4th Anime Oscars?

It was just a month ago that I covered the AnimeSuki 2011 Choice Awards, and it’s the time of year where I like to go over my own, personal mock awards for anime. To quickly go over the ground rules, not much has changed from last year. Anime are eligible if 1.) I’ve seen them and 2.) they’ve finished their intended run. I haven’t seen as much anime this year, so if there are obvious candidates I’ve missed, feel free the berate me in the comments. As has been the case for this mock award’s existence, I’ve tried to make them resemble the real Academy Awards, but in a way that’s relevant to anime. This year, I’ve changed the “Best Script” award to “Best Writing” firstly to match the Oscars and secondly because best writing is a much easier criteria to judge than best script. One thing I haven’t done though is split it into “Original” and “Adapted” categories. I don’t think there are quite enough quality original anime to justify the split… yet (one day, hopefully).

Just as has been the case with anime, I haven’t seen a large number of movies this year either (something to do with writing a thesis). The number of Best Picture nominees I’ve seen to date is embarrassingly low (three). While many of the nominees, I understand, were eye-brow raising, it doesn’t sound like many are begrudging The Artist‘s win. I thought George Clooney was excellent in The Descendents (then again, he’s excellent in most things) but I can’t begrudge Jean Dujardin winning Best Actor. Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady was apparently Oscar-bait, while Octavia Spencer in The Help was certainly most deserving. However, as one of Roger Ebert‘s commenters stated, as soon as Spencer won, it was obvious Viola Davis would miss out because of politics.

No politics in these awards… just choices based on merit, as I see them.

Best Animation
Nominees:
Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below
Nichijou
Hanasaku Iroha
Gosick
Colorful (Movie)

And the award goes to: Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below
I haven’t watched many movies this year (Arrietty is showing in limited release here and I’m waiting til it comes out on Blu-Ray before seeing it), which is why these nominees are uninspiring. The winner is obvious, but the rest of the field just makes me shrug my shoulders. Except Nichijou, which was hit and miss as a comedy, but was (when it wanted to be) an incredible, and underrated, visual effort.

Best Anime nominee: Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Best Original Theme Song
Nominees:
“Secret Base” by Kayano Ai, Tomatsu Haruka and Hayami SaoriAno Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai
“Nornir” by Etsuko Yakushimaru Metro OrchestraMawaru Penguindrum
“Dear Future” by Coaltar of the DeepersMawaru Penguindrum
“Magia” by KalafinaPuella Magi Madoka Magica
“RPG” by School Food PunishmentC: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control

And the award goes to: “Nornir” by Etsuko Yakushimaru Metro OrchestraMawaru Penguindrum
For me, it was a choice between the two Penguindrum songs, and while the shortened, TV version of “Dear Future” is better than the OP, the full version of “Nornir” is such a mind-blowing, eclectic piece. Songs that go through several distinct parts usually attract my fancy.

Best Original Soundtrack
Nominees:
Wandering Son
Mawaru Penguindrum
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Kamisama no Memo-chou
Usagi Drop

And the award goes to: Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Not my forte, so I hope I haven’t pissed off zzeroparticle with omissions. With that said, the best soundtrack I’ve heard this year definitely wasn’t from an anime. Out of these choices, I think Puella Magi Madoka Magica was the best. It’s another very solid entry from Kajiura Yuki, but that’s generally what we expect from her.

Best Anime nominee: Mawaru Penguindrum

Best Writing
Nominees:
Steins;GateHanada Jukki, Yokotani Masahiro and Nemoto Toshizo (adapted from the visual novel by Naotaka Hayashi and Shimokura Vio)
Puella Magi Madoka MagicaUrobuchi Gen (original script)
Mawaru PenguindrumIkuhara Kunihiko and Ikami Takayo (original script)
Wandering SonOkada Mari (adapted from the manga by Shimura Takako)
Usagi DropKishimoto Taku (adapted from the manga by Unita Yumi)

And the award goes to: Mawaru PenguindrumIkuhara Kunihiko and Ikami Takayo
For me, this is a tight choice between Penguindrum and Wandering Son (who said Okada Mari wasn’t behind any good anime this year), although for completely different reasons. While Wandering Son was subtle and sympathetic, Penguindrum was ambitious, quick witted and audacious. Normally, I’d lean towards heartfeltness over complexity, but I admire the way Penguindrum‘s story comes full circle in the end, and the way that Ikuhara and Ikami put together a puzzle-like script, begging to be decoded and interpreted. Madoka Magica and Steins;Gate both had fascinating stories filled with intrigue, but neither of their endings were anywhere as satisfying as Penguindrum‘s was.

