Narutaki & Hisui VS. The Best of 2014

It is easy to focus on the shows like Cross Ange, The Irregular at Magic High School, and Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!! (which are not getting links) every year and wonder about the decline of anime and fandom. But as John Milton once wrote, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” The problem is that as humans we tend to think of the times we were burned more often than the times we enjoyed. With that knowledge we are focusing on the best of the year. What shows made us laugh, cry, or think more than any others while still giving us a positive feeling about our hobby and the medium it is formed around. Think of this as our anime Happiness Jar.

Anime of the Year
(The “We Finally Picked Kill la Kill.
Are you Happy Now?” Award)

hisui_icon_4040 Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works by Ufotable Did anyone really expect this not to be here? As Saber Fan Number One the choice was clear. That said there is a lot to like about Ufotable’s version of the Unlimited Blade Works arc. While the Studio Deen version of Fate/Stay Night is nowhere near as hated as the J.C.Staff version of  Tsukihime that statement is very faint praise.

This version of Fate/Stay Night hits it out of the park in all the right ways. The animation is lusciously on par with their previous Type-Moon adaptations. The characters look wonderful, the fights are fluid and impactful, and the direction is dynamic even during the dialog scenes. It is about as nice as a TV animation can look. But the series would not be anywhere near as grand if it were just a pretty face.

The real success in this new version of the story is the emphasis of promoting the themes of the story. Unless you want a somewhat meandering 50 episode show you can’t adapt every scene and every line of dialog of the original visual novel. Therefore Takahiro Miura and Kazuharu Sato have done an excellent job of figuring out what to keep, what to cut, and what to create to move the Unlimited Blade Works story from one medium to another. They are able to create a streamlined story that still captures the themes of the orignal while touching upon all the key elements of this storyline.

I really hope Ufotable continues to being the animation studio for Type-Moon. A Tsukihime remake by them might actually get that series back into a decent prominence alongside its younger sister.

Runner-up: Space Dandy by Bones Space Dandy was a playground for creators. While it technically has an overall plot that persists between the episodes as a whole it is not the main draw nor the greater purpose of the series. The ultimate goal was to let animation teams do what they want on a fairly unrestricted canvas. In an industry that is increasingly worried that the new creators are not getting enough training from the aging old guard this format proves there are ways to bring up a new generation of anime artists within the current model.

The thing about Space Dandy was, much like my beloved Galaxy Angel, you never were quite sure what the next episode was going to show you. The crew of the Aloha Oe might be in a zombie apocalypse in one episode, at the center of an 80s romantic comedy in the next episode, followed up by a high school musical after that. There were even a few odd serious episodes to change the mood. Every episode was not THE GREATEST COMEDY EPISODE EVER. People will argue what their favorite episodes were until the end of time but the fact that those arguments can take place is a testament to the variety of art styles, storytelling techniques, and comedic beats each episode contained.

I would never want every show to be like Space Dandy but so much good would come from a few more shows every year being such a breeding ground for new talent. The fact that the show leaves such a positive reaction overall is a much-needed bonus.

narutaki_icon_4040 Inari Konkon Koi Iroha by Production IMS No other show this year made me desperate to write a whole series review spontaneously, which is exactly how our article about Inari Konkon Koi Iroha happened; it wasn’t planned but we suddenly couldn’t stop ourselves from writing about it.

Part magical girl show, part rom-com series, part ghost story, somehow Inari Konkon Koi Iroha tries to do it all and succeeds. The series extols the power of friendship, finds ways to make you fall in love with love again, and forces you to rewatch a scene because you were laughing too hard the first time through. Inari Konkon Koi Iroha just made me feel good about the world and I won’t let that go unacknowledged.

And apparently as a final Christmas present to me, Funimation finally licensed this show for DVD/BD release!

Runner-up: Kill la Kill by Studio Trigger Many people picked this last year, but I needed to see how it would all shake-out first. I wasn’t even a fan of the first half of the show. Oh, it had its moments, don’t get me wrong! But by the end of 2013 I was left wondering if it could deliver on themes and promises it made. Shocking to me, it actually did deliver more so than I even dared hope.

