The Best Anime Of 2011 – Part 3: VMA Awards

Step three for awesome anime – after creating memorable characters and giving them a worthy stage – is to use every part of the production process to bring-out/enhance the positive aspects of the anime and hide the negative aspects. Getting the right seiyuu can be the difference between a character being a success or failure. Inappropriate music can ruin the climax of a series and nothing can make a whole anime series fail as assuredly as poor animation quality. Conversely, in the right hands, a small budget can be overcome through creating the right animation style. Stellar OP/ED with it’s combination of music and animation can build excitement and anticipation for the anime and ensure viewers come back next week.

There’s other parts to an anime’s production – like script writing, cinematography, sound editing, etc. – that won’t gets awards here because I’m not knowledgeable enough in these areas to put any confidence in picking winners. Which is why I call this set of awards the Voice, Music, and Audio awards. I’m hoping next year I’ll be able to include a few more areas of the production to these awards.

Before getting to the awards, as a reminder, I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum but there’ll be some because of how they’ll relate to specific awards. As for the continuing shows, only the part of the series that ran during this year is under consideration for this year’s awards.

 

Top Seiyuu “Discovered”

Nominees:

Aoi Yuuki as Madoka from Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Kanae Itou as Ohana from Hanasaku Iroha

Mamoru Miyano as Takuto from Star Driver

Overall Winner: Aoi Yuuki

Very rarely does a new voice actor/actress get the chance to start their career with voicing a main character or even a memorable supporting character; instead they work on small parts, improving their skills, and waiting for their chance. Therefore, it might take a while for these seiyuu to come to the attention of a moderately well-versed anime fan like myself but when they do, it’s always like a bolt of lightning – where has this person been hiding, I ask myself. This year saw three such seiyuu appear. All three display a wide range of ability that served them well for these break-out roles and newer roles as well but the winner just had to be Aoi Yuuki.

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Best Performance by a Seiyuu

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Chiwa Saitou as Homura from Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Spring – Kanae Itou as Ohana from Hanasaku Iroha

Summer – Mamoru Miyano as Rintarou Okabe  from Steins;Gate

Autumn – Akio Ohtsuka as Rider aka Iskander from Fate/Zero

Wildcard –  Hiroaki Hirata as Tiger from Tiger and Bunny

Overall Winner: Mamoru Miyano as Rintarou Okabe

Instrumental in making Okabe the epic character he became was the talent of Mamoru Miyano. The role required being able to do positively everything and he was able to do it and make it look easy. Right behind him was Chiwa Saitou. Her performance as Homura going from doe-eyed innocent into the brittle, empty killer in the span of one episode allowed episode 10 of PM3 to be the single best episode of anime in 2011. I sometimes forget how versatile she can be.

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Best Male Seiyuu

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Mamoru Miyano as Takuto from Star Driver

Spring – Mamoru Miyano as Rintarou Okabe  from Steins;Gate

Summer – Mamoru Miyano as Rintarou Okabe  from Steins;Gate

Autumn - Hiro Shimono as You Satou from Ben-To

Wildcard –  Hiroshi Kamiya as Natsume from Natsume Yuujinchou 3

Overall Winner: Mamoru Miyano

There were plenty of great roles that Mamoru Miyano played in 2011; the ones listed above were just his best. He also starred in Dog Days (and was one of principal draws to that anime) as well as in Chihayafuru – to name but two more. While no danger to Mamoru Miyano here, both Hiroshi Kamiya and Hiro Shimono are no slouches themselves.  Hiroshi Kamiya was even my 2008 best male seiyuu pick after his roles in the first season of Natsume Yuujinchou and Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei and continues to be one of my favorites.

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Best Female Seiyuu

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Aoi Yuuki  as Madoka from Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Victorique from Gosick

Spring – Aoi Yuuki  as Victorique from Gosick and Tooru from A Channel

Summer – Kanae Itou as Ohana from Hanasaku Iroha

Autumn – Miyuki Sawashiro as Kuripaka from Hunter × Hunter and Fujiko from Lupin III

Wildcard –  Asami Imai as Christina from Steins;Gate, Marina Inoue as Rio from Rio – Rainbow Gate and Yozora from Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai and Matsurika from Maria+holic Alive

Overall Winner: Aoi Yuuki  

I fear that I’m starting to sound like a broken record with my seiyuu winning picks but putting anything else would be dishonest. On the other hand voice acting seems like a volatile profession with who gets roles and who doesn’t being arbitrary (or more likely it’s a very political process and to this outsider it appears arbitrary) so I don’t feel bad about celebrating the stellar work of Aoi Yuuki this year. This year also saw Marina Inoue getting more roles than she’d been getting  – or, at least, more roles in anime that I watch – which was another good thing that happened in 2011 because she’s very talented.

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Best Seiyuu Cast

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Spring – Tiger and Bunny

Summer – Hanasaku Iroha

Autumn – Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai

Wildcard –  Mawaru Penguin Drum

Overall Winner: Hanasaku Iroha

This is another category that was tough to pick and in the end I handed the award to the anime with a larger cast – Hanasaku Iroha – on the idea that it was more difficult to cast a large number of people versus a smaller cast. Shaft/Shinbou has for a long time reused voice actors from one anime to the next (PM3 is no different) and I think this is a practice more animation studios should adopt because Shaft/Shinbou seems to get a better performance from their seiyuu.