Best Female Seiyuu in a Supporting Role
Nominees:
Sakamoto MaayaUsagi Drop (Yoshii Masako)
Mizuki NanaDog Days (Ricotta Elmar)
Hayami SaoriAno Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (Tsurumi Chiriko)
Kitamura EriPuella Magi Madoka Magica (Miki Sayaka)
Horie YuiWandering Son (Suehiro Anna)

And the award goes to: Horie YuiWandering Son
Horie Yui could have won this award twice, first for Wandering Son, and second for Penguindrum, where she pretty much left every other seiyuu in that show in her wake. Horie has been my permanent favourite seiyuu since I first downloaded 56 MB fansubs of Love Hina over a dial-up modem, but this year she really excelled, particularly within the types of roles she’s rarely had before. The Mizuki Nana nomination may raise eyebrows, but for those who haven’t seen Dog Days, the voice acting was one of the few genuinely good things in it, and Mizuki was the best performed in (if you can believe it) a surprisingly challenging role.

Best Anime nominee: Usagi Drop

Best Male Seiyuu in a Supporting Role
Nominees:
Ono DaisukeWorking’! (Satou Jun)
Seki TomokazuSteins;Gate (Hashida Itaru)
Tanaka HideyukiIkoku Meiro no Croisée (Oscar Claudel)
Miki ShinichiroUn-Go (Kaishou Rinroku)
Nakata JoujiYumekui Merry (John Doe)

And the award goes to: Seki TomokazuSteins;Gate
Even more than most years, this was an utter stretch to find five reasonable nominees. Seki gets it this year for being one of the most (oddly) believable caricature’s I can remember in anime. Daru is so utterly different from the brash, hot-blooded characters Seki usually voices, and is such a spot on take of the Akihabara culture nerd. His character is so well realized, and certainly wouldn’t have worked with Seki’s almost tongue-in-cheek parody/portrayal.

Best Female Seiyuu in a Lead Role
Nominees:
Saito ChiwaPuella Magi Madoka Magica (Akemi Homura)
Matsuura AyuUsagi Drop (Kaga Rin)
Itou KanaeHanasaku Iroha (Matsumae Ohana)
Hikasa YoukoMoshidora (Kawashima Minami)
Mamiko NotoFreezing (Satellizer el Bridget)

And the award goes to: Matsuura AyuUsagi Drop
This was a choice between Saito and Matsuura, but I’m full of praise for what the lead female role in Usagi Drop, first for the gutsy decision to cast someone so young, and second for the amazingly convincing performance she gave. Unfortunately, this was another category that was thin on performances that stood out. Admittedly, it seems strange to nominate Mamiko for her performance in Freezing, but on reflection I thought it was her second best performance this year. Her best, in Hanasaku Iroha, wasn’t good enough to be nominated in the “Best Female Seiyuu in a Supporting Role” which says something about the comparable depths of the two fields.

Best Anime nominee: Moshidora

Best Male Seiyuu in a Lead Role
Nominees:
Katsuji RyoUn-Go (Yuuki Shinjuurou)
Tsuchida HiroshiUsagi Drop (Kawachi Daikichi)
Hatakeyama KousukeWandering Son (Nitori Shuichi)
Fukuyama JunWorking’! (Takanashi Souta)
Miyano MamoruSteins;Gate (Okabe Rintarou)

And the award goes to: Miyano MamoruSteins;Gate
This category, on the other hand, had a set of nominees who virtually picked themselves. This also came down to a choice of two between a young unknown (Hatakeyama) and an established star (Miyano) but this time I went with the experienced operator. Miyano’s performance as the eccentric, paranoid, fun-loving delusional, “Hououin Kyouma”, was exceptional. Okabe is a multifaceted character who is extremely well rounded (one of Steins;Gate‘s strengths) and every side he displayed, some of which would have been very challenging, was portrayed convincingly by Miyano.

