AAA2013: The Artemis Anime Awards

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Nope, this isn’t just a 3-month late post. I have a couple of reasons for doing this now as opposed to having done it back at the end of last year, and for once, procrastination isn’t one of them.

Not that I have any Deep and Meaningful reason to do it now either. Mostly, the timing just makes more sense to me since anime is released by season rather than strictly by year; I don’t feel I’m able to really judge something that’s only partway through, as many anime titles still were during December (and obviously also through the following two months). I’m also not exaggerating when I say that I read about 30 or so ‘best of’ anime lists during the weeks leading up to and just after the New Year period – and those were only the ones from my WordPress blogroll. At a certain point they all started blurring together, and I had no desire to add to the pile.

Anyhow, on with the show. The rules I’ve set for myself are as follows:

1. Only full televised shows will be considered – no specials, OVAs or films.
2. The series must have begun airing no earlier than March 2013 and finished airing by now.
3. I have to have watched every episode.

Clearly, this method of deciding the award winners (the categories of which I made up as I typed) is completely fool-proof and has no faults whatsoever.

Best Overall Title:

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Kill la Kill
. The insane levels of energy this show possesses makes it a clear cut above the rest for me. I honestly can’t recall another anime series that’s been delivered with such obvious joy and passion – so much so that it’s difficult to know exactly where to start describing it. Sometimes surprisingly smart and always ridiculously over-the-top, Kill la Kill is a little like an ultra-vulgar, super-camp, and utterly shameless version of Looney Tunes. It also knows precisely what it is, and I do so love a show that manages to be that self-aware but still consistently hilarious. Thankfully, it also never seemed to take itself with any kind of seriousness. That’ll do, Trigger. That’ll do.

Worst Overall Title (aka the ‘Good Enough To Grit My Teeth Through, Just’ Award, aka the ‘Why Exactly Did I Watch The Entire Thing?’ Award):

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Galilei Donna
. There was another title that I actually ended up giving the same score to over on MAL – Brothers Conflict – but what do you expect from a reverse-harem with a stupidly large cast and a talking squirrel? Galilei Donna, on the other hand, was a show that should have been decent but instead turned into a laughably senseless narrative somewhere around the halfway mark, and only got progressively more ludicrous from there. As a series that was produced by A-1 Pictures and aired on noitaminA, I expected far better than this shambles of a story, propped up mostly by a) its admittedly very solid artwork/animation, and b) Mr. Bishounen-Pirate. Although frankly, almost any character would have been preferable to the resident loli. (The score was 3 out of 10, if anyone cares.)

Biggest Surprise Title:

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Definitely gotta be Love Lab. What I expected was cheap, tawdry, and worthy of the occasional forced smile. What I got was sincerely cute, reasonably intelligent, and genuinely funny. I had assumed from the synopsis that this series would be filled with inane fanservice and unrealistic pseudo-lesbianism, yet Love Lab had next to none of this and, thanks mostly to an excellent cast of characters and great sense of timing, it rarely failed to make me laugh. I particularly enjoyed the Maki/Makio gag, but there was plenty of good material there.

Best Character:

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There really is no other choice – Mankanshoku Mako (Kill la Kill). There were definitely some other very cool characters around – several of them from this one series, actually – but Mako was a big part of what elevated the show from ‘great’ to ‘outstanding’ in my eyes. She’s the insanity cherry on top of the crazy cake that is Kill la Kill, so it’s probably no surprise that, despite there being more interesting, intelligent, and shocking episodes, episode 7 is still one of my favourites.

Best Visuals:

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There was certainly no lack of fantastically designed titles to be had last anime year – Space Dandy, Suisei no Gargantia, Red Data Girl, and Kyoukai no Kanata all deserve a mention, and there are no doubt plenty of other shows I didn’t end up watching at all that still looked great. Noragami has to be my favourite in terms of visuals though; hot damn that show’s pretty. Sleek and distinctive character designs, a gorgeous colour palette, and extremely fluid animation made it the best-looking show by a safe margin for me. However, I’d like to name Free! as easy runner-up. Say what you will about KyoAni, those guys (and girls) know how to make a show look fabulous. As a competitive swimmer myself, I can actually say without any irony whatsoever that the swimming scenes looked stunning.

