Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Best of the Best: 2012

It’s “Oscar” season, once again time to look back and single out the best of the year in anime.  And the winners are…

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 Sankaed 
Best Song: “"Above Your Hand" by Annabel – Sankarea ED

I absolutely loved this ED, both for the song itself and the animation sequence.

Honorable Mention: "Altair" by Motohiro Hata (Sakamichi no Apollon ED), "Escape" by Hemenway (Eureka Seven AO OP1)



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Best Soundtrack: Tsuritama

This was an incredible year for anime soundtracks, and I can think of at least five or six that might have been good enough to claim the top spot most years.  On balance I give the nod to Tsuritama for the amazingly well-integrated BGM by Kuricorder Quartet and the excellent OP and ED.

Honorable Mention: Chihayafuru, Eureka Seven AO



 Tsuri4 
Best Original Screenplay: Ono Toshiya – Tsuritama

It could hardly go to anyone else, given my views on the series as a whole.  A magnificent and personal story, full of hope and inspiration and humor, and perfectly crafted for the one-cour format.  A masterpiece of composition.

Honorable Mention: Aikawa Shou (Eureka Seven AO), Kuroda Yousuke (Ano Natsu de Matteru)



[SubDESU]_Nazo_no_Kanojo_X_-_10_(1280x720_x264_AAC)_[79340954].mkv_snapshot_19.13_[2012.06.09_23.25.19][2] 
Best Adapted Screenplay: Akao Deko – Nazo no Kanojo X

This is a case where the choices made in adaptation clearly made the source material better.  Picking and choosing from all over the manga, Deko-sensei and director Watanabe Ayumu crafted a seamless series that often achieved real profundity in exploring communication between the sexes. 

Honorable Mention: Takagi Noboru (Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun), Gatoh Shouji (Hyouka)



 [Commie] Hyouka - 07 [7CA72A38].mkv_snapshot_00.15_[2012.06.03_20.51.32] 
Best Art Direction: Okude Shuuhei – Hyouka

This was a tough call in a very strong year, but Hyouka was quite simply the most beautiful anime since Seirei no Moribito.  In addition to the gorgeous KyoAni animation and art, the visuals were also clever and subtle – acting almost as a second script, telling a story alongside the written one.

Honorable Mention: Hosaka Yumi, Kurahashi Takashi (Tsuritama), Yoshimatsu Takahiro (Hunter X Hunter 2011)


 [SubDESU]_Nazo_no_Kanojo_X_-_13_END_(1280x720_x264_AAC)_[BB3F7226].mkv_snapshot_16.35_[2012.07.01_15.55.16][2] 
Best Character Design: Konishi Kenichi - Nazo no Kanojo X

Lots of readers requested that I add this category to the awards this year.  I chose MGX because in a world where many anime character designs have a sameness to them, MGX is incredibly distinctive.  There’s an amazingly authentic 70’s look to the whole series, and Konishi Kenichi’s designs are a big part of it.  His résumé is an astonishing collection of great anime – Gainax, Ghibli, BONES, Production I.G., classic Gonzo – this is a true master of the art of animation.

Honorable Mention: Chihayafuru, Another




[HorribleSubs]_Hunter_X_Hunter_-_53_[720p].mkv_snapshot_21.13_[2012.10.28_22.03.49] 
Best Supporting Actor: Namikawa Daisuke as Hisoka, Hunter X Hunter 2011

Namikawa-san has had a hell of a year – you can’t get much more varied than Hisoka, Waver and Squealer.  His Hisoka is deliciously creepy and downright terrifying at times, yet also charming and very funny.  A great field this year, but Hisoka wins the day.

