The Best Anime Of 2011 – Part 1: Cast and Character Awards

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 😉 .

Before getting to the awards, 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 year is under consideration for this year’s awards.

Best Female Main Character

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Madoka from Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Spring – Nano and The Professor from Nichijou

Summer – Christina from Steins;Gate

Autumn – Chihaya from Chihayafuru

Wildcard –  Ohana from Hanasaku Iroha, Homura from Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Overall Winner: Madoka from Puella Magi Madoka Magica

I confess that I have weakness for characters that are heroes and those that are willing to sacrifice for someone else or for some “greater” good. Madoka is both all while being a normal kid so it was a forgone conclusion that she was winning this award the moment PM3 finished airing last spring. The race for second, meanwhile, would not have been clear cut if I had to pick.


Best Male Main Character

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Prince Baka  from Level E

Spring – Rintarou Okabe  from Steins;Gate

Summer –Rintarou Okabe  from Steins;Gate

Autumn – You Satou from Ben-to

Wildcard –  Tiger from Tiger & BunnyFuruta Sasuke from Hyouge Mono

Overall Winner: Rintarou Okabe  from Steins;Gate

This was another easy pick to make. From episode 1 I could tell Okabe – the Mad Scientist of Tokyo – was special; he is the type of character that seems almost supernatural in comparison to even the best male characters from the other anime series. The only problem was that after Chaos;Head I feared the story for Steins;Gate would ruin any chance for Okabe to shine (or maybe even sparkle). Thankfully, that fear proved unfounded and Okabe takes his place among the great anime characters of all-time.


Best Supporting Character(s)

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Mami from Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Spring – Grandma Sui from Hanasaku Iroha

Summer – Nyanko-sensei from Natsume Yuujinchou 3

Autumn – Rider aka Iskander from Fate/Zero

Wildcard – Oda Nobunaga from Hyouge Mono, Dio from Last Exile — Ginyoku no Fam

Overall Winner: Grandma Sui from Hanasaku Iroha

A couple years ago I lamented the lack of old people in anime. I pointed out that when an anime does include an old person, he or she is often the most awesome character in the entire cast. Hanasaku Iroha is but the latest example of why there needs to be more old people in anime. Grandma Sui beat a roster of very tough opponents, most particularly Rider from Fate/Zero. He is literally 75% of the reason to keep watching Fate/Zero and makes a strong argument for cutting everyone else out of the show and just focus on Rider and his master Weaver.


Best Screen-grabber

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Madoka’s Mom from Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Spring – Meme from Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko

Summer – The Penguins from Mawaru Penguin Drum

Autumn – Matsukaze from Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai!!

Wildcard –  Momoka from Mawaru Penguin Drum

Overall Winner: The Penguins from Mawaru Penguin Drum

This award is for the character(s) that best maximizes the small amount of screen time given them to leave an indelible mark on the show and on the viewers. Mom’s are a rare commodity in anime due, in part, to their ability to stop wacky hi-jinks and shenanigans. Madoka’s Mom and how she interacted with the plot was one of the reasons PM3 reached such a height of greatness as it did. It was difficult to pick someone else but the Penguins just deserved this award too much. Without them I don’t think Mawaru Penguin Drum would have been nearly as good or as entertaining or as comprehensible.


Best Couple

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Takuto and Wako from Star Driver

Spring – Prince Enma and Princess Yukiko from Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera

Summer – Christina and Rintarou Okabe  from Steins;Gate

Autumn – Shouma and Ringo from Mawaru Penguin Drum

Wildcard –  Aunt Touko and Uncle Shigeru from Natsume Yuujinchou 3, Madoka’s Mom and Dad from Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Overall Winner: Christina and Rintarou Okabe from Steins;Gate

With everything else that happens in Steins;Gate it’s kinda surprising that the animators where able to fit the development of Chistina’s and Okabe’s relationship into the show as well, even finding the space to make it feel so natural and heartwarming to see. This component also played an important role in making the viewers care about what happened with the plot of the show.


