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Anime of the Year 2013 (10 to 6)

In case you’re just joining me as I count down to 2013’s anime of the year, be sure to go back to the beginning with (25-21), (20-16) and (15-11).  Just to be clear, if you research my posts throughout the year at the conclusion of each season, I may have reordered some of the titles for anime of the year–it just can’t be helped.  While I used those reviews as a starting point, I have to judge some anime based on how much of an impression they’ve left on me several months later as compared to other titles that are fresher in my mind.  If you disagree with my conclusions, feel free to leave a comment explaining why you think so.

Tsukiko, Youto and Azusa sit on the Stony Cat10. HenNeko

Despite its title, no hentai to be found here.  Instead it’s a terrifically fun comedy series about young people coming to understand themselves and finding what they truly want out of life—which is simply to have fun loving and being loved.

 

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Anime of the Week (3/24 – 3/30)

Anime of the Week – From the New World
Saki begins to pick up the pieces. Two wrongs don’t make a right taken to the extreme; answering one atrocity with another only breeds hate, even when circumstances would seem to justify such a vindictive response. True peace, true justice, true understanding only comes when everyone calmly and rationally makes evident their hopes and desires.                              
March 24 Shinsekai Ep. 25 “The power of imagination is what changes everything.” A beautiful end to a series swimming in deep, ethical conundrums.
Little Busters Ep. 24 What sets this anime apart from other Key works is how much of the story is devoted to the team and not just one girl.
March 25 OreShura Ep. 12 I’ve never been in love, but I wonder…is there a moment when something clicks and you realize like has changed to love?
March 26 Sakurasou Ep. 24 Just because you failed doesn’t mean you have to give up. The end of one chapter is always the beginning of another.
March 29 Tamako Ep. 12 I don’t know what this series was trying to accomplish other than just telling a warm, lighthearted and really silly story.
Zetsuen Ep. 24 I think everyone made the right choice. Put simply, peace at the price of freedom is tyranny and that’s no way to live.

*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 (3/3 – 3/9)

Anime of the Week – GJ-bu
Do you want a boyfriend or another girlfriend? Time and time again, women fault men for not possessing the abilities of their female friends—an aptitude for reading the hidden meanings in a social situation. Conversely, men expect women to be one of the guys—straightforward and easy to understand. But I think we can all agree that the least common denominator between men and women is that we both want to have fun.                              
March 3 Shinsekai Ep. 22 Ah the suspense is killing me. But Kiroumaru’s repeated grimaces make me suspicious. What is it he’s not letting on?
Little Busters Ep. 21 The plurality of cultural heritage in Kud’s family and their customs makes her a really interesting character.
March 4 OreShura Ep. 9 What this series lacks in substance and subtlety it at least makes up for with a good cast of voice actresses.
March 5 Sakurasou Ep. 21 I’ve always been a big advocate of never getting discouraged and to keep chasing your dreams no matter what the cost.
March 8 Psycho-Pass Ep. 20 I love this realm of ambiguous morals where I don’t know whose side to be on or who exactly is the one being played.
Zetsuen Ep. 21 I’m not sure how to feel about the needlessly complicated conclusions that are being drawn about the nature of the two trees.
March 9 Vividred Ep. 9 In a battle, there needs to be enough tension to make it seem like the enemy is a threat and the Alone lack that quality.
GJ-bu Ep. 9 It’s my opinion that women could learn about the feelings of men from this anime, but I wonder if the opposite is also true.

