Top Picks – Spring 2011 Anime, Part 3: VMA Awards

After looking at the characters in part 1 and then the show built around those characters in part 2, the third group of awards will focus on the extras in an anime; namely, the vocal work, music, and animation quality. These components aren’t among the core reasons why an anime is successful or not but they can exert a surprising amount of influence for either outcome.

Not that I’m implying correlation equals causation; maybe that’s something Okabe from Steins;Gate could study after he was done changing the world’s ruling power structure and defeating the secret organizations – he could study how integral are the vocal work, music, and animation quality towards an anime’s success or failure.

Best Male Seiyuu

Winner: Mamoru Miyano as Rintarou Okabe from Steins;Gate and Shinku Izumi from Dog Days

The best part of the rather uneven Star Driver was Mamoru Miyano’s vocal work for the main character, Takuto Tsunashi. As a result of that role, I decided this season that it was worth checking out both anime that he was voicing the main character, Dog Days and Steins;Gate. He was merely good as the Hero in Dog Days but that had more to do with limited nature of the role and the animators behind the show. The role as mad scientist in Steins;Gate gave him much more room to perform and he took advantage of that.

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Best Female Seiyuu

Winner: Aoi Yuuki  as Victorique from Gosick and Tooru from A Channel

Runner-up: Yuu Kobayashi as Mariya from Maria+Holic Alive and Undine from Yondemasu yo Azazel-san and Ruka Urushibara from Steins;Gate, Aya Hirano as Katja from Seikon no Qwaser II and Shizu Shidou from Maria+Holic Alive

The meteoric rise of Aya Hirano’s career opened many doors for her but it also attracted a lot of noise from detractors that sometimes makes it difficult to remember underneath everything Aya Hirano is a very good voice actress. Both of her roles this season were smaller then I’d like but combined they showed that she has it. As for Yuu Kobayashi, I’ve been a fan of her unique talent for awhile now. I like the wide assortment of voices that she can bring to a role and this season saw her utilizing many of those voices in her various roles. My favorite was the cross-dressing Mariya. However, the winner just had to go to Aoi Yuuki for carrying, not one, but two anime series she starred in with just her vocal work. If it wasn’t for her, I’d’ve dropped both Gosick and A Channel for being complete wastes of time. Instead, in the end, I found both decent enough shows.

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Best OP

Winner: Maria+Holic Alive

Runner-up: Nichijou, Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera, AnoHana

If this award was based solely on the song itself AnoHana would have won; I’ve had Aoi Shiori by Galileo Galilei on heavy repeat for weeks now. However, I also have to factor in the animation and how well the two work together to create the right mood for watching the episode. Using the full criteria, Maria+Holic Alive edges out the competition for the win.

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Best ED

Winner: AnoHana

Runner-up: Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, Nichijou, Gosick

This time AnoHana does win, in part, because they did that thing where the ending song starts playing as the last climatic scene plays out before going to credits in just about every episode. So now I associate the song with all the best moments of the show and the song’s soothing, cathartic nature was perfect for the show’s ending.

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Best Background Music

Winner: Nichijou

Nichijou is just the latest in a long string of anime series by Kyoto Animation that feature stellar background music. I’m sure there were other series that had good background music but I can’t remember any other leaving much of an impression on me.

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Best Dressed Characters

Winner: Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko

Runner-up: Hyouge Mono

I’m slightly disappointed that Nichijou didn’t win this award; it might even be the first KyoAni series that didn’t place since I started giving this award out. There chances dimmed primarily because we don’t see many characters ever wearing non-school clothes. On the other hand, Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, had a plethora of different outfits that the characters wore (having one of your main characters never attend school helps this); so, it was the obvious pick. Hyouge Mono earned the runner-up spot for it’s characters sporting a nice amount of wardrobe changes including the Demon King’s eclectic fashion sense.

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Best Animation Style

Winner:  Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko

Runner-up: Hanasaku Iroha

These last few years has seen the Shaft/Shinbou style of anime mature and hit that sweet spot of being just right for the series being animated. For Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko another layer was added – extremely attractive character designs. In most of Shaft/Shinbou series the characters will, at best, look decent but many series have down right fugly looking characters. (Natsu no Arashi is one example.) I actually like this since it will help make the characters seem more realistic but it’s a nice to see something new coming from them. Also working in Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko’s favor is Shaft/Shinbou creates the absolutely nicest night sky shots – no other animation company can match them.

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Best Animation

Winner: Nichijou

Runner-up: AnoHana, Hanasaku Iroha

As for the highest animation quality, Kyoto Animation is still incredibly hard to beat when they go all-out and this season no one could make this category a competitive one.

