Saturday, January 18, 2014

Anime Best of 2013, Part 5: Top Female Characters

Man, this took me a while to write. Real life got really busy.

Anyway, it's time to look at the characters that made up 2013. This post will be dedicated to female characters (male characters will be covered next), so expect this post to be filled with plenty of moe. But also expect the actual list of my favorite female characters to go into actual character writing and development.

Special Rules: In additional to normal eligibility rules, only one character per show is eligible per list. Other good characters from the same show will be mentioned as honorable mentions. I've also tried to avoid overlap in the lists, though there will still be some here and there.


Of course, there'll also be plenty of beautiful, adorable girls, such as Kin-iro Mosaic's Aya. 




Top 10 Cutest Female Characters

You are about to be faced with an onslaught of moe. Prepare yourself. "Cuteness" is not determined solely by physical appearance, for the record. Also, for this list, I will simply post the full list and talk about all the entries afterwards, and rather than overloading this post with picspam, I'll simply link to the character descriptions on MyAnimeList.

#10. Mayumi Yoshino, Silver Spoon
#9. Kirara Bernstein, GJ-Club
#8. Kanae Mitani, Tamayura ~more aggressive~
#7. Alice Cartelet, Kin-iro Mosaic
#6. Yuiko Enomoto, Love Lab
#5. Choi Mochimazzui, Tamako Market
#4. Shiori Shiomiya, The World God Only Knows: Goddesses
#3. Renge Miyauchi, Non Non Biyori
#2. Mayoi Hachikuji, Monogatari
#1. Ai Astin, Sunday Without God

Honorable Mentions: GJ-Club: Megumi, Geraldine; Tamayura: Maon; Kin-iro Mosaic: everyone; Love Lab: Suzune, Non Non Biyori: Komari, Hotaru; Monogatari: Shinobu

Mayumi is cute in a different way than the others, being more of a down-to-earth, girl-next-door cute. Kirara's cat-like behavior makes her rather adorable despite being the largest of the GJ girls. Kanae is a new character introduced in the new Tamayura season, and her chemistry with the lead character, among other things, make her a great, adorable addition. Kin-iro Mosaic's character designs pretty much make every single character adorable, with Alice being the cutest of them all. Yuiko is about as cute as a tsundere can get, with her remarkable honesty and simpleness foiling any attempt to be serious. Choi is an island girl who comes to the Usagiyama Market to find Dera, and her fish-out-of-water status allows her to get fascinated by a lot of things, which contributes a lot to her cuteness. Shiori has always been the cutest of Keima's conquests, and the "story" she writes with him in the latest season only helps… as does the fact that [spoiler: she is host to the goddess Minerva, who is every bit as adorable as she is]. Renge is just full of adorableness, right from the first Nyan-pasu. Mayoi continues to be one of my favorite characters in the Monogatari series, right up to [spoiler: her departure during "Shinobu Time". ;_;]

But in the end, there's no one more adorable than Ai Astin of Sunday Without God. I'll definitely be talking more about her later, so I'll save further comments for that.

Top 10 Most Beautiful Female Characters

Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder, and like the "cutest" list, it includes more than just physical appearance. So just consider this a list of characters I found "beautiful". There won't be too many comments on this one.

#10. Orine Aida, AKB0048 next stage
#9. Scar, Sunday Without God
#8. Benten, The Eccentric Family
#7. Myucel Foaran, Outbreak Company
#6. Mashiro Shiina, The Pet Girl of Sakurasou
#5. Haruka Minami, Minami-ke Tadaima
#4. Saitou, Rozen Maiden Zuruckspulen
#3. Gou MatsuokaFree!
#2. Tsubasa Hanekawa, Monogatari
#1. Aya Komichi, Kin-iro Mosaic

Honorable Mention: Monogatari: Hitagi

Just a couple comments to make on the top 3 here. Gou is possibly the best-designed female character in anime, and it helps that she herself is a great character (more on that later). Go figure she comes from a series best known for hot guys... Tsubasa ultimately won out over Hitagi due to [spoiler: her black-and-white "tiger" hair that she gets at the end of her arc, and what that hair symbolizes]. And then there's Ayaya, who manages to be both adorable and beautiful, as one can see from the picture I posted earlier.