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Best OP

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Level E

Spring – Maria+Holic Alive

Summer – Nichijou OP2

Autumn – Shakugan no Shana III

Wildcard – Kamisama Dolls, Mawaru Penguin Drum OP2

Overall Winner: Nichijou OP2

Some awards are more subjective than others and this category definitely falls hard into the subjective pile. Deciding on how to balance the mix of music and the animation sequence plus accounting for what “best OP” actually means makes it tough to be subjective. To make this even more subjective I’ll add that I think Nichijou OP2 is probably the best OP that KyoAni ever made.

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Best ED

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Spring – AnoHana

Summer – Episode 7 of Nekogami Yaoyorozu

Autumn – Un-Go

Wildcard –  Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, Hidamari Sketch SP

Overall Winner: Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Ditto that idea for this award. One time I played with the idea of splitting this award and the last into two separate like this “Best ED – Music” and “Best ED – Visuals” but decided I was making too many awards as is. So, instead, I balance it all out beforehand and hope no one asks to see the rubric I used :) . For this award both Un-Go and Denpa Onma to Seishun Otoko had stronger visuals than the eventual winner but the song for PM3 made up more than enough to win.

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Best Background Music

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Spring – Nichijou

Summer – Nichijou

Autumn – Ben-Tou

Wildcard –  Ikoku Meiro no Croisee, Ao no Exorcist

Overall Winner: Nichijou

If those reading could see me at this moment of writing they’d see someone grimacing over the dread that a person with actual expertise in the area of anime background music won’t come along and explain why Nichijou was the wrong choice. Actually, I’ve been trying to listen to the background music more this year and I have slightly more confidence with this pick this year then I have had in the past. I thought Nichijou’s BGM perfectly complemented the show and helped heighten the enjoyment of the series as a whole.

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Best Animation Style

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Spring – Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko

Summer – Mawaru Penguin Drum

Autumn – Chihayafuru

Wildcard –  Ikoku Meiro no Croisee, Steins;Gate

Overall Winner: Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Puella Magi Madoka Magica was the culmination and perfection of the Shaftian anime style. (Of course the Shaft/Shinbou style was an outgrowth of older animators but since they’ve been the ones pumping out the series of late they get credit for the Shaftian style of animation. How Penguins is connected to Shaft/Shinbou and vice versa is a fascinating topic to anyone that noticed the similarities.) Scholars and fans alike in future will probably point to this anime as influencing the growth of anime over the coming years and the proof will be seen in the adoption of elements of Shaft’s animation style, which we’re already seeing.

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Best Animation

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Star Driver

Spring – Nichijou

Summer – Nichijou

Autumn – Fate/Zero

Wildcard –  Hanasaku Iroha, Tiger and Bunny

Overall Winner: Nichijou

I remember reading an interview given by someone at KyoAni saying that Nichijou contains the most animation cuts (I think that was the technical term) of any series that KyoAni has worked on. I believe it, the proof of this appears in Nichijou winning an award like best action. The other contenders all fielded efforts that 5-6 years ago would have made an anime fan salivate but in 2011 they all came up a little short. Hanasaku Iroha comes in second and might have beaten Nichijou had it been given a slightly larger budget to work with.

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Top Animation Studio

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Shaft

Spring – A-1 Pictures

Summer – Brain’s Base

Autumn – David Production

Wildcard –  Kyoto Animation, P.A. Works

Overall Winner: Brain’s Base

This year marked a big step for Brain’s Base when it animated not one, not two, but three series at once during the Summer season and having two become top titles of the year and the third being above average. Before this point they’d only handle one series at a time and this limited the number of series that they could get too – to the mumbling of fans that want various sequels like Baccano 2 or Spice and Wolf 3. I can’t wait to see what 2012 holds for Brain’s Base.

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That’s it for part 3 of my 2011 anime awards. Stay tuned for part 4: The Misfit Awards.

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Top anime 2011 Awards Part 0: Introduction and Anti-Awards
Top anime 2011 Awards Part 1: Cast and Character Awards
Top anime 2011 Awards Part 2: Genre and General Awards
Top anime 2011 Awards Part 3: VMA Awards <- you are here
Top anime 2011 Awards Part 4: The Misfit Awards
Top anime 2011 Awards: Top 13 Anime – #13 – #7
Top anime 2011 Awards: Top 13 Anime – #6 – #1

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4 thoughts on “The Best Anime Of 2011 – Part 3: VMA Awards”

  1. In terms of Nichijou’s BGM, it’s a solid pick for in-show enjoyment. The issue I had with it was when you listen to it standalone since I thought a significant number of tracks were just too short and could have been developed further. Of the excellent soundtracks to come out this year, I’m leaning towards either one of Chihayafuru, Last Exile, and Gundam Age. All three have been enjoyable out of context and if nothing else, I’d definitely recommend giving those a shot!

