Every year, the About.com Readers' Choice Awards showcase the best products, people, organizations, and services in multiple categories, from technology to hobbies to parenting to religion -- and yes, manga and anime too!
The About.com 2012 Readers' Choice Awards for Anime allowed the readers to submit nominations and vote for the winners in five key categories, listed below. As with last year's Readers' Choice Awards, we decided to keep the categories limited in timeframe entirely to releases, services and companies that were active in 2012. (All-time-greatest lists, fun as they are, tend to be harder to filter.)
This funny, crazy, touching, and ultimately brilliant hybrid of comedy, fantasy, SF, even psychological horror -- most everything under the sun, really -- had no trouble making best-of-the-year lists. It's not hard to see why: it's an original story loaded with a game, appealing cast who have some of the snappiest dialogue (in English and Japanese) of any show in recent memory. If you know someone who thinks good anime can't be made from video games (as this one was), show them Steins;Gate and call it a day.
Runner-up: Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt. I confess to not being a fan of this show, but I can't deny it has many moments of vulgar brilliance and excess (especially in its gloriously filthy English dub). And it's hard to deny the way it's turned the heads of both male and female fans.
An entirely deserved accolade, as I can't think of a single big-name anime title that has been needing to come back onto the rails for as long as Hellsing has -- and which has had as big a fan contingent clamoring for its reissue to boot. Much of the reason for the delay was corporate restructuring, as Geneon died and was reincarnated as a subsidiary of Universal Japan, but it was well worth it: we now have the OVAs (in high-def, no less) and the TV series back in the land of the living. Or would that be undead?
Runner-up: Tenchi Muyo! (OVA, Universe and films). A classic series, a foundational example of modern harem anime, and a fun ride all around -- which looks even better now that it's been remastered for HD from its original film elements.
That's right -- the best new series of 2012 was also voted the best on-streaming series of 2012. Originally airing on Crunchyroll, it was later licensed by FUNimation, who have since brought it back not only on BD and DVD but in various streaming venues in both English and Japanese -- a good way to find out what all the screaming has been about for this show.
Runner-up: Sword Art Online. Another series that more or less came out of nowhere, only to totally lionize the attention of fans, SAO's premiere on streaming via Crunchyroll turned many heads and made it into one of the most talked-about shows of the year. Aniplex of America has the series for domestic distribution, but as of this writing a release date hasn't been announced.
Hardly a surprise, given that FUNimation has not only been responsible for many of the year's best new releases (see above), but has been reissuing tons of classic titles thanks to their partnership with the newly-rejuvenated Geneon Universal. Plus, their in-house dub team does increasingly laudable work (Steins;Gate, Hetalia, Princess Jellyfish).
Runner-up: Aniplex USA. The folks who have given us everything from Madoka Magica to the Blu-ray editions of Baccano! to the similarly-lavish Rurouni Kenshin reissues came in a distant second, perhaps due to the pricy nature of some of their offerings.
With a catalog the size of theirs, with simulcasts as cutting-edge as theirs, and with a fanbase as loyal as theirs, Crunchyroll continues to be the best $6.95/month one could spend for a subscription to an anime-themed service. Plus, they now have mobile apps for everything from the PlayStation 3 to Samsung TVs.
Runner-up: FUNimation. Their own for-pay service streams titles directly from their catalog in HD, and they too offer per-season simulcasts from their catalog, although not nearly in the numbers that Crunchyroll does.