I've donned my tuxedo, rolled out the red carpet, and just written two blatant lies in a desperate attempt to make this 'Blog entry sound more important than it is. Yes, this can only mean one thing - The first, some say inaugural, some say premier, Hanners' Anime 'Blog Air Pie With No Pastry Awards, an annual opportunity for me to throw all pretences of non-bias out the window, rave like a blatant fanboy, and probably offend most of you with a variety of acerbic comments. Well, it is New Year's Eve after all, that's what its for. As per most laborious and drawn-out awards ceremonies, I'll be working through various categories to reward the best and lambast the worst that 2008 has had to bring us, building up to the big finale of announcing my best anime series for 2008. So, without further ado, let's get this waste of Google's storage space on the road.
Best opening titles - Every anime series needs to start with a... err... start. As does every awards ceremony for that matter. So, first up, what was my favourite opening credits for a 2008 series, considering both music and visuals? I was sorely tempted to grant this first award to Toradora!, a series with an opening theme so enjoyable that someone has even made a version you can watch in Microsoft Excel. No, really. The visuals are pretty darn cool, and the music... well, let's just say the opening theme has been stuck in my head ever since I first heard it, whether I like it or not.
However, this effort is pipped to the post by the wonderful pairing of Zoku and Goku Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, and it's frankly insane viciously bizarre visuals. Mix it with some awesome music, and you have yourself a winner.
Best closing titles - If I'm totally honest, I don't pay much heed to title sequences in anime at all these days, and this is especially true of closing credits, particularly as I'm normally raring to start writing about what I've just watched these days. Thus, my winner here does so more on music than visuals, and that winner is Ga-Rei Zero, which triumphs on account of Mizuhara Kaoru's Yume no Ashioto ga Kikoeru. Similarly, an honourable mention goes to True Tears ending, ignoring its rather rubbish closing animation thanks to a truly catchy tune that, rather oddly, I ene up learning the lyrics to from listening to it too much.
Best soundtrack - I can't help but think that 2008 hasn't been a great year for anime OSTs, as I can't think of any memorable ones (from series that I've watched and later grabbed the soundtrack to anyway). Given that limited scope, one series OST does stick out in my mind, and that OST belonged to Shigofumi. It's doubtless a very acquired taste, but hey these are my awards and not yours, and oddly listening to this particular CD was a more emotional experience overall than watching the anime itself. An honourable mention in this category goes to Real Drive, for providing a double CD OST with an entire disc of electronica. Me likey.
Worst soundtrack - Himitsu - The Revelation. I really don't want to talk about it any more, lest its horrible MIDI beats get stuck in my brain again. Oh, too late. Argh!
Best character - Most years will introduce each and every one of us to at least one anime character that we want to make real, love and have children with... what, it's just me? While a good series will frequently have many good characters, this category is more of a celebration of a series that is made by a single individual, and with that in mind there can only be one winner - Spice and Wolf's Horo. From the inevitable aesthetic angle she's sexy, she's sassy and she gets naked more often than is strictly necessary, but she also wins out in terms of personality, displaying a beautiful range of emotions struck against a great line in come-backs. Horo was everything to Spice and Wolf, and for that she should be saluted as we await her return in season two for 2009.
Worst character - There can only be one for this award, and that one is Itazura na Kiss' Irie Naoki. If ever I were to meet such a nasty, pretentious, unlikeable asshole in real life, I would most likely punch him in the face. As he's just an anime character, I had to remind myself that laptops are expensive to prevent simply punching the screen instead. A dishonourable mention goes to every other character in this particular series that wasn't Kotoko, for their part in this horrible show.
Best filler episode - Yes, I know this is largely a contradiction in terms, but that's kind of the point here - Just occasionally, a filler episode appears that manages to defy tradition and offer up something fresh, different and funny. All of these check boxes were ticked by our winner for 2008, courtesy of Kure-nai's sixth episode, "Light Shines Over Your Head, Doesn't it?". Making an anime episode into a musical has absolutely no right at all to work, but somehow Kure-nai pulls it off, remaining as delightfully funny as it proved to be throughout the series while somehow adding to that hilarity courtesy of this aforementioned musical interlude. It's just a shame that the animation was so terrible for this instalment really.
Best individual episode - This award celebrates the single episode of any given series that managed to drop my jaw, ignoring the quality of everything around it be it good or bad. I'm going to cheat a little bit here, and grant this award to a story arc rather than a single episode, simply because I can. Therefore, this award goes to the first two episodes of Shigofumi - Dark, emotional, powerful, and generally fantastic in the way its story was told and portrayed. It's somehow even more impressive when put into relief against the shambles which much of the rest of this series proved to be...
