AAA2014: The Artemis Anime Awards

anime trophy
That’s right, the AAA is back for an unprecedented two years running, and I’m all ready to dish out the only awards in the anime blogging circuit that really matter while simultaneously snubbing any titles that failed to live up to my own arbitrary expectations.

I could have done this back at the end of 2014 or start of 2015, but as my eyes once more began to glaze over after reading a few dozen similar posts, I again decided to postpone my own list until the winter anime line-up was over and another seasonal cycle completed. As with last year, the same rules apply: only televised shows are counted, the series must have begun no earlier than March 2014 and finished by now, and I have to have seen every episode.

Best Overall Title:

 nozaki-kun cast

Kill la Kill easily took the prize last year, but this time around there were several contenders, including Mushishi Zoku Shou, Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, and Zankyou no Terror. However, this second season of Mushishi, despite being… well, Mushishi, is perhaps not quite as compelling as the first series, and I have one or two very slight qualms with Zankyou no Terror. This highly coveted award therefore goes to the vibrant and innovative Nozaki-kun, whose combined fabulous cast of characters and brilliant sense of timing comes together to form pure comedy gold. Very rarely do I come across any comedy series that makes me laugh as much as this one does, and in my books, that just makes Nozaki-kun extra special.

Worst Overall Title (aka the ‘What On Earth Possessed Me To Watch The Entire Thing?’ Award):

 psycho-pass 2

This title, on the other hand, is all too easy to decide. I thoroughly enjoyed and respect the original Psycho-Pass, and the much-anticipated sequel starts off promisingly enough, but that only makes the later episodes all the more cringe-worthy by comparison. I suppose I kept watching out of the desperate hope that the show would manage to turn itself around and even somehow redeem itself by the end, but I realise now this was naive of me at best. Psycho-Pass 2 has little to no character development for anyone who isn’t Akane, abandons any semblance of decent world-building or even logic by somewhere around the middle, and perhaps most depressingly of all, uses ‘edgy’ and ‘sexy’ action scenes purely for shock value and violence for violence’s sake. What a colossal waste of potential.

Biggest Surprise Title:

 nozaki-kun bull

An easy win for Nozaki-kun in this department. Much like last year’s Love Lab, I went in expecting tired slapstick comedy and cheap fanservice, but what I got was a sparkling wit that completely blew away any expectations. Props especially to episode 8, which actually made me cry from laughing so hard. If you’re putting off watching this because you think it sounds trashy or cliché, I urge you to reconsider. Hell, even the mini-episode specials are good – and that’s something I almost never say about any anime.

Best Debut Episode:

 shingeki no bahamut favaro

While the series remains very solid the whole way through, Shingeki no Bahamut has an absolutely stellar first episode. The way our main characters are introduced leaves a lasting impression, with plenty of engaging action and deliberate humour, and the episode oozes a kind of style that manages to be both playful and charming. This is exactly the kind of debut that a fun-filled action/adventure title like this one should have, and was completely unmatched by any other opening episode this anime year.

Best Character:

 akatsuki no yona

I could probably go ahead and pick just about any character from Nozaki-kun and feel justified in doing so, and Barakamon’s delightful Naru also springs to mind as a decent contender, but I’ve got to give this one to Akatsuki no Yona’s titular character. If this category was about picking my personal favourite then things would probably be different, but going by best character, Yona is the obvious choice to me. How long has it been since we’ve had a female lead character, and in a fairly serious show at that, who’s allowed any realistic, long-term character development? Go on, just think about that for a moment. Having a female lead in any action/adventure series is already quite a rarity, especially where zero fanservice is involved, and Akatsuki no Yona is far from the melodramatic and romance-centric show that I think many people assume. In reality, this is exactly the kind of series that the anime industry needs more of – in large part thanks to its main character.

