「Visual Collection/Series Premiere」 Bokura wa Minna Kawai-Sō #01.

Bokura wa Minna Kawai-Sō #01.

Source Material: Manga series of the same name by Ruri Miyahara (宮原 るり)
Studio(s): Brains Base
Director(s): Shigeyuki Miya (宮 繁之)
Series Composition: Kenji Konuta (古怒田 健志)

Background Information:

Bokura wa Minna Kawai-Sō is an original manga series by Ruri Miyahara (Love Lab!) that has been published in Shōnen Gahōsha’s seinen manga magazine Young King OURs since the June 2010 issue. As of December 2013, it has been collected into four tankōbon volumes and is still ongoing.

Summary:

Usa Kazunari, now a high school student, wants to leave the disaster of his middle-school life behind and enjoy a new high-school life of peace and comfort. Though when he says “a life of peace and comfort”, what he really means is a life spent with an intellectual and refined girl.  When Usa comes across classmate Kawai Ritsu in the school library and is completely enamored by her appearance and presence, he places all his youthful fantasies upon her. Coincidentally enough, Usa’s parents have just been transferred jobs; and as a result, his new life at school is congruous with his new life at the Kawai dormitory. Usa’s impression of his new home are initially unbearable when he finds out Shirosaki, a pervert who is a potential threat to peaceful society and most assuredly a threat to Usa’s idealized adolescent life, is his new roommate. However, things take a seemingly fateful turn when Usa discovers that Kawai is also an inhabitant of the co-gender dormitory. In the span of a few days, Usa becomes more accustomed to the hindrance that is his roommate, to the playful teasing of his land-owner Sumiko, and to the lengths he must go to obtain Kawai’s attention. But things take another turn when he discovers another fellow-tenant, Nishikono Mayumi, not in the actual dormitory but outside next to a pile of empty cans and bottles of alcohol. After a flirtatious interaction and an elbow to the face, Usa gets a taste of what his newly-introduced dorm-mate is like, and quite a bloody one at that. The assembled household members have a day-concluding dinner together and Usa realizes that while Kawai may be the ideal girl for him, the other new additions to his life might just prove the opposite and probably even be detrimental to his relationship with the girl of his dreams.

Review:

Don’t be fooled by the title of the series (lit. “We Are All From Dormitory Kawai”, but also a play on words that has the double meaning of “We Are All Pitiful” – the former having the likeliness of a slice-of-life and/or comedy while the latter much more expressive of a drama, tragedy and/or anti-romance if you ask me, in any case, completely different connotations) or the first minute of grandiose color palettes, assertive sun-rays, juxtaposition of beautiful nature with human daily life, delicate piano accompaniment and male protagonist’s opening internal monologue that reveals his self-awareness of an unfulfilled life absent of romance and passion; this is most definitely not a TV-sized Makoto Shinkai production, no matter how much of his aesthetic formula it follows. Bokura wa Minna Kawai-Sō is being adapted by Brains Base, a studio I hold in high regard, but for different reasons than for most other studios. Wherein a defining characteristic of P.A. Works, Ufotable and other production companies is the unbelievably meticulous quality of art; up to this point, I seldom thought the same for the works of Brains Base. (While I thoroughly appreciated the artistic stylings of Baccano!, I wasn’t too head over heels for Durarara!!’s. Subsequently, Blood Lad was a more pleasing visual experience for me, but even then I never merited it as masterful craftsmanship.) In commending Brains Base, what I saw to be its most admirable quality was its selection of works and how it properly portrayed the greatness of each work. (Durarara! ! and Blood Lad being clear-cut examples of instances when I wasn’t frustrated at a studio for adapting a series just to make it mediocre and not even have the respectability to see it through until the end, but rather when I was enraged at a studio for making such splendid adaptation of a series and leaving the viewers with nothing more right when it reached its peak of excitement.) It’s safe to say that Bokura wa Minna Kawai-Sō has completely re-painted my impression, as like I said before, don’t be fooled by the Makoto Shinaki resemblances, because this series is most definitely the kind of heart-wrenching story that emotional masochists will voraciously consume (although for the record, there is a masochist in the show if that helps). But in retrospect, is any comparison to a Shinkai work ever not a compliment, especially if it’s concerning the visual production? To that I exclaim an irrefutable, “No!” If I want to reference my antiquated impression of the studio, then, most assuredly, Brains Base has stepped up its art game by one hell-of-an-impressive multiplier. In mimicking the Makoto Shinkai way, whether intentionally or unintentionally, the artists behind Bokura wa Minna Kawai-Sō have effectively sky-rocketed the show’s value. It’s a bit hard for me to justify as to why myself; but if I may instill a bit of my own personal philosophy into the explanation, I believe that with a certain commitment to quality work, there’s an additional upgrade in ways that viewers can understand the feelings you are trying to encapsulate within your work. These effects can be subtle like the immaculate detail of a bowl of rice with chicken and egg that rivals even the vivid portrayal of clouds (something most would consider most artistically-appreciable), in turn giving a more wholesome sense as to how the character eating the meal feels. And also these effects can also be continuously and perceptively prominent such as the artwork truly expressing out the characters’ expressions and emotions, making them outright beautiful in their own sense, no matter how common or ordinary their static character designs (another common aspect of Makoto Shinkai’s aesthetic work) may be. To this respect, I think even to the well-trained, avid anime-viewer eye, an eye that has become weary of the same visual appearance of characters bearing identical and generic archetypes, there is a whole new level of accentuation and individualization that can be seen. All in all, I guess this concept encapsulates the idea that the more realistic something is, the more believable it is. Or simply, that the art speaks for itself, in which this case, it most certainly does. And it’s saying something along the lines of, “Look at me, I’m beautiful! Take a screen-cap, it’ll last longer.” It goes without saying that for a show centered on its cast of jointly-eponymous characters, any effect that will highlight their presences is without a doubt important. And while the art quality of this show does just that to much avail, it’s also fantastic to be able to admit that even without their tasteful visual depictions, these characters actually still stand-out a bunch through their respective personalities and quirks. While the open-closet pervert Shirosaki isn’t the most refreshing character of the household, his effect in dragging the hopeful romantic, Usa, who is constantly floating off in his own delusions of love, back down to ground-level, quite roughly so I might add, might just be a necessity dynamic that keeps the show in general from turning into a less whimsically entertaining, flat-out account of a tenderfooted boy’s high school crush. (This being an adequate outline for a movie, yes, but more so questionable in the format of a television series spanning in the dozen(s) with its episode count.) Alongside these wholly incompatible roommates are the female members of the Kawai dormitory, the capricious Kawai Ritsu, who literally speaks softly and walks around with a big stick; the busty and free-spirited but emotionally-vulnerable Nishikino Mayumi, whose first and second impressions from her fellow hopeless romantic, Usa, are “great tits” and “alcoholic” respectively; the yet introduced Watanabe Sayaka, who is only described as a college student; and the landlord Sumiko, whose anachronistic maturity and complete disregard for the savoir-faire she so obviously has (as a seasoned elder and all) I find to be the most hilarious thing about this show. With a series like Bokura wa Minna Kawai-Sō wherein there’s not necessarily a derived narrative to progress upon (Usa’ romantic advances towards Kawai being the only thing at this point and even that is being overshadowed by the overall atmosphere of comedic gags), there’s greatness in that it can access its entertainment value from the very beginning. With the aforementioned ability of Brains Base to really adapt a series as what its worth, Bokura wa Minna Kawai-Sō’s latency has been clearly presented here today, I would say.

Rating: 8.7/10

「Visual Collection/Series Premiere」 Blade & Soul #01.

Blade and Soul #01.

