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>Posted more during Nanowrimo than after it
I apologize. I am a terrible blogger. I am normally better than this, as seen in my WoW blog, but still. Anime readers deserve a bit better than that. To make up for it, I present to you an obligatory year-in-review post. Not only will I talk about my favourite anime of the year, but also other best-of-2010 categories as well.
Anime of the Year
This year was a particularly interesting one with regards to the series that were featured in each season. There were a handful of series that for the most part lived up to their expectations and varying degrees of hype (K-ON!!, Panty and Stocking, Katanagatari), as well as ones that seemed to come out of nowhere and surprise everyone with their charm (Kuragehime, Sora no Woto). What disappointed me about this year was that there were a few too many series that aimed to continue in later seasons in the following years, if at all. What we were left with was a bunch of nice things that amounted to practically nothing in the end, on the premise that they may or may not be picked up again in the future. As such, I omitted series with glaring cliffhangers for consideration of AotY. It’s a shame, because Kuragehime and Panty and Stocking were strong contenders for that coveted title.
Special Mention: Durarara!
As the supposed spiritual successor of Baccano!, DRRR! had a lot of hype coming into 2010. At the end of the year, I think people may have taken it for granted, since it never really lived up to the legacy of the original. That said, I did not set my standards astronomically high for this show like many people probably did, and as a result, I was pleasantly surprised by how it went. The first half of the show was absolutely spectacular, and wrapped up in the most amazing way possible, capitulated by the epic scene where the anonymous Dollars reveal themselves through synchronized cell phone alerts. The second half took on a completely different animal and a different arc; it was a bit different from the first half, but the premise and story were excellent. An all-star cast of seiyuu as well as a fantastic story makes this one of my favourite. (Yes, this light novel series is still ongoing, but the second season arc wrapped up nicely without any cliffhangers, which was enough for me to warrant a special mention)
Nisio Isin has another light novel adapted into a fantastic anime. Unlike Bakemonogatari, Katana was not produced by Shaft, and rightfully so. The art style from the original novels demanded a more artistic approach to animation, as well as a more dramatic approach to the story, instead of the large emphasis on stills and satire/parody that Shaft provides. The story is rather formulaic, with the main premise being a fetch quest collecting 12 macguffins, but it doesn’t detract from the quality of the story itself. Isin’s ability to fill that familiar structure with loads of character development, as well as very unique characters, is a fine example of someone using what already exists and making it his own.
But enough about the story. For me, this was all about the art porn that just so happened to have a very good story tacked on to it. Katanagatari had the best production values and art style of any series released this year. As a 12-episode series with hour-long episodes, released once a month, those particular qualities are expected in an anime, and Katanagatari delivers them quite effortlessly.
Best Anime: The Tatami Galaxy
I initially had a feeling that my selection of The Tatami Galaxy may come off to some as a purely hipster choice. However, there was something about the way people just kept talking about it, that it wasn’t as obscure as something like Kaiba, who shares the same director as The Tatami Galaxy. The art style is not as strikingly unique as Kaiba or Katanagatari, but it’s still noticeably different from the norm. This particular detail perhaps was the key point in letting more people watch the show without perceiving the series as pretentious. What resulted was a haunting use of repetition of choice plot elements within a groundhog-esque story structure in order to portray themes of fate, and the ideology of a rose-coloured (campus) life.
Starting with an excellent cast of unforgettable characters placed in outrageous-yet-plausible situations, a catchy OP, a hauntingly amazing ED, amazing voicework by the protagonist/narrator’s seiyuu, Shintaro Asanuma (Bokurano, Nyan Koi, Seitokai Yakuindomo), and we end up with Haruhi Suzumiya’s Endless Eight, perfected: an Endless Eleven, if you will.
Seiyuu of the Year
For best seiyuu, I made my judgment based on both individual performances in particular series, as well as overall performance amongst multiple roles in series that aired during 2010. As such, this trio of individuals should come to no surprise, really.
