2013 was a pretty phenomenal year in anime, I must say. Winter was a joke in that the only good shows were carryovers from 2012, but otherwise the rest of the year went on to have a great selection of shows with something for everyone, with each season getting even better than the last.
2013 also marked a shift in my viewing habits, to where I actually give most shows a try before narrowing down my selection. So this time around I’ve got a much more complete image of what the year was like overall, which gives me more leverage to act like an elitist snob who knows way more than the lowly “casual” fans.
And so without further ado here’s my top eleven shows of 2013, as of this writing. Like how most other anibloggers do it, shows that started airing in 2012 but finished in 2013 are counted, whereas those that started in 2013 but carry over to 2014 are not counted. So Shin Sekai Yori is eligible, but not Kill la Kill.
11. Aku no Hana
Upon watching the first episode of Aku no Hana I wasn’t too impressed by it, but it left me intrigued enough to pick up the manga afterward. I blazed through all five of the volumes that had then been scanlated at the time, and it’s since become one of my favorite mangas. It’s this wonderfully twisted tell about blackmailing and perversions, which poignantly describe the fears and anxieties which come with the awkwardness of puberty and middle school life, and conveys just how awful life can seem at that age.
Unfortunately I never really got behind the way the anime chose to present the story, like the shoddy rotoscoping and endless amounts of silent walking. It’s still a great story in spite of this though, so it still manages to be one of my favorites of the year.
10. Genshiken Nidaime
Genshiken Nidaime lost a lot of what made the original Genshiken so fascinating, as it’s not as great of an exploration on otaku culture. It makes up for it though by introducing an equally fascinating concept, that being to have the central focus be on a guy crossdressing in order to fit into yaoi culture and explore his gender identity. That theme wasn’t actually handled all too well since there’s an apparent lack in how transgender issues actually work in reality, as I’ve detailed before in a blog post. The real reason I love Nidaime so much is because I found it utterly hilarious how insensitive the characters would be towards Hato about their crossdressing and gender identity (especially in the early episodes.) And don’t worry, I’m transgender so it’s okay for me to laugh at it.
9. Miyakawa-ke no Kuufuku
As you would all know if I were to stop procrastinating and a make a page about what my favorite animes are, Lucky☆Star is my second favorite anime of all time. And Miyakawa-ke no Kuufuku may just be an ONA adaption of a spin-off manga to Lucky☆Star, but it still gives me that same fuzzy feeling that Lucky☆Star does.
And it’s basically the same thing too, except instead of being about a group of highschool girls, it’s about a woman taking care of her younger sister, and the woman starves her sister for the sake of having more money to spend on otaku merchandise. It’s better than it sounds.
8. Shin Sekai Yori
Shin Sekai Yori is one of those shows where my opinion of it seemed to change with each episode. Sometimes I’d be joining alongside others and agreeing with what a chilling and deep story it was, while other episodes would leave me scratching my head at the odd writing and directing and wondering just what exactly the show was trying to do with itself. By the final episode however, it was clear that this show did have a solid vision and story it was trying to tell about this messed up future of psychics and mole rat people, and tied together the jumbled mess that was the previous episodes. It’s a show which I ended up liking a lot more in hindsight, and that I’ll probably appreciate more if I ever give it a second watch. There’s still quite a lot of poor writing and directing involved in it, but hot damn do I feel sorry for Squealer and the human race.
7. Kiniro Mosaic
Kiniro Mosaic is a slice of life comedy and a “healing” anime, and it kept me laughing and smiling throughout the whole series. The most notable part of Kiniro Mosaic would probably be the first episode, which transports us to an utterly captivating (albeit exoticised) English countryside, as we follow a young Japanese girl befriending a shy English girl in spite of the language barrier between the two. The way it employs its visual storytelling to demonstrate the growing friendship of the two girls is fantastic, and if it doesn’t warm your hear you probably don’t have much of a soul to begin with. After the first episode though it essentially became like any other slice of life show though, except with a bunch of jokes about blonde white girls, though it’s still great in it’s own right.