Source Material: Blade & Soul
Studio(s): Gonzo
Director(s): Hiroshi Hamasaki (浜崎 博嗣) , Hiroshi Takeuchi (竹内 浩志)
Writer(s): Atsuhiro Tomioka (冨岡 淳広)
Character Design: Eri Nagata (長田 絵里), Hyung-Tae Kim (김형태)
Chief Animation Director: Eri Nagata (長田 絵里)

Background Information:
Blade & Soul is a Korean fantasy martial-arts massively multi-player online role-playing game (MMORPG) developed by NCSOFT’s Team Bloodlust developer division. Having been in development since 2007 yet still void of many promised services, such as overseas and console (Playstation 3 and XBox 360)  releases, the game is considered as currently in development hell. In spite of that, due to recognition of its innovative game mechanics, its artistic and stylistic design, and NCSOFT’s established reputation with previous series (Guild Wars, Lineage, Aion), it has garnered widespread attention as an accomplished entry in the MMORPG industry. While the anime series is to adapt from the source material itself, its release precedes the establishment of the game’s Japanese servers.

Summary:
Aruka, a skilled assassin of the Tsurugi Clan bearing a scar resembling the shape of a swallowtail butterfly, was the sole witness to the murder of her master by three assailants belonging to the Param Empire. Since the incident, she has made it her personal mission to put an end to the vendetta and exact revenge upon the three assassins she prominently remembers from her vague memory. While bathing in a pond and reflecting upon that fateful evening, she is discovered by a pair of brothers who recruit her as a bodyguard, not after being overwhelmed by her physical prowess. Now serving Mori, the young female successor of a village, Aruka is exposed to the devastating influence of the Param Empire on people other than herself. The imperialism of the Param Empire has turned the village into a target land for the cultivation of “sky spirits,” flowers that grant supernatural powers upon being cultivated, subsequently establishing a common enemy for Aruka and her employer. All throughout, Aruka  retains her stoic nature towards both her friends and foes, failing to even bat an eye when the whole village is attacked and countless people are killed before her. Ganza, essentially an unexceptional character of mini-boss-eque nature (filler, even in mini-boss terms) volunteers himself as someone who can defeat Aruka, over-estimating the power of the sky spirit bottle he  possesses. Aruka assassinates Ganza with one skillful maneuver with two blades but is ultimately unable to stop the army that accompanied him. As Aruka and Mori watch the destruction of the village from afar, Aruka tells Mori to pursue vengeance. Then, while cutting her own hair, Aruka clarifies that instead of taking revenge, she is merely abiding by law.

