Note: these are all very rough writeups that were intended as a jumping off point for our awards discussions – as such, take what I’ve written here with a grain of salt. I’ve also included the two chracter writeups I did for the final awards post; those paragraphs are intended as an overall representation of the jury but are somewhat based on my own thoughts on each character as well.
These writeups are also written as a comparison/ranking of all the nominees, and as a result I’m a lot harsher on lower-ranked shows/characters than I might otherwise be, particularly for the Drama category where I very much enjoyed every show nominated.
SPOILERS FOR EVERY SHOW / CHARACTER LISTED BELOW. Turn back now if you don’t want spoilers on the following shows: Euphonium 2, Rakugo, Planetarian, Kiznaiver, Fune wo Amu, Erased, Re:Zero, Flip Flappers, Mob Psycho 100, and Amanchu!
- Fune wo Amu
Fune wo Amu’s story of passion, romance, and dictionary-writing was filled with moments that felt graceful and measured, lifted through animation that seemed surprisingly detailed and fluid in small, natural moments. But the overall plot suffered from scattered pacing not giving enough space for character development at points (the first examples of this that come to mind are scenes regarding Majime’s feelings towards Kaguya in episode 3). More notably, the 10-year timeskip undercut many of the show’s own plot threads – both the work towards completing the Great Passage and the romance between Majime and Kaguya lost emotional weight from any development that might have been present in that missing timeframe. As a result, the whole show feels incomplete, missing a critical piece of story that could have made Fune wo Amu something truly special.
Kiznaiver wields romantic tension and forced drama like a weapon, bringing each main character’s internal struggles into the limelight one after the other, or often at the same time. It doesn’t do so gracefully for each character – without proper development afforded to the main cast over only 13 episodes, the show struggles to make every piece of drama feel meaningful. But the show does succeed at making each character unique, with motivations and actions that always make sense within who their character is – Maki often runs away and avoids opening up to others, Chidori is stubborn and hotheaded, and so on. And while many dramatic moments don’t quite hit the mark, there are many points where the drama does connect in a way that feels heartfelt and empathetic towards the struggle of each character and to the themes of the show as a whole. Kiznaiver is a flawed story that needed more episodes to better develop its characters and drama, but it does manage to create a meaningful story within its runtime regardless.
While Planetarian was not wildly inventive from a plot standpoint, the interactions between Yumemi and the Junker felt meaningful and organic as they gazed at the stars together. It is a story that sticks to its themes of cherishing what is precious even in a time where such things have little value. In 5 episodes, we watch as the Junker is changed through his time with Yumemi; and though the story has a predictable conclusion, it still manages to feel like a complete and satisfying story all the same.
- Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
Rakugo Shinjuu was a compelling, well-written, and well-directed tale about rakugo in the 1930s and 40s. Kikuhiko, Sukeroku, and Miyokichi are each compelling in their own right and face their own unique yet similar burdens and struggles as the story progresses. The rakugo performances themselves are gripping and often reflect on the performer sharing each story. Though the story itself was well written with a intricately developed cast, I didn’t feel that Rakugo Shinjuu left any lasting emotional impression as a story – the characters never felt like more than performers on a stage and the story didn’t create much in terms of empathy for their plight. But regardless of that failing, Rakugo Shinjuu is still a masterful tale and a highly gripping historical tragedy on the very Japanese art of rakugo.
- Hibike! Euphonium 2
Eupho2 may not have had the same tightly written plot of the first season, but was stellar for how effective it was at showing more personal and intimate stories of multiple cast members. These stories not only made sense as drama within the show, but also excelled as reflections of real-life drama as well – conflicts were formed from simple yet realistic misunderstandings, and character actions made sense within the context of their established desires and personalities. Finally, Eupho was lifted even higher by incredible production values – even the smallest, most inconsequential scenes were filled with emotional depth. Moments like the hallway scene between Kumiko and Reina in episode 9 were animated in a way to further develop their friendship; Kumiko’s interactions with Asuka were intense and emotional thanks to Tomoyo Kurosawa’s expressive voice acting as Kumiko. The second season of Hibike Euphonium may not have as airtight a story as the first season, but it is stunning and emotionally satisfying story in its own special way.
Best Supporting Character
- Sachiko (Erased)
Sachiko’s actions clearly have a large impact on the story, both from episode 1 noticing the killer and later with housing Kayo and providing her with a warm meal. Her character is clearly imbued with compassion, shown by her taking care of Satoru while he was in a coma, but as a character she has very little other defining features or motivations besides filling the mother role.
