This list will be all about the characters, just like I did last year. At the end, you’ll find my choices for my top 30 to 21 series of the year. Overall, I hope that I got everyone here. Compiling these includes an awful lot of management and it’s very easy to overlook something (I actually nearly accidentally overlooked Heartcatch Precure, but thankfully I realized this just in time). But yeah, these are my personal choices. Feel free to share your own character highlights, of course. ;)
Most annoying character
The World God Only Knows – Elcea
In terms of annoying characters, there were two big ones that stood out. First is Yosuke Haramura from Persona, who I keep labeling as the Pee guy (seriously, he enters a new world, and what’s the first thing he does?). Every single moment this guy is whining, yelling or just being an ass. That’s just too much. The one who really took the cake though, was Elcea from the World God Only Knows. I mean, stupidity is one thing, but this was taken way too far here. This kid has the IQ of a sheep. There is nothing fun about her. She just keeps making the most moronic and self-unaware statements. If this was meant as a parody, it completely failed because it adheres to the exact tropes of the things it tries to make fun of, without anything else.
Sacred Seven – Yuuji Kenmi
Like with the most annoying character category, I am not counting the characters of series that I dropped at some point. It’s just not fair to judge characters of which I just didn’t watch everything of. The choice of worst character of the year was a difficult one, because there were a lot of really, really bland characters this year. Think The world God Only Knows, Fractale, Dragon Crisis, Kore wa Zombie Desu Ka, or Guilty Crown: it makes it hard to really pick one who stands out amongst them. Because of that, I decided to hand this award this time to a character who is so bad that he becomes hilarious: the main villain of Sacred Seven. What makes this guy stand out is how most of the series, he’s trying really hard to not stand out as a villain, only to fail miserably, only to completely derail near the end of the series with some ridiculously overacted monologues and some character designs that make me really wonder who in their right mind found it a good idea to approve them.
Best Cast of Minor Characters
Tiger & Bunny
These are the side characters who collectively ended up the most memorable to me this year. Level E deserves a honorable mention for creating so many interesting characters who go beyond the usual tropes. Hourou Musuko had a huge cast for only 11 episodes, and yet put down every character really realistically and dynamic. The side cast of Tiger & Bunny takes this prize though, because all of them were just really fun to watch, and they did an excellent job as supporting characters, to the point where I’d really with that the creators devoted more time to them, in order to really show what they’re made of.
Best Voice Acting
Hyouge Mono’s voice acting was exquisite: it knew exactly when to be subtle and when to be over the top. Sasuke’s voice actor delivered both in his delirious speeches, his over the top reactions and the more subdued drama, but every major voice actor here pretty much nailed his character. There are a ton of memorable performances in this series. Very solid second places are Hourou Musuko with its wonderfully subtle acting, and Ano Hana, where the cast knew exactly how to make their characters part of the emotional roller-coaster.
Best Character Development on a Single Character
Natsume Yuujinchou – Takashi Natsume
Before the start of the third season, Natsume already was an excellent character. And here that season comes, and ends up completely devoted to developing him even more. This show showed his coming of age as he matured and grew closer to his friends, and grew to accept who he was. This show examined his past, present and future, with amazing results.
Best Character Development on an entire Cast
Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-Tachi wa Mada Shiranai
The collective cast of Hana-Saku Iroha grew really nicely through the course of its series. Hourou Musuko had a ton of characters who matured wonderfully. Penguin Drum’s characters and plot twists made for a very cast who just kept changing (they indeed get very solid second place for this award) and No6’s characters never were static, and always were pushed forward. The best though, was Ano Hana, who delivered a heart-wrenching story about lost childhood friendships being rekindled. It examined how people change, and how easy it is to grow apart. It wasn’t just the main character Jinta who did this: it was the entire cast; everyone delivered to it.
Top 7 Supporting Characters
#7: Blood-C – The Big Villain
Um yeah. It will be a bit difficult to praise this character without spoiling everything. Being as vague as possible:usually villains who only reveal themselves very late in the series suffer from being dull and uninteresting. Not so much here. This character’s air is over the entire series, even though its identity is a mystery for most of its airtime. I know that this series got a ton of criticisms, but yet this ended up being one of my favorite villains of the year.
#6: Chihayafuru – Arata Wataya
Thankfully this guy is a bit easier to praise, because his biggest role in the story is right at the beginning. On top of being fantastically animated as a Karuta genius, he sparked this passion that convinced me: yes, this is the guy who inspired the titular Chihaya to start playing the game as well. When his biggest part is over, he still remains really present in the series to serve as Chihaya’s inspiration, on top of being very well developed himself.
