Sorry to break the Hidamari Sketch streak but this was my favorite screenshot from 2011.
Did you feel your ears pop just now? I know I did. We’ve finally here – the rarefied air were this year’s best anime titles inhabit.
Before getting to the final countdown here’s some stats that the numerical-minded might find interesting. Using just the top 6 anime series:
- This year has three anime original series, 2010 saw 2, 2009 had none, 2008 included 2, and 2007 also had 2.
- This year marks the fourth year that a Shaft series appeared and the third year that KyoAni has appear as well.
- This year Brain’s Base joins Shaft from 2010, AIC from 2008 and KyoAni from 2007 by placing two anime in the top 6 in one year.
The end is fast approaching for The Null Set’s examination of the 2011 year in anime so let’s switch gears, drop the categories, and let the various anime series go head-to-head.
I’ll readily admit that the anime series occupying the top spots on this list probably won’t be a surprise based on a simple tally of which anime won the most categories but using just that method doesn’t give a wholly accurate picture of the relative strength of the top anime series. Sure it’s causes one to compare apples to oranges, as the saying goes, or maybe more aptly, forces one to mix oil and water together but humans seem hardwired to try to do just that.
On that note, let’s head to the countdown and discover which series juuusst squeaked onto the list.
I’m sure I’m not the only person that after building something will sometimes find a small pile of odds’n’ends that one hopes does not belong in the completed product. This part of the awards is like that pile of parts; as I was arranging awards into the various groups I started accumulating awards that didn’t really fit with the others. Instead of putting these categories in a little bag and forgetting about them until something goes wrong, I decided to add this fourth part to be able to cover them as well.
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.
Step 2 in making extraordinary anime is to take your cast of memorable characters and give them a stage that lets them shine.
I’m not fussy about which stage is chosen nor do I think one type is inherently superior to another. A well-done comedy is as difficult to make as a well-done drama and both deserve the same level of praise for succeeding in their respective spheres of influence. With a competent execution, a shoujo anime is as good as a shounen anime and/or a slice-of-life anime and/or a sports anime and/or a science fiction anime and/or romantic comedy anime and so on and so forth.
This bit of enlightenment was something I learned after starting my anime blogging and pushing myself to watch a wider variety of anime. Which is one of the reasons I’d suggest giving anime blogging a chance to people that want to deepen their appreciation of the art form.
The first step to making extraordinary anime (at least to me) is to populate the anime with a stellar cast of memorable characters and 2011 was full of anime that took this idea to heart.
One general trend that seems to be really gathering steam of late is creating male main characters who have an actual backbone. There are still shows that cling to the tired character type of the lame/weak male main character but, on balance, they are mainly the cheaper, lower-tier anime series. For this I think we have to thank Tomokazu Sugita and his performance as Kyon from The Melancholy of Haruhi. He might not have been first one to staunch the tide of wet noodle “guys” but with every snarky remark (and DVD sale) he created a counter-image of what a male main character could be.
Another trend, albeit a bit on the meta side, among characters I noticed this year was during the Saimoe competition. I didn’t cover this annual net competition of Japanese (and whoever else could sneak in) anime fans for the most popular female “moe” character but I lurked on an almost daily basis at the places that covered Saimoe. What I was surprised by was the near-total failure of the incumbent franchises to win against the new anime series. I don’t know if this anti-establishment fervor was merely a display of fatigue towards the older anime franchises or was this a signal of a shift in anime fandom. Maybe it’s a sign that 2012 will be the end of the world .