Top 10 Supporting Female Characters

This is actually a pretty important category, so I'll be talking about these girls a bit more in detail. If MyAnimeList classifies the character as "supporting", she is eligible, though some "supporting" characters I have instead placed in the upcoming lists with main characters because they were just that good. Not that these gals aren't great in their own way.

#10. Ridget, Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet - Amidst the story of Ledo trying to adapt to his new lifestyle and Amy's role in that, Ridget serves as a leader aboard the Gargantia. Her trying to come to terms with the responsibility of that role is definitely a significant part of this show.

(Honorable mention: Melty)

#9. Tenri Ayukawa/DianaThe World God Only Knows: Goddesses - I definitely recommend checking out the "Tenri-hen" OVAs if you can find them if you want to see Tenri as a main character. Here, as her goddess Diana has already been revealed, the two of them serve a supporting role, and by no means a bad one, as she provides some critical support to Keima during some critical times.

(Honorable mention: Nora)

#8. Atsuko "Acchan the 13th" Maeda, AKB0048 next stage - There were so many characters that could have gone here, from various current members of the main group to Megumi of the 76th generation to the various adults and former idols. This show really does make much use of its extended cast. However, Acchan has an interesting role in essentially being a posthumous character, having disappeared some time ago after becoming Center Nova. However, her ideals continue to drive the group, and in the end, she does make some significant contributions to the story.

(Honorable mentions: Way too many to name.)

#7. Kaede "Candy Store" Kagayama, Non Non Biyori - Episode 10 was what really sealed this one for me. It's one thing seeing her take care of Renge almost as if she was her own daughter, but seeing how that relationship started from Renge's infancy is really adorable and heartwarming.

#6. Minori Koganuma, Outbreak Company - If Outbreak Company can be considered a harem by virtue of there being three females interested in the male lead, it's worth noting that Minori, the bodyguard assigned to protect him, is not one of them. The two of them do have a good working relationship (never mind Shinichi's constant noting of her chest), and Minori herself is a great supporting character, being an excellent bodyguard when she needs to spring to action, and also advising those around her with her wisdom. Oh, and she's a yaoi fangirl, but that's secondary.

(Honorable mention: Romilda)

#5. Kaisei Ebisugawa, The Eccentric Family - For much of the show, Kaisei is an enigma. She appears frequently to help out Yasaburo, but never shows her face, either hiding from view or disguising herself like tanuki can. Even when we viewers get to see her, she remains a mysterious character. However, her decisions to stand up to the evils of her father and brothers and her actions are ultimately critical in saving the Shimogamo family.

(Honorable mention: Shimogamo mother)

#4. Tamako Inada, Silver Spoon - Plus-sized anime girls don't appear too frequently, or at least they usually aren't drawn as such. Sure, plenty of anime girls are worried about their weight, but most of them usually look like they are of a normal weight. Tamako, on the other hand, is definitely a large girl, and she cares not one iota about her weight. Instead, her mind is on how to make a profit. However, she is not a heartless girl, as we see when the characters visit her family's megafarm. She's definitely an interesting character and just one more example of the strong cast of characters this show has.

(Honorable mention: Mayumi Yoshino)

#3. Shizuka Hiratsuka, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU - Teachers really ought to get more love. Especially a teacher like Hiratsuka-sensei, who has to deal with people like Hachiman and Yukino almost constantly. (Not to mention such teachers almost always are in their thirties and still single.) And yet, she serves a great role in this show as someone who provides some great counsel to the main cast and helps them out through life: truly a great teacher. And she's not the only great teacher in anime this past year...