- Wilheim (Re:Zero)
Wihleim’s backstory with the White Whale is crucial towards adding a human element to the fight against the whale. His motivations are understandable and endearing, and provide a much-needed hero character to root for after episodes of Subaru’s self-inflicted suffering. But Wilheim doesn’t serve much purpose beyond that role – his backstory only covers his time with Thearesia and his fight against the whale, and so ultimately his character is only left with that one aspect – the knight seeking revenge on the one who took his love from him.
- Natsuki (Eupho2)
In season 1 of Hibike Euphonium, Natsuki was known mainly by her apathy towards the ensemble and practice; but in season 2, she receives more time to become her own character through the Mizore/Nozomi drama. Her reasons to support Nozomi are understandable, and fit with her laid-back but caring persona. She also shows off her caring side when she expresses her own concern over Asuka to Kumiko, as she feels that the ensemble is better off with Asuka than herself. Even still, her character doesn’t receive as much of a role as other supporting cast members within the show; and while she has her standout moments (trolling Yuuko many times, for example), she isn’t quite the most developed character within this category, or compared to other characters within Eupho2.
- Akane (Flying Witch)
Akane is, for many of the scenes she takes part in, the source of comic relief within Flying Witch. Laid back and casual with magic, her lax approach to the world often results in amusing trouble for the other characters. But she represents an important part of the world in Flying Witch: like Makoto, both straddle the line between the mundane and magical; but while Makoto trends towards the former, Akane is more a representation of the latter. She’s an important part of making magic feel like a natural part of the world as someone who moves in and out of the story, and while she doesn’t change much across the course of the show, she’s a key piece to what makes Flying Witch work so well.
- Miyokichi (Rakugo)
Miyokichi is a critical part of the overarching tragedy in Rakugo Shinjuu, but her own story and decisions feel important all the same. She struggles against the expectations others place on her, and she strives to be her own unique person and character. Her motivations are complex, morally gray, and at times both cunning and desperate. Though all the characters in Rakugo Shinjuu come across as a bit emotionally distant as a viewer, she still remains a compelling part of the core melancholy of Rakugo Shinjuu.
- Yayaka (Flip Flappers)
Throughout Flip Flappers, Yayaka’s character traits are complex and conflicting – she struggles with her role as both Cocona’s friend and a member of Asclepius throughout the series. Her character is well-established through larger moments (episode 9) but also smaller scenes of her frustrated over being left out of Asclepius’s inner circle. Confident in her own abilities but questioning her own motivations, Yayaka struggles and grows throughout the 13 episodes of Flip Flappers; and while the full extent of her backstory and thinking is only revealed bit by bit over time, none of her actions or decisions at later points contradict her characterization at any point. Yayaka experiences her own unique journey throughout Flip Flappers, and that allows her to stand as her own unique character from beginning to end.
Final Awards Writeup for Akane (4th out of 6)
Throughout Flying Witch, Akane often acts as the source of comic relief in a wide variety of scenes and situations. Laid back and casual with magic, her lax approach to the world often results in amusing and entertaining trouble for the other characters. But she also represents an important part of the world in Flying Witch: like Makoto, Akane straddles the line between the mundane and magical and is an important part of making magic feel like a natural part of the world. Her character doesn’t change much across Flying Witch’s 12 episodes, nor is she an emotionally complex character – her main trait is simply “Makoto’s free-spirited witch older sister”. While that lack of depth brought her down in the jury’s eyes, we still felt positive about Akane’s character overall and thought she was a key part to the world of Flying Witch.
Best Deuteragonist / Non-Lead Main Character
- Aqua (Konosuba)
Like all of the main characters in Konosuba, Aqua is a terrible person. She fits her “fallen goddess” role well through her spoiled, selfish nature and desire to prove her greatness to all who will listen. But none of the Konosuba characters are particularly deep or interesting, so while their antics are fun she isn’t really that great of a character on her own.
- Reigen (Mob Psycho 100)
For how crucial his character seem to be to Mob himself, Reigen feels oddly absent from large portions of MP100, so it feels hard to judge his character. He’s clearly had a positive influence on Mob, and he is an entertaining and endearing part of scenes he’s in. But outside of those things, he doesn’t feel particularly developed as a character beyond a single flashback near the end of the show.
- Pikari (Amanchu!)
Pikari may be a strong catalyst for Teko’s growth throughout Amanchu, but she herself is developed very little over that timeframe. There are moments of insight given to her character, but none that feel very significant or come near the close of the series. Her character isn’t necessarily bad, but it doesn’t stand on its own – she is more the catalyst for the growth of other characters, a person who inspires others to see what’s around them, but on her own doesn’t grow all that much across the course of the series.
- Papika (Flip Flappers)
Papika is the weakest of Flip Flapper’s “main trio” – she isn’t as developed as the other characters, instead being fairly solely focused on chasing after and having fun with Cocona. She remains committed to her passions throughout the show even despite some of the struggles she faces, but compared to Cocona and Yayaka she remains relatively stagnant in her character. That devoted passion may be the most important part of who she is, but it limits the role that Papika is ultimately able to play within Flip Flappers.
