Top Twelve Anime of 2013

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!

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Summer 2013 – Week 13 in Review

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.

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Trust, Agency, and The World God Only Knows

Initially, I wasn’t really sure if there was a point to reviewing this one. I mean, it’s the third season of a self-aware harem comedy/parody. If you’re watching it, you know what you’re getting, and if you’re not, you know why you’re not. What would be the audience for a piece like that?

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized this season basically makes the show. Sure, it’s always been funny. Sure, it’s always taken pointed but lighthearted jabs at harem scenarios and anime character writing. But this season takes the gloves off. This season makes a point.

Alright, I’m gonna use one of my least favorite words here. Normally, I think it’s both misapplied and meaningless, but for once, it just might be appropriate.

TWGOK S3 completes the show’s arc as a deconstruction of harem comedies.

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Summer 2013 – Week 12 in Review

Would it be hyperbole to call this the best week of the season? Don’t really see how it could be – sure, Gatchaman was hamstrung by its budget issues, but everything else… well…

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The World God Only Knows S3 – Episode 12

Keima you better not fuck this up I swear to god. Although I don’t know how he can avoid screwing this up – Chihiro’s basically demanding he give up on the system he’s relied on so far, and actually falling in love with the girls isn’t necessarily any better than his usual shenanigans. Plus screw Ayumi who cares about her anyway. Alright. Gotta maintain some distance here. Can’t let this shit get to me. Gotta stay cool.[1]

Agh can’t do it Chihiro better win. I know the manga is ongoing, and they still have to actually resolve the goddess stuff (though at this point it’s pretty clear the point of this arc has been merely to complicate the standard structure, not actually replace it). But I don’t give a crap about any of that. Keima and Chihiro are funny and adorable together, and she’s the only non-demon he seems comfortable being his usual abrasive self with. I know this show’s largely a comedy, but give me a hint of real romance and I will not be satisfied with anything but. Pander to me, show. PANDER TO ME.

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Summer 2013 – Week 11 in Review

No Monogatari this week, so I only had two thirds of the great shows I normally do. That turned out to be fine, though, because the second-strings were in extremely good form.

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The World God Only Knows S3 – Episode 11

Very excited for this one. Glorious confrontation, glorious consequences. Chihiro actually learning what Keima is has to be one of the best possible directions they could take this – she’s always had one of the best honest rapports with Keima, and I think promoting her to series regular would make the usual dynamic much more entertaining.

Either way, Keima’s probably gonna get hit again. Win-win!

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Summer 2013 – Week 10 in Review

Another fantastic week in anime, but when the current season has a bewildering buffet on the scale of three good shows, that tends to happen. All three of my favorites were in top form this week, so let’s run down the list.

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The World God Only Knows S3 – Episode 10

Keima how are you going to make this okay. Last episode sucked. And by sucked I mean it was clearly the best thing this series has ever done, holy shit TWGOK when did you get this good. Keima is finally suffering real consequences from constantly manipulating people, and the show’s not pulling any punches. I’m glad they’re also revealing how tired of all this he’s become – he isn’t just an asshole, and the fact that his standard system of dealing with the world has deeply hurt someone clearly weighs on him. I hope they don’t give that weariness up – frankly, I like shows that put their characters through the emotional gauntlet, and I’d like to see more cracks appear in Keima’s heretofore close to unflappable confidence. This is honestly the last show I thought I’d be hoping would take its characters emotions seriously, but last episode was a complete game-changer.

Of course now that I’ve said that, we’re gonna have a wacky misunderstanding festival date episode or something, right?

Episode 10

0:12 – Uh oh.[1]   Looks like he’ll have to use… that

Gawd that line’s so trashy. Can’t believe they used it in Gargantia

0:19 – Yeah I’m still good for another few of these[2]  

0:32 – Predator mode activated[3]  

2:38 – Will Keima’s talents ever stop emerging?[4]  

3:04 – And we’re back into anime archetype land[5]  . Sure, he callously mocked my best friend’s feelings – but he might like me!


3:42 – This director really loves Ayumi’s boobs[7]  

3:49 – Seriously though these shots[8]  

5:17 – Oh god Chihiro’s scenes are like pulling teeth make it stop[9]  

6:10 – Maybe if you hadn’t shut her down in the dickest way possible this wouldn’t be a problem[10]  

7:08 – This isn’t wacky at all[11]  

7:34 – NOW he chooses honesty? Yeah, seriously[12]  

7:53 – I really could get used to this.[13]   Also love Keima’s incredibly terrible plan here

9:12 – Yeah jeez,[14]   how dare she be honest with Chihiro

10:09 – Still not seeing the wackiness[15]  

10:34 – Well crap.[16]   This escalated quickly

11:17 – Aw, Haqua gets her big damn hero moment[17]  

15:03 – It’s a self-aware harem comedy romance battle shounen[18]  

16:26 – Maybe my favorite line of the show.[19]   Look, we’re not making Shakespeare here, alright?

