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Anime of the Year 2013

At long last I’ve reached the final part of my series for 2013’s anime of the year.  Keep in mind that this is not a ranking of which anime I think other people would enjoy or which anime I thought was the most popular amongst the anime community as a whole.  This is solely my conclusion based not only on how much I enjoyed these series, but also on a wide range of technical accomplishments I observed–from musical composition, art style, plot development / writing and many other important details. But first, a quick summary of the titles I’ve covered so far.  Click the section headers to read each part of my countdown in greater detail.


25-21

Akari Awakens

25. Daybreak Illusion

The dragon girls Jormungand, Leviathan and Bahamut

24. Zettai Bouei Leviathan

Tohka threatens Shidou

23. Date A Live

Kuroki ponders how to be popular

22. WataMote

The extended Genshiken cast

21. Genshiken Nidaime


20-16

Izumiko at her shrine

20. Red Data Girl

Touma, Haruki and Setsuna get ready for their last song

19. White Album 2

Lucy Yamagami is flustered

18. Servant x Service

Karen, Youko, Alice, Shinobu and Aya in a field of flowers

17. Kiniro Mosaic

Riki and Rin look out the window

16. Little Busters


15-11

Koyomi Araragi is still the hero

15. Monogatari Series

Mirai fights off the Youmu in her apartment

14. Kyoukai no Kanata

Raul teaches Fino how to speak politely

13. Yuushibu

Illya transforms into a magic girl

12. Prisma Illya

Miho Nishizumi affirms this tank can fight

11. Girls und Panzer


10-6

Tsukiko, Youto and Azusa sit on the Stony Cat

10. HenNeko

Misaka fires her railgun

9. Railgun S

Mahiro jumps in to save Yoshino

8. Zetsuen no Tempest

Hajime transforms into Gatchaman

7. Gachaman Crowds

Sakurasou is gathered to celebrate Mashiro's welcome party

6. Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo


Finally the moment you’ve all been waiting for.  The top five and my pick for anime of the year 2013.

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Fall 2013 Wrap-up

The conclusion to this season left me a little more disappointed than the last few seasons.  A lot of anime that seemed to have tons of potential just flopped and even the ones that had a strong story throughout the past three months often left me high and dry upon their conclusion.  There were a few surprising gems that glittered amongst the mud, but metaphorically speaking, none of them were diamonds.  Click here if you want to see how my final rankings differ from my predictions at the start of the season.

Iona and Gunzou1. Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio (9/10)

What made this series so strong was the priority it gave to its character development. Not a single second was wasted on little side characters, but at the same time their significance to the story was not ignored.  This series also had the courage to go 100% CG, which made for epic maritime battles that flowed seamlessly with the rest of the animation.

Manaka gets caught by Tsumugu again2. Nagi no Asu Kara (ongoing)

The vision of this anime’s setting cannot be given enough praise.  Not only is it beautiful, but it’s hard to imagine the complex clash of cultures emerging so organically from this simultaneously heartwarming and tragic story.  We’re only halfway through, but if things keep going at this rate, I think I’m looking at a candidate for anime of the year 2014.

Haruki, Setsuna and Tomua3. White Album 2 (7/10)

What an adventure these three young people undertook.  Their talents and chemistry brought them together to have a ton of fun, which was a treat to watch and in some ways almost experience along with them.  The real tragedy of this series is the ending that left nobody happy.  I wonder if like the first season of this IP, when the season of White Album returns we’re going to get a sequel that will give a better conclusion.

Fino is ready, Raul looks incredulous4. Yuushibu (7/10)

I can’t think of many other recent series that understood what made the premise of their setting so much fun and managed to just keep the jokes coming one after another (Servant x Service did come close).  It also had an amazing, underlying theme about salesmanship, economics racial equality that could be the cornerstone of any moral compass.

