Here are the best characters of 2012, meaning the characters that were most memorable or contributed the most to their shows. Characters are only eligible if they were first introduced during 2012, and only one male character and one female character from each show is eligible.
Top 5 Female Characters of 2012
5: L85A1 (Eru) – Upotte!
Incompetence as a moe trait is nothing new, but Eru brings a fresh twist on it by being an incompetently-designed assault rifle, who can’t fire more than a couple hundred rounds without jamming. That’s somehow cuter than dropping plates or tripping over her own feet? The series was full of jokes about how terrible a weapon the L85A1 is, and one thing I appreciated was that even when the series got serious and the gun girls were having passionate battles, Eru didn’t suddenly become a reliable gun through the power of friendship, or anything. She remained a dud, but fought hard to contribute anyway. To fight for justice even in the face of inevitable mechanical malfunction is true heroism, so Eru gets a place on the list.
4: Inaba Himeko – Kokoro Connect
At first, when the strange incidents in Kokoro Connect began happening, Himeko seemed to be the calm, rational leader of the group, stopping everyone from panicking and figuring out what they could do to limit the damage. As things continued, though, she broke down. Her calm, rational facade was hiding her insecurities and her inability to trust anyone or anything, and when the incidents forced her to trust people because she lost control of her body, she couldn’t keep it up. Unlike the other characters, she didn’t have any sort of hidden trauma in her past causing her grief – and this very fact made things worse, because she felt like she didn’t deserve to be having emotional struggles when nothing bad had happened to her like it had to her friends. This made her a more interesting character than her friends with their boring conventional personal traumas.
3: Kanoe Yuuko – Tasogare Otome x Amnesia
Yuuko was a ghost, doomed to forever haunt her old school where she had died. But she didn’t get all weepy about it, she took things in stride and used her spectral powers to troll the living, in particular her sort-of-boyfriend the living human Keiichi. And this made for some good comedy. Then later we found out that she didn’t get all weepy about it because she had been repressing her emotions at the time of her death and her negative emotions were physically removed from her ghostly form. And this made for some good drama, as the characters tried to make her whole again, and wondered what she would even be like if she were whole. The conclusion to the story was kind of weak, but up to that point, the character of Yuuko had been compelling.
2: Agiri – Kill Me Baby
Agiri is a secondary character in Kill Me Baby and so only occasionally shows up, but when she does, she’s great. She has a dubious repertoire of “ninja tricks” (such as a ninja trick to disguise your voice by breathing in helium), a laid-back attitude toward life, and love of trolling. All the best characters are trolls, really. Plus, she has an amazing voice. Listen to this character song of hers, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. I just wish Kill Me Baby had had more Agiri in it, she could have salvaged it.
1: Protagonist – Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita
She may never be given a name, but she’s still a great character. I’m not sure she’s what People Concerned About Representations Of Women In Media mean when they talk about needing more Strong Female Characters, but I think she does a good job of being simultaneously heroic and feminine. I’m not sure what it is about her, but she’s one of the most female characters I’ve seen in anything. Maybe it’s the long pink hair, maybe it’s that her hobby is baking sweets to share with fairies, maybe its her emotional problem-solving skills. Anyway, she has a really appealing earnestness about her. She’s cynical about human society, but that makes her perfect for her job as a liaison with the fairies. She’s cynical about human society, so that allows her to look at the weirdnesses of fairy society without pre-judging them. After all, they can hardly be worse! Someone with a more conventional view on things would get angry at all the nonsense the fairies put her through, but she accepts it with just a few wry jokes. She’s great.
Top 5 Male Characters of 2012
5: Kaiki Deishu – Nisemonogatari
Kaiki Deishu, the villain of the first half of Nisemonogatari, only appeared in a few scenes, but the scenes he appeared in, he dominated. A self-proclaimed conman, he took control of any conversation involving him. First, when Karen came to challenge him, and he showed her that she was suffering from wishful thinking when she thought she had the power to protect people. And then when Araragi and Senjougahara came to take revenge, he confused them and turned aside their wrath. Senjougahara had come prepared to do murder, and he left her standing there looking like an idiot. He was like an adult among children, which in fact he was. An impressive villain, all the more impressive for how impressive he was despite being just a conman and not having magical powers like many of the other characters.
4: Akasaka Ryuunosuke – Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo
Ryuunosuke is sort of a horrible person. He hides away in his room all the time, he wrote an AI maid to respond to his email for him so he wouldn’t have to bother with it, he hates everyone, especially women, and especially people with big dreams but no work ethic. But honestly, I kind of hate the characters of Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo too. So when he yells at Sorata for taking game design lightly, or at Rita for being a hypocrite and hiding behind a fake smile, I am usually cheering right along with him. Plus the maid AI he built is cute.
3: Tabata Hidenori – Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou
Daily Lives of High School Boys was at its heart a show about insecure young men trying to behave appropriately in the world, and the trouble they got up to trying to meet society’s expectations. This theme was most strongly explored in the character of Hidenori, who was always overthinking a situation to see what would be expected of him, and went to great lengths not to let the other party down. The best example is in his interactions with the Literary Girl, Yassan. He notices that she wants to have a dramatic meeting by the riverbank, and goes to great lengths to be that dramatic meeting. It’s not clear what he hopes to gain out of it – as much as I might have wanted them to, the two of them never pursue a romantic relationship. He’s just trying to do his duty, as he sees it. And the crazy things he sees as his duty lead to some good if awkward comedy.
2: Polar Bear – Shirokuma Cafe
Polar Bear is a polar bear. He runs the Shirokuma Cafe. Shirokuma is Japanese for Polar Bear. In fact, his name is actually “Shirokuma”, I just translated it into English for the sake of my English-speaking readers. Shirokuma likes puns. He likes really bad puns. He makes the puns with an implacable deadpan, although who can even read a polar bear’s facial expression anyway? He dispenses deep wisdom/obvious trolling to the regulars at his cafe. Polar bears are cute.
1: Arita Haruyki – Accel World
Haruyuki is sort of an unlikely hero – he’s short and fat and cowardly and so down on himself that the online avatar he uses is a pig. But that just makes it more interesting to watch him fight to become stronger and live up to Kuroyukihime’s faith in him. If there’s one good thing about him, it’s his loyalty. And not loyalty, like, to his friends (although he is surely loyal to his friends and that surely does him credit), but loyalty to his guild leader and the goals of Nega Nebulous. It gives him courage he could never find on his own. A short fat cowardly waste of space like him would never become stronger to protect himself, he would just sort of shrug his shoulders and accept that it was his fate in life to be pushed around and bullied. But serving the goals of Nega Nebulous and Kuroyukihime let him strive towards an end and better himself in a way that he never could have on his own. It’s not a usual tale of heroism, but Haruyuki isn’t a usual hero.