Best Character Ability/Power

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – The ability to beat entropy from Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Spring – Rintarou Okabe’s ability to remember past world lines from Steins;Gate

Summer – The scarf that can make animals talk from Nichijou

Autumn – The ability to make a person answer one question truthfully and completely from Un-Go

Wildcard –  Seeing ghosts and spirits from Natsume Yuujinchou 3

Overall Winner: The ability to beat entropy from Puella Magi Madoka Magica

I think I was first introduced to entropy and how the universe will eventually wind-down many years ago with a story by Isaac Asimov called “The Last Question”. Personally, I don’t often think about the need to reverse entropy because I probably won’t be around to care but it is a problem that will eventually need addressing by someone. Beating entropy as Kyubey’s motivation made sense for an emotionless alien species and was another facet that showed the quality of thought put into PM3.


Best Cast of Characters

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Spring – AnoHana

Summer – Natsume Yuujinchou 3

Autumn – Mawaru Penguin Drum

Wildcard –  Hanasaku Iroha, Tiger and Bunny

Overall Winner: Mawaru Penguin Drum

This was the toughest category to pick in this section of awards because each of these series had such great casts of characters. Even when I decided that Penguins was a hair above the other choices due to the high quality of even it’s very minor characters in a cast as large as Penguins had – I still feels like I’m slighting the other choices.


Best Character Development for Cast

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Star Driver

Spring – AnoHana

Summer – Ikoku Meiro no Croisee

Autumn – Mawaru Penguin Drum

Wildcard –  Hanasaku Iroha

Overall Winner: AnoHana

AnoHana was built to win this award and it’s not really a shocker that it did so. The most surprising nominee was Ikoku Meiro no Croisee because on the surface it looked like a mere “cute girls doing cute things” anime but a great deal of character development was tucked into the show. A sequel that further explores the cast would be something I’d love to see.

Best Character Development of a Single Character

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Madoka from Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Spring – Rintarou Okabe  from Steins;Gate

Summer – Rintarou Okabe  from Steins;Gate

Autumn – Maon Sakurada from Tamayura – Hitotose

Wildcard –  Ringo from Mawaru Penguin Drum

Overall Winner: Rintarou Okabe from Steins;Gate

After going through the level of tragedy and pain that forced him to change from the wannabe mad scientist punk with delusions of grandeur to an emotionally scarred adult that’s been forced to make tough decisions and then had to watch those decisions hurt his family and friends over’n’over – I do not begrudge Okabe the happy ending he got at the end of Steins;Gate. This helped push Steins;Gate from being just a generic SF series about time travel into something exceptional.

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.

Top anime 2011 Awards Part 0: Introduction and Anti-Awards
Top anime 2011 Awards Part 1: Cast and Character Awards <- you are here
Top anime 2011 Awards Part 2: Genre and General Awards
Top anime 2011 Awards Part 3: VMA Awards
Top anime 2011 Awards Part 4: The Misfit Awards
Top anime 2011 Awards: Top 13 Anime – #13 – #7
Top anime 2011 Awards: Top 13 Anime – #6 – #1


12 thoughts on “The Best Anime Of 2011 – Part 1: Cast and Character Awards”

  1. Terrific post – the categories were great and on a personal note, I can’t argue with any of your choices.

    Madoka seems to have been generally disliked among anibloggers. On the other, I’m with you – I thought she was a terrific character. I thought she reacted like a young girl would, and that her personality and actions contrasted well with what we expected out of the lead of a magical girl show. And of course, her decisions at the end were most hero-like.


  2. This is probably one of the best write-ups for awards that I have encountered. Still not a fan of Madoka Magica but I probably should rewatch it to figure out what it is that made me dislike it so. Rintaro Okabe was by far the best anime character to me from 2011. He was just completely different than so many male anime characters.


