With the majority of this year’s series wrapping up and nothing major coming out until January, the atmosphere is perfect for my yearly review. For the last 2 years (indeed, my 2 year anniversary for this blog is 12/20) I’ve incrementally highlighted shows as they came out and presented particular standouts with full reviews. On a yearly basis, I like to take a step back and look at everything that’s come out to qualify the year’s merit. This year, I’ve added a few new awards: first, I felt that Sci-Fi/Mecha has a huge enough impact on the anime industry that it really deserves its own category (and doesn’t really fit into the other ones); second, adult series (seinen and jousei) really should be included and were likely just a oversight when I first created this list; finally, I’ve included another “worst of” title in “Most Cliche” to celebrate (?) the most trope infested series of the season. I will say that this year’s anime was much weaker than last year’s anime but will still be judged on the below categories:
- Overall Series
- Action Series
- Comedy Series
- Continued Shounen Series
- Drama Series
- Fantasy Series
- Sci-Fi/Mecha Series
- Adult (Seinen/Jousei) Series
- Opening Theme
- Ending Theme
- Biggest Surprise
- Biggest Disappointment
- Most Cliche
- Voice Actor
- Potential Bests, The Anime I Didn’t Get to this Year.
Fate/Zero Season 2
Runner-up: Sword Art Online
While I don’t know if I’m ready to consider Fate/Zero to be the best series of the year, I do believe that it was a strong one and that it deserves winning best action series 2 years in a row simply because of how they split up the series. Like I said last year, ufotable’s animation is top notch and it really just makes this series an A for action. Sword Art Online’s action was equally good, but didn’t have ufotable backing its animation – but it’s also a bit more of a well-rounded demographically show, as well.
Humanity Has Declined
Runner-up(s): Polar Bear Cafe, Tsuritama, Nisemonogatari
What made Humanity Has Declined so great for me is the juxtaposition of the whimsical fairies and animation with the dreaded reality that, well, humanity has declined. By all means, the series is a dark comedy that pretends to be a run-of-the-mill one, until you start paying attention to the jokes which are all very self-deprecating on the state of humanity and its struggle for survival in a world where fairies are now the most populous race. In addition to Humanity Has Declined, Polar Bear Cafe and Tsuritama seem rather entertaining, though I haven’t finished them yet (but plan to finish Tsuritama). It’s also worth mentioning that Nisemonogatari’s comedic moments are great, but it’s more than just a comedy.
Continued Shounen Series:
Bleach (I guess)
Honestly, I think the only reason I would give this series best of the year is because it is finally over (at least the anime). It’s been a long ride of pointless power-ups and useless arcs after the Soul Society arc. The series should have skipped the entire Hueco Mundo arc and went straight to the Aizen/Ichigo/Urahara finale (sure, I’ll give you some power-up time, too). It would have retained the integrity of the series and really made for one of the best shounen anime. Instead, the majority of Bleach is virtual or actual filler and the manga is coming to a close now on what seems will be an awkward plot point. Honestly, I don’t watch shounen anime any more and probably will stop reading the manga after Bleach and Naruto are finally over.
Runner-up(s): Nisemonogatari, Fate/Zero, Sakamichi no Apollon
Space Brothers doesn’t even really have any competition in this genre as far as I’m concerned. It’s probably that I haven’t finished enough drama this year, but man Space Brothers is good considering it really doesn’t do much throughout the series other than poke your nostalgia and inspiration buttons. I’m admittedly behind on the series (which is still continuing) but, oh man, is it good. Insofar as other drama goes, I’ve listed Nisemonogatari here, but genre-wise, it’s a bit of a misclassification as the -monogatari series are kind of hard to place (and I’ve placed it in several places). Fate/Zero also gets a silent nudge because the Master/Servant relationships were very well crafted. Sakamichi no Apollon is also great, from what I’ve seen. It’s probably a closer runner up than the other two.
Sword Art Online
Runner-up: Blast of Tempest, Nisemonogatari
Sword Art Online deserves to win something here and, despite the fact that it’s kind of (?) not a fantasy series, it still wins this year’s award. Since the people are in a video game that is more or less reality, I think it’s worthwhile to go ahead and say that it’s fantasy enough. Overall, Sword Art Online’s first arc is great. Great, great, great. The most recent stuff has been a little bit disappointing and feels somewhat forced, unfortunately. Despite that, it has enough good moments to rightfully solidify it as one of the best anime this year. Blast of Tempest is not over but, from what I’ve seen, I’ve really liked it. I hope it continues to be good. I guess Nisemonogatari kind of falls in this genre, too, which is why I have a hard time placing the -monogatari series.
Runner-up(s): Psycho-Pass, Robotics;Notes
Before I get derided, it’s worth mentioning that Aquarion EVOL has its flaws. There’s really no explanation for its power-up system, nor how the mech are really controlled, but if you get past that, the show is really fun and has some noteworthy twists. Is it the best mech series ever? By no means. But it’s good, and I enjoyed every episode of the series. Psycho-Pass and Robotics;Notes are not done yet, but both seem to be sure candidates for nomination in the least. I plan on playing a bit of catch up while I’m on my vacation.
Adult (Seinen/Jousei) Series:
Lupin the Third: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna
Runner-up(s): Sakamichi no Apollon, Space Brothers
I won’t lie. I haven’t finished any of these. I’ve watched enough of all of them to make a decent judgment, though, and I’m willing to say that Lupin the Third is this year’s best anime for adults. It’s nostalgic and avant garde and probably worth your time watching. I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s in my queue. Sakamichi no Apollon and Space Brothers are also in my queue, but I really appreciate the revival of the Lupin the Third series, a lot.
