Top Picks – Spring 2009 Anime, Part 3: VMA Awards

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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

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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

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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.

Best OP

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Winner:Eden of the East

Runner-up:K-ON!

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.


Best ED

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Winner: tie – Cross Game, Hatsukoi Limited

Runner-up:K-ON!

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

 

If you could hear the music at this moment, you'd be impressed.

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

 

Both pics are from the same episode.

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and this doesn’t include the school uniforms, swimsuits and another change of clothes – all looking nice.

Winner:K-ON!

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

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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 skilledpeople and should have worked to retain them.

Best Animation

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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

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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.

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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. :)

Read part 1: Cast and Character Awards
Read part 2: Genre and Misfit Awards
Read part 4: Top Seven Shows of the Spring Season

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7 thoughts on “Top Picks – Spring 2009 Anime, Part 3: VMA Awards”

  1. Actually I think the soundtrack to Basara was released somewhere around a week ago. It’s just that the usual suspects have yet to rip it and spread it through the normal channels.

    Me, personally, I’d give Ristorante Paradiso my nod for best soundtrack from Spring, though Basara isn’t bad by any stretch.

  2. Guin Saga could rival Sengoku Basara in music any day, I feel. Both have their good points though, depending on the kind of music you like.

  3. Norio Wakamoto is definitely a god, that’s one voice I can recognize anywhere. I liked the first season of Hayate too, but I agree JC Staff is doing a better job with the second, and that somehow they’ve given Nagi a little more depth and likeability. I somehow like JC Staff’s character designs better too, even though they’re not really *that* different from the first season, the colors just seem brighten and the characters better drawn. JC Staff is doing a good job with Taishou Yakyuu Musume this season too, at least from what I saw from the first episode.

  4. haha I liked how you used Gigi evaluating juice rather than wine :)

    Yup, that Demon King voice is awesome – very scary!

    Cross Game ED song is one of my favorites as well :)

    I also posted by top picks for the Spring recently :)

  5. You should Watch more of the other anime of spring 2009 because these series here are definitely the worst of spring 2009, except for hatsukoi limited. 07-ghost and Hanasakeru Seishonen are much more fun to watch and have better animation then most of the series here. Chrome shelled regios, Hajime no ippo : new challenger and Major season 5 were also the best series of 2009 but they started before spring..

  6. Kiryu-zero, one of the best things about anime is that we’re all allowed to have our opinions, and rarely ever agree. For example, on another blog, Hanasakeru Seishonen is being watched only because it’s so bad she finds it funny.

    I have to say, how much better Pandora Hearts would be if the animation was better is one of my biggest gripes. I think it easily would have been one of the top shows if it had good animation. Worse, there’s simply no excuse for the animation being _that_ bad.

  7. @ zzeroparticle: thanks for the heads-up – yes, I see the usual suspects haven’t gotten to it yet. I think in the case of Ristorante Paradiso, my attention was always being drawn to the animation and I never paid enough attention to the music. That’ll be fixed when I rewatch it in the future.

    @Panther: Didn’t get around to Guin Saga this season but I heard some good things about it.

    @ suguru: I’m really hoping that JC Staff continues being excellent with their summer shows. I’ve only gotten to Aoi Hana so far and I thought the animation took the level of Hatsukoi Limited and kicked it up another notch. Hopefully it can continue at that level and the story is good because I’d hate to not watch such a pretty anime. I also liked the character designs even though I don’t think they’re as detailed as the first season’s.

    @ Kitsune: I’ve been so busy lately, I’ve been meaning to get over to your site already. For a guy like Gigi who probably uttered at most 50 words in the entire series, I just enjoyed whenever he was on screen. It should have been absurd to have a someone do a juice tasting for a kids birthday party but for him it was just an awesome thing to do.

    @Kiryu-zero: I’ve watched about half of Chrome Shelled Regios. It’s just barely good enough that I won’t drop it but it’s also not good enough to get me to finish the series. I have heard some good things about some of those titles but I do have the problem of finding enough time to watch everything. That’s one of the reasons why I list which series I’ve watched and dropped so people have some idea of how thorough I’ve been that season.

    @Janette: Sometimes I feel like beating my head against the wall while watching Pandora Hearts – do the people providing the financial backing for the show realize that a show that’s at least decent to look at will sell much better.

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