From a secret location in a nuclear submarine with a Q-band satellite uplink the ballots are being tallied for the most important awards show in anime history. The powerful and reclusive Hisui and Narutaki take time away from solving the greatest mysteries in the world to weigh in on the best and the worst of anime and manga this year. Shows given the thumbs up will become international best-sellers and titles that are ridiculed will become pariahs to shun for all time. So sit back and relax as we process the HAIPE encryption on the signal and announce the results.
NOTE: Hisui did not pick certain green-eyed blonde-haired swordswomen as to give other characters a chance to shine. Otherwise he might just pick her every year and eventually force Narutaki to take action.
Best Anime of 2012
(Proof Anime is Not Dead … For Now)
Fate/Zero Season 2 by ufotable Look. If you expected anything else here you have just not been paying attention for the last 5 years. Fate/Zero season 2 built on everything from last year and had it all come to a very satisfying conclusion. Everything ties together leading into Fate/Stay Night which means that most (but not all) of the character’s fates were set in stone. Despite that much of the conclusion was preordained there was still fun and a little heartbreaking to see how exactly it all wrapped up. Also I LIKED Fate/Stay Night so it is not like I was sad to see Shiro at the end.
Runner up: Kids on the Slope by MAPPA American anime fans have wanted to see Shinichiro Watanabe direct a new anime but he has always been far more popular in the West than he has ever been at home. This series has a unique setting that combines the nostalgic feel of 60s Japan with a rebellious undercurrent of jazz. But the heart of the story is three friends who come together due to a mutual appreciation of music and drift apart due to various circumstances. It is not as energetic as Samurai Champloo or as western as Cowboy Bebop but it is a touching story that has a good chance of being an anime that remains a part of the lexicon of fandom of western fans for years to come.
Space Brothers by A-1 Pictures Space Brothers is a show that warmed me from the inside out, as it presented us with a very special type of dream: the lost kind, the kind you thought you had given up on. Each episode pulled (and continues to pull) my heart-strings as characters pursued their aspirations and made us all part of their dream of space exploration. My desire is so great for Mutta, Kenji, Seirika, Hibito, and many others along the way to succeed that each triumph makes me exhale a breath I didn’t realize I was holding. Space Brothers is quiet but powerful.
Runner up: Tsuritama by A-1 Pictures Talk about a show that took me by surprise, if anyone told me I’d fall in love with a fishing anime I wouldn’t have believed them. But no one told me, it happened all on its own because the friendship between these four guys is irresistible. These guys are each quite different from the other, but, as the saying goes, defending the earth from an alien that causes people to dance uncontrollably make for some strange bedfellows.
A-1 Pictures clearly impressed me this year.
Anime Man of the Year
(Walk Like a Man, Talk Like a Man)
Tetsuya Kuroko from Kuroko’s Basketball In team sports it is not always the flashy showboaters that win the game. Sometimes the solid support players are just as important. But manga just like real life rarely focuses on these things. So Kuroko is a most unusual character to be the start of a sports manga. Since he is so easily ignored he is perfect for setting up other people to be where they need to be to score but he almost never scores himself. As someone who has a tendency to play support characters in table top role-playing games I have a bit of an affinity for characters that help from the back row.
Beyond that I enjoy his deadpan attitude. It is not that he is always snarky (although he can be from time to time) it is just that he perpetually seems mellow even when he is super fired up. It reenforced him being very distinct in his indistinctness while always leading to some funny moments. But despite his seemingly monotone existence we see that he has drive and passion through his interactions with Kagami and the rest of the team.
Sometimes the greatest hero is the one willing to forsake the spotlight.
Sentarou Kawabuchi from Kids on the Slope This rough-and-tumble drummer of the impromptu jazz band in Kids on the Slope is someone everyone in the cast (and the viewers) are inexplicably drawn to; Sentaro’s personality is just that strong. He is bright, talented, stubborn, and impulsive. When he meets Karou he knows he has music in his blood and he goads him into experiencing jazz. Each character in Kids on the Slope goes through a transition and things hit Sentaro just as hard as anyone, much as he wishes it didn’t.
Anime Woman of the Year
(She’s Always a Woman to Me)
Irisviel von Einzbern from Fate/Zero If anyone personifies “you’re gonna carry that weight” in Fate/Zero it is definitely Irisviel. She carries the emotional burden for Kiritsugu and Saber while fighting in war where no matter what the outcome she is destined to die. But despite carrying her own fears, anxieties, and problems she is consistently one of the brightest characters. She is not she a simple Kasumi Tendo character who is mindlessly upbeat as she is a person who has honest moments of fear, frustration, and anger. But she is someone who understands that wallowing in self-pity is worthless. She constantly gets up and tries to move forward taking anyone with her forward as well. Her friendship with Saber and her love of Kiritsugu is one of the best parts of Fate/Zero.