Special Mention: Shintaro Asanuma
Shintaro Asanuma gets a mention here mainly for his work as the nameless protagonist from The Tatami Galaxy (referred to in some circles as watashi). The sheer velocity in his character’s verbosity is something to be admired, even if it might be too fast for readers to catch up to, subtitle-wise. Either way, the fast pace of watashi’s dialogue is not only executed with utmost clarity, but also done while maintaining a the full personality of watashi himself. It’s almost as if he’s trying to rush into things, which is shown by the actions he takes throughout the series, resulting in the many misfortunes. Combine that with the fact that Shintaro was still busy with having to do the voice of the main male character in Seitokai Yakuindomo, Tsuda Takatoshi, and you have someone who’s probably been quite busy with juggling and preparing for his roles. This is my selection for singular performance of the year, but other seiyuu have done solid jobs over much more numerous characters over the span of a single year.
Runner-Up: Kamiya Hiroshi
Also known as Shaft’s bitch. He’s done work as the main character for Bakemonogatari and Sayonara Zetsubo-Sensei, which makes it not surprising at all when he was chosen to be the seiyuu for Kou Ichinomiya from Arakawa Under the Bridge. Affectionately called Recruit by his peers, Kamiya takes on a slightly less outrageous personality, and voices the part of the average onlooker (average by comparison to the rest of the cast, at least) but central character in the show’s cast. Despite being surrounded by the wackiest of characters (and by extension, wackiest vocals), Kamiya still does the job of demanding the spotlight with his dialogue, whether it be by trying to be the voice of reason, or simply by his wacky-in-turn reactions to the other members of the cast.
But Recruit was not his most notable role. He is also the voice of that glorious bastard Izaya Orihara from Durarara. In a series with a cast of Seiyuu who’s who, including Daisuke Ono (Haruhi Suzumiya series, Air), Mamoru Miyano (Ouran Host Club, Star Driver, Soul Eater), Jun Fukuyama (Code Geass, Gankutsuou, Witch Hunter Robin), Miyuki Sawashiro (Canaan, Kannagi, Galaxy Angel), and Kana Hanazawa (Bakemonogatari), his performance stood out amongst the rest. He’s also Otonashi, the lead character from Angel Beats, his more serious dramatic role compared to the other two mentioned. For a very solid year with excellent performances, he is easily the best male seiyuu this year. As for the best female, however…
Seiyuu of the Year: Kana Hanazawa
In short, there has been no other voice actor in 2010 (or any other year from my memory) that has done as many roles in different series as Kana Hanazawa, and it’s hard to refute the claim that she has not disappointed in any of the shows that she has starred in this year. Name an anime that you’ve thoroughly enjoyed this year, and there’s a good chance that she voiced a character in it. Whether it be a main character like Tsukimi from Kuragehime, a primary character in a cast of star seiyuu like Anri from Durarara, a secondary character yet darkhorse fan-favourite like Kuroneko from Ore no Imouto or Kanade/Tenshi from Angel Beats, or a completely minor character from a mid-tier anime like Misaki’s friend Sakura from Kaichou wa Maid-sama, HanaKana has voiced them all.
Her repertoire and vocal range knows no bounds. She’s proven that she can do melancholy and indifferent (Anri), passionate and naive (Tsukimi), enigmatic and emotionless (Kanade), emotional and lovestruck (Sakura), and a lot in between. My favourite role of hers from this year, hands-down, was Shiori Shiomiya from The World God Only Knows. As the central character in the last chapter arc of the season, Kana plays a librarian-type who’s philosophical and monologue-heavy on the inside, but extremely shy on the outside. With the other two characters having minimal lines in the arc, it was all about Kana showing her vocal prowress, as well as perhaps the two best-spoken lines of dialogue this year (as well as the wordless reaction to her saying them at all).
I dare you not to melt.
With the release of the Panty and Stocking OST, It’s no surprise who wins this category. However, there are two other series that should not be overlooked either. The actual surprise here is that there is no mention of K-ON to be found. In fact, despite really enjoying K-ON as an anime, the band’s actual in-universe songs were only solid at best. The two OPs and EDs were very enjoyable, but not exactly “canon.” The HTT album released this year did not give off the same impact as the OP’s and ED’s. To go even further, I would even say that Girls Dead Monster from Angel Beats had better in-universe songs. It certainly helps, of course, that such songs were taken from an actual popular band of the same name. That said, here are my selections for 2010 music of the year.