Best OP Theme:

Ladies and gentleman, it’s a tie! Shingeki no Kyojin’s ‘Guren no Yumiya’ (‘Crimson Bow and Arrow’) performed by Linked Horizon, is just as good to me as Noragami’s ‘Goya no Machiawase’ (Overnight Appointment) performed by Hello Sleepwalkers. I found both songs incredibly catchy – although while the former is an amped-up and hella angry power ballad that’s the very definition of ‘epic’, the latter oozes style with a well-paced but smoother funk-rock vibe. I’m sure I’m biased, but it’s always great to hear OP themes that differ from the more standard J-pop fare. Oh, and I think an honourable mention should go to Space Dandy. Whether you liked the show or not, you have to admit that Watanabe has a very distinctive style, not to mention an eye (and ear) for production quality.

Best ED Theme:

This one goes to Aku no Hana’s ‘Hana’ (‘Flower’), performed by Asa-Chang & Junray. The song is creepy as all hell – which I can only assume is the intention, going by the rest of the show (which for me was an enjoyable but not exactly comfortable experience). The song itself sounds like some kind of sing-song nursery rhyme gone horribly, horribly wrong – the uneven paced, chillingly voiced song (if you can even call it that) sounds more fit for a horror movie than it does anything else, but I can’t deny that it suits Aku no Hana to a tee.

Best Overall Soundtrack:

Dammit, Kill la Kill, stop collecting awards already. But I doubt I need to explain this one in any great detail – Kill la Kill just seemed to have this innate instinct about what type of music to use, and when exactly to use it. I enjoyed both OPs (but especially the second one), but there were also some great BGM mood setters there. The insert songs consistently stood out to me as ones which not only lent a fantastic vibe to what was happening onscreen, but didn’t distract from the real action. Thank you, Sawano Hiroyuki. (Who, incidentally, also did the composing for Shingeki no Kyojin.)

Question of the post: Agree? Disagree? Got any other awards you’d hand out to anime airing during the Spring 2013 to Winter 2013/14 timeframe?

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17 thoughts on “AAA2013: The Artemis Anime Awards

  1. Yeah, agree. Maybe I’d throw in Gin no Saji’s OP1, Space Dandy’s ED and Nagi no Asukara’s ED 1 (though it wouldn’t be eligible because you didn’t watch it) for anime songs that fit their show really well.

    And I wanna give the Adorable Animal Award to Pork Bowl ^_^

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    • I should really get around to Nagi no Asukara sometime. It looks like something I’d quite enjoy – I think the only reason I never picked it up was because I already had enough anime on my plate at the time to keep me pretty busy.

      Ah, fine choice indeed!

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      • You might like Nagi. I found it an interesting enough drama/romance series during the first half, although it didn’t really grab me, but there’s one episode to go now and I’ve completely lost all my investment in the characters so haha who knows.

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  2. I tried to come up with counterexamples but really can’t think of any among recent shows, so I’ll go with yours. I’ll add that Love Lab was a terrific series of its type and I’d love to see a second season. And, in spite of my ambivalence toward Space Dandy, both the OP and ED were excellent tunes, but I’d add the Zvezda ED, and I find the Engaged to the Unidentified ED fun to watch, but YMMV.

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    • I also wouldn’t mind seeing another season of Love Lab at all, although I rather doubt we’ll be getting one. Still, you never know, I guess.

      I like Space Dandy well enough (I find some episodes hilarious, others a little boring), but it wasn’t my favourite show of the winter season – that would have to be the second season of Gin no Saji. As you say though, a terrific OP (and ED). As for the other EDs you mention, I never watched either of those shows, so I’m afraid I can’t comment there.

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  3. I found Love Lab indeed a welcome surprise. The humor was often times spot on and the show felt innocent and sincere. Galilei Donna was a missed opportunity and the storytelling was below average.

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    • Yeah, I honestly didn’t expect Love Lab to be that funny (or that free of cheap fanservice). I would never have believed I’d use the words ‘innocent’ or ‘sincere’ to describe it judging by the synopsis alone, yet here we are. A fantastic surprise indeed. 🙂

      Ugh, Galilei Donna. A completely missed opportunity there. Shame, because the production values – artwork, music, etc. – were well above average. Unfortunately, the storytelling was fairly abysmal.

