Since I don’t delve as deeply into Japanese media as I have in the past, I’ve combined my year-end recap into one post, hitting upon the big points. The theme this year seemed to be “girl power” with unconventional girl groups, exist†trace coming to town, and well-written female leads. Of course the guys still get their nod, but for once there’s an anime series devoted to showcasing fanservice for straight women. Before we get started with my list, have you seen my picks for Best J-Rock and J-pop Album Covers on JRock247 and NekoPOP?
Single - “Girl Digger” by FAKY
On top of being a clever turnabout on a sexist term, “Girl Digger” features a much-needed amount of attitude from fa girl group and power house vocals. The song is catchy and a fantastic girl power anthem.
PV – “The Assassin’s Assassin” by Shiina Ringo x SOIL & “PIMP” Sessions
Yuichi Kodama has managed to create a film noir that’s under three minutes long. There’s costume eye candy and lot of action with a parting shot that is sure to haunt you for the rest of the day.
Album – Ciao, Fake Kings by WHITE ASH
It’s easy to write off this album as typical alternative rock, but the versatility and polished sound is definitely worth noting. Plus there’s no denying the overseas potential with the bilingual tracks.
Artist – BiS
Photo from FAN48
In the past couple of years, Brand-new Idol Society has challenged the aesthetic of idol groups. With new members, they’ve continued to shock and rebel with outfits that would make Lady Gaga jealous and videos that are absurdist commentary on beauty and J-pop. They’ve even teamed up with noise rock group Hijokaidan.
Live-action Character – Mako Mori (Pacific Rim)
Despite the large number of Japanese actors starring in overseas productions this year, many played second fiddle. Not Mako Mori. She was the true star of Pacific Rim, a character who is strong yet still maintained Asian values of respect and filial piety, and the new face of feminism in film.
Actor – Yuga Yamato
Casting a former Takarazuka otokoyaku was the best thing Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon – La Reconquista could have done. Tani’s training has allowed her to capture the nuances of Mamoru, Tuxedo Mask, and Prince Endymion while melting every single lady’s heart. In addition to the musical, she’s made her TV debut as a female vampire in the drama Higanjima.
Drama – xxxHOLiC
Photo from xxxHOLiC Wiki
Darker than the original manga and anime, this drama eliminates all the kawaii fluff to provide an allegory to real-world struggles, particularly those of adolescence. Every episode ends with a moral without coming across as preachy, and Anne Watanabe is perfectly enigmatic as Yuko.
Film – Strawberry Night
This movie cleverly reverses the gender of archetypal noir characters. Reiko Himekawa is both fearless and fallible, and her crusade for truth and justice is a rollercoaster ride fulls of unexpected turns.
Anime Character – Levi (Attack on Titan)
While he’s an utter badass and the embodiment of stoicism, “humanity’s greatest soldier” is a neat freak who looks like grumpy cat most of the time. It’s these little quirks that make Levi endearing. Plus he seems to have a sadistic streak that’s fun to think about.
Anime – Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club
Photo from Crunchyroll
It was a tough battle between Attack on Titan and Free!, but the swimming anime won out for defying expectations. Past the eye candy and bromantic (romantic?) moments, there was complexity in the characters and story. Tidbits like Makoto’s goldfish sucker punch you in gut with all the feels.
Series to Cosplay – Sailor Scouts
This is technically not a series because I don’t mean Sailor Moon. While there were plenty of the original Scouts, there’s been a ton of other characters, particularly those from Western comics and animation, reimagined in the easily-recognizable and nostalgic serafuku.
Listening to: “NEXT STAGE” by Gacharic Spin