2013 in Anime!

Last year, for the first time ever, I actually became interested in watching current anime shows.  I’ve seen more 2013 series during 2013 than any other year in recent memory.  This is mostly thanks to my favorite reviewer, Jesuotaku, of course.  And since that year is over, I’ve decided to share my feelings for these shows with you, the few people who have actually taken to following my inane ramblings.  The following mini-reviews are my opinions of each show I’ve watched from last year, in the order that I watched them.  Enjoy!

Girls Und Panzer:  A floundering high school forms a competitive tankery team to help keep itself from being closed down.

It started in 2012, but it was still airing in 2013, so it still counts, damn it!  Now, it’s difficult to remember a lot about this show, as I watched it while it was airing, and it took some agonizingly long breaks between episodes.  But there’s a reason I stuck around anyway…  This show is amazing.  The character development is sparse, but it’s a plot driven comedy, and two of it’s strongest aspects are the plot and the comedy.  The tank battles are intelligent, the animation is so good that I suspect motion capture may have been involved, and…  My god, Jessica Calvello is finally back in action!  The dub isn’t very good, but it’s worth it for her!

Tamako Market:  Tamako lives in a shopping arcade, and finds a talking bird to adopt.  Stuff happens, I think.

I had a lot of expectations going into this show.  And in the beginning, my expectations were met…  The animation was impeccable, the slice of life humor was charming, and one particular talking bird was the highlight of my day!  Unfortunately, plotlessness began to set in…  Say what you will about K-on, but at least it went the extra mile of developing the character dynamic through conflict and resolution.  In Tamako Market, we don’t even get that.  The middle of the series was insipid and unengaging, and pretty damn close to being boring, with the humor not being nearly strong enough to support it, and the ending was as predictable as the end of a John Cena match.  It’s cute, it’s well produced, and it’s at least a pleasant watch, but I can’t really recommend it.

Vividred Operation:  A bunch of girls access their special powers to join forces and protect their idealized peaceful world from aliens.

Creepy…  Generic…  Creepy…  Generic…  That pretty much sums up the tone of this series.  To be honest, I wasn’t nearly as turned off by the obviously sleezey undertones of this show as a lot of other people were…  What can you expect, I’m a Strike Witches Fan…  But I do have limits, and seeing a bunch of fourteen year old girls bite the mayonnaise covered tips off of cucumbers crosses that line.  The beach episode had already stomped all over that line, but whatever.
It had it’s moments…  The chase scene in episode three was hilarious, the ending was really cool, and it was competently made.  The animation was great, the pacing was great, but when it wasn’t being creepy, it was just being generic and dull.  Maybe with better characters, I could forgive everything else, but the way it is, I didn’t find it very enjoyable.

Kotoura-san:  A psychic girl whose powers have isolated her from everyone…  Even her own family…  closes herself off from the world, only to have an eccentric classmate try and pull her back into it.

My favorite show of the year.  Certain people find this show to be one big tease, because the first fifteen minutes are darker and more devastating than the tone of the rest of the series…  I’m not a fan of Gigguk, if you can’t tell…  But I disagree.  The first fifteen minutes sets up the main character’s tragic backstory, and the rest of the show deals with her DEALING with that backstory, with no small amount of help from the people around her.  Watching her walls come down was just as compelling as the opening, and the comedy…  Particularly from the male lead…  Is some top notch stuff.  I didn’t really like the penultimate episode, but aside from that, everything was resolved perfectly, with few if any threads left untied.

Attack on Titan:  Humanity, on the verge of extinction, must defend itself against giant cannibal monsters.

The first time I watched this show, two things stood out to me.  The grammatical screw-up of a title, and how fucking terrifying the Titans were.  Seriously, I’ve seen tons of horror anime, and for me to get such a visceral reaction to the size and scale of an animated monster is a rarity indeed.  For two straight episodes, my jaw would not stop dropping every time the Collossal Titan appeared on screen…  And even after I got over it, there came the Armored Titan to make damn sure I knew to not let my guard down for the rest of the series.  I had found a dramatic gold mine…  Only to be let down by the abrupt tonal shift and time skips of episode three.  I wanted to see these kids deal with the psychological and societal effects of the Titan attack, not watch some useless gag character scarf down a potato!
The show did wind up winning me back.  It’s a brilliantly paced roller coaster ride, aside from episode 3, and…  What else can I say?  It deserves the hype.  If you haven’t checked it out yet, you’re wasting your time.

Love Lab:  A secretly love-crazy Student Council President mistakes a popular tomboy for a love expert, and essentially hires her to help her get a boyfriend.

At first glance, this show appears to be yet another plotless piece of high-school-fantasy fluff.  Which is what it easily could have been.  What makes this show stand out amongst the doldrums of K-on wannabees are two specific details; The characters and the execution.  The story is executed with a deceptively high amount of ambition, as the misunderstanding that made the plot possible just keeps building up, with the purely melodramatic stakes behind it getting stronger and stronger.  The five central characters are all remarkably likable and complex, with paritcular emphasis on Natsuo, the school’s two-faced looney toon of a President.  The comedy gets stronger and stronger, and the same thing goes for the dynamic between this bizarre student council.
But even if that doesn’t grab you, it’s a cute, innocent show about friendship.  Overall, a pleasant watch.

Dangan Ronpa:  A bunch of teenagers are trapped in a school together, and according to a sociopathic robotic teddy bear, they must kill each other to escape.

