Thoughts, Words, Works

2013 Anime Mini-Review Festival @

Well, 2013 wasn't the most eventful year for this blog, but I see no reason not to continue with my tradition of summing up the past year's worth of anime in a few sentences each. I watched a little over 30 things this year, which puts me on par with the previous year but way behind my 2011 levels. Sadly, this year wasn't a great year for anime, with several of my top scores going to older series I only watched now for the first time, nothing in the spectacular 9-10 range, and even more sequelitis in the list. As before, the reviews skew towards the positive since only series good enough for me to finish are included.

Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse - This spinoff from the Muv-Luv Alternative visual novels suffered a host of problems, from piss-poor animation to a lazy plot that wasted episodes on (badly drawn) fanservice while fumbling over complicated issues like racial identity. A good setting, nice character designs, and a solid story arc in Russia were the only things redeeming this series from the trash heap. 5/10

Nekomonogatari: Kuro - This Bakemonogatari prequel OVA was short and sweet, covering Hanekawa Tsubasa's initial transformation with the quirky, pervy, talky, fascinating style that the pairing of studio SHAFT and novelist NisiOisiN always delivers. 8/10

Kokoro Connect - Technically, only the final, bonus-episode story arc reaches into 2013 here, but my last annual summary omitted this excellent supernatural teen drama on that account. Starting out as a story about high-schoolers who swap bodies at random, Kokoro Connect delivers tough decisions, hard feelings, excellent voice acting, and resolution in a well rounded package. 8/10

Yuru-Yuri♪♪ - In case the trend of naming sequels with punctuation wasn't odd enough, this series adds two (silent?!) music notes to denote more of the same screwball lesbian school comedy. Still fun, without taking itself seriously at all, but maybe lacking a little of the novelty this time around. 7/10

Moyashimon Returns - The long-awaited sequel to 2007's series about ag-school drama with a boy who can see microbes was kind of a disappointment. The interesting commentary on microbes and fermentation continues, but the human half of the plot meanders aimlessly all the way to France, where the only interesting arc takes place. 5/10

Hellsing Ultimate - After six years in the making, this extremely violent story of vampires versus Nazi-remnants overstayed its welcome, and the drawn out ending merely left me lost and confused as to why I cared in the first place. The nice animation and cool action scenes would've really benefitted from the bluesy panache of the TV series' soundtrack. 7/10

Code Geass: Nunnally in Wonderland - The almost-too-crazy-to-be-true story of Alice in Wonderland featuring Code Geass characters delivered on its premise but not on its promise. With "picture drama" (read: super-cheap) animation, and a bland "We're reading Alice in Wonderland" plot, this was a very forgettable 30 minutes. 4/10

Mayo Chiki! - I'm a bit late to the party, but this ecchi romance series about a girl who disguises herself as a (male) butler pulls off great laughs with a wacky main cast and good situational comedy. 6/10

Pyscho-Pass - Urobuchi Gen's cyberpunk dystopia where computer mind-reading judges you a threat before you commit crimes channels the best in its genre and doesn't shy away from brutal, violent conundrums. A slow story arc in the early-middle is redeemed by excellent twists a few episodes later. It closes off adequately while leaving room for the sequel that has since been confirmed. 8/10

Tamayura: Hitotose - The TV series for Tamayura took me a while to wade through, but it was redeeming throughout. Its cute, lighthearted episodes don't have the same magic as ARIA, but still make a solid showing for the iyashi-kei genre. 7/10. (Too bad the followup TV series, which I haven't yet finished, shows that more of the same can be a bad thing.)

Vividred Operation - The spiritual successor to Strike Witches is every bit as fun, sticking to a smaller, more solid cast and ditching the WWII parallels to toy with the future of sustainable energy. It's not serious, and the ending raises more questions than it answers, but it stays true to its heart as a feel-good series about cute girls wearing short pants. 7/10

Amnesia - Not related to The Dark Descent, this one's based on an otome-game about a girl whose amnesia leaves her open to wondering which of several hot guys she's actually dating. The character designs are excellent and the ending decidedly exceeded my low expectations, the protagonist herself is depressingly meek and helpless throughout. I sure hope this isn't what we're teaching our next generation to be. 5/10

Maoyuu: Maou Yuusha - A demon lord and a hero partner up to improve their two realms despite the war-hawks on each side. With the same two voices discussing economics as in Spice and Wolf, the comparisons are inevitable. Unfortunately, that comparison is unfavorable for Maoyuu, whose animation has seemingly no budget, and takes such a broad-level view that very little is developed to a satisfying level. 6/10

Kotoura-san - This comedy about a lonely mind-reading girl who falls in love with a pervy but good-hearted dork, would have been thoroughly pedestrian if not for its courage to be absolutely, heart-wrenchingly tragic sometimes. With that tone-change in its repertoire, however, Kotoura stands out and delivers. 6/10

Robotics;Notes - The successor to Chaos;Head and Steins;Gate is about a near-future robotics club. Part love letter to the super robot genre, part dating game, and part conspiracy thriller, this show sadly lacks focus and pacing for much of the way. It's solid, but it can't match the expectations of following in Steins;Gate's footsteps.