Anime Woman of the Year
(The “Are We Finally Considered Better
Than Video Games in this Respect?” Award)

hisui_icon_4040 Uka-no-Mitama-no-Kami from Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha Uka-no-Mitama-no-Kamiu, aka Uka, works so well because she neither the all-knowing mentor to Inari nor is she the helpless wastrel that has to be propped up by her charge. In many ways she is a big sister to Inari. She often provides advice and support to Inari in the way that an older sibling who has experienced more of the world would do. Inari has a good heart but she is clearly a bit naive and even more than a little goofy. At the same time it is clearly that Uka is not a clairvoyant sage who has all the answers. She is learning about the world of humans and growing up alongside Inari as well. While she has much advice to give her protegé about love and life she is hardly Aika Kasumi. We see from her interactions with her fellow gods and Toka that she still has a lot to learn as well.

The fact that she is a hard-core otome gaming otaku is extremely amusing. With an otaku audience it can easily be seen as a bit pandering but I think it adds depth to her character. It gives her a bit of charm and vulnerability but never makes her to be a loser. It also can be quite hysterical. Most importantly it is a part of who she is and not the sum total of her existence. Also she clearly knows where the line between her otome games and real life are. One is a pleasant fantasy and one is the reality you have to deal with for better and for worse.

Also for someone with an extremely voluptuous figure they never really exploit that fact of her. She is consistently modesty dressed in the series but the fact that she is easy on the eyes is never in question.

While Inari is the star of Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha it would not be the same show without its resident fox goddess.

Runner-up: Honey from Space Dandy It is really easy to dismiss Honey as a piece of eye candy that also doubles as a throw away Cutie Honey reference. But as the show goes in it becomes more and more apparent that she is actually much smarter and stronger than her ditzy waitress persona would initially have you understand. It is not as if this initial false impression is part of some elaborate scheme to deceive people. It just turns out that she has hidden depths that are only there for those who pay attention. A clear lesson is not to judge a book by its attractive cover and instead to be more interested in its richer contents.

I also agree with Kate that they should make a show about Scarlet and Honey roaming the universe and getting into adventures.

narutaki_icon_4040 Rinka Urushiba from Tokyo ESP With Rinka it isn’t only that she is a badass leader, but the fact that Tokyo ESP is constantly turning tropes on their head while making it seem completely normal. Of course, Rinka is going to save her love interest who was kidnapped by the villains. Of course, Rinka is going to go off on her own and succeed. Of course, Rinka is a beacon of hope for the city. Of course, Rinka won’t be held back by her bodily injuries. And despite a first episode filled with fan-service (also the ending animation is seriously WTF you guys), Rinka is rarely played as an eyecandy character who is badass because people think that’s hot. Rinka is ready and capable of changing the world because Rinka is a superhero.

White Girl, I salute you.

Runner-up: Satsuki Kiryuin from Kill la Kill After I picked Kill la Kill for runner-up anime of the year, I couldn’t pass up doing the same for woman of the year. Because Kill la Kill was all about women, but one woman stood above them all (literally a lot of the time). Stoic and stubborn, but capable of true humility in the end, Satsuki was 100% woman.

Anime Man of the Year
(The “Iron Heart” Award)

hisui_icon_4040 Mohammed Avdol from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders It is fairly easy to pick a man of the year from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure as it is filled with manly men with awesome powers who go on adventures to kill vampires. A popular choice to pick from that series would be Jotaro but I tend to find him sort of boring. He is really propped up by the rest of the supporting cast that is far more colorful. One of the more colorful part of the 3rd generation crew is Avdol.

While he is one of the more level-headed members of the team but he is not the stoic fight machine that is Jotaro. At the same time he distinctly has more on the ball than Polnareff. (But so did Anne.) That allows him to play off the rest of the cast fairly well. His Stand is fairly basic but Avdol tends to use it rather creatively in his fights.

Also if nothing else you distinctly remember his exit and return to the anime. They are really powerful scenes that stick with you.

Runner-up: Yutaka Hoshino/Peco from Ping Pong the Animation It is really easy to dismiss Peco as Smile’s goofy and overconfident side kick character whose defeat is more of a road sign on the protagonist’s path to glory. As the series goes on it becomes clear that Peco’s story is actually equally important (if not more important) than Smile’s journey. His growth from cocky snot to mature competitor is a real transformation that feels natural and earned. By the time the last episode rolls around the silly comic relief has become a proper hero of a sport anime. At the same time he still retains a good deal of that casual charm but it is now backed with real skill and determination as opposed to empty bravado.

