After one of the weakest anime seasons in recent memory (Winter 2010) and the accompanying apathy nixing it last time, the seasonal top anime awards returns to The Null Set for one of the most diverse and interesting season of anime in a very long time. We had alchemy, parallel worlds, demon kings, train wrecks, socially-inept samurai, pretty boy samurai, surprisingly deep commentary on what’s truly important in life disguised as a comedy about homeless people living under a bridge, a cute and sweet love story disguised as a comedy about one girl’s quest to bed 100 boys before graduating high school, an uplifting story of heroism set in post-war Japan, a neighborhood full of bizarre people in Japan, and a high school band known as much for the cake they serve in their clubroom as for their music, to name just a few anime.
Before starting, below is a listing of the shows that I watched this season and are the pool from which the picks for all the awards are coming from. Also 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 and for the continuing shows, only the part of the series that ran during this season is under consideration for this season’s awards.
Carry-over shows watched this season (3): Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Katanagatari, Durarara
New shows watched this season (12): B Gata H Kei, Arakawa Under the Bridge, Angel Beats, K-On!! Season 2, The Tatami Galaxy, Kaichou wa Maid-sama, Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou, House of Five Leaves, Working!!, Mayoi Neko Overrun, Rainbow – Nisha Rokubou no Shichijin, Hakuouki – Shinsengumi Kitan
Shows that got dropped (1): Heroman
Best Female Main Character
Winner: Nino from Arakawa Under the Bridge
Runner-up: Yamada from B Gata H Kei, Yui from K-On!!
There was tough competition in this category but the self-proclaimed Venusian won out by being awesome enough that Ko still looks like he hit the jackpot by becoming her boyfriend even if it meant having to live under a bridge with a bunch of very weird people.
Best Male Main Character
Winner: Sakuragi Rokurouta aka Bro from Rainbow
Runner-up: Kosuda from B Gata H Kei
I love heroes with their ability to act contrary to self-interest for a greater good so I was unsurprised when I developed such a quick liking of Sakuragi from Rainbow. Alphone Elric almost made runner-up for the same reason but the large cast to Full Metal lessened his time onscreen too much. Sakuragi, much like Kamina from Gurren Lagann, also oozed awesomeness and had the gravitas to make being a hero look really cool.
Best Supporting Character(s)
Runner-up: Ozu from The Tatami Galaxy
A headless mythical creature from Ireland, Celty rides a black motorcycle, wields a scythe, communicates by writing messages on a cellphone and somehow isn’t the oddest person inhabiting the Japanese neighborhood where Durarara takes place. She’s loyal and handy to have around in a fight and the only thing that really scares her is a tough-as-nails traffic cop. She was one of my favorites from Durarara (obviously) and pretty much had this award locked early on.
Runner-up: Misato from B Gata H Kei, Shizuo from Durarara
Screen-grabbers are characters that don’t have much screen time but make the little time they are onscreen very memorable. This season seemed to have an abundance of great screen-grabbers but TK from Angel Beats won this one pretty easily. Just goes to show you how far speaking nonsensical English phrases in a Japanese anime and just randomly dancing can take a character.
Winner: Ko and Nino from Arakawa Under the Bridge
Runner-up: Kosuda and Yamada from B Gata H Kei
This was a super tough pick and I debated it back and forth for a long time. One could argue that Kosuda and Yamada should have won because they’ve done more couply things together but there’s just something about how Recruit and Nino interact with each other that’s so nice to see.
Best Character Ability/Power
The animators never come right out and say it specifically but they show her living inside the clock that always runs backwards when Watashi jumps universes and she is aware of his parallel world jumping so I’m pretty sure she does have this ability. And it’s a very cool power, useful in gaining enlightenment or making a fortune by taking a popular invention from one world to another that never invented it.
Best Cast of Characters
Runner-up: Rainbow, Arakawa Under the Bridge, B Gata H Kei
There was a plethora of shows with great casts this season but Durarara pulled ahead by having a large cast of very eclectic characters that somehow meshed well together and were truly awesome by themselves as well. At times I thought Durarara wasn’t trying it’s hardest but it was always the fault of the plot and not the characters.
Best Character Development for Cast
Runner-up: Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood
I did not expect Rainbow would be as strongly character driven and focused on character development as it turned out to be though I should realize, by this point, that it’s often the most unexpected show that turns out to be. Just look at the past winners of this award – Railgun, Umi Monogatari, Cross Game, Asu no Yoichi, Toradora, Bamboo Blade. And I can’t wait to see where the characters go as Rainbow continues into the summer season.
Best Character Development of a Single Character
A look at the past winners of this award – Kemono no Souja Erin, Phantom, Toradora, Clannad ~After Story~, Natsume Yuujinchou, Ga-Rei: Zero – showcase some of the best anime that have aired in the past 2 years and The Tatami Galaxy is no exception. A common thread connecting these shows is the director and animation company excelled at telling a story that focused on a few main characters and allowing the characters to grow naturally. In the middle of The Tatami Galaxy, I was a little worried that all the reboots were not doing anything to help the show along but I should have had more faith in Masaaki Yuasa and Madhouse because the final episodes show just how in control of the story they really were.
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.