2011 was a very interesting year. It’s the first where i actively explored different series, series that i’d usually stay away from because i wanted to explore new series as the anime fan that i am. There were some shows that completely bombed, some that completely rocked and others where a certain episode triumphed. Sometimes it’s the animation studio that can make the difference between pass and fail. Well, here’s the second part of my 2011 in Review: the grand finale.
Note: Most shows aired in Fall are included here except Fate/Zero: It’s second season is starting in April, so it’s not finished yet though i do want to give it a place here.
General Best and Worst Awards:
Best in Animation – Overall:
Winner: Hanasaku Iroha (P.A. Works) – HanaIro may be very flawed but the animation was impeccable. To keep amazing and realistic backgrounds for 26 episodes is no small feat. Everything about the animation was high-quality and stunning.
Runner-ups: Ano Hana (A-1 Pictures), Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica (Shaft), Usagi Drop (Production I.G.)
Best in Animation – Creative:
Winner: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica (Shaft) – Shaft amazes me at how they try to mix different styles of animation even when it is obvious they lack the funds to do so, but i could really tell that they put their whole effort here. The background art when the girls are fighting various witches was just breathtaking and creative.
Runner-ups: Ben-To (David Production money shots, camera angles), C3 (Silver Link – SHAFT-like visuals), Usagi Drop (Production I.G. – Watercolor scenes before the OP)
Best Slice-of-Life Series:
Winner: Natsume Yuujinchou San – Once again Natsume Yuujinchou continues to dominate my feelings and expectations of what a slice of life series is. It had competition from Usagi Drop but it edged ahead because this show has been airing since 2008 and has consistently been a wonderful series.
Runner-ups: Usagi Drop, Kimi to Boku, The iDOLM@STER, Hanasaku Iroha
Best Comedy Series:
Winner: Ben-To – A clear winner here. The fact that the story’s main plot involves such a wacky premise – life and death fighting over half-priced lunch boxes – gives an indication of things to come. There were some lacking moments, but the series was really a blast when it came to the jokes and Oshiroi’s fujoshi instincts were always fun to watch.
Runner-ups: Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai
Best in Storytelling:
Winner: Steins;Gate – This was a really hard three way tie between S;G, Madoka and Natsume Yuujinchou but Steins;Gate had kept me on the edge of my seat everytime with plot twists at every corner and in this case the higher episode count edges out Madoka Magica.
Runner-ups: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, Natsume Yuujinchou San
Best in Music (BGM/OST):
Winner: Deadman Wonderland (Narasaki) – It’s that once hyped show from manglobe that later turned out to be a huge dud. But Deadman Wonderland’s soundtrack not only got the typical fight scene angle down, but everything in between was fantastic.
Runner-ups: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica (Yuki Kajiura), Natsume Yuujinchou San (Makoto Yoshimori), UN-GO (Narasaki), Ben-To (Taku Iwasaki)
Best in Opening and Ending Sequence:
Winners: AnoHana OP and Madoka Magica ED (Galleo Gallei and Kalafina, respectively) – This was the hardest category to pick for but these two are the ones that i’ve always remembered the most. AnoHana had a splendid OP sequence with the right amount of vocals to compliment it and the last part always gets me a little teary-eyed after seeing the finale. Madoka’s ED is just completely frightening – a stark contrast to the OP – and it really sets the mood well with even more frightening visuals and vocals on top.
Runner-ups: Dantalian no Shoka OP, Deadman Wonderland OP, Steins;Gate OP, Hanasaku Iroha OP 2, Madoka Magica OP, The iDOLM@STER OP 2, Kamisama Dolls OP; No.6 ED, AnoHana ED, Natsume Yuujinchou San ED
Best in Music (Full-length):
Winner: Rokutousei no Yoru by Aimer (No.6 Ending) – What a beautiful song. It actually gets me choked up just from hearing it. It has all the right emotions, very well-sung and just a really good song overall.
Runner-ups: Yakusoku by Chihaya Kisaragi, Secret Base ~Kimi ga Kureta mono~ 10 years after ver., Connect by ClariS, Sky Clad no Kansokusha by Kanako Itou
Best Episode (standalone): Some spoilers are whited out.
Winner: The iDOLM@STER Episode 20 (Yakusoku) – I couldn’t believe a show so similar to K-ON (which i disliked) could actually get me to shed tears on the level of Chihaya’s. It wasn’t the tears that made this the best episode it’s the fact that it came from the most unlikely of sources. I never once thought that iM@S would be nothing more than standard moe girls with music. Boy i was so very, very wrong.
Runner-ups: Steins;Gate Episode 23, Hanasaku Iroha Episode 26, Dantalian no Shoka Episode 9, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica Episode 10 and 12
Worst Series of 2011
Winner(?): Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni! – Nothing about this show even remotely resembled the first season which had great amounts of comedy and balanced fanservice with most of the cast being very likeable. Not only is the summoner test wars mostly disappear in this season, most of the cast is so unlikeable and the amounts of abuse the guys take is just ridiculous and if that’s even comedy, i’m not laughing. Minami is the exception, though: She was fantastic in the last half of the series.
Best Series of 2011
Winner: Steins;Gate – It was a long and bumpy 24 episodes but along the way many characters were developed, plot twists abound, creepy mad scientists along the way with Dr. Peppers in hand and the best romantic scene all year. Steins;Gate deserves the accolades and praise, it truly went above and beyond and made for a riveting sci-fi experience like no other.
Runner-ups: Natsume Yuujinchou San, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, Usagi Drop, The iDOLM@STER
Most Under-rated Series of 2011:
Winner: Dantalian no Shoka – Flawed as it may be, DnS was a very enjoyable experience that utilized the episodic approach very well even when the characterization and stories were less than stellar. The visuals and BGM do not disappoint and it never tried to promise too much in the beginning.