While his character is very strong what is even stronger is how he defies your initial expectations and adds a layer of complexity to what could have been an otherwise standard formula sports show.

narutaki_icon_4040 Teppei Kiyoshi from Kuroko’s Basketball When the missing center of the Seirin team returned nearer the end of the first season, I was sure there was a big story to tell and there was. Over the course of the second season, Teppei proves he is the heart of the team as he faces injuries and embodies what is to play for the team. He is the counterpoint to the Generation of Miracles players (minus Kuroko) who came to believe the path to victory was upon the individual. And when faced with the underhanded tricks of another team, Teppei is a shield for his team. Without a doubt, Teppei makes Seirin stronger both in terms of ability on the court and their wills to win.

P.S. I swear I did not name this award after Teppei, it was all Al.

Runner-up: Umetarou Nozaki from Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun His placid expression amidst all of the chaos of his life is quite endearing. But let’s not forget that he is also responsible for much of that ensuing chaos whether he is roping people into working on his projects or just being straight up oblivious.

Best Show Called Gundam Build Fighters Try
(The “Not Many Titles in the Category . . . Yet” Award)

hisui_icon_4040 For how many years has there been a small but vocal part of Gundam fandom that has cried out for a starring Gundam heroine? As if to prove that the Build Fighters universe is the part of the Gundam franchise that gives you exactly what you want in the way you love but would never suspect Try finally gives the fans its great female protagonist. And then just to prove that it still has more tricks up its sleeve it also gives the American fandom more G Gundam without actually animating a G Gundam sequel. Beyond that it is just a wonderful sequel that thankfully proves that the first season of Build Fighters was not just a fluke. I really hope that it can keep up the level of quality it has shown so far as it might even be able to surpass the heights of its predecessor.

narutaki_icon_4040 What can one say about the greatest sequel to Gundam Build Fighters ever made? The existence of Fumina makes my heart sing. That Sekai’s master is clearly Domon Kasshu makes me smile. The fact that Fumina and Sekai were singing “Anime Janai” in the car was priceless and pretty much sums up how on point this show is.

Best Mascot Character
(The “I Make Magical Girl Shows Profitable” Award)

hisui_icon_4040 Peggi from Tokyo ESP Peggi is secretly one of the most powerful characters in a show of impressive characters. With the ability to track and consume the Glowing Fish it turns out that Peggi is practically the god of espers since he can find and then remove anyone’s power no matter how mighty their psionic technique. At the same time for a small flying penguin he is quite brave as he often stands up to far larger characters to help his friends. That courage is his real strength.

narutaki_icon_4040 Glasan from HappinessCharge PreCure! We ended up calling this fairy “Deal With It.” She loves to dole out advice and lay down some truth.

Best Ensemble Cast
(The “Cast I Would Actually Spend Time With” Award)

hisui_icon_4040 Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions! -Heart Throb- by Kyoto Animation There are so many traps as show like Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions could fall into. A club with a single male character could easily become a bog standard harem with all the girls either severing Yuta a devoted love-sick potential paramours or bickering hens each trying to take out their rivals. The thing is the only person who really has a romantic interest in Yuta is Rikka. Everyone else . . . just likes him like a friend. It is shocking! Men and women can just have cordial relationships in a shonen romance! Unthinkable!

In the news season the added factor of Satone Shichimiya could have easily turned the show into the standard love triangle made of misunderstandings and complications. In a seemingly unprecedented twist the series does not gain a throw away disposable romantic interest but a more detailed examination of how a couple deals with people outside of their pairing. Satone could have easily been nothing more than a grating obstacle but she instead adds to the story in a charming, and even a little bit heartbreaking, way.

Also I have to praise Toka, Kumin, and Sanae as anime original characters. If you did not look it up (or read the original novels) if would be nearly impossible to tell that they were not in the source material. They seamlessly blend in with the cast and actually add quite a bit to the story. You would just assume that they were always integral parts of the narrative. There are not many anime that can pull off that trick.

Here is hoping that a third season can pull off that same magic.

narutaki_icon_4040 Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun by Dogakobo Consistently hilarious, this cast of complete idiots never failed in being the best part of each week it was on. Comedies hinge on the way each character plays off another, the ensemble is of paramount importance. Each character in Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun brings their own kind of crazy to the table while also being an oblivious group unlike any other.

