Welcome one and all to the First Annual UKAnifest Winter Anime Awards. The definitive list of the stuff I happened to like from the past three months that nobody's stopped me posting about and that makes it official. So hold onto your pants because you won't see anything like this again for a good three months!
Now, I see people doing awards rundowns and they go genre by genre and I've just never cared for genres. After all, we all know that most anime just falls into the high school genre. No, instead, we pick the really important things, the real achievements from the shows that started this season.
So without further ado...
I go on about how much better it is to see anime in the original Japanese and how seeing it in English ruins the original but sometimes our beloved anime returns the favour and ruins English. This is the award to celebrate that.
Every season brings us some ridiculous attempts at English and they came in all guises this season, mostly in the form of random snippets of absurdity. That said, some put a real effort in and Nisekoi came close with the supposedly American co-star's tendency to correspondence in English.
There's one show I will give a runner up award to for not only giving its characters ridiculous English names, like Nice, Birthday and Ratio, but also for making up for it by doing the unthinkable:
They employed a voice actor that actually knows English.
This never happens and it's the reason this award exists so I can't let Hamatora go by unnoticed for this unprecedented achievement. It's also a great mix of mystery and superpowers, like an unhinged X-men.
But the winner has to be Z/X Ignition, which was a bad enough bit of gratuitous English in the first place until you discover that Z/X actually means Zillions of enemy X, which may be the worst bit of bacronyming of all time. Not to mention that the show is casually referred to as zex.
A lot of people think of anime as just violent shows for little boys and that's a view I dislike perpetuating but even I have to admit that it's impressive to see when a show has a complete disregard for the lives and property of the inhabitants of the world it's built.
There were a whole load of shows that did a lot of damage, be it giant or super powered battles in WitchCraft Works, Nobunagun and Robot Girls Z or massive warfare in Buddy Complex, Pilot's Love Song or Nobunaga the Fool but there's one show that had the gall to start by picking up a train and smashing it into every building they could find while it and they were still full of people.
Yes, congratulations to Wizard Barristers for creating what must have been the most continually terrorised population you will see for a long time. Turns out that magical criminals really just don't care.
Fan service often gets a raw deal. Certainly tiny skirts and gratuitous pantsu shots are part and parcel of watching Japan's finest export, but there's so much more out there just to delight nerds' particular sensibilities.
That's not to say there wasn't plenty of skin on display. Nisekoi gave us a completely shameless swimming pool episode and any sensible reviewer would probably give the award to Soni-ani for not even bothering with a story and just having the world's curviest woman living her life as a genius super model. A more sophisticated reviewer might look at the mecha-porn that was Buddy Complex or Nobunaga the Fool but I'm going in a different direction.
If KyoAni taught us anything it's that you don't need to show skin to get fanboys to fall in love and The Pilot's Love Song had a single scene that took moe fan service to places we never thought possible with Kal-El and Claire's first meeting. That is some weapon's grade fan service right there.
We geeks love us some shiny shiny gadgetry and one of the reasons we love japanimation so much is that it can make things happen that would just never exist in real life. Equally, some shows throw that out the window and just have ultra realistic depictions of the gadgets (normally guns) their characters use.
This season had its fair share of impressive machinery and the best mecha weren't even in the various mech shows this season. They actually came from the magical constructs in Wizard Barristers' metalloids and Witch Craft Works's bunny killbots.
Neither of those, however, captured my inner nerd more completely than, once again, The Pilot's Love Song. Its giant airborne SHIELD style aircraft carriers and its giant airborne Sonic and Knuckles style islands were nice, but rotating wings that turned propeller planes into helicopters had me from the first scene.
People often forget with all the shounen out there that one of the biggest markets for manga and anime alike is mushy, mushy, lovey dovey pap. Some of the world's greatest love stories have been committed to cellulose by the Japanese and it would be a disservice not to recognise that.
