Top Picks – Spring 2009 Anime, Part 3: VMA Awards
The final set of awards before going to my top shows of the season cover the music, vocal actors, and animation aspects of this season’s anime. Or the three parts to anime that are heavily dependent on the preferences of the individual viewer.
The reason I put these awards third is that in the grand scheme of things, the areas that were covered in the first two parts are much more important in making a good anime then what’s covered here. They’re important in their own way but if the voice work or music or animation is a little shoddy or average, it’s still possible to make a good show. For an example, look at Pandora Hearts, it’s animation quality is very poor but it’s still been a good watch because the story and characters have been above average. But I won’t deny if the animation quality had been higher – say if Bones had done it using a style similar to Soul Eater – it wouldn’t have been a better show.
Best Male Seiyuu
Norio Wakamoto as Demon King from Sengoku Basara and the Announcer from Hayate
This is one award that I don’t feel like I have to explain why Norio Wakamoto earns this award since I think it’s pretty apparent – he has one of the awesomest voices in anime. Here’s a clip of him speaking from the first episode of Sengoku Basara.
Best Female Seiyuu
Haruka Tomatsu as Aoba from Cross Game
During the past winter season there was one show that really shocked me because it was much better then it should have been – Asu no Yoichi. One of the reasons I eventually concluded for it’s success was the middle sister and her voice actor Haruka Tomatsu. Still remembering this performance, I was pleasantly surprised to her voicing a role in Cross Game. As the series rolled on and the story started to hit it’s stride, I found myself once again impressed with how well Haruka Tomatsu was able to give life to her character. If I had to characterize her voice, I’d say it somewhat reminds me of Marina Inoue especially how it can range from being very authoritative – almost terrorizing – to being very sweet and calm. She’s quickly become one of my favorite voice actors and I hope she continues to get more main roles.
Winner: Eden of the East
A recent rewatch of Paranoia Agent reminded me how much an opening can influence the viewer’s state of mind when watching the actual show. In the case of Paranoia Agent, it was to get the viewer primed for the surreal nature of the show. In the case of Eden of the East, it wanted to build onto the mystique of the show and hint that something grand was behind everything. In this regard, it was a big success. I did really like the K-ON! opening but the lazy way in which the fifth player was added to the animation of the opening prevented it from winning.
Winner: tie – Cross Game, Hatsukoi Limited
Normally I find myself having more trouble with picking the best opening then with the best ending but this time I had the hardest time trying to pick between Cross Game and Hatsukoi Limited. I finally decided the way I was going to pick between the two was to create a song list of just those two songs and keep repeating them until I got tired of one or the other. I went about doing various things and before I knew it, it was four hours later and I still hadn’t gotten tired of either. So I made the command decision of giving them both the pick – it is my blog after all. The two songs are complete opposites and compliment the tone of their respective shows nicely. The animation that accompanies both sequences also fits in well with the show and features the many characters of each show. I probably wouldn’t have bothered with a runner-up in the case of a tie but I really liked the animation part of the closing of K-ON! – it was probably my favorite animation of the season – with the song just falling short of the winners.
Best Background Music
Winner: Sengoku Basara
Like I’ve said in previous award posts, one of my main criteria in picking the best background music is for me to actually remember the background music when I’m not watching the show. In the case of Sengoku Basara, I remember the background music because it, along with the rest of the show, is over-the-top and always cognizant of the fact that the show is here to entertain and be fun – not serious. As far as I can tell the soundtrack isn’t out but I’ve been eagerly wanting it for a long time now.
Best Dressed Characters
I almost didn’t bother with this award since no other studio works so hard on their character’s outfits and thus no one can give KyoAni a serious challenge but then I realize that I’m falling into that modern thinking of vilifying success instead of celebrating it. So, the award is here and KyoAni’s K-ON! smashes the competition for this award. I’m somewhat surprised that with the proven ability of KyoAni to sell things (from CDs to guitars to visiting a specific temple) that no clothing maker over there has created a line of clothes based on their designs. They would, almost assuredly, sell like hot cakes.
Best Animation Style
Winner: Hatsukoi Limited
Runner-up: Ristorante Paradiso
This is not a measure of the best animation (that’s the next award) but the actual style of the show. For years now J.C. Staff has a basic style that they use with some of there shows, I call it their watercolor look and what it lacks in animation pizazz, it easily makes up for in beauty. Their latest example, Hatsukoi Limited, is the best iteration of the look and compliments the show perfectly. Other bloggers focused in on how pretty the girls of the series looked but that really was just a by-product of the animation style that J.C. Staff used. It beat out the first series from the new company called “David Company”. I was curious about the people behind this company since the show had such a unique look to it and what I discovered was that the company was founded a couple of years ago by several former Gonzo employees. It made me wonder if at least some of the Gonzo bashing isn’t justified; if Ristorante Paradiso is an example of the quality of the employees that left Gonzo then Gonzo lost several skilled people and should have worked to retain them.
Winner: Phantom ~ Requiem of Phantom ~
I know as I type this that I’ll catch some flack for this pick because the conventional wisdom will say that Eden of the East should get best animation. I’d have to disagree though, their backgrounds are truly awesome and deserve recognition but the character designs and thusly the character animation pushed no boundaries. I don’t want to say they were lazy since the character designs worked well in the slice-of-life show Honey and Clover but that type of show isn’t about exciting the viewer with it’s animation. Once I put Eden of the East in it’s proper context, I looked around for another show and as if on queue I watched episode 12 of Phantom and realized I had my winner. It wasn’t just the little flyover sequence at the start of episode 12 that made me pick them, I’ve been impressed with virtually all the parts of the show, including the animation but it wasn’t until that scene that I really put together how well I thought the animation was. To be sure I spot rewatched several episodes and so I can confidently say that I think Phantom had the best animation overall for this season.
Top Animation Studio
Winner: J.C. Staff
I’ll admit to having a soft spot for J.C. Staff. When they do a show right, it’s a very memorable experience but this soft spot doesn’t allow me to gloss over when they do a poor job with a show – the latest example of sub par work would be Index. This season they had two shows Hatsukoi Limited and the second season of Hayate the combat butler. I’ve talked about Hatsukoi Limited many times already but they’re also doing good with Hayate. One of the subtle changes I like is Nagi’s character is more likeable though I can’t quite pin down the exact difference. I also like how the show is more focused on the characters and their relationships – my gut (and reading other bloggers reactions) tells me that they’re sticking with the source material more. It took a little bit to readjust my expectations of the show from just being a silly gag-a-minute show to something a little more coherent but I have and it was worth it. Looking forward to the summer season, they have 2 new shows and I’m really hoping that they can continue at the level they displayed this season.
That’s it for part 3 of my spring 2009 anime awards. I hoped to have this and the final part – my top 6 shows of the season out before the fourth of July so I could start on my summer anime impressions but I don’t think that going to quite happen. Real life and more particularly table top Dungeons and Dragons is calling me.