Special Mention: Nodame Cantabile: Finale
To be fair, it’s not so much the BGM that I’m actually praising this series for, but rather the impeccable taste in classical music selection for the pieces showcased throughout this series. I was particularly fond of the way a lot of the pieces were used to reflect Nodame’s mood, which varied throughout the series, as well as pieces that encapsulated her personality. For instance, Beethoven’s piano sonata no. 31, third movement, was used to great effect for portraying Nodame’s exhaustion, and her lamenting feelings when she felt betrayed by Chiaki when he promised to play Ravel’s concerto in G major with another girl, a song that was initially saved for Nodame due to its uncanny reflection of her unorthodox personality. Simply astounding choices all around.
Runner-Up: So Ra No Wo To
If this were any other year, I would recognize SRNWT as the best OST overall. However, it had the misfortune of being released early in the year, where many would either forget it over time, or be somewhat sick of it by the time Panty and Stocking came out with their fresh monsterpiece OST. This laureate, however, has not forgotten, nor has the golden timbre throughout the soundtrack lost its lustre. The entire score is orchestrated, and ranges in emotion from grandiose to tense, to somber, all the while still being able to tie everything together into one overall audio personification of the series.
And there’s Amazing Grace. How sweet the sound was when we first heard the trumpet play this musical standard: not only the first time when it’s played a capella by the “unknown” Helvetian bugler, but also the crowning moment at the end of the series when Kanata plays it in the middle of the battlefield, paralyzing both sides with its bittersweet melody. Her trumpet starts solo, but is soon accompanied by a masterful orchestral arrangement in the reiterations of the theme, resulting in a pinnacle of heartwarming colour that makes for a satisfying musical climax in the series.
Such a shame that Panty and Stocking was not released in 2011. Really.
OST of the Year: Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt
Where do I begin with this? I could devote an entire blog post about how groundbreaking this soundtrack is, and how timeless this OST will presumably be. There’s no stopping when it comes to Gainax productions, especially when it comes to music. What they did with grunge rock in FLCL, they pulled the same in-your-face sound and transformed it into a techno beat-ridden, electro-orgy with the Pansuto soundtrack. With the help of Japanese electronica mainstays like TeddyLoid (Fly Away, D City Rock, Scanty and Kneesocks Theme), TCY Force (Chocolat, Pantscada), and Hoshinna Anniversary (Theme for Panty and Stocking, EPTM, See-Through). Unlike FLCL’s soundtrack, exclusively featuring the kings of garage grunge, the pillows, This soundtrack is a who’s who of J-House, and each song in the album is a heavy hitter. Looking through my twitter feed right now, I see a new song on the track being claimed as a particular twitterer’s favourite.
I really can’t say how much I will end up over-playing this immaculate collection of synth and bass, or whether or not it is possible to over-play at all. All I know is that this album was a long time coming, ever since the teaser trailer for the series popped up online, featuring the background song that is now known Pantscada. Whether it be the girls’ transformation theme, the carefree dance anthem Fly Away, the driving electro-rock arrangement of the female-empowering, D City Rock, the dark heavy beat of the Theme for Scanty and Kneesocks, or the heavy blend of Jungle and erotica in Pantscada, there’s a song for every occasion, every high and low of the show, and every possible timbre of dance explored. This album is here and now. This album declares itself to be the best thing ever, and justifies itself in doing so. This album, personally, is not only the best OST this year, but possibly one of the best OSTs this decade. Pansuto finds itself amongst esteemed company, including Samurai Champloo, FLCL, and Last Exile. Good for you, angels. Good for you.
2010: Looking Back
With the year coming to a close, I am very pleased with how it shaped up. It was the year of “SEASON 2 FUCKING WHEN?”. It was the year of the breakout of Kana Hanazawa from her viral fame as the singer of the overly moe Renai Circulation from Bakemonogatari. It was the year of ominubus-format romance. It was the year of Pansuto. It was the year that K-ON met its bittersweet end. It was the year that Satoshi Kon died, and perhaps the anime industry along with it. It was the year that law was passed. It was the year when I finally decided to myself, I want to write about anime, and I look forward to another year of writing about anime.