This season brought us plenty of romance, be it incidental romance like in Inari, Kon Kon, Koi Iroha, romance with an epic and tragic backdrop like The Pilot's Love Song or just good ol' fashioned convoluted romance like Nisekoi or Engaged to the Unidentified.
This season, however, I'm giving the award to a show that very much had romance as a side note if it was there at all, and that's Witch Craft Works. In it (and this may be a spoiler) the protagonist's protector witch gains power when she kisses him, which is fine. When she makes a lap pillow for him, however, she goes outright Super Saiya-JIn. I thought that was a perfect moment that really captured the impact that innocent little moments can have. Kudos.
There are shows which will get endlessly cosplayed. Go to any convention and you will see members of The Hidden Leaf and The Survey Corps everywhere, occasionally punctuated by a barefoot squatting detective munching on whatever candy is at hand. Those of us who frequent such events wince every time we see such half-arsed attempts at dressing up.
The reason we wince is because there are so many shows out there that would make such great cosplay opportunities if people were willing to put the time, money and effort into making them happen. This season in particular had some outfits that were like personal challenges from the artists to the cosplayers of the world. Sure, there were easy uniforms like Pilot's Love Song and Buddy Complex, but there were also shows with a ridiculous variety in their wardrobes like Wizard Barristers and Zvezda Plot.
My favourite, though, was Witch Craft Works for allowing the world the versatility of choosing to either go easy with a robe and wizard's hat (or a whole team of them so you can go Workshop v Tower), or go outright crazy with hair, scales or bunny killbot outfit. Whatever way you like to cosplay, this show has you covered.
It's all very well and good applauding a show for its man made machinations, but I think we can all agree that the first thing people think of when they think of anime is its creatures, if you know what I mean.
What? I'm talking about Totoro.
Either way, this season had some fantastic things to offer us, from the adorable kitsune in Inari, KonKon Koi, Iroha to the flying, handle-barred horses in Nobunaga The Fool, the bizarre goldfish plants in Hozuki No Reitetsu, the kooky familiars in Wizard Barristers or the endless array of new aliens that were Space Dandy's quarry.
If you really want to see a show just for the wildlife though, look no further than Pupipo. It's like Kirby met every scary nightmare you ever had and ate it, because he's Kirby.
I know, I know, I don't like people thinking that anime's all violent and for little boys but it really does give us some fantastic fights when it wants to.
As you might imagine from some of the commentary of the other awards, there were plenty of big battles to choose from. The Pilot's Love Song probably would have won for some of its epic dogfighting if it weren't for the pretty pedestrian animation and Hamatora had some very impressive super powered brawls when it wanted to and we can't ever forget D-Frag's spectacular elemental wizardry fights (somebody's going to really hate me when they actually see those).
I, however, think it would be a crime to not acknowledge Witch Craft Works for having a giant bunny and a giant teddy bear duking it out and taking out half the city along the way.
OP and ED
I've previously talked about how much we, as a fan base, love the music of our shows. Even those songs you don't much like end up growing on you as you come to associate it with the show you love.
I actually thought it was pretty slim pickings this season for great opening and closing songs and their accompanying animations. Robot Girls Z gave as a fantastic pastiche of a 70s mech theme tune as sung by girls instead of a seasoned Japanese crooner, and Witch Craft Works gave us an end theme which will be a boss song for many a nerdy karaoke night accompanied by some of the most adorable witches burning at a stake that you'll ever see.
One show, however, managed to start and end with songs and animation that perfectly captured the show they bookended. By themselves, Tonari no Seki-kun's OP and ED were masterclasses but then they went and added in one of those 70s mecha OPs in a full theme song for the throwaway joke that was the toy robot family and I can't see how you could give it to anything else. So here I present you with a "live" version of the ED and the full soundtrack of the fake robot family anime (you'll have to watch the show to see it all properly).
Some shows just ooze class. They're shows that you could happily watch with the sound and the subs off because they're just so beautifully put together. They are just works to be lauded as benchmarks of the art form for years to come.