*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 (2/10 – 2/16)

Anime of the Week – Psycho-Pass
Akane and Kogami recover in the hospital Many people have trouble accepting that the unique “you” that lies within each and every one of us is nothing more than electrical interactions in the brain. Even so, life is far more valuable than the sum of the chemicals that make up our bodies.                              
February 10 Shinsekai Ep. 18 “Just what is war? Why does it happen? Why does it seem to go on forever without end?” “That’s a very difficult question.”
Kotoura Ep. 5 Now that her life is becoming happier, I hope Kotoura’s mind-reading ability isn’t wasted on a ho-hum, school romance comedy.
Zetsuen Ep. 17 Hakaze’s conflicted feelings for Yoshino has created a hilarious catch-22 damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario.
Mondaiji Ep. 5 The abilities of overpowered characters only remain interesting if the regulars still feel as though they have a chance.
GJ-bu Ep. 5 The way the girls are so passive-aggressive without being outright tsundere makes this one of the more interesting harem anime.
Vividred Ep. 5 I’m not sure if I like my magic girl villains to be outright evil like Nanoha’s Precia or backed into a corner like Fate.
Tomodachi NEXT Ep. 5 C’mon…just when I thought things were getting interesting they brought out that joke about dating games as art AGAIN!
Shinsekai Ep. 19 Mutually Assured Destruction only works as a nuclear deterrent if both sides stand to loose a lot by using their weapons.
February 11 Little Busters Ep. 18 The best friends won’t tell you WHAT you should do, but HOW to find your goal and will always support your decision.
OreShura Ep. 6 There’s a courageous story about awkward romance somewhere in this anime, but it’s being squelched by incomprehensible BS.
February 13 Minami-ke 4 Ep. 6 This series does marvelous things with its swimsuit episodes—it tells a fun story instead of doling out fanservice.
Sakurasou Ep. 18 So far this anime has been spectacular, but how it handles the latest crisis is going to determine its memorability.
February 14 Tamako Ep. 6 I don’t understand the allure of haunted houses. They might have some surprising moments, but I’m just not scared of anything.
February 15 Vividred Operation Ep. 6 Ok. It’s official. This series just became awesome. pic.twitter.com/Qa03wLZr
Psycho-Pass Ep. 17 If you had the chance to live forever, but you had to do it as a brain in a jar, would you? I think I probably would.
GJ-bu Ep. 6 By anime logic, not having any siblings should make me a candidate for having a little sister fetish…thankfully I don’t.
February 16 Zetsuen Ep. 18 Which is more frightening? A woman in love or a man out of control?
Kotoura Ep. 6 Women need to stop worrying about using their bodies to appeal to men, because those aren’t the men that will truly love them.

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

Anime of the Week (2/3 – 2/9)

Anime of the Week – Psycho-Pass
Akane contemplates vengence. When the world goes insane, it can be infinitely difficult not to follow along. But at these times when people’s characters are put to the test, it’s prudent to take a deep breath and a few steps back to maintain your composure and become that stable pillar that somebody needs to be.                              
February 3 Shinsekai Ep. 18 Even if life is peaceful, it’s never a good idea to become so complacent that you have no ability to protect yourself.
Little Busters Ep. 17 I just want to say how happy I am that I was lucky enough to be born into an average and sensible, loving family.
Tomodachi NEXT Ep. 2 The character designs in this anime are definitely original, but fall extremely on the weird end of the spectrum.
Tomodachi NEXT Ep. 3 It can be lecherous at times, but I wouldn’t say this show is ecchi because visually, it keeps things covered up.
Tomodachi NEXT Ep. 4 While I can appreciate this twist on the stereotypical “trap” character, it may not have gone about it the right way.
February 4 OreShura Ep. 5 If there were really as many girls into fantasy and LARPing as are depicted in anime, there would be no lonely otaku.
Minami-ke 4 Ep. 5 The continued lack of development in romance for anyone reminds me of how Charlie Brown never got to kick the football.
February 5 Sakurasou Ep. 17 As he continues to grow more confident, it’s my hope that Sorata will help dispel the myth that nice guys finish last.
February 9 Tamako Market Ep. 5 I’ve only lived in Japan for two and a half years, but I’ve never seen a school where the girls wear pink uniforms.
Psycho-Pass Ep. 16 We all have times when emotions run high and we have to face the dilemma of doing what we want and doing what’s right.

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