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  4. What I enjoyed most about the Aku no Hana ending is its capacity to instil dread by just creaking its way into the show. Given, I happened to like the series bunches to the point where it was my favorite show of last year, so when the credits theme would drip its way onto the scene while there was still television show left to watch it was always a case of how many more seconds I was going to get before it cut out!

    In terms of other awards/categories? I’m partial to shorts, be they little one shot films or series that don’t run a normal 23-ish minute television duration. So I still think the likes of Miss Monochrome and gdgd Fairies destroyed many other series in their path, haha.

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    • That’s a great point you make there. And I too enjoyed Aku no Hana quite a lot – it wasn’t my favourite show of its season (and I was ambivalent about the first couple of episodes, mostly due to the pacing), but I ended up appreciating it much more later on.

      Ahh, that’s a good category. I’m not opposed to shorts myself, although I haven’t watched all that many. In fact, I think the only ones I even tried during the last year were Pupa (I’m not even going to go there), and Yami Shibai (which I thought was actually pretty decent).

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  5. Man, seasons all start to blur together, don’t they? I found myself looking at the Titan stuff and thinking ‘HUH, that was the same year as KLK and Free?’ (why are people complaining about nothing to watch?) Good on the assessments, I’d say, though I’m still too far behind on KLK to judge it properly – I’d definitely name Dandy the landslide winner in the OP contest, just for sure bombastic energy that even Titan couldn’t match. And also perhaps the show as a whole for ‘thing people had no expectations of beyonf name recognition and now adore.’ Maybe that’s just me.
    I’d give my Biggest Surprise award (and perhaps 2013 favorite, though perhaps it’s just due to its freshness in my mind) to Samurai Flamenco. For being the show that pulled the rug out from under me until the very end, always made sense in hindsight, and charmed me right off my feet with its idealistic core and very sweet romance.

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    • I felt a bit the same way when I was writing up this post – “Oh, hey, I remember Shingeki no Kyojin, was that really only just back in 2013?” I wasn’t a big fan of the series to begin with, although I warmed up to it a lot more in later episodes. Still not my favourite show of the year by a long shot – I just had too many annoyances with it – but overall, I did still enjoy it.

      I know a lot of people really didn’t like the direction that Samurai Flamenco took after that infamous Gorilla episode, and I’ll admit that I was quite taken aback by the sudden turn for the bizarre. But I actually ended up enjoying the entire series, and embracing the oddities instead of resenting the show for them wasn’t all that hard for me to do. As a whole, I was quite happy by the time things finished up.

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  6. Pingback: Kill La Kill: A Love Story | Chromatic Aberration Everywhere

  7. I haven’t seen Aku no Hana yet, and this ending is so, sooo awesome! Thanks for sharing.
    Also, I haven’t heard of the Love Lab before. It sounds fun, but my to-watch list is still rather growing up than decreasing, so… You know, somewhere in 2030s, I guess… :<

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  8. I’m late as always, but that means I gotta put more effort in. Or rather, since I know I’m going to put effort in, I take my time :3

    Question, your goal by doing the award now was to get all shows starting in 2013 (I opted for shows ending in 2013 for that reason), so why the Winter 2013 season didn’t get in? Hm, with Space Dandy and Noragami, I guess it’s March > March.

    Also, yeah, it’s almost hard to imagine Shingeki no Kyojin was just this year. I think it’s because of how many shows we’re watching. At least I am watching way too many shows, heh.

    Worst Overall Title:

    I didn’t make it through all of Galilei Donna… I think once I get through the last episode it’d probably be The Pilot’s Love Song / Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta. If we allow shows I dropped, then it’s either Pupa or NouCome, easily two of the worst shows I’ve ever watched.

    Best Overall Title:

    It’s interesting. Many of us pick the “Best Title” for the same reason, but with differing results 🙂 I mean, to me Kyousougiga is also a show delivered with such joy and passion, and boundless energy.

    And Gatchaman Crowds which would have been #2 under your criteria (Shinsekai Yori being ineligible), is also the same.

