2013 Anime Season: Year in Review

2013 has come to a close, and so ends another year of anime – memorable, mediocre, or otherwise. Looking back on the year, it’s nice to take a little time and evaluate what has aired and remember some of the series that made their mark. Here are some of my top picks for the best and worst of 2013…

Note: This list only contains anime that ended in 2013, and will consequently not include any anime that started in 2013 and spans into 2014. Also, I haven’t actually seen every anime that aired in 2013, so while Diabolik Lovers might be worse than Amnesia, or whether you think Kyousougiga, Little Busters, or White Album 2 belong on this list, I can’t really add them since I didn’t actually suffer through Diabolik Lovers or watch the latter 3 (they’re on my “to watch” list, though!).

And, of course, if you have any of your own favourite picks, I’d love to hear them! Suggestions on what I should watch, but missed, in 2013 are also very welcome (for your reference, here’s my MAL profile and my Hummingbird library)! Please enjoy this entirely biased selection of my picks from the year past.

Favourites:

9. Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru

Yahari Ore No Seishun Love Come Wa Machigatteiru - 01Completely character driven and offering a great mix of comedic and serious moments, this series was surprisingly introspective and and poignant. A slice of life high school comedy that explores the various social situations that one might face, including bullying, gossip, ostracization, and the mechanics of friendship, the overall feel of the show was almost in the mystery/detective genre, with plenty of emotional drama punctuating the more lighthearted and comedic elements.

Hachiman was the standout lead in this anime, offering an interesting inner monologue that helped make him relatable with all his flaws, reservations, and feelings. And, it wasn’t just Hachiman that had depth… Instead, pretty much every character had their own distinct personality, complete with flaws, motivations, and emotions. Watching each character develop throughout the course of this short series makes OreGairu an especially satisfying watch.

8. Gin no Saji

Egg Rice - Silver Spoon 01 - 15I didn’t expect to feel much emotion towards an anime about a city boy that enrols at a rural agriculture school… but this slice of life anime really did a great job at turning what could have otherwise been a typical “fish out of water” scenario into a series with a surprising amount of heartwarming, thoughtful, and powerful moments. Characters were the highlight in this anime, being well crafted with individual personalities, quirks, and dreams for the future, and developing throughout the course of the series. The pacing of the show was also very well done, with every episode just flying by as it it gave a unique glimpse into rural farm life.

And, since this is primarily an anime food blog, I will say that the food in Gin no Saji looked particularly delicious!

7. Shingeki no Kyojin

Shingeki no Kyojin - 01You can’t have a “year in review” and not mention the most talked about series of all! Shingeki no Kyojin was a roller coaster ride punctuated by outlandish and exciting action scenes. It had some genuinely jaw dropping, heart stopping moments, as well as some of the most insane cliffhangers I have ever seen in anime. But, of course it wasn’t totally perfect, with a lagging middle section and a cast of mostly one dimensional characters.

But, what the anime lacked in character development and depth, it made up for it in spades when it came to world building and action. The interesting setting and lore of Shingeki no Kyojin helped breathe life into the series. The great OPs also did wonders to pump me up every episode. Also, that cliffhanger at the end of the season….!

6. Hataraku Maou-Sama

Hataraku Maou-Sama - 01

Campy, quirky, and fun, with a surprising amount of actual plot, this series about the demon king working at “McRonalds” was very fun to watch. The comedic aspects in this anime were played almost perfectly, with the running gags, hilarious facial expressions, and physical comedy always managing to make me smile and laugh. But, what sets this anime apart is the way it seamlessly integrated an overarching, somewhat serious storyline into the slice of life comedy aspects of the series, with many of the funniest moments being serious scenes punctuated by random comedy. It had some wonderfully colourful and quirky characters and the story was always moving forwards, never stopping for a moment.

5. Free!

Free - 03Surprisingly, I really enjoyed Free! despite its emphasis on pretty boys splashing around in the water topless. The story was straightforward with just enough character and plot development each episode that it seldom felt dull. Another aspect I really liked was how anime was constantly making fun of itself and all the character and story tropes it embodied, which made for an added level of comedy. Of course, don’t expect any deep life questions to be answered here… This series was basically just simple, pure fun full of friendships, rivalries, sports, sun, and surf  – perfect for the summer season it aired in!

