Jacquie’s 2013 Year in Review – Top 10 Anime

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)

Mid-Autumn 2013 Anime Ranking

Ah, the season’s almost over! Anyway, here’s the ranking. Spoilers up to the episodes indicated.


01. Valvrave the Liberator (Kakumeiki Valvrave) 2nd Season (ep. 13-22) – When the first season aired during the spring, this was a middling show for me, fun to watch, but it was hard to get a grasp on the plot. Gradually, this installment has inched its way up in my ranks. It’s becoming apparent that there is a plan after all and that this crazy show knows what it’s doing.

It’s amusing how everyone, especially Haruto and Renbokouji, is so reliant on L-elf’s leadership and intelligence. (Every time Renbokouji stubbornly says he’s going to wait for L-elf, I think of Inigo Montoya’s “I am waiting for Vizzini”!) Although episode 21 offered a sudden, violent plot turn, I thought it also suffered from L-elf’s absence – both in terms of lack of resistance by JIOR to enemy attack, and in terms of lack of enjoyment by this viewer.

Poor Saki, though. It’s bad enough she had to suffer a sexual assault in season one. Then, separated from her team and at the mercy of her enemies, her situation was triggering traumatic memories for me of what happened to the doctor’s wife in “Shiki”. Horrifying.

In the latest episode, Haruto and L-elf found themselves stranded in space and running out of oxygen. Faced with a similar scenario earlier this year, the astronauts in “Space Brothers” tried to help each other survive and go out with dignity. But this is Valvrave. These guys decided to spend their final moments having a fight. Gotta say, I enjoyed seeing them get bounced around in their chubby CG spacesuits; it was pretty funny.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


02. Samurai Flamenco (ep. 1-10) – Well, I was really enjoying this series. For the first few weeks, before Valvrave became so awesome, this was sitting firmly at the top of my list. I love the two main characters as well as the realistic setting. And having previously been a victim in a stolen umbrella incident in Tokyo, episode 2 was of personal relevance to me.

My interest in Samumenco waned a bit when the cast expanded to include Kaname Joji as Masayoshi’s mentor, and Flamenco Girl. And now, our heroes are fighting actual monsters? What happened to my realism? They’d better be going somewhere good with this!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


03. YowaPeda (Yowamushi Pedal) (ep. 1-10) – Not much happens in this cycling anime outside of, well, bike races, but as far as sports shows go, this one does it right. The comic timing is good and it’s hard not to root for our hardcore otaku/novice cyclist main character Onoda.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


04. Tokyo Ravens (ep. 1-10) – The initial story arc impressed me the most. There were a couple of times when I questioned possible inconsistencies, such as characters seeming to know more that they should, but eventually, those things actually were explained! I also appreciated that Harutora was tempted to just let the villain die at the end.

The use of CG scenes in this show is pretty glaring most of the time. On the other hand, I’m really liking the characters, for some reason, especially brooding, trolling Touji and lovably idiotic lead guy Harutora.
(streaming at FUNimation)


05. Kyousougiga (ep. 0-9) – There’s a lot I still don’t understand about Kyousougiga, not the least of which is pretty basic stuff like “who are some of these people?” So, it took me a while to develop an appreciation for this perplexing show.

It was probably episode 6, with its revelations about how Myoue (Yakushimaru) came to be part of the family, that turned things around for me. On the surface, Inari and Koto saved a boy’s life and gave him a loving home. But Yakushimaru was despairing and wanted to die! By making him immortal, they forever took away his ability to die. They meant well, of course, but seen in that light, their actions were also terribly cruel and selfish.

For that matter, the very creation of the Looking Glass City could be seen as a pretty arrogant act. Again, Inari seemed to have meant well and just wanted a peaceful place for his children to live in forever, but to play god like that… So we cheer on the younger Koto when she takes a stand to protect the place and its inhabitants, but is it really correct? Is it really advisable to threaten the existence of the other dimensions in order to save this world?

