Ranking the Anime of 2013 that Didn’t Suck

The 2013 year of anime was a rather interesting one for me. Reason being that it’s the first full year I’ve spent actually watching episodes of stuff the day the subs come out. It also threatened to be the last one since the start of the year felt so bland to me that I only managed to latch on to a couple of non-sequels that quickly turned out to be pretty sucky as well. That said, the year managed to pull up it’s bootstraps more and more towards the end and shot out some really memorable titles. For the sake of this list though, since it’s my very first yearly roundup, I’ll include everything that I saw and liked regardless of whether or not it started in 2013, just so long as it had episodes airing this year.

#15 Gatchaman Crowds

I could sum up my feelings on this show, it would be “nice try”. Easily the most culturally relevant anime in terms of it’s themes of 2013. I still can’t help but get the feeling that this show came out a little half baked. There’s the lead in Hajime, who I’ve got a few bones to pick with despite being  somewhat amusing. The idea of having an unflappable character who always knows what to say, when to say it and never seems to feel challenged in any sort of way is not an ideal main character. That and her whack ass behavior serves as a one-two punch against much of the show’s tension. Toss in weak pacing towards the end and you’ve got something that under-performed quite a bit. That said, I still dug the show’s impeccable style, soundtrack, and what the show was aiming for was unique enough to squeeze it in on the bottom. A bit sad that it never really came together as well as it could’ve. Decent show overall but a bit of a letdown. This isn’t a series that’s exactly begging for a sequel either, but I’m willing to give Nakamura another shot at tackle this wacky premise. Lastly, this opening is badass.
14# Danganronpa: The Animation
 
It’s a Seiji Kishi video-game adaptation, sounds like a quite the death knell huh? This thing pretty much got off on the strength of it’s source material since the director didn’t really do much but copy and paste shit into a 13 episode format. Didn’t stop me from enjoying the heck out of the very ridiculous stereotypes (with ridiculous character designs on top) and those wonderfully hillarious Death Traps. Monokuma is also the most delightful mascot character to ever strap someone into a motorcycle death cage, spin them into butter and eat them. So yeah, lazy adaptation, but it worked for me this time. If Kishi tries this again with my beloved Ace Attorney franchise, I probably won’t be so forgiving.
#13 Chihayafuru 2
Chihayafuru is somewhat of a special josei title. What I mean by that is if I wasn’t otherwise told, I’d assume that it was adapted from a shounen sports title kinda like Hikaru no Go without the supernatural element of the premise and with more shipping instead. It gets a somewhat lowish placement here since devoting an entire season to a card game tournament in  which monsters don’t pop-out of the cards is a bit of an uphill battle for someone who prefers more intense sports in their foreign cartoons. Even so, I still applaud this series for  it’s endearing cast who were always stepping up their game at a believable pace so that I couldn’t help but but feel happy for them whenever they’d overcome challenges. Even the newcomers, who fortunately felt like they were relevant enough and didn’t end up as mere gimmicks as I worried they might. And I loved most of the silly quirks of Mizusawa’s opponents (and Shinobu too, best character by a mile). While Karuta itself isn’t the most interesting game in the world, this series still did a pretty remarkable job of fleshing out as many aspects of it as possible, while maintaining an appropriately tense atmosphere for the most part (the early matches in the tournament weren’t that interesting). Still the weaker of the 2 seasons in my opinion (pace slowed down too much in some matches), but since I hadn’t checked out the true Best of Winter 2013 till much later, this was the only glimmer of interest I had throughout that seasons crop of anime. Definitely hope the manga continues sell well since I’m all for a 3rd season of this.
#12 Inferno Cop
I made the mistake of not watching this during the dreary Winter season (asides from the kick-ass fall carryovers).  Didn’t want to close out 2012 with regrets so I marathoned the shit out of this on December 31st. Really not a whole lot to say other then the writing here is the equivalent of two kids having an an imaginary duel on the playground, I should know since I was one the kids who loved doing that. It’s a flash animated Robocop meets Ghost Rider. It’s cool and stuff.

