It’s been a fantastic year filled with tons of new shows, new experiences, and perhaps a giant leap into anime fandom with my #AnimeNight - in a way, I manage to pull off what I couldn’t do 5 years ago. To be a “serious fan” of anime in some form.
I had a pretty good start, but now as I dive into more current shows, it’s been a rollercoaster ride of nothing but pure fun. 2014 can lead to much more, but for now, let’s reflect on this year.
But let’s start with the music, shall we? This is less of a top 7, and more of a “best 7” list - so, my 7 favorite OP themes of 2013 are…
I’d say that the choices here were a bit easier than the OP themes, for many reasons. Hana was bound to be in my top 5 because of the atmosphere it gave to Aku no Hana whenever there was an insane cliffhanger. Maware was probably the catchiest of the year, no doubt about it. Shissou Ginga was solid, Daisy was very nice, and both Lemonade Scandal and Hachimitsu Doki were cute. What made Tokumade a standout was the section with the fast talking. Very powerful stuff.
Of course, there are shows which come so close to breaking my top 10, so here are my 3 honorable mentions of 2013 (13-11)…
10. Ore no Nounai Sentakushi ga, Gakuen Love Comedy wo Zenryoku de Jama Shiteiru (Noucome)
My mental choices are completely interfering with my school romantic comedy!
Some people tend to see comedy as a low form of entertainment, but it is probably the hardest - especially considering what people find funny. Japanese humor tends to fly over my head a few times, but I still laugh at the Gaki no Tsukai batsu games (especially the no-laugh versions) from time to time. But in the case of Noucome, it struck gold with its premise: a boy is afflicted with a mental issue called Absolute Choice - it occurs randomly, and it presses the person to make a choice depending on his situation, no matter how ridiculous each choice is. If he refuses, then he gets hit with headaches until he makes the choice. What could possibly go wrong, right? In a word… everything. The comedy is really something which can be enjoyed by anyone (barring that they can also take a mild dose of ecchi from time to time), but hey, Noucome is a great comedy. I just hope they make a second season.
9. Unbreakable Machine-Doll
I didn’t have many expectations for this show, other than expectations of it to be somewhat of a typical action anime with a brash MC. I was right… partially. Raishin Akabane is one brash mofo, but the dude has his reasons. He’s set on becoming the Wise Man, a highly esteemed position in the society of puppeteers to which he’s accustomed to. He fights with his automaton partner, Yaya, who also pines for him in quite a huge way, even to the point of jealousy in case he comes into contact with other girls. The cast of characters are rather diverse, though the show has its head screwed on just fine, and chugs along at a fine pace. Also, did you hear that ending theme? Catchy, right? Machine-Doll is a fine show, and will be entertaining for a various amount of reasons. Second season, when?
8. Love Lab
Enter Love Lab - hands down, one of the funniest shows I’ve seen since Nichijou and Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou. I had no plans to watch it, but after the first few episodes of Kitakubu Katsudou Kiroku started to fall a bit flat, I hopped ship to this show due to the mounting hype and never turned back.
What made this show shine were the cast of main female characters:
- Maki (the heavily-adored student council president)
- Riko (a generally aloof girl who is as equally adored)
- Eno (the “former” student council president)
- Sayo (the money-grubbing straight man of the group)
- Suzu (the clumsy, yet adorable assistant to Maki)
Together, the five girls research love and how to excel in it. Of course, this all started on a white lie told by Riko, when she discovered Maki kissing a dakimakura pillow in the student council room. Maki was a girl who, despite her brilliant beauty, never was in love. Riko lies about her experiences, and Maki eggs her on to teach what she knows.
Soon enough, it blows up and the research is underway, leading to a variety of skits which have made me shriek with laughter. While the plot in itself seems ridiculous, the character relations make it work so well, and coupled with the amazing animation - it isn’t an eyesore. Plus the jokes practically write themselves, and don’t skip a beat to make the viewer bust out with laughter.
Love Lab will go down as one of my bigger surprises of the year, because of what my expectations of it were and how it was easily shattered in a number of episodes. Definitely give it a go.
7. Servant x Service
Servant x Service is really one of those shows where you will have to love the characters in order to enjoy the show. Set in a government office building, we explore the livelihoods of three new employees (Lucy […] Yamagami, Yutaka Hasebe, and Saya Miyoshi), and their other co-workers (Megumi Chihaya, Taishi Ichimiya, Kenzo Momoi).
