Top Picks – Spring 2011 Anime, Part 1: Cast and Character Awards

The near-totality of Puella Magi Madoka Magica’s dominance in the various categories made writing up a winter seasonal awards post pretty pointless. This season, however, saw a more diverse and larger group of noteworthy anime to choose from.  There was shows about ghostly girls, alien girls, superheroes both in America and Japan, demons of Hell with undemon-like behavior (4 different ways), conspiracies,  cautionary tales about monetary policies and privately owned prisons, the everyday life of various people from metaphorical trolls to lesbian stalkers to high school girls, historical tales set in the Sengoku period (both genderbent and tea-centric) and an alternative 1920’s where Victorian fashions were still worn along with the standard handful of decent to poor shounen series and low-budget/low-quality fan service shows that every anime season seems to have. So let’s take a look back the spring anime season.

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, 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 season is under consideration for this season’s awards.

Carry-over shows watched this season (1): Gosick

New shows watched this season (20): X-Men, Dog Days, Tiger and Bunny, Nichijou, Yondemasu yo Azazel-san, Hanasaku Iroha, Fireball Charming, Steins;Gate, Hyouge Mono, Hidan no Aria, A Channel, Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera, Maria+Holic Alive, Ao no Exorcist, The World God Only Knows II, Seikon no Qwaser II, C – The Money of Soul and Possibility Control, Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (AnoHana), Deadman Wonderland

Shows that got dropped (8): Hen Zemi, Oretachi ni Tsubasa wa Nai, Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi, Sengoku Otome – Momoiro Paradox, 30-sai no Hoken Taiiku, Sket Dance, Sofuteni, Astarotte no Omocha!

Best Female Main Character(s)

Winner: Nano from Nichijou, The Professor from Nichijou

Runner-up: Ohana from Hanasaku Iroha

Nano’s eternal quest to slow how quickly The Professor gets into trouble, pass as a human and go to school makes her an obvious pick for this award but leaving out the other half of this comedic duo dynamo – The Professor – with her precocious intelligence bent on world snack domination just felt wrong. They beat out Ohana; she was a character that I was sure at the beginning that I would detest but she turned out to be the exact opposite.

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Best Male Main Character

Winner: Rintarou Okabe from Steins;Gate

Runner-up: Tiger from Tiger and Bunny, Furuta Sasuke from Hyouge Mono

Early on, when I was still unsure how the plot to Steins;Gate would play out, the reason I kept watching was mad scientist Rintarou Okabe was an absolute treat to watch. I was worried, however, that he’d become boring after a while if the “mad scientist” shtick got old but, with every episode, we learn more about him and what makes him tick and he’s pure distilled awesomeness.

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Best Supporting Character

Winner: Grandma from Hanasaku Iroha

Runner-up: Matsurika from Maria+Holic Alive

A couple of years back I wrote a short post about how anime needs more old characters. One of the reasons is their age instantly gives them the a body of experience that quickly and easily gives them a depth to their character that younger characters have to struggle to obtain. The grandma, Sui Shijima, from Hanasaku Iroha is another great example of this and is easily the best part of the show.

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Best Screen-grabber

Winner:  Meme from Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko

Loud, brash, and egocentric Meme becomes a screen-grabber whenever she’s onscreen, even if the other characters would rather her not be. I still don’t particularly like Meme because of her complete lack of decent parenting shown at the beginning of the series but throughout the series she’s shown that there is a decent human being inside.

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Best Couple

Winner: Prince Enma and Princess Yukiko from Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera

I keep this award just to actual couples in the anime so that sadly left AnoHana out of the running, even with it’s tantalizing hints at how the characters would couple-up after finally moving on from the memory of Menma. Instead, I choose the oddball couple of Prince Enma of Hell and Princess Yukiko, the ice demon. I’m not sure how it’ll work out but this relationship was on the smaller reasons for how good Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera ended up being.

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Best Character Ability/Power

Winner: Rintarou Okabe’s ability to remember past world lines from Steins;Gate

Runner-up: The ability to control an element from Seikon no Qwaser II

By rights, being able to control an element should win this category but, much like the alchemy in Full Metal Alchemist, it’s never exploited to it’s full potential. (For example, who cares if one can make cool iron scythes; let me see that person fight if his lungs are full of helium or that person has all the calcium drawn out of his bones, breaking them, and then having a heart attack from having way too much calcium in the blood or that person’s sodium levels are changed causing diarrhea, disorientation, lethargy, seizures and a coma or one of my sister’s favorite, the nursing student one, have his potassium levels changed causing paralysis, a heart attack and an inability to breathe among other fun things.) Rintarou Okabe’s ability to remember past world lines in a normal person wouldn’t be that noteworthy except he happens to be studying time travel and one of the side-effects of the type of time travel he’s perfected causes him to jump to alternative world lines.

