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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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Anime of the Week (3/31 – 4/6)

Anime of the Week – Girls und Panzer
Girls und Panzer is a great underdog story Usually I think I’d give the nod for anime of the week to two anime when one of the winners is out of season. But the other performers this week had such a poor showing compared to the cleverly orchestrated combat sequences full of passionate gusto and a show of terrific camaraderie of the ending for Girls und Panzer.
April 1 Maoyuu Ep. 12 Many others series this season did a great job wrapping up a story that in some ways felt ongoing. This one? Not so much.
Vividred Ep. 12 While it turned out better than I initially expected, I didn’t foresee myself wanting a more deeply constructed setting.
GJ-bu Ep. 12 This was one of those anime that created a distinct atmosphere about it that infused every second with pure awesomeness.
OreShura Ep. 13 I suppose I can write it off as Eita just being a good guy, but even when he tries to take a strong stance it backfires.
April 2 Panzer Ep. 11 I forgot why these last two episodes couldn’t have aired along with the rest of the series, but the wait was worth it.
Panzer Ep. 12 A brilliant underdog story that defied any notion of gender roles, with excellent, strategic battles and relatable characters.
Little Busters Ep. 25 What is it that Riki suspects about the world? Could it be how everything always seems to work out too perfectly?
April 3 Kotoura Ep. 12 While the anime ended on a good note with Kotoura having found her nerve, because life goes on, I really wanted more.
April 5 Devil Survivor 2 Ep. 1 Already cutting corners in the for-TV version, this is an example of why I don’t like knowing the source material.
April 6 Samurai Bride Ep. 1 Another sequel that doesn’t need to exist, but I’ll be watching it to listen to some of my favorite voice actresses.
Maou-sama Ep. 1 Every year seems to have a recurring theme among anime. Following Maoyuu, this time around it’s heroes and demon lords.
Aku no Hana Ep. 1 Maybe it’s trying to make some artistic expression, but this ugly anime with no clearly defined story is just bleh.
Photokano Ep. 1 The characters’ expressions don’t seem to match their words and the overflow of girls are showing shallow personalities.

*Keep up to date with my daily mini-reviews by following me on Twitter.

Anime of the Week (3/17 – 3/23)

Anime of the Week – Psycho-Pass
Akane shows she's the one in charge. The perfect society may not exist, but that doesn’t mean we should give up pursuing such an ideal. In a way, chasing that goal may in itself be the perfect system.                              
March 17 Mondaiji Ep. 10 Is it just me or does there seem to be a strangely high percentage of anime that want a second season but never get one?
Shinsekai Ep. 24 Sometimes in our haste to have things our way, we may overlook an equally valid option where everyone can be happy.
March 18 OreShura Ep. 11 Most romantic comedies can’t wait to get to the swimsuit episode, so I’m glad the story is taking priority over fanservice.
Little Busters Ep. 23 Besides Mio, this series has been rooted in reality, but now with Kud’s arc there’s some sparks of magic flying.
Kotoura Ep. 10 Oh c’mon. The bait that Tsukino gave to Kotoura was WAY too obvious. You don’t need to be a mind reader to solve this crime.
March 19 Sakurasou Ep. 23 It’s no coincidence this episode falls on the same week as graduations all over Japan, which are generally quiet events.
March 21 Tamako Ep. 11 Tamako with glasses is so cute! But why is everyone so eager to get her out of the shopping district and marry into royalty?
March 22 Psycho-Pass Ep. 22 I usually cringe when a series I liked has such an open ending. But I think this may be one of those rare exceptions.
GJ-bu Ep. 11 Valentine’s day in Japan is so different from how I remember it as an elementary student—the only time I’ve ever celebrated it.
March 23 Kotoura Ep. 11 All the pieces were there for a romantic comedy that also explored the kinds of honest feelings we keep to ourselves…*sigh*
Zetsuen Ep. 23 The dichotomy of tragedy and comedy runs through this series and remains unknown which path it will take in the conclusion.
Vividred Ep. 11 In an unexpectedly unexpected turn, the final boss appears and that means the girls have to pull out all the stops.
Maoyuu Ep. 11 Despite all the complexities shaping this world, I worry the Hero and Demon King’s story won’t get the treatment it deserves.

*Keep up to date with my daily mini-reviews by following me on Twitter.

Anime of the Week (3/10 – 3/16)

Anime of the Week – The Pet Girl of Sakurasou
It's not Sakurasou without Shiina.

