It’s “Oscar” season, once again time to look back and single out the best of the year in anime. And the winners are…
I absolutely loved this ED, both for the song itself and the animation sequence.
Honorable Mention: “Altair” by Motohiro Hata (Sakamichi no Apollon ED), “Escape” by Hemenway (Eureka Seven AO OP1)
This was an incredible year for anime soundtracks, and I can think of at least five or six that might have been good enough to claim the top spot most years. On balance I give the nod to Tsuritama for the amazingly well-integrated BGM by Kuricorder Quartet and the excellent OP and ED.
Honorable Mention: Chihayafuru, Eureka Seven AO
Best Original Screenplay: Ono Toshiya – Tsuritama
It could hardly go to anyone else, given my views on the series as a whole. A magnificent and personal story, full of hope and inspiration and humor, and perfectly crafted for the one-cour format. A masterpiece of composition.
Honorable Mention: Aikawa Shou (Eureka Seven AO), Kuroda Yousuke (Ano Natsu de Matteru)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Akao Deko – Nazo no Kanojo X
This is a case where the choices made in adaptation clearly made the source material better. Picking and choosing from all over the manga, Deko-sensei and director Watanabe Ayumu crafted a seamless series that often achieved real profundity in exploring communication between the sexes.
Honorable Mention: Takagi Noboru (Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun), Gatoh Shouji (Hyouka)
Best Art Direction: Okude Shuuhei – Hyouka
This was a tough call in a very strong year, but Hyouka was quite simply the most beautiful anime since Seirei no Moribito. In addition to the gorgeous KyoAni animation and art, the visuals were also clever and subtle – acting almost as a second script, telling a story alongside the written one.
Honorable Mention: Hosaka Yumi, Kurahashi Takashi (Tsuritama), Yoshimatsu Takahiro (Hunter X Hunter 2011)
Lots of readers requested that I add this category to the awards this year. I chose MGX because in a world where many anime character designs have a sameness to them, MGX is incredibly distinctive. There’s an amazingly authentic 70’s look to the whole series, and Konishi Kenichi’s designs are a big part of it. His résumé is an astonishing collection of great anime – Gainax, Ghibli, BONES, Production I.G., classic Gonzo – this is a true master of the art of animation.
Honorable Mention: Chihayafuru, Another
Best Supporting Actor: Namikawa Daisuke as Hisoka, Hunter X Hunter 2011
Namikawa-san has had a hell of a year – you can’t get much more varied than Hisoka, Waver and Squealer. His Hisoka is deliciously creepy and downright terrifying at times, yet also charming and very funny. A great field this year, but Hisoka wins the day.
Honorable Mention: Ohtsuka Akio as Rider (Fate/Zero), Irino Miyu as Haru (Tsuritama)
Best Supporting Actress: Tanezaki Atsumi as Natsume, Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun
If I had a “best newcomer” award Taneaki-san would be a top candidate for that, too. An altogether winning performance here, both humorous and heartbreaking. If anything this is almost a lead role, as Natsume carries a lot of the emotional weight of the series.
Honorable Mention: Aizawa Mai as Minene (Ninth) (Mirai Nikki), Iguchi Yuuka as Mero (Sankarea)
Best Actor: Mamoru Miyano as Taichi, Chihayafuru
I feel as if I could honor Inoue Kazuhiko for his Nyanko-sensei every year, but in the interest of balance I won’t – and this was a fabulous year for the category, a brutal choice as is. Miyano-san repeats his win for a completely different type of character from Okarin, the conflicted and tortured Taichi – who had for me, probably the most interesting character arc of 2012. There are so many superb performances this year that even choosing the runners-up is hard, but Miyano’s performance is so letter-perfect that I can’t pick against him. If Hiroaki Hirata in Uchuu Kyoudai were eligible, this choice would be even tougher.