(Honorable mention: Komachi Hikigaya)

#2. Yoriko Matsumoto, Yuyushiki - Better known as "Mom", Yoriko transcends the normal role of teacher to become a motherly figure to the main characters and to the entire school. She herself seems to have accepted her role, and is even willing to invite the main characters over to her place for some hotpot. Definitely a worthy candidate for Teacher of the Year at her school.

(Honorable mention: Chiho Aikawa)

#1. Chihiro Miyoshi, Tamayura ~more aggressive~ - Chihiro is the childhood friend of main character Fuu from her old hometown, and through the first series was mainly worried about whether Fuu could adapt to her new home. In the sequel, she has instead taken inspiration from Fuu's strength to make a new friend of her own in Tomo. However, in her visit to Fuu's town, she finally gets a chance to make good on an old promise with her old friend, and the moment they share together in episode 8 is definitely one of my favorite moments of 2013.

Top 10 Female Character Personalities

This list is more for "static" characters that don't undergo much in the way of character development, either because they're not a "main" character or because the type of show they're in (usually a comedy or slice-of-life) simply doesn't require it. Though some of them do develop a bit anyway, but their base personality is still what I mainly take into account. I will also note the personality traits of these characters after each entry.

#10. Kona "Frau" Furugoori, Robotics;Notes - Eccentric otaku
#9. Megumi Chihaya, Servant x Service - Snarky cosplaying co-worker
#8. Himawari Shinomiya, Vividred Operation - Factory otaku, rather eccentric
#7. Karen Kujou, Kin-iro Mosaic - Energetic, fun-loving
#6. Yoshino, Minami-ke Tadaima - Epic troller
#5. Rento Kirishima, Stella Women's Academy, High School Division Class C3 - Caring, supportive
#4. Chiho Sasaki, The Devil is a Part-Timer - Simple and straightforward
#3. Komachi Hikigaya, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU - A "normal" little sister
#2. Yukari Hinata, Yuyushiki - Highly eccentric and fun-loving
#1. Kanna Makino, Tamako Market - Highly eccentric, and somewhat of a troller

Somehow, I think I like eccentric characters.

Top 20 Female Characters

And here we go. The top 20 female characters. Yes, I went ahead with a full 20, because there really were a lot of great characters from this year. This list will also have a mild picspam, with all images courtesy of MyAnimeList. Be warned that this list has a fair number of spoilers, though they will be hidden.

#20. Mikasa Ackerman, Attack on Titan

Attack on Titan is a bit stronger with male characters than with females, but Mikasa is plenty good to represent the females of the series. She's an excellent fighter, and much of the series, you'll see her making mincemeat of the Titans. She's also got a well-developed character overall and provides critical support to the characters, especially Eren, throughout the show.

(Honorable mention: Zoe)




#19. Tomoko Kuroki, WataMote

Tomoko is quite the character. Half the time you want to hug her because life has it so bad for her, and half the time you want to smack her upside the head for being so stupid over how she's going about trying to make friends and be popular. In terms of being flawed characters, she's definitely one of the most flawed, and she hardly grows, if at all, over the course of the series. Nevertheless, she is definitely one of the past year's most memorable characters.





#18. Setsuna Ogiso, White Album 2

Speaking of flawed characters, Setsuna is a great example of a character that has all the appearances of a perfect, has-it-all-together school idol but who is actually  very much not so behind her mask. Main character Haruki gets to see the type of person she really is, but even he is not quite ready for how she can get once she gets thrown into the show's main love triangle. Nevertheless, she genuinely wants things to go as well as possible, and it's hard not to cheer for her, even when everything seems to be going wrong.




#17. Amy, Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet

Amy serves a very important role in this tale of Ledo's re-encounter with humanity, as she is his main connection to the strange, new world that he gets thrown into. For someone like Ledo, who has lived in what is really a rather dystopian society, Amy is just the person he needs to show him the real heart of humanity. She also manages to do one really awesome thing during the show, which I won't spoil for those that have yet to see this show.





