant.
Best Long Running Manga Arc or Why You Keep Reading 20 Books into the Series
The Marineford Arc – One Piece by Eiichiro Oda (Ch. 549-580) The Marineford Arc is the conclusion of the series if arc with a solo Luffy trying to save his brother from being executed. The final leg of the rescue ends with an all at war between the marines and the Whitebeard pirates and their allies. It is a nonstop series of fights between old favorites like Sir Crocodile and Smoker, some characters who had only been hinted at like Jimbei and Admiral Akainu, or new characters like Vista and Vice-Admiral Dalmatian. It ends with some unexpected deaths and a dramatic and series altering conclusion. An unforgettable arc in an unforgettable series.
The God Killer Arc – Kekkaishi by Yellow Tanabe (Ch. 170-current; English release) The current goings on of Kekkaishi are pretty heavy and involve a lot of players, both old and new, creating a wide scope. When a powerful spirit landed in Karasumori, Yoshi and Tokine were on it, but things quickly spiraled out of control and Tokine ends up destroying the God because she didn’t have a choice. However, this incident set in motion a major investigation and we soon learned that Gods were being taken out all across the land, now making Tokine the prime suspect. Everyone is affected by this and even Yoshimori’s mother may know something. It’s a family affair and much, much more as this engrossing mystery continues to build.
Worst Thing I Watched or Just Because Twitter Likes it Doesn’t Make it Good
Angel Beats! by P.A. Works I am not one to stick to the theory that a leopard cannot change his spots. I wish to believe that it is hard for people to change but they can surprise you if you let them. That said I also do not ignore everything I have seen in the past being irrelevant as well. So when everyone insisted that despite its origin from Jun Maeda that Angel Beats! was totally different from any of their past works and that by not watching it I was doing myself a disservice I was skeptical. But Angel Beats! show itself to be a Key show as its very heart that just had a clever new coat of paint on it. It still had the same emotionally manipulative maudlin story as its core and any action or social commentary was just window dressing to the standard Jun Maeda story I despise. Also throwing on an all girl band to cash in on the popularity K-ON! did not win it any points in my mind as well. Yes I am a monster for not liking this show and I do not care.
Yosuga no Sora by feel. It seems there is always one show a year that I watch for some unknown reason and then want to claw my eyes out afterward. Yosuga no Sora is based on an incest, harem game. Yeah, this show was not something that was in any way, shape, or form going to appeal to me. Still besides the fact that there is a lot of sexual situations and nudity, this show is utterly boring with lifeless characters. It is also the show that has reminded me they really need to get a handle on TV shows, this should have been direct to video porn.
Most Desirable Piece of Merchandise or The Best Readers Would Buy This For Us
Crocodile EX Model Portrait of Pirates Figure Sir Crocodile has been one of the best villains in One Piece so who would not want to own a figure of him? I have always found his mixture of classical pirate and mafia don and very unique stylization. Plus that big gold hook is very catchy. If anything I would love to get all the Portrait of Pirates figures I don’t have but for now that is just a dream.
King Kazuma Figma Seeing Summer Wars on the big screen was one of the highlights of the year. The moment I saw King Kazuma on screen, I knew I must have a figure of him! Luckily this year they decided to oblige.
Best Convention Guest or Best Person No One at the Convention Went to See
Yuji Mitsuya All you have to do is look back at my Otakon 2010 report to see why he was an amazing guest. Although he was mostly ignored by the attendees because he was an older voice actor it turned out he was a spectacular speaker. The amount of insight he had into the anime industry was amazing. He was willing to talk at length about anything and everything he was asked in a friendly and candid manner. If he ever comes to another anime convention you owe it to yourself to attend any panels he is at.
Kenji Kamiyama The reason why I always attend AnimeNEXT is because when they get a guest, it is usually a very good one. And since the con is medium-sized, there is much more access to them! For 2010 they had the incredible Kenji Kamiyama who directed Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex among other things. Best of all he was very talkative to both the fans in his panels and to the press during the round robin interview with him.
Thing I Wish People Would Stop Talking About or We Should Just Rename it the K-ON! Award
K-ON! by Kyoto Animation Just when you thought that all the talk about K-ON!! would let K-ON! fade a bit from memory Bandai USA decided to throw money right out the window and pick up the first season. Now people are arguing about the dub, the songs, the packaging, and the release schedule. They are also people saying that they will only buy a Blu-ray release. But quite frankly I could care less. It is a niche show that a majority of the fans are going to find some petty insignificant reasons not to buy. So I would rather they just stop talking about K-ON! and the fans can silently push Bandai one step closer to death as opposed to doing it in the noisy fashion they are doing now.