Honorable Mention: Ohsaka Ryouta as Yuki (Tsuritama), Honjou Yuutarou as Ao (Eureka Seven AO)
Best Actress: Nakahara Mai as Watashi, Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita
This was likewise a very strong category this year, but if anything Nakahara-san’s performance laps the field. She carries the narrative entirely on her shoulders, and perfect nails Watashi’s world-weary cynicism mixed with genuine warmth. It’s a performance of great depth and comic genius.
Honorable Mention: Yoshitani Ayako as Urabe (Nazo no Kanojo X), Megumi Han as Gon (Hunter X Hunter 2011)
Best Director: Nakamura Kenji, Tsuritama
In a year full of tough choices, this had to be the toughest. How do you pick against Asaka Morio for his superb Chihayafuru adaptation? Or the Watanabe boys – Ayumu for the brilliant work he did reshaping Nazo no Kanojo X (while at the same time helming the superb and radically different Uchuu Kyoudai) and the amazingly inventive cinematography, or Shinichiro for his miraculous accomplishment in making Sakamichi no Apollon almost work as a one-cour series, and giving us some of the most sublime anime of the year? In the end it came down to Ayumu Watanabe and Nakamura Kenji, and it just seemed to me that the combination of flawless execution and spectacular creativity in Tsuritama gave Nakamura-sensei the nod by the tiniest of margins. He’s a brilliant director who’s had trouble finishing off a series on a high note, but Tsuritama marks the pinnacle of his career so far.
Honorable Mention: Watanabe Ayumu (Nazo no Kanojo X), Watanabe Shinichiro (Sakamichi no Apollon)
Best Romance: Nazo no Kanojo X
I thought hard about whether Chihayafuru belonged in this category, because it featured what was undeniably among the most compelling male-female relationships of the year. But I don’t think it’s really a romance, because most of the romance was in our heads as an audience – it was the elephant in the room, but almost never acknowledged. With that decided I gave the nod to MGX, which gave us some of the most perceptive and profound insights on first romance and male-female communication any anime ever has.
Honorable Mention: Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun, Ano Natsu de Matteru
Best Comedy: Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita
Jinrui is much, much more than simply a comedy – but I do believe it is one. It’s also the funniest show of 2012 by a country mile (it wasn’t a great year for anime comedy), and one of the funniest in recent years. Dancing from comedic style to comedic style with ease and grace and featuring a bravura performance by Nakahara Mai, Jinrui was ruthless in satirizing the delusional pillars on which modern industrial society is built.
Honorable Mention: Thermae Romae, Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou
Best Drama: Chihayafuru
Like all genre categories the definitions of this one can be as rigid or flexible as we’d like them to be. But in terms of dramatic moments, no series last year was the equal of Chihayafuru. Recognizing that true drama comes from true characters, Chihayafuru gave us some of the best character development of any series in 2012, and the result was utterly compelling.
Honorable Mention: Natsume Yuujinchou Shi, Natsuyuki Rendezvous
Of course it would be Tsuritama, given that it topped my list for the year. I’ve already stated my case for this show enough times, so if you aren’t sold by now you likely never will be (unless, of course, you haven’t watched it yet).
Honorable Mention: Chihayafuru, Hunter X Hunter 2011
Best Picture: Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki
I’ve only seen this one raw, but that was enough to convince me it was the best anime motion picture of 2012 (which wasn’t, on the whole, as strong a year for anime movies as 2011). While I’d rank this just a half-step below Hosoda Mamoru’s masterwork Summer Wars, it’s still a moving and powerful story, and one of the most beautiful films you’ll see. The ending is controversial – see it and decide for yourself.
Honorable Mention: Hotarubi no Mori e, Kokuriko-Zaka Kara
Thanks for all your participation at Lost in America in 2012, and I look forward to sharing the world of anime and manga from the source in 2013. It was a very good year for anime – compiling these “Best of” posts has really made me realize just how many 2012 series I’d love to re-watch, if only I had the time – and hopefully 2013 will live up to its standard.