It’s not Sakurasou without Shiina.

The theme of this series runs straight to its core—caring for your friends and looking out for each other. And although it sort of beats us over the head with that recurring plot element, it’s presented so eloquently that it never fails to touch our hearts.                              
March 10 Tamako Ep. 9 As adorable as Anko with her young crush may be, is there anyone in this world who can remember even one person from preschool?
Kotoura Ep. 9 Do those who possess unbelievable powers have an obligation to help others even if doing so will bring them trouble?
Shinsekai Ep. 23 This anime is a great example of allowing world building to happen through natural discovery rather than via guidebook.
March 11 Mondaiji Ep. 9 Too many people undervalue a simple story with no nonsensical fanservice or complicated philosophical meanderings.
OreShura Ep. 10 I thought the whole point of Eita and Natsukawa’s fake relationship was to help keep real romantic interests at a distance.
Little Busters Ep. 22 All of Riki’s support for Kud to courageously live with no regrets feels empty after the preview for the next episode.
March 12 Sakurasou Ep. 22 The theme of friends hurting each other and making each other stronger is tried and true, but powerful if done right.
March 14 Tamako Ep. 10 I don’t get baton twirling. I guess it’s a kind of dance, but my male sensibilities tell me using a sword would be cooler.
March 15 Psycho-Pass Ep. 21 It’s heartbreaking, but Masaoka made the right choice. The proper order of life is for the child to outlive the parent.
Zetsuen Ep. 22 More and more in this world of comforts, we find ourselves giving far too much of our freedom in exchange for security.
March 16 Vividred Ep. 10 I can see potential for this series to be its own unique magic girl anime if it starts trying a little harder.
GJ-bu Ep. 10 Instead of taking others’ disagreeable observations of you as criticism, why not use it as an opportunity for self improvement?
Maoyuu Ep. 10 The factors that lead up to war are complicated beyond the actions of one man, but we like to put the blame on an individual.

*Keep up to date with my daily mini-reviews by following me on Twitter.

Anime of the Week (2/24 – 3/2)

Anime of the Week – Shinsekai Yori & Maoyuu Maou Yuusha
Saki and Satoru journey to find a solution. Only rarely are we treated to a story capable of evoking such strong emotions. From such feelings of intense hatred towards utter betrayal of trust to a more contemplative sympathy for the enemy’s position would be enough to spark a debate of who truly has the moral high ground. But at the end of the day, you know you have no choice but to choose victory for your own team despite the worthy cause of the underdogs…it’s a enlighteningly awkward position to find yourself in.
Maid Ane disguised as the Crimson Scholar makes her defiant speech. Making sacrifices and becoming a martyr for your cause can certainly be a fantastic motivator to provide courage for change in the face of overwhelming odds. But it’s far more beautiful to find the words that will become the living pillar of support for the core principles that define humanity. This kind of powerful inspiration can move even the most tempered of hearts into necessary action.
February 24 Shinsekai Ep. 21 Which is a greater evil, slavery or tyranny? We have a strong bias to support the interests of our own group over others.
GJ-bu Ep. 7 With their unusual recruitment methods and carefree attitude, I can understand getting caught in the pace of the Good Job Club.
Vividred Ep. 7 The design of the Alone reminds me very much of both the angels from Evangelion and the Septentriones from Devil Survivor 2.
Little Busters Ep. 20 With only six episodes left and Kud’s arc coming up next, I don’t think there’s time for Yuiko to get her own arc.
Mondaiji Ep. 7 Maoyuu may be one of the greatest anime about social commentary, but Mondaiji has its own share of smart guild politics.
Magi Ep. 6 I misjudged the level of character growth this series would exhibit from the admittedly shallow designs of its first episode.
February 25 OreShura Ep. 8 The Burning Fighting Fighter stories are starting to make sense now that we’ve had an arbitrary glimpse at Eita’s past.
Magi Ep. 7 I wonder how much of the social commentary on the disparity between the wealthy and the poor was inspired by current events.
Magi Ep. 8 The inevitable flashback episode we needed for Alibaba has come and I’m glad the rogue hero didn’t have too bad of a childhood.
Magi Ep. 9 What’s going on here? I thought the main character was Alibaba, but Sinbad is really stealing the spotlight right now.
Magi Ep. 10 Ugo has been a big bulldozer for most of the series, but despite this rampage I’m glad he’s getting some characterization.
Magi Ep. 11 As Alibaba meets other characters appear with a better handle on their weapons, I hope there isn’t a Naruto-esque training arc.
February 26 Sakurasou Ep. 20 I think I know why I like this cast so much. Like them, I also strive to make sure I live every day to the fullest.
February 27 Minami-ke 4 Ep. 8 What in the world? A whole episode about vegetables? And people getting hypnotized into eating more vegetables? What?
February 28 Tamako Ep. 8 There’s a fine line between having fun and wasting time. That line hasn’t been crossed, but the story needs to get it in gear.
March 2 Psycho-Pass Ep. 19 With the hues around her darkening, Akane’s stability leads me to believe she may be Makishima’s benevolent counterpart.
Zetsuen Ep. 20 I could kick myself! I suspected the latest development might be a possibility, but I didn’t call my prediction beforehand.
Maoyuu Ep. 9 I never expected to hear such moving words from this anime. Curiosity, freedom and love—they are a vindication of humanity.
Kotoura Ep. 8 Manabe realizes that it’s no fun to tease people if they don’t react to your attempts to make them uncomfortable.
GJ-bu Ep. 8 Japanese people love to complain about the temperature, but coming from a cold part of America, I suffer greatly in the summers.
Mondaiji Ep. 8 As the final battle begins I worry that some of the charm of the underdogs overcoming adversity is going to be lost.
Vividred Ep. 8 Limiting the docking feature to only Akane and one other girl was a choice that I feel reduced the variety of fandom.

