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