Mirai Kuriyama smiles5. Kyoukai no Kanata (7/10)

Oh Kyoto Animation.  What will you come up with next?  It’s one thing to take a bunch of random anime tropes and throw them into a blender–but this series takes nearly everything that I love about anime and sets it into a story that merges serious and ridiculous fun arranged into a complete piece that never failed to make me smile.

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Anime of the Week (12/22 – 12/28)

Anime of the Week – Nagi no Asu Kara
The sea god seeks to claim Akari

Even something that started with the best of intentions sometimes doesn’t turn out as planned because of forces beyond our control. When disaster strikes, we need to remind ourselves that the forces of nature aren’t conspiring against us when they take away our loved ones–unless the god of the sea has come to reclaim what is his.                              

December 22 Monogatari Series Ep. 25 Kana Hanazawa is a frighteningly good voice actress. Her depiction of Nadeko as a yandere snake god actually sent chills down my spine.
Little Busters Refrain Ep. 12 I’m becoming more and more convinced that this “after story” for the main Little Busters series would have been more appropriately suited to a series of OVAs rather than a slow-paced thirteen episodes.
White Album 2 Ep. 12 In these later episodes it’s become harder and harder to like the two heroines. Setsuna, it turns out, is a homewrecker and Touma is maddeningly indecisive.
December 23 Magi 2 Ep. 12 It’s just one power grab after another–betrayal after betrayal. It’s such a good thing that we’ve abandoned the primitive system of monarchy that drew the masses into pointless wars for succession.
December 24 Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio Ep. 12 Kongou and Iona’s conversation didn’t really have the emotional impact that the other mental models had. I appreciated the change it brought about, but this isn’t the big ending I was hoping for.
Unbreakable Machine Doll Ep. 12 Urgh… so many loose ends. What were the writers thinking? Talk about cramming tons of what could have been interesting content for a twenty-six episode series into only twelve.
December 26 Coppelion Ep. 13 What a strange ending. I really had high hopes for this series when I saw the first episode. But it turned into a string of near-nonsense that disserviced its grim and technological setting.
December 27 Nagi no Asu Kara Ep. 13 Oh man. What just happened? And how will the series progress from this point? I thought things were getting a little too caught up in the emotional side, but what a climax to the first half of the series.

Anime of the Week (12/15 – 12/21)

Anime of the Week – Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio
Iona tries to reason with her sisters, I-400 and I-402

Such fabulous writing. Each member of the Fog that Gunzou and Iona cross paths with grow in their own unique ways and subsequently choose their paths to follow accordingly. It stays so true to each character and that’s something definitely worth praising.                              

December 15 Monogatari Series Ep. 24 I’d have hoped that discussing the details of of Kaiki’s plan to deceive a god would lead down a more philosophical path than the conversation actually brought about.
Little Busters Refrain Ep. 11 It saddens me to find out that Angel Beats borrowed so heavily from the themes that had already been laid out here in Key’s earlier title.
White Album 2 Ep. 11 It’s hard learning the truth about love. I’ve lost count of the number of times the three main characters not only betrayed each other, but also betrayed themselves.
December 16 Magi 2 Ep. 11 Morgiana continues to be my favorite character in this series. She’s such a strong woman in every meaning of strength and I always find myself cheering for her.
December 17 Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio Ep. 11 Although they stuck with each other rather than become allies of Gunzou, it was still interesting to see the unique way I-400 and I-402 came to realize they were more than weapons.
Unbreakable Machine Doll Ep. 11 It’s quite clear this series will not resolve its core conflict between Raishin and Magnus. And with no second season in sight, another anime falls victim to airing before a sufficient amount of content was finished being written.
December 19 Coppelion Ep. 12 It’s hard to sympathize with the antagonists when they keep turning down every chance for redemption they’re given. But it’s also annoying when the protagonists keep giving the bad guys second chances that put everyone they’re trying to save in danger.
Kyoukai no Kanata Ep. 12 It’s ok to bring someone back from the dead if there was a good reason to do so. Personally, I’m not sure there was even a good reason for anyone to die in the first place.
December 20 Nagi no Asu Kara Ep. 12 So far this series has had a great pace, but this episode really seemed to be dragging its heels. Last week established how things were going to happen, so lets go already.
December 21 Outbreak Company Ep. 12 Personally, I think having the climax of this series be in the previous episode was a huge mistake. It left the season finale with nowhere left to go and just foundered about without going anywhere.
Yuushibu Ep. 12 This series did a great job sticking to its theme and not wandering. While it never achieved any level of sophistication, I enjoyed every ridiculous minute of it.
Freezing Vibration Ep. 12 This franchise’s first season told a much more interesting story about what it means to be a pandora. Vibration just stagnated and followed a rather ho-hum plot about military bureaucracy.