#11 Psycho-Pass

I consider myself lucky. In 2012 I made an arbitrary decision regarding which of the 2 Noitamina titles I’d catch up on, the other one being Robotic;s Notes (which I’ve read some pretty nasty things about this year). Anyhow, I opted to check out this very Gen Urobutchi-ish cop drama and got pretty good time out of it. It’s got a number of flaws sure, concept-wise it doesn’t make sense sense entirely and it devolves to “Welcome to Gen’s Book Club “-Pass much too often. That said, it’s action was great, it’s story mostly worked (even the ending since it felt about as necessary as the ending to 1984). Overall it succeeds a lot more at being enjoyable then it did at being thought provoking. That and Akane is a pretty cool chick.

#10 Blast of Tempest
I feel like the only person in the world who doesn’t feel much half-disparity when comparing the 2 halves of Blast of Tempest. This year however, the 2nd half did manage to introduce some long-needed levity into the story, while never forgetting to advance the plot at a decent clip. The show also boasts a great operatic soundtrack, consistent animation and good dramatic dialogue. Thing is, the angtsy nature of the first half made this a little difficult to get into, and the second half ended in a way that was a bit of whimper compared to the bang I was expecting. Still, this show is the only anime out their that can boast having Tree on Tree violence, which is pretty neat. One of a kind show to say the least.

#9 Kill la Kill

Kill la Kill ain’t the ZOMG 10/10 ANIMU MASTERPIECE of 2013. It’s story stripped of all the fancy flourishes is a pretty run-off-the-mill vengeance based action title. That said, thank god for those neat flourishes. It’s action scenes have just enough variety to them to keep from getting stale for now. It’s the distillation of the one thing I like most about the folks at Trigger: They make creating anime look fun when in reality it’s more boring exercise in soulless profit driving derivatives more often then not. The folks at Trigger have always been the sort to pour the aspects they love of previous titles into blender and set it to AWESOMIFY and Kill la Kill is only their latest smoothie. I’ve still got some bones to pick though. Even though the fights themselves are neat and varied, I’m really hoping that the show will have a few fights that don’t include Ryuuko for once. Considering how the show’s been mostly one huge Gauntlet Match that she mostly wins, gonna need more then that heading to the next season. The show could also use a bit more variety in it’s soundtrack too. The abundance of repeated animation and the fact the show doesn’t take breaks from fighting to allow for much character development also hinder it somewhat. Plenty of time to work on those issues though. Really looking forward to seeing whether or not this thing really explodes in scale in it’s second half. For now it’s gonna have to be content with this #9 spot.

#8 Turning Girls

Here you can check out the gushing I already did regarding this thing.

#7 Samurai Flamenco

Might come regret this decision if the 2nd half doesn’t properly justify the *aherm* decisions  the show decided to undertake mid season. Before episode seven, I found this to be a genuinely funny insight regarding what entails superheroism. Of course I was perfectly aware of the fact that it was more ridiculous with each episode, but even so I was among the many folks who were all “WHOAAA” when they saw that. Now that the shock and awe has finally cleared up, I’m beginning to notice that I’m not watching each episode to see more of  the characters I dig as much as I am watching to see if it pulls another twist that sets my Twitter timeline on fire. Random ass twists can be fun, but this thing needs to reign itself in a little. It’s been fun, but this is hanging on the precipice of disaster.

#6 Hajime no Ippo: Rising

Hajime No Ippo: The Fighting – Rising Episode 8

The fact that this season skimmed over the opening arc and didn’t deliver the usual training sequences I dug kinda  hurt my initial impression of this season of Ippo. There’s also Aoki’s arc which was mostly awesome but let-down by the fact that his match didn’t have a more definitive ending. The Ippo vs Sawamura arc pulled the show back up to it’s awesome standards, but the majority of the match was in 2014, Even with that said, it’s still Hajime no Ippo, and I think I’ve gone at length enough about why like this thing so darn much. Pretty much everything I’ve said about the previous iterations of Ippo still apply.