As for the weird omitted part of Lucy’s name ([…]), that’s a plot point for SxS, and while it doesn’t function as the central theme, it makes for humorous subject matter for the jokes in the show - Hasebe casually hits on Lucy from time to time, and also jokes about the name as much as he can. Miyoshi is more reserved, but tends to be stuck listening to stories from Tanaka, an old lady who visits the office every single day. Ichimaru is the “senpai” of the three, so he looks after them as much as he possibly can. Chihaya works alongside Lucy, and is an avid cosplayer who fancies creating clothes. Her demeanor is that of a realist, as her share of the comic relief is breaking down the spirit of others with her direct nature. As for Momoi… you should watch the show to figure out what’s so special about him. All I’ll reveal is that he’s the section chief, so essentially, he’s the boss of their floor.
Servant x Service is really hilarious too, and I admire the fact that the characters are so vivacious and meaning to keep being interesting throughout the show’s first season. If you want really great humor in a setting that’s not a high school, this is definitely for you.
6. Little Busters! (+ Little Busters!: Refrain)
Hey, that’s cheating! Using two shows for one slot… but I have my reasons. The first season of Little Busters did air in October 2012, but didn’t end until April 2013. Adding to the fact that its second season (Refrain) came out this year makes it a worthy choice, so bear with me!
Anyways, Little Busters is an adaptation from a very successful visual novel (of the same name) and it really is quite a spectacle. S1 introduces us to the original Little Busters: Riki, Rin, Kengo, Masato, and Kyousuke. Childhood friends then, and now high school students with their lives ahead of them. As a last hurrah, Riki is tasked with finding new recruits for the group to form a baseball team, and also, himself and Rin are tasked with finding “the secret to the world”, which is revealed in Refrain.
There is quite a lot that I absolutely refuse to spoil because of how story-heavy the show is, but I’ll say that it really is expertly crafted and managed to flow quite well, despite its origins as a VN. I’m even looking into the idea of getting it myself, since I came away very satisfied at the show, but I feel that there’s a lot which could be missing in the translation from visual novel to anime.
The characters are fantastic, I enjoy the sporadic moments of humor, and man, I’ll keep pimping the story because it really is something wonderful. Watch both seasons, definitely.
5. Hataraku Maou-sama!
Could ever imagine something as absurd as Satan working in a McDonald’s? Maybe not. But I feel that Hataraku Maou-sama went above and beyond in its bid to really make a name for itself. The manga-ka behind it could’ve easily based it on that simple premise, but it really extends to so much more than just Satan working at a burger joint. Maou (and his co-hort, Alsiel) are in the middle of a large-scale battle in a land known as Ente Isla, which is in a magical dimension of sorts. Before clashing with the Hero, Maou and Alsiel are somehow transported to modern-day Japan - free from any bit of magic, and perhaps as normal as we can expect. As time goes by, the men (using the bits of their power to forge new identities and lifestyles) enter human life to survive until they return to Ente Isla. From there, it gets really hectic as they aren’t entirely sealed off from the dimension. Oh no, it gets better.
Hataraku Maou-sama balances humor with fast-paced action very well, and it’s rare that an anime can hold both a comedy and an action dynamic together in loving matrimony. Definitely a show that you shouldn’t skip out on, even with the self-explanatory title.
4. Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan)
Humanity is on its last legs. Driven to the brink of extinction by the rise of a new race, known as Titans, the humans construct a sanctuary where they are protected by three nigh-impenetrable walls - Wall Maria, Wall Rose, and Wall Sina. Then, after 100 years of peace, the Colossal Titan appears and busts Wall Rose wide open, letting the Titans breach - killing any that they can reach while panic reigns over the area. During that time, we’re introduced to Eren Jaeger and his adoptive sister, Mikasa Ackerman, as well as their friend, Armin Arlert as they witness the fall of Wall Maria.
Attack on Titan’s story is pretty gritty, and doesn’t hesitate to make you feel bad for the characters as they go through hell. Good people die, and you will see them die. But lucky for them, there’s the military and its three branches - the Garrison , the Military Police, and the Survey/Recon Corps. I won’t do all the storytelling for you, but I’d say that this show managed to live up well to the insurmountable hype. I say this after being disappointed with the second half of Sword Art Online, and being a victim to the hype surrounding Watamote.
It’s a great show in many regards, and its popularity has been well-earned. Production I.G. did a fantastic job, and while manga readers will be ahead of the pack, we won’t be seeing more of the anime for a while. It was a nice run, but of course, with what happened in that final episode, there’s no chance in hell that it stops there. Believe the hype.
