Anime Year in Review 2013: Tops, Bottoms, and All the Rest/Best (Breast?)

symphogear action hero aww yeah

This post is long.

Basically, this post is going to be a massive, long-winded and winding journey, akin to a mountain road carved painstakingly bit by bit along the edges of a tall mountain, a road that has solid rock wall on one side, multi-hundred meter drops on the other, and where stiff, bitter winds buffet anyone so foolish as to attempt traversing it… which isn’t to say you shouldn’t try reading this post, don’t let me put you off at all! I am stealthily writing it at work, though, so it may end up being a touch disjointed as I hurriedly close the window whenever I hear my boss’s heels clicking toward me in a fashion that brings to mind blue-shift (and red-shift, of course, when she is moving away from me).

Worry not, though, dear bromodachi! The state of my workplace is such today that one of my coworkers is shooting rubber bands at the ceiling in an attempt to hit people on the other side of the partitions around her work area, and two other coworkers are badgering a third about the cheesecake he was supposed to bring us today. So my attention wandering isn’t at all detrimental to the overall quality of my work environment, I promise!

Anyway, anime.

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Hibiki Tachibana, Senki Zesshou Symphogear G: In the Distance, That Day, When the Star Became Music…, ep. 6

Probably to be renamed in future years because unlike Shuu and all these other losers who get their arms bitten/torn off, Hibiki goes totally berserk when a Nephilim bites her arms off and promptly regrows it. She then tears the heart out of the Nephilim. Badass!

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Here are all the series I watched this year, just for general informational purposes (those with asterisks were shows from previous years I watched either completely, although I’m only halfway through Hikaru no Go):

  • Karneval
  • THE UNLIMITED – Hyoubu Kyosuke
  • Tamako Market
  • Uta no Prince-sama – MAJI LOVE 2000%
  • AKB0048 next stage
  • Free!
  • Danganronpa the Animation
  • Gatchaman Crowds
  • Daybreak Illusion
  • Galilei Donna
  • Senki Zesshou Symphogear G: In the Distance, That Day, When the Star Became Music…
  • Yami Shibai
  • Inferno Cop
  • Kyousogiga
  • Eccentric Family
  • Hikaru no Go*
  • Shion no Ou*
  • Princess Nine*

I actually didn’t include any of the OAVs I watched, like California Crisis, or movies I watched, like Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone. The only movie or OAV I watched this year worth mentioning, honestly, was Only Yesterday, which was realllllllllyyyyyyy good.

This was the first year in a good while that I persisted in watching shows that were terrible and that I felt irritated, disgusted, bored, etc. with on a weekly basis, so I can actually make a statement about what the worst anime of the year were for me and not feel like I’m “cheating” somehow. Daybreak Illusion was far and away the worst thing I watched completely this year; Karneval was pretty bad, too, but Daybreak Illusion’s problems were pretty much top to bottom, whereas Karneval was merely dull and directionless for much of its run. Amusingly, I can tell you the things that Daybreak Illusion handled well, but only since they stood out so clearly in contrast to the rest of it, which was a mess of bad pacing, shallow characterization, and cheap stabs at melodrama (sometimes literally!).

So what did it do well? Well, I really, really liked the fact that one of the girls works as a magical girl for the paychecks, and she isn’t maligned for this whatsoever. Its revealed that she and her father were desperately poor when she was a bit younger, and she talks about how her room is so full of stuff because both she and her father feel better that way since they remember what it was like when they had nothing. It was shockingly good characterization. I really liked that part! Otherwise? Heh. Probably hatewatching.

By contrast, I don’t know that I could say what Karneval did right. The final few episodes gave a better feel of an overarching storyline, so good job there, and, um, the colors were bright and lovely, but I’m not really sure if there was anything else it did properly. But it wasn’t aggressively bad like Daybreak Illusion, and I did, at the end, think, “Things just started up, and now no more? Well, that sucks.”, and the same cannot at all be said of Daybreak Illusion (although I think that sold a respectable amount, if I recall correctly, whereas Karneval did a bit poorly on that front).

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Galilei Donna, ep. 4

Fall off a building = suffer a fever.

