For this year I’ve introduced an extra category to make things fair for the rest of the competition.
OGIUE CHIKA SPECIAL AWARD
This year marked the return of Genshiken to anime, and with it the re-introduction of the character whose very passion and turmoil became the cornerstone of this blog. Ogiue Chika has changed much since I deemed her the best female character of 2007, and Ogiue we see in Genshiken Second Season is not the same as the one which struggled with accepting her fandom. However, it is this very transformation within her which continues to inspire me, knowing that, as her eyes and her expression have softened over time, they increasingly reflect the growth and maturation of otaku culture, and of the positive influence of Genshiken. As Ogiue thrives, so does the club which changed her life, and it fills my heart with joy and discovery to continue to be witness to it. I would write more, but I think that I’ve already said more than enough.
BEST MALE CHARACTER
Armin Arlert (Attack on Titan)
Some of my favorite male characters are guys who are ones willing to take the supporting role, guys who defy the macho stereotypes which continue to haunt characterizations of men in media. Armin reflects this in spades, but I find that he is also great at contributing to how we perceive ideas like power, intelligence, passion, independence, and cooperation. Of the core group in Attack on Titan, Armin is clearly the “brains,” but it’s a specific type of brilliance which allows him to think on a more deeply conceptual and abstract level, and what impresses me most about Armin is this strength in combination with his weaknesses, and how he and his comrades make up for each others’ weaknesses. Armin is highly observant, a clever strategist, and open to new ideas, but can be extremely hesitant, and to see him embrace his talents in the midst of despair and to take inspiration from Eren and Mikasa is one of my favorite qualities of his character. In a way, this is actually an award for the character interaction for Attack on Titan.
BEST FEMALE CHARACTER
Ichinose Hajime (Gatchaman Crowds)
I don’t think I’ve ever dwelled as long on a pick for best female character as I did this year, but in the end I feel there is no character more deserving than Hajime. To describe her is to engage in contradiction, a character who seems to defy all standards of anime characterization while adhering closely to them. To talk about her role as the lead of Gatchaman Crowds is to realize that there are few who so utterly represent the concept of a main character as Hajime does, because Hajime is Gatchaman Crowds. Somehow Hajime is a protagonist who’s also a scene stealer, a presence which seemingly warps space around her and embodies all of the quirks which make the show special. Hajime shows that being positive doesn’t mean being naive, that conflict resolution through dialogue and and open mind can be just as thrilling as watching someone throw a punch, and that you can be stubborn about being open-minded. Hajime is simply a force of nature.
I find that as much as we like to think that anime is over and done, and continue to repeat that sentiment every year, that innovation (or something like it) continues to happen even in the areas most conventional. To hear that Gatchaman Crowds is ostensibly a remake of a 1970s anime classic is to bring to mind nostalgia grabs and numerous references to the old, or perhaps even a meeting of old and new generations, but Gatchaman Crowds largely defies all of those expectations. Attack on Titan is the big hit to the extent that it feels as if it has surpassed Naruto in its heyday, but even though both are of the ultra mainstream shounen battle manga demographic, Attack on Titan defies numerous trends through its bleak setting and the decidedly unglamorous position even its most important characters find themselves in, yet somehow this is also the source of its popularity. For both Attack on Titan and Gatchaman Crowds, I find that Armin and Hajime truly reflect how different and special each of their series are. Both are not the type to solve problems through violence first, but neither are they characters who are immobilized by the weight of responsibility or ones to abandon society physically or emotionally. They truly feel like characters who are a part of contemporary culture, yet will probably remain timeless.