Anime I Unexpectedly Liked
(The “Pumpkin Spice Latte Burgers” Award)

hisui_icon_4040 HaNaYaMaTa by Madhouse I totally admit this might be one of those shows where I go, “I did not realize I would like this” and Kate goes, “You are so easy to read.” But that is the nature of the Reverse Thieves collaboration.

It is really easy to dismiss this as a cute girls doing adorable things in a club show. They are fairly common, and generally innocuous, but almost always instantly forgettable. While HaNaYaMaTa is hardly high art it does have a little more meat on the bone than other shows in the same category. Naru Sekiya’s struggle with low self-esteem really drew me in and provided a reason for me to watch every week. While the common criticism of the show is that it sometimes dips into a mild bit of melodrama but I prefer some high drama over saccharine ataraxia. The fact the cast is rather charming does not hurt matters at all. Plus now New Jersey has its own anime representative in the form of Hana N. Fountainstand.

I came for the growth of Naru Sekiya but I stayed for the Sally-chan-sensei.

narutaki_icon_4040 One Week Friends by Brain’s Base This was a very calm and sweet series. Some found this show too saccharine, and I worried about that too at first but I thought it struck a nice balance. I wasn’t sure how long the show could run with a story about a girl who forgets each week without it becoming repetitive, but it was able to slowly move along with compelling moments of progress and setbacks.

Favorite Opening
(The “Good Seasons Start
with Good Beginnings” Award)

hisui_icon_4040 Rashisa” by SUPER BEAVER from Barakamon A good opening gets you ready to watch the show your about to watch. A great opening does that while perfectly encapsulating the spirit of the show your about to watch. Barakamon’s opening makes sure to capture the three legs of the show in its set up: Naru Kotoishi’s unfettered energy, Seishuu Handa’s awkward melancholy, and the beauty of the Goto Islands which in turn inspire wonderful calligraphy. The opening also works remarkable well in showing how all three of these interact with each other without saying a word. The energetic and catchy opening song by SUPER BEAVER ties it all together.

My roommate insisted that I give the Tokyo ESP opening “Tokyo Zero Hearts” by Faylan a shout out for being really catchy but having some of the most bizarre lyrics you will ever hear.

narutaki_icon_4040 Kimi Janakya Dame Mitai” by Masayoshi Oishi from Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun For a series about making manga, the opening does a great job of highlighting that process from the use of screentone and paneling to the physical tools of the trade. And of course the opening does this while keeping the high energy and comedy intact.

Favorite Ending
(The “There is no Real Ending,
It’s Just the Place Where You Stop the Story” Award)

hisui_icon_4040 G no Senko” by Daisuke Hasegawa from Gundam Reconguista in G If you have nothing else nice to say about Tomino you have to admit the man can make some memorable openings and closings for his shows. The opening to Overman King Gainer is almost impossible to forget. While the ending of Gundam Reconguista in G is hardly what we would call richly animated it turns out that very few anime endings are lush affairs. What matters is how they acts as an end cap. G no Senko is a strong enough song that it could work as an opening but fits far better as an ending. The little kickline of the male and female casts members works with the theme of dance that pervades the series. The fact that how each cast member’s kick reflects their personality is a clever touch. Also some of the little scenes like Bellri Zenam walking arm and arm with Dellensen Samatar and Cahill Saint seems just to be a random scene but takes on greater significance in retrospect.

narutaki_icon_4040 “Welcome to the X Dimension” by Etsuko Yakushimaru from Space Dandy This ending animation picks up the inter-dimensional nature of the series. The first sounds of the ending felt like the perfect outro to each story no matter what was going on.

Favorite Sequel or Ongoing Anime
(The “Seconds Worth Asking For” Award)

hisui_icon_4040 JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders by David Production This is a show that will appear on a LOT of lists for anime of the year. It seemed like most everyone in Anitwitter was either talking about how they were watching Stardust Crusaders or mentioning how they were not doing so. The first anime that adapted the Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency arcs helped Jojo’s go from a series that was mainly loved by a small cadre of vocal manga fans and some older fans who remembered the old OVAs to a show that was on everyone’s lips. But the first anime was still seen as a bit rough. Stardust Crusaders on the other hand is when most people agree that David Production finally settled into a groove that meant better quality.