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Best Cast of Characters

Winner: AnoHana

Runner-up: Hyouge Mono, Tiger and Bunny

This was almost as easy to pick the winner as the next award but Hyouge Mono and Tiger and Bunny put up a spirited charge. I could even see Hyouge Mono edging AnoHana but there’s only been 5 episodes subbed so far and the characters are just now getting a chance to shine.

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Best Character Development for Cast

Winner:  AnoHana

This is the easiest award to pick for this season and should be self-evident.

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Best Character Development of a Single Character

Winner:  Rintarou Okabe from Steins;Gate

I love how Steins;Gate started out with a great character, Rintarou Okabe, and has slowly built him up even more. Episode 13 gave us some tantalizing hints at how much room there still in for Rintarou Okabe to grow. I could very well be back next season calling him one of the greatest characters of the year (if the ending doesn’t stink and he gets the chance to continue improving).

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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.

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Spring 2011 Awards Part 2: Genre and Misfit Awards
Spring 2011 Awards Part 3: VMA Awards
Spring 2011 Awards: Top 8 Anime – #8 – #5
Spring 2011 Awards: Top 8 Anime – #4 – #1

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6 thoughts on “Top Picks – Spring 2011 Anime, Part 1: Cast and Character Awards”

  1. Woah, completely agree with most of that (except, wait, how did Madoka win any character awards? :v).

    What’s your criteria on ‘best’ characters? Seems to me Nano’s your favourite because of her moe, and Rintarou because of his depth, but those are completely different things, aren’t they? Is it just a general ‘best’?

    Best screengrabber is an interesting choice of award – it seems to imply something good and something bad at the same time. And c’mon, isn’t Jake’s ability much better than the Reading Steiner? Even if you can remember things from other world lines, that doesn’t stop Jake from reading your mind and also finding out things from other world lines :v Besides, his ‘defence is the best offence’ ability just reeks of badassery. Jake may not be a good character but his abilities are awesome.

    Final note; are shows carried over from last season eligible in your awards too? Or are they subject to different criteria?

  2. @Mushyrulez:Thanks for the comment.

    Long before I was an anime fan I loved reading SF and one of my favorites was Isaac Asimov and his robot stories so, in part, Nano won because I have a soft spot for her quest to be a “normal” person. I hope in the end she accepts that silly wind-up key as part of herself and not view it as an obstacle in being a “normal” person.

    Probably the best synonym for ‘Best’ is ‘most memorable’. It sits at the intersection of several different quantifiers as kinda like a compromise. ‘Best’ is more objective then a ‘favorite’, though being a favorite helps. ‘Best’ doesn’t mean coolest but being cool helps nor does ‘best’ mean a ‘great’ character but that helps as well. For example, my favorite female main character was probably the cosplay girl from Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, the coolest was probably Victorique from Gosick and the greatest were both Anjou and Chiriko for being so complex and flawed.

    Due to a couple recent SF stories I read dealing with how humans actually make decisions, I looked into the science behind the stories and I wonder if being able to read someone’s mind is really that end-all-be-all awesome power it’s always been shown as. (Yes, I have a tendency to overthink things sometimes.)

    Shows that continue from past seasons into the current season are included but as much as possible I only look what’s occurred in the current season. For spring, only Gosick was carried over from last season. It’s not a perfect solution but I always feel bad if I had to leave out a longer running show like Cross Game or FMA:B. To try to compensate a bit for the somewhat unfair advantage, I make it harder for a previous season’s winner to win that same award again, they really have to deserve it.

  3. I’m not watching Steinsgate until I read the visual novel. Did that with Ef a Tale of Memories. Never regretted that. I stopped before I found after I found out what was the deal with Chihiro in the anime, realized there was a visual novel, and waited to finish the novel before resuming the story. Chihiro was just too vulnerable and cute. I really liked her character. Even after a year or so of waiting to read the visual novel, that never changed.

