I got to take another crack at Eccentric Family! Which is good, because I never felt all that happy with my original essay on the show. This one doesn’t go as deep into the show’s central themes, since you can’t really focus entirely on that within a standard review structure, but it also doesn’t just retell the entire damn story. I hopefully was able to articulate the key reasons the show is so great this time, and man, is the show ever great. Plenty to talk about!
And so 2013 comes to an end. This has been a big year for me in blogging, what with it being my first year in blogging, and so a lot of these shows hold a possibly unreasonable place in my heart. Nah, I don’t think that’s actually true. I think we’ve just had a great year, and that blogging really has done what I always wanted it to – force me to apply a more critical eye to my media, which, contrary to popular belief, has actually made me appreciate my favorites even more.
And there sure were plenty of favorites! As I said, this has been an excellent year in anime, with tons of genres, styles, and themes represented by stylish, confident productions. If this is your first time checking the blog, let me introduce myself by saying I’m a horribly biased shithead who wouldn’t know a good action show or comedy if it comically murdered me. I like people, and I like ideas, and my list reflects that (if you’re looking for Attack on Titan or Maou-sama, you can find my reviews of those here and here). I like to think I’m pretty good at telling good writing or direction from bad, but everyone has different things that appeal to them, and so you can consider the numbering here a mushy compromise between favorite and best, though the list overall encompasses both. I’m not gonna give you synopses here – if you’re interested, each title links to that show’s description, but that’s not what you’re not paying me for. These comments will cover why I loved these shows. I was aiming for a top ten, but when compiling the list, the shows that immediately bubbled to mind ended up numbering twelve, and instead of arbitrarily cutting two off I’ve decided to honor them all. Also, I’m only counting shows that ended in 2013 here, so no Kill la Kill or other half-finished two-parters. So here it is: my top twelve anime series of 2013!
Management: Just a mini-question today, since I found myself searching the archives for this and realized I’d never posted it in the first place. Organization!
Are shows starring adults meaningfully different from those starring teenagers? Are shows set in college meaningfully different from those set in middle or high school? I ask because I see this distinction made all the time, but generally it doesn’t seem meaningfully different outside of a setting/character-appearance sense.
Management: Reviews are inherently an act of attempting to paint the personal as the universal, but this piece in particular is overtly meant to share my personal experience of this show. I hope you enjoy it.
“Coming of age stories” generally have a very specific connotation, particularly when it comes to anime. They tend to focus on adolescence – on the discarding of our youthful conceptions of self, and the beginning stages of establishing a true mature identity. But the reality is life is not nearly that simple. You do not simply discover yourself at some arbitrary point in your teen years, and from then on no longer feel existential dread about self or purpose. You don’t wake up one morning and suddenly realize it’s time to Do Your Best for the rest of forever, and somehow find yourself continuously fulfilled by that one measly resolution.
Uchouten Kazoku understands this. It understands life and self-actualization are never so convenient as most stories’ linear narratives would like to pretend. It understands that living is not a coherent progression – living is what you’re already doing while you try and make sense of it all. And Uchouten Kazoku embraces this; the small lessons, warm friendships, and tiny moments that seem may inconsequential from an outside perspective, but that make up life itself, and when fully embraced, fully lived in, can swell to be heart-seizing moments on a monumental scale.
Uchouten Kazoku is likely the best anime of the year.
And so the summer ends. I really couldn’t be more burnt out on talking about anime, considering I just finished three 8+ page essays on TWGOK, Uchouten Kazoku, and Gatchaman Crowds, but I’ll at least wave my hand in the direction of final impressions.
Last Uchouten Kazoku. If I said I didn’t want it to end, that’d be kind of missing the point, right? Well, good, because I’m actually perfectly comfortable with it ending. Uchouten Kazoku has lived well – offering us many beautiful glimpses of a fantastically realized world, sharing a variety of well-written and relentlessly human (loaded word, but we’ll go with it) characters, and telling a sharp, perfectly composed story of life, family and duty. I’m not sad it’s ending, I’m happy it’s ending so well. I think Sou would approve.
No time for foolish preamble! It’s time for Yashirou to save the day!
Incidentally, I just posted a review of the Uchouten writer’s other work, The Tatami Galaxy, so when you’re done slavering over how good this week’s episode is undoubtedly going to be, you can always head over there for more writer-adoration. Anyway!
So. Three episodes left. Three brothers and mom in captivity, Kaisei captured as well, with the fourth brother still down the well, still unaware his father’s death was not his fault. There are a bunch of relevant pieces still on the board, of course – it’s unlikely Kaisei will be watched as carefully as the family, Yajiro is likely one “it was a trap!” short of busting out to rescue the family (and considering both his train trick and the fact that he’s remained a frog for god knows how long, he’s apparently extremely good at transformations), and both professors and Benten are still out there and still involved in the day’s proceedings. Granted, Benten’s turn will probably not be this easy – her position in the plot is too complicated for that.
Let’s talk about Benten for a second. Clearly we haven’t gotten her entire story – this show often mentions threads without fully explicating them, but it always comes back around to explain things when it hits an episode focused on the relevant character. And the key question with her is – why the Friday Fellows? What made her so intent on joining their group that she essentially killed a man? And what is the exact nature of her regret now?