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Top Animation Studio

Winner: A-1 Pictures

Though with the frequency of financial home runs that A-1 Pictures has so quickly racked up along with consistently nice animation, Kyoto Animation may have a serious contender in the near future. (And yes, for the record, I loved the animation style to Birdy Season 2 and I continue to rank it as probably having the best done fights of any tv series that I’ve watched.)

The one weakness they’ve shown so far is not having a core group of directors that can ensure a consistent level of quality from their anime series. This season they had two series; the first, AnoHana, was directed by Tatsuyuki Nagai. Normally he directs for J.C. Staff and for them he’s directed Honey and Clover 2, Toradora, and Railgun. Their other series is Ao no Exorcist, directed by Tensai Okamura who’s done Wolf’s Rain and Darker Than Black (two series I haven’t seen yet but hear much praise for). By this point it should be obvious how much I liked AnoHana but Ao no Exorcist has been a small surprise itself; as a shounen-series-set-in-a-school-with-kids-who-have-special-powers, I wasn’t expected to particularly like it but I’ve come to enjoy my weekly doses of Ao no Exorcist.

So for fielding two hits for the spring season, A-1 Pictures gets the Top Animation Studio award.

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That’s it for part 3 of my spring 2011 anime awards. Stay tuned for my top overall picks of the season. :)

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Spring 2011 Awards Part 1: Cast and Character Awards
Spring 2011 Awards Part 2: Genre and Misfit 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 3: VMA Awards”

  1. It’s hard to know what part the director played. While Japanese hierarchy is very linear, it is very fudging when it comes to taking responsibility for things. After watching and reading the staff list for dozens upon dozens of anime, I can’t really tell you what part the director played. Only if the director or some other vital role is ALSO the same as the creative writer/original creator’s role, can I tell you that the anime series will be cohesive and artistically amazing. Other than that, it’s sort of hit and miss.

  2. Yes! I’ve been completely in adoration of Nichijou’s music, what with the orchestrals just working so well in capturing the anime’s bizarre moments. I haven’t been keeping up with too many shows from Spring, but of the ones I’ve looked at, Nichijou is worth it just for the music alone.

    I don’t think any other anime stacks up quite so well musically…

  3. Definitely, the decision to blend AnoHana’s ED with the climaxes of the episode was a wise choice. Even the lyrics of the song – remember that one when they fired the fireworks? And then the song started singing about fireworks. That couldn’t have been coincidence.

    Though I must admit the end sorta fudged it up. I don’t really remember, but I think both the OP and the ED played, which made it sorta messy.

    Anyways, yeah, I agree with most of what you say here.

  4. While I’ve never been fooled by women dressing as boys in live action shows (something about their facial structure gives it away, as well as boys dressing as girls), the Japanese animation does try very hard to pull the wool over the eyes with the gender switch between male/female. It is very hard to detect at times and even if I know the person is supposed to be a male/female, the mannerisms and characteristics are too “feminine” not to miss. Which is, I believe, part of the goal, the impact.

    http://www.anime-planet.com/anime/starship-operators

    If you haven’t seen SO by JC Staff (13 episodes), I suggest you take a look. It was actually one of the first anime series I saw when I started going through anime recommendations and websites. I hadn’t talked about it because I thought it would show up again one way or another, but since it hasn’t, I thought I would put the name out there.

    It’s one of the more realistic hard science fiction stories in Outer Space, and the first “short anime series” that got my attention. I Plan on rewatching it to see how it matches up now, given the initial rating i gave it (5/5).

    I read this post as part of AnoHana (that Flower), because I’m on episode 11 starting off right now. The ending and conclusion.

  5. I couldn’t help but notice that you didn’t watch Darker than Black.
    You should because of the:
    Interesting setting
    Very good cast, if not awesome
    Awesome jazz OST, one of the best I’ve heard.
    Very good action scenes.
    Awesome English voice actors.

    Awesome:+3, Very good:+2, Interesting:+1

    Negatives:
    Strange episode system: 2 episodes tell 1 story. Recommended to watch double episodes ot watch it in marathon.

    This is a very memorable anime for me. The whole DTB Series (Kuro no Keiyakusha Gaiden, Ryuseni no Gemini) is not in my top 10 but Season 1 definetly is.

  6. @Péter Csiszár: I do have some significant holes in my anime watching that sometimes pop-up when sequels show up. In the case of Darker than Black, I’ve missed the previous series in the franchise and I’m not a huge fan of Bones so it’s been on my back-burner for a long time.

    I do pay attention to recommendations given to me here so your comment has moved it a little closer to front and me deciding to watch it. Which goes for your recommendation ymarsakar of Starship Operators as well :) .

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