It’s “Oscar” season, and again time to pay tribute to the best anime had to offer in 2013. And my earnest congratulations to Miyazaki Hayao and Studio Ghibli for representing anime at the Academy Awards this year.
Best Song: “Yokan” by Itou Masumi – Red Data Girl ED
This is always an absurdly difficult, pick ’em category every year. But today this is the one I liked the best – a gorgeous, perfectly fitting companion piece to this underrated series.
Honorable Mention: “Wareta Ringo” by Taneda Risa (Shin Sekai Yori ED1), “Dou Kangaete mo Watashi wa Warukunai” by Izumi Kitta (Watamote ED1)
Best Soundtrack: Kyousougiga
Kyousougiga gets the nod here because it’s the soundtrack that pretty much has everything – every mood the show demands, the soundtrack delivers. For me this is probably the most cinematic soundtrack of the year, and maybe its most beautiful.
Honorable Mention: Zetsuen no Tempest, Shin Sekai Yori
Best Original Screenplay: Todo Izumi – Kyousougiga
There was only one original series on the Top 10 this year, so this one isn’t a surprise. Izumi Todo may not be a real person (it’s a nom de plume that represents the collective Toei staff) but they crafted an exquisite work of art here – a series of grand, soaring ambition with layers of complexity woven seamlessly together/
Honorable Mention: Hanada Jukki (Robotics;Notes), Urobuchi Gen (Psycho-Pass)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Mochizuki Tomomi – Rozen Maiden Zuruckspulen
This is the more competitive category in anime most years, but especially this one. From a strong field Mochizuki emerges for delivering a series that raised Rozen Maiden to heights it had never seen in anime, refusing to pander along the way. It’s a subtle psychological drama that works on multiple levels.
Honorable Mention: Kamishiro Tsutomu (Hunter X Hunter 2011), Suga Shoutarou (Uchouten Kazoku)
Best Art Direction: Takahashi Maho – Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge
Once again a very tough category, with many worthy contenders. Dansai Bunri takes the nod because it displayed a unique and compelling art style from the first moments, reminiscent of Gurren-Lagann (with whom is shares many staffers, though not Takahashi-san) while creating its own vision. This is the sort of show that other anime will be compared to visually for years to come.
Honorable Mention: Okamoto Harumi, Takeda Yusuke (Uchouten Kazoku), Satou Ayumi, Okada Tomoaki (Zetsuen no Tempest)
Best Animation: Hunter X Hunter
I added this category this year, because it didn’t seem right to honor art direction but not the animation staff. Hunter X Hunter takes the nod for delivering what may very well be an unprecedented amount of Sakuga animation over the course of a year – the consistency of the animation with this series is astonishing, and some of the action scenes are among the best ever delivered in a TV anime.
Honorable Mention: Kyousougiga, Uchouten Kazoku
Best Character Design: Hayashi Yuuki – Kyousougiga
There was no single series where the character design jumped out for me as much as Nazo no Kanojo X did last year, but Kyousougiga takes the prize for the timeless look of the residents of both historical Kyoto and Mirror Kyoto.
Honorable Mention: Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge, Shin Sekai Yori
Best Supporting Actor: TIE: Namikawa Daisuke as Squealer/Yakomaru, Shin Sekai Yori and Koyama Rikiya (Multiple Roles)
Yes, there are ties at the Oscars – look it up – and I simply couldn’t choose here. Last year’s winner Namikawa had his usual great year (H x H, Kaminai) and in truth, his astonishing turn as the tragic villain of Shin Sekai Yori may have been the year’s strongest in any category. But I couldn’t overlook Rikiya-san, who delivered no less than three deserving performances, all completely different: as Wang Qi in Kingdom, Samon in Zetsuen no Tempest and Coach Hanashima in Ginga e Kickoff.
Honorable Mention: Ono Yuuki as Ashiya (Hataraku Maou-sama), Mamoru Miyano as Berg-Katze (Gatchaman Crowds)
Best Supporting Actress: Yokoyama Chisa as Biscuit Krueger, Hunter X Hunter 2011
Yokoyama-san hasn’t been a fixture of anime in recent years, but she made a glorious return as Bisky (who is generally believed to be based on Togashi-sensei’s wife, Sailor Moon mangaka Takeuchi Naoko). Yokayama nailed the comedic parts, but Biscuit is a deceptively subtle and deep character, and she has some quietly powerful emotional moments that are crucial to both the “Greed Island” and “Chimera Ant” arcs.