Plus it is the part that introduced Stands which has pretty much become the defacto mechanic of the series from that point on and is what the series is mostly known for. Plus this is the part that most people know. It was the part that was adapted in the OVA and the part of the manga that was legally available. It is also where all the popular memes the series is known for are from.

So with such high expectations it was nice to see that people mostly were happy with Stardust Crusaders. It really captures the madcap adventure of Team Jojo trying to get from Japan to Egypt to beat up an evil English vampire with magical powers who is mostly a head grafted on his nemesis’ body. What can’t you love about that?

narutaki_icon_4040 Yowamushi Pedal: Grande Road by TMS I feel like I should stop being surprised when a new sports series catches me, but, hey, I didn’t expect to be so into this cycling series with a weird assortment of character designs. It starting back up in again the fall was certainly on my “most anticipated” list. I’ve been surprised how much focus the rival team Hakone has had this season, but I haven’t minded one bit. I’m glad the series will be continuing into the winter season as well.

Favorite Sequel or Ongoing Manga
(The “I Could Read Another Ten Years of This” Award)

hisui_icon_4040 The Seven Deadly Sins by Nakaba Suzuki I can proudly state that I have been reading The Seven Deadly Sins since the first chapter was published. Since that time it was the first series to be simul-published on Crunchyroll manga and currently has an anime on TV. So I have seen it go from a new series to a reasonably popular series. While it has not gained the popularity of Naruto or Attack on Titan it is now consistently one of the most popular manga on Crunchyroll manga. When Netflix starts streaming the anime it might even see a bigger boost.

Overall I think it is earned popularity. The recent arc was fairly exciting and while there are distinct and important seeds laid for the next phase of the manga the 100th chapter ended the first leg of the story quite powerfully. I enjoyed the fight with the Holy Knights and am curious to see where the story goes from here. I am very curious to see what is up with Escanor as he is the only sin we have not seen so I hope that he at the center of the next arc.

narutaki_icon_4040 Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura OMG you guys the final book of this comes out in English in the first quarter of 2015 so basically this is the last time I can put this here. BotI has been a piece of my fandom life since I became a manga reader! Rin and Manji’s journey hasn’t always been a fantastic ride, remember the prison arc, but as it barrels toward conclusion I find myself more invested than ever to see how it will work out.

Best U.S. Anime Release
(The “More Than Just a Thin Pack” Award)

hisui_icon_4040 Time of Eve: The Movie by Pied Piper I felt like this title landed on the list for a lot of reasons. First of all is for the reason we usually pick the titles that we pick in this category: It has some great packaging and extras especially with the deluxe edition. You could have even got some official Time of Eve coffee, and a coffee cup to drink it from, as a perk. That is all very nice but there is more to the selection than that. This is also what really threw open the door to anime Kickstarters being a hot topic after Kick-Heart cracked it open.

There was a real feeling of almost Pyrrhic victory when Kick-Heart made was successfully funded by took quite a bit of campaigning to succeed. Sure the project had been funded but it had not been a runaway success like people had hoped. Then the Time of Eve Kickstarter came along and was funded before the end of the first day. When it ended it had raised over 1000% of its initial goal. It proved that anime Kickstarters could be just as successful as other projects on the site. It really solidified the proof of concept when it came to crowd funding anime.

The last and most important reason is that the product came out and people were happy with it. If it has succeed so overwhelmingly and then never got off the ground or was a tragic debacle it could have poisoned the well even more than an unsuccessful Kickstarter. People would have been a little quicker to forget a Kickstarter that never got off the ground but one that took off only to crash and burn would have stuck out in people’s minds ten times more.

It is one thing to be a lovely anime release but it is another thing to be a groundbreaking one.

narutaki_icon_4040 Cowboy Bebop DVD/BD by Funimation Welp, there was absolutely no way this choice could have been different. I’ve waited far too long for this! I picked up the exclusive Funi release (as opposed to the Amazon one) which is designed to look like a vinyl record album.