#5 Teekyuu 2 and 3

Teekyuu is comedy where if backed off from even a tenth of the insanity, it just wouldn’t work very well. That insanity comes from the ridiculously short run-time of 2 minutes per episode (including the opening). It’s essentially a badly animated distillation of banal “slice-o-life” moe stuff with random, surprising elements tossed in every episode. I actually find it to be a pretty good mental challenge, seeing how many mile-a-minute jokes I can catch within the time limit each Sunday. Season 4 can’t come soon enough.

#4 Kyousogiga

From a visual standpoint, this is a title that beats out cool looking stuff Gatchaman Crowds and From the New World. Definitely the most visually happening title to air this year. Narrative-wise, the show required a bit more work for me to fully grasp then any other 2013 anime. Not even my watching of the ONAs from 2011 and 2012 helped when it came to getting on board with this thing (probably added to my confusion if anything). Peel away all the seemingly random sci-fi elements and the rather cool but somewhat alienating cultural aspects (not that these elements detract from the show, they all lend to it’s uniqueness) and you’ve got yourself genuinely heartwarming family affair with a lead character that never fails to deliver smiles one indelicate hammer swing at a time. Steady pacing and the ability to strike comedic tones, serious tones, and everything in-between made this one of the best artsy-fartsy title I’ve seen in a long while.

#3 Hunter x Hunter

This year of Hunter x Hunter served one major purpose for me: Build the fuck up for that amazing climax coming soon. Said climax is the reason why I’m already labeling 2014 as the year of Hunter x Hunter, but there was plenty, plenty of awesome stuff that went down this year. The Chimera Ant arc is definitely the greatest example of nuanced, mature storytelling in the history of battle shonens (not a ridiculous assertion at all, I mean, just look at the competition). Not gonna lie though, wasn’t terribly fun slogging through Greed Island a third time, wasn’t that big a fan of the arc when I read the manga or saw the OVAs, but props to Madhouse for nailing the pacing on that one. I was never too big on the training arcs here either, but these are only small complaints nit-picks compared to the awesome feats this thing accomplished this year. Needless to say, if your not watching Hunter x Hunter, your probably watching something worse then Hunter x Hunter.

#2 From the New World

Here we have a title that managed to recover from a fine, but not thoroughly engaging first year of world-building. As far as taking risks both visually and storytelling wise, this came off to me as easily the most accomplished title of the year. It built up, and climaxed/ended in a way that although wasn’t super-exciting, managed to fit the series wonderfully. I love myself an unflinchingly brutal tale every now and then, and this really fit that quota for me, something without black/white answers to every question, and it had a very dense and involving plot. This was a title that’s far from being in demand, it could  very well have not been made and who knows? Maybe the animators would have more money for it? This was a gift from the creators at A-1, not a dime-a-dozen cash-grab, something I can’t help but worry we won’t be getting again.

#1 Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure

Can’t think of a better way to top this year’s best brainfood with this years greatest consistent-thrill-fest.  A proper adaptation of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure has been my dream anime ever since my brother got me into the manga years back, so I’ll admit this list was rigged from the get-go. This is a series that shits style and imagination. Seriously, who comes up with this random ridiculous stuff? The reason why I opted to leave this show out of 12 Days is because I couldn’t come up with one awesome moment to write about over all the other awesome moments. The vampire squirrel? Caesar  and Wham’s rematch? A Nazi dude blowing himself up to try to kill a super vampire and coming back as a cyborg to try to kill another super-vampire? Pretty much everything Joseph Joestar does? It’s ridiculous! And it all just worked, even on such a paltry budget. It’s always a pleasure to see a studio understand it’s source material well enough to actually make improvements by translating on screen.This was far from the most captivating story this year, but as far as making me agonize the wait between episodes, Jojo was the best.

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