Honorable Mention: Ohtsuka Akio as Rider (Fate/Zero), Irino Miyu as Haru (Tsuritama)



[HorribleSubs]_Tonari_no_Kaibutsu-kun_-_12_[720p].mkv_snapshot_04.38_[2012.12.18_20.25.31] 
Best Supporting Actress: Tanezaki Atsumi as Natsume, Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun

If I had a “best newcomer” award Taneaki-san would be a top candidate for that, too.  An altogether winning performance here, both humorous and heartbreaking.  If anything this is almost a lead role, as Natsume carries a lot of the emotional weight of the series.

Honorable Mention: Aizawa Mai as Minene (Ninth) (Mirai Nikki), Iguchi Yuuka as Mero (Sankarea)



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Best Actor: Mamoru Miyano as Taichi, Chihayafuru

I feel as if I could honor Inoue Kazuhiko for his Nyanko-sensei every year, but in the interest of balance I won’t – and this was a fabulous year for the category, a brutal choice as is.  Miyano-san repeats his win for a completely different type of character from Okarin, the conflicted and tortured Taichi – who had for me, probably the most interesting character arc of 2012.  There are so many superb performances this year that even choosing the runners-up is hard, but Miyano’s performance is so letter-perfect that I can’t pick against him.  If Hiroaki Hirata in Uchuu Kyoudai were eligible, this choice would be even tougher.

Honorable Mention: Ohsaka Ryouta as Yuki (Tsuritama), Honjou Yuutarou as Ao (Eureka Seven AO)



 Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita - 06 - Large 34[2] 
Best Actress: Nakahara Mai as Watashi, Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita

This was likewise a very strong category this year, but if anything Nakahara-san’s performance laps the field.  She carries the narrative entirely on her shoulders, and perfect nails Watashi’s world-weary cynicism mixed with genuine warmth.  It's a performance of great depth and comic genius.

Honorable Mention: Yoshitani Ayako as Urabe (Nazo no Kanojo X), Megumi Han as Gon (Hunter X Hunter 2011)



 Tsuri3 
Best Director: Nakamura Kenji, Tsuritama

In a year full of tough choices, this had to be the toughest.  How do you pick against Asaka Morio for his superb Chihayafuru adaptation?  Or the  Watanabe boys – Ayumu for the brilliant work he did reshaping Nazo no Kanojo X (while at the same time helming the superb and radically different Uchuu Kyoudai) and the amazingly inventive cinematography, or Shinichiro for his miraculous accomplishment in making Sakamichi no Apollon almost work as a one-cour series, and giving us some of the most sublime anime of the year?  In the end it came down to Ayumu Watanabe and Nakamura Kenji, and it just seemed to me that the combination of flawless execution and spectacular creativity in Tsuritama gave Nakamura-sensei the nod by the tiniest of margins.  He’s a brilliant director who’s had trouble finishing off a series on a high note, but Tsuritama marks the pinnacle of his career so far.

Honorable Mention: Watanabe Ayumu (Nazo no Kanojo X), Watanabe Shinichiro (Sakamichi no Apollon)



 [GotSpeed]_Nazo_no_Kanojo_X_-_08_[10bit][4BAA714E].mkv_snapshot_12.30_[2012.05.26_23.30.20][2] 
Best Romance: Nazo no Kanojo X

I thought hard about whether Chihayafuru belonged in this category, because it featured what was undeniably among the most compelling male-female relationships of the year. But I don’t think it’s really a romance, because most of the romance was in our heads as an audience – it was the elephant in the room, but almost never acknowledged.  With that decided I gave the nod to MGX, which gave us some of the most perceptive and profound insights on first romance and male-female communication any anime ever has. 

Honorable Mention: Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun, Ano Natsu de Matteru



 Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita - 01 - Large 35[2] 
Best Comedy: Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita

Jinrui is much, much more than simply a comedy – but I do believe it is one.  It’s also the funniest show of 2012 by a country mile (it wasn’t a great year for anime comedy), and one of the funniest in recent years.  Dancing from comedic style to comedic style with ease and grace and featuring a bravura performance by Nakahara Mai, Jinrui was ruthless in satirizing the delusional pillars on which modern industrial society is built.