Also she is rather hysterical in Please! Einzbern Counseling Room. She bounces off Zecchan in her trademark cheerful manner. She does comedy in these segments as well as she does drama in the show proper. Now that is a good woman.
Asako Natsume from My Little Monster Natusme is a friendly and energetic soul but lonely and unsure of how to make a connection with people outside of online forums. But contrary to her internal pessimism, she makes connections, she just doesn’t know how to weigh if they are real and trust that it’s true. She’s spent a lot of time merely observing those around her that she is good at analyzing their actions, giving her insightful moments throughout the series. Her loyalty and honesty are endearing.
Natsume is a character who clearly wears her heart on her sleeve. I can’t help but root for her and believe in her with each passing moment. Whatever makes Natsume happy, makes me happy.
Anime Ensemble Cast of the Year
(With one breath, with one flow
You will know Synchronicity)
Smile Precure! The cast of Smile Precure is hardly deeply nuanced characters with deep flaws and complex motivations. They are all broad characters that continually charge forward with their gimmick. But they are delightful characters. You don’t need subtlety in an action comedy series like this. Bright and likable characters will instead have their own infectious charm.
More importantly they are more than just the sum of their parts as all five Precure plus Candy make a greater group than individual charters. You have the more hot-blooded Nao and Akane, the goofy Miyuki and Yayoi, the ultra yamato nadeshiko Reika, and Candy as the mascot to tie the group together. They all bounce off each other well while having the occasional single character focused episode to distinguish them. Smile Precure has one of the best teams in magical girl shows if not one of the best teams in general.
Kuroko’s Basketball While there is no doubt of who the main character of Kuroko’s Basketball is, this series never forgot its supporting cast as Kuroko himself is constantly emphasizing playing as a team. Seirin’s basketball club is a great mix of personalities on and off the court. Then when you add in all the other teams and their quirks and eccentricities, you end up with a ton of great friends and rivals to play off the main cast as well.
Hottest Guy of the Year
(Beefcake and Bishonen)
Taiga Kagami from Kuroko’s Basketball While I just praised Kuroko’s strength for being a most unusual character as a protagonist his total inverse is the spectacularly flashy Taiga Kagami. When he steps on the court with his fiery red hair, muscular physique, and Mount Everest like height it means that no one can ignore him. Plus his propensity for aggressive playing and spectacular dunking means that he is always a star player that everyone will focus on. This gives him an unmistakable confidence and poise that enhances his rugged good looks. He is the kind of guy you expect to see shirtless in a calender of hunky guys.
But at the same time he is not just a complete monster of basketball like Daiki Aomine. He is humanized through his friendship with Kuroko. We see that deep down he is a good guy who can be a team player that is concerned about his teammates as well as a solo virtuoso that hogs the spotlight. That gentler edge makes him just as sexy and his hot body.
Kai Takemura from Say “I Love You” This was such an easy choice since I’m a fan of the manga, once this anime premiered I waited with anticipation for Kai to appear on my screen. Despite what you might think, being tall and blonde aren’t the only qualities that I look for.
Kai was on the receiving end of some seriously cruel bullying, physically mutilating cruel. It drove him to retreat from the world and learn to protect himself physically before quietly reentering it and looking much the delinquent as his shield. He struggles with a desire for revenge while trying to reach out slowly building and rebuilding friendships. He can be bitter, but also sweet and excitable. Plus, he loves Land (a theme park clearly modeled off Disneyland), how could I resist him?
Hottest Woman of the Year
(More Than Just a Nice Rack … But Also A Nice Rack)
Ranmaru Rindou from Binbougami ga! Ranmaru Rindou is a busty pink haired delinquent in a gakuran whose tomboyish upbringing makes her a karate master. And she is someone who has an unrequited crush. Much like Gemini Sunrise she is another character who is a perfect storm of little fetishes I have. The fact that she is a total badass only completes the package. But lets not ignore the fact that the uniform is super sexy.
At the same time she is a sensitive soul. She is dedicated friend to Ichiko Sakura despite Ichiko’s somewhat prickly personality. She is also quite comical with her schoolgirl crush on Tsuwabuki. While it is clear that he will end up with Sakura who can’t help but root for Rindou. Her delightful mixture of hard and soft give her wonderful sexiness.
Fujiko Mine from Lupin III: The Women Named Fujiko Mine Love her or hate her (I prefer love), Fujiko’s name was one everyone’s lips as this new show blew thru in the spring season. Fujiko is intoxicating and she knows it and she won’t let you forget it.