Will everything be explained when this is over? Somehow I doubt it. It wouldn’t surprise me if Kyousougiga ends the way it started, like an abstract artwork or poem, full of lovely provocative imagery, that makes you think and ask questions but won’t provide any easy answers. If you’re hoping everything will make sense at the end, it’s probably best to get used to disappointment.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

06. KILL la KILL (ep. 1-11) – This series has plenty of style and confidence. Lately, though, it’s just been one battle after another, and it’s hard for me to feel much excitement about that. I still have faith that they’re going somewhere eventually, but for now…

Here’s hoping the new theme songs next season pack a bit more oomph. The current ones are too light and poppy and are the weakest part of the show, in my opinion.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


07. Kuroko’s Basketball 2 (ep. 26-36) – Still entertaining, but so far, this is not living up to the standard set by the first season. There’s a greater focus on the games this time around. That’s not necessarily a problem, though. The biggest drawback for me is that the new characters who are showing up in these games are nasty people with no redeeming qualities. Previously, Seirin’s opponents had likeable personalities, and it was believable that they would all eventually come to understand and respect each other. It’ll definitely be harder to buy this time around if they end up all friendly-like.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

08. Space Brothers (Uchuu Kyoudai) (ep. 76-86) – The current season has focused on Mutta’s astronaut training and Hibito’s private struggle with panic disorder, and it’s been pretty solid. I don’t like that Hibito hasn’t confided in Mutta yet, so I hope that changes soon. (Note: I did not bother to watch any of the Mr. Hibbit shorts at the end of the episodes.)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

09. MAGI: The Kingdom of Magic (ep. 1-10) – MAGI proved once again that it’s not a kids’ show with the public beheading of a criminal in episode 6, with one of the protagonists as the executioner! It might be possible to convince me that the victim deserved it, but what I found most shocking was that the whole incident took place in front of the watchful eyes of a group of children. It bothered me that the show failed to address how horrific that was.

In general, this second season of MAGI has been largely underwhelming. Episode 7, in particular, was exceptionally tedious and unfunny and possibly the worst episode of any anime that I’ve seen in a long time. To be fair, though, even that episode had a brief flash of brilliance in the introduction of Ren Kouha; the way he was able to wield his, well, unwieldy sword was clever and cool.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


10. PHI BRAIN – Kami no Puzzle Season 3 (ep. 1-10) – By episode 4, I was already tired of the “Makata Jin loved puzzles, no, Makata Jin hated puzzles” conundrum. Isn’t it pretty obvious he despised puzzles that kill but liked the warm fuzzy ones? They’re still going on about it, so maybe there’s more to it than I think?

Anyway, PHI BRAIN’s always been good fun for when you just want to sit back and relax and not think too much. That continues to be true for this season.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

11. NAGI NO ASUKARA (Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the Sea) (ep. 1-11) – Apparently Nagi-Asu will be continuing for a second cour. I hope there’s going to be a huge time skip and the kids grow into adults. Right now, this show about the relationship between people of the sea and people of the land is a bit too sentimental. It’s also annoying that everyone chooses to play games instead of stating their feelings directly.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


12. Galilei Donna (ep. 1-10) – This show seems to want to be a Da Vinci Code-like quest adventure. It’s good that the protagonists are all capable females. But the plot developments are worse than in a kids’ cartoon; the girls always happen to be in the right place at the right time, or clues fall into their laps out of nowhere. Also, all the important relics are right there with them on the ship, not, for instance, at the home they were forced to abandon without notice. It’s increasingly hard to suspend disbelief and muster the energy to watch each new episode.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

13. BEYOND THE BOUNDARY (Kyoukai no Kanata) (ep. 1-11) – Unpleasant main characters, with no chemistry between the leads. The story is starting to make a little more sense now, but it’s not enough to make me care about what will happen to Mirai or Akihito or anyone else.
Sigh. What a waste of pretty KyoAni animation.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


14. Diabolik Lovers (ep. 1-12 complete) – Totally trashy show that you can’t help but continue watching once you start. The only good thing I can say is that the heroine’s character design was really cute. Unfortunately, she was nothing more than a powerless, abused slave to a twisted family of vampires. Just about every episode included a “rape” scene… and not much else in the way of character development or plot. And it’s my opinion only, but I didn’t see anything appealing in any of the male characters; when they are this ugly on the inside, it totally obscures any attractiveness on the outside. What an absolute fail for a reverse harem title!

