While my recent posts on remembering the past have been about the entire decade, I’m keeping the annual Best Anime Characters entries limited to this year. Besides, if I were to actually pick best characters of the decade, it’s pretty obvious who would win.

Looking back, there were quite a few good characters in 2009, so it wasn’t entirely easy to pick favorites. Still, I think each character is more than deserving.

THE BEST ANIME CHARACTERS OF 2009

BEST MALE CHARACTER

Takizawa Akira (Eden of the East)

Eden of the East emerges as one of the most smartly written shows of 2009, and its male protagonist Takizawa Akira really stands out in the way he manages to turn many cliches and conventions on their collective heads. Takizawa is able to take the concept of an amnesiac main character and make it work, with his lack of personal knowledge never holding him back from accomplishing what needs to be done.

Unlike other characters who are able to shine on their own however, Takizawa is at his best when he’s alongside female protagonist Morimi Saki. Their relationship is an interesting mix of trust, good-will, and a genuine desire to see the other happy, and it keeps Takizawa a cheerful and overall optimistic guy even in the face of the harshest realities.

BEST FEMALE CHARACTER

Aisaka Taiga (Toradora!)

Anime these days is full of girls whose cold exteriors mask their true feelings and intentions. Under the term “tsundere,” it’s become a trope of anime, a cliche, and its execution easily mishandled and capable of leading to a character who is simply two layers thin. But if ever people want to look at what can be achieved with the tsundere character type, where the girl’s emotional development over the course of a series is never compromised, then they should look no further than Aisaka Taiga.

One of Taiga’s finer qualities is that she is very sincere even when she doesn’t want to be, and it goes a long way to make her an incredibly convincing character. To quote myself from my  article on her Saimoe victory, “Taiga’s reactions to circumstances don’t come from a set of patterns, but from a mix of thoughts and emotions that bubble forth uncontrollably, like a raging pot with the lid still on. You can tell from the bit that seeps over the edge that the broth inside is of the finest quality, though it’s only a hint of what’s actually there.”

But then Taiga doesn’t simply stay this way. As her friendship with Ryuuji grows, so too does she, and by the end you can look back and see just how much she’s changed.

Final Word

Taken in their entirety, the best characters of 2009 are-

Wait a second.

I forgot that there’s one more award left.

BEST CHARACTER, MALE AND FEMALE

Baron Ashura (Shin Mazinger Shougeki!! Z-Hen)

No, I’m not kidding. Baron Ashura is one of the most well-known villains in anime history. Their antagonizing of Kabuto Kouji and Mazinger Z provide a classic example of how to be an evil foil to the intrepid hero. In a sense, all subordinates in giant robot series can trace their lineage back to Baron Ashura. They’re cliche because they are the cliche.

Things have changed, however. In Shin Mazinger Shougeki!! Z-Hen, Baron Ashura gains a level of development that they never received in previous incarnations to the point of Baron Ashura becoming arguably more important a character to the series than even Kabuto Kouji himself. You get to see Baron Ashura’s motivations, fears, and hopes, and you get to delve into their past. Most of all, you learn that Baron Ashura is a man-woman not to be underestimated.

The Real Final Word

The main points that all three winners have in common this year is that they 1) Defied convention despite being firmly planted within a set of cliches and 2) Were made better by their fellow characters.

It’s not uncommon to see people claim that “there are no new ideas left” in fiction, let alone anime and manga, but even if that were true (and I don’t believe it is), Takizawa Akira, Aisaka Taiga, and Baron Ashura all show that just because something’s been done before doesn’t mean that those areas can’t continue to be explored. Ideas can be revisited countless times, and when combined with the exploration towards new ideas the result can often be more satisfying than having the two separate.

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