6. Little Busters!: Refrain
Little Busters! is a hard series to sell since the first season suffers from typical VN pacing, in which you have to sit through hours of mediocre fluff in order to get attached to the characters, which is essential so that the actual good parts of the story have more impact. And really, the first season of Little Busters! isn’t too impressive. But I love the Clannad anime adaption, and so I took the VN readers word for it and waited patiently for the “Refrain” portion of the story.
With just the first episode of Little Busters!: Refrain I could already tell that this would be a lot better than the first season, which is impressive since the it hadn’t even gotten to the fated “Refrain” arc yet. It’s clear that J.C. Staff has put a lot more effort into this second season, and nails a lot of the drama so that it didn’t take long for me to get hooked on this show. I honestly felt a bit emotional by the time I finished watching the last three episodes back to back. Maybe not as emotional as Clannad: After Story made me, but it still lived up to its reputation of being one of Key’s best works.
Judging by the cover alone NouKome may seem like any other LN adaption with an overly long titles and ridiculous premises, and we all know those sort of shows almost always end up being generic trash in spite of their ridiculous premise. But thankfully that’s not what not quite what NouKome is, and if anything it’s the best parody of trashy otaku fiction to dawn on us in a while. It’s puts together all sorts of tropes that have become common over the years to create a weird and zany mess of fun, and actually uses them effectively for comedy. Almost every episode of this show had me laughing throughout its duration, and for that it’s easily my favorite comedy from the past couple years.
The ecchi in it is pretty good too.
4. Uchouten Kazoku
Originally this was supposed to be just a list of my favorite ten anime from the past year, but once I was just about ready to post this after hours of grueling writing and editing, I realized I had completely forgotten to include Uchouten Kazoku onto the list. Ha, funny how that can happen.
Uchouten Kazoku is a mystery drama of sorts, although it’s probably best to go into it expecting something more akin to a slice of life anime. The first 10 episodes of the show are very laid back and mostly focus on exploring the various characters and setting of the story, while only hinting at an overarching plot at hand. Which is also probably why this show is doomed to get nothing more than a cult following.
It’s a slow and methodical show, and just like with slice of life’s your enjoyment of it will hinge on how much you resonate with the characters. But when all that hinting and buildup finally comes together and the plot really kicks in with the last three episodes, it really kicks in and pays off.
3. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
I absolutely love shows that know how to execute their story with style, and everything about Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure just oozes with excellence in that vein. On paper a lot of things about Jojo might sound like something from some cheesy pulp fiction, from cyborg nazis to zombie squirrels, but it’s the sheer energy and artistic intregrity that’s been poured into this work makes it quite a spectacle. The Phantom Blood portion of Jojo is nothing too impressive, but once Battle Tendency starts up the story quickly picks up momentum and with each episode never ceases to give you a handful of whammy moments that make you jump up in your seat.
Yuyushiki is just another moeblob slice of life show about cute girls doing cute things, talking about random stuff, and not having any plot whatsoever. The reason this is my second favorite of the year (or maybe third; it’s a pretty close call between this and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure,) is that it’s a slice of life series that’s executed very well, and I happened to resonate with the characters and be able to immerse myself in the conversations and setting quite a lot. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about by “resonate” and “immersion,” you need to find the nearest moe lover and have them explain Slice of Life 101 to you.
I often have trouble thinking of stuff to say about these sort of shows (Hell, I could barely think of anything to say about Kiniro Mosaic for this list.) Maybe because I haven’t actually seen all that many “pure” SoL’s, despite Lucky☆Star being one of my favorite animes. Though really the reasons to enjoy any of them always comes down to how well they resonate with you or how immersive they are, so there’s usually not much to say about them anyways.
