[Commie] Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso - 18 [F0EB3577].mkv_snapshot_08.50_[2015.02.23_19.15.10]

The Best Anime Of 2014 – Part 3: VMA Awards

There’s a running joke in Shirobako about how the director will tell every department involved in making the anime that they are the most important in ensuring that the anime turns out good. They play it for laughs but the director is more right then not; each department and person is needed to give their best or else it will show in the final product somehow. It’s tempting to call the awards here – the Voice, Music, and Animation Awards – the icing on the cake awards, implying the quality of the underlying cake is unaffected by these VMA categories, but that’s just wrong. The easiest way to show this is if one had a magic wand and could change the anime series who will win the awards below with an “average” or even a “poor” level substitute and see how the series would have fared.

Or maybe the ability to jump to alternative world lines would be easier🙂 .

So, let’s see who’s won this year’s VMA Awards.

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. If one needs a refresher on any or all the already completed sections, the following links will get one to the relevant section(s).

The Best Anime of 2014: Part 0 – The Worst Offenders
The Best Anime of 2014: Part 1 – Cast and Character Awards
The Best Anime of 2014: Part 2 – Genre and General Story Awards

Best Performance by a Seiyuu

Nominees:

Megumi Han as Gon Freecss from Hunter x Hunter
Kana Hanazawa as Rumi Yokoi from Tonari no Seki-kun
Hiroshi Kamiya
as Yato from Noragami
Yuri Yoshida
as Mashiro Mitsumine from Mikakunin de Shinkoukei
Kaito Ishikawa
as Tobio Kageyama from Haikyuu!!
Suzuko Hara
as Naru Kotoishi from Barakamon
Saori Hayami
as Hatoko Kushikawa from Inou Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de
Hiroyuki Yoshino
as Favaro Leone from Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis
Aya  Hirano
as Migi from Parasyte -the maxim-

megumi_gonWinner: Megumi Han as Gon Freecss from Hunter x Hunter
Runner-up: Kana Hanazawa as Rumi Yokoi from Tonari no Seki-kun

Yes, I cut the best male and female seiyuu categories this year. Not because I developed less respect for the importance these men and women are to the success of an anime, but because just having a certain seiyuu, even a really good seiyuu, voice a character in an anime does not necessarily improve the greatness of said anime and I’m trying to focus on those categories that function as recommendations of the anime that shouldn’t be missed. I imagine sometimes even the best seiyuu has trouble connecting to a character they voice or they’re rushed in the recording booth or the anime is too weak to draw out the talents of the seiyuu or 50 other reasons and the result is a competent but flat job by these top quality seiyuu. Therefore, I’m going to focus on those times that the vocal actors really outdid themselves in 2014 and the clear winner is Megumi Han who voiced Gon from Hunter x Hunter. If I ever construct a best all-time performance by a seiyuu list Megumi Han’s voicing of Gon will place somewhere in the top 10 and I know that with absolute certainty. It was awe inspiring to see what crazy thing was being asked of her by the show and then see her raise to the challenge. The kicker was she made it look so easy, which is, I believe, one of the marks of the best practitioners of any art or skill. Runner-up goes to Kana Hanazawa for voicing Rumi Yokoi from Tonari no Seki-kun. That Kana Hanazawa is talented goes without saying; if I would have a best female seiyuu award this year then she would have won it for the third year in a row. In the areas of raw talent, versatility, professional polish, range, enthusiasm, and bringing everything together to maximize potential there is arguably nobody better then Kana Hanazawa.

Best Seiyuu Cast

Nominees:

Hunter x Hunter
Space Brothers
Kill la Kill
Haikyuu!!
Ping
Pong the Animation
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis
Hanamonogatari / Tsukimonogatari

kill_la_kill11910Winner: Kill la Kill
Runner-up: Haikyuu!!

If I wanted to be funny I’d’ve picked Tonari no Seki-kun since it’s essentially a solo seiyuu cast made up of Kana Hanazawa but this post will already be too long to play games like that.🙂 This award goes to the anime that contains a large cast of seiyuu that are all good, distinct, important to the success of the show and memorable. Kill la Kill and Haikyuu!! had this in spades. Being a sports anime, Haikyuu!! needed, above all else, to create compelling characters that capture the viewers interest and this was done to a great deal by the vocal talents of the seiyuu. They were bested by Kill la Kill because, truth be told, the story to Kill la Kill did not engage me nearly as much as I was hoping it would and it took the phenominal efforts by people like the seiyuu cast to get me excited for this anime.