Review:
First off, I would just like to say that it’s really difficult for me to not compare this anime adaptation to the original game. Of course, while they are two entirely different mediums, that’s not said in the sense that they don’t share many aspects, but rather, in the sense that they should be equally respected as distinctive art forms. So, in consideration to the congruous narratives, reworked character designs, the recycled soundtrack, and other similarities,  it’s quite easy to say that this adaptation pales in comparison to the elegant execution of the original game. If anything, I’ll just have to trust myself when I say that I would undoubtedly think the same even if I had never heard of the game prior – and hopefully it’s fair to ask for you too to take my word on that. The thing about Blade & Soul is that for an MMORPG, it has a spectacularly riveting and engaging narrative. And in all honestly, it’s hard to come across one that succeeds in conception and execution of its story, especially when the fine line between game-play and cut-scenes is thickly veiled by the individual preferences of each player. Not perfect, but better than most, Blade & Soul does well in establishing the plot as a cultivated and integral part of the game, wherein the awe-inspiring artistry in design and graphics essentially present the cut-scenes as a worthwhile and standalone picturesque experience. But while it is an exquisitely visual adventure, Blade & Soul also knows how to balance its elements through game mechanics. To that effect, I believe it is very important to know, for example, what to place in cut-scenes and what to place in player-optional NPC talk bubbles. In translating the visual appeal, atmosphere, story and lore of an open-world game, one faces the challenge of depicting these intricacies, such as the gorgeous environments that the player can simply admire while walking their character towards an NPC, into concrete frames of an episode that ultimately subtract from its overall twenty minute run-time. There’s an unavoidable drawback to every scene implemented, so it goes without saying that attempting to emulate every single component of the game would be nearly impossible. Even so, in evaluating this premiere episode in more anime-suitable standards, it’s also hard not to be discontent with Gonzo’s recreation. I wouldn’t call myself the biggest fan of Studio Gonzo at all (though if it can produce another masterpiece on the level of Gankutsuou, I would consider that one of the greatest comeback of a studio in anime history) and that line of impression continues with the production value of this here adaptation. In regard to Aruka as the main character, a static air accompanies her disposition, so that while she is admittedly of a bad-ass nature, it’s ambiguous as to whether or not she’ll justify the role of protagonist through hard-driving character depth and/or development or whether she’ll remain the archetypal avenger all twelve episodes. Additionally so, aspects that could accentuate the story-telling oh-so-well, animation of action sequences and general art quality are also quite lackluster and flat, a lot of Aruka’s movements being simplified into non-dynamic animations. On the other hand, when action is low-key, it’s still hard to appreciate the beauty of the environments and scenic shots as much as one would in the game. And as always, I’ve it a point to be concerned with how the scheduled episode count will affect the series overall. One cour is usually not enough to present a magnificently compelling series, but it is always enough to make me fretful. Of course, there are those series that can do just the seemingly impossible in twelve or thirteen episodes, some in even less; but the fact remains that at this point, with a series that is missing satisfying core elements as well as the additional oomph factor, there is too much to be desired. If you ask me, the first artistic desecration was when they changed the “&” in the original title to an “and,” and it probably all went downhill from there.

Rating: 7.2/10

 

Log Horizon #25. and How-to Properly Seize A Second Season

Source Material: Mamare Touno (橙乃 ままれ)
Writer(s): Toshizo Nemoto (根元 歳三)
Studio(s): Satelight
Director(s): Shinji Ishihara (石平 信司)
Music: Yasuharu Takanashi (高梨 康治)

It’s easy to underestimate the possibility control and power of money on any given industry, and the major power of the media mix in anime is no exception. Especially in recent years, we’ve seen our fair share of questionable adaptations every season. Shows that are adapted into anime series before even having enough content to satisfy one cour. Shows that are altered completely from their original narrative. Shows that are oh-so well deserving of continuation but are ultimately truncated. And shows with essentially unnecessary continuations. For both the good and the bad sides of this coin, it’s definitely an interesting conundrum about a certain influence on culture. All of this is open to contention, of course, though one fact remains constant and that is the inevitability of further exposure. Whether they be manga, novels, games or even the more up-’til-lately less indulged mediums such as light novels, visual novels and the like, getting an anime adaptation will increase audiences. That is a formula that has long since been set in anime-drawn stone, which really brings us to the true topic of this article, a little niche light novel series I like to call Log Horizon and whose anime adaptation I like to call ‘the best MMORPG sub-genre anime I have had the pleasure of watching.’

Leaving aside a thorough synopsis of the overall series for another time, what we’ll discuss is its state in the last fours weeks of its broadcast. After a thrilling finale at the Battle of Zantlead, the arc focusing on the conflict with The People of the Land comes to a satisfactory close. Back in Akihabara, the army-disbanded adventurers are back to their free-willing, adventuresome selves and are effervescent in their post-victory celebration and indulgence in the first ever Scale Festival. It’s not really a set-up for another gripping battle, at all. This is evident when this in-between arc’s antagonist arises, a nobleman and person of the land named Lord Malves, who besides in countenance proves to be no spectacular authority, no more a threat Shiroe. What worth he does prove himself to be, however, after two episodes of moderate lime-light, is a fantastic red herring. As a generous fate would have it, the issue with Malves is effectively resolved within the first five minutes of the season finale, leaving a whole lot to be covered in terms of embellishing the episode greatly with a sense of yearning for the riveting teased things to come, a sense of nostalgia through heartfelt moments with the eponymous guild of the show and just a general sense of astonishment at wonderful story-writing.