    I also figured out pretty soon why I liked Miyako’s voice in Ef a Tale of Memories. It’s because when I watched the anime, I hadn’t yet read ML: Alternative. When I read Ef VN, that was after I had heard Kagami Sumika’s voice through 3 different story plots. She is definitely the star of the show. Excellent intonation and expressiveness. The look she got and her tone of voice when she said “Don’t play around with me” in response to some smart alec comment from the protagonist after she had asked him a serious question, was hilarious. It was done so right, it exceeded normal and went into ironic fun. I knew after a few lines that Miyako sounded way too familiar to me and then I looked up the Voice Artist. Hiroko Taguchi

    The same happened with the two male deep voice actors. The one that did Oda Nobunaga in that Basara anime series was the same guy who did the antagonist in Country of the Wheel:Sunflower Girls. The sunflower fields are a symbol of the wheel of justice, a concept the ancient Persians also came up with. (a debased translation would be what goes up, comes down. What goes around, come around. Karma). Japanese name: Sharin no Kuni. Country of the Wheel. The Sharingan. The round symbol and power of the Uchiha clan.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norio_Wakamoto

    Wakamoto was also the base commander in ML: Alternative. Forgot that bit. Very smooth performance in exuding authority, depth, and gravitas. He can make calm threats which shatter the composure of more panicky individuals.

    The protagonist of Code Geass is also the antagonist in Devil on the G String VN.

    Things are getting scary when I can recognize voice actors just by their voice without even looking up their names in the credits. It’s something America would do well to emulate. Nobody even knows our voice actors… heck, nobody even knew who voiced the Simpsons until after it was canceled…

    I’m watching the True Ending to Imouto Kawaii ga ne, which is labeled episode 12.5 and I’ve watched the second seasons, episodes 13 through 15.

    It’s still funny as hell to me. I’m laughing so hard my voice cords are being stressed. It helps that the light novel gives a much better view of Kyousuke’s motivations for helping out his sister. It’s never really apparent in the anime what exactly motives this guy. Other than the need to emulate slavish devotion, at least. Kyousuke is an underachiever while his little sister is an overachiever. And there seems to be an interesting background story there, that’ll come up when it intersects the modern plot event.

    The first volume is translated into English but I have only read pieces of it. Even without understanding the full character development process, the show is still funny as heck. As always, not recommended for the teenage angst, shounen crowd. It would be too frustrating for them. Actually on the same note, if a teenager read ML; Alternative, that person would get scarred for life. Putting a teenager into the boots of a combat pilot in ML Alternative’s world is just too traumatizing and too powerful. So there’s always degrees where more mature content can appeal or not appeal to younger audiences. Sometimes too much appeal is not a good thing, precisely because while ML Alternative has great draw…. it’s not for people who aren’t ready for life challenges. Same is true with Imouto kawaii ga ne.

    Btw, Yuuko (literal translation, child of kindness) is a mad scientist in ML Alternative. Complete with brains in jars. Human brains in jars. Another mad scientist was an ally in Eien no Aselia. I’ve discovered that the Japanese often do mad scientists in a way that illustrates the amorality or pragmatism of the genius intellect that lets no societal restrictions bind them, while at the same time often using this genius as a sort of support role for the main protagonist. The other popular theme is facing off against a mad scientist in the beginning as an enemy, and then having them as an ally later on. Bleach has a mad scientist. Naruto has a mad scientist. Mad Scientists are basically geniuses who don’t let conventional society restrain their work. This can be both good and bad… for example, Nazi scientists experimenting on humans or Japanese scientists testing biological agents on Chinese prisoners in WWII vs Einstein working on the Manhattan Project. Both fit the classical variations of the Mad Scientist. The Japanese creators take a very balanced look at it. They don’t sugar coat the consequences, but nor do they say that absolutely zero scientific results came from amoral experimentations. They often take up the harder ethical challenge, which is to say “Assuming that great scientific progress can be made through unethical research, why should a person refuse to do so given the benefit to humanity?” It’s a lot harder argument to refute than “Assuming mad scientists are wasting people’s lives on dead end research goals, should unethical experiments be allowed to continue”.

    It’s actually similar to the torture issue at GitMo. The easier ethical position to strike out against is the one that says torture does not work to gain information. The more difficult one is to deal with the problem of how to decide these matters when torture is actually the most effective way to gain accurate information in the shortest amount of time.

    The Japanese LOVE Mad Scientists, I tell ya. It’s like a staple.

    Have you noticed that old people in American media are often shown as power corrupt or just inflexible, whereas old people presented in Japanese media are somehow superior in skill or experience/wisdom compared to younger people?

  4. Correction: No second season of Oreimouto. It seems like it was more of an epilogue extended beyond the normal half season limitation. Four episodes streamed online. The True Ending, and 13-15.