Worst individual episode - I'm sure most of you will probably be shouting out various episodes of Code Geass R2 at this point, but tough - I didn't think any of it was that bad. This is especially true when you bring my old favourite Allison to Lillia into the equation, and it's from this show that I pick my worst episode of 2008. Episode eight, titled "The Princess and the Hero", showcased everything that was wrong with this series, from more continuity errors than you could shake an idiotic script writer at through to its big climax, where (and I'm going to quote Wikipedia here) "Allison and Wil fly their plane close to the tower which creates a strong wind that blows Nihito off the balcony which kills him". What? What?! The only thing that blew me away was the stupidity of this aspect of the episode.
Best series ending - Even the best of series can screw things up with a rubbish ending, and there's nothing worse than watching a dozen, or even two dozen, episodes of pure genius only to be left with an end that is either a massive cop-out or simply defies belief. This is actually a tough category to pick a winner in (which makes me wish I hadn't thought of the damned thing in the first place), but my final choice is going to be a recent one - Kannagi. Sure, it was barely in keeping with all of the humour of earlier episodes, but in a way that made the emotional scenes in this final instalment all the more beautiful - It was just a sweet and lovely way to end the series, complete with some humour thrown in at the end to remind the viewer that yes, Kannagi was still funny.
Worst series ending - Again, I fancy some of you are shouting Code Geass R2 again here, and there may be a few calls for Kure-nai too, but my vote is going to Real Drive here. Not the best of series in the first place admittedly, but what the Hell was that ending all about? The Metal is the sea? Someone's soul and memories being stored in the sea, like some big liquid USB flash drive? 80-something Haru getting fifty years younger so he can have sex with an underage girl whose somewhat loosely related to him? Make it stop, make it stop... Oh, it's the final episode, it's all done now. Thank God for that.
Best series I haven't actually watched - Otherwise known as the "word of mouth I've chosen to ignore" award. This is an easy one, for I've barely been able to cross the street of late without someone asking me whether I've watched Macross Frontier yet. I've heard an incredibly amount about how it's an amazing fusion of J-Pop and.... well, nobody seems to be able to remember much apart from the music. I will watch it, I have it sat here waiting to go, all that I need is time, but for now I shall honour it for the fact that so many people have told me I should see it. They can't all be wrong... Can they?
Worst series - Finally, on to the big boys, the best and worst anime series of 2008. To be honest, there was only ever going to be one contender for the worst series award and that is... you guessed it, Allison to Lillia. Indeed, I went so far as to posit whether it's the worst anime series I've ever seen at the time of watching it, which may be a tiny bit harsh. Anyhow, quite simply Allison to Lillia got everything wrong - It's main characters were all dimwits (yes, even the supposedly bright one), a war that had raged for centuries was cleared up in four episodes thanks to a cave painting, a bad guy got blew off a roof by a gust of wind from a plane, terrorists kidnapped a plane full of orphans to crash into the sea because... well, it seemed like a good idea to them, Wil got Allison pregnant before he told her loved her, and... I could go on all day, but my fingers are beginning to ache. So's my head, now I come to think about it. The scripting and plots for this series were simply terrible, made worse by those dreaded continuity errors and the frequent breaking of the laws of physics (which would have had Scotty spinning in his grave, I imagine), an I'm frankly astonished that such a shoddy piece of work ever made it to air. I'm glad it did though in my own peculiar way, as I've gleaned so much fun-poking and so many in-jokes from this series that I almost feel I owe it something. So, here is that something, a kick in the teeth courtesy of my "worst series" award.
Now, a drum roll if you please, as we move on to....
Best anime series - I've actually thought long and hard about this, as there are a few potential contenders here, but my verdict is final, and I'm pretty pleased with my choice. The winner for best anime series 2008 is... True Tears.
I don't like soap operas. Never had, probably never will. The arguments and drama surrounding relationships and all that jazz simply holds little interest for me. Yet, for thirteen weeks early in 2008, True Tears managed to hold me captivated by just such a story. I found myself having deep, considered thoughts about the contents of each episode, arguing over my choice of girl for Shinichirou week after week, and even when the "wrong" girl came up trumps at the end of its all I still didn't mind, because I'd been there to see it all and I loved every last second of it.
Fantastic, deep and well-rounded characters, a well paced and well written story, and 2008's most beautifully animated series meant that there wasn't much not to like about True Tears, and if you haven't watched it yet yourselves, do yourself a favour and give it a try. Yes, even if you don't like soap opera and drama.
So, there you have it, my thoughts and opinions as we close out 2008. I hope you all have a great New Year, and I'll see you all again in 2009. But until then, this is the point where you get to flame away in the comments section. Go on, you know you're just dying to...