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Actually, speaking of poorly selling shows, and speaking of bad shows, this year’s otome adaptations. Other than Utapri, these all tanked hardcore when it came to sales figures, and with good reason – they were crap. Diabolik Lovers would’ve been a decent horror show, but it’s impossible to ignore that its meant to be romantic when the creepy-ass boys hold the heroine down and bite her neck, and, I guess, when they chuck her in the pool and call her “Bitch-chan”. At least it and BroCon had great names! BroCon was fairly forgettable; pretty bland, not quite inoffensive (hard to be when you put a girl in a house full of step-brothers who largely enjoy habitually violating her boundaries in some manner). Amnesia was the worst, though – it didn’t seem to get the memo that it’s not generally considered good to make it obvious that you’re adapted from a video game, as the irritating companion sprite stopped just short of saying, “I’m here to tell you exactly how to play the game and to ask you to pick from a multiple choice list what you want to do next!” And while the protagonists of BroCon and Diabolik Lovers may be nothing to write home about, at least they actually speak, whereas the gal from Amnesia seems content with making sad-sounding noises.

Then there’s Utapri 2000%, which sold well enough that Utapri 3000% was recently announced, to no one’s surprise. Utapri succeeds because it’s got a pretty high level of self-awareness. The production folks looked at the audience, what the audience liked, and increased all of that in the second outing – so, more Shining Saotome rolling his r’s and bursting forth from the ceiling, more male homoeroticism, more terribly cheesy musical numbers… it was brilliant. And where the first season indulged much too much in silly melodrama in its final third, 2000% went infinitely lighter on that matter, even if it didn’t dispense entirely with it. So, A+ for Utapri! If only other otome adaptations could take a nod from this one.

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Shining Saotome, Uta no Prince-sama – MAJI LOVE 2000%

This shit wasn’t even close. Raging Ootori might have a pretty great given name, too, but Shining Saotome’s tendency to roll r’s for up to ten seconds, paired with his penchant for bursting out of the sky or ceiling or whatever is above the cast simply is too much for his alleged rival to ever overcome.

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While I thoroughly enjoyed Utapri 2000%, it wasn’t one of my top shows for the year. My favorite shows were as follows:

  • Senki Zesshou Symphogear G: In the Distance, That Day, When the Star Became Music…
  • AKB0048 next stage
  • Free!
  • Danganronpa
  • Galilei Donna

I get this feeling I’ve ensured that I’ll never be considered an arbiter of good taste because of that list. However, I also wrote an entire post somewhat recently talking about how my taste in anime has gotten demonstrably worse, so I can’t claim that that will be of any disappointment to me.

Like with Utapri 2000%, Symphogear G’s staff took stock of what worked best in the first season and what didn’t work so well, and built from there. Where the first season dragged in the middle portion, that was not the case here. They also stuck to their guns on some important issues, like the fact that scientists are usually evil and psychotic, and that the moon is fucking evil still. Those are some hard truths that deserve to be stood by! You can’t let those political correctness folks getcha down here! The only thing that felt like a letdown was the the Engrish of the title was actually English.

While AKB0048 next stage was quite enjoyable, it was a slight downgrade from the first season, as there was a big uptick in fanservice (the first season had almost none) centered largely around thirteen year olds. The decision to have the traitor be the fifth iteration of Minami Minegishi also felt distasteful and brought to mind Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit’s petty habit of punishing folks the production crew doesn’t like by giving their names to either murder victims or to psychotic murders/rapists. Sure, sure, it turns out to be that she was a traitor because she thought it was the best way to ensure getting back the vanished Center Novae, but then the choreographer insinuates that she’s gullible, and states, “I figured she’d end up with a bad man.” because of that. So, yeah, sorry, gonna have to file that one under “petty and nasty”.

That being said, AKB0048 next stage continued to be much, much, much better than it honestly had to be – this could’ve been a cheap and lazy grab for cash, but the fact is is that the folks working on it actually wanted to invest effort into creating a vibrant, dynamic cast, as well as a vibrant (if a little silly) universe around them. This is one of those shows where I find it impossible to pick out a favorite character because I like so many of them a lot and for differing reasons. If idol shows were usually like this I wouldn’t be so apt to snub the genre, quite frankly.