- Nishioka (Fune wo Amu)
Nishioka is a good counterbalance to Majime within Fune wo Amu, acting as a catalyst and friend and helping him move forward. He’s in turn motivated by Majime’s passion for The Great Passage project and moving the dictionary forward, and his efforts as a result of that make sense. But there are issues with his selflessness towards the dictionary team – no one person is that dismissive of their own self for the sake of others, and his willingness to manipulate and go behind the backs of higher-ups at the publishing company show that. But that should then lead him to have his own motivations and desires – no one can wear a mask like that all the time, so at some point his own personal desires that aren’t related to the dictionary team should be presented. And like all the characters in Fune wo Amu, his characterization suffers from the development lost by the 10-year timeskip, meaning that any character growth or changes during that timeframe is sadly missing. What happened after he changed departments? How did he and his girlfriend ultimately end up together? These are crucial moments that would have immensely expanded on his character that we don’t have, and as such it’s hard to think highly of Nishioka’s character without what could’ve expanded on and addressed many of the issues present with his character.
- Oota (Tanaka-kun is Always Listless)
Oota isn’t a incredibly complex or developed character, but he’s one of the most reliable and caring characters in recent memory. He treats all others with the same respect and care, and the contrast between his appearance and true nature is both entertaining and encouraging to see. He may enable Tanaka’s listlessness, but it’s something born out of his empathy for Tanaka and care for his friend, which again is shown clearly not just towards Tanaka but towards others as well. He doesn’t have a ton of background or development on his own, but he does stand well as his own character and his actions all fit well with his character.
- Chidori (Kiznaiver)
Chidori is often criticized for her stubbornness, for her refusal to grow or be honest with herself or others, or for being selfish and rejecting help. But in my opinion this is a critical part of what makes Chidori herself – it’s clear from the beginning that she has feelings for Katsuhira but can’t bring herself to admit the extent of those feelings to herself, much less to Katsuhira. And as the story progresses her unwillingness to acknowledge the full extent of those feelings only causes herself more pain and suffering. But that’s critical for Chidori – it takes her reaching her lowest point for her to finally realize her self-destructive behavior to the fullest extent. Ultimately Chidori suffers from the same issues that the other characters of Kiznaiver deal with, mainly a lack of time for full character development across only 13 episodes. But she isn’t a bad character by any stretch – being a good character isn’t related to being a good or even likable person, and Chidori is a better character in spite of her own failings.
- Sukeroku (Rakugo)
While I personally consider Kikuhiko the more developed of the two leads in Rakugo Shinjuu, Sukeroku is still undeniably critical to the show’s excellence. All of his actions and reactions make sense: his love of rakugo building into his desire to keep it alive and moving forward, his disregard for elders and casual demeanor resulting in the dismissal of his ideas and his ultimate expulsion from the world of rakugo. Sukeroku is a character tied deeply to rakugo, and without it we see as he struggles and suffers until Kikuhiko brings him back. While his character may not be as complex as Kikuhiko, his motivations are clear, and he’s crucial to the actions of both other key characters. Sukeroku is a complete character and fits well within the tragedy of Rakugo Shinjuu.
- Asuka (Eupho2)
Asuka’s character comes into clear focus in the second season of Hibike Euphonium. Her drive for nationals and gold; her cold, aloof demeanor; her emotional distance from others and distaste for drama. Every one of her actions makes sense for her character and her role – she chooses to press the band forward for the band’s sake as well as her own, she tries to quarantine drama because she doesn’t want anything to interfere with her own dream of seeing her father. And her own love for the euphonium is revealed as the way she can love her father, by following after him and playing the instrument. We see how her relationship with Kumiko changes her assumptions and helps her grow, how Kumiko confronting and challenging her allows her to open up and share more. In a cast full of great characters, Asuka is one of the best with clear convictions, growth, and actions throughout the entirety of Eupho2.
Final Awards Writeup for Asuka (T2 out of 9)
Asuka’s character comes into clearer focus than ever before in the second season of Hibike! Euphonium. Her personality is revealed at a steady pace throughout the course of the show, covering details such as her emotional distance from others and her passion for the euphonium. Her arc with Kumiko in the later episodes is intimate and emotional, and her resulting growth is well-earned. Asuka takes a larger role in this season compared to the first, but there are times where her role within the show is diminished, or where her character arc is overly simple or predictable. These negatives were the jury’s main reason for placing her below the top picks in third; but with a clear positive consensus amongst jury members, we felt that Asuka was one of the best characters of the year with well-developed actions, convictions, and growth throughout the entirety of Hibike! Euphonium 2.