Ultimately, I found some enjoyment in a so-bad-it’s-good kind of way. I think you would have to be a total “M” to actually get off on this stuff.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Mid-Spring 2013 Anime Ranking

“It hurts you don’t think of me as a friend.” The issue of trust is a common theme that has come up in several of the titles that I’m currently following. Without getting into too much detail, another frequent theme is: “I have seen the enemy, and he looks a lot like me.”

More than halfway through, this has been a season where a huge divide exists between the shows I’m keenly interested in (the top 5 or so) and most of the others, which I’m just watching anyway.


01. The DEVIL is a Part-timer! (Hataraku Maou-sama!) (ep. 1-9) – Yet another demon X human anime, this time the demon king is a guy and the human hero is a girl. Satan and his General Alsiel, as well as Heroine Emilia, must adapt to their new surroundings after being magically transported to modern-day Tokyo. It’s a simple premise, but the characters are immensely likeable, and it’s just been hugely funny in the small details.

Incidentally, I really like this hard-working demon lord, Maou, for the same reason that I conversely loathed lazy-ass Yamada from “Working!!.” Any employer would be lucky to have someone on staff with such excellent work ethic. Even I, myself, can only aspire to give as much to my company as he does to his!
(streaming at Funimation)


02. Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) (ep. 1-9) – Mikasa the Giant Slayer! Now this is more like what I wanted from “JACK THE GIANT SLAYER”: terrifying, super-strong, man-eating giants!

The first 2 episodes of this intense and graphic anime were completely grim. Then suddenly, ep. 3 introduced some humour as well, which was a surprising and welcome addition to an already outstanding show.

It’s likely Attack on Titan intentionally took its time developing the characters; that way, we would get a sense that anyone is expendable. I’m glad to see now that Armin is not just a useless sidekick and Jean is evolving beyond the jealous rival role.

And now that we’ve seen some of Mikasa’s background, motivations and vulnerability, I’m admiring her more and more. It’s not often that we get to see such truly strong female characters in anime, and she’s just one of several in this show!
(streaming at Crunchyroll and Funimation)


03. Gargantia on the Verderous Planet (Suisei no Gargantia) (ep. 1-9) – It’s the far future, and humans are embroiled in an endless war with space aliens known as Hideauze. After one battle, Ledo and his A.I./mecha, Chamber, find themselves marooned on the legendary planet Earth, long thought to have been destroyed. He encounters the people of Gargantia, a community made up of ships which have been joined together. They know nothing of the war in space, while Ledo knows nothing about non-military life.

The first 4 episodes handled narrative and character development exceptionally well. The themes presented were understated and thought-provoking. Unfortunately, the following 4 episodes were mostly disappointing and used up the good will that I initially felt for the series.

Similarly, I had been trying not to be annoyed by the canker-sore-like blushes on the bodies of Amy and her friends, but after a while, I could no longer ignore that they serve as a mark of cheap fanservice in a show which should really have more dignity than that.

That said, Gargantia still features probably the sharpest and brightest animation of the season, and things appear to be heating up finally, with the major revelation in the latest episode, so I’m eager to see where it goes from here.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


04. Chihayafuru 2 (ep. 14-21) – Continues to focus exclusively on the Karuta tournament rather than advancing the stories of the main cast. Remarkably continues to be riveting nonetheless.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


05. Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199) (ep. 1-10) – An updated remake of the 1970s anime, which I have not seen. The crew of the Yamato is tasked with the responsibility of finding a way to save humanity as Earth sits on the brink of destruction by alien forces. So far, the story has been compelling and the characters sympathetic.