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  2. Just to nit-pick, Aoi Yuuki’s been picking up plum roles for a couple of years, including one lead role before Madoka: Ichigo in Yuneiro Patissiere, where she did a sollid, consistent , enjoyable job for over fifty episodes. I’m delighted she’s getting so much work. it seems every time I hear an interesting character voice nowadays I learn that she’s doing it (most recently, Ringo in Daily Lives of High School Boys).

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  3. You’ve must not been paying much attention to seiyuu for the past 5 years. The “discovered” category shouldn’t even be there even with the facetious quotes.

    3 roles of the top of my head that are arguably more famous (or more breakouty) for these three seiyuu:
    Aoi Yuuki – Murasaki Kuhoin from Kurenai (2008)
    Kanae Itou – Amu Hinamori from Shugo Chara (2007 ran for 127 episodes)
    Miyano Mamoru – Hello? Yagami Light from Death Note (2006)

    Granted Mamoru and Yuuki were probably the best seiyuu last year though.

    None of them are remotely new.
    As for who I would put there:
    In terms of breakout female i’d likely pick Imai Asami for Makise Kurisu and Kisaragi Chihaya (even though she’s had that character awhile) or maybe Ise Mariya but that’s more just because I like her.

    In terms of straight up new people it’s really hard to beat Kayano Ai’s debut: A number of main character roles Honma Meiko from Anohana, Inori from GC, Hibino from Kamisama Dolls, and Milia from Last Exile and a few great supporting roles: Kanade from Chihayafuru, Ume from Ben-To, Itsuwa from Index2, and Roman from Sket Dance. I will grant the detractors that for the most part a lot of those anime are not exactly well recognized but to have that many lead roles in your debut year is kind of indisputable. Interestingly if you look at the leads of Rinne no Lagrange all three ladies have had decent breakout years but Kayano’s is definitely the most noticeable.

    With males it’s a little tougher. Kaiji Yuuki has certainly had a good year but I’m not sure some people would think the characters he played were any good, (OHMA SHOE) but he had more lead roles this year than any of his previous years combined.
    Okamoto Nobuhiko also had a pretty good year with Rin, Nizuma, Accelerator, and a handful of other main and supporting roles but really his breakout was when he voiced Accelerator in Index s1.
    Kimura Ryohei also had his biggest year since his debut in 2002 with Shouma and Kodaka particularly.
    If I had to pick one it’d probably be Kaiji Yuuki

    As for new male I’d probably tag Uchiyama Kouki who had a lead role in C, Infinite Stratos, Kimi to Boku, and Shiki. I’m not sure how much of a fan of his work I was but he’s probably one of the greener seiyuu getting main char roles.
    If you want someone really green you can sorta argue Kimura Subaru who has had one main role in Doraemon since 2005 and then in 2011 came out with Kanba and did a damn fine job. Arguably new but just as easily arguably not for spending 6 years on one of the most watched shows in Japan.

    So yeah seiyuu rant.

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  4. @zzeroparticle: Yeah, thinking about Nichijou’s music probably isn’t the best from a stand-alone perspective but I so rarely like the full tracks on the soundtrack albums that I almost never bother listening to them. I’ll give Chihayafuru and Last Exile a try, though; I’ve been enjoying both of those anime which’ll help.

    @Peter S: nit-pick away, I don’t mind. Never saw Yuneiro Patissiere. Nowadays I probably would have at least given the show a chance but back then I was a pickier anime watcher.

    @Taka: Thanks for taking the time to write out such a well thought out reply. I’ve really only been interested in seiyuu over the last couple of years. At first I paid no attention to the production side of things but that changed when I started getting interesting in figuring out why I liked certain anime more so then others.

    You do have a point with Aoi Yuuki, I do remember being really impressed with Murasaki Kuhoin but after Kurenai she voices a lot characters that I don’t remember being impressed by like those in Samurai Girls, TWGOK, Sora no Woto, Ichiban Ushiro no Dai Maou to name a few.

    Didn’t watch Shugo Chara so I missed Kanae Itou in that. Looking over Kanae Itou’s roles I really don’t know why it took Hanasaku Iroha for me to realize her talent. I watched and liked the characters she voiced in both Railgun and Asobi ni Iku yo! and TWGOK and Sora no Manimani but I never took that last step to equating her talent with those characters.

    Truthfully, I didn’t really like Death Note and just barely got through it so if Miyano Mamoru gave a performance on the same level as the stuff he’s doing now it probably got drowned out. Looking over his list of roles, I found him annoying in Durarara and don’t particularly remember him in either Kurozuka or Soul Eater.

    Of the three names you mention for females, Ise Mariya impressed me the most once I realized all the roles she had this year. She really can play a wide range of characters. I’ll have to pay more attention this year and hope she gets some good roles so I can “discover” her for next year’s awards.

    As for Kayano Ai, I knew she was a new seiyuu but most of those roles I had/have the problem of not really liking the characters; I think I’ve most liked her in Chihayafuru.

    And I’ll be honest, on the male side I’ve noticed that I have trouble differentiating male leads; oftentimes they sound basically alike. Of the ones you name I’m most impressed by Kimura Ryohei.

    Thanks again for your comment, I learned a lot.

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