Well, it’s the final day of our awards, and after covering the music and characters awards, then the special interest ones, we come the actual meat of them, the genre and medium awards. Here are the shows we considered to be the very best in their respective genres or mediums. The ones that we could point to and say, “This is what other anime should strive to be like.” The ones that we fell in love with. The ones that left us wanting more or overwhelmingly satisfied. In short, these were the best anime of 2010.
Note: due to a dearth of good OVAs this year, we have decided to omit that category and to create a new one, Best TV Show With An OVA-like Release Format. (I’ll give you 12 guesses as to which show won that one).
Best Action: Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance
It’s cliche to say, but Evangelion 2.22 was a jaw dropping tour de force of high octane action with eye popping visuals that kept you on the edge of your seat. Feel free to quote me on any part of that. From Mari’s delightful romp to begin the movie to the desperate last stand to protect NERV by 3 Evas against Zeruel, Evangelion 2.22 was chock full of the most intense, beautiful, and exciting action scenes in any anime, not just last year, but ever. For that reason, it receives Borderline Hikikomori’s Best Action of 2010 award.
Dissenting Opinion: Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt
Episodes 1b and 6. Seriously, that’s all the explanation you need. Starting from the introduction of the demon sisters, episode 6 was just a nonstop roller coaster ride, a perfect blend of CG and cartoony action with a nice mix of vehicular chases and crude gun-kata. And all of it had simply perfect cinematic timing. Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt was yet another affirmation that, more than anything, action is Gainax’s main thing, and they’re really, really good at it.
Best Comedy: Seitokai Yakuindomo
While I’m not really a fan of shows adapted from 4 komas, this show was an exception in my book. Did a lot of the jokes fall flat? Yeah. Did I understand all of the cultural references? No. But it didn’t matter. Seitokai Yakuindomo was an express train full of jokes, one after the other, and there was bound to be more than enough jokes each episode for anyone over the age of 14 to enjoy. Plus, it’s blatantly perverted, and you can never go wrong with that.
Dissenting Opinion: Working!!
Milder and warmer than Seitokai Yakuindomo, Working!! really hit its stride later on in its run (with the appearances of Yamada and Kotori). Like the winner of this award, the series knew its characters well, using their established quirks to good effect. It was a real treat to watch the staff members of Wagnaria interact, fall in love, wreak havoc and have fun. Here’s hoping for a second season!
Best Drama: Rainbow
Drama is what Rainbow does. It starts by following seven young men in a detention facility. This is not just a crash course in survival, not just the fast track to growing up, but also an eye opening example of corruption in those who profess to uphold the law. It continues to follow them afterwards as they struggle to make headway in the world. They seek out their dreams even amidst heartbreaking failures at every turn. Sometimes it does overplay the drama, especially towards the beginning, but overall it tells a very strong story set in 1950s Japan.
Dissenting Opinion: The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya
Disappearance is a work that succeeds in many genres, such as science fiction or mystery, but what defined the movie was, as expected, the relationship between Kyon and Haruhi. After all, the purpose of the entire premise was to set up Kyon’s quest to find Haruhi after her mysterious disappearance. Though Haruhi was indeed missing for most of the movie, the effects of her relationship with Kyon could be felt throughout. The powerful climax did not concern Yuki or the mystery, but rather came when Kyon finally worked past all the layers of his internal denial and accepted his own feelings with regards to Haruhi. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya was not only a magnificent piece of entertainment, it was also an exceptional work of human drama.
Best Thriller: Shiki
Shiki began slowly and fairly quietly, with a tremendously menacing atmosphere and lots of general eeriness. As the weeks went by, these elements were gradually built upon, and things became more and more tense. This all led up to a nerve-fraying, horrifying, relentless, and truly memorable final act. At times brutal and heartbreaking, and often chilling, Shiki‘s strength lay in its exploration of the courses of action its characters took when times turned dark. It sits comfortably among the best works of 2010.
Dissenting Opinion: Durarara!! First Half
The first half of Durarara!! was an impressive accomplishment in narrative, taking us through the maze of the players of Ikebukuro as well as their conflicts, weaving a complicated and multifaceted tale that kept us hooked the whole time. We fell in love with Celty’s unending search for her head, learned to respect Izaya’s detestable sociopathic tendencies, were creeped out by the unhealthy obsessions of the Yagiri siblings. All the while, a remarkable tale about the power of today’s social networks unfolded around these characters, leading to an unforgettable climax as the Dollars finally made their move. Though the second half of this show left plenty to be desired, the first half was an excellent tale on its own that displayed the best of how an anime can tell a thrilling, complex, modern tale.
Best Movie: Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance
Come on, it’s Evangelion, in movie form, with less moping, plus it goes in a completely new direction. Sure there is the stellar animation, music, and story, but if you’re reading a site like this, do you really need me to say anything you haven’t already heard about Eva?
Dissenting Opinion: The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya
For a more complete explanation, you can read my full review of this astounding movie. See, Evangelion 2.22 was a fine movie. But it was building upon a franchise that was already on a roll. Disappearance had the challenge of resurrecting what once used to be a great franchise – possibly the biggest of the decade – from a disastrous 2nd season that had taken it straight from the top all the way to the bottom. And somehow, it did it. It made Haruhi good again. Not only good, it reached levels of greatness that equaled that of 2006′s Melancholy, the one that had started it all. And it used no gimmicks, no tricks, no smoke and mirrors. It just did all the traditional stuff: narrative, pacing, writing, humor, art design, cinematography, music, and did them all exceptionally well, easily up to the standards of any movie, anime or no.