I really like this show, and found it hard to put down until it was finished. It’s not perfect… A few of the twists and resolutions are way too predictable, and there was little if any character development… But it’s hard to beat the way that plot was set up, and when they get a mystery right, they really do manage to pile on the shocks while keeping you guessing.  The pacing was great, the characters were deceptively easy to relate to, and I found the eclectic art style very refreshing.  I’m not sure how well it would lend itself to a rewatch, though… The resolution was a good one, but knowing what’s going to happen while watching a show that puts almost all of it’s eggs into one “What’s going to happen next?” basket sounds like a dull experience to me. Then again, seeing all of those post-trial punishment animations again would definitely make it worth it.

Watamote:  Lonely sociophobe Tomoko tries to become popular, despite her complete lack of self awareness and confidence.

It’s rare for any story to nail the ugly truth about social awkwardness.  Hollywood’s been struggling to get it right for years, in some cases even glamorizing it, but this one show was able to stare unblinking into the darkness of chronic isolation.  Tomoko is one of the most complex and nuanced characters I’ve ever seen…  Despite the fact that she has a wholely unlikeable personality and world perspective, you just can’t help but root for her as she delusionally chases her idealized version of popularity, coming at it with an air of entitlement rather than a desire to change.  The imagery and symbolism is wonderful, as is the animation and the writing.  If the show has a serious flaw, it’s that the way it ended, I can’t help but thirst for a continuation, and maybe even some resolution for this sad, pitiful character.  It left me wanting a second season, though, so is that really a bad thing?

Blazblue Alter Memory:  Some stuff happens, and there’s an awesome cat girl.

I really don’t have a lot to say about this series.  I didn’t know much about the video games going in, so I didn’t have a firm grasp on how everything worked, so I didn’t understand a lot of the material…  But to it’s credit, I was never bored by it.  It was an interesting distraction.

Kill La Kill:  In her efforts to track down the murderer of her father, Ryuko comes into possession of a magical school uniform that gives her awesome combat powers…  At a revealing price.

Like Attack On Titan, I had to see what this show was doing to get all the divisive, even controversal hype it had.  And for the first three episodes, I wasn’t feeling it.  The characters and plot felt like they’d been smacked together out of nowhere, and the pacing was awful.  Thankfully, things really started to pick up in episode four.  The pacing slowed down, ans Trigger finally started having fun with the material…  And so did I.
It’s a good thing this show starts off at a low point, because it seems to be the kind of anime that just gets better and better.  And the way the first half of the series left off, with some really solid battles going on, and the one-eyed girl showing up to gloat about killing Ryuko’s dad, I was finally feeling the awesomeness factor that this series has been so proud of thus far.
On top of that, this show has led me into some pretty meaty discussions about the symbolism and deconstructions therein, and who doesn’t enjoy that?  I can’t wait to see where this show goes in the future.

Mao Yu:  A human warrior and a demon queen decide to fall in love and end the war between their races through economic means rather than more fighting.

Watching this show is like watching a one man educational sock puppet show.  One puppet spews exposition about the subject…  Economy, in this case…  While the other puppet asks stupid questions to set those explanations up.  Yeah, that’s a much more accurate premise.  The idea was a good one, but the execution was terrible.  It was boring, and the writing was beyond inept.  The characters were very dull, I didn’t care about what was going on…  Okay, so I was a little interested about where the plot was going, but after it was leaked to me that it never gets resolved, I dropped this show like it was an angry cat.

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai:  There are no words to properly convey the premise of this show.  A girl with Haruhi powers has a brother who wants to sex her, and her zombie mother wants her to…  Never mind, this show sucks.

What a freaking train wreck.  I knew it was going to be terrible going in, but this show blew my expectations out of the water.  I’ve seen poorly written anime before, but this was the first time since Shadow Star that i’ve been able to call a story completely incoherent.  This show isn’t just so bad it’s good, it’s so bad it’s educational!  With it’s migraine inducing artwork, awful pacing, pretentious expositional speeches, pointless references, painful jokes, deus-ex-machina resolutions, and more plot holes that Spongebob Squarepants eating swiss cheese during a shoot-out, you could actually learn a great deal about story-telling from Sasami-san’s negative example.
And I loved it.  I got some sick pleasure out of seeing this show crawl further and further up it’s own ass, so grab a vodka, and dive right in!

Oreshura:  A girl who hates love is tired of being hit on, so she blackmails a boy who hates love into being her fake boyfriend.  His childhood friend, who loves him beyond reason, doesn’t take kindly to this.

This show is probably my biggest disappointment of the year.  It starts off with a lot of promise…  The first four episodes explore a compelling dynamic between three very interesting characters, and the stereotypical club-based setting didn’t even feel stereotypical.  Unfortunately, the rest of the harem shows up, and everything about this show that I liked took a sudden nose dive.  The characters became the one thing I was glad they weren’t…  A bunch of color coded body-pillow prototypes.  The writing tanked, the formerly strong comedy became flanderized, and while the relationship between the two main characters was able to recover, my good will toward the series did not.
You know what?  Let’s talk about something specific.  The final girl to join the harem(Ai) was an incredibly likeable character, putting the lead female decidedly to shame.  Her feelings toward Eita were believable, their chemistry was outstanding, and I would have happily supported them for a sudden twist ending…  And I’m pretty sure the writers realized this, because they quickly turned her into a marriage obsessed psycho.
And that final revolution about Kaoru…  What was that all about?

Love Live School Idol Project:  A bunch of girls try to save their school by forming a pop idol group.

I’m watching this one right now, and only a few episodes in, I’m really liking what I’m seeing.  The opening is addictive, the characters are great, and I’m getting a lot of good laughs out of it, so here’s hoping it stays strong!


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