What Yuyushiki has going for it is how realistic it is at emulating real life conversations, the subtle ways in which it uses animation to express the characters moods and personalities, and its exploration of the dynamics between inner and outer groups of friends.
1. Monogatari Series: Second Season
I already wrote a blog post containing my overall opinion on Second Season, so I’ll just sum up what I said there:
I’ve been a fan of the Monogatari Series ever since I finished watching Bakemonogatari a couple years ago, but it’s Second Season here that’s solidified it as one of my favorite anime series in general. I love how it fleshes out certain characters to make them much more compelling then they originally were. It mixes up the formula a bit by having characters other than Araragi narrate, and even when it’s still being narrated by Araragi I still can’t get enough of that guy’s long winded monologues and loli obsession. I love how SHAFT and Shinbo are actually using their generous budget to experiment with the visuals in ways other than revolutionizing fanservice—improving on their ability to use visuals to keep 10 minute conversations engaging.
Each story arc ended on an emotional note with me, and I really can’t get enough of this show. I loved blogging about each episode of this show (aside from the few times I didn’t much time to, anyways,) and it’s been an honor to blog about you Second Series.
This is the best ranked list for 2013 I’ve seen yet on the blogosphere.
I say that this is the best ranked list out there because (as you may have not noticed) you have exactly four heavily Type-B oriented shows and four heavily Type-A oriented shows. This is incredibly balanced in terms of viewership. It also shows an extremely healthy spread in terms of how you enjoy your anime.
I’ve been watching anime for a very long time, and I’ve seen so many people come and go. When your tastes in anime and how you enjoy them is as balanced and as healthy as yours, you’re far likely to stay in this hobby for far longer than those who just watch anime for the plot. You know well that there are a lot of people like that out there.
I do want to ask about the inclusion of Yuyushiki though. I absolutely adore the show, but I don’t really follow your reasoning when you said “how realistic it is at emulating real life conversations”. If anything, Yui is the only realistic person in the trio. The other two are literally moeblobs. I don’t think there’s anyone who like those two in real life.
Thanks, I’m honored to hear that! I probably have you to thank for my open-mind towards Type-B shows too, haha. I remember a couple years ago in the Hyouka thread on the NHRV forums, you made a lengthy post explaining why Slice of Life anime differs from Type-A shows, and that left an impression on me. I was already a fan of Lucky☆Star at the time, but I never really thought much about why I liked it. Because of that though I instantly understood what you were trying to say, and so you’re post inspired me to be more open towards other SoL animes.
As for Yuyushiki, admittedly I didn’t explain that too well. A more accurate way to put it would be that Yuzuko and Yukari are exaggerations of how the “oddballs” of a group of friends act, while the way they interact and the dynamic itself is pretty realistic. Basically, the girls act like weirdos in order to goad their “normal” friend Yui, and because they’re all close friends with one another their actions are socially acceptable, relatively speaking. Which is essentially how certain friendships work in real life. This contrasts with how everyone outside of their group is (rightfully) weirded out by Yuzuko and Yukari’s behavior, since they’re not “in” on their jokes.
Frog-kun’s review on Yuyushiki explains it better I think, so I’d recommend that as further reading: http://fantasticmemes.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/review-yuyushiki/
I’ve watched Yuyushiki and Kiniro Mosaic and loved them to pieces.
Shin Sekai Yorim both seasons of Ghostbusters, Monogatari 2 (A year of rage against Nisemonogatari is enough time to calm down and bury the hatchet), Mojo Jojo are on my backlog. I’ll also take the other shows you mentioned into consideration.
I can’t agree with your ranking more. The end of this past year I almost avoided speaking about monogatari when comparing and discussing the current state of anime because of how outstanding it’s been. Right now the franchise is my biggest reason I would have to finally start learning Japanese. The trailblazing visuals and design hold up what I understand as a globally unique instance of literary media exploited for the screen; the written word being flashed as scenes play out shows the studio’s appreciation of the source. Like thick foliage turning for a second and exposing the branches supporting it.
