Best of the Best: 2011

It’s awards season, and a good time to finish my look back on 2011 with our own “Oscars” for the year in anime.  And the winners are…

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Dantalian no Shoka - OP - Large 04
Best Song: “Cras numquam scire” by Yucca – Dantalian no Shoka OP

It’s hard to top “Secret Base” from AnoHana, but this gorgeous OP is truly the best song of the year – the best part of the series, in fact.

Honorable Mention: “Secret Base” (AnoHana ED), Tooku Kimi He (Ikoku Meiro episode 4.5 insert song)

[Nemui] Ikoku Meiro no Croisee - 12 [1280x720].mkv_snapshot_23.36_[2011.09.19_13.28.57]Best Soundtrack: Ikoku Meiro no Croisee 

A lovely, French-influenced OP and ED are supplemented by equally on-point BGM and insert songs.

Honorable Mention: Mawaru Penguin Drum, Dororon Enma-kun Meerameera

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Best Original Screenplay: Okada Mari – AnoHana


No one better expresses the exhilarating highs and infuriating lows of anime writing than Okada-san, but she nailed it with this exquisitely emotional and unapologetically dramatic fairy tale.

Honorable Mention: Ikuhara Kunihiko (Mawaru Penguin Drum), Urobuchi Gen (Madoka Magica)

[Nemui] Ikoku Meiro no Croisee - 12 [1280x720].mkv_snapshot_17.20_[2011.09.19_13.22.41]Best Adapted Screenplay: Satou Junichi – Ikoku Meiro no Croisee


Sensitive, smart, subtle and just about perfect is about how I’d describe Satou-san’s work on this manga adaptation. 

Honorable Mention: Hanada Jukki (Steins;Gate), Team RIKKA (Mashiro-iro Symphony)

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Best Art Direction: Nakamura Chieko, Akiyama Kentaro – Mawaru Penguin Drum


If Guilty Crown had been eligible this would have been a close call, but no eligible series was as consistently beautiful and visually creative as MPD.  A lot of the credit here has to go to Ikuhara himself of course, who was surely the source of most of the visual inspiration at play here.

Honorable Mention: Inoue Hideki (Ikoku Meiro), Makino Ryuichi (Hourou Musuko)

[Nemui] Ikoku Meiro no Croisee - 11 [1280x720].mkv_snapshot_20.55_[2011.09.12_13.14.57]Best Supporting Actor: Tanaka Hideyuki as Oscar, Ikoku Meiro no Croisee


Oscar wins his namesake here.  In a show as full of heart as this one was, Oscar was the heart of the series, gently guiding Claude and Yune in the right direction.  Tanaka-san’s performance is nuanced and subtle, never succumbing to the “cute old man” trope but rather imbuing his character with sly wit and a hint of world-weary nonchalance.

Honorable Mention: Sakai Noa as Kouki (Usagi Drop), Namikawa Daisuke as Prince Baka (Level E)

[gg]_Ben-to_-_08_[F3FD8D1E].mkv_snapshot_20.50_[2011.11.26_20.07.06]Best Supporting Actress: Aoi Yuuki as Oshiroi, Ben-To


Anyone who’s read my posts on this series knows it often annoyed the hell out of me, but Aoi-san’s Oshiroi was never less than a complete delight.  Her over-the-top ecchi and human sound-effects track were the best thing the show had going.

Honorable Mention: Kashiyama Nanami (debut performance) as Utae (R-15), Imai Asami as Kurisu (Steins;Gate)

Steins Gate - 24 - Preview 01Best Actor: Mamoru Miyano as Okabe, Steins;Gate


I wasn’t a huge fan of Mamoru-san before 2011, but he’s had a spectacular year.  In addition to his star turn as Okarin, so full of humor and depth, he’s been stellar in a totally different performance as Taichi in Chihayafuru.

Honorable Mention: Hirata Hiroaki as Kotetsu (Tiger & Bunny), Tsuchida Hiroshi as Daisuke (Usagi Drop)

AnoHana
Best Actress: Tomatsu Haruka as Anaru, AnoHana


I’m baffled by how little respect Tomatsu-san gets.  She’s rarely mentioned in the same breath as the trendy names like KanaHana or Aoi Yuuki, but she’s delivered some of the great performances of recent years.  As Anaru, she was the open, vulnerable center of the most emotional series of the season.  She also delivered a wonderful – and totally different – performance as Mayu in the wildly underrated Nekogami Yaoyorozu, and she’s always golden as a singer, too.

Honorable Mention: Kanemoto Hisako as Ika-chan (Shinryaku!? Ika Musume), Itou Kanae as Sena (Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai)

Steins Gate - 15 - Large 31
Best Director: Hamasaki Hiroshi and Sato Takuya, Steins;Gate


It was a strong year for directors in anime, but I have to give the nod to this pair from White Fox.  Steins;Gate had to be a terribly difficult adaptation to get right, and they pretty much nailed it – the pacing was perfect, with just enough exposition to keep the audience hooked.  A VN is not an anime, and these guys clearly understand the difference.

Honorable Mention: Aoki Ei (Hourou Musuko), Yasuda Kenji (Ikoku Meiro)

[Zenyaku-ACIFT] Mashiro-Iro Symphony - 12 [Hi10P 720p h264 AAC] [92568677].mkv_snapshot_16.33_[2011.12.22_17.52.02]
Best Romance: Mashiro-iro Symphony


It was looking like a rough year for romance anime for a long time, but Mashifoni stepped up to make sure we got at least one top-notch romance in 2011.  After a modest start it proved a thoroughly charming series, treating its characters with dignity and breaking most of the rules along the way (including which heroine ended up with the MC). 