Tie between Sword Art Online and Fate/Zero Season 2
Honestly, I liked SAO and Fate/Zero equally, so I don’t think I want to give the overall award to one or the other. So instead, here are some non-canon images.
Nisemonogatari had a good chance of winning it for me if not for the toothbrush scene and the 15 minutes of talking to Shinobu in a bathtub.
Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo
Runner-up(s): Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki, Madoka movies
I won’t lie – I haven’t seen these. None of them are readily available in America yet (well, the Madoka movies are, but they’re a bit much of a drive for me). I’m willing to bet that Eva 3.0 is the movie of the year. And not just because I love Eva. That being said, I can’t wait to see any of these and I’m willing to retro-actively update this list if I’m wrong about the ordering.
Runner-up: Code Geass Gaiden: Akito the Exiled
I thought that the Steins;Gate special really tied together a few loose ends in the plot (though not too many). It was a welcome special and didn’t hurt the integrity of the series. Regarding the Code Geass OVA, I totally forgot that it came out. I plan to watch it within the next few weeks.
Kirito – Sword Art Online
Runner-up: Iskander – Fate/Zero
One of the main reasons that Sword Art Online is good is because of Kirito’s pure awesome. He’s a little less awesome in the second arc, but still awesome enough. What really makes him great is that, even though he is powerful, he’s also intelligent. Although he does a fair bit of god-moding, it’s better than seeing the usual dumb, strong hero we see in this kind of anime. Iskander is the dumb hero I’m talking about, but in such an awesome way. Add to the fact that he is easily the most likable character in Fate/Zero and you’ve got another winner.
Lupin the Third: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna
Runner-up: Fate/Zero, K, Nisemonogatari
I’ve already alluded to it, but Lupin the Third’s art is absolutely phenomenal. There are so many really, really cool things going on in the show and I really want to get back to watching it. Fate/Zero has the usual awesome ufotable animation. I thought K had a very unique art style, as well, but have yet to get started with the series. And, of course, SHAFT’s animation was spectacular for Nisemonogatari, as well.
Crossing Field – LiSA – SAO
Kimi no Shinwa ~ Aquarion Dai ni Shou – AKINO – Aquarion EVOL
Runner-up: Tsurezure Monochrome – Fujifabric – Tsuritama
I had a really hard time choosing this year. Crossing Field is a GREAT song, but Kimi no Shinwa is really what pumped me up for watching each episode of Aquarion EVOL in much the same way that Sorairo Days did way back when I was watching Gurren Lagann. Tsuritam’s opening deserves mentioning, because, well, it’s awesome.
Naisho no Hanashi – ClariS + Supercell – Nisemonogatari
Runner-up: Gekkou Symphonia – AKINO and AIKI (bless4) – Aquarion EVOL
I like Supercell. I like ClariS. I like the -monogatari series. This was an obvious choice. It should be mentioned that Gekkou Symphonia is really, really, really pretty though. I’m not surprised. Yoko Kanno did the music composition for the soundtrack and the opening and ending.
Sword Art Online – Offline, on Track
Runner-up: Fate/Zero – Bullet Time
The final scene of the first arc of Sword Art Online was brilliant. It’s a shame that it went a little downhill from there. I won’t ruin it, but let’s just say that it echoes how much of a badass Kirito is. The final battle between Kiritsugu and Kirei in Fate/Zero is also pretty freaking awesome.
Runner-up: Yuki Kaji
I’m giving Kana Hanazawa the vote this year because of her roles as Zessica (Aquarion EVOL), Mato (Black Rock Shooter), Ayase (Guilty Crown – which ended this year and this character was the only one worthwhile in the series) and Akane (Psycho-Pass). She’s been fairly prolific and has shown that she can perform in a lot of different roles. I’m also giving Yuki Kaji the runner-up position because, despite how much Guilty Crown sucked, his other roles have made me not hate him as a voice actor even though I can’t get Shu’s voice out of my head when I hear him talk.
Fate/Zero Season 2
Runner-up: Humanity Has Declined
Honestly, I went into Fate/Zero expecting junk. Fate/Stay Night is a pretty bad amalgamation of too many ideas and doesn’t really work. Fate/Zero is a bunch of ideas that absolutely work together. Humanity Has Declined is another show that caught me off guard. Like Ben-To last year, I’m happy when there is a comedy that I can legitimately enjoy.
Runner-up: Second Arc of Sword Art Online, Fate/Zero’s need to be canon with Fate/Stay Night
Okay, this is definitely kind of nitpicky because I did like all of these shows this year (in fact, these are probably my top 3). Nisemonogatari was disappointing because it wasn’t as good as Bakemonogatari. Was it bad? Not really – it just went out of its way to be awkward way too many times. SAO is a great show that I’m hoping doesn’t end up sucking because its second arc and (clearly) additional seasons. Fate/Zero ended fairly well, but without a huge amount of closure because Fate/Stay Night basically ends the story.
Runner-up: The rest of the moe bro crap this year
I guess that Campione is probably one of my biggest disappointments this year, but I wanted to point out the fact that this year’s anime was pretty flawed as a whole. I couldn’t make it very far into the series simple because I had seen it before. Moe bro crap is moe bro crap.
These shows are on my radar to finish up at some point: Black*Rock Shooter, Senhime Zesshou Symphogear, Eureka Seven AO, and Rinne no Lagrange (among whatever else I have already mentioned)