30 Dec 2011

Anime of 2011: Best Of...

Last year I had the "Story and Genre Awards". This time round, I've decided to name it "Best Of..." to make it more flexible so I can highlight some shows that would have otherwise been hidden in these kind of Year End Awards. For example, last year we had The Legend of Koizumi winning Best Comedy and Cross Game winning Best Plot Twist. The best overall series, OVA/Movies, etc will be in the final post, which should be up on Sunday.

Best Action

Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing
This series doesn't just LOOK nice, its also pretty exciting during the huge airship battles.

Guilty Crown
Production I.G. does some really good work here with the CG special effects and fluid motion.

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica
Homura's crazily over-the-top fights are really cool to watch.

A fight every week, with lots and lots of blood.

A lot of thought has been put into each battle, with characters assessing the situation and strategizing on the fly as they learn about their opponent's origin and special power.


Darren's and Vic's Pick: BLOOD-C
The action scenes in this series is pretty amazing... and gruesome. Good choreography of the fights and interesting enemies every week make a rather slow plot bearable.

Best Comedy

Deadpan humour at its best!

Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni!
The humour here revolves around the characters and is executed very well due to all the development the characters all get.

Enjoyable funny week after week without fail.


Vic's Pick: Nichijou
Not the most consistent, but it definitely made me laugh the hardest. Occasionally I still search Youtube to re-watch certain skits.

Best Slice of Life

Hourou Musuko
Well-written characters and an interesting art style makes this a really enjoyable slice of life to watch.

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai.
The story is extremely focused and makes good use of its short 11 episode run to develop the characters so that when the emotional moments come, it works.

Usagi Drop
Instead of being sad and brooding, the producers emphasize the warm and fluffy moments.


Vic's PickAno Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai.
They did a good job holding back on the forced emotional moments and only brought it out when enough build-up was done. I wanted to highlight writer Okada Mari for her fantastic writing here (and in Toradora), but then I stumbled upon an interview where she said AnoHana was originally had slapstick erotic elements. It was Director Nagai Tatsuyuki (who also worked with her on Toradora) that reigned her in. I'm glad he realized Toradora's single more glaring flaw and had the guts to fix it.

Best Romance

Nitori Shuichi and Suehiro Anna (Hourou Musuko)
A weird couple, so I guess it was appropriate for them to break up. They stayed as good friends and all this time none of their friends can understand their relationship at all.

Akihisa and his harem (Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni)
It's easy to dismiss a dumb male protagonist and his unconditionally-loving harem, but BakaTest does a great job showing exactly why the individual girls like him. The moments are emotional and well-thought out.

Sakamoto Yuuji and Kirishima Shouko (Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni)
Initially played as a joke, their relationship actually has quite a deep history. The back story for these 2 adds a lot of depth to them and made Shouko a lot more bearable.

Takanashi Souta and Inami Mahiru (WORKING'!!)
Clueless male protagonist again and shy girl, but Inami is so adorably in love with Takanashi and Takanashi is unknowingly showing some love and care for her too.

Satou Jun and Todoroki Yachiyo (WORKING'!!)
Satou's quiet love for Todoroki is so cute to watch! Also, Todoroki is slowly realizing that she likes him...


Vic's Pick: Nitori Shuichi and Suehiro Anna (Hourou Musuko)
Not all romance can last, and not all failed relationships end up with broken friendships either. The maturity of these 2 characters and their character dynamic was handled very well and felt natural.

Best Moe/Fan-service

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko
Erio! The character design for her is incredibly good, and her seiyuu does a good job of balancing her cuteness and weirdness without going too much in one direction.

Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni!
A bunch of fan-service in this show played for good laughs. Especially Hideyoshi.

Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai
Sena + Kobato = Win


Vic's Pick: Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko
Love Erio sooo much, especially during the first 3 episodes.

Best Story/Script

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica
Twist after twist, with well-developed build-up for each twist. It manages to consistently hook you in week after week.

Hourou Musuko
The first few episodes were very well scripted, and the rest of the story was still very engaging. The subject matter is tackled with maturity and subtlety.

A very well-written story with a bunch of twists and a good amount of tension.

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai.
As I already mentioned, the story is very focused and makes good use of its 11 episode run.

Mawaru Penguindrum
Every episode is so engaging and filled with hints and symbolism. Choke full of stuff!

Incredibly well-realised world and intelligent writing just sucks you into the lore.


Vic's Pick: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai.
It was really really hard making this decision with so many great stories this year, so I'll spend some time to explain my choice. Madoka is full of great plot twists, but Kaname Madoka is not a very good main protagonist for most of the series. Hourou Mususko does well with its subject matter, but some parts of the plot was a bit average. Steins;Gate had a great premise, but the character dialogues were a bit awkward at times. Mawaru Penguindrum looks like a work of a genius, but like all genius works it can be messy and a bit too crazy. Fate/Zero is well-researched and has extremely good dialogue, but the pacing is a bit too slow (and also the story has not concluded yet). AnoHana edges out because of its group of interesting characters and emotional impact.

Best Conclusion

A twist towards the end made for a more satisfying conclusion.

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai.
The tearful farewell over 2 episodes was very well executed. In the wrong hands it would have felt too draggy.


Vic's Pick: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai.
Not many shows with good endings this time round, but don't discount AnoHana. The build-up was great and it concluded well.

Best Episode

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica (Episode 3)
Mami head-chomp was shocking. Turn the whole series upside-down.

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica (Episode 10)
Commando Homura's relentlessly repeating history to make that one wish come true.

Hourou Musuko (Episode 1)
It was a magical experience, with the interview-style direction, great water-colour art style, and brilliant use of a classical piece.

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai. (Episode 10)
They made an episode to cry for, and I did. Quite a bit. Extremely well-built-up moment.

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko (Episode 3)
The first 3 episodes of Denpa Onna were some of the finest work Shaft has produced. It show that they are capable of writing a coherent, tightly structured and purposeful story with emotional impact.

Mawaru Penguindrum (Episode 1)
The amazing direction and pacing for this first episode made me instantly fall in love with it. Best first episode of the year!

Fate/Zero (Episode 11)
You know a character's dialogue is well-written is he manages to crush your ideals and make you agree with his philosophy. Rider makes one hell of a speech.


Vic's Pick: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica (Episode 10)
There are many great episodes of Madoka, but episode 10 takes top honours for making me cry every time I watch it (and I have watched it at least 7 times already).

Darren's Pick: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica (Episode 3)
Mami's death here was a shocking twist and totally changed the mood of the series. Everything you know about the Mahou Shoujo genre is untrue for here on out.

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