While there is no longer such a big difference between anime titles released in North America and those released in Australia, the gap is still there and some fantastic titles have yet to be picked up by one of the (now) four Australian anime publishers. The purpose of the North American Anime Release of the Year 2013 award is to highlight the best North American exclusive titles and hopefully generate some interest in them throughout Australia to warrant a publisher picking up the rights. While not one of the two major awards, I will be listing a single winner alongside two runners up.
It may be debatable if this is a North American exclusive title given that the blu-ray release is not region locked and copies can be easily shipped around the world. However I am going to be going with publishers here, and I have put forward Little Witch Academia (リトルウィッチアカデミア) as being my winner for the award this year. This is the first anime title handled by new US-based company Acttil, which was formed earlier this year by three former Nippon Ichi Software America staff. It has also drawn in a huge fanbase with initial free streams of the episode on Youtube drawing in millions of views, and a Kickstarter campaign for the sequel drawing in $625,518 from fans.
There is much to love about Little Witch Academia despite its short 26-minute run – high quality visuals, an intriguing storyline that keeps you captivated throughout (Which I described in my original review as “one of the few “Magical School” series since Harry Potter that will keep you captivated from start to finish.”) and more. The Blu-ray collector’s edition was also quite nice, including a design compendium themed artbook and an hour-long “Making of” documentary that is just as interesting as the film is enjoyable.
Little Witch Academia is well deserving of “The Otaku’s Study North American Anime Release of the Year 2013” award.
Last year Nippon Ichi Software America managed to walk away with North American Anime Release of the Year 2012 with anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day, which even today is still one of my all-time favorite anime series. Unfortunately as a publisher they have failed to license anything up to those standards despite the number of interesting titles they had on offer. However playing to their strengths and what makes them such an interesting video game / anime publisher, NIS America manged to gain my attention with their license of Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl – also known as Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko / 電波女と青春男.
Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl was a series well suited to NIS America and I am glad that they were able to pick it up. While the storyline could have offered more in terms of content, with a small but interesting collection of characters it was certainly an enjoyable when coupled with solid efforts in design, music and the normal goodies that come with a NIS America premium edition release.
I will be quite open in saying that I am not a big fan of the “romance” genre in much of anything – anime, novels, movies et cetera. Even when the usual “comedy” genre is added to the mix, most of the time a series seems to come off as being average at best. While not a title I would have picked up, after hearing positive things about it when it was first aired in Japan, I was pleasantly surprised to see just how enjoyable Sentai Filmworks’ release of Place to Place (Acchi Kocchi / あっちこっち) turned out to be.
The relationship between Io and Tsumiki is the highlight of the series, however this element is complemented by comedy that doesn’t try to go over the top and some simple school-life events that don’t shake the formula. While not shaking the formula too greatly, sometimes it is the simpler series that come out on top and Place to Place is a perfect example of this.
Changing the originally planned awarding practice, over the next couple of days the reviews of all three titles will be updated to reflect their awards in a similar fashion to the major awards recipient set to be announced tomorrow evening. Little Witch Academia will receive a gold trophy, Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl a silver trophy and Place to Place a bronze one.