    Like I previously mentioned, Kyousuke’s motivations are complicated. He does things like lets his sister kick him while at the maid cafe because she’s frustrated. Then gets this surprisingly negative reaction by mental monologuing how using the heel is overstepping herself. While many people have a hard time understanding Kyousuke’s character, and I even think the voice actor for Kyousuke would have benefited from a more proper character analysis using the light novel as a material (rather than just the anime script lines), I found it naturally easy to understand Kyousuke. I may not understand why he lets his sister hit him all the way, when he can easily evade her and punch back (in fact that’s often what he says or thinks about, but doesn’t seem to do in the novel/anime). I found it naturally easy to understand because taking care of juniors or those inferior to your status seems like a very natural and just thing to do.

    If they are immature, it’s because they’re lacking in life wisdom and experience. Which is why you are helping them to gain such experiences so that they can mature and stop being perpetually a child. And it seems regardless of why Kyousuke is bored or motivated enough to enter into his sister’s life after basically ignoring her and playing it safe for years on end, Kyousuke is demonstrating kindness. That’s always a plus. There are many different kinds of strength. Family loyalty or sibling fidelity, is something which can make even the weak stronger. For it is guaranteed that the weakest individuals of all, are loyal to nothing. A brother that always picked on his little sister because she was a competitor but smaller and weaker, is not training himself to be the best warrior or fighter around. Strength is not accrued by targeting the weak. It is done so by either going up against the strong or protecting those weaker than yourself. This is a truth very known on the crime ridden streets where you can see a lot of weaklings that need to pump themselves up with fear rages before they’ll do something about someone. The moment a predator comes around the corner, the yapping dog that is smack talking about how he’s going to bust a cap into someone’s a, immediately quiets down and shows his belly. In nature as it is true in crime ridden inner cities, there is a very clear hierarchy of who eats whom in the food chain. Kindness and compassion can only be afforded by the strong.

    And that is what attracts his future girlfriend, too: Kyousuke’s kindness.

    Ayase is a very strange and mysterious character. I might almost believe she had some kind of negative experience in her past that is informing her judgment now. But I haven’t found any references yet in the novel or on the net about it. She’s a “yandere” class of characters, who start off dere and then goes into the dark *yami or yabei* side of things later on.

    Kirino secretively feels affection for her brother. It’s real obvious now. But for some odd reason back in the past, they went into a cold war and never got out of it. Just what is it that originally motivated Kirino to start running? And why does Kyousuke mention that now he can’t beat her at speed. Did he beat her before when they were younger? Is Kirino looking for approval from her brother, since she has plenty of it from her father?

    And just what exactly… is in that secret treasure trove of hers…

    OreImouto is very amusing and entertaining to me simply because of the insane situations the characters are put in: extreme limits of social embarassment combined with internally motivated behavior. Arakawa, on the other hand, was funny because of its surreal beauty and extremely good joke timing with the voice actors. It also used extreme circumstances to bring out the “irony” in many jokes, but not as extreme as OreImouto. OreImouto used societal fear of ostracization, which is very real, and made it into an extreme ironic version. Arakawa used a more fantastic, unreal or surreal, version of the extreme where it is not quite believable. Girls turning into hercules… for example. It’s like Kou just entered the Land of Mystical Power, where everything ordinary is extraordinary.

    I watched a few episodes of Phantom, and it’s very thriller like. But I’m waiting until I start and finish reading the visual novel before continuing. I don’t know how the anime will turn out.

    Btw, I came across this blog and found it a mix of amusement, beautiful pictures of art, and some comments I left describing the character the model was supposed to portray.

    http://www.tentaclearmada.com/2011/06/rin-tohsaka-from-fatestay-night-unlimited-blade-works-version/

    I would never buy 10 figurines and place them in a hidden closet (Like Kirino), but I think I can better understand why people collect such things. If I like a character and I find it appealing, a good statue model of it on my desk can be a nice reminder. The costs aren’t that bad either, if I really know how it’ll look and believe it might be pleasant to use as a decoration. In America, playing with dolls is for girls. But in Japan, they seem to have turned that stereotype around…

  5. Okabe Rintarou is an interesting person. I skipped to the last few episodes in the anime just to watch the ending, but so far I have decided I’m going to treat the anime as an “alternative world”. Not because it’s bad, but because the differences are stark enough that if I make a 1 to 1 comparison, it wouldn’t turn out well. For example, I really really liked the voice actor and what he did with Okabe in the visual novel’s ending. The anime ending was a bit too fast paced, so it lost that “dramatic” feel. Yes, Okabe is even more “dramatic” with his setting in the VN.

    The anime feels like a thriller, so I’ll treat it as a thriller. Okabe’s mad scientist setting is pretty good to. In the beginning, I wanted to see that mad scientist chuunibyou become reality. And….

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