I’ve talked a lot about Free! on this blog already, so suffice to say – definitely not one of KyoAni’s best, but exceeded by a long shot any expectations I had of it. A KyoAni show involving shirtless, sculpted boys that actually remembers that its a sports show? Never dreamed it’d be so. Mind you, if it’d been about another sport (bowling, ice hockey, lacrosse, etc?), I’m not sure I would’ve been half as hot about it, because this was such a nostalgia trigger for me regarding my own competitive swimming days.

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Gundam Build Fighters

Popularly known as “Gundam Boyfriends”, which pretty much says it all. Sei loves building Gunpla but sucks at piloting them. Reiji appears out of nowhere and can pilot really well, and opts to pilot for Sei. Sei looks like a younger Sugata Shindou, Reiji looks like a younger Takuto Tsunashi. In a scene that could only bring to mind the very end of the first episode of the first Tenchi Muyo! OVA, Sei finds Reiji slumbering in his bed after the other boy mysteriously and suddenly vanishes. You do the math.

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Danganronpa wasn’t perfect, as its pacing got a little weird in the middle and that in turn affected some of the characterization and lessened the impact of a few events, but on the whole it struck me as a good game adaptation (although I know a lot of fans of the game would disagree with this). Danganronpa knew we didn’t give a shit about 85% of the cast, so disposed of much of them in short fashion so we could get to the stuff that was actually worthwhile – the solving of the murder mysteries, and the solving of the whole question of what on earth was going on that landed these high schoolers in a murder game in the first place. Sure, the answer to that itself was totally bonkers, but I enjoyed the process of discovery nevertheless.

I have a feeling that Galilei Donna will provide the most… well, yeah, it was a pretty stupid, crappy show. However, I tend to like stupid shows (I’ve just started Macross 7!), and I loved the core cast here, even if I cooled a good deal on Anna toward the end (there’s bad taste in men, and then there’s wretched taste in men). The final episode was such a “WTF?” affair, you could almost see the staff shrugging their shoulders, and tossing the towel in. And, um, hellooooooo, goldfish mech??? Your move, atheists.

But, yes, ultimately it was the core cast that made the show for me. I also didn’t have any illusions that this was going to be a “smart” show, and this seems to be a point of contention for a lot of folks who hated it – “it got stupid!”, which seems a curious criticism given that it never seemed it would be anything otherwise. Yes, it was stupid. Yes, the end was bewildering and idiotic (my favorite moment was when the pretty boy Kazuki had been mooning over the picture of on her phone for half the show makes a face of disgust and refuses to meet her eyes – Kazuki hadn’t glanced at his picture in about five episodes and who he was was never explained at all! that’s some dedication to tying up loose ends!). But I still loved it.

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Do I even need to explain this?

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Everything else just falls into the great middle, it seems. I quite liked Tamako Market, but it was marred by the irritating bird and the frequently”lol primitives!” feel of the handling of its darker-skinned cast members. Yami Shibai was truly creepy when it was on top of its game, but was only so for about half of its episodes, the remainder of which left me fairly cold. I loved Gatchaman Crowds in the first half, still liked it for the third quarter, and hated its resolution. It stacked the deck against our protagonists waaay too much to then wave it all off with, “Don’t worry, people are lovely! The world is saved!”. THE UNLIMITED felt really 90’s, and I enjoyed that feeling, but the weird, incessant need for “lol, ur a pedo!” “jokes” was jarring whenever it surfaced. I reallllly enjoyed Kyousogiga, but somehow can’t quite say that it was a favorite of the year – it feels like it should be, but it honestly isn’t.

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Samurai Flamenco

The girlfriend on the cellphone is a lie. Gotou x Masayoshi 4 lyfe.

(I lie, partially – I quite like the cellphone girlfriend even if we’ve never seen her.)

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I quite honestly have nothing to say about Eccentric Family. The only thing I have to say about Inferno Cop is – go watch it. It’s on Youtube. Turn the closed captions on. The episodes are about three minutes long. You’ll thank me.