Honorable Mention: Thermae Romae, Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou



 [HorribleSubs] Chihayafuru - 11 [720p].mkv_snapshot_20.40_[2011.12.13_20.39.07][2] 
Best Drama: Chihayafuru

Like all genre categories the definitions of this one can be as rigid or flexible as we’d like them to be.  But in terms of dramatic moments, no series last year was the equal of Chihayafuru.  Recognizing that true drama comes from true characters, Chihayafuru gave us some of the best character development of any series in 2012, and the result was utterly compelling.

Honorable Mention: Natsume Yuujinchou Shi, Natsuyuki Rendezvous



 Tsuri1 
Best Series: Tsuritama

Of course it would be Tsuritama, given that it topped my list for the year.  I’ve already stated my case for this show enough times, so if you aren’t sold by now you likely never will be (unless, of course, you haven’t watched it yet).

Honorable Mention: Chihayafuru, Hunter X Hunter 2011



 Okami-Kodomo-no-Ame-to-Yuki-Volcja-otroka-Ame-in-Yuki-anime-04 
Best Picture: Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki

I’ve only seen this one raw, but that was enough to convince me it was the best anime motion picture of 2012 (which wasn’t, on the whole, as strong a year for anime movies as 2011).  While I’d rank this just a half-step below Hosoda Mamoru’s masterwork Summer Wars, it’s still a moving and powerful story, and one of the most beautiful films you’ll see.  The ending is controversial – see it and decide for yourself.

Honorable Mention: Hotarubi no Mori e, Kokuriko-Zaka Kara



Thanks for all your participation at Lost in America in 2012, and I look forward to sharing the world of anime and manga from the source in 2013.  It was a very good year for anime – compiling these “Best of” posts has really made me realize just how many 2012 series I’d love to re-watch, if only I had the time -  and hopefully 2013 will live up to its standard.


52 comments:

  1. You basically gave awards to your favourite shows of 2012. At least the Oscars have more diversity and dialogue than this.

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    1. What's your point? You nominate shows you either feel average or hate in a "Best of" series?

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    2. Ya it could have been more diverse. I for one don't see what the big deal was with Tsuritama, It was a decent series but not series of the year. But we all have different likes and dislikes and opinions and its GS's blog.

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    3. Reading " diversity" and "oscars" in the same sentence makes me chuckle

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    4. Actually, the Oscars have barely any diversity so lol.

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    5. What totoum said.

      I understand people would be shocked that the shows I considered the best of the year would win most of the "best of" categories. It just makes no sense.

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    6. "Of course it would be Tsuritama, given that it topped my list for the year. I’ve already stated my case for this show enough times, so if you aren’t sold by now you likely never will be (unless, of course, you haven’t watched it yet)."

      Watched it. Wasn't blown away. Life goes on.

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  2. I just could not get past the drool in Nazo no Kanojo X...

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    1. I can't even get past episode 2.

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    2. I won't dismiss that sentiment, as the drool was an issue for me at first as well. But I will say this - if you can convince yourself to keep an open mind you'll be rewarded with a truly great series.

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  3. More love for Tsuritama can only be good news, DUCK!
    Though I'm kinda disappointed Irino Miyu wasn't crowned Best Supporting Actor. His performance as Haru the Uchuujin was simply spot on and the positive energy was infectious :3

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  4. THANK YOU. At least I'm not the only one who thinks Above Your Hand is the best anime song of the year. Not even an honorable mention on RC, those plebians.

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    1. The results on RC would have been very different across the board if all the writers had voted, believe me.

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    2. Oh, thank-you Beckett for pointing that out...and thanks Enzo for sharing your opinion. I used to agree with the results on RC more in past years but not this year even though I understand that everything is subjective.

      ~Ronbb

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    3. I can't remember ever agreeing with any of RC's"best of" results, not even from the time Omni ran the place.

      Not that I agree with everything Enzo selects either.
      Best Soundtrack = Fujiko or GTFO!!