    Best Character:

    Fight Club Mako is my favourite character in Kill la Kill. Regular Mako probably loses to episode 1-20 Kiryuuin Satsuki for me, which had been such a cool character. I had a whole bunch of characters I really liked last year.

    My biggest surprise title was one picked up in that hellish week – Gin no Saji, which I loved a whole bunch. So charming.

    Biggest Surprise Title:

    I weathered two episodes. But this was in the week I tried to catch up on a season mid-season and watch roughly ~55 episodes. I might still return to this one, but the same way I’ve watched K-On! – one episode a day. I just can’t marathon this sort of series.

    OP:

    To me Guren no Yumiya is the sole winner, and even easily so at that.

    Noragami OP is one that I noted that the more I listened to it, the more I liked.

    Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S’s first OP by fripSide (Sister’s Noise) is worthy a mention. Yes, it’s a pretty standard J-pop/techno fusion, but the levels of energy displayed are amazing. The style reminds me more than a bit of Ayumi Hamasaki’s music.

    I know I’m in the minority, but I liked neither Space Dandy’s OP or ED, not one bit :3

    It won’t win any awards, especially not for lyrics, but I really liked Gatchaman Crowds’ OP. Good energies.

    Oh shit, almost forgot (so many shows…) – Watamote OP. Alongside with Guren no Yumiya, it’s an OP I actually played on repeat on youtube. It also reminds me of my favourite Bleach OP (Ichirin no Hana). I’m a sucker for that soft rock-metal vibe.

    ED:

    Yeah, Aku no Hana’s ED was certainly… something, and how it always began while the episode was still ongoing. So very oppressive. The various OPs were also interesting. Like a dark mirror of the Monogatari OPs. For the ED, I liked the vocal track less, and the soft piano more.

    Nagi no Asukara’s first ED was beautiful, and it often had a fade-in in the episode itself, which was so good. Man, I just listened to it again for the sake of this reply. Great stuff.

    Kyousougiga ED won’t win any tracks, but it was interesting.

    But my favourite ED of the season? Innocent Note, the ED to Gatchaman Crowds. I used to tear up when it began playing. Many people really liked the OP and thought the ED was meh. I was ok with the OP, but this ED… I listen to it a lot on the way to and from the university.

    Ok, in terms of OPs/EDs a couple of shows deserve a special mention.

    Gin no Saji / Silver Spoon:

    First ED, second OP and ED. All are great. They are at the same time energetic and soothing. They really make you think, “Yes, life!” – these are the pieces that somehow scream “Mushishi” at me when I listen to them 🙂

    Valvrave the Liberator / Kakumeiki Valvrave:

    All of them had good energies. I think the first ED, “Boku Janai” is sometimes just ahead of Gatchaman Crowds’ ED or just behind it as my favourite ED. That stuff. Wow. The 2nd ED and the OPs are both very pretty and have very good energies, even if they’re somewhat standard. But the audio-visual combination and the consistency is to be lauded. The 2nd OP is better, IMO. I guess each season had either a great OP or ED, and the other one was just ok. I think the 2nd OP might be to your taste, somewhat close to Noragami in feel.

    Best Soundtrack:

    Man, this is a toughy. I’ve got a three-way tie. Shingeki no Kyojin had a great soundtrack throughout its run, Kill la Kill with great pieces and an amazing assortment of classic music, and Kyousougiga with haunting melodies everywhere which would cause me to tear up whenever they started playing.

    Gatchaman Crowds is the runner-up, just for being so darn interesting and energetic.

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    • I covered all shows starting from spring 2013 and ending winter 2013/2014. 🙂 Although of course, there are many titles I just never got around to watching, for one reason or another. As always, my to-watch list keeps on growing no matter how much I chip away at it. But that’s partly the joy of anime, I guess – it’s basically impossible to run out of things to watch!

      As for worst overall title, if I allowed for shows that I never managed to finish, then I’m totally with you on Pupa. Good lord that series was awful – I think I made it about 4 episodes before throwing in the towel? By all accounts, it didn’t get any better either.

      Looks like I’ll have to at least watch the OPs/EDs to some of those shows you mentioned, as it sounds like we might have similar tastes in music. I’ve always had a huge soft spot for High and Mighty Color, and I’m a bit of a sucker for Hamasaki Ayumi as well.

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