I’ve been watching anime on and off for close to 15 years. Mostly on, though I mostly stuck to a few shows (shonen genre mostly) but I had an off-period where I left the anime world for Japanese live action dramas. When I had run out of Japanese dramas, I found my way back to anime in late 2012, my faith in Japanese animation was renewed by shows such as Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Stein;s Gate.
2013 was the first year I followed multiple shows that were currently airing. I got myself a Crunchyroll account, belatedly created a MAL account, and became a regular lurker on anime blogs. Now that the year’s come to a close, I look back to all of the anime I sampled (over 30). Out of the 17 shows I ended finishing, here is my personal list for this year’s top five anime. Feel free to disagree–I never claimed to have a sophisticated taste for anime.
5) The Devil is a Part-Timer! (Hataraku Maou-sama!)
Studio: White Fox Air Date: April 4th – June 27th 2013
Accolades: Best Comedic Fantasy, Best Use of Fantasy Character Archetypes, Best Use of Product Placement
After finishing Maoyu with mixed feelings (mostly disappointment), I was hesitant to pick up another “Demon King and Hero” story. But I can’t resist a fantasy deconstruction story and ended up giving this a try. The first episode won me over completely and the characters and their antics to carve out new lives in modern Tokyo brought plenty of laughs.
4) Silver Spoon (Gin no Saji)
Studio: A-1 Pictures Air Date: July 11th – September 19th 2013
Accolades: Best Slice-of-Life, Best Educational Anime, Best Coming-of-Age Story, Honorable Mention in Saddest Non-Human Death, Most Underrated
Kudos to Arakawa Hiromu for making a crash course on agricultural practices and husbandry interesting while crafting a heart-warming, coming-of-age tale to boot. It was delightful to watch Hachiken grow from a disgruntled, disinterested student to an empathetic and passionate friend.
Studio: Production I. G. Air Date: October 12th, 2012 – March 22nd, 2013
Accolades: Best Philosophical Cyberpunk Dystopia, Best Dressed Cast, Best Female Lead
An awesome, albeit not completely original premise (Philip K. Dick’s short story is based on a similar idea) that almost didn’t go as far as I wanted, I’m always impressed with Urobuchi Gen’s treatment of female characters, who are emotionally nuanced and tough-as-nails. I didn’t really enjoy the show’s treatment of Kougami and Makishima’s pitted struggles and final confrontation, but I did love Tsunemori Akane, who manages to look threatening in a pencil skirt.
2) Valvrave the Liberator (Kakumeiki Valvrave)
Studio: Sunrise Air Date: October 10th – December 26, 2013
Accolades: Most Audacious Use of Plot Twists, Best Couple (L-Elf x Haruto), Honorable Mention in Best Mecha Action, Honorable Mention for Absurd Supernatural Gimmick
Valvrave, you either love it or hate it. I loved it, for its boldness, for its fearlessness even if it raced past the Grounded Plot and into the realm of Plots That Make No Sense. It was such a fun ride and though some characters made me want to bang my head repeatedly (Why Shoko? Why?!), the show always somehow found its way back to the core of its story–a tale of humanity’s struggle to break from the machinations of contrived peace, because there’s nothing quite like war to move people into remembering the things that they take for granted–love, freedom, and giant, memory-sucking robots.
1) Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin)
Studio: Wit Studio and Production I.G. Air Date: April 6th – September 26th, 2013
Accolades: Best Anime Opening, Most Emotional Anime, Most Badass Supporting Cast, Best Action, Honorable Mention in Best Speech (Armin Arlert), Most Yelling
It’s rare to find an anime that hits so many of the right notes. Attack on Titan was ambitious and albeit unwieldy at times, did exceedingly well in telling a story of humanity at its worst–of corruption, of fear, of treachery, of really unhealthy and all-consuming desires to cut up human-eating giants. But even when you’re so deep in the pit of despair, the light of hope is nothing but a Platonic form, people still find the capacity to perform acts of kindness, to love, and to live.