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  5. Hunter x Hunter ->2011<- gets Honorable Mention for Best Series from 2012.

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  6. "Above Your Hand" is one of my favorite songs, and it's the sentiment I want to live my marriage with. But for me, the single best song this year was Sphere's "Non-Stop Road" from Natsuiro Kiseki. Tremendously inspiring and uplifting.

    If I was changing the category to "Most appropriate song for the series", it's a tie between "Yume no Naka no Watashi no Yume" from Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita which pretty much perfectly matches the show's oddness, even down to Masumi Ito's lilting, ethereal voice, and "Rakuen Project" from To-LOVE-Ru Darkness, which was well done by Ray, but should have been sung by Aki Toyosaki as much as it describes exactly what she's doing in the show.

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  7. Thanks for the roundup Enzo. I value your opinion even when I disagree with it. People should understand that this is your concept of "best" and doesn't reflect the opinion of the masses. I tend to rely on this blog these days rather than RC as I used to. Keep up the good work.

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    1. Teehee...Anon...I am the same...from migrated from RC to converted to LiA, and yes, keep up the good work, Enzo.

      ~Ronbb

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  8. No Apollon for soundtrack? Definitely surprised about that one.

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    1. It was probably 4th or 5th. My issue is that the best things on that soundtrack are the original jazz cuts rather than Kanno Youko's arrangements, and that after the first few episodes there isn't all that much soundtrack there.

      Even in spite of that, it would likely have been at least an honorable mention last year, and maybe in most years. This just happened to be a great year for anime soundtracks.

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  9. Dear god, what a hipster list.

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    1. Given what generally garners popularity in anime these days, I consider that a compliment. Thank you.

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    2. Thanks Enzo...you totally cracked me up...I like your response.

      ~Ronbb

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  10. Wow. Lots of negativity in them comments. :/ Peeps, if you don't like subjectivity, then perhaps the internet isn't the place for you...

    In any case, I have to second (third? fifth?) the choice of "Above Your Hand." I didn't particularly care for the show itself, but that ending! *o*

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    1. Two negative comments? That's hardly a lot of negativity in an otherwise sea of positivity.

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  11. I thought danshi koukousei was pretty funny...

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    1. The problem with it is that it went repetitive and just went on recycling previous concepts. It went stale after episode 6 or 7, I think. Also, you can see that the funniest skits are all cluttered up in the first few episodes.

      Jinrui is also my pick too for its use of black comedy.

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    2. Actually, TBH I forgot about Danshi Koukousei when I was doing that category - list in amended. It still doesn't come close to Jinrui for the top spot, though.

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  12. I would deviate from the crowd and say that my picks for the best of 2012 are almost the same as Enzo.

    Guys, it's not to reflect the tastes of the majority (which would be heavily affected by popularity) who probably only watched a few shows (in general, people do only finish less than 20 a year). Remember what is the point of a blog. Create your own list, problem solved.

    nth motion too for 'Above Your Hand' though I still favor 'Altair.' I just like soothing ballads

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    1. It's just reality, though, no big deal. One of the things that happen when you manage to build a bigger audience is you're going to get comments from people who just want to bitch about your tastes or try and bait you into an argument. It's a package deal.

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  13. I see Jormungand didn't win anything, nor did it receive any honorable mentioning. Well, it would have won the 'best preview music' category if you had one, might want to consider that next year :P

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    1. That's a tough show to categorize. Where did it come close? Possibly "Best Drama" but that didn't seem to quite fit - and I can tell you that I originally had Unshou-san penciled in as an honorable mention for supporting actor as Lehm but he just missed out. If anything, because the show is so faithful to the manga there's nothing in the writing and direction that especially stands out, and it lost out to the top three in the overall show category.

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    2. Maybe you should do a best action award next year. Would Jormungand have won that?

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    3. That or Astral Ocean. But how can you not call Hunter X Hunter an action show, then?