*You could have read these mini-reviews in real time by following me on Twitter.

Anime of the Week (2/17 – 2/23)

Anime of the Week – Maoyuu Maou Yuusha
Lady Knight pledges her sword to the Hero. Ironically timed to coincide with the changing of the leadership in the Catholic Church, this series makes no qualms about pointing out the church’s historical role as a political entity with its own motives and goals that conveniently mirror those of the people in charge.                              
February 17 Maoyuu Ep. 7 The heroes’ actions could be seen as treason. But is it truly betrayal if they’re trying to save their people from themselves?
Mondaiji Ep. 6 I didn’t think the title of this series was a good fit, but I’m starting to see the capricious side of the problem children.
Tomodachi NEXT Ep. 6 Why do I continue to watch this series? Yozora and Sena don’t get along and there’s no advancement of the romance.
Shinsekai Ep. 20 As hopeless as the current predicament may feel, I know the people will pull through. We’re too tenacious to give up.
Little Busters Ep. 19 It’s funny watching Kud fumble through her English as it mirrors my own everyday life as an English teacher in Japan.
February 18 OreShura Ep. 7 To its credit, this harem is avoiding tradition and going with some original personalities. Sadly, none are very likeable.
February 19 Minami-ke 4 Ep. 7 Some of the most frenetic days of our youth are at the end of summer vacation when we try to cram in some last second fun.
Sakurasou Ep. 19 It’s nice to get a flashback to recap Sorata’s first day at Sakurasou. It really shines a light on how far he’s come.
February 21 Tamako Ep. 7 I guess the credit theme can take it from here, “The things that we are looking for are always hiding right beside us.”
Magi Ep. 2 I’ve decided it’s time to go back and give an ongoing series that I thought was rather mediocre a second chance to impress me.
Magi Ep. 3 Slavery is so so foreign and despicable to me I’d never really considered how truly disgusting it is to break someone’s spirit.
Magi Ep. 4 “Money can’t buy happiness,” but maybe that’s because the person who said that never used his money for someone else’s sake.
February 22 Psycho-Pass Ep. 18 Is the romance we sometimes associate with vigilanteism a product of our instinct to be wary of authority figures?
Magi Ep. 5 I understand that Aladdin’s intentions are pure, but his naïvety seems to leave a pretty big body count wherever he goes.
February 23 Maoyuu Ep. 8 Even the church is fair game for this anime’s political commentary—citing self-acclaimed infallibility to justify its actions.
Zetsuen Ep. 19 I’m continually amazed at just how well this anime has used world building to tell an amazingly well-crafted story.
Kotoura Ep. 7 After the uplifting transformation of the heroine’s life, this anime has started to falter into the pitfall of mediocrity.

*You could have read these mini-reviews in real time by following me on Twitter.

