Better late than never, here are my favourite anime shows of the past year, selected from the 45 or so titles I watched in entirety which finished airing in 2013:
#1. Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) – This was the anime that really did capture my imagination. I looked forward to it week after week and it rarely disappointed. I was inspired to think about the mystery of the titans and to understand the motivations of the characters long after watching each episode. It also provided an ideal vehicle to showcase soundtrack composer Hiroyuki Sawano’s epic score, which was a perfect complement to the show.
The downside was that there was no conclusive ending; all the big questions remained unanswered at series-end. Also, at times the pacing was rather slow as some plot segments dragged on a little longer than necessary.
No sequel has been confirmed yet, but Attack on Titan enjoyed enough popularity, even beyond the usual anime fanbase, that we’ll certainly see one someday.
#2. The DEVIL is a Part-timer! (Hataraku Maou-sama!) – The series that got my highest rating of the year over at MAL, for its sharp humour, well-paced storytelling and lovable characters. The premise was pretty simple: Satan (Maou) and his subordinate found themselves magically stranded in modern-day Tokyo. They had no resources left to get home, so they had to do their best to make a life for themselves in the big city, including getting a job at MgRonald’s. It was brilliantly funny stuff.
The comedy wasn’t based on crazy hijinks, either. Instead, it was found in the day-to-day details that anyone who’s had to get used to a new environment or who’s had to work hard to make ends meet could relate to, with the added absurd spin that our protagonist was the devil himself, of course.
The negatives: no conclusive ending here either; also, the humour might work better on an audience with some prior familiarity with modern working class Japanese culture, with its references to 100yen shops and UNIQLO, for instance.
#3. Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club – My choice for the most rewatchable anime of the year. My sisters are Free! fangirls, so I have seen each episode several times, and you know, it really does stand up to repeated viewings.
Free! didn’t have the epic storyline of Attack on Titan, or the clever humour of Maou-sama, but it was very nicely animated, it had extremely well-developed characters and great execution overall.
Season 2 has now been confirmed and I couldn’t be more pleased.
#4. Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World) – An intriguing story featuring a novel future setting, Shin Sekai Yori started strong in its first half. I felt it lost some focus during the second cour, but then the series came to a satisfying conclusion in its impressive final episode.
Along the way, the series’ faults were considerable: slow pacing in parts, inconsistent character art, weak main protagonist – I kept waiting for Saki to become the great, enlightened leader she was chosen to be, but it never happened.
Despite all that, the depiction of the darkness of human nature was a compelling theme. And this was a rare instance where an anime’s ending actually elevated my overall estimation of a show.
#5. PSYCHO-PASS – Some of the grotesquerie from the first cour was a bit of a turn-off for me. The show really picked up in the second half, though, offering interesting ideas and complex characters, including female lead Akane. All in all, the storytelling and pacing were good; and in spite of the dark theme, it was a fun series to watch.
#6. Chihayafuru 2 – I admit, I was not as enamored with this season as I was the first, but I found it solidly entertaining regardless. I loved the characters, and the series never bored me, even with the greater focus on Karuta gameplay.
#7. The Eccentric Family (uchouten-kazoku) – uchoten-kazoku featured a close-knit family of tanuki still coming to grips with things in the wake of losing the father, who died unceremoniously before the events of the series. Simultaneously magical, quirky, charming, and darkly humorous, the narrative was strongest and most heart-warming when the focus was on the very human characters (even though they weren’t human) of the main tanuki family.
#8. Valvrave the Liberator (Kakumeiki Valvrave) – Valvrave started out as an over-the-top action anime featuring a crazy mash up of mecha, high school, political intrigue, and vampire elements. It got away with a lot of ridiculousness by being clearly self-aware. But the story was never a joke. I think the show managed to achieve a good balance between the silliness and the seriousness.
In general, the large cast had impressively well-defined personalities. And L-elf was particularly entertaining, with his freakish smarts and unhesitating brutality, providing a good foil for main character Haruto’s earnest idealism.
#9. Kyousougiga – What made this series work were the great characters and their relationships with each other. Even though the setting and happenings were crazy and surreal, the show was grounded in the sympathetic members of the central family. The end result was a positive, life-affirming, feel-good experience.
#10. Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince – This anime had a fair amount of satire and goofiness, much of it at the expense of the main characters, the members of Team Rabbits, AKA Fail Five. In particular, lovably dorky leader Izuru and boy-crazy Tamaki led the way for much of the humour. The show also featured a very convincing portrayal of GERD, and I felt for Asagi whenever his stomach acted up.
Ultimately though, Majestic Prince functioned reasonably well as a serious story about the protecting of humanity from alien threat. And finally, I can’t not mention the frequently impressive mecha battle sequences this show had; even a mecha-ignorant viewer such as myself could appreciate how good they were.
Biggest Regrets: Series that, in retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have bothered watching from beginning to end. Listed in approximate broadcast order with brief comment.
- MAOYU (groan)
- Love Live! School idol project (yawn)
- RDG Red Data Girl (incomprehensible)
- DEVIL SURVIVOR 2 The Animation (groan)
- Arata the Legend (Arata Kangatari) (yawn)
- GATCHAMAN CROWDS (incomprehensible)
- BEYOND THE BOUNDARY (Kyoukai no Kanata) (whatever)
- Galilei Donna (groan)