#16. Aki Mikage, Silver Spoon

Aki is definitely a helpful friend (and love interest) to the main character, Yuugo Hachiken. She has a love for horses and in some ways sees Yuugo as like a horse as well (though there are definitely hints that she also has feelings for him). The main reason she makes this list, though, is the part of the show where she invites Yuugo to work on her farm over the summer. She serves almost a similar role to Amy, albeit on a much smaller scale; Yuugo might not come from a dystopian society, but he definitely comes from a dystopian family, and Aki and her family are able to allow him to be a part of a normal, caring family, which helps him grow and face what faces him once he returns to school. I'm looking forward to seeing more of her in the second season.

#15. Haruka Kotoura, Kotoura-san

This girl has had a very rough life growing up thanks to her mind-reading powers; however, over the course of the series, she is able to grow to accept her powers, and even use her experience to help others out. She is able to forgive one character that has greatly wronged her, and is able to also handle things with her estranged mother surprisingly well. Of course, there is also her romance with Manabe… Haruka Kotoura is just a great character all-around.

(Honorable mention: Hiyori)



#14. Ruri "Kuroneko" Gokou, Oreimo S2

Oh, Kuroneko. It's almost unfortunate you ended up in this show, though that's not so much the fault of the show itself as it is how it ended. At any rate, she has already been a favorite during the first season, and she only gets better in this season as she comes to terms with her feelings for Kyousuke as well as her desires for her friendship with Kirino. It's a shame that such a great character had to essentially be cast off during those Haruhi-forsaken specials, though to her credit, she manages to get in one last awesome thing during those episodes.




#13. Gou Matsuoka, Free!

Go figure that in a show that's best known for its swath of hot guys, its the girl that is one of my favorite characters of the year. Even from a strictly comedic perspective, she has a fun role in essentially being a stand-in character for the show's female watchers, thanks to her sheer love of muscles. Much to her credit, though, her fangirling over muscles in no way makes her a shallow, guy-crazy fangirl; she keeps her composure perfectly fine in front of guys that are interested in her. Beyond that, she's also very competent in her role as the manager of the Iwatobi Swim Club, and she does one very critical thing during the show that pushes the guys forward. She's also very concerned about her brother, in a reasonably-sisterly way.

#12. Makoto SaekiGingitsune

For the resident shrine maiden of the Saeki shrine and the oracle that is able to see Gintaro, Makoto is less like a woman of a divine job and more like an energetic high schooler who can be selfish at times and treats Gintaro less like a divine being and more like a close friend. For all of that, though, she is a character that is easy to relate with, and her cheerful, honest ways make it very easy to cheer for her throughout this little show.

(Honorable mention: Yumi)



#11 (tie). Nagisa Motomiya/Chieri Sono, AKB0048 next stage

There was no way I could choose between these two. Both of them are already great characters as they are, and they grow in such great ways in this sequel. Of the two, Nagisa is the more "normal" character, being driven mainly by her love of music and AKB0048, and despite not being one of the better idols skill-wise, that love helps move the group forward no matter how bad things get for them. The moment in the finale when she is rewarded for her love and determination (I won't spoil how; you'll have to watch it yourself) is just one of the awesome things about the show's grand finale.

Chieri has had a longstanding love for music and AKB0048, despite her more serious personality. Her dedication to becoming an idol, as well as her skill, make her one of the popular members of the 77th generation of trainees. In addition to all of that, she also has her goal of trying to reconcile with her estranged father. Through all of this, she encounters all sorts of trials (literally, in one case), and despite it all, she manages to come out stronger because of it. Like Nagisa, she also gets rewarded for all of this in a rather incredible way during the finale.




#10. Haruka Saigusa, Little Busters!