Best OP

Nominees:

Nagi no Asukara OP2
Log Horizon
Silver Spoon 2
Noragami
D-Frag!
Mikakunin de Shinkoukei
Ping Pong the Animation
Knights of Sidonia
Ao Haru Ride
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
Yama no Susume: Second Season OP1
Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis
Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso OP1

Winner: Ping Pong the Animation
Runner-up: Mikakunin de Shinkoukei

I’ve been trying to keep the nominees for each category to a manageable 5 – 6 but completely lost it here. There was a plethora of really good OPs this year. One of the reasons for the high number of nominees is because there are two main ways for an OP to excel: with it’s animation and with it’s song. Nominees like Knights of Sidonia and Ao Haru Ride scored very strong on the song side of things and nominees like Ping Pong and Yama no Susume: Second Season scored very strong on the animation side of things. How to balance the two along with the other smaller but still important factors makes this and the next category very, very subjective. I gave Ping Pong the win for having a decent song but an absolutely stellar animation sequence that I could never get tired of watching. Coming in second was the pleasantly snappy opening for Mikakunin de Shinkoukei. Scoring high for it’s animation that was positively bursting with enthusiasm and a song to match, this OP also did a very good job getting the viewer in the correct frame of mind to enjoy the series to it’s utmost.

Best ED

Nominees:

Log Horizon
Silver Spoon 2
Witchcraft Works
D-Frag!
Mikakunin de Shinkoukei
Ping Pong the Animation
Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yattemita
Aldnoah.Zero ED2
Barakamon
Glasslip
Yama no Susume: Second Season ED2

Winner: Mikakunin de Shinkoukei
Runner-up: Silver Spoon 2

This category was a bit easier because Mikakunin de Shinkoukei had the win sown up since it’s first or second episode way back last wintertime. It’s ED was the perfect distillation of why Mikakunin de Shinkoukei was one of the best series from 2014. I’ve watched and rewatched the ending of this anime at least a hundred times and listened to the song independently at least a hundred times more this year. All these other nominees were really in a slugfest for the number 2 spot and it was an aggravating choice. In the end picking Goose house’s upbeat, smile inducing, ending for Silver Spoon just made the most sense.

Best Background Music

Nominees:

Kill la Kill
Noragami
Hunter x Hunter
Space Dandy
Ping Pong the Animation
Aldnoah.Zero
Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru

Winner: Ping Pong the Animation
Runner-up: Kill la Kill

Masaaki Yuasa is most known for his unique animation style but I’d assert that he should also be known for finding the absolute perfect music to accompany his anime and that’s a skill I rarely see from anime directors. The electonic infused, fast songs of composer Kensuke Ushio which make up the majority of the songs reinforce and complement the animation to communicate the idea that Ping Pong is a crazy quick sport in the hands for the most talented. What put this category out of the reach of all challengers, however, was the insert song used during the climax of the series in episode 11. The song was a kids choir singing what is apparently a well-known kids song in Japan and it just melts your heart and brings a tear to your eye, no matter how many times one rewatches it. Runner-up going to Kill la Kill should hardily be suprising. A new studio like Trigger could not afford for their first anime series to be a failure and Hiroyuki Imaishi made sure elements like it’s music, composed by Hiroyuki Sawano, were going to do the absolute most possible to make the series as a whole succeed.

Best Character Designs

Nominees:

Kill la Kill
Silver Spoon S2
Ping Pong the Animation
Haikyuu!!
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
Aldnoah.Zero
Garo: Honoo no Kokuin
Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis

[eraser] Shingeki no Bahamut Genesis - 01 [AB52BDBA].mkv_snapshot_06.51_[2014.12.26_02.53.43]Winner: Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis
Runner-up: Aldnoah.Zero

Over the last few of years I’ve begun to really notice how some shows will almost instinctively draw me to watching them and I tried to figure out how this was being done. It wasn’t a really good trailer – those can be faked. It wasn’t who was involved – those took a conscious level decision to decide if I was in or out. It wasn’t pure animation quality in a trailer – that can also be faked. It wasn’t hearing a specific seiyuu voice a character – the best ones get multiple roles at one time and the viewer can pick the best looking one. In the end I realized it was the character designs that were behind it and I began to keep track of which anime series triggered this response. I can’t tell you what these series did right to make their characters look so good, unique, and enticing; but, I can tell you that they did a really good job doing it. I would have watched the winner of this category even if it was merely an anime adaptation of some silly cellphone card game – oh, wait – Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis was an anime adaptation of a silly cellphone card game🙂 .

Best Animation Style

Nominees:

Kill la Kill
Nisekoi
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
Ping Pong the Animation
Zankyou no Terror
Shigatsu wa Kimi no Use
Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Ari
Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis
Hanamonogatari / Tsukimonogatari

[HorribleSubs] Tsukimonogatari - (01-04) [720p].mkv_snapshot_00.34.24_[2015.01.07_03.16.45]Winner: Hanamonogatari / Tsukimonogatari
Runner-up: Ping Pong the Animation

Oh, Shaft. Since being bought up by Aniplex in 2011 (which I’m sure I remember reading but now I can’t find the article to check the accuracy of this statement) you’ve been bleeding talent. This is a good thing if you’re an animation company looking to stock up on some talent but for Shaft that means it’s getting more difficult to show the viewer the same level of “wow” that made you a household name. At least amongst the small number of households that watch Japanese animated series. You haven’t fallen apart like Gainax has but then again few animation studios have fallen apart like Gainax has. The Monogatari franchise has been the lone bright spot in recent years for Shaft and Hanamonogatari / Tsukimonogatari continues this propping of the animation studio up. On one hand there’s little here for people who dislike Monogatari’s animation style to change their opinion of it but on the other hand there’s still innovation and newness to be found in a franchise that has spanned 5 years and 50+ episodes over several series. One knows at this point if the Shaft animation style is for them or not. Ping Pong snatches up second for being a great example of how to marry Masaaki Yuasa’s unique style to the strengths of an anime.