Best U.S. Manga Release
(The “Fancy Funny Books” Award)

hisui_icon_4040 Vinland Saga by Kodansha Comics I remember hearing rumors that Vinland Saga was licensed or at least was in negotiation to be licensed for quite a while. But after a few months it seemed like a title that was just chilling out in licensing limbo indefinitely until Kodansha Comics finally picked it up. It always seemed like a good pick. A historical (if somewhat fantastical) Viking tale has a strong western setting and a bit of an older edge to its violence and storytelling. That is usually a really strong package that often can get in a little audience outside of the normal manga fans.

The release itself is a strong prestige release with hardcover omnibuses and the books have some solid extra features as well. I hope that the nicer release is helping the series get a bit more of an audience outside of standard manga cows (although it would be great if they liked it too.)

narutaki_icon_4040 Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga by DC Comics Ever since Bat-Manga!: The Secret History of Batman in Japan was released many moons ago, I’ve been dying to read the manga in full. This ended up being a tough series to track down, but DC came through and has now started to release the 1960s Japanese Batman manga in its entirety. Minimal color is used variously through the book adding to the history and period of these Batman stories. 

Favorite Past Anime I Finally Finished
(The “One Down, 35 To Go” Award)

hisui_icon_4040 Futari wa Pretty Cure Max Heart by Toei Animation It has been a long time coming but I finally finished the original Pretty Cure series with Cure BlackCure White, and Shiny Luminous. (Yes, I acknowledge that Shiny Luminous exists.)  The main problem with me finishing the series all revolves around the fact that streaming has become so popular. The first half of Futari wa Pretty Cure is streaming on Hulu and Crunchyroll so it was very easy for me to watch. But Max Heart never made it to legal streaming. This meant that I sort of stalled out for no extremely good reason half way through the second season. I just got caught up in shows that were legitimately streaming that pulled me away.
But eventually I decided that I should really I should dive once more unto the breach. I’m glad to have finished the show. It really set much of the template for the later Pretty Cure series. While each series that came after it has had its own high, lows, and individual quirks but the stamp of the original is unmistakable on everything that has come after it. You can’t really talk about the series as a whole without watching this.

narutaki_icon_4040 Tomorrow’s Nadja (Ashita no Nadja) by Toei Animation This show very much felt like it followed in the footsteps of World Masterpiece Theater. The early 20th century European setting, the traveling troupe, and Nadja the orphan who is, unbeknownst to her, a noble. It went to some surprisingly dark places, there were points when I just couldn’t watch the next episode for a while. And did I mention it has a phantom thief? Watching this show made me sad that Toei basically just focuses on PreCure series for this audience now.

Favorite Past Manga I Finally Finished
(The “Closer to being a True Manga Snob” Award)

hisui_icon_4040 Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi To make this a magical girl section I chose to talk about the series that changed the genre forever. Since we were going to talk about the remaster and rerelease of the original Sailor Moon anime as well as Sailor Moon Crystal I also went back and read the orignal arc of the Sailor Moon manga.

It was rather eye-opening to actually read the manga after only knowing about it through nerd osmosis. I knew that it was different from the anime and that there were supporters and detractors for both versions of the story so I knew there were differences. The thing is I mostly thought that the major changes (other than lots more filler) had mostly in Sailor Moon Sailor Stars and the rest of the series was mostly the same. Now that I have watched the anime and read the manga I see how different they started. Both stories are clearly the same story with mostly the same beats but the details can be extremely different. Compare Rei Hino in both versions, how they treat the Four Heavenly Kings, the motivations of Queen Beryl, or how the ending plays out and you will see how different the series can be.

Considering how instrumental the series is on anime and manga I think it is one of the titles everyone should at least read the first arc of as part of a well-balanced anime and manga education.

narutaki_icon_4040 Basara by Yumi Tamura I had been reading this classic shojo series on and off for years since it was released in English. This is a sweeping fantasy that once I really got going, I couldn’t stop until the last moment was had. The ending had a lot of surprises and the path there was a winding one with only a few steps that felt like stalling tactics. I was quite satisfied with the conclusion. 

Hottest Anime Woman
(The “Popular on Pixiv” Award)

hisui_icon_4040 Bazett Fraga McRemitz from Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA☆ILLYA Look. Kate might tell you a story about how when we were walking home from getting ice cream and discussing this article and what we picked. She might have guessed that I would pick “some Type-Moon girl who is not Saber, but pretty much is Saber, so you can pick Saber without picking Saber” for my hottest woman this year. I would like to state how utterly incorrect she was if such a conversation did occur.