With the good riddance of our short-lived villain, things are immediately taken up a notch. A moment between Minori and Shiroe finally has her simultaneously confronting the Akihabara populace’s general opinion of Shiroe as well as confronting Shiroe himself. At last, Shiroe is posed with a particularly heavy-hitting question that doesn’t revolve around strategic analysis but rather, around him as a person. It is here that Shiroe expresses his own personality quite explicitly, which is such a seldom occurrence for him – and you can’t help but notice that he must have had a long and emotional history with his past guild, something that always seems to linger in the back of his head as he plays that role of the “villain in glasses,” brooding behind the scenes of everything. And if I had to put a finger on it, I would say a huge deal of this demeanor involves Kanami, a character I’m anxiously looking forward to finding out more about. Conversely, in the tween eyes of Minori, we can see how much her image of Shiroe, once so glorified, is losing its luster, though not negatively so. If anything, Minori has quickly grown out of her phase of idolization and is subconsciously equalizing herself to Shiroe, even pitying him to a certain extent in this episode. It’s hard to say whether this shaping of her outlook on Shiroe and people in general will play strongly towards her affection for him or not; but either way, it’s a damn fine level of character depth. Of all the new Log Horizon recruits, Minori is definitely the brightest of the bunch and the level of her character growth is something so satisfying that it could enable her to surpass Akatsuki in terms of a likeable character, even if the mentioned is frankly cooler in combat ability, appearance and class (that’s MMORPG class, not aristocratic class, mind you).

But of course, as she probably heard me say that just now, Akatsuki was looming in the background and witnessing the whole discourse, she possibly being the only one more specialized in covertness than Shiroe, something that speaks for their own compatibility I suppose. (A cinematographic quality worth noting is the framing in three shots, wherein Shiroe is seen looming over the entirety of a twilight Akihabara, then Minori is revealed beyond that scope and a while later, Akatsuki is even more so beyond that. A very nice sequence of composition.) And in my opinion, this was a much needed advancement. Beyond her moe stature and position of over-poweredness at level ninety, Akatsuki really needed a stronger persona and connection with Shiroe to have anyone rooting for her  attempted courtship. This being especially necessary considering her longer history with our megane protagonist. Though by this, I’m not saying that I enjoyed seeing Akatsuki essentially hating herself for being so unobservant of her beloved despite being so aware of her own lifestyle of inconspicuousness. Quite the opposite, I was overjoyed at the under-the-stars guild dinner scene, that when all the cards were on the table and everyone was being so open with each other, the girl was able to brush aside her self-directed frustration and take part in the unity of the members. Truly, if that isn’t what a guild family is for, then I don’t know what is.

Speaking of good and bad sides of coins earlier as well, Shiroe’s romances and the coin Shiroe fiddles around with in his fingers this episode, it’s an interesting dynamic that is introduced between Shiroe and Nureha, guild master of Plant Hwyaden and interim leader of the Minami District. God knows Shiroe has enough romantic interests for the time being (though I suppose more age-appropriate ones are welcome) but additionally so, the relationship, or rather, obsession, that Nureha has with Shiroe almost seems to resemble Shiroe’s position of captivation towards his past and still mostly undisclosed (frustratingly so) guild master, of the Debauchery Tea Party. And I guess when a resemblance to deep-rooted memories doesn’t work, there’s always a buxom figure and irresistible fox-tail. Proving to be calm, cool and collected as always, Shiroe resists the irresistible and rejects Nureha’s guild membership offer. Further excessively, he continues to renounce their relationship and essentially makes a declaration of war with Nureha, a course of action that I thought was a bit sensitive; but I wouldn’t say it makes me skeptical of Shiroe as much as it makes me eagerly anticipate just what the story can ensue towards.