Best Director
Nominees:
Shinbo AkiyukiPuella Magi Madoka Magica
Aoki EiWandering Son
Shinkai MakotoChildren Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below
Ikuhara KunihikoMawaru Penguindrum
Kamei KantaUsagi Drop

And the award goes to: Ikuhara KunihikoMawaru Penguindrum
Ikuhara takes his second award for Penguindrum, with its vibrant visual style, experimental flair, and exhausting swings in tone. As I’ve said previously, this is one of the most ambitious anime the medium has seen in the last decade, first with its depth and secondly with just how much fun it is to watch. Anime desperately needs more titles that push the boundaries of the medium like this one, and we can only hope we don’t have to wait another fourteen years for Ikuhara to have another attempt.

Best Anime nominee: Wandering Son

Best Anime
Nominees:
Wandering Son
Moshidora
Mawaru Penguindrum
Usagi Drop
Puella Magi Madoka Magica

And the award goes to: Mawaru Penguindrum
Penguindrum is an incredibly contentious anime which, for mine, is what gives it its value. Not everyone liked what it tried to do, for obvious reasons, but for me, this is the sort of ambitious work that deserves to be embraced and nurtured. If this was just another overly stylistic anime that used visual effects and random symbols to obfuscate vacancies in its story, I wouldn’t have so much high praise for it. It’s not that, instead existing as a tapestry of motifs and references interweaved into a meaningful story about fate and family that desperately wants to be untangled. I’m resigned to the fact that this won’t be the most influential anime of 2011, as much as I want it to be, but I have no doubt that, in my eyes, it’s the best.

I’m not a ceremony or red carpet kinda guy, but music is appropriate for a moment like this, so let’s play something both relevant and good.

12 Responses to “4th Anime Oscars?”

  1. To be honest, for the Best Animation category, I would actually vote for Nichijou instead of Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo. It’s simply because the animation style for Nichijou is very unconventional for a slice-of-life series. I may even say that it’s daring. Makoto Shinkai’s movie however, simply demonstrates him within his own comfort zone of pretty clouds and scenic backgrounds. They’re gorgeous but hardly groundbreaking since it’s Shinkai.

  2. I didn’t need to click on the link to know it was gonna be a Pindora fanboy piece. Simple fact of the matter …
    “with its vibrant visual style, experimental flair, and exhausting swings in tone. As I’ve said previously, this is one of the most ambitious anime the medium has seen in the last decade, first with its depth and secondly with just how much fun it is to watch. Anime desperately needs more titles that push the boundaries of the medium like this one, and we can only hope we don’t have to wait another fourteen years for Ikuhara to have another attempt.”
    … you could’ve put Madoka in front of that paragraph, replace Ikuhara with Shinbou, and it’d still be legit.

  3. @AC
    The criteria is “best”, not groundbreaking. Visually, Shinbo might not have pushed his own limitations with Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo, but for consistency and fluency, it easily had Nichijou’s measure.

    @cyth
    Well, it’s not like I’ve kept my own preferences a secret. But I disagree that that particular blurb describes Madoka Magica. Madoka only had one major change in tone, within the second episode. Everything afterwards was fairly dark and sinister, with little in the way of reprieve. Also, as far as ambition goes, others have pointed out that it’s not the first anime which has taken the mahou shoujo genre to dark places. Princess Tutu, among others, has also done that… perhaps not to the extent that Madoka did though. If I was to describe Madoka (which, to me, was the third best anime of the year behind Penguindrum and Wandering Son), I’d have written something reasonable different.

  4. Whilst I can understand Penguindrum, Wandering Son is something which I can’t fathom. Sure it dealt with a controversial idea, but the characters were very hard to relate to, making the entire thing incredibly underwhelming in my eyes. Any anime can deal with a controversial theme, but only a good one will make something of it, which is something I think Wandering Son failed to do.

    Not that this is a surprise, I knew this and PenguinDrum are both shows you love and rate highly (Cyth did too presumably), still, leaving off Steins;Gate from the best anime nominations seems a bit odd. Oh well, I still don’t know what my favourite anime of 2011 is.