Best/Worst Anime Not From This Year: A category i added because i’ve seen alot of new series that aired last year or in previous years and i wanted to talk a little bit about them.
Best: Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu – A stunning turnaround from the attempted troll known as Endless Eight. Everything about this movie was fantastic, the character interactions, their motives, the animation – everything was just put together flawlessly. I liked this movie mainly because there wasn’t alot of Haruhi, i mean the movie is called the “Disappearance” of Haruhi Suzumiya, and that was a huge factor as to why i’m not that into this series.
Runner-ups: Michiko to Hatchin
Worst: Mobile Suit Gundam 00 The Movie: Awakening of the Trailblazer – On the flipside, a stunning turnaround from an okay ending of season 2. This movie ranks as not only one of the worsts from 2010, but one of the worst anime’s i’ve ever seen: The plot (?) is broken, the new main character becomes cannon-fodder early on and attempts to introduce new characters go down in flames. The animation was great, the music was mainly re-used but the characters were so utterly annoying and the ending was cheesy and a lame attempt to discuss politics. Trainwreck doesn’t even begin to describe this one.
Runner-ups: Eureka Seven, Angel Beats!
#10 – Minami Shimada (Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni!)
Despite the horrible mess that was “Ni”, Minami really stepped up to the plate this past season and her backstory was touching if not easy to relate to, especially if you move to a different country with a small grasp of the language. She’s easily my favorite BakaTest character (sorry Hideyoshi..).
#9 – Jinta Yadomi (Ano Hana)
I got to hand it to Miyu Irino: He really pulled his best effort yet in this role. AnoHana had a lot of great characters but Jinta stood out because of his growing character development from reclusive and distant to a real standout leader helping Menma find her wish. He embodies what it means and what it’s like to be a leader.
#8 – Daikichi Kawachi (Usagi Drop)
I just finished this series and i had to include Daikichi here. This guy is a shining example that there are good people left not just in anime but in real life. His ordeals, his best and worst moments, everything felt so real and easily to relate.
#7 – Kogitsune (Natsume Yuujinchou)
This little fox child may not seem like much but when he finally got a episode to himself after three years of waiting, he reminded me why i love this show in the first place. He brings a sense of comfort and joy to Natsume who in turn becomes an easily better character as a result. I’m not gonna lie, Kogitsune is by far the cutest character in an anime thus far.
#6 – Homura Akemi (Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica)
Episode 10 was by far one of the most powerful episodes in recent history for any series, unbelievable how much character development Homura got in just one episode while advancing the entire plot. The crap she’s gone through is enough for anyone to snap, but she’s second to Okabe from Steins;Gate in terms of shit hitting the fan for them (poor guy..). Even before episode 10, i knew Homura wouldn’t just stay the way she was and soon that became a reality.
#5 – Takashi Natsume (Natsume Yuujinchou)
Only #5? Yeah, hard to believe considering how much i love this show to death. But this year has seen a lot of great characters and don’t count out Natsume himself. Season 3 really was all about him and his character grow from the shy and wary person with a secret to openly developing new friendships and maintaining his youkai friends. He remains one of my all time favorite characters, and to whoever is in charge of character designs for the series: You are amazing, please do more series.
#4 – Kurisu Makise (Steins;Gate)
Why, it’s the perverted assistant herself (okay the first part is incorrect)! Kurisu is really one of the most stunning characters this season, her role in the series has to do with most of it. Kurisu can manage a whole host of different behaviors without looking seriously demented and still retain a great amount of her own personality. Kurisu’s seiyuu Asami Imai deserves kudos for her strong role here and as Chihaya from the iDOLM@STER.
#3 – Kyuubey (Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica)
Arguably the most controversial character this year for his role in the story. It’s easy to figure out that Kyuubey and his fellow species have no emotions whatsoever not because they chose not to but that’s just how it is for them. Yet it is this emotionless aspect to his character that drives spirited debates over whether he is an antagonist or something different. He remains a fascinating character to watch.
#2 – Sui Shijima (Hanasaku Iroha)
I’m sure none of you expected this one. I really felt that Sui was the best character in Hanasaku Iroha. For other characters, 26 episodes was too long to give them any real good development but this was just perfect for Sui. Not only is she not the cruel heartless bitch we thought she was, but in the end she only wanted what was best for her workers and giving Ohana a chance to shape her own future. I salute you, Sui, for being one of the most wonderful characters to come out of 2011.
#1 – Rintarou Okabe (Steins;Gate)
Yeah, Hououin Kyouma deserves his own special image. I’ve longed for a character than could fill the shoes left by Lelouch back in Code Geass R2. Okabe did not do that, instead he went to every different world line (whether it’s alpha, beta, gamma or Steins;Gate) and bought his own damn shoes. It’s easy to say for some animes that without a certain character(s), the show wouldn’t be the same. Steins;Gate is COMPLETELY dependent on such a wonderful cast that i can’t imagine i would even enjoy such a series without Okabe in it. He, like Kurisu, manages to be funny, witty, sarcastic and serious while retaining his personality completely. Mamoru Miyano deserves props for another amazing role (like he doesn’t have enough great roles).
With New Year’s Day in about 3 hours (from California), i wanted to offer up my last thoughts on the year. It’s my first ever year in where i actively explored many different genres and i can say that it was a very wise decision or i would have missed out on some real good gems (like the iDOLM@STER). 2012 already looks real good with news that Natsume Yuujinchou has been licensed by NIS America, another season of Natsume and a stronger than average Winter lineup. My real blogging experience has yet to be awakened and soon i’ll be undertaking episodic posts. I can’t say for sure how many anime’s i’ll be blogging, but i’ll try my best.