06. Uta no Prince-sama: Maji LOVE 2000% (ep. 1-9) – UtaPri 2 is just a light confection, but it’s been pretty consistently over-the-top fun, more so than its predecessor. I like how most episodes manage to incorporate some action scenes even though this isn’t an action anime. Overall, it exceeds one’s expectations of an idol/reverse harem series. Well, the music could be better, but the awfulness can be funny too.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

07. Valvrave the Liberator (Kakumeiki Valvrave) (ep. 1-8) – With its huge cast of characters, the plot is sometimes hard to follow, and the motives of the various groups are unclear. Increasingly, it’s become fun to just enjoy the characters’ antics anyway. Valvrave is almost as convoluted and absurd as “GUILTY CROWN”, although this show is clearly more self-aware and intentionally ridiculous.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

08. Space Brothers (Uchuu Kyoudai) (ep. 52-60) – Mutta and his team are training in Houston, currently working on their entry for the Comeback Competition. The narrative continues to be solid, though still a bit slow-paced. This is a really good show, and I would have ranked it higher if it wasn’t for the tedious 3-episode recap at the start of the season.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


09. Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince (ep. 1-9) – About a team of promising mecha pilots (ridiculed by their peers as “Fail Five”) who are struggling to meet the demands of their new roles in the military during a conflict with, you guessed it, aliens. The show displays a curious blend of humour and irony and seriousness.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


10. Yondemasu yo, Azazel-san. Z (ep. 1-9) – As vulgar, violent, subversive, ugly as the first series. The first 2 episodes were awesome, partly because I “get” the Moloch fanservice. While I wouldn’t say that subsequent offerings have been terrible, I did think they were less inspired and also occasionally crossed the line between irreverently funny and genuinely offensive.
Also, there hasn’t been enough of Akutabe – or Beelzebub, for that matter. The two of them finally made their return in ep. 9, along with the introduction of a super-pervert villain. It was sooo vulgar, and yet so hilariously over-the-top that I had a huge grin on my face throughout… now I’m actually looking forward to the next episode!

11. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (Yahari Ore no Seishun Rabucome wa Machigatteiru) (ep. 1-8) – This anime about social misfits in a high school service club retreads some ground previously covered by shows such as Hyouka, Chuu2byo, Toradora, SKET Dance, Medaka Box…
It does manage to provide some amusement most of the time, even though it pretty much has no plot. I had trouble accepting the misfit gimmick initially, but the characters are getting more fleshed out and I find I’ve been enjoying them better recently. How is it the recurring, random gag about Hachiman’s strange attraction to effeminate Totsuka is funny every time?
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


12. Karneval (ep. 1-9) – If only Yogi were the main character of this series. He’s fabulous, quirky and endearing and the scenes with him are always the best. The actual leads, Gareki and Nai, pale by comparison. Gareki has very little outward personality, and Nai, who seems to get by on cuteness alone, isn’t even that cute (to my eyes, anyway).
So what are Circus and the other factions after and what does it have to do with the players involved? Couldn’t tell ya.
(streaming at Funimation)

13. DEVIL SURVIVOR 2 The Animation (ep. 1-9) – Frequently unintentionally funny. For instance, the way the characters have to hold their cell phones toward the battles, so they can use their apps to fight monsters, is laughable. It probably doesn’t help that I have no familiarity with the game this is based on, but I have only a vague idea of what’s going on. And I feel nothing for the characters, even when they die.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

14. Arata the Legend (Arata Kangatari) (ep. 1-8) – At first, I was cutting this show some slack since it’s based on a seemingly well-liked manga. I wonder if maybe this adaptation has pared down the original story significantly, thereby retaining the main plot, but losing much of its heart? Either way, the result has been mediocre, at best. Ah well, there’s not much on on Mondays, and the OLDCODEX ending song is pretty good.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

15. RDG Red Data Girl (ep. 1-9) – I just don’t get this. RDG takes itself very seriously, but it meanders all over the place and I don’t understand what it’s about most of the time. And, I can’t fathom why other viewers recommend it so much. I can acknowledge that it’s a nice looking series, though; that’s about it.
(streaming at Funimation)