  5. The past year for me was really just Wandering Son mopping up all of its competition, and then Penguindrum mopping up that. Wandering Son holds a rather special place in my heart, but Penguindrum has the kind of playful creativity and rewarding depth that only a handful of shows have that really convince me that anime can tell stories beyond its usual fare. I remember recently telling a friend of mine that I would be happy with this decade of anime if they could simply continue putting out a Tatami Galaxy or a Penguindrum every year.

    Interestingly, the huge drop off for me for Steins;gate and Madoka is that I share the same sentiments as you for the former and Kylaran for the latter (although I don’t think he gives Shinbo enough credit for the directing). Both had major gaps that greatly stunted their full capabilities, and if they had overcome them they may have easily been competitive with Wandering Son and Penguindrum.

    @Fumoffu
    I remember we went over this when my review first came out (and I think I stunted my writing of it by preemptively defending it), but I had the exact opposite view of the characterization. It was slow and careful with its characterization thanks to immaculate directing, and instead of emphasizing their character traits it let them naturally show off who they are. You might find that weak, but I find that considerably stronger than forcing it on the viewer. Likewise, I still think Wandering Son’s message was that these kind of taboo problems still make them human, and as such the experiences they go through, while different due to their circumstances, are still experiences that others can relate to. Your opinion is a reasonable interpretation and I can understand where you’re coming from, but I just find it unfortunate that you didn’t enjoy it as much as I did.

  6. The lack of Redline for animation is a travesty. We’re talking about the movie that took 7 years to animate, fully hand drawn, and a literal orgasm for the eyes. There is literally nothing that compares IMO.

    Other than that I can’t really complain. I thought Penguindrum was the best anime of the year as well.

  7. Reckoner,

    Redline came out in 2010.

  8. So did Colorful, but he nominated that film. Both their DVD/BR came out in 2011 though.

  9. Maybe he hasn’t seen Redline. I haven’t.

  10. @TIF and Reckoner
    Yeah, I made a mistake about Redline, so I apologize. For movies, I go by DVD/BD release date, and my understanding was that the discs came out in 2010. I appear to have gotten the dates mixed up, so Redline was actually eligible for this award. I haven’t seen it, but had I been aware, I would have made more of an effort to watch it before writing this article. (I do intend to see it eventually, I just haven’t had as much time of late).

    More importantly, Redline was actually eligible for the Year in Review article, but I shot it down because I thought it was a 2010 DVD release. I am, right now, most embarrassed about this oversight.

  11. What makes the characters in Wandering Son difficult to relate to? Is it because they cross-dress? Excluding absurdities, having unrelatable characters is fairly unhelpful as criticism because it really depends on who you are (which includes temporal things like how old you are). As an example, certain books are easier to appreciate when you’re older, or younger. I definitely thought that books like The Catcher in the Rye was a lot cooler when I was younger, and from all accounts In Search of Lost Time is something you read after you’re 30 or 40 or something. Going back to Wandering Son, anyone who has ever been “in the closet” for any particular thing, I think, will find Shu very relatable, because they’ll have gone through similar things and everything will just be more lucid. Or people who have had friends like Takatsuki. Or whatever.

    I think Wandering Son is doomed to be overlooked because there’s no pandering (I have to add this clause because I’m sure no one can relate to the character in KissXSis — what I mean is that it’s not someone’s fantasy) and most people can’t directly relate to the circumstances but I still think it’s great.

  12. I thought SteinsGate dialogue was very funny, probably the funniest from last year, so I would say the best writing is SteinsGate. Chuunibyou Okarin, Tsundere Christina, and interactions with other idiosyncratic characters are so otaku-oriented. Especially, Okarin’s self-absorbed megalomaniac style of speech! As a chuunibyou myself, this was right on my spot. I think Puella Madoka and Pingdrum were not clear to me. Most of the time, I got lost during the show, but since all intelligent philosophical otakus around me praises it, so I kept watching. And Pingdrum felt slow pace to me, and too symbolistic with a weak story-telling. Ikuraha emphasized symbolism too much this time compared to his last masterpiece, Shojo-revolution Utena. So I would have chosen SteinsGate as the Best Writing of the Year.

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