Best TV Show With An OVA-Like Release Format: Katanagatari
Over twelve months, Katanagatari presented us with an epic journey driven in equal measure by its plot, its characters, and its dialogue. Banter between Togame and Shichika shed light on their personalities, their thoughts and their feelings, and discussions between them and the antagonists shed light on insecurities, mental states and more. The story itself was also a success; the format would have become dull had it not been for variation between months, but Katanagatari delivered a tremendous amount of that. Indeed, things were consistently made interesting thanks to the colourful cast and storytelling and thanks to author Nisio Isin’s desire to both subvert and embrace all sorts of tropes. Admittedly, though, it was the finale that ended up making the series; it capped off the quest and the personal growth of the characters in a manner that was grand, memorable, and terrifically fitting. It was perfect for the show, and was a wonderful way to finish a wonderful series.
Dissenting Opinion: Katanagatari
Katanagatari has gotten a lot of recognition in this post because it’s done a lot of things right. It tells a story of anti-heroes and anti-villains, all with their unique and memorable characteristics. Few are truly evil are truly good. Instead, everyone is firmly planted in a moral grayness that makes you question who, if anyone, is truly right. Even the ending doesn’t answer the question; it only tempers it. It has a very nice art direction going for it, filled with vibrant and full color pallets and fluid animation. Actually, the style of the series is what first drew me into the series. Much of Katanagatri is fought with a war of words, with excellent voice acting. However, when it finally comes to blows, the short battle sequences are still quite impressive. Even the broadcasting style is a bit unique. It easily tops my list of series watched in 2010, and I wish someone would pick it up for release in the overseas markets.
Best TV Show (Traditional): The Tatami Galaxy
With its narrative, The Tatami Galaxy succeeds in doing what most anime don’t even attempt, but which is required for any work of fiction truly to be great: it tells us something meaningful about the human condition. There are many messages that it successfully delivers, most of them banal, about taking personal responsibility, the complexity of humans, appreciating what you have. But the most powerful message of this show ties perfectly with the show’s central Groundhog Day concept, regarding second chances: in real life, there are none, but there is nothing wrong with that, because it is never too late to reach for happiness. In ending the show with the protagonist starting a new life after his wasted 2 years, this is the message that it leaves us with. Of course, The Tatami Galaxy succeeds in all the more typical things as well. It has a wonderfully distinct and expressive art style. The stories it tells with its cast of characters are consistently interesting and entertaining. The writing is funny, aided by the lightning quick delivery of the protagonist. In combining this endlessly fun product with a set of powerful and relevant messages about humanity, life, and the pursuit of happiness, The Tatami Galaxy is deservedly Borderline Hikikomori’s Best TV Show (Traditional) of 2010.
Dissenting Opinion: Angel Beats!
I laughed, I cried, it was better than Cats. Seriously, this show had everything you could have ever possibly wanted in an anime (and if it didn’t, you’re dead inside). From Yui’s antics to Kanade’s quest for Mapo Tofu to GirlsDeMo, it was almost as if the creators used a checklist to make sure that every anime trope was present and accounted for. Was it perfect? No. But then again, isn’t it life’s imperfections that remind you of how great life really is? Sure, there were a lot of things that seemed random and out of place in the show, but I assure you that this was no accident.
In a way, Angel Beats took a path that was remarkably similar to its characters. Perhaps the randomness of it all, the checking off of the standard character types and situations, the confusion, the loudness, and yes, even the infamous love scene, were meant to convey to us what exactly was going on in these character’s minds. And then, it all came to an end rather quickly, much like a lot of things in life.
Alas, I wasn’t able to convince my comrades here at Borderline Hikikomori that Angel Beats deserved to be the best show of the year. In fact, they all seemed to all have some level of contempt for it. But I know better, and now, you do to.
Well, there you have it. That’s it for our 2010 awards. If you’re keeping score at home, Katanagatari was the big winner, with 4 wins in some of the most important categories: Best Female Character, Best Characters Overall, Best Ending, and Best TV Show (its own category). It also garnered a dissenting opinion, for Best Concept, which it lost to The Tatami Galaxy, which won the Best TV Show (Traditional) category. The Tatami Galaxy also got the nod for its Best Concept and Best ED, while playing second fiddle Best Characters Overall and Best Male Character, which it lost to Durarara!!‘s deserving villain/anti-hero Orihara Izaya. Durarara!! also impressed us with its Best OP, while its impressive 1st half was enough to earn a dissenting opinion for Best Thriller.
Among movies, the two big guns, Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance and The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya were the story. Besides taking the spots in the Best Movie award, they managed to impress with their Art (Disappearance), Action (Eva 2.22), Drama (Disappearance, dissenting), and Music (Eva 2.22). Perhaps overshadowed was Angel Beats! which, despite not winning anything, managed to get a dissenting opinion both for its Music and Best TV Show (Traditional).
Anyway, I write again, 2010 is in the books, and it was a good year for anime, we like to think. Here’s to hoping that this year will be even better!