Haruka's arc was definitely my favorite of the pre-Refrain! arcs. Haruka herself is a fun, cheerful, and energetic girl, but she starts showing quite some depth during her story arc. She's been subject to a lot of horrible things due to her past, and unlike many such characters who simply suffer through it like an innocent moe girl, Haruka instead takes a more realistic route in lashing out against the world that has tormented her. This makes her much more relatable than most visual novel heroines. Of course, she wouldn't be here if she didn't eventually grow through her arc, and that growth is definitely nice to see. The first season of Little Busters! might not be particularly highly regarded, but Haruka's arc is plenty worth it, in my opinion.

(Honorable mention: Rin)

#9. Yui Yuigahama, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU

This girl might not be as messed up as Hachiman or Yukino, but she's definitely got her share of problems, particularly with the somewhat popular group of friends that she normally hangs out with. In addition, there's the fact that Hachiman is technically no stranger to her. Over the course of the show, she tries to befriend Yukino while also trying to interact more with Hachiman. It's hard to really say everything I like about Yui; suffice it to say, she feels like a very real character, with all of the troubles she goes through and the way she tries to face everything she has in front of her. Not only that, she provides a bridge between the socially-reclusive Yukino and Hachiman and the social world they inevitably have to come in contact with.

(Honorable mention: Yukino)

#8. Chihiro Kosaka, The World God Only Knows: Goddesses

Hoo boy. No way I'm going to be able to talk about this girl without spoilers. Chihiro appears right from the start of the series, and gets her own arc in the second series. In this series, she is one of the prime candidates for being a Goddess host, partly because she's one of the closest to Keima otherwise, and seems to still have feelings for him. Of course, having feelings for someone like Keima cannot be a good thing, and it only gets worse when it's revealed that she does not host a goddess, and has actually been in love with Keima long before he started capturing loose souls… and after having her heart broken, she then ends up finding out about the whole reason why Keima is trying to win the hearts of girls in the first place. Now as an accomplice to him, she has to try to reconcile her feelings for him with his unusual mission, all while dealing with her insecurity over not being a particularly special girl. The final scene of her at the Mai Festival is heartbreaking, but it's representative of her inner strength, even without a goddess inside of her.

(Honorable mentions: Haqua, Ayumi)

#7. Shinobu Oshino, Monogatari

There's a lot we still don't know about Shinobu, in part because SHAFT has still yet to release that prequel Kizumonogatari movie. Until then, what we know about her is that she used to be an incredibly powerful vampire named Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade, and that after certain events, she lost much of her power (and turned lead male Koyomi into a part-vampire), and is now bound to Koyomi, living in his shadow. She was silent for all of Bakemonogatari before surprising us all in Nisemonogatari for actually being quite spunky and talkative. Her relationship with Koyomi is actually fairly complicated, and as much as she tries to pass herself off as a powerful being that could kill Koyomi at any time, it seems that she is actually rather fond of him. We really get to see what their relationship is like in Kabukimonogatari, and then we get another peek into her history in Onimonogatari; all in all, we find Shinobu as an incredibly interesting character that is far more complex than being just some insanely powerful apparition.

(Honorable mentions: Mayoi, Nadeko, Tsubasa)

#6. Rika Shiguma, Haganai NEXT

Here's a fun fact: In the first season of this show, Rika was actually my least favorite character. Her highly-perverted ways were pretty funny but ultimately did not give her much in the way of characterization at all. So what happened this season that suddenly made her my favorite character of this series? Well, her perversion is still there, but she goes beyond that to not only really go into the fact that she's a lonely person looking for friends, but really tries to confront Kodaka with his indecisiveness over making friends. From being a background character in the first season that just makes dirty jokes, she plays a large role in the second season, and in the finale, [spoiler: she agrees to be Kodaka's first real friend.] I'm surprised they managed to extract this much depth out of who I thought was just a joke character; she is definitely a big reason why I like the second season of Haganai significantly more than the first.
Honorable mention: Yukimura
#5. Elder Sister Maid, MAOYU