And it’s definitely a extensive route Log Horizon has assembled for itself. The closing moments in this episode re-created the legitimate sense of adventure and friendship that has been a core element of (and that has made me enamored with) this series all throughout. Following a truly MMORPG-tributing and gratifying action sequence involve our current line-up of Log Horizon adventurers and the usual energizing ED sequence, Shiroe informs Ri Gan he is leaving Akihabara and the announcement for the second season wraps the finale up. Something about Shiroe looking more mischievous than usual made me believe it was actually Nureha disguised as him talking to Ri Gan, but if my paranoia isn’t something to worry about, there is a sense of conceptual symmetry here. Admittedly, it is a bit saddening to see Shiroe essentially abandoned most of what he has established in Akihabara these past twenty-five episodes (especially so damn amazing comrades, shout out to Crusty), but what is an adventurer’s life other than one of taking risks and reaching new heights?

So, now in posing the post’s question, how does an anime properly seize a second season? Well, for Log Horizon:

A great introduction season through and through, no news announcements concerning continuation preceding the final episode broadcast, a mislead of sorts at the near end to make you think it’s just another completed series to drop in the recess of your memory bank, and then a full payout in the end with a myriad of moments that will remind you of the show’s best qualities, a clincher of story-writing that tells you things can get even better, and the crowning announcement that things will indeed get better. Damn more than good enough for me.

And to think, it all started with a hamburger that had some flavor.

Winter Anime Season 2014 Premiere Compendium

The following are rated upon a rubric consisting of the standard aspects of consideration for completed anime series (art, animation, sound, story, etc.), but additionally accompanied by the evaluations of a premiere episode, such that its introduction to the series as a whole is vital in determining how effective a first episode it is. The following list is ordered by date watched and reviewed.

The rating system is as follows, from scores highest to lowest:

SS – Masterpiece
S – Exceptional ~ Near Masterpiece
A – Great ~ Wonderful
B – Good ~ Very Good
C – Decent ~ Pretty Good
D – Disappointing ~ Unsatisfactory
F – Something I have never given and hopefully never will

Full-length Series:

Seitokai Yakuindomo* #01.

Expectations: Relatively Low

Review: Considering their previous productions of K and Coppelion, it’s not like they needed to; but it seems as if Studio GoHands has rung in the new year with a fantastically admirable resolution of presenting an even higher quality of art and animation in their works. And all I can say to that is that I sure am glad this is the first series of the new year and new season I watched, because I am all but blown away and have effectively entered into a premiere-anticipating phase. Surely enough, I can say that that immediately, the beautiful visuals aren’t the only conspicuous factor to this gallant premiere episode, with the sound and music production alongside it accentuating the genuine atmosphere of an everyday school life, something that has instantly given the show a potency for depth that the aforementioned series were lacking, in my opinion. The opening sequence displays not only the just noted production values but also ingenious camera-work, particularly the unique angles that serves to introduce each character in a differing light, that eludes a very Durarara!!-esque presentation yet still retentive of its own flavor. Speaking of which, the show certainly does have one huge buttload of a cast, correspondingly to what one of the character says, “There’s enough of you there to have an orgy.” And although I’m sure we won’t be seeing an orgy of any such kind in the entirety of the show’s runtime, despite the bizzarely, seemingly natural, blending of promiscuous jabs, jokes and general dialogue (I think I counted the mention of the word d**ck at least five times and then of course the actual depiction of a censored one in the opening), this lot of characters certainly seem like a united front that can deliver one fine account of adventures, or the more likely misadventures. In discussion of the company, I don’t think it would be fair to disregard the underlying, almost meta-fictional two, they being the dog and the narrator, who doesn’t actually narrate via words but rather by interlaced titles. These two considerably give this premiere episode the effect it has: the dog being a frequenter in sharing its visual perspective (though with the color-vision we human viewers are familiar with, how great is that?), and the narrator sharing his or her own inter-bound world, which it treats as, for lack of better comparisons, a variety-show of sorts, foreshadowing the lewd wisecracks the character will make, recoiling in surprise when miscalculating the delivery of said gags, and even self-acknowledging foolishness about forgetting to introduce a character. And yes, indeed, this narrating being is quite a fine representation of the tomfoolery, zaniness, lunacy, nuttiness of the series itself. In the end, what can be said of the show from this premiere is that its a nonsensical, almost paradoxical (even the OP has worse art/animation than the actual episode content and that’s just unbelievable by anime standards) blend of a youth-oriented high school life premise, fascinating production values resemblant of a movie suited for more mature audiences, and vulgarity in content more strapped for much, much more mature audiences; each aspect verging on undeserving of the other two. Frankly, I’m not used to such a low-key series sporting such brilliance in execution; but what I would love to be used to is for this tier of aesthetic to be the established standard for all series, so I unmistakingly commend the series for shaping this path.