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou: Quiet Country Cafe - The oldest series on my 2013 list, the second half of YKK is just as peaceful, mysterious, and calming as the last. The animation holds up well for its age, and the music is beautiful as always. 8/10

Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo - Ah, Eva. After the first two movies of the Rebuild were refreshing distillations of what I respected in the series, sans the parts that I hated, this movie veers way off-course and brings on the bullshit in a way only Evangelion can. A frustrating turning point in the new movies. 5/10

Saki: Achiga-hen, Episode of Side A Specials - The last 4 episodes of the Saki spinoff bring us right up to the finals of the tournament. It's more cute girls and more super mahjong powers, which is great so long as you're in the niche that appreciates it. 7/10

Kakumeiki Valvrave (1st season) - Sunrise's new twist on giant robots: add vampires. And Twitter. Sound awful? Fortunately, Valvrave is just awful enough to be hilarious. With ridiculous twists seemingly every episode, it takes the stupidity that made Code Geass R2 hilarious and makes it into a series. It's not good, but I can't hate. Also, that opening. 6/10

Kakumeiki Valvrave (2nd season) - The conclusion (after a 1-cour break) of Valvrave strangely gets more legitimate than the first series, which conversely makes it less enjoyable. Maybe if the first season's antics had been less extreme, I would've been more invested in the serious conclusion. Still, I respect that the series straightened up and did a decent job. 6/10

Suisei no Gargantia - A pilot from a military society losing a war of extinction with space-squid crash lands on... a not-so-abandoned waterworld Earth? A good concept, but both plotting and animation vary wildly in quality. Several episodes are skippable and a few important characters are really shallow. Fortunately, the ending just barely manages to veer back on-course for a solid finale. 7/10

Chihayafuru 2 - The follow-up to Chihayafuru continues to be excellent, with deep analysis of karuta as a sport as well as compelling interpersonal drama. Sadly, the ending leaves the romantic tension hanging midair, but at least they reach a good stopping point in the tournaments. 8/10

Haiyore! Nyaruko-san W - The second full-episode-length Nyaruko TV series is even less novel than the first. It has a few funny gags, but it's increasingly clear that the show cares more about otaku culture than Lovecraftian horror. 6/10

Hataraku Maou-sama! - The devil comes to Japan, but being the lord of evil doesn't pay, so he gets a part-time job at a fast-food restaurant. Much cleverer than its premise might suggest, Hataraku Maou-sama! manages to satire modern life through a mashup with medieval fantasy, lent credence with surprisingly legitimate action scenes. Good characterization, animation, and musical cues make this my call for best series of the year. 8/10

Ore no Imouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai. - You could be forgiven for not realizing that this is the sequel, as a period at the end of the sentence is the only thing distinguishing the two titles. In any case, the conclusion to OreImo delivers some excellent one-shot episodes followed by a conclusion seemingly intended to alienate everyone who liked it. As someone who had grown lukewarm on the premise by the end of the first season, I was fine with it, but maybe because I had already checked out before it got there. 6/10

Tamako Market - After watching Sora wo Miageru Shoujo no Hitomi ni Utsuru Sekai Munto TV, my suspicion was that Kyoto Animation should not make original works. Tamako Market, while better, confirms it. A slice of life in a Japanese market district proves to be uneventful, a little weird, and neither as funny nor as heartwarming as it tries to be. The only memorable character is the eminently hateable fat, talking bird. 5/10

Ano Natsu de Matteru - I was a year late to this early-2012 series, and regrettably so. By many of the same creators as Onegai Teacher, it takes most of what I liked about that series and improves on it with better animation, a more balanced and likable cast of characters, and excellent pacing throughout. The science fiction of a teacherupperclassman from space spends most of its time on the backburner as the characters sort out their tangled love polygon, and that's OK. 8/10

Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Ilya - The problem with this Ilya-focused Fate/stay night magical girl spinoff is that the titular character acts nothing like the one from the original. F/sn's Ilya is a dark, dangerous, creepy little girl; here she's just an ordinary girl given magical powers. Meanwhile, the setting is changed just enough to be confusing (it contradicts many pieces of the main canon) and the tension during most action scenes is sorely lacking. Ilya's snide commentary on the magical girl genre is the only redeeming feature. 5/10

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi - In a world where the dead don't stop walking, talking, and thinking until they're thoroughly put to rest, a young gravekeeper sets out to heal the world. The story has one foot on each side of the line between deeply insightful and shallowly braindead, but the excellent animation and sound keep it from degenerating too far. 6/10

Free! - Kyoto Animation's genderswap of the "four cute girls in a high-school club" premise isn't all that deep or insightful, but it delivers excellent animation, exciting swim races, hot bods, and a surprising amount of laughs. Plus there's just enough feel-good character development to make it work. 7/10

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S - I don't hate it as much as Index season 2 but the sequel to a certain scientific spinoff was pretty lackluster. The pacing is slow, with action scenes fewer and farther between, and there aren't nearly as many cool moments where Misaka and friends show off clever uses of their powers. The longest story arc simply retells an early arc from Index, which makes it especially boring. 6/10

Kyoukai no Kanata - The last KyoAni series for the year is about an immortal half-spirit and a girl who hunts spirits with her cursed blood. The cheesey setting appears lovingly crafted and it approaches serious character development from time to time, but backs away each time in favor of making lame jokes about glasses and sister fetishes. I wish I loved the series itself as much as I love the opening and ending themes. 5/10

Monogatari Series Second Season - I'm not sure what makes the followup to Bakemonogatari, Nisemonogatari, and Nekomonogatari: Kuro the "Second" season, but this was an fascinating 26 episodes (well, minus the full 3 recaps). It's talky as hell, but that's fine because the talking is always full of interesting ideas and SHAFT gets really creative at animating even the most static of scenes. It doesn't end the Bakemonogatari continuity, but it does get it unbelievably closer to concluding. 7/10

... and that's it! Here's to 2014, which will hopefully have more interesting series. On the near horizon is... oh, Chuunibyou 2? ... Well, maybe 2015 then!


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