This recent season of the franchise gave me the same feeling as I would get in a fine art museum. The scale and verity of this, our, subculture gains new life by this aesthetic exposition.
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Watching Monogatari certainly is exciting for how unique and creative it can be visually. It makes me wish more studios would be a bit more experimental with their stuff like Shaft is.
Not sure what to say about that last sentence.
It’s a palate cleanser.
Sadly I’ve only seen 3 of the series on your list (which shows just how much I probably missed out on this year, much to my dismay) but all of them were fantastic.
Refrain was a beautiful watch. I enjoyed the Little Busters S1, though I found it to be less entertaining than most other Key anime. Luckily, Refrain more than made up for that and had a number of really powerful moments to make everything else in the series come together. It may not be my #1 Key experience and from what I’ve heard, there could’ve been more to the adaptation, but I loved it all the same and it’s one of my favorites of the year. Some people complain about how it was adapted, but I for one think it was an amazing experience.
JoJo was also fantastic, though it’s a bit of a strange case for me. I can hardly count it as a 2013 experience, in part because I watched through the anime long after it finished during December, but more than that because I read the manga a few years ago and so it was hardly a “new” experience for me. All the same though, JoJo’s TV anime was such a glorious adaptation that really emphasized the fabulousness and did wonders to give a fresh take on the series, and I especially loved seeing how Battle Tendency was adapted. Can’t wait for the part 3 adaptation ahead.
And Monogatari S2 is a brilliant choice for #1, upon the end of the year I too felt it was my favorite of the year (though at this point in time it’s my #2). Monogatari S2 was a spectacular installment in the series and I loved how much it built upon the previous seasons. The different character perspectives and the role shifts made for a breathtaking watch, and I especially loved Koimonogatari. Koimonogatari is by far my favorite arc of the Monogatari series and it solidified Kaiki as my favorite character of the series. I really can’t wait for more from Monogatari, S2 was such a fantastic experience.
As for me though, my favorite of 2013 would have to be White Album 2. White Album 2 was a powerful watch with great development and an extremely emotional story, and that was all the more impressive considering it was a 13 episode anime (which I typically find are lacking in development due to pacing issues, though there are some exceptions). WA2 was an extremely refreshing (though admittedly painful) experience and as much as I love Monogatari S2, I think WA2 edged out just the slightest bit for me.
2013 had quite a few excellent series, yet I still missed out on a great deal of them. Sooner or later I really need to check out some of the other ones you listed, it seems like there’s a lot for me to enjoy.
Yes, I would highly recommend all of these series to people. Except maybe Aku no Hana, since I’d suggest reading the manga first.
Yeah, I’m glad I trusted VN readers enough to be patient and wait for Refrain, since it really did pay off for the mostly dull and uninspiring first season. In hindsight there was quite a few plot holes and unexplained aspects of the story, which may or may not have been explained in the VN, but it still got me emotional and invested in the characters and story so I don’t really care about a few plot holes. I’m also kind of glad that Refrain ended up not being a nakige like Clannad; shows that Key can get me emotionally attached to their work without making me depressed in the process w
I’ve been reading the Jojo manga, and it really makes me appreciate just how much the anime improved on the source material. Everything about the anime from the pretty colors, improved visuals, voice acting, and wub wub music really makes it ten times better than the manga. (Although as of this writing I’m only 2 volumes into Battle Tendency. I really need to pick up the pace if I want to read Stardust Crusaders before the next anime adaption comes out, eheh.)
By the time Koimonogatari concluded Kaiki pretty much became one of my favorite characters of the series as well. Which also made the ending of that story arc especially gut wrenching. (Poor Kaiki, ;_;7)
I haven’t gotten around to watching White Album 2 yet, although I have seen quite a few people sing about its praises (figuratively speaking.)