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:
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):
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.