Honorable Mention: Steins;Gate, R-15

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Best Comedy: Working’!!


It was mostly sequels this year in anime comedy, and Working was the best of the bunch.  It was arguably better than the first season, avoiding the trap of focusing too heavily on the Inami/Souta thread and spreading the wealth to the entire cast.  And what a cast – funny without exception and exceptionally funny.

Honorable Mention: Mitsudomoe Zouryouchuu, Level E

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Best Drama: Ano Hi Mita no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai


Here was a series that wasn’t afraid to be a drama, offering us real emotional conflict each and every week.  An amazing amount of character development was packed into eleven short episodes, interwoven with elements of magical realism that enhanced the drama rather than distracting from it.  Maybe this was the series that made NoitaminA safe for serious character anime again – it certainly proved every bit as much a commercial success as an artistic one.

Honorable Mention: Ikoku Meiro no Croisee, Hourou Musuko

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Best Series: Ikoku Meiro no Croisee


It can’t come as any surprise that Ikoku Meiro would win this one, as it was my #1 series of the year.  You’ve pretty much heard all the reasons why I love this show so much so I won’t repeat them – just please watch it if you haven’t already, and do so with an open mind.

Honorable Mention: AnoHana, Steins;Gate

Colorful - Movie - Large 09
Best Picture: Colorful


The Oscars always end with this award, so I’ll close with Colorful, the most powerful anime experience of the year for me.  It’s not as flashy as Ghibli’s Arrietty or Shinkai’s Hoshi o Ou Kodomo, but Hara Keichi’s film is one of the most complex and emotionally penetrating anime films of the last decade.  It’s a movie that isn’t afraid to ask difficult questions or paint its main character in an unflattering light, and it tells a dark and painful story.  But ultimately, Colorful is a life-affirming rather than a depressing experience, and its rewards are earned through honest storytelling and patient development.

Honorable Mention: Hoshi o Ou Kodomo, Karigurashi no Arrietty

You’ve certainly heard an awful lot from me about 2011 in anime, but I’d love to hear more from you – thanks to everyone who’s commented on the various year-end posts.  Please keep sharing your thoughts via the comments, and stay tuned for a year-end Readers Poll coming soon.

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13 comments

  1. K

    I can agree with most of your choices for each catergorie. Only one I really disagree on was best song. Secret Base would have been my choice and you had it as an alt choice.

  2. M

    I can also agree with many of your choices.

    I'm surprised you didn't mention Madoka Magica in the Best Soundtrack award. As much as I like Ikoku Meiro's, in my opinion Yuki Kajiura's soundtrack deserves the prize. I wouldn't say it's been the best year for great soundtracks, though.

    I also feel Nichijou deserves at least an honorable mention in the Art and Comedy categories but I'm guessing you didn't watch it.

  3. I tried to, but it just didn't work for me.

  4. F

    I can definitely agree with the choices overall. Some cases where I might have taken the honorable mention over the winner, but that's a personal taste thing.

    Some that I really agree with were the Dantalian no Shoka OP being on the top and Working winning the comedy. Was only too glad to eventually get the full song for Dantalian no Shoka which was nice since it had Huey doing one of those little readings near the end of it.

    While having different feelings about Souta/Inami (the more the better I say) do think they handled things well in the second season. A lot of characters got focus and yet that pairing arguably moved even further forward than in the first season.

    Not a bad 2011 and hopefully 2012 gives us good anime to enjoy.

  5. K

    One thing you MIGHT want to consider for next year is an award for the series with the best character design. Because all artists draw anime characters differently some stand out as being very well drawn.

    Ikoku Merio, Steins Gate, Ano Hana, Tegami Bachi, Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, Kimi Ni Todoki, and Hanasaku Iroha all had very good beautifully drawn characters.

  6. I did consider that, Karmafan – that was probably the next category if I'd decided to add one.

  7. S

    Interesting post. Aoi Yuuki as Oshiroi was definitely a very fun character to watch.

  8. F

    I’m baffled by how little respect Tomatsu-san gets. She’s rarely mentioned in the same breath as the trendy names like KanaHana or Aoi Yuuki

    This is largely because she's a vocal chameleon, she sounds like whatever is needed at any given moment, so she hasn't established as much of a presence as actresses who have more distinct sounds.

    For example, Tomatsu does an absolutely flawless HanaKana.

  9. S

    I gotta agree with Karmafan, I would like that award too.

    Enzo, you managed to fit in alot of my and your top choices as winners in many different categories. Maybe that means that you're being a little bit too diplomatic. If AnoHana wins Best Drama, it's harder to argue for Croisee to win the whole shabang.
    But the only times we don't agree is when I didnt follow your top pick's anime.

    Otherwise, this year has been stellar. Anime is alive in well.

  10. Stot, I think that's a valid distinction – or at least as valid as genre distinctions get. I'm reluctant to give "Best of" awards by genre as a rule anyway, because I think it leads to trying to over-simplify what a series is, but I felt that AnoHana was the best, as pure drama.

  11. C

    Enzo…I'd like to thank you from the bottom of my heart.
    After seeing you singing your praise to Ikoku Meiro no Croisée I decided to watch it and it's one of the best things I've watched in a long time.
    I absolutely loved it and it's been a totally kawaii ride.
    Thanks man!

  12. You just made my day right there! Thanks for that – trust me, it was my pleasure to sing Ikoku Meiro's praises.

  13. C

    I'm glad.
    😉
    Thank you!

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