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:
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):
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:
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.
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.
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?