Rating: A-


Saikin, Imouto no Yousu ga Chotto Okashiinda ga #01.

Expectations: Relatively Low

Review: Japan’s exhibit of the little sister complex, and the anime industry’s obsession with it, continues with Project No.9’s adaptation of this quaint love affair. As one of the characters denotes within the first ten minutes while elaborating on the need-to-know distinction of younger sister and younger step-sister, there’s more depth to the imouto sub-genre than meets the eye. Saikin, Imouto no Yousu ga Chotto Okashiinda ga, or ImoCho, is also a pretty specific mark on this spectrum of imouto. I may have sad quaint before, but perhaps that may be a misleading descriptor without fair amount of elaboration. While ImoCho is ratherish convenient and lazy in its premise, wherein newly consummated siblings are left home alone by their parents and what’s more an angel forces the titular sister to quite literally become hot and bothered by her brother, that elicits suggestive and carnal complacency; at the same time, it’s equally easy-going in its presentation, to the point where even the archetypical upbeat-pop opening song seems like a mismatch for the show’s generally quelled ambiance. In hindsight, it’s just this discrepancy that may be the appealing determinant of the series; there’s certainly some kind of charm to a series that can concurrently be so modest and honest yet so incestuous and lewd. Though that being said, there’s still no reason to completely to neglect the central premise of the show. While a fresh take in some sense, as of now, it still lacks any depth to progress it beyond the realm of fan-pandering; after all, the climax of this premiere was a young girl finally urinating after an hour of restraint. I can easily understand how this series could be a immediate drop on someone’s roster after first watch of the premiere; and at the same time, I can see how it could become an easy week-to-week joy.

Rating: B-


Nobunaga the Fool #01.

Expectations: Intermediate

Review: Now this, this is a series that is only possible in the current day and age of anime. If trainwrecks moved circular motion, this would be a vortex that engulfs everything around it. The premise to Nobunaga the Fool is simple enough, in an awkward sense… Set in a universe where the Western Planet and the Eastern Planet (ambiguous names, but for a show this shallow, you can rightfully assume what Western and Eastern archetypically represent) were once linked harmoniously until the incident known as the “Dragon Pulse” irrevocably severed them apart. That is, irrevocably until the fated arrival of heroine Jeanne Kaguya D’Arc. Yes, you heard that correctly; the setup for Nobunaga the Fool gives way for the real breadth of its narrative, the blatant bastardization of historical characters. Alongside the eponymous Oda Nobunaga and Jeanne D’Arc in the cast are also Leonardo Da Vinci and Arthur Pendragon. And that’s not all, go ahead and dismiss their differing occupations of warlord, martyr, artist, king and the like (or the unlike); in this show they’re all going to be piloting gigantic robots as a united front. The minds behind this series are obviously not concerned with any sense of coherence, welcoming all foils of anachronism; and I think that invites the viewers to open their mind too, not in the sense of enlightenment, but rather, of leniency. This show is by all means a guilty pleasure, whether you want to shamelessly leer at your favorite historical figures re-imagined with ample breasts, pretty faces, and flamboyant hair-styles; laugh at people using swords and arrows in an age of mechanical warfare; or try to hopelessly predict how the plot will progress in accordance to actual history; it’s all there for. That being said, if such activities aren’t your cup of tea, it’d be wise to acknowledge the “beware” sign in front of this trainwreck because it departs quickly; and once it does, it doesn’t stop. Watching the first episode will indefinitely be enough to make you regret the last twenty minutes. In speaking of this series, all I can muster to speak of is its gimmick, and that’s all I actually have spoken about. While it does in fact have some fairly reputable components in its production, such as series creator Kawamori Shoji (Macross, Aquarion), pretty top-notch art/animation with Studio Satelight, and an all-star voice cast; there’s an initial impression that every aspect of the show solely contributes to the shock value of its gimmick. I honestly believe that nothing phenomenal will show its face within entirety of the show, so you get what you just saw from the start. In that sense, I suppose this premiere episode does a pretty good job at giving a rightful outlook on the series as a whole.