Shion no Ou has a silly resolution to the central mystery (who killed Shion’s parents?) underpinning the show, but is really solid otherwise. It is also one of those rare anime that can be termed ‘feminist’, although don’t expect it to meet the high-water marks set by Revolutionary Girl Utena or Taisho Baseball Girls. Princess Nine, on the other hand, falls more into the proto-feminist camp, as the entire show is about a girls’ baseball team having to fight a seriously uphill battle to participate in the Koushien, with plenty of interludes of boardroom guys saying stuff like, “Girls are too dainty for baseball, it’ll ruin them for marriage!” to demonstrate that it isn’t just a field-level (i.e. can they actually play well) issue. Paired with Taisho Baseball Girls, its a bit of an eye-opener, as a lot of the arguments against girls playing baseball in TBG are utilized by the opposition in Princess Nine. Princess Nine doesn’t quite manage to step away from the gender stereotyping, though.

Hikaru no Go is realllllllly good. I typically don’t like shounen, but Hikaru no Go exceeds the standard for shounen sports anime. In terms of feminism, the dead guy from the Heian is better at not being sexist than lead-boy Hikaru is so, um, whoops.

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This was a bit of a toss up. AKB0048 next stage and Galilei Donna both feature a bunch of girls and women working together and relying on each other without needing men or boys to save their asses, and we all know that that’s the first step toward persuading humanity to kill all men. Danganronpa had girls trying to frame boys for their crimes or crimes they were accused of, so, wow, misandry heaven over there. Utapri 2000% had a woman with a harem of men. Yami Shibai had men and boys getting horror movie’d a bunch. Tamako Market had Tamako thwarting the attempts of two different boys to get with her by rejecting one and being obtuse about the other… damn. There was a lot of misandry this year, geez. Guess it only makes sense that in such a hateful year we’d get Free!, which wins because, wow, KyoAni deciding to throw their hat into the ring of all those pathetic anime studios just salivating after female viewership, even though everyone knows women just like buying purses and oishii cakee. Free! flagrantly objectified men, going so far as to provide a female insert character who drooled over the boys so that the viewer could pretend that there was a legitimate reason for lingering camera angles on naked boyflesh in addition to the whole “swimming” thing. That its getting a second season just goes to show how depraved anime is becoming. Don’t shed a tear for KyoAni, though – they only brought this upon themselves.

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Cecil Aijima, Uta no Prince-sama – MAJI LOVE 2000%

Cecil isn’t a Magic Negro, folks! He’s a Magic Arab! He also used to be a cat, is explicitly stated to have a poor grasp on Japanese grammar even as he doesn’t demonstrate an issue with grammar from episode to episode, and does funny things like say that music connects people with the gods, and hangs out in trees a lot. Cecil, too, gets to do things like get physically closer to heroine Haruka and make straightforward statements to her about liking her, since he is one of those primitive sorts who doesn’t get social norms. Mind you, this will, of course, mean nothing in the long run – Cecil is in a never-resolving harem, after all, and the guy with the best chance if it ever does get resolved is one of the non-Magic Arab sorts.

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THE UNLIMITED – Hyoubu Kyosuke

I don’t even remember what this squirrel was named, but, ugh, talk about obnoxious. Squirrel was always convinced it was badass despite being a squirrel. Squirrel talked shit about protagonist. Squirrel got angrier than it could really express, because as a squirrel there is just about jack shit you can do when you’re mad and want to hurt someone really badly, or kill them. Squirrel also proved the second-most suspension of disbelief-destroying factor in the show. Fuck you, squirrel. What is it with anime and squirrels, anyway?


Professor Ver, Senkou Zesshou Symphogear G: In the Distance, That Day, When the Star Became Music…

dem heroes deen level faces SCIENCE symphogear science face

And that was just one episode; if I capped every time his face looked deranged, I’d hit my upload limit for WordPress.

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Smokin’ Jay Cutler x Tony Romoe

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1 Response to Anime Year in Review 2013: Tops, Bottoms, and All the Rest/Best (Breast?)

  1. Artemis says:

    “I quite like the cellphone girlfriend even if we’ve never seen her.”
    Glad I’m not the only one. I wonder if she’ll always remain an offscreen character, or whether there’ll be some kind of surprise reveal later on down the line.

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