If there's one reason why MAOYU was still very good and not a complete disappointment, it is this girl. She, along with her younger sister, were once lowly serfs who were rescued by the main characters when they escaped to try to find freedom. Initially derided by the Head Maid for being "bugs" that do not take control of their own life, she and her sister start learning under both the "Crimson Scholar" (a.k.a. the Demon King) and the Head Maid about being a true human. As she studies under the Crimson Scholar, she really starts to become a strong character, which all comes to a head during episode 9 and her grand speech, which is definitely one of the best moments of this season. There's enough about her to write an entire blog post about, if I can ever get around to it…

(Honorable mention: Demon King)

#4. Misaki Kamiigusa, The Pet Girl of Sakurasou

Misaki, upon her initial introduction, seems just like another hyperactive anime girl intent on causing as much chaos as possible with her boundless energy. However, gradually, we see more depth to this girl, first as she has to deal with her feelings for her childhood friend Jin, made more complicated by the fact that her natural artistic talent exceeds his. Eventually, we see how she views lead male Sorata, and we get a glimpse into the rough life she had until he joined Sakura Hall. All this comes to a point when [spoiler: she makes her own grand speech in order to protect Sakura Hall. I guess there's something I really like about characters that stand up to authority with epic speeches.]

(Honorable mentions: Nanami, Mashiro)

#3. Fuu "Potte" Sawatari, Tamayura ~more aggressive~

Fuu, or "Potte" as she is frequently called in the show, is the main character of the Tamayura series, which focuses on her growth as she seeks to reconnect with her late father through the camera he left her. At the end of the Hitotose TV season, she has already grown quite a lot in terms of dealing with the loss of her father, and makes a vow to be "more aggressive" the following year. Hence, we have this year's More Aggressive season, where she starts a photography club at her school in hopes of meeting other people who love photography. From there, she meets Kanae, and through their continued photography adventures, she is able to further learn more about her father, among other things. Watching Potte grow over the course of an OVA series and two TV series has been a real joy.

#2. Ai Astin, Sunday Without God

There are great characters in great shows, characters that make a show great, and then there are characters that define a show. Sunday Without God is otherwise a decent show about a world where death does not work normally, and what it means for the people in that world; however, it has become a memorable show due to the fact that we are looking at it through this young girl's eyes. In a world permeated by death, Ai can be described as the very embodiment of life, and arguably just what the world of this show needs in order to help its people seek out what it really means to live. She seeks to do her job as a Gravekeeper diligently, but moreover, she seeks to save as much of the world as possible. At the same time, she grows to understand some of the different views of life and death out there, and comes out stronger because of it. Plus, as I had ranked before, she is easily the most adorable character of the season. Make no mistake about it: Ai is love.
Literally, since "ai" is the Japanese word for love.
#1. Petralka Anne Eldant III, Outbreak Company

Taking the title of my favorite female character of 2013 is the young empress of the land of Eldant, Petralka. The first thing to note about Petralka is that she is a very competent ruler, and she is definitely capable of using her authority to get what she wants done, as shown quite well in the last episode. At the same time, the fact that she is still just a 16-year-old girl, and furthermore, one that has had some pretty bad stuff happen to her family, does mean that she does sometimes crack under the pressure, probably best shown in episode 8 when she retreats to her room to indulge in the hikkikomori lifestyle. There's also her growth over the course of the series, particularly regarding how she views half-elves, and especially her relationship with Myucel. A strong ruler and also a strong character in and of herself despite her small stature, Petralka is my favorite character of 2013.

---

Whew, that took a long time to do. The Top Male Characters will be coming… later. "Anime Best of 2013" will take a break while I do some posts on currently-airing shows, particularly the What I'm Watching introductory posts for new shows this season. I might not have this series done before February, but I'll have it done, however long it takes. Here's to hoping that 2014 is as full of great characters as 2013 was!

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