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  14. lol...I'm a pretty conventional anime watcher, so I don't do too well with overly eccentric shows that rings absurdity and I think all the shows you chose kind of fall into that category. But I can see why they can be appealing.

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    1. Heh, some more than others. I don't consider Chihayafuru or H x H all that eccentric, for example - original, certainly, but basically executing somewhat familiar genres exceptionally well. Hyouka too - though it's fairly eccentric in its way, more so than it appears.

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    2. I like Chihayafuru and Hyouka quite a lot too, but yes, they turn conventional concepts into something exceptional. It's simply amazing when that happens. They are eccentric in a very grounded fashion. I would consider something like Tsuritama and Kanojo X very eccentric. I like anime imbued with profound insights and philosophical values, but often when shows walk the bizarre territory and become mind screwing-ly abstract, I can't seem to keep up. Of course, I think it's really divergence in perspective and mindset, I may not always understand their appeal, I still find it fascinating that there are those out there who genuinely appreciate their values.

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    3. Their appeal, for me at least, is that being that way they are calling you to pay attention. I personally get very little out of shows that rely on emotion as a crutch.

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  15. Except for the character design award which should have clearly gone to Tsuritama, these are pretty reasonable choices (even though the awards list doesn't match my litany of likes).

    Even Hyouka and Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun had better chara designs.

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  16. A 'Best Action' category seems missing here... I'm guessing if it existed Jormungand might've won that?

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  17. It might. I more or less went with drama, romance and comedy as the genre categories in arbitrary fashion, though that is how the Golden Globes breaks it out (except for romance). I don't tend to like genre categories at all, but it seems impossible to totally avoid in anime.

    I don't know whether it would have gone to Jormungand or E7 AO. I'd have to think about it.

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  18. I'm so happy that above your hand is in this list.

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  19. Above your Head is a good choice for best song (I love all of Annabel's work). That said, I have to give a quick shout out to Angela Aki's Kokuhaku. It was a brilliant ED for Space Brothers and just epitomizes the show in a nutshell. I would have probably ranked it a bit higher than Above Your Head, but not by too much.

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    1. Angela Aki's Kokuhaku. This. I wouldn't say it's really catchy but it sticks in your eardrums. The lyrics was nice too. The most memorable song used in anime last year.

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  20. Whaaaaat? Acchi Kocchi did not win the best comedy award?!

    heheheheh.

    Good post Enzo. :)

    - Flower

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  21. Thanks Enzo for this post -- I agree with your Best of list more than those on other sites. What I mean is that each mentioned did deliver the creativity and quality in production that went beyond commercial value and superficial appeal. Quite a number of them had depth -- they carried hidden messages from the creators that could hold their audience engaged intellectually and emotionally...on top of being visually entertaining.

    Many people say 2011 is better than 2012. I am in no position to judge, but I sincerely think that 2012 was a great year -- we didn't have those overwhelmingly wins like Steins;Gates, but I think we had a great year with many fresh ideas...love to see the abundant creativity and variety. At least, I can say that we have a number of fantastic shows started last year and spill over to (the boring) Winter 2013.

    ~Ronbb

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  22. i was sad nano ripe's songs didn't get up on that list. personally, her voice comes off as sometimes annoying... but it's amazing how her voice fits every show her songs are in :) nevertheless, i do agree with your pick. i loved the colours and goddamn that feather-light voice

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    1. I like every anime theme nano.RIPE has done, in fact - but this was a damn fine year for music in anime, and there were just a few I liked a bit more.

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  23. I absolutely loved Tsuritama, I'm really happy to see it topped your list as well. Great music, fun art direction, and delivering on so much emotional payoff/character development in just the right amount of episodes. It might've helped that I didn't have the highest expectations beforehand but the first and last few episodes blew me away. :]

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  24. http://www.anime-planet.com/users/TheStampede01/reviews/8577

    It would seem that not everyone did.

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