The Oh no, Anime! Awards: Fall 2016

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We usually do this sort of thing in the form of a podcast episode, but since we were incredibly busy preparing year-end content for you all and we're already going to be doing the year-end awards episode as a podcast, we figured this would be more expedient. That said, check out our selections after the jump!

Best Opening Theme

Marc

Dean Fujioka – History Maker (Yuri on ICE!!!)

It’s always the mark of a good OP when you begin to set it as your alarm clock sound each morning. History Maker is by far the most memorable opening theme this season; a season that with all due consideration didn’t produce many memorable opening or ending themes to begin with. Somehow Yuri on Ice’s production committee was able to rope in Hong Kong fashion model, pop star and multi-linguist Dean Fujioka for this track, one that is pleasingly sung in decent English which undoubtedly will make it a karaoke hit at western anime conventions for years to come. Anyways, buckle up readers, because this is far from my last Yuri on ICE!!! selection in this season’s awards.

Patrick

Dean Fujioka – History Maker (Yuri on ICE!!!)

Ever since this song came out on iTunes I’ve played it in the morning as I get ready for work and I don’t think that’ll change anytime soon. It’s the perfect mix of self-reference, upbeat lyrics, and just pure catchiness that do it for me. That’s saying nothing of the animation, which is pretty easily the most original of the season there with Sayo Yamamoto working her normal magic.

Best Ending Theme

Patrick

Yonaka Jikaru by Tamaki to Yumine (Magic of Stella)

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t finish Magic of Stella (though that had to do more with platform issues than the show…) but hot damn this song is my jam. It’s got a super contemporary sound that’s popular in the Japanese club scene with the glitchy drums and piercing vocals that make you want to sway with it and bob your head, a vast departure from what you’d expect from a cute girls doing cute things show with an idol-like voice cast. I’m going to be listening to this song a lot longer than I’ll remember the show.

Marc

Yuri on ICE!!! Feat. W. Hatano – You Only Live Once (Yuri on ICE!!!)

As I said before, Fall 2016 failed to produce many standout opening or ending themes but Yuri on ICE!!! thankfully delivered with this pumping vocal house jam from the YOI music staff and veteran seiyuu Wataru Hatano (Georgi Popvitch’s voice in the show). It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of electronic music so this was a big hit for me, in fact we could probably use more OP/ED tracks like YOLO (that’s right I’m abbreviating it like that) in 2017.

Best Original Soundtrack

Marc

Yuri on ICE!!! (Taro Umebayashi/Taku Matsushiba)

The third straight win for Yuri on ICE!!! Taro Umebayashi and Taku Matsushiba, both members of Yoko Kanno’s PIANO music collective, did a stellar job on the soundtrack for this show, in a number of different ways. In addition to Taku Matsushiba having to score the entire show with background music, Taro Umebayashi was tasked with creating the music for each individual skater’s routines, and he did a stellar job. The international flavor and accuracy of how music from each country sounds is what made this soundtrack stand out to me, as it’s clear they put forth a lot of effort to understand and develop the type of music that eventually made its way into the show.

Patrick

Natsume Yuujin-cho Go (Makoto Yoshimori)

Despite some amazing soundtracks this season (notably YoI), I feel that the most important duty of a soundtrack is to help facilitate emotional reactions. Almost every single track in this season has me feeling exactly what the show wants within a couple of notes, so much so it’s almost scary.

Best New Character (Male)

Patrick

Katsuki Yuri (Yuri on ICE!!!)

Yuri is a pretty easy choice for me - he goes through one of my favorite character growth spurts in recent memory. He starts off crying in a bathroom stall and ends being in charge of himself, his love, and his sexuality. Time and time again throughout the show I was surprised by his growth but at the same time it seemed naturally when combined with his interactions with Viktor and the rest of the cast.

Marc

Victor Nikiforov (Yuri on ICE!!!)

I wish that we could give out a “best Junichi Suwabe character” award because if we could, Victor would win it fifty times straight. There’s a metric ton of things to say about why Victor is such a wonderful, rich character but by far my favorite thing about him is the mature level of sexuality he brings to each and every interaction he has in the show, a sexuality that is incredibly uncommon in anime and really only one that I have seen in shows directed by Sayo Yamamoto. In addition, his personality is a perfect mixture between earnest kindness, competitive spirit and pure sexual attraction. He’s the perfect object of affection for our main character Yuri, and is an incredibly believable analogue for some of the most famous real life figure skaters and Olympic athletes.