Best Animation

Nominees:

Kill la Kill
Hunter x Hunter
Nagi no Asukara
Space Dandy
Ping Pong the Animation
Haikyuu!!
Free! Eternal Summer
Zankyou no Terror
Yama no Susume: Second Season
Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso
Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis

space_dandy19937Winner: Space Dandy
Runner-up: Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis

Frankly, I don’t want to give Space Dandy this award because there was so much wasted potential to it but the category is not “Best Animation in a Show I Really Liked” and I don’t see any wiggle room. Space Dandy had the best animators in the industry consistently doing their top level work from start to finish and nothing objectively came close. I just wish 1/10 of the effort that went into the animation had gone into the story. The closest rival was Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis; who for about half it’s length (first five episodes and the last couple) rivaled, if not outright beat, Space Dandy. It’s a shame the other half of the series obviously suffered from budget or time issues. I was more impressed by the animation of Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis because it felt way more epic then anything Space Dandy could muster and I really wish I could give it this award. All the other nominees contained plenty of animation prowess and those looking for a well animated anime could pick any one at random and be happy with the result.

Top Animation Studio

 Nominees:

Madhouse
Dogakobo
Production I.G
Mappa

[Underwater] Mikakunin de Shinkoukei - Engaged to the Unidentified - 06 (720p) [8560F530].mkv_snapshot_04.19_[2014.02.13_22.31.49]

[Underwater] Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun - 01 (720p) [C389E67E].mkv_snapshot_10.15_[2014.07.26_03.56.10]Winner: Dogakobo
Runner-up: Madhouse

This was a pretty tough call. Madhouse scored serious points for Hunter x Hunter and to a lesser extent Parasyte -the maxim- but Dogakobo is placing two shows very highly in my upcoming top anime of 2014 list. In the end I went with Dogakobo because one expects Madhouse to make good anime and no one was expecting Dogakobo to do it to this degree this year. Also, Dogakobo didn’t animate The Irregular at Magic High School like Madhouse did. Dogakobo is not a well-known name but for 2014 their stand out series were two – Mikakunin de Shinkoukei and Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – and I hope 2015 sees them in contention for this award again.

That’s it for part 3 of my 2014 anime awards. Stay tuned for the next part.

4 thoughts on “The Best Anime Of 2014 – Part 3: VMA Awards”

  1. These are in some ways the most subjective awards of all, since so much of our art/music/voice preferences just plain comes down to personal taste.

    The one I do feel pretty strongly about is Inou Battle’s ending. I’m not a big endings guy – my list of favorite openings is probably 4-5 times longer than my list of favorite endings, and I often skip them entirely – but I really, really loved that one. I liked the song; it was super-catchy, it was sung by Mirei’s and Kuki’s seiyuus (bonus points!), and the animation syncs superbly with the music, but even more I loved the whole concept. The girls playing games with each other, and Andou (represented by his dark-and-dark flame on top of the spinner) having them running around in circles was a brilliant idea for a harem series. And then all the extra visual touches are great too, like the little sequence where Andou’s begging Tomoyo to pose with him and she eventually gives in, or Sayumi secretly smiling while she watches him go off on another chuuni rant, or Mirei holding Andou’s flames behind her back (awww, look, she’s carrying a torch for him!).

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  2. @Jim D.: Thanks for sharing. I like to see what other people think and why.

    I also am normally more of opening guy. I think, in part, because I respond to the melody of upbeat songs sung in a foreign language I don’t understand better then the slower songs that are more frequent for the ED.

    I thought Inou Battle’s ending was decent. I did enjoy the animation but the song didn’t really grab me that much. (One man’s super-catchy is another man’s okay😉 .) I’m also really susceptible to transferring my liking or disliking of the main show onto the OP/ED as well. Which is why I’ve really gotten to like the second ending to Shirobako even though I only thought it was serviceable the first few times I listened to it.

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  3. My measure of catchiness is how many times I need to hear a song before I can start humming back at least some of it from memory. Inou Battle’s ending I only needed to hear two or three times and I had most of it down cold. By that standard, last season was especially good for music (lots of OP/ED songs I can still remember), and this season is especially bad. The six winter shows I’m still watching have only given me three songs that I can even partially pull up from memory by now: Assassination Classroom’s opening, KimiUso’s opening (which has grown on me but still isn’t quite as good as Op 1), and Koufuku Graffiti’s ending.

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  4. @ Jim D.: I thought Assassination Classroom’s opening was almost good to give the series a few more episodes to impress me before dropping.

    I thought this season’s crop of new OP/ED has been a pretty good one. I’ve really like the Death Parade OP/ED, the 2nd OP to Nanatsu no Taizai, the Rolling Girls OP, the Koufuku Graffiti OP/ED, JoJo’s ED, Shirobako’s OP/ED (though that’s probably more to do with my love of the show), and the Kantai Collection ED.

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