Honorable Mention: Nazuka Kaori as Frau Kojiro (Robotics;Notes), Han Megumi as Mushibugyou (Mushibugyou)
Best Actor: Miki Shinichirou as Gintarou, Gingitsune
It’s been a glorious return to prominence for the reliably superb Miki-san, who seemed to disappear from major roles for a few years. I almost feel guilty giving this award to him for a role that’s so perfectly suited to him that he plays it with seeming effortlessness, but the results are simply too perfect to ignore. Miki as Gintarou joins the ranks of great seiyuu/character marriages in anime, and Gintarou stands as one of the best youkai characters in years.
Honorable Mention: Sakurai Takahiro as Shirokuma-san (Shirokuma Cafe), Hiroaki Hirata as Nanba Mutta (Uchuu Kyoudai)
Best Actress: Izumi Kitta as Kuroki Tomoko, Watamote
This is always a very strong category, but as with Nakahara Mai in Jinrui last year, choosing Kitta Izumi is probably the easiest decision on this list. Izumi-san carries the series, which is almost completely told from Tomoko’s tortured perspective. Kitta nails all of it – the nastiness, the snark, the heartbreaking loneliness, the awkward shyness, the hilariously off-kilter asides. This is a great, great performance – and one that had to happen for Watamote to be the brilliantly successful adaptation it was.
Honorable Mention: Taneda Risa as Saki (Shin Sekai Yori), Kobayashi Yuu as Outa Shou (Ginga e Kickoff)
Best Director: Koujina Hiroshi, Hunter X Hunter 2011
This category is exquisite torture every year, without fail seemingly the toughest decision on the board. There are far too many great directorial achievements this year to single out only one – to ignore the likes of Matsumoto Rie’s juggling of time and perspective in Kyousougiga or Shin Oonuma’s finest hour with Watamote is absurd. But I think to give Koujina-sensei too little credit simply because we’ve become accustomed to Hunter X Hunter’s brilliance and because he makes it look so easy would be the greater crime. Togashi’s manga is by no means an easy one to translate to the screen as faithfully as Koujina and Madhouse have done it, and nearly every change he’s made has been for the better. Like almost everything about this series, it’s almost a miracle.
Honorable Mention: Ishihama Masashi (Shin Sekai Yori), Ando Masahiro (Zetsuen no Tempest)
Best Romance: White Album 2
It wasn’t exactly a great year for straight-up romance in anime (which is hardly unusual) but WA2 emerges as the clear favorite. The series plays out like a Greek tragedy, where the audience can see the heartbreak coming but is powerless to stop it. It also does a fine job of creating empathy for the characters who are making so many mistakes with their lives – because they’re the mistakes of youth and inexperience.
Honorable Mention: Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge, Servant X Service
Best Comedy: Watamote
Like last year’s winner Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita, Watamote is far more than simply a comedy. But as black as it is, this is a comedy, and a frequently hilarious one. As painful as this show could be to watch, the gallows humor is what keeps it from descending into despair – and gives Tomoko’s story just a whisper of hopefulness.
Honorable Mention: Minami-ke Tadaima, Hataraku Maou-sama
Best Drama: Shin Sekai Yori
You can’t define Shin Sekai Yori by genre any more than you can Watamote – these genre classifications are arbitrary in any event, which is why I’m disinclined to include many of them. But there was no series this year that packed more dramatic moments into its run than Shin Sekai Yori. It’s a beautiful and terrible story full of personal tragedy and deep, profound philosophical and moral challenges.
Honorable Mention: Kyousougiga, Hunter X Hunter 2011
Best Series: Hunter X Hunter 2011
A foregone conclusion given the year’s Top 10 list, but it bears repeating that Hunter X Hunter 2011 was the best anime of 2013. And it may very well be the best shounen adaptation of all-time.
Honorable Mention: Shin Sekai Yori, Kyousougiga
Best Picture: Kaguyahime no Monogatari
2013 may very well be remembered as a monumental – and sad – year for anime in cinema. It’s very likely that it saw the release of the final films for both the titans of Ghibli (despite rumblings of another false retirement, Miyazaki Hayao appears interested only in a new manga). Of the two, I prefer Takahata Isao’s Kaguyahime no Monogatari, which I rank as the second-best of his career after Grave of the Fireflies. It’s a beautiful, simple and heartbreaking film. Miyazaki and Shinkai Makoto both released strong films this year, but I give the nod to the elder statesman of the group.
Honorable Mention: Kaze Tachinu, Kotonoha no Niwa
As always, sincere thanks to everyone for following and supporting Lost in America in 2013. Overall it wasn’t as strong a year for anime as 2012 and 2014 is off to an uneven start, but Spring seems to hold a good deal of potential – hopefully 2014 will wind up as a strong year for anime and manga. It’s already seen LiA break traffic records every week so far. My best wishes for a great 2014 to all of you.