Ever since Shaft came on the scene they've been the benchmark for everybody to try to beat and certainly Nisekoi was a joy to look at. Similarly Zvezda Plot was thick with concepts, designs and touches that just make you smile deep inside.
The problem for both of those, however, was that this season saw the triumphant return of a master, Shinichiro Watanabe. Nobody creates a feast for the senses quite like him and Space☆Dandy was no exception. So many character designs, so many locations and so much great music all combined with a director who clearly won't accept "but that makes no sense" for an answer.
One of my favourite things to do with people who don't really watch anime is sit them down in front of the kind of show that makes them question everything they ever knew about what a story and existence in general might be. The kind of show that makes people wonder what the hell they just watched and then come clambering back for more.
As ever, this season had those shows in spades. I don't think anybody would blame me for just giving it to Space Dandy again, you may have noticed from my descriptions of Witch Craft Works and Zvezda Plot that there's a whole lot of crazy going on there and I've given a frightfully small amount of characters to gushing about the delightful inanity of D-Frag.
If you really want to get yourself free of rationality though, you can't be bound by needing to put a plot together and you really have to go for shorts. You might be thinking that I'm heading to Tonari no Seki-Kun again but that doesn't hold a candle to the balls out insanity that is Strange+. It's the kind of show that, when I watch it at work, people glance over my shoulder and say "wait, did I just see that?" I'd like to say it's a show about a detective agency but it's just a massive excuse for soul-destroying stupidity. It's relentless and it needs to be in your mediocre life.
The Best Show You Definitely Didn't Watch
Because that would have been illegal. Also known as the Keep Circulating The Tapes award. Over the past year we've seen anime in the UK come along in leaps and bounds with a variety of streaming services now vying for most of the top titles (whether that's good or bad depends on what sort of economist you are) and plenty of anime coming out on DVD (that Last Exile is the only DVD I've seen this season that's actually worth buying is neither here nor there).
Nevertheless, there are still shows that just aren't making the jump. They're not bad shows, and they're not unpublishable shows (It's all very well and good saying that there are good reasons for going nowhere near Pupa, but then who green lit Recently, My Sister Is Unusual?). Noragami was one of the most promising shows of the season, when I finally got round to watching Inari, Kon Kon, Koi Iroha I ended up marathoning it all in one afternoon and D-Frag was just a joy to watch.
The best show, however, is going to No-Rin, for not resting on the Idol laurels (this may become a theme) and instead giving us a fantastic comedy. I see it as BakaTest meets Silver Spoon, which is about as good a bit of praise as a show can get because it means that it's combining relentless and sustainable madcap antics that bring us the best and worst of what the Japanese find funny with some fantastically down to earth slice of life.
The Best Anime in the UK
It's all very well and good recognising these individual achievements, but what's the best show? Which is the one that you can show people as a reason why anime is great and as a demonstration that it is ever improving.
There have been some fantastic choices thrown about the place already in this illustrious ceremony, but there's one I have failed to mention at all (actually a few) which you might have expected to see if you've been paying attention to my What To Watch articles.
Wake Up, Girls! is not the prettiest show and it doesn't even have the best music. It doesn't have amazing battles or ridiculous characters. What it is is a genre destroying piece of work. It takes what should be a simple formula of cute little girls starting a band and makes it serious. Certainly there are songs, it is an idol show after all, but you don't begrudge it not treating you to a new song every episode and they actually animate the choreography instead of letting the 3D render take care of it. More importantly though, it tries to scrape the veneer off the Idol industry while simultaneously reminding us why we love it so much.
So there we go, the biggest and best of the season. Will any of them make it to the end of year spectacular? Will the end of year spectacular be nothing but idols? Will the only spectacular thing about the end of year spectacular be how spectacularly it fails to live up to its name? There's only one way to find out.
While you take to the comments to let me know how very wrong I am, I'm off to see what else is on.