K-ON!! by Kyoto Animation Hot on the heels of the hit first season, this year we got more of this show. As far as I could tell K-ON!! was the most moving anime ever created in the history of the medium, it changed people’s lives forever. Please, spare me. It was inescapable, and just when I thought I would be free, because this audience moves on to the next thing so fast it makes my head spin, they announced a movie. So this show will probably land in this same category next year!
Series I Unexpectedly Liked or Gravy and Biscuits with Grape Jelly
Zettai Karen Children by Takashi Shiina As much as a might be loath to admit it I actually have really enjoyed Zettai Karen Children. It has a distinctly loli vibe in the first part and anyone who drops the series or even hate it is fully justified in their feelings. But if you can tolerate such distasteful elements then there is actually a solid story and some great humor involving some very enjoyable characters. The action scene can be quite well done and some of the psychic powers are inventive. I would never pretend that the series is deep but it is enjoyable and has a brisk pace. It also helps that the time skip has removed some but not all of the creepy factor in the manga but you have to read quite a bit to get up to it.
SD Gundam Sangokuden Brave Battle Warriors by Sunrise All of the spin-off SD Gundam series have a pretty terrible reputation, but if they are anything like this Three Kingdoms version I would welcome them! It is totally ridiculous and played pretty straight. Very funny and very entertaining. I especially enjoy seeing Zakus as civilians.
Best Short Manga or Short Manga Have Plenty of Reasons to Smile
Tenken by Yumiko Shirai Tenken is a smart and mature story that uses the classic Japanese legend of Yamata no Orochi to tell its own story with its own message. It is a tale of urban fantasy for adults which in an unexplored segment of the US manga market. The characters are somewhat simple but compelling and there is a strong love story at the center of everything. It tells a complete story in one book making the ideal manga to pick up if you want a change of pace in your normal reading habits but don’t want to take a big risk with your pocketbook.
Magic Knight Rayearth by CLAMP (Dark Horse English Re-Release) This was one of the first manga I read back when TokyoPop was Mixx, it was a special time indeed. But having a new translations and new release for this beautiful fantasy series is most welcome.
Worst Character of the Year or Please Die in a Fire
Fumiaki Uchida from Occult Academy If anyone person sabotaged Occult Academy from living up to its potential in the episode it is undoubtedly “Uchida Bunmei.” Maya Kumashiro was cool main character that really hooked you into the series. But then you after the second episode you quickly realize that Bunmei and Maya share the position of main character with Bunmei getting several episodes almost entirely devoted to his escapades. His whiny and self-absorbed nature does little to endear you to his cowardly and banal antics. His courtship with Mikaze Nakagawa is creepy and awkward and leads to an ultra icky porn kiss. Also his selfish actions in the last episode do little to make up for his heroics.
Shinra Kishitani from Durarara!! Since this is a character that I had such a bad feeling about that I had to write an article about it, I figure he belongs here. I felt suspicious of him from the beginning but as things are revealed about Celty’s past, I began to loath him. The way he interacts with Celty disturbs me and I don’t feel he has her best interests at heart. Get away from this creepy, controlling jerk Celty! FREE CELTY!!
Funniest Series the Sakuya Aizawa Award
Shinryaku! Ika Musume by TV Tokyo This is Keroro Gunso with a cute girl instead of a frog and that is not a horrible thing. The show follows a simple fish out of water ineffective invader formula that works well. Every plot line is either Ika Musume learning about the surface world or enacting some silly scheme. The show is cute and sweet for the most part although Sanae Nagatsuki can be a bit questionable. The anime had an earnest heart and a pleasant if somewhat laid back approach to humor. It is a simple show that bring a smile to my face and makes me chuckle.
Arakawa Under the Bridge by SHAFT From the mind of Hikaru Nakamura the manga-ka of Saint Young Men, I could expect nothing less than oddity. A commune of weirdos who live under a bridge creates mountains of hilarious situations and the word absurd can’t be used enough when watching this show.
Favorite Mecha Anime or The Terminus typeR909 Prize
Broken Blade by Production I.G A surprisingly overlooked mecha series especially considering how much mecha fandom is hungry for new titles. An unexpected bend real robot and fantasy with good characters and signs of some real political meat to the story. Rygart Arrow is a strong protagonists who is both conflicted yet cable of making decisions and progresses when the story dictates he does so. A real treat for any mecha fan who needs a combination of story and action with a bit of love triangle for all the Macross fans.
Star Driver by Bones I had to pick this show for two reasons. One, I have no idea where it is headed, it is intriguing. Since we’re only about half way through I could end up regretting this call but we shall see. And two, I love the unique mecha designs especially that of Takuto’s which resembles a fencer.