Rating: C


Saki Zenkoku-hen #01.

Expectations: Intermediate

Review: Saki Zenkoku-hen sure does operate on a pace of its own, what with twenty character appearances within the first five minutes of the episode and well over fifty by the end of it all. Though I guess it’s not too surprising seeing as this is a sequel to a series that has already established much in its two-cour run. As if sports anime weren’t niche enough already, ones centric on competitive board games take it to another level. So it’s understandable for this show to drop any intent to welcome new audiences and just present the story at hand. This is my first exposure to the series in any form (and my rating necessarily reflects this neophytism), but from what I hear it can quite a sight to behold, reaching broken limits of crazy awesomeness in the form of hysterical superpowers, side-winding strategies, and dramatic tile slams. With that in mind, this first episode could definitely be considered a relishable calm before the extravagant storm that is to come. I won’t say that this will be the most legendary mahjong series that I’ve experienced (see Mudazumo Naki Kaikaku), but it’s definitely got some intrigue to it so far.

Rating: B-


Super Sonico the Animation #01.

Expectations: Relatively Low

Review: Super Sonico is a prime example of a database character. In recent decades, the scheme behind anime has firmly shifted from bearing an importance in narrative to a significance in franchised characters and mascots. The titular character Super Sonico being one of the leading figures in this current database era. History lesson aside, when an icon like Super Sonico finally does get the chance to be the protagonist of an actual story in animated form, you can bet that it’s not because an ingenious story of epic proportions came to a writer in his wildest dreams. No, it’s mostly likely to make a profitable character even more so. That being said, Super Sonico the Animation‘s premiere episode did a pretty swell job at dispelling the negative expectations I had. The show certainly isn’t a masterpiece in the making, but it utilizes its key strength, which is the reputable fact that Sonico is a pretty damn cool girl. Ample and voluptuous breasts and ultimate moe-ism aside, she’s a commendable character, working her way through college (always a plus for me when it’s college instead of high school for some reason) with great grades, living alone with cats, riding her bike to class, doing a part-time modeling gig while working for her grandmother’s bar and then of course her pretty signature status as a guitarist in her own band. Hers is a story with a simple premise but it’s taken to its fullest with the way she lives her life. So far, it’s been pretty endearing to watch, and I’m even surprised that the only scene with partial nudity occured after the denoted ten minute mark. So proper respects go to Studio White Fox who have in a way made this stand out from its own purported commonality. I was initially surprised given White Fox‘s roster of pretty prestigious titles (Steins;Gate, Katanagatari, Jormungand), but it seems like they’re holding this title up to the same general standard of art and animation. It’s reflecting in the presentation so far, so hopefully it continues to do so as things get even more lively.

Rating: C+


Nobunagun #01.

Expectations: Relatively Low

Review: Now that’s my kind of bizarre. I can’t say for sure, but it’s almost as if the staff behind Nobunaga the Fool and the staff behind Nobunagun decided to have a contest to see who could make the best bastardization of historical figures, with two prerequisites: it has to be