Bazett is totally not Saber. Totally not.

OK. So maybe they might be stubborn, proud, and stoic warrior women who are famous for wearing suits but there are so many differences. One is blonde and the other has purple hair. One uses a sword and one uses her fists. One is a king and the other is a mage.

They are 1000% different.

Yup.

narutaki_icon_4040 Honey from Space Dandy Not to undermine Al choosing Honey as woman of the year, but I couldn’t not talk about her hotness. She works at a place that is supposed to be titillating for a very good reason and the show likes nothing more than to show that off. But she is equally hot fully clothed and riding a motorcycle across the desert. 

Hottest Anime Man
(The “Bringing Sexy Back” Award)

hisui_icon_4040 Shogo Kiryu from One Week Friends This year it came down to either picking Shogo Kiryu or Sekai Kamiki. It really came down to a simple fact when I had to choose: Shogo Kiryu would make the better boyfriend. 

While Shogo is definitely taciturn and sarcastic he actually has a good heart underneath it all. While he often acts aloof and sarcastic his actions show someone who is caring and kind. Despite Yuuki Hase’s more spastic personality Shogo has stuck by his side and always listens to his problems. He might be a bit blunt in his advice but it always comes from a place of genuine concern. It is hard to win his friendship and support but when it is given it proves to be rock solid.

He is also blonde and handsome and that can’t be casually overlooked.

narutaki_icon_4040 Sosuke Yamazaki from Free! Eternal Summer If they keep making Free! anime every year, the boys are going to be constantly landing here. The new season saw the introduction of a new rival/childhood friend by the name of Sosuke. Sure, he was a wrench in the friendships at first, but then he ends up having one of the more emotional and sports-y stories of the season. And, oh yeah, he has his shirt off a lot.

Favorite Canon Pairing
(The “I Swear it is not Just all in My Head” Award)

hisui_icon_4040 Nice and Hajime from Re: Hamatora I wanted to pick a couple in this section that was not something that seemed inevitable from the start. The main couple from a shojo or shonen romance seemed a bit uninspired. It is not like I took all those couples out of the running I just mostly took them out of the first round. But I never needed to go to down that far as I found an interesting couple before then.

Although Nice is the main character of Hamatora the anime hardly starts off as anything even remotely romance based. As the series goes on we slowly learn about the otherwise enigmatic Hajime. She goes from odd hamburger eating character that all the other characters off handily comment about to a central plot character. At the same time we learn more about Nice and Hajime and get hints about their feelings for each other. The ninth episode of Re:_Hamatora reinforces that with the rehearsal of their very strange versions of The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter.

The Nice and Hajime romance never really takes center stage from that point on but then again it would have been really weird if it had done that. What matters most is that it could so nicely spring up in the series to add an additional layer to the series.

Also they are really cute together which is also vitally important.

narutaki_icon_4040 Touka and Uka from Inari Konkon Koi Iroha Number one best otaku couple of the year, hands down. Watching them play video games together is a joyous moment. Each of them slowly realizing there is something between them was just lovely. Plus, I am kind of a sucker for a human falling in love with a spirit. But that also means melancholy ahead.

Favorite Non-Canon Pairing
(The “Die For This Ship” Award)

hisui_icon_4040 Sakamichi Onoda and Sangaku Manami from Yowamushi Pedal I assume in the minds of some fujoshi this relationship is 100% canonical but such is the headspace of the truly rotten women.

That said they really go out of their way to make these two have a very friendly rivalry. If you want the heated anger of something like Zoro and Sanji then you are going to be sorely disappointed. While Onoda and Manami go all out when competing with each other they respect and admire each other in a congenial and affectionate manner. While they clearly both wish to win they bond over a mutual love of their chosen sport. They are both young men who are friendly and passionate and they are both very passionate about cycling. This connects them in both heart and mind.

narutaki_icon_4040 Teppei Kiyoshi and Riko Aida from Kuroko’s Basketball I do believe this could become 100% for realz, but at the moment it feels still very much in my mind. Riko cried for him when she heard about his injury and she has kept a close watch on him since he has returned to the court. They have some good banter. Plus, that whole training room scene near the end of second season? Squee-worthy. Onward S3, make my dreams come true!

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