Best Visuals:

 zankyou no terror

Free! came out on top last year and Eternal Summer looks just as good as the first season, and Shingeki no Bahamut has some outstanding character designs, but Zankyou no Terror… wow. Just wow. Even those who took issue with the other elements of the series must admit that in the visuals department, Zankyou no Terror is utterly gorgeous – fluid animation, suitably distinctive character designs, and a general art direction that’s simply a joy to watch. In terms of technical merit, this is easily one of the finest shows to ever be released, and relatively new studio MAPPA (also in charge of Bahamut, incidentally) is proving itself a force to be reckoned with.

Best OP:

Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus, Zankyou no Terror, and Shingeki no Bahamut all have fantastic OPs, both visually and musically, but I can’t not pick Death Parade for this one. It’s not just that it’s a catchy number, but also that it’s so wrong in all the right ways. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such a gloriously inappropriate OP before – I enjoyed the series as a whole quite a bit, but the OP still manages to be one of the best things about it.

Best ED:

Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus is the clear winner here. Seldom does any anime show bother to tell a story with its ED, or even make much an effort in the visuals department. Traditionally, all the time and money is invested into the OP, and from a business standpoint rightly so. However, this doesn’t mean an ED has to be poorly thought-out, as the Kuroshitsuji remake proves. The song provides an excellent moody atmosphere, the artwork looks good and is properly animated, and best of all, it’s actually a miniature story all on its own – one that fits the creepy feel of the series to perfection.

Best Overall Soundtrack:

As obvious as the choice may be, Zankyou no Terror has this one in the bag. Composer Kanno Yoko has always done exquisite work, and there are several wonderful tracks here. I like both the OP and ED songs (‘Trigger’ by Ozaki Yuuki and ‘Dare ka, Umi wo’ by Aimer), but the instrumental piano track ‘walt’ is my favourite. It has a rich feel but a delicate sound, and to me also quite a nostalgic and vaguely melancholy vibe.

And just to wrap things up, here’s the list of anime I watched all the way through that neither won nor was a serious contender for any of the above awards. All were enjoyable to some extent, though in terms of quality, some are clearly better than others: Aldnoah.Zero, Durarara!!x2 Shou, Isshuukan Friends, Kamigami no Asobi, Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu, Love Stage!, Orenchi no Furo Jijou, Sanzoku no Musume Ronja, Sengoku Basara – Judge End, Sidonia no Kishi, Space Dandy 2nd Season, Sword Art Online II, Yami Shibai 2nd Season, Yuri Kuma Arashi.

Question of the post: Agree? Disagree? Got any other awards you’d hand out for anime that aired over the spring 2014 to winter 2015 period? Let me know in the comments.

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19 thoughts on “AAA2014: The Artemis Anime Awards

  1. The two big “YES!!!”‘s here for me are Zankyou no Terror for visuals and (obviously) Yona for best character.

    I dunno if I like Terror enough to buy the BDs, but it might be worth it just to see those phenomenal cinematography and color work.

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    • There are people that aren’t so hot on Zankyou no Terror, and I can see why, but I personally love it. Even if you dislike the story or characters though, there’s no denying that the visuals are absolutely stunning – probably some of the best I’ve seen of any anime production, ever.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Aw yeah, go Yona!!!
    I mean, errr… *coughs* I’m not biased at all. Granted, for everything else considered on this list, I’ve only seen (and loved) the Death Parade opening and Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun.

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  3. Had to check the dates and see Pupa was not eligible before I could content myself with your worst title 😛

    Plenty of good OPs over the past year, but that’s definitely a worthwhile choice. An OP I never skipped, which says a lot, for me.

    I found the Kuroshitsuji ED quite a bore, and while “boring and calm EDs” are often the purpose, it also felt bland :<

    Definitely agree on Bahamut as having the best and most grabbing premier.

    For visuals, I'd agree with Zankyou no Terror on best execution of visuals, and again, my other "stylized" choice, Sekai Seifuku, is sadly out of your realm.

    I still need to watch Yona. I hope I won't be disappointed. What's my favourite character, or best, from this time period? Huh, I don’t know, I feel like this last year was relatively weak on this aspect.