  3. Ooh, why not then…

    Best Female Main Character: Not with you there, Madoka Magica may be one of the best things ever, but the characterisation of the magic girls wouldn’t be one of the foremost reasons I’d put forward. I’d go for Chihaya here. That show is amazing, and she absolutely makes it so.
    Best Male Main Character: Oh yes, Okarin, by far.
    Best Supporting Character(s): Old people in anime are generally awesome. But nobody beats Rider here, for me.
    Best Screen-grabber: That’s a slightly different category. Maybe Madoka’s mum, that has resonance… no, I know what I’d put here. That crow from Nichijou. I loved that crow.
    Best Couple: Yes, Christina and Okabe.
    Best Character Ability/Power: Yeah, I’d go with the entropy thing here too.
    Best Cast of Characters: This is a difficult one. I’m leaning towards Fate/Zero here.
    Best Character Development for Cast: I want to say Penguindrum here. But AnoHana is probably objectively superior.
    Best Character Development of a Single Character: Yup, it’s Okarin again.


  4. @TWWK: Thanks. I think one of the reasons that I didn’t get so negative over Madoka was that she reminded me of a character from hidamari sketch and, yes, she reacted as she should have.

    @GoodbyeNavi: Thanks, I’ve been working on this series of posts since right before Christmas but it’s been fun remembering these series.

    As for Madoka, how much experience do you have with Shinbou and Shaft in general? It might just be a matter of being acquainted with the style

    @Logopolis: Grumble … grumble … I forgot about that crow. I wouldn’t change my winner but he is definitely worth a mention for being awesome and also for Daisuke Ono who voiced him.

    Fate/Zero faced the tough task of introducing me to the universe it’s set in which probably lessened my enjoyment of the series since it probably wasn’t the best way to be introduced to the universe.


  5. The best way to be introduced to that universe is to read the visual novel on PC or PS2, either Fate/Stay Night or Tsukihime.

    There is no competition on this venue.


  6. That’s a good choice. Although the English translation project has hit a bit of a snail. The unofficial translation has some bugs, although it can still be read. English translators have, as a matter of distributed intelligence, chosen the best and most interesting visual novels to translate, from my perspective. Sometimes this isn’t true, but not often. Even for purely erotic visual novels, there is still a story, although not one nearly as deep as the mainstream styles.

    The key point to absorbing visual novel quality is to understand that the patience, boredom, and work put into it will pay off more than 10 fold at the end. This is key to comprehending the draw of visual novels. If you are expecting a good ending due to the anime, you will get an even better one in the visual novel. Guaranteed 99.9999% of the time. And if there’s an anime with a better ending than its visual novel originator, I have yet to meet it.


  7. The Disappearance of Haruhi was close. So close. It was done cinematic ally quite well. I saw the anime movie before reading the respective light novel. So there’s a lot of “subjective issues” going on. I didn’t read the original Japanese, so cannot grade it. At the same time, it’s hard to grade a work after seeing the ending in the movie. The opposite is also true going the reverse, except it’s worse. Going from Clannad the VN to Clannad the anime feels like a downgrade. Whereas going from the anime of Disappearance of Haruhi to the light novel, feels more like a parallel step. You’re stepping into the same universe, except getting different benefits. This is how anime-VN-Light Novel transitions should go. Each should do what it is GOOD at, and leave different interpretations to its different format viewers. All too often anime seeks to become better at the original source, than the original source. Impossible I tell you. It’s like compressing 5 terabytes of data into 1 gigabyte. Maybe you could compress it into 2.5 terabytes, but not 1 gigabyte.


  8. After finishing Steins;Gate VN using the new retro engineered patch that fixes most of the issues, Geckoey’s 1.30 patch, I can definitely say that Okabe went through an interesting development. It wasn’t as hellish as some I have seen, but for a 19 year old college student, it’s more than enough to make dramatic changes.

    I think also Okabe accomplished something very unique. He was all talk before. But at the end, he made his talk into his walk, so to speak, if you can understand that reference.


  9. i disagree with the award of dmw but i havent seen the anime so i see no point arguing with someone whos watched what they chopped up. the current manga is still ongoing.


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