Apparently Jon rarely watches anything good, so I’m doing my own version of the Anime Oscars. Actually, hardly any of the other Project Haruhi writers have watched most of these shows. A lot of them aired when I was taking a break from anime earlier this year, but I’ve recently dug them up after hearing a lot of positive reviews. There’s a lot from 2010 that I haven’t seen, but I think I’ve picked the best ones to backtrack first. Therefore, I’m confident in awarding Oscars to shows that truly deserve it.
You can look forward to hearing the rest of the gang’s picks and more about mine on next week’s episode of Bakacast.
It might be difficult to believe after recent offerings, but Madhouse can make really good shows when they feel like it. There’s also a reason the NoitaminA slot has such a huge reputation among the more
pretentious intellectual subset of anime fandom. When both of these things combine, expectations soar and bloggers’ WPM increase as they all struggle to be the first to talk about it before it becomes mainstream.
That sort of hype can strangle even the best shows, but Tatami Galaxy just strides along and surpasses it anyway. Introspective coming-of-age stories are nothing new, but one this well-written and brilliantly directed hasn’t been seen since FLCL premiered a decade ago. Its small cast of strange characters are funny, heartwarming, thought-provoking and, above all, highly entertaining to watch. It’s a good reminder that you don’t need a complicated internal mythology or ground-breaking philosophy to tell a great story. Sometimes making a simple premise as bizarre as possible works just as well.
Runner up: Squid Girl
Best Movie or OVA
The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya
Jon already covered everything I would have say about this, except that I vehemently disagree with his preference of moe Yuki over Haruhi. This is probably just because of my weird fetish for crazy girls, though.
Runner Up: A Certain Scientific Railgun OVA
Best Male Character
Ichinomiya Kou (Arakawa Under the Bridge)
Anime tends to have an overwhelming lack of male characters who do anything meaningful. I tend to believe it’s because the usual target demographic is male, and males tend to stop being friends and turn into rivals once women appear. Since everyone knows you can’t make a successful series without cute female characters, the male lead is forced to become a blank projection character for the viewer. All the characters we’re supposed to care about just have breasts added.
Kou is not a blank slate. In the beginning of the series, he’s almost completely unrelatable to the 99% of people who have never owned a Lamborghini or flown in a private helicopter. He’s also completely oblivious to the fact that not everyone wants to be just like him. As the series goes on, his entire perception of the world around him is slowly deconstructed and rebuilt by his eccentric neighbors. However, he’s never being dragged around or forced to do what others believe is correct. He remains his own independent person while reevaluating himself according to his environment. It’s rare that such massive character development can be accomplished without railroading their personality.
Runner Up: Protagonist (Tatami Galaxy)
Best Female Character
Aikawa Chizuru (Squid Girl)
This is the only girl so intense that she makes invaders retreat with a glance. She was unanimously voted as the most appropriate method of dealing with dangerous wild animals by the Bakacast staff. She’s quick on her feet, easily improvising a new sentai hero to distract Squid Girl or pulling a quick switcheroo to win a volleyball tournament. She commands attention simply with a sideways glance because she can kill you with her fingernails.
But she’s a sweetheart as long as you don’t horse around in the shop. She’s one of the first to treat Squid Girl as an equal and is always keeping the American scientists from dissecting her. Yes, she only uses her powers for good. We can only hope her abilities are never appropriated for Squid Girl’s nefarious purposes.
Runner Up: Celty Sturluson (Durarara!!)
I’m lumping ‘art direction’ in with this since it’s pretty much the same thing to me, and I’d give both awards to the same show even if I tried to separate them.
This show utilized almost every trick in the book when it came to blending live-action shots with animation. It wasn’t always necessary, but it WAS always interesting. The rotoscoped hand and chopsticks picking up beef was really cool, even if it was completely pointless. A better example is in the later episodes when the protagonist is wandering through the endless 4.5 tatami rooms. They’re mostly live-action shots, with the sole character and various important items being the only things animated. It parallels the loss of his grip on reality as live-action overtakes his animated world. I love the flipped parallel it draws between real-life hikikomori, who tend to lose themselves in a an animated world, to an animated one who loses himself in the real world.
Runner Up: Samurai Girls
Best Character Design
Celty Sturluson (Durarara!!)
How do you make a medieval faerie who rides a horse fit into an urban setting? How do you make a female character with no head appealing to people other than guro fetishists? By turning the horse into a motorcycle and giving the girl a helmet with cat ears on it. This reimagining of a dullahan is brilliant in how straightforward, sexy, and consistent with the original mythology it is. And the way the smoke that comes out of her neck fills up the room when she blushes is pretty cute, too.
Runner Up: Squid Girl (Squid Girl)
Yoshimori Makoto (Durarara!!)
The sheer variety in Durarara!!‘s music is incredible. Tracks include such varied styles as acid jazz, swing, blues, funk, rock n’ roll, ska, classical, baroque, Celtic and Russian. As any musician or composer knows, it’s one thing to study the mechanics of a style of music to imitate it, and a completely different undertaking to experiment with it and create good music at the same time. Yoshimori has managed to do the latter with nearly every track. The wildly different flavors on the CD parallel the strange hodgepodge of characters that is the series’ selling point, with many of the songs having a tendency to attach themselves to a particular character. They never quite become de facto image songs, but do begin to remind you of characters who aren’t even onscreen when they play.
Runner Up: Takahashi Taku (Panty & Stocking)
Kuragehime (Koko Dake no Hanashi by Chatmonchy)
Arakwawa Under the Bridge x Bridge (Goodbye Days by Suneohair)
The whole cast, really, but mainly that.