    I didn’t really like Nozaki-kun. I thought it was a smart and well-written show which mostly failed the comedy, due to bad timing.

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    • Also I never watched all of Pupa – I finally quit after about halfway I think. For my sanity, it was necessary.

      That’s interesting that you find the Kuroshitsuji to have a boring/calm tone. To me it feels creepy and angsty, and while it certainly doesn’t have a fast tempo, I don’t think slower songs are necessarily also calm.

      I honestly wasn’t sure about Yona at first. The premier wasn’t very inspiring, and although the next couple of episodes were a bit better, I didn’t start to really sit up and pay attention until somewhere around the halfway mark. The story and characters ended up paying off in a big way for me, but I can understand how the slow-ish pacing might put other viewers off before then.

      I couldn’t disagree more about Nozaki-kun having bad timing. I won’t try and convince you otherwise, mostly because I can think of almost nothing more subjective than comedy, but for my money, the show has some of the best comedic timing I’ve ever seen in an anime series.

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  4. Good choices! This was a great read!!! Out of the two decent comedies thisbyear, which for me were barakamon and gekkan shoujo, I actually preferred barakamon a bit more, but I love them both!
    I gave my award to Hunter x Hunter, but it was weird becaise hunter x hunter spans multiple years. I figure since it ended in 2014 , that’s the year it should be qualified for.

    I can agree that psycho pass 2 was a pitiful shadow of it’s former self. It’s so unfortunate i’m nlt even excited to see the movie anymore.

    I loved Bahamut’s premiere. It was flawless. I went with Fate/Stay in the end. That prologue was godly.

    Yona is definitely a great character, amd the anime is so focused on her transformation, I love it. I’m so glad it picked up so much momentum after that stumble of an opening.

    Zankyou is pretty. Oh so pretty. Nothing beats it, but fat/stay is like the prime contender for me.

    My two favorite ops were death parade and noragami. Death parade had heartless judgers of humanity dancing…it wins.

    I think this was still a good time to post these awards!

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    • I really enjoyed Barakamon as well, just not as much as Nozaki-kun. 🙂

      Confession time: I’ve never watched a single episode of Hunter x Hunter. I tend to really dislike shounen action/adventure shows, especially the long-running ones. In fact, there are very few shows of any demographic or genre I love that span for over about 50 episodes. Still, I’ve been meaning to try Hunter x Hunter at some point, so you never know.

      As for Fate/Stay Night, I’m also unfortunately not a fan at all, and so I never ended up watching more than the first handful of episodes. I did really like what I saw of the artwork though, especially the gorgeous colour work.

      Actually, Noragami came out during the winter season of 2013, so I didn’t include it in this awards season at all. I did for last year’s though, and gave it both best visuals and best OP. https://otakulounge.wordpress.com/2014/04/02/aaa2013-the-artemis-anime-awards/

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  5. As for me, I never got past Bahamut episode 1 because the guy with the orange hair annoyed me so much.

    Hanayamata wasn’t a great show, but the OP had so much cuteness and charm that it got me through the entire series, so it gets my vote.

    Though I generally agree about Nozaki-kun, though it wouldn’t call it the show of the year. I love it when a show exceeds expectations. Sakura, however, might be my female character of the year …

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  6. Last year’s #1 pick was the most agonizing I’ve had in a while, but I had to pick Ping Pong for the strength of its characterization. It helps that I’m in love with Yuasa’s style. Everything else I’d have to agree with except for best character, that’s a tough one, and I want to say Favaro, but I think I’d have to go with Peco. To be fair, I didn’t give Yona enough of my time as I had problems with its pacing.

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    • I only ever watched the first episode of Ping Pong. I know people were raving about it, and I can absolutely see what they mean about the show being more about the execution than anything else, but… eh, it’s still a show about ping pong, and that’s just not my speed.

      Totally fair comment about Yona though – the pacing does take a while to sort out, and while the payoff for me was well worth it, I can understand how a lot of people were put off. The first couple of episodes were unfortunately some of its very weakest.

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