Winter 2013 Recommendations

With the season already more than over, I feel a little late to the game with my recommendations, but there’s still plenty to go so it’s my hope that this will still be useful.  What strikes me most oddly about this season is the strength of fall 2012’s performance because with one exception, my top six are all continuing anime.  I’m not too worried though because I see spring 2013 is already showing signs of an A-grade lineup the likes of which hasn’t happened during the course of my blogging.  But enough about the future, here’s the anime I’m enjoying most for winter 2013.

Akane Tsunemori in ending 21. Psycho-Pass

I say it every time I mention this anime, but cyberpunk being the endangered species that it is, any anime in this genre should be catching people’s eyes and when it’s such a psychological thriller, nobody should be missing out on what’s still going strong in its second season.

Shiina Mashiro in the opening 22. The Pet Girl of Sakurasou

Comedies about awkward romances are a dime a dozen theme in anime, but where this series shines is how it masterfully balances its relationships between friends, colleagues and love to tell a story of people who are always there for each other…sometimes even when you don’t want them to.

The cast of Little Busters in opening 23. Little Busters!

Blending the gut-wrenching transforming to uplifting style of series like Kanon and Clannad and the organically unfolding storytelling method used in Angel Beats has resulted in a harmonious recipe.

 

Kotoura and Manabe cheer for Mori4. Kotoura-san

It could have been nothing more than a typical romantic comedy, but when the main character can read people’s minds, all kinds of problems ranging from dreadful to heartwarming and hilarious ensue.

 

Hakaze kicks Hanemura while Yoshino looks stunned.5. Zetsuen no Tempest

A really solid action series that also explores such daring concepts as fate vs. free will with some amazingly smart writing and masterfully orchestrated back and forth dialogue—giving it multiple dimensions of awesome. Saki is shocked

 

6. Shinsekai Yori

In a world so different from our own, but still inhabited by humans just like you or me, we are treated to a glimpse of our will to adapt to any circumstances all the while finding a way to maintain the spark of compassion and empathy that makes us special.

The Demon King feels remorse for what amounts to betrayal of her people.7. Maoyuu Maou Yuusha

What appeared at first glance to be a rather eccentric romantic comedy quickly revealed its true colors and has given us an amazing view of the pride, prejudice, love, hate, feast, famine and politics and romance that drives the inner workings of this thing we call society.

Mao sits on Kyouya's lap so everyone can fit at the Kotatsu.8. GJ-bu

We seldom see harem anime pushed in new and unexplored directions, so you can imagine my surprise when this seemingly ordinary cast continues to pursue interesting conversations that shed light on our preconceptions about how men and women see the world.

Tamako and Dera combo9. Tamako Market

From the team that brought us K-ON!, we are once again taken through the daily lives of a group of cheerful young ladies (and thankfully some male cast members as well), which might have been enough. But they also must contend with an enigmatic, talking cockatoo determined to give everyone’s comfort zone a little push.

Honorable mentions

Mondaiji-tachiMinami-ke TadaimaVividred OperationOreShura

Anime of the Week (1/20 – 1/26)

Anime of the Week – Psycho-Pass
Ginoza and Akane talk about what life was like before Sybil. No matter how carefully crafted a system may be to safeguard the happiness of the people, there will always be those who seek to break it because of their ideals or take advantage of it for their own benefit.
January 20 Kotoura-san Ep. 1 Initial impression – revealing the truth http://wp.me/p1Gaby-HQ
Shinsekai Ep. 16 Sometimes, no matter how much you want something or how hard you try, you have to accept that it just wasn’t meant to be.
Little Busters Ep. 15 I enjoy these kinds of scenarios that highlight how girls can be mischievous troublemakers in their own right.
Kotoura Ep. 2 I love how Manabe is a strong enough man to cut right straight to the chase and stand up against Kotoura’s female bullies.
January 21 Amnesia Ep. 2 There’s no doubt this is a shoujo anime. You need to look no further than the characters’ garish fashion sense. Bleh.
January 22 OreShura Ep. 3 For Yukari Tamura’s sake, I really want to like this show, but the characters’ thinking hasn’t been remotely reasonable.
Sakurasou Ep. 15 Friends who love you for your passion are the best. It’s even more wonderful to stand tall knowing someone’s got your back.
January 24 Tamako Ep. 3 I’m glad to see this series is nothing like K-ON aside from its visual style. It has a unique charm and a little mystery, too.
January 25 Psycho-Pass Ep. 14 This anime is crafted with a terrible beauty. Crime is rare beyond comprehension—to the point of being unbelievable.
December 26 Zetsuen Ep. 15 When the will of fate is capable of bending reality to protect your existence, the results of that favoritism can be scary.
Maoyuu Ep. 4 The political advantages of love vs marriage are powerful. I’m not complaining, but a little more action couldn’t hurt.
Kotoura Ep. 3 Sometimes it takes more courage to be loved than to love someone. But sharing hardship is an important part of friendship.
Vividred Ep. 3 When a series is clichéd to this degree, the slightest flaw can crumble the whole thing. So far the premise hasn’t faltered.

