As 2013 draws to a close it is time to reflect over the abundance of new anime titles that made their mark on TV and cinema screens in their native Japan. As usual an eclectic mix of ideas and genres were brought to life via the medium of animation with similarly mixed results. All the bases were covered so fans of Mecha, sci-fi, moe, romance, comedy, slice-of-life, fan service, harem, adventure, fantasy, horror, historical, mystery, superheroes, sports and music were all catered for.
However the standard was somewhat lacking this year, at least for this writer. While some shows and films stood head and shoulders above others, there were many that were just run of the mill genre fodder, while others didn’t even try, merely rehashing what we have seen a million times before and better. Thankfully those that did make an effort were rewarded with a loyal fanbase as well having some pride in knowing they achieved something pretty good in the process.
Therefore some of the titles in this list will more likely to be more suited to a “best of the rest” listing than a cemented “best of” list – by no means bad shows, just ones missing that tangible quality to make them great.
So here we go with MIB’s Top Ten anime release from Japan in 2013, and as usual agree or disagree as is your wont.
10. Samurai Flamenco
Masayoshi Hazama, a fan of TV superheroes who possesses a strong sense of justice, creates his own superhero persona Samurai Flamenco. One tiny problem: he has no super abilities or even basic fighting skills! Yet he becomes an Internet sensation and even spawns a copycat group Flamenco Girls, but calamity is never too far away. What started as a decent satire slowly turns into the very thing it spoofs but just manages to stay on the right side of entertaining.
In 2036, twenty years after a nuclear meltdown leaves Tokyo contaminated and deserted, a distress signal is received from a trapped party of survivors. The Japan Ground Self-Defence Force responds by sending in – what else? – three genetically modified schoolgirls to trace the signal and help the survivors, one of whom is heavily pregnant. Shameless schoolgirl fetish aside, this is a fun packed post-apocalyptic action series that taps into the very real fear currently facing modern Japan.
8. A Lull In The Sea (Nagi no Asukara)
Once upon a time all mankind lived under sea until some decided to try living on the surface, creating a divide in society. When their school closes down, four school kids from under the sea are forced to join their counterparts on the surface, a transition neither party are keen to accept. A literal fish out of water tale, this show is your average high school drama only with half the action taking place underwater. The big surprise hit of the year.
When her partner is killed in air disaster, Kurumi goes into an isolated retreat from the world. In order to help her live and love again, her grandfather sends her a robot created to look just like her deceased partner Hal. A bittersweet romantic sci-fi drama that poses many questions about life, live and humanity, this film is one of the late hits of 2013.
Read the full review HERE
6. Servant x Service
Government civil service departments are hardly fun, especially welfare offices – unless it is in Mitsuba and run by a talking pink stuffed rabbit that is! Young graduate Lucy, who takes the job to find out which clerk authorised her embarrassing name, joins the whacky cast of characters in this fun show where nothing makes sense but it doesn’t matter. This series also has arguably THE catchiest opening theme song in all of anime!
5. Kill la Kill
Seeking revenge for the death of her father Ryuko Matoi arrives at Honnouji Academy where she believes the culprit is. Armed with one half of the giant scissors that slayed he father, Ryuko goes on the rampage until she faces the powerful Student Council, who possess magical uniforms that grant the wearer special abilities. Ryuko finds one of her own named Senketsu, and now it’s game on! If that sounds bonkers that’s because it is! And brilliantly so to boot!
4. Silver Spoon (Gin no Saji)
In order to avoid the high expectations of his parents, Yugo Hachiken flees to the country to enrol in agriculture school and gets the shock of a lifetime! Created by the genius behind Fullmetal Alchemist, Hiromu Arakawa, this hilarious show is inspired by her own farmyard upbringing and pulls no punches in depicting the harsh realities of farm life for both animals and humans, but does so with warmth and great humour. Warning – might put you off eating pork for the rest of your life….
3. Chihayufuru 2
Karuta is a popular traditional card game in Japan in which the players have to be the first to select the card with the next line of a famous poem before their opponent. Doesn’t sound like the recipe for an engaging and nerve shredding anime but as the second series of this show proves, first impressions can be wrong. A great cast of characters and a well written story, this is one of the more underrated shows of the past few years.
2. The Garden Of Words (Kotonoha no Niwa)
Makoto Shinkai’s return to personal drama with a slight poetic twist after the bombast of Journey to Agartha is a tender tale of two lost souls finding each other under the rainy skies of Tokyo. The age difference is just one many obstacles the pair have to overcome in this all too brief but utterly effective gem, that sparkles both visually and emotionally
Read the full review HERE
1. ATTACK ON TITAN (Shingeki no Kyojin)
An obvious choice perhaps but was there really ever any other contender to come close? Arguably THE anime event of the year, it came out of nowhere for many fans and hit them right between the eyes with its violent and shocking opening episode, eliciting responses of both bemusement and excitement, “What the hell did I just watch?” being the most printable example. The story, for anyone living under a rock, revolves around humanity being force to live in walled cities to deflect attacks by sinister giants called Titans. However a hundred years after the first wave of attacks the Titans are back and this time they much larger than before! Youngsters Eren Yeager and Mikasa Ackerman are just two of the people heading the charge to defend and destroy the Titans – the former having an unexpected but rather large surprise for everyone! Unlike anything else seen in anime for quite a few years this Steampunk adventure is a future classic without question and deservedly so.
And that concludes the countdown of my Top Ten anime titles released in Japan for 2013. Despite some of the titles being nominal choices to complete the list, there were a couple of fun shows that exceeded expectations that could have made the list, such as Free!, Golden Time, Beyond The Boundary (Kyoukai no Kanata), Love Lab and Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui! (No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!), I’m fairly happy with the list as it stands.
2014 already has a few interesting new anime shows lined up ready to debut on Japanese TV, including some old favourites returning, so be sure to check back in a year’s time to find out what old MIB enjoyed the most.
I’m sure you all have your own personal favourites which may or may not have appeared here, or you’d have a different ranking, so rant away if you feel so inclined.
Thanks for reading and until next time, this is the Man in Black saying Sayonara!