Top 5 Anime of 2013

Well, here’s my second “Top 5” list for last year. 2013 felt like a great year for anime, with several series that aired becoming some of my favorites. You’ll probably notice that I don’t have a #5, and I’ve explained why below – there are five anime on this list.

#4 – JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken / JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
#3 – Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S / A Certain Scientific Railgun S
#2 – Psycho-Pass
#1 – Monogatari Series Second Season
#? – Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica Movie 3: Hangyaku no Monogatari / Rebellion Story

#4 – JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken / JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

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My introduction to this series was via the Duwang fansub, so even I was a bit surprised at how much I enjoyed the actual show. While part 1 (Phantom Blood) was nothing incredible besides introducing the Joestar family, Speedbump Speedwagon, high levels of manliness, and Dio with his tricks, once part 2 (Battle Tendency) rolls in , everything just goes crazy awesome, starting off right away with Ripple magic.

The main character of Battle Tendency, Joseph Joestar, is the perfect example of an idiot genius, being able to alternate between making a fool of himself and effective strategizing, and seemingly always pulling out his catchphrase – “And next you’ll say…” Not to mention that his voice actor was Sugita Tomokazu, who worked perfectly for the character. Dio’s voice actor, Koyasu Takehito, absolutely nailed the part, bringing the MUDA MUDA MUDA we so desperately needed to hear.

The voice acting in this show was so testosterone-driven that the voice actors apparently needed cough drops every day because of all the yelling and shouting that they needed to do. As a whole, the series was great, and I cannot wait for part 3, Stardust Crusaders, to air this year. ZA WARUDO!

#3 – Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S / A Certain Scientific Railgun S

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If I had to sum up the second season of Toaru Kagaku no Railgun, I would just say “Holy crap.” The first 16 episodes consist of the Sisters arc, and while that arc was also covered in the parent series, Toaru Majutsu no Index, Railgun S did it so much better that the original version in Index is utterly laughable in comparison.

Character-wise, Railgun S gives us the best look at Misaka Mikoto as a character – everything that happens is directly related to her specifically, so it isn’t like Index where she was just a side character in the Sisters arc. While Touma, the main character from Index, showed up several times during the first season of Railgun, this arc presents the first time he is relevant to the main story of the spinoff – and it also shows him in a far more favorable light than his own series.

A lot of people seem to give this season a lot of flak because of the “filler arc” that follows the Sisters arc, but in my opinion they are being very unfair. While the last episode was a bit too ridiculous with many decisions (and a completely unnecessary nod to the Index movie), it is nowhere near as bad as they make it out to be. Altogether, Railgun S was an amazing series – the Sisters arc is easily a 10/10.

Recommendation for this one – If you’re new to the Toaru series, watch Railgun and Railgun S before Index. Touma’s appearances (and a few other cameos) won’t make sense, but experiencing the Sisters arc first in Railgun S will make it completely worthwhile.

#2 – Psycho-Pass

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This is actually the only anime on this list that I didn’t watch as it aired, but I’m actually a bit glad about that – marathoning it was worth it. Combining a sci-fi setting loosely reminiscent of Ghost in the Shell with a great cast of characters – especially the main antagonist, Makishima Shougo – and writing from Urobuchi Gen (Madoka Magica, Fate/Zero, Song of Saya, etc.) and the result is one of the best sci-fi anime I have ever seen.

Of course, Psycho-Pass also had the advantage of looking and sounding fantastic, with some of my favorite OP/ED pairings and great voicework. While the general art and animation are very smooth and look great, Production IG also did a thankfully great job with the use of CG. While it still definitely looks like CG most of the time, it doesn’t clash with the regular animation, and it isn’t overused for things that don’t need it. If all CG in anime looked as good as this, I would rarely complain about it.

Psycho-Pass brought a great story and cast together to make one of the best series of the year, and while the ending seems like it could have been done better, a movie and second season have been announced – so I’ll wait patiently for the return of Kougami and co.

Random note – Psycho-Pass has a lot of thematic/story similarities with Shinsekai Yori (which I’m planning to review), but does it far better.

#1 – Monogatari Series Second Season

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It’s a bit hard to explain this one to people who haven’t seen everything that came before it, so I’ll just give a few examples of what was done right with this reason – so right, that this is my anime of the year.

  • Different main characters – Before, the main character was Araragi Koyomi, but he actually doesn’t show up for several episodes into the season. In the first arc, the narrator and MC is Hanekawa Tsubasa, resident catgirl. In the last arc, the narrator is Kaiki Deishu, and he easily helps to carry the arc to being the best part of the entire series.
  • Focus on character development – In Bakemonogatari and Nisemonogatari, the main focus of the stories was on overcoming the oddities/abnormalities/whatever-you-want-to-call-them of the female characters, and character development would be tied into that while not necessarily appearing as anything substantial (there was one main exception to this). In the second season, the character development and plot are tied together much better, ultimately making everything feel more important.
  • Showing off the cast – The Monogatari series has one of my favorite casts in anything, and the second season gives everyone (besides the Araragi sisters and Kanbaru) a chance to shine. Sometimes this happens in showers, sometimes this happens in shrines, and sometimes this happens in an abandoned cram school, but the result is this character-focused anime capitalizes on its main strength.

Long story short, this season was incredible, and the last arc especially was absolutely phenomenal.

Relevant recommendation – if you’ve already seen Bakemonogatari, read the fan translation of Kizumonogatari – preferably before watching Nisemonogatari, but definitely before watching the second season. Besides being a great book, it provides necessary backstory about several of the main characters. Who knows when Shaft will actually finish up and release the Kizumonogatari movie (which was originally supposed to come out in 2012).

#? – Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica Movie 3: Hangyaku no Monogatari / Rebellion Story

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I’m really just not sure where to put this one. I saw this movie in a theater a month ago, and while I loved it once things started to be explained and get moving, I am torn about the ending. On one hand, I loved it as a conclusion to the series, but on the other hand… well. You’d have to see it to know what I’m talking about, and I don’t want to spoil anything.

As a whole, the movie was fantastic though, and it had what might have been the best scene I have watched in anything before – a fight about halfway through that was absolutely incredible to watch. The entire movie looked great, sounded great, and while the story may seem confusing, nearly everything does make sense in the end without needing to go through mental gymnastics. And a quick note – the turning point is the field scene, but you won’t realize that until the movie’s over, if you do at all.

I cannot wait to get this movie on blu-ray and give it a rewatch, because it was quite the experience.

Honorable mentions:
Shingeki no Kyojin / Attack on Titan
Bakuman. 3
Kotonoha no Niwa / Garden of Words – this one is absolutely gorgeous to look at. My jaw was dropped while watching it because it’s so beautiful.
Non Non Biyori
Hataraku Maou-sama! / The Devil is a Part-Timer!

Disappointments:
Steins;Gate: Fuka Ryouiki no Déjà vu – not bad, but ultimately felt like a pointless addition that didn’t live up to the series or visual novel
Coppelion – interesting concept, ended up being tons of melodrama
Toaru Majutsu no Index: Endymion no Kiseki – Retcon: The Movie
Kyoukai no Kanata – absolutely gorgeous, but rushed story, generally bad pacing within episodes, and a crap ending
Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai. Specials – the last five minutes gave me cancer

On upcoming things – I’ve ordered a Japanese copy of Final Fantasy X HD, so I’ll hopefully review that in the next month or so – preferably well before the US release. I also ordered a copy of Hatsune Miku Project Diva-f, but don’t expect a review of that one. I might though.

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