*You could have read these mini-reviews in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

Anime of the Week (1/13 – 1/19)

Anime of the Week – Little Busters
Mio says goodbye to Naoe. The road of life is a long one, with twists and turns so confusing we may lose ourselves along the way. But it’s good to have friends who will walk the path with us and help find the true person that lives in each of us when all hope seems lost.                              
January 13 Shinsekai Ep. 15 The relationship between humans and the queerats really does seem like an imitation of the setting lost ancient society.
Little Busters Ep. 14 A beautiful metaphor for finding the strength to be yourself; a real “you” and not the “you” others believe you to be.
January 14 Da Capo III Ep. 1 Initial impression – shallow and campy (4/10) http://wp.me/p1Gaby-Hk
Amnesia Ep. 1 Initial impression – a hazy start http://wp.me/p1Gaby-Ho
Tamako Market Ep. 1 Initial impression – familiar-looking fun http://wp.me/p1Gaby-Hw
Vividred Operation Ep. 1 Initial impression – vividly brilliant http://wp.me/p1Gaby-HE
January 15 OreShura Ep. 2 After hyping up this anime last week, I now find myself in the awkward position of not liking where the series is going.
Sakurasou Ep. 14 It may seem a noble thing to be a strong man who can compliment a strong lady, but sometimes it’s best to go for the love.
January 18 Psycho-Pass Ep. 13 Instead of pursuing happiness for everyone, shouldn’t we focus on trying to make the greatest number of people happy?
Zetsuen Ep. 14 Everyone is keeping a lot of secrets. I wonder how it will affect the web of alliances when they eventually get revealed.
January 19 Vividred Ep. 2 It didn’t show its true colors at first, but now that it’s in full swing, this has turned into a hardcore magic girl anime.
Tamako Ep. 2 I love these fun little slice of life anime. There’s just the right amount of banter to make it cheeky without being annoying.
Maoyuu Ep. 3 The economic wrangling of the Demon King is impressive. But I’m worried the Hero’s female friends will devalue the story.

*You could have read these mini-reviews in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

Anime of the Week (1/6 – 1/12)

Anime of the Week – OreShura
Eita is confronted by Natsukawa With the male lead taking care of his female childhood friend (which is typically the other way around) and his disdain for pursuing a relationship that might distract him from his studies, this series has shown it wants to do things differently.                              
January 7 Kokoro Connect Ep. 16 Taichi is self-sacrificing, but nobody can get Iori to open up except the punk girl who is always on her case.
Kokoro Connect Ep. 17 Yeah, it was fun and their situation was far from normal, but was all this drama necessary to bring about resolution?
Little Busters Ep. 13 Mio and Midori. Some of Nishizono’s promotion art finally makes sense, but what is the real story behind these girls?
Sankarea Ep. 14 While imaginative and interesting, the ending of this series doesn’t need to be further complicated by bending reality.
January 8 Maoyuu Maou Yuusha Ep. 1 Initial impression – intriguingly fun http://wp.me/p1Gaby-FG
Sakurasou Ep. 13 If it wasn’t for the frustration he’s feeling because he can’t compete with Shiina’s talent, I’d call Sorata overly dense.
Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru Ep. 1 Initial impression – cynically lovely http://wp.me/p1Gaby-FM
January 11 Psycho-Pass Ep. 12 A flashback to Yayoi’s past is fine, but I hope the purpose was not to make us care more about Yayoi. Bring back Akane!
Zetsuen Ep. 13 Half summary, half time jump, we really didn’t get any interesting new information. Hopefully back to normal next week.
January 12 Maoyuu Ep. 2 This series is turning out to be surprisingly smart with its almost educational take on political policies and motivations.

*You could have read these mini-reviews in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.