#5: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-Tachi wa Mada Shiranai – Chiriko Tsurumi
Of course, the entire cast of Ano Hana is amazing, everyone stands out. Chiriko however took that extra step due to her level headedness compared to the rest of the cast. She’s surrounded by characters who have mental problems, and still manages to act level headed throughout most of the series, with some notable exceptions that only get better because of this. She was the voice of reason needed for the rest of the cast, and yet she ended up stealing the show herself quite a few times anyway.
#4: Level E – Kraft
Kraft is just adorable. Usually the straight men in a comedy are dull and formulaic, but this guy breathes new life into this trope with his ramblings that know exactly to stay outside of the borders of melodrama, but on the other hand being such a charismatic guard person with a huge sense of responsibility.
#3: Fate/Zero – Rider
When I first started watching Fate/Zero, I did not expect a side character to steal the show like this. I mean, Rider is by far the best character of the entire series. His monologues are fast and witty, and even though he looks like this huge fighter, he’s very intelligent and witty. He’s got his own ideals that he keeps shoving down on everyone, but he does it with so much force and charisma that it becomes almost impossible to retaliate.
#2: Hyouge Mono – Oda Nobunaga
If I had to mention the one highlight of Hyouge Mono, then it’d be the way they portrayed Oda Nobunaga. That was by far the best portrayal of the guy I have ever seen, and I’d go as far as saying that there will probably never come an anime that will do it better. The creators just perfectly succeeded in creating this megalomaniac ruler with a thirst for both conquest and the fine arts. And his crowning moment of awesome (the ones who reached that point know what I’m talking about) was just a beautiful display of wit and character.
#1: Supernatural the Animation – John Winchester
Numbers 2 to 4 are really larger than life characters. Heck, two of them are rulers, and I do tend to like these characters whose personalities are all over the place. As for the question of my favorite side character of the year though, my choice goes for someone completely different: a tormented father who is stuck between taking care of his sons and getting revenge on the murder of his wife. The series explores a ton of facets of his life, and tries to explain as much as possible why he did what he did. This show tries to relate to him by using different, yet similar cases and stories. And in the end, this leaves a surprisingly well developed character here that in the end is a step above the other side characters this year.
: Top 7 Female Characters
#7: Chihayafuru – Chihaya Ayase
Overall in 2011, unlike 2010, the male characters overall tended to overshadow the female characters, so I’m doing the female characters of the year first. Still, Chihaya as a character deserves to be mentioned. This girl has passion, and part of the fun of watching Chihayafuru is to see how far that passion drives her. She single-handedly managed to inspire a ton of people around her in a believable way, and her virtually limitless energy made every episode really fun and interesting to watch.
#6: Gosick – Victorique de Blois
Victorique took a while to crawl out of her shell. It’s only as the show goes on that we learn what exactly she went through, but also as what a strong character she grew into despite all that. It’s a shame that her male lead often was a bit of an idiot, just to show how smart she was. She didn’t need that. Even without him it was apparent that she was a genius, and I especially liked how she was constantly looking for a challenge to get rid of her boredom. Gosick as a series perhaps wasn’t the best out of the three “small girl detective”-series that came out this year. But in the end, it did have the best female lead.
#5: Hourou Musuko – Yoshino Takatsuki
I was really doubting whether to put her amongst the side characters or the list of the main characters. Technically Yoshino is a main character, but I also think that she gets the least amount of screentime out of all of the other characters on this list. In any case, I really have to praise her for putting forth such a believable portrayal of a young girl with gender issues. She’s very realistic and likable, and yet the drama around her was ridiculously well done.
#4: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica – Homura Akemi
This is another one of which I’m not going to say much due to the spoilers and all, but Homura made one heck of an impact on Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica. She’s strong and well developed, even though she’s a big mystery for most of the first half of the series.
#3: Heartcatch Precure – Yuri Tsukikage
The beauty of Yuri was that she was much older than the rest of the main cast of Heartcatch Precure. Suddenly in a shows about kids, a mature high schooler suddenly stole the spotlights and was pretty much involved in all of the kickass fights, and the best part was that the creators acknowledged that she was awesome, and didn’t just put her on the sidelines just so that the younger characters could shine. Yuri was caring and confident, but her own story and background in the series are along with Tsubomi the most charming.
