Top Picks – Winter 2009 Anime, Part 1: Cast and Character Awards
The winter season, as conventional wisdom goes, is one of the weaker seasons for new anime. Oftentimes this generalization has some truth to it but this time a combination of sequels to good shows and a handful of new hits made this a pretty strong season. I’d go so far and say that between the carryover shows and the new shows, I think it’s going to hard for the spring season to have as many good shows.
You can check out another well done list here (Kitsune’s).
Before I get to the awards I wanted to mention which of the season’s shows I watched. These are the only shows that will be eligible for the seasonal awards. There is one show, A Tale of Genji, that I would have loved to include, especially since it probably would have won a few awards, but it hasn’t been subbed past episode 1. (A very good group just put out their version of episode 1 and hopefully in the coming weeks, I’ll get to see more of this interesting show.) Also I have only watched 5 episodes of Kemono no Souja Erin, which is several episodes less then the others. This will limit the awards it’ll win but since it’s going to run for 50+ episodes, it’ll have plenty of opportunities later.
Carry-over shows watched this season (5): Clannad ~After Story~, Toradora, Index, Soul Eater, Michiko to Hatchin
New shows watched this season (11+3): Munto TV, Shikabane Hime: Kuro, Rideback, Asu no Yoichi, Regios, Sorakake Girl, Birdy the Mighty Decode 2, Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou, Maria+holic, Minami-ke: Okaeri, Kemono no Souja Erin, Hetalia Axis Powers, Melancholy of Haruhi-chan, Nyoron Churuya-san
Shows that got dropped (1): Akikan
Best Female Main Character
Winner: Birdy from Birdy the Mighty Decode 2
Runner-up: Nagisa from Clannad ~After Story~
One of the ways the second season of Birdy improved over the first was to focus on developing the characters and thusly, give them more depth. As a result, even though we knew the characters from before, they suddenly become much more memorable. It’s easy to be a hero when everything goes your way but I think there’s very few people that would continue to strive for justice and be willing to protect people like Birdy, given what she’s lived through. From birth, Birdy has not had any choice in what her career was, she was conceived and genetically modified to become a police investigator. Since she was modified, she was treated like a freak and monster by those around her and because she looked Altarian (that civilization’s terrorists and malcontents), she was treated with suspicion and mistrust. Yet, she’s willing to protect these same people that hate her. Also helping make her a great character is her allowing Senekawa to share her body so he can continue living as a normal human until he gets his body back as well as her awesome fighting skills. Nagisa fell short because she was in only a few of the Clannad episodes that ran during the winter season and that just wasn’t enough time to justify picking her. Her determination and inner strength over the course of the show made her one of my all-time favorites characters, though.
Best Male Main Character
Winner: Tomoya from Clannad ~After Story~
Runner-up: Natsume from Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou
On the other hand, Tomoya was in the show enough that I have no qualms about picking him. The pain, despair, and struggling that Tomoya had to endure was immense and it certainly bent him but in the end it did not beat him. He also was a loving and devoted husband and (after getting his head right) a caring father. He worked at a job that was tough under the best circumstances but his injured shoulder only made it worse yet he never complained. You see a lot of guys held up as manly because they can pilot giant mechs or spit out emotionally charged declarations but I think Tomoya was a much better example of what being a man means.
Best Supporting Character
Winner: Ami from Toradora
Almost as soon as I decided that I disliked Ami during the fall season, she started behaving like a character that wanted to be liked. I initially wrote it off as her playing around with the other characters but as time went on, I found myself liking her more and more. Her primary role during this season has been to break the loop that has developed between Ryuuji, Taiga, and Minorin. This hasn’t been easy and to her it’s been painful since she’s had to swallow her own feelings over the matter. Of course, Ami being Ami, she’s been very gruff (biting remarks and verbal zingers) towards them to push them in the right direction and it makes her time on the screen so good. It’s a shame that such a great character didn’t have better luck during the course of the show.
Best Non-human Character
Winner: Nyanko-sensei from Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou
I would describe Nyanko-sensei as distilled awesomeness. He’s supposed to be Natsume’s reluctant bodyguard that wants to see Natsume dead so he can get the Book of Friends. Instead, it’s apparent as time goes on that he actually likes Natsume as a friend and is content to spend his days eating, drinking, and relaxing – just what you’d imagine a sentient talking cat to act like. Also part of his charm is his physical form, a very plump cat body on top of 4 small, stickish legs. If they made plushes of him, I’d really love one.