Anime Mascot of the Year
(The First Person Who Says Lulun Gets Punched in the Face)
Pop from Smile Precure! Some mascot characters are adorable and funny. Some are brave and loyal. Pop is a little bit of both. His samurai esthetic gives him a manly charm in spite his adorable appearance. But at the same time he is mostly a pint-sized animate lion plush toy. It is quite an amusing mixture.
He can be very silly like when he get embarrassed or becomes a total ham when he takes on his human form for a movie. At the same time when he protects Candy or the Precure we see that all his bravado is not baseless. We see he can put his money where his mouth is when he helps Cure Beauty fight Joker.
He is a fun character so it is just shame he does not appear more often. But that makes you appreciate him more when he does appear.
Apo from Space Brothers This canine not only proves himself to be a man’s best friend, he also provides important services by being an alarm clock, a crime-fighter, and a guide among other things. Cute and cuddly to boot, Apo is an easy choice for mascot of the year! Though Ni-go from Kuroko’s Basketball is a close second.
Favorite New Detective Anime or Manga
(Sometimes Some Crimes Go Slipping Through the Cracks)
Master Keaton Remaster by Naoki Urasawa While it is a sequel series to the original Master Keaton is always a great detective and deserves a place on the list no matter what they year. But after 18 years and a bit of a legal snafu Naoki Urasawa has gone back to drawing the adventures of Taichi Hiraga-Keaton. Other than that the formula is thankfully the same. Keaton is a mild-mannered archeology professor who gets mixed up in various adventures as he moonlights as an insurance investigator. While he seems harmless his training in the SAS and his command of wide variety of esoteric and mundane subjects makes him a formidable foe.
The interesting thing is that the world has continued on in the manga since we last was Keaton. 18 years have passed for him and so his daughter has grown up and he has made considerable progress into his research about the ancient Danube River basin. It is just an interesting thing to see as you rarely get manga that get restarted like this and even less that then acknowledge the passage of time.
Master Keaton has always been an unappreciated manga especially when compared to some of Naoki Urasawa’s more famous works but it good to see it getting a little more respect. It is as good a time as any to get acquainted with the series.
UN-GO by Bones Despite its flaws, I looked forward to seeing where this series would twist and turn each week. Sometimes the series leaned too heavily on its supernatural trappings during mysteries, but I still found myself intrigued by the characters and the setting.
And above all, Shinjuro was a good lead detective that I came to really like. It was a show I wish had gotten more episodes for sure.
Most Disappointing Series
(The Triumph of Pessimism)
Ozuma by LandQ studios and Gonzo When you hear a name like Leiji Matsumoto you think of one of those legendary authors who can do no wrong. But as we have learned with Osamu Tezuka while their overall body of work is legendary they were both prodigious enough to make some real stinkers as well. Apparently Ozuma was one of those stories that got shelved before it could be animated. Sadly when we finally saw Ozuma we discovered it had not been shelved because the studios did not realize its quality. It was shelved because it was nowhere as good as his other works.
There was a glimmer of hope. With Ryosuke Takahashi at the helm it seemed like there might be a possibility that he would take the best of the idea, strip away what was holding it down, and produce a great series from a flawed but potentially good idea. Sadly what was produced just showed why the series was kiboshed in the first place. The dialog was awkward, the characters were flat, the story seemed cliched, and the animation was spotty. Pretty much all the prime ingredients for a boring and mediocre show. It was not a horrible series. It is juts the definition of a truly disappointing series.
Eureka Seven AO by Bones Good lord, where do I even begin? I think a lot of fans biggest fear is that a sequel to something they loved will come and undo all that good will. E7AO literally undid it all. SPOILERS After the end of the original, the Scub totally screw-up the Earth and all our beloved characters are either dead or have come to unhappy places. Thanks a freakin’ lot Bones!
(Opening Most Likely to Be Removed From YouTube)
Tsuritama Opening: “Tsurezure Monochrome” by FUJIFABRIC Overall Tsuritama is a bright and energetic series about friendship and personal growth. The show’s opening does a good job of expressing those themes while showing the series to be the quirky and stylistic production it is as well.The bright and catchy opening song pleasantly settles in your head as the pastel pop animation gets you in the mood for the show. It is a great warm up for the touching comedy to come.
Plus it is a fun dancing anime opening. I mean who does not love dance filled openings and endings?
Utakoi Opening: “Love Letter from Nanika?” by ecosystem This series had a great use of pattern and color throughout its run which is highlighted nicely in the opening. The slightly raspyness to the lead singers voice adds a really lovely modern touch to this historical series. But it doesn’t go too modern like the ending.
Really, anime just needs more openings with people making out (or almost making out).