#2: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-Tachi wa Mada Shiranai – Meiko Honma
Oh, I remember when I first saw the promo art for Ano Hana, I was like “What? Even more moe? What’s this doing in Noitamina?” And then a little more about this show was revealed and it seemed to take itself quite seriously. And then the show aired. The beauty of Menma was that she adheres to some moe tropes, but also subverts them just as hard. Yes, she’s ditzy, but she isn’t stupid. She’s innocent, but not clueless. She’s bratty, but she’s nowhere near the stereotype you’d expect her to be. She helped really well in order to make this show the tear jerker it was, as the character around which everything revolves. Many of the heart-wrenching moments of the series were because of her. I really would not have guessed that from my first impression.
#1: Mawaru Penguin Drum – Himari Takakura
Himari is important, not just for what she means to the other main characters in this series, but also because she’s so damn well developed. In a series with as much flashbacks as Penguin Drum, we get to see a ton of different points in her youth that shaped her to who she is, and why she’s so important to the other characters. She really was the glue that kept everything in this series together.
Top 7 Male Characters
#7: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-Tachi wa Mada Shiranai – Jinta Yadomi
Jintan was sometimes hard to watch, because of how passive and miserable he was as a character. Part of the goal of the series was to heal him, and make him grow into a better character. And that was done so well here that made me place him on this list. While Menma was the center of the story, he was the one who carried it and with that he did a really good job.
#6: Tiger & Bunny – Kotetsu Kaburagi
The competition really is fierce for this list, and I’m surprised at how many characters I loved I had to eliminate, just to cut it back to just 7 entries. I just couldn’t not mention Kaburagi Koutetsu, though. This guy is very unlike your average hero. He’s much, much older than usual, and even has his own daughter. He’s irresponsible at first, but as the show goes on you get a much better insight in his character. It makes him both fun to watch, and a very engaging character during the dramatic parts.
#5: Supernatural the Animation – Dean Winchester
How many different parts of Dean did we see in the series anyway? Of the two brothers, Sam always struck me as a bit too angsty, but Dean struck the balance perfectly. He here had everything: he was funny, he was caring, he was mature, he was independent and as a character, his development over the years was amazing. In particular his past makes him quite a complex and interesting character.
#4: Mawaru Penguin Drum – Kanba Takakura
Kanba is a hard to follow character a times, but what really struck me about him was his determination. He really was completely devoted to Himari, and that leads to some incredible scenes at times. Overall his character development also is amazing, and especially the ending of Mawaru Penguin drum really utilizes his character to the best.
#3: Hourou Musuko – Shuuichi Nitori
Part of the brilliance of starting the adaptation somewhere in the middle in the manga, is that this gave Nitori already a terrific background. And then he used that to turn into an even better character. I mean, cross-dressing is really often just played for laughs. This guy actually treated his own problems seriously, and managed to convince us of the same. There is nothing cheesy about this guy. His character development especially in the second half turned out to be incredibly detailed and engaging.
#2: Hyouge Mono – Sasuke Furuta
Sasuke… sure is a character. I mean, his ramblings are unique. There is no other character out there like him. Sure, there are plenty of over the top characters out there, but none of them really comes close to what this guy does. On one hand he marvels over some ridiculous aesthetics, on the other he tries to play a serious part in a period drama. The faces he makes are just completely ridiculous, but the comedy around him is always just hilarious. This guy is an eccentric through and through, and by far the most unique main character of the past years.
#1: Natsume Yuujin-Chou – Takashi Natsume
I already said it above: Natsume already was a very well developed character when the third season started. And here this show came and developed him even better. And to think that we’re still not done yet with him after a fourth season got announced. This third season showed some more tidbits around Natsume’s past, but also how he changed as a character. The different characters he runs into illustrate that perfectly: he’d would have treated them quite different when he would have met them in the first series. And yet, everything remains so incredibly subtle. All of the details in his development fit, and the acting for this guy turned him into a really believable character.
: My top series of 2011: #30-21
#30: Fireball Charming
This year didn’t have one comedy sequel that was better than the original. It had two of them. In Fireball’s case, you can really see that the creators wanted to surpass the first season of Fireball; it was much more ambitious. The CG graphics looked much better, the dialogue was faster and even more nonsensical. And it actually worked here. The combination between random yet strangely interesting banter and the random yet strangely interesting poses that the characters kept making really worked.
#29: Last Exile ~ Ginkyou no Fam
After two years of absence, Gonzo returned with a bunch of very poorly produced series, and one heck of an ambitious comeback of Ginyoku no Fam. It left some things to be desired overall, and the quality of each episode varies greatly, but where it delivered, it really delivered. It successfully expanded upon the Last Exile setting, expanding it even further, the graphics and backgrounds looked amazing and Fam and Giselda, despite first appearances, are likable leads. When compared to the first half of the first Last Exile though, it loses out.