Anime of the Week (12/8 – 12/14)

Anime of the Week – Kyoukai no Kanata
Akihito rushes to catch Mirai at the last second

This is the kind of love that I really like. It found its origins slowly and was discovered as two people traveled a rough and difficult road together. But the end result was a couple who would gladly lay down their lives for one another but chose to live for each other instead.                              

December 8 Monogatari Series Ep. 23 What a cliffhanger. And I just know that whatever was in Nadeko’s closet is probably a majory plot point and won’t be revealed until the season finale.
Little Busters Refrain Ep. 10 Aw man. The pace of this series has turned into a mess. There’s still three more episodes, but now they’re doing a clip-show-ish review of events leading up to this point? *shakes head*
White Album 2 Ep. 10 I’m not sure the order of events was properly planned for this series. Was it really worth the emotional baggage to reveal Haruki and Touma’s past this late?
December 9 Magi 2 Ep. 10 The gladiator battle had a really good pace to it, but the crowd is really messed up. One minute they’re on Alibaba’s side and as soon as it looks like he’s about to lose, everyone abandons him? Surely someone who bet money on him should still be on his side, right?
December 10 Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio Ep. 10 Formerly nothing
more than weapons of war, it’s a real treat to see these young women discover they can be more than that by integrating into themselves the best traits of humanity.
Unbreakable Machine Doll Ep. 10 A good revenge story always gets my blood boiling. I can taste Raishin’s hatred and frustration at having to bide his time and wait for a proper time to strike.
December 12 Coppelion Ep. 11 As a writer, what do you do when you’ve run out of ideas? Throw in a ridiculous mecha that the bad guys were somehow hiding and not using the entire series despite getting their butts kicked the whole time.
Kyoukai no Kanata Ep. 11 I most certainly hope that someone I love never lays down their life for me. If it’s you or me, I’ll always say “both.” Never forget that discretion is the better part of valor.
December 13 Nagi no Asu Kara Ep. 11 I know there’s a certain romance to a story about confessing your love at the end of the world. But we should take that as a lesson that we shouldn’t wait until the end of the world to do the important things in life.
December 14 Outbreak Company Ep. 11 Although this series seemed sympathetic to the issues surrounding otaku culture, in reality I think it still depicted us as a dangerous social phenomenon. I don’t like that one bit.
Yuushibu Ep. 11 A true hero doesn’t become a hero because he’s seeking the fame. They’re just brave men and women who make the right decision when nobody else has the courage to step forward.
Freezing Vibration Ep. 11 I totally called it. It took two seasons, but Chiffon turned out to be the character who you hope never opens her eyes.

Anime of the Week (12/1 – 12/7)

Anime of the Week – Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio
Iona tries to reason with Kongou

I wished for a good military anime and I’ve not been disappointed. This week had all the face-paced action and subtle tactics of warfare that I just can’t get enough of. Combine that with some philosophy on existentialism and that’s the icing on the cake.                              