Best Female Screen-grabber
Winner: Ushio from Clannad ~After Story~
If Nyanko-sensei is distilled awesomeness, Ushio is cuteness taken to the next level. Tomoya had no chance of resisting Ushio’s siren call in becoming a doting father. When Fuko declared that she was going to take Ushio home, I think she echoed a sentiment held by much of the audience. When she was onscreen, she effortlessly bent all attention to herself and whatever she did, be it an impersonation or talking about her mom, she had our full attention. I really could have watched a series that just followed the everyday life of Ushio.
Best Male Screen-grabber
Winner: Hosaka from Minami-ke: Okaeri
Even after three seasons, I still feel a little giddy when Hosaka shows up onscreen because whatever he does, it’ll be comedic gold. I think one of the reasons that I still deeply enjoy Hosaka’s antics is that for all his delusions, personality quarks, and creepiness; deep down, he’s a good guy that would always strive to make Haruka happy. And that’s why I hope he’s successful one day.
Winner: Tomoya and Nagisa from Clannad ~After Story~
Runner-up: Aisaka Taiga and Ryuuji from Toradora
Once again Toradora is around to make what should be an easy decision tough. Taiga and Ryuuji make a really great couple but Tomoya and Nagisa are just too perfect together. They really feel like two halves of a whole and each one supports the other and allows that person to be a better person then they could have been separately. I’ve said that I like the ending and I’ll repeat that here since the ending allows Tomoya and Nagisa to be together again.
Best Character Ability/Power
Winner: Mariya’s Genderbendering Ability from Maria+holic
In real life I don’t think Mariya could have gotten away with what he has but that doesn’t stop an anime from using the idea of a guy being able to pass as a very feminine girl as one of it’s central ideas. This ability isn’t as flashy as say Maid Guy’s abilities but in some ways it’s more amazing that Mariya can pull this off so well, especially since it doesn’t appear that he is all that feminine to begin with. Part of me would love to see him get found out by the end of the series but another part loves to see that he can continue to fool everyone around him. Either way, it’s been a blast watching Mariya cross-dress and play the role of a very pretty and well-liked girl attending an all-girl high school.
Best Cast of Characters
Winner: Minami-ke: Okaeri
One of the strengths of Minami-ke has been it’s very large cast of diverse characters. It’s allowed them to work many different types of comedy into the show and has helped keep the show feeling fresh. Sadly, Asread has not been as capable as Doumu in orchestrating this cast but that doesn’t take away from the quality of the characters of Minami-ke. Every character is given a separate personality and their own wants and desires. Even characters that could feel similar, say the three guys that actively try to get close to one of the Minami sisters are distinct: the one gets trapped in delusions, the second does get near her but she totally misreads his intentions and thinks he wants to beat her up, and the last has taken to cross-dressing to get near but he’s slowly enjoying the cross-dressing more and more and forgetting why he’s doing it.
Best Character Development for Cast
Winner: Asu no Yoichi
I’ve already mentioned how Asu no Yoichi has been surprising good and how the anime adapters have been adding material to make it better. Most of this material added has focused on developing the main character into a nice guy and expert swordsman as well as giving the other important characters some dimension. The net result has been a change from being a generic fan service show into a pretty interesting show that happens to have a good dose of fan service. If it had stuck to being generic, I’m sure that I would not have continued watching but once I got to liking the characters, I got hooked. I hope this gets a second season so we can see watch how the various characters and their relations will continue to develop.
Best Character Development of a Single Character
Winner: Taiga from Toradora
Runner-up: Tomoya from Clannad ~After Story~
This one was a real toughy to pick; I think in my heart I would give this to Tomoya but Taiga’s continued character development during the second half of Toradora was just too much to deny her the pick. I already liked her during the first half of the show but as she’s shed the violent tsundere label, she’s become an even more likeable and deep character. I think one of the surprising aspects about her character was how she enjoys Christmas and attempts to live up to it’s social ideals.
That’s the end of part 1; I hope to have the second part up within a day. Comments and feedback are always appreciated – I’d love to see what others would pick.
Read Part 2: Genre Awards
Read Part 3: VMA Awards
Read Part 4: Top 7 Anime of the season