4. Uchouten Kazoku

Uchouten Kazoku - 02Some of the best visuals of the year were in this anime… I loved every frame of this anime for its beautiful shots of modern day Kyoto and its strange inhabitants. Both fantastical yet grounded in reality, it was easy to believe shapeshifting tanuki and flying tengu really could secretly live among us.

Overall, Uchouten Kazoku was a very low key, contemplative slice of life anime that was wonderfully paced, and had a strong emphasis on family and what it means to be alive. Each episode gradually revealed tantalizing pieces of character development and pasts through flashbacks and plenty of well written dialogue, while every character stood out as wholly individual, with unique motivations and world views, which lent a lot of depth to the entire series.

3. Gatchaman Crowds

Gatchaman Crowds - 02Colourful, energetic, and often times surprising, I had no idea what to expect from this anime going in… At first it seemed like it was going to be a straightforward story consisting of shiny transformations and battling strange monsters, but it quickly transcended this initial plot point, becoming unpredictable and strangely insightful.

Hajime also sticks out in 2013 as one of my favourite characters… Smart, optimistic, perceptive, and strong, I loved the way she faced every problem head on with both her mind and body. She really carried the show forward and is a large part of what I found so enjoyable about Gatchaman Crowds. Even with the enigmatic ending, which seemed more like a recap than a finale, this anime sticks out as one of my favourite of the year. Also, the theme song and OP were both super catchy!

2. Psycho-Pass

Psycho-PassThis series had an intriguing setting that felt simultaneously familiar and futuristic, which gave it an air of gritty realism perfect for a cop/detective anime. While this dystopian series was a bit episodic in some parts, it also did a great job at presenting several themes, among them being emotional repression, freedom vs order, revenge, latent criminality, and intrusive thoughts.

It was also enjoyable to watch Akane develop from a hesitant and naive new recruit to a confident but world weary inspector. Her growth was gradual and intriguing to watch, and combined with the development of the rest of the cast, made for a satisfying believable journey. I particularly loved Kogami’s revenge quest and its final conclusion. Dark, thought provoking, and thoroughly entertaining, Psycho-Pass certainly delivered plenty of action and suspense in a way that brings many present day concerns to the forefront.

1. Shinsekai Yori

Shinsekai YoriBy far my favourite of the year, Shinsekai Yori was a wonderful blend of the slice of life, science fiction, horror, and psychological genres. Seen through the eyes of our protagonist, Saki, this post apocalyptic series follows a group of childhood friends as they grow up and the mysteries about their world that gradually unravel throughout the season.

It’s rare to have an anime that actually follows the life of a character from childhood into adulthood, with so many anime focussing only on a few select years (so often being in high school). Instead, Shinsekai Yori employs several timeskips and brings character development to the forefront, allowing every main character to experience a full range of growth. Squealer in particular stands out as one of the best antagonists(?) of the year.

Paired with an incredible soundtrack and some really lovely visuals, the anime had some very hair-raising, tense, and emotional scenes that were truly gripping. Dense with moral ambiguity, quietly epic, and fully satisfying, this was one of the few shows that I was consistently and genuinely invested in, anticipating each new episode every week, without exception. 

I’d rather not mention:

5. RDG: Red Data Girl

RDG 02 - 41Beautiful visuals were not nearly enough to keep this anime coherent or enjoyable to watch. It started off well enough, with what seemed to be a straightforward plot, but it soon spiralled into a mire of seemingly unrelated arcs with a large cast of flat characters. Don’t be fooled by the pretty scenery or nice character designs: this anime had some serious issues with its writing, with sidelined storylines, misplaced plot points, and plenty of uninteresting characters.

4. Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya

Fate:kaleid liner Prisma Illya - 02I love the Fate/ franchise, so I though Fate/Kaleid would be a perfect fit! Sadly, this was not the case… Despite being so cute looking and so cleanly animated, I found myself checking my watch constantly wondering when something was going to happen. And, then nothing really did, and I was left wondering why I bothered. Character motivations lacked basic logic much of the time, and many plot points felt like they had been pulled out of thin air. Of course, there were tantalizing glimpses every now and then of something that could have been truly great, but sadly little of substance materialized.

3.Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou

Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou - 03A Madoka clone? Hardly, but I was still looking forward to this anime that promised a dark take on the magical girl genre based on tarot cards. Character designs were cute, and I liked the overall look of the series, but Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou failed to deliver any semblance of a coherent or interesting story. I felt nothing for the characters, who were all walking tropes with no personality and motivations that made little sense. Largely predictable, nonsensical, and dull, I can’t tell if this anime tried too hard or didn’t try hard enough.

2. Amnesia

AmnesiaThis had to be the series in which every episode ended in a face palm…. The show follows an unnamed heroine and her journey through parallel universes to recover her memories, which seems decent enough as a story at first… But, with a plethora of pretty (and oddly dressed) colour coded boys for her to choose from, each episode was uninspiring, unimaginative, and about as dull and vacant as our heroine. Pushed around, forced into cages, tugged by the wrist, and constantly killed off, the heroine comes off as one of my least favourite characters of 2013, having no will of her own, and little personality. She is at the complete mercy of all the other characters, and is seldom proactive in a logical way. But, perhaps what was most frustrating about Amnesia was how endlessly repetitive it felt, with each arc focusing on the romance with a different boy and our heroine remaining as vacant as ever.

1. Galilei Donna

Galilei Donna - 01If Amnesia had a rate of one face palm per episode, Galilei Donna upped that amount by at least 2 or 3 times…. And so, here we are, topping the list of series I would rather never mention again with that mess of an anime that somehow managed to completely self destruct after a startlingly good opening 2 episodes. With random time travel, static and flat characters, an over reliance on coincidence, and plenty of plot points that went absolutely nowhere, this series was simply terribly written. Do not be fooled by the nice character designs and remarkably good opening to this series! Galilei Donna was regrettably a total mess of wasted potential.

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4 thoughts on “2013 Anime Season: Year in Review

  1. Heh, totally with you on the ‘rather not mention’ list. And with the possible exception of Shingeki no Kyojin (I liked it, just not quite as much as most other people apparently did), I can’t disagree with anything else that made your top titles of 2013. Though admittedly I haven’t seen any of numbers 9, 4, or 3 yet.

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    • Honestly, I was pretty conflicted about putting Shingeki no Kyojin on the list since I found it both exciting and flat all at the same time. It was on and off the list over and over again, and moving up and down in the rankings while I was writing! But, despite all it’s flaws, I really can’t deny that when it was good, it was really good, with tons of crazy action and plenty of tension. I also think that the series works much better if the episodes are seen in succession, rather than weekly, thereby helping to move the slower parts along a bit faster.

      As for the rest, I hope you’ll check out OreGairu, Uchouten Kazoku, and Gatchaman Crowds out someday!

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  2. I was glad to see Shinsekai Yori and Psycho Pass in the top 2. Those two probably rank among my all time favorites and not just last year’s. I agree with your rankings and also have similar views about the shows that fell flat. The only suggestion I could think to add off the top of my head would be Suisiei no Gargantia. Not a flawless show either, but definitely one of the more enjoyable ones of 2013! Great review!

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    • Yes, agreed that Shinsekai Yori and Psycho Pass were really the standouts from last year! I would definitely watch them both again (and again)…

      As for Suisei no Gargantia, I really enjoyed it when it aired and I think it’s a solid watch, but I decided not to include it on the list because while I loved the setting, visuals, and a couple characters (mostly Chamber), I really felt the series has too many issues with it’s pacing and characters. Feel free to check out my full final impressions of the show here! One anime that I would consider adding to the list might be Zetsuen no Tempest, which had some really great characters (namely Fuwa Aika!), a nice amount of mystery, and plenty of Shakespeare. Like Suisei no Gargantia, it wasn’t perfect, but both remain two of the better anime of 2013!

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