December 1 Monogatari Series Ep. 22 In theory this is supposed to be Hitagi’s arc, but at this rate it’s going to be Nadeko’s second arc with a strong emphasis on Kaiki…
Little Busters Refrain Ep. 9 And now Kengo’s arc has started. Or perhaps this whole second half of the season is just about showing how much Riki has matured.
White Album 2 Ep. 9 I’m not sure where this love triangle is going, but I’m reminded of the two girls competing for one guy scenario that plagued Shana‘s second season.
December 2 Magi 2 Ep. 9 Meh. This cast of characters is already too big and there’s still more movers and shakers entering this spaghetti-like mess of relationships.
December 3 Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio Ep. 9 The battle in this episode takes place on so many fronts–hearts vs minds, friends vs comrades, requests vs orders, power vs subtlety, freedom vs reservation–but never once does it feel spread thin or poorly paced. I love it.
Unbreakable Machine Doll Ep. 9 Nothing about the current situation feels right. I sense there’s some needlessly elaborate deception going on here.
December 5 Coppelion Ep. 10 This series is like a broken record. I can’t stop watching it because it does offer some beauty, but it keeps repeating the same mistakes in its storytelling over and over.
Kyoukai no Kanata Ep. 10 I’m not found of the whole, “it was just a dream,” storytelling device. But I’ll make an exception in this case because it allowed for communication that actually forwarded the story.
December 6 Nagi no Asu Kara Ep. 10 A lot of anime as of late seem to have placed their strong points into their unique settings. This clash of cultures–surface vs sea, tradition vs youth–wouldn’t be so interesting, otherwise.
December 7 Outbreak Company Ep. 10 I had hoped this show would be more along the lines of Genshiken where they actually discuss otaku issues in the larger cultural sense, but it seems to be turning out more like Oreimo–just a bunch of loosely connected tropes and references.
Yuushibu Ep. 10 It’s really quite interesting to think of this anime in terms of economics. There was a major economic shift that put a lot of people out of work and instead of changing to the new paradigm, there’s a push to return to what they’re familiar with.
Freezing Vibration Ep. 10 If there’s a character in an anime that never opens his or her eyes (I like to call them fox eyes) you know there’s probably something sinister about them.

Anime of the Week (10/20 – 10/26)

Anime of the Week – Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova
Gunzou discusses human philosophy with Iona

As the artificial intelligence of our machines continues to get smarter and we humans interact with computers more and more in our daily lives, we will increasingly place human attributes on them simply as a by product of our own nature. So it’s interesting to see the reverse happening—AI intentionally seeking out humans in order to become more like us.

October 20 Little Busters: Refrain Ep. 1 Something that had always bothered me about season one was the conspicuous absence of a Kurugaya story arc.
October 21 Little Busters: Refrain Ep. 2 Now this is an interesting twist. I wonder what it’s going to take for Riki to put an end to this endless eight.
White Album 2 Ep. 2 I was going to muse philosophically about how persistence pays off, but instead I’ll just say Haruki is a lucky idiot.
Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio: Ars Nova Ep. 2 This series is showing an excellent flair for military tactics. But the final scene worried me this might turn into a harem.
Unbreakable Machine Doll Ep. 2 Humans have an incredible capacity to attach personalities and emotions to inanimate objects so we can relate to them.
Kill la Kill Ep. 2 I’m not the biggest fan of fighting tournament anime or older aesthetic styles, but this series is a nice blend of both.
October 22 Kill la Kill Ep. 3 It would seem this anime won’t be able to measure up. At this rate of fanservice development, it may fall below Freezing.
Yuusha ni Narenakatta Ep. 2 I’m all for chasing your dreams, but there also comes a time when you have to be practical and think about your livelihood.
Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio: Ars Nova Ep. 3 I like Gunzou’s matter-of-fact take on life. He could be a model for many of us—someone who is comfortable being himself.
October 23 Outbreak Company Ep. 2 I expected this anime to be mostly comedy. But recent developments show it may be taking a more sociological path.
Outbreak Company Ep. 3 The plot may be a bit straightforward, but it’s got enough charm and challenges to give it a good amount of depth.
October 24 Freezing Vibration Ep. 2 I like the direction this second season is taking. In the face of a powerful threat, camaraderie trumps rivalry.
October 26 Freezing Vibration Ep. 3 The first season had a plot that was more focused on character development, making season two feel stagnant.
Nagi no Asu Kara Ep. 4 Throughout mankind’s history, cultures have disappeared through assimilation. Is the same fate inevitable for Shioshishio?
Kyoukai no Kanata Ep. 4 Too often we make the mistake of assuming we must cope with our problems alone because nobody else could understand.
White Album 2 Ep. 3 The characters’ backstories are very well devleoped, but I’m not seeing their current actions lining up with their pasts.
Little Busters: Refrain Ep. 3 I’m torn. On one hand I want Riki to choose a girl. But I’d also like to see Key tell a story without a couple.