This show is just beautiful. So very, very beautiful. Kyousougiga is the full TV version of an original net animation which aired a few years back, but with the purpose of exploring the series’ backstory and how the world came to be. It’s a bit hard to explain the premise, but I’ll do my best here.
We’re introduced to a priest named Myoue with a remarkable ability - to create drawings which can come to life. In time, he falls in love with a black rabbit who eventually borrows a body from a powerful person in order to properly fall in love with the priest. Her name is Koto. After adopting a child, and creating (and by that, I mean drawing) two more, the family lived a happy life. However, they felt that the real world wasn’t fully accepting of them, so Myoue recreates Kyoto as the Mirror Capital, and moves into the drawing as its creators. The family is happy… until Koto’s time in her body begins to elapse, thus the parents had to say goodbye and entrust the Mirror Capital’s prosperity to the children.
Then one day, a mysterious girl appears in the Mirror Capital. The first girl to do so in years. Her name is Koto.
Again, I can’t express how beautiful the show is, and its themes of family aren’t shortsighted. My only dismay with it is the fact that you need to pay full attention to what happens, because every detail somehow managed to count later on. It really is a different show from the rest, and perhaps there will only be a few like it. Definitely give the show a try - it’s 10 episodes long with 3 special episodes (including Episode 0, which is a re-done version of the ONA).
2. Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru.
My youth romantic comedy is wrong, as I expected. No, I’m serious, that’s the translation of the show’s title. Rightfully so, it is far removed from your expectations as humanly possible. Imagine a show that seems to look like a typical teenage romcom, but somehow knows of its tropes and turns everything on its head to just show the viewer how silly it can be? We’re seeing this adventure through the eyes of Hikigaya Hachiman, who is essentially the rebellious, yet righteous main character. In a way, he isn’t privy to what other anime MCs have to go through - his weaknesses don’t make up for the bulk of his character, nor he is he some sort of male power fantasy like any other shonen. He’s just a guy who’s a hardcore cynic of what people expect youth to be like. Think of him as a self-righteous person who is what he is without being an attention whore about it. There’s a lot of words I can use for Hachiman, but he’s simply a no-bullshit MC that serves it up with repercussions.
Forced by his teacher to join the service club, he meets one of the most popular girls in school, Yukino Yukinoshita, as well as the social butterfly, Yui Yuigahama. Together, they tackle different aspects of high school life, while Hachiman adds his own flair to things. For anyone who’s had a pretty rough high school life, this one will be dropping truthbombs left and right that will hit below the belt for maximum feeling. It really is a wonderful show, and can’t be missed.
1. Aku no Hana (The Flowers of Evil)
Ugly. Surreal. Poignant. Harsh. Melancholy. It bloomed. The flower, the flower bloomed.
When I picked up Aku no Hana, I compeltely went in blind - trusting only the description of the show in the anime charts where it was featured. What I got instead was perhaps one of the most thrilling shows of the season, and perhaps the most polarizing show of the year - bar none. People hated it for how it looked (the rotoscoping), and they felt that it was “the cancer killing anime”. Even more furious were the manga readers that had expected the original style of the series to be the norm, but they were thrown for quite a loop, and as a result. the show really had no legs to stand on.
Even I was scared of the reactions around me - even going as far as giving it a 3-episode trial run. I was actually considering to drop the show because of how far removed my initial expectations were. And yet… it got better. I almost immediately latched on to the characters presented in the show, the dingy colors of the city they lived in, the ambient of the world which the show inhabited, and even as simple as the premise is, it really goes above and beyond when you consider the mindset of a child at that age.
The show was not there to make you happy, nor was it going to be all moe-moe with how it dealt with the situations in that world. It gave the world a human feel, free of most typical anime tropes, and almost deliberately made you want to question what you were watching.
I can definitely say that this isn’t a show for everyone. Again, it’s really polarizing when it comes to seeking opinions about the show - you’re going to love it or hate it. I’m aware of the show’s flaws, and again, I’m aware at how the premise is a bit silly. But it really makes itself stand out in my head because it truly encompasses how we feel as we grow up and enter the adult world - everything seems to matter, and there are repercussions for every action under the sun. This may all seem like a grand hyperbole, but there is no doubt in my mind that this show is my 2013 Anime of the Year.
Thanks very much for reading, and I heartily look forward to what next year has in store for us all.