Gosick had its problems. The arcs that it used to build up its story had some serious issues, including a very annoying male lead and a female lead who looked more like she had access to the script, rather than she was a genius at solving crimes. And then, good episodes showed up. To a point where in the final third, the bad episodes were completely gone. This show suddenly turned into a very engaging adventure series, and the lead characters who had once been flat, stupid and annoying grew into very relatable characters. This definitely was a welcome surprise.
#27: Usagi Drop
Overall I probably wasn’t the biggest fan of Usagi Drop. Of course it was adorable, and I love it as a look upon what it means to be a father, but I dunno, it could have gone a bit further than what it did. It’s still very gentle slice of life though, and pretty much the most realistically acted show of the year. It definitely gets points for that. Daikichi in particular was a very interesting character to watch.
#26: Ikoku Meiro no Croisée
Beyong being completely adorable, Ikoku Meiro no Croisee also was a very interesting look at cultural differences. Every episode featured interesting little tidbits about the differences in every day life between Japan and France of about 100 years ago. There was some really good chemistry between the different characters, and even the seemingly annoying rich girl had something to offer here. As a pure slice of life series though, it was a bit too forcedly dramatic, so if you want more heart-warming slice of life you should probably go to some of the other shows that this year had to offer. The different cultures however were enough of an addition to make up for this.
#25: Tamayura ~ Hitotose
Now, if there was any director on fire this year, it was Sato Junichi. He was behind three series this year (twie as the director, once as the main writer), all of which made it into my top 40 at some place. My favorite production of his was Tamayura, due to how incredibly solid it was as a slice of life show. It’s a genre that is usually very hit or miss for me, but this show really nailed it for me. It had a well developed cast, a heart-warming atmosphere, very nice animation and really succeeded as an Iyashi-kei series as well.
#24: Dantalian no Shoka
Dantalian often baffled me when I watched it, but looking back I can definitely claim that I don’t regret watching it. It’s a show that took the episodic series structure, and completely nailed one part of what makes the genre great, only to completely ignore the other part that’s required for the genre to really work. The individual stories were excellent. They all were diverse and examined some great characters with fascinating stories. And yet the main storyline or cast never really was important here. They were just tools to show these stories. Even overall themes were not really existent. All this show was was 12 standalone episodes. But granted: those episodes were very interesting.
This year had more shows that went under the radar than 2010. The king of those shows though, is Blade. I was utterly surprised when I found out that in AniDB, it ranked overall even below a rating of 6/10. What this means is that it ranks amongst the 20 worst TV-anime ever made that had more than 100 votes on that site. I know that ratings like that should be taking with a salt shaker and all, but even then this is something it does not deserve at all. After watching Iron Man, Wolverine and the X-Men, it really surprised me how much this series delved into Blade’s past and how it focused to develop him as a character. Out of all of the marvel series, it also had the best female sidekick, and how one episode delivered one of Wolverine’s characters better than what Wolverine did. Plus, the entire series was pretty much a tour through South-East Asia. This show visited so many locations that go completely against the convention. Speaking of conventions, it’s great to finally see another black main character again.
#22: Star Driver
I only realized this after compiling these places 30 to 21, but this show illustrates something interesting about this year, compared to 2010. You see, Star Driver as a series stayed pretty much consistently interesting. It never really got better than what it was, but it also didn’t dip in. Last year when I compiled my top list of the year, I ranked Star Driver at the nineteenth place of the year (because yes, I do include incomplete series just like any finished series here). And still: the shows that I ranked below Star Driver then are still shows that I’d rank below it, and the same goes vice versa and for 2011 as well, meaning that 2011 had actually slightly more great series compared to 2010. Anime is dying? Hah! In any case, Star Driver was pretty much the younger brother of Mawaru Penguin Drum. It featured much more action, but also had a lot of parallels, like the use of tons of symbolism. And I have to give credit for this show that when everything finally unraveled and was explained, it took some neat risks and chances. It’s definitely not the most balanced show though.
After so many dull and uninspired fanservice comedies, this show finally delivered with an awesome premise. A show entirely dedicated to food battles. You just have to come up with it. This show proved that even though there may be fanserivce and moe, it can still be incredibly entertaining. The storytelling was very solid: the jokes were hilarious, the action scenes were really well directed, the music was awesome, the characters were well acted. It was one heck of an entertaining ride. The only shame is that at times it indulges in pointless fanservice a little too much, and it was probably about two episodes too long.