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Anime of the Week (10/13 – 10/19)

Anime of the Week – Nagi no Asu Kara
Tsumugu catches Manaka

Possibly the most beautiful anime to come out this year; I was in love with the art style after only one minute. This clash of romance vs tradition is going to be heart-wrenchingly dramatic. I just know it.                             

October 13 Outbreak Company Ep. 1 While they are humorous, I’m not fond of how some of these otaku-centric anime portray others who share my hobby.
Golden Time Ep. 1 I’ve often been pleased by otherwise mediocre anime because of the quality of the voice acting and Horie Yui is amazing.
Log Horizon Ep. 1 Between SAO and .hack, the whole “trapped in a video game,” story premise feels pretty played out by this point.
White Album 2 Ep. 1 The first iteration was plagued by a huge cast that was hard to keep track of. Hopefully number two will be more focused.
Sekai de Ichiban Tsuyoku Naritai Ep. 1 There’s a fine line between ridiculous and dumb, but there’s little doubt this is one of the silliest premises I’ve seen.
Walkure Romanze Ep. 1 Girls und Panzer worked is because it defied femininity. This anime is still girly—it merely twists feminine expectations.
Gingitsune Ep. 1 I always love anime that explore Shinto. However, I’m not sure this series has what it takes to tell a compelling story.
Non Non Biyori Ep. 1 While I do like the slice of life genre and I know the plot is going to be loose, I prefer a little more direction.
Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio: Ars Nova Ep. 1 It’s hard to call an action series after only the first episode, but I’ve always had a special fascination with submarines.
October 14 Tokyo Ravens Ep. 1 When you’ve watched as much anime as I have, you just instinctully know when the target audience is not your age group.
BlazBlue: Alter Memory Ep. 1 I wonder if this series is like the Persona 4 anime where you need to be already invested in the franchise to understand it.
NouKome Ep. 1 While the weirdness of this anime doesn’t bother me so much, its inarticulate writing is too much of a headache to deal with.
Galilei Donna Ep. 1 The premise of this story would have been interesting enough without the need to invoke the name of historical figures.
Monogatari Ep. 15 I’m seeing a pattern of nonviolence with the resolution to each oddity the girls are confronted with this time around.
October 16 Freezing Vibration Ep. 1 A textbook example of unnecessary ecchi—no matter what anyone else thinks, I will watch this series for the story.
October 18 Infinite Stratos 2 Ep. 1 I really want to like this series because mecha musume is an endangered species, but its got too much harem BS.
October 19 Coppelion Ep. 3 I’m enjoying how this series is exploring the nature of atonement, but I didn’t like how nobody knew what a B2 looks like.
Nagi no Asu Kara Ep. 2 It appears this anime will be a story of Romeo & The Little Mermaid. Star-crossed lovers who risk everything for love.
Nagi no Asu Kara Ep. 3 This anime is so beautiful in many ways. Not only is the view of the ocean clear and bright, but the writing is poetic.

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