(Always End on a High Note)
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Ending 1: “Roundabout” by Yes Its Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure mixed with a song by the progressive rock band Yes. I’m not sure what else you want other than Freddy Mercury to rise from the dead and play you Killer Queen in your living room every time you watch an episode. The stars aligned and mankind was blessed with this ending.
Be thankful. You are not worthy.
Thing I Wish People Would Stop Talking About
(There are Reasons I Avoid Twitter When I Am in a Bad Mood)
The Otaku Word of the Day Calendar You know the phenomenon. People learn a cool new word and they have to slip it into every conversation they can to show off their new-found knowledge. This is anime fandom on the Internet with any and all new otaku words they discover. One annoying person is an isolated problem is you can ignore. But it is far harder to ignore a legion of people doing the same thing.
The worst part is people use their new toy ALL the time. When it was gap moe everything was gap moe. Now that Internet anime fandom has learned about Chuunibyou they seemed determined to run that term into the ground as well. The problem is people also use the terms willy nilly without a good understand of what it means. That just makes it doubly annoying. It it annoyance and ignorance combined into one horrible package.
“You aren’t really a fan if…” Other variations include “You are only a real fan if…” and “Prove you’re a fan by…” and probably a few others we’ve all heard at one time or another. We can never really escape this one entirely and it certainly isn’t a new annoyance, but it seemed like with the Kickheart Kickstarter it was a rampant phrase for a good portion of 2012 in anime fandom.
Favorite Mecha Designs
(What I Hope to Pilot When the Aliens Invade Earth)
Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne by Xebec Lagrange is hardly the best mecha show ever but I thought the robots were pretty darn cool. They don’t look like your standard mecha. In fact they were designed by Nissan for the show. They have an unusually thin structure that sets them apart from the normally boxy and bulky mecha of shows like Gundam or Votoms. It also gives them a very slick but alien appearance. Also they transform into jets which is also a big plus (but they don’t have a GERWALK mode). I always like designs that look good but also step a bit outside the norm.
Code Geass: Akito of the Exiled by Sunrise This really has to do with the crazy amazing way Akito’s mech moves in the first episode, with a very organic and sometimes unnerving fluidity. I also enjoyed the size variations.
Most Surprising U.S. License
(Thankfully not Lime-iro Senkitan)
Mazinger Z from Discotek I could have gone with the Rose of Versailles but on a certain level it was a show everyone wanted but no one knew exactly how to get. It was crazy popular but tied up in problems. A real out of left field license. But the original Mazinger Z is a ball coming from Duke Fleed’s UFO that is hovering 5,000 feet over left field.
Old shows don’t do well in America. Mecha shows don’t do well in America. Go Nagai don’t do well in America. Long shows don’t do well in America. So an ancient 92 episode Go Nagai mecha show seems like financial suicide. But Discotek seem to wisely license and distribute niche titles in a way that might not make them billionaires but does seem to keep them in business. Still even for them it still seems a bit insane.
Good luck to them. Maybe it will help Narutaki finally get to see all of UFO Robo Grendizer.
Rose of Versailles from Nozomi I honestly never thought this day would come. Nozomi, you are my hero.I hardly need an excuse to talk about the greatness that is The Rose of Versailles, but there will be plenty of extra time devoted to it thanks to this wonderful surprise license. Free publicity courtesy of Reverse Thieves (and probably a ton of other bloggers and podcasters).
(Will Anything Really Be Funnier Than Flay Allster Dying?)
Yamada and the Seven Witches by Miki Yoshikawa Sadly Miki Yoshikawa in not a well-known name among American manga fans. That is a shame because she writes some amazing comedy manga and Yamada and the Seven Witches is no exception. What starts off as a body swapping comedy quickly turns into a much more complex magic kissing manga.
Miki Yoshikawa is rather adept at mixing drama, character development, and a little dash of action on top of a solid foundation of comedy. But most importantly the comedy is always there and always changing. Since Miki Yoshikawa has an evolving plot that means the jokes are constantly changing as well. It is far too easy to let a comedy series rest on its laurels and tell the same joke a dozen different ways when you have a static premise. But she mixes everything up enough that the humor always stays fresh. It is quite remarkable.
I will also admit that she does sexy quite well in addition to comedy and this new title has shown that. I won’t complain about that either.
The Daily Lives of High School Boys by Sunrise The best comedy anime of the year seems to have slipped by many people’s radars. Whether it be slap-stick, geeky, or just plain bizarre humor, Daily Lives of High School Boys delivers on it all. Excellent comedic timing that knows just how long to hold on to a joke, when a scene needs an awkward pause, and who should be the butt of pranks.
I was glad our panel at Otakon brought it a little more attention, too.