Best New Character (Female)

Marc

Archuduchess Ortofine (Izetta: The Last Witch)

By far one of the best, most dignified and strongest female anime characters I have seen in a long time, maybe ever. It’s strange that she should appear in the show opposite one of the most unfortunately sexualized and fanservice-laden characters from this season, but the way she is written somehow makes up for this. Fine is the best of the best when it comes to anime’s ability to portray a strong and dignified female character: charismatic, uncompromising in her beliefs, beautiful but not sexualized or objectified, representing all the good that she wants to portray while remaining human and fallible. Fine is, for me, among even the best female characters in Miyazaki films for the way she’s shown leading from the front, carrying herself with utmost dignity and never letting a shitty dude or two stand between her and triumph.

Patrick

Archuduchess Ortofine (Izetta: The Last Witch)

Another absolute no-brainer, I loved Ortfine from the first time she was on screen until the end. Ever since I was a kid I’ve enjoyed stories about royalty struggling between personal feelings and the idea of doing things “for God and country”, and Fine was a perfect execution of that drama. Propped up by an especially emotional performance by Saori Hayami pretty much every speech of hers had me either tearing up or feeling proud of a duchess that ain’t even mine.

Best Writing

Patrick

Fune wo Amu/The Great Passage

The Great Passage was more of a character study than a standard drama at times. The actors in the story all have their stereotypes (Majime is the serious, awkward nerd, as his name implies) but are fleshed out in such a way that they all feel like real people throughout their conversations and interactions. That’s before getting to the meta level where tying full episodes and chapters into definitions of Japanese words (and countless brilliant puns) or getting to the crazy thirteen year timeskip towards the end.

Marc

Yuri on ICE!!!

Yuri on ICE!!! Is of course an original show, but the show’s writer Misturo Kubo, as well as director Sayo Yamamoto herself, had a lot to draw on from real life regarding the subject matter. They’ve confessed that many aspects of the character of Victor were pulled from real-life star skater Johnny Weir, and it comes through perfectly in the show. Overall the characters are flawlessly written, the dialogue is mature and at times melodramatic without ever seeming unbelievable, and the story arc each character experiences is expertly interwoven with the overarching narrative that the show presents.

Best Art Direction

Marc

Flip Flappers

Flip Flappers has, from moment one, been all about color. Each episode is categorized by a different color palette, from bright sandy oranges to pure white to deep purples. When scrolling through the episode thumbnails on Crunchyroll, it’s easy to see how stark these colors are and how they can be used to predict the episode’s mood. That’s what I love so much about the art direction in Flip Flappers: the colors tell as much of a story as anything else, and that’s not to even mention the beautiful hand-painted background art that contributes heavily to the diversity of each episode.

Patrick

Flip Flappers

It’s incredible how such an explosively colorful show like Flip Flappers can retain such a cohesive look and style. The plot of the show (visiting different imaginary worlds almost every episode) is a unique challenge that 3Hz and background art Studio Pablo passed with well, flying colors. Every episode is at least as visually interesting and ambitious as the previous, and there’s great attention paid to keeping the huge amount of visual metaphors (butterflies for Dr. Salt, Uexkull being a stand-in for umwelt, etc) consistent throughout the show, something that’s very much needed and welcomed in a multilayered watch like FliFla.

Best Voice Acting

Patrick

Gi(a)rlish Number

I give Gi(a)rlish Number the voice acting award for this season for the pure breadth of work the girls had to go through. All of the female leads had to act several characters throughout the show, had to act them ‘good’ and ‘bad’, had to sing in and out of character, and had to give convincing performances as their own characters on top of all of that!

Marc

Yuri on ICE!!!

It’s clear from episode one that a tremendous amount of voice training went into the production of Yuri on ICE!!! The accents of each character, especially those of Yuri and Victor, differ depending on which language they’re supposed to be speaking. When Victor delivers lines in English or Russian, they’re exquisitely performed with an accuracy to the original language wholly unlike most other anime. The dialogue in the show is also performed with an uncharacteristic level of maturity that makes the characters sound and feel more like actual, adult people. Most of the time anime is definitely about escaping from reality, but Yuri on ICE!!! breaks that mold with its voice performances: it seeks to bring the viewer closer to what’s real, instead of forcing them away from it.

Best Character Design

Marc

Drifters

Adapting any of the stylized and bombastic designs of Kouta Hirano for animation is hard enough, but Ryoji Nakamori had his work especially cut out for him when taking on Drifters. The breadth of different designs in Drifters is about as broad as history itself, from 11th century mystics to wild west folk heroes to World War II naval admirals. The designs in Drifters thankfully retain much of their original stylized looks, while balancing perfectly with the need for them to be animated. I was intensely impressed with how much each character’s look was inspired by how they are portrayed in actual historical texts, while also representing a look that is so perfectly anime that it doesn’t lose any of its inherent entertainment value. Particularly of note here is each character’s eyes: while each pair is different, they all carry a sort of strange swirling maelstrom within them, further contributing to the show’s mysterious and jarring air.

Patrick

Ping Pong Girls

Sports anime with large casts almost always wind up boiling characters down to one or two stereotypes or character traits and Ping Pong Girls was no exception. What matters is how memorable those traits and characters are, and it excelled there. It’s easy to remember Zakuro for her dead green eyes or Hokuto for her frozen blue exterior (and interior!) and that extends to every character. On top of being easily identifiable, once in motion these designs were some of the most expressive from the season.

Best Direction

Patrick

Sound! Euphonium 2

I don’t think many people would be able to argue against the statement ‘Eupho is one of the best put together shows of the year’, and that put-togetherness starts with the director. From its first season Eupho has excelled at letting the layouts do the talking - framing of characters representing their relationships to each other (or inversely, their isolation from each other), lighting representing moods, and relative size in frame letting you know where your focus should be. Eupho has had quite a few guest episode directors in its run that emphasize these different strengths to an extent that most TV anime don’t.

Marc

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable

Now that Jojo: Part 4 is finally over I feel comfortable enough to give it its due in the direction department. It’s hard for me to name a show of the top of my head that is more creatively directed, down to even the most minute details of camera angles, colors and framing. Possibly my favorite part about the directorial style of Part 4 is the creative use of transitions between scenes: glass shattering, shadows becoming more distinct shapes, scenes melting into one another. All of these examples were used in almost every episode and it contributed wholly to the style of the show more than anything else. Of course the typical use of contrasting colors to differentiate the mood in the show was used, continuing David Productions’ loving tribute to Hirohiko Araki and his use of clashing colors to signify feelings that he wants the reader to convey. Overall I’d say Jojo’s direction beat the pants off of every other show this season, maybe even this year.

Best 3DCGI

Marc

BBK/BRNK

This is a fairly straightforward category and winner, Bubuki Buranki’s second season continued to demonstrate that Sanzigen has a great handle on making full CGI look like hand animation, and not make it look bad or forced (COUGH Ajin COUGH). Characters move smoothly, mecha look about as natural as giant robots can look, and most of all Sanzigen uses the CGI to its advantage when animating action scenes, creating elaborate cuts that would take much more time were they hand-animated in 2D.

Patrick

BBK/BRNK

Yeah, another no brainer. BBK was one of the few shows to use CG extensively this season and it still looks as good as the first season, if not better. I’m excited to see where and how Sanzigen gets used going forward now that they’ve completed a two cour show of their own accord.

Best Animation

Patrick

Flip Flappers

Once again no contest. We know that Flip Flappers was going to be a sakuga fest as far back as a year before it started! I’m just glad it actually delivered. It’s pretty rare for a show as visually ambitious as FliFla to not get trapped by some sort of production woes or delays.

Marc

Flip Flappers

Another no-brainer, Flip Flappers was by far the most well-animated show this season. Each episode was chock full of incredibly fluid, detailed scenes of differing styles of heavily stylized animation, something that for a sakuga nerd like me merits an instant win. Patrick and I both predicted this would be a big winner in animation this season and we were most certainly not wrong. What’s more, Flip Flappers was a fantastic place for young animators to show their stuff, considering the show was animated by a relatively new studio, studio 3HZ (Dimension W).

Best Adapatation

Marc

Drifters

The challenge of adapting the pure intensity and insanity of Kouta Hirano’s work should not be taken lightly, and it’s clear that the team behind Drifters did not make this mistake. Everything from how voicing acting was directed, to the design and animation, the frenetic and broad choices of music, and most of all the extremely dark tone of the show capture the mood of the original manga perfectly. One of my favorite things about Drifters is it’s idea that nobody presented in the show is a hero; that everybody in this universe has severe flaws and a lot of blood on their hands. This was a central theme in the manga and I’m so happy to see that the anime adaptation didn’t try to change this, as it is exactly what makes Drifters so unique in presentation and subject matter.

Patrick

Haikyuu! Season 3

For some reason HQ seems to be forgotten on a lot of lists this season - I don’t know if it’s because of the length or because it ended early, but as always HQ is the pinnacle of taking a sports manga and making an anime of it. I was super worried about them stretching a single match of volleyball into a whole season without running into flashback pacing issues, but they fucking did it! And kept up the hype from previous seasons as well! My only regret is that it’s going to be quite some time before we get more Haikyuu anime… time to catch up on the manga I guess!

Best Original

Patrick

Flip Flappers

Anime originals are a difficult endeavor. There’s no pre-installed fan base, there’s no framework of any sort to build from, and there’s so much pure cynicism about them. That’s why it’s such a treat when we get an anime original that’s a complete package. While not perfect (the amorphous kids could use a lot more characterization imo) the show has incredible art, characters, and story with just enough intrigue to keep us guessing without going into omg so deep territory.

Marc

Izetta: The Last Witch

Certainly the idea of a witch interfering with World War II is interesting enough, but I don’t think I or anybody else could have predicted what came out of Izetta this season. What we were given was a complex and pleasingly varied cast of sympathetic characters, set against a world that is parallel to our own history but not far enough away to be unbelievable. Obviously the most unbelievable thing is the idea of a witch being involved in a modern military conflict, but the way Izetta interacts with the world and with the ideas of war are far more believable and compelling than I would have guessed before seeing the show. That is of course to say nothing of her relationship with my favorite female character from this season, Archduchess Fine, which can be seen as either a very close friendship or a full-on sexual and romantic relationship. Given the development we see between them in some of the latter episodes, I’m choosing to believe the latter because for me it only improves what was already a stunningly entertaining show.

Best Show Overall

Marc

Yuri on ICE!!!

Even if Yuri on ICE!!! wasn’t my favorite show of the season, it still probably would have clinched this category for me. The impact it has had around the world cannot be understated: figure skaters the world over have sung their praises for the show, I’ve seen more Yuri on ICE!!! cosplay at one convention than I’ve seen anything else the rest of the year, and the last episode even managed to crash Crunchyroll, something that has never happened as far as I can remember. It is an international phenomenon and for very, very good reason. Beyond the extreme accuracy to which Sayo Yamamoto and her staff have portrayed the sport of figure skating, the show presents something that is about as rare in anime as anything: an actually realistic and mature gay relationship between two adult men. That fact alone is why Yuri on ICE!!! Is the best show of fall 2016, and why I ultimately feel so vindicated for the torch I have carried for Sayo Yamamoto for several years. The explosive success Yuri on ICE!!! has experienced is everything that she deserves as a director, because she is bringing a level of understanding and maturity to anime that it just doesn’t have anywhere else.

Patrick

Flip Flappers

This was a very difficult choice - it’s very hard to not recognize Yuri on Ice here but what’s the point of doing opinion pieces if you aren’t honest with them. I really like Yuri on Ice and it’s a fucking fantastic (and important!) show for an incredible amount of reasons that the rest of the Internet is better at stating than I am, but Flip Flappers was definitely my favorite of the season. It enters this very very narrow space of shows that have near unlimited rewatchability for me (Madoka, Kyousougiga, etc)  - some mix of the art, the multiple layers of meaning behind every shot, and the ability for every watcher to take a different message away from it while no watcher comes away with the wrong message. Add the rewatchability in with the solid, clear story arc (adventure, drama, solid resolution -> adventure again) with a definitive good ending and Flip Flappers is the clear winner for me.