Welcome to Through the Painting’s second iteration of the annual Top Anime Awards! This is where I run through the list of this year’s airing shows that I’ve seen (and haven’t mercilessly dropped) and award them meaningless titles. Since last year’s iteration took way too many words, I’ve decided that this year’s Awards List should be two articles. If you think I missed nominating some show, some song, some character for a category, it means I either haven’t seen the show, or my garbage taste flat-out disagrees with yours. Without further ado, let’s begin!

The Music Awards
Disclaimer: I skip most OPs/EDs unless something about them grabs me. My ears are not great and it’s been a while since I took classical music theory classes. Plus I don’t know a thing about pop music. But I have great taste in music, I swear ^.^;

Best OP:
Honourable mentions:

  • “Imawa no Shinigami” (今際の死神), by Shiina Ringo. Rakugo Shinju S2 OP:  this OP features jazzy instrumentals with Hayashibara’s smooth-as-heck voice, adding to the achingly fatalistic visuals that represent Kikuhiko’s state of mind–it makes for a wonderful experience.
  • “Flag wo Tatero” (フラッグを立てろ [lit. raise your flag?]), by YUKI. March Comes in like a Lion 3rd OP: I liked the melody (what else do you want me to say?)
  • The OP that played at the beginning of Made in Abyss’s premiere. Which got replaced by generic seiyuu-pop. No I’m not bitter at all.

Winner:

  • “Shiny Ray” by YURiKA. Little Witch Academia 1st OP: it’s fairly generic upbeat pop, but then again, it’s fairly generic upbeat pop. It reflects the show’s optimism so well–and I never get tired of that final line “光見つめて歩いてく”–that I can’t give another OP first place.

Best ED:
Honourable mentions:

  • “Hikobayuru” (ひこばゆる, and to this day I still have no idea what this means), by Shibue Kana. Rakugo Shinju 2nd Season ED: if the first ED’s lonely jazz trumpet matches its tragedy, the 2nd ED opens with a mellower jazz piano, appropriate for this season’s climb back to happiness. It’s smooth listening, and a consistently good piece like its show.
  • “A Page of My Story”, sung by the voice actresses. Princess Principal ED: omigod the chibi figures of the cast flitting across the screen, and the voice actresses singing in harmony at the end. The tune is so cute that by the end of the show I didn’t even mind the Engrish.

Winner:

  • “Tsuki ga Kirei”, by Touyama Nao. Tsuki ga Kirei ED: the song is simple yet effective, its lyrics adorable, and oh good lord the text messages on the screen (I think I’ve gushed enough about them here).

Best T-Shirt design
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This category was created specifically to showcase the glory that is NO CAT NO LIFE.

Best Male Character
Honourable mentions:

  • Yotaro and Kikuhiko from Rakugo Shinju. Kiku won this award last year, and he can quite honestly win again for the same reasons. Yotaro also deserves recognition for having that obnoxiously undeterred personality required to jolt Kiku out of melancholy and push Konatsu toward realizing her love of rakugo.
  • Todoroki Shouto from My Hero Academia. Come to think of it, the trope of “rejecting your own heritage in rebellion against a parent” isn’t that new. But hey I was hooked along his arc of maturation. The cool-looking fire and ice blasting across the screen certainly didn’t hurt. And it was nice to see Todoroki, having gone through his character growth, help Iida do the same.

Winner:

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  • Kiriyama Rei from March Comes in like a Lion. He had been sympathetic since the beginning, his social isolation and depression relatable to many. Since the 2nd cour in Winter, and especially in the 2nd season this Autumn, he’s come a long way: he’s made friends with the chemistry group at school and the shogi study group, and he has begun reaching out to help those he cares about, including Shimada with his stomach bug and now Hina with her bullying. While he still has a ways to go, he’s begun to shed his isolation, which should help with his mental health. He has my full support.

Best Female Character
Honourable mentions:

  • Diana Cavendish from Little Witch Academia, for being well-off and gifted but only minimally conceited (part of it probably comes from unrecognized privilege). You can tell she loves her craft, has a good amount of respect for the people around her, and is driven by inspiration like much of the cast. And her arc of bending under the pressures of tradition but rediscovering her childhood inspiration was as refreshing as any of the story’s other arcs.
  • Midorikawa Maki from Sakura Quest, for being relatable as she braves the crossroads of having failed to land her dream career, but proving that what she did was not a waste with the small skills she’s acquired, and finally rekindling her passion and finding a way to incorporate it into her job.

Winner:

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  • Konatsu from Rakugo Shinju. She is fiercely independent, with clear motivations in a passion for rakugo and a desire to never repeat her mother’s mistakes. Her motivations are also enriched by conflicts including her mistrust of Kikuhiko versus a desire to have her son see him perform, and a passion for performing rakugo versus an ingrained belief that rakugo performance is for men only. You can tell, despite being happy with Yotaro, she remains an equal independent partner. It’s a joy to see the spunky child from Season 1 overcome her conflicts and find her own happiness.

Best nonbinary character: perhaps unusual for this year, I watched an anime with some really good character work, but they don’t exactly fit above because…well, they’re nonbinary. Therefore, let’s have a shoutout to the gems from Land of the Lustrous. Specifically:

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  • Phos for being entertaining yet relatable in their childish petulance, boredom, and desire to be useful. This groundwork is what helps us sympathize with their loss and melancholy in the most recent episodes.
  • Dia is just wonderfully earnest. They have just the right amount of cute and wacky. And their self-doubt–comparing themself to Bort despite being one of the strongest gems–makes me want to give them a big hug, especially in their latest shattering (pun intended) fight against the Lunarian.

OTP (best couple)
Kobayashi x Tohru, from Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

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This year had some good couples. Konatsu and Yotaro had amazing mutual support, their tender moments easily the highlights of the second season. Akane and Kotarou had a mundane middle school romance but pulled off a jaw-dropping plot twist that had me cheering. Gyokuran and Yaichirou were cute in their mutual shyness, and I still ship Satou and Takahashi (despite having dropped Demi-chan) for the same reason. However, the couple that scrapes into first place has to be Kobayashi and Tohru. I’ve said before that mundane domestic life carries its intimate charm over turbulent love stories, and the same holds true for this case. It’s amazing to see how these slow mundane snippets build up into deep attachment by the end (others have similarly gushed about the loneliness of the Tohru-less apartment in episode 13). And seeing how well this family runs its mundane life can only help in normalizing sexual minorities in media.

Aaand that’s all for today! Part 2 comes out tomorrow, with a rundown of the best anime of the year.

You can read about the 12 Days of Anime project in my intro post here.

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