17:23 – Wow, this really brings[20]   the harem masculine savior fantasy thing to a whole new level

18:09 – A third-act peace offering from the loose cannon who doesn’t play by the rules?[21]   Hey, if the narrative shoe fits, wear it

19:27 – Ooh, good trick.[22]   Totally forgot about that

20:16 – Aw, just let her join the damn team.[23]   This show’s a big jerk

And Done

Welp, guess it’s endgame time. I’m glad they haven’t just dropped the significance of Chihiro’s situation – this episode certainly wasn’t very kind, but that’s vastly preferable to just dropping her character to focus on the derpy fantasy stuff (I agree with Ayumi, it could use a rewrite). As I’ve said before, her and Keima seem to possess actual chemistry, and not just senpai-noticed-me archetype-versus-MC level chemistry. I would be happy to see her be a more regular presence going forward.

Anyway, aside from that it was a pretty workmanly episode, mainly lifted by its best gags (Elsie once again works incredibly well in small doses). Looks like we’re well on our way to the thrilling finale.


Summer 2013 – Week 9 in Review

Fell behind on some shows this week, and haven’t had the time to catch up. I’ll update this with C3-bu and Monogatari whenever I get around to them. And hell, maybe I’ll even catch up on the handful of Titan episodes I’ve been too apathetic to watch.

Uchouten Kazoku 9: Best show yada yada beautiful art yada yada resonant themes yada yada incredibly naturalistic storytelling etc. As always, the grace of this show’s composition and dialogue fall well beyond my ability to articulate, so I guess I’ll just say that this week’s episode finally brought the scale of the show’s final conflicts into focus. The election of the Nise-emon and the Friday Fellows’ New Year’s bash are clearly going to be tied together in this final arc, most likely through whatever secret plan the Ebisugawas are plotting. Once again, Yasaburou proved himself the begrudging but undeniably best-qualified leader of the family, his easy nature making him the perfect diplomat when it came to the Fellows, the professor, and even Kaisei. I’m eager to see how Benten will figure into this conflict, but at this point I mainly just want this show to be finished so I can buy it and force everyone else I know to watch it. Why do I watch anime? Because every year we get a handful of shows worth talking about and maybe one or two of these.

Gatchaman Crowds 8: Quite an episode this week. After the tumultuous showdown of last week, they follow it up by… visiting a preschool. That kind of works, in a thematic way. Which is how most of the stuff in this show works – it often feels like Hajime is having a direct conversation with the audience more than she is with any of the characters around her. Her actions make much more sense given our fuller context, her smaller choices are often reflective of the show’s overarching ideas, and she’s so flawless outside of her communication difficulties that her alignment with the show’s philosophy often verges on (and you could easily argue fully veers into) didactic storytelling.

But anyway, theme stuff. Visiting the preschool and appearing in human form is pretty much perfectly Hajime – she values communication between equals above all else, and uses this opportunity to redefine the Gatchamen as just another group of people trying to help out, like firemen or policemen. She also uses the media presence to take the power of crowdsourcing out of Galax’s hands and publicly announce what’s going on and how people can help out (credit to tundranocaps for pointing this one out). And then Sugane and OD have their whole on-the-nose conversation about the egoless play of children being like the joyful horizontal society Rui’s so goddamn excited about. So we push the story forward while also talking about all the show’s favorite ideas. Good stuff!

Incidentally, people are getting all excited about the first few hours of Gatchaman’s appearance on Amazon or whatnot, but it seems a little premature to be celebrating that. Honestly, I’d be pretty surprised if a show this completely dedicated to such esoteric ideas finds wide success, particularly since its visual aesthetic is so unabashedly anime, which I’m guessing is pretty off-putting to most people interested in discussing crowdsourcing, gamification, and the false prophet of leadership. But then again, Utsutsu of all characters recently came in the top four of a Japanese summer “best female character” poll, so perhaps once again the right show will get big sales for all the wrong reasons.

TWGOK S3 9: TWGOK is not really my kind of show, but at this point I’m extremely happy I’ve watched the rest of it, because the improvements in this season are just insane. Keima’s always been an entertaining protagonist, but this season has forced him to actually take his Lelouch-powers seriously, and this was the episode where it all came to a head. His denial of Chihiro was some legitimately devastating stuff – normally I get uncomfortable whenever anything haremy attempts to take its characters emotions’ seriously (because if if I’m taking them seriously, I also have to take seriously the fact that harems are fundamentally fucked-up, dehumanizing power fantasies with all kinds of demented ideas about relationships and power dynamics), but this episode actually let the hammer fall in a way no other harem would. No funny gags here – Keima’s actions, while ultimately intended to help people, have completely toyed with people’s emotions, and when you do things like this you suffer the consequences. This has been coming for a long time, but I was honestly shocked by how effective it was, and the strength of this moment by itself raised my estimation of the show overall. Congrats, Season 3.

Free! 9:

Yep, still watching Free. This week’s episode was actually one of the best (which admittedly isn’t saying much), with a bunch of great gags and some quite effective dramatic moments. My enthusiasm for this pretty lousy show kind of dwindles the more information we get on the fall show seemingly determined to prove what KyoAni are actually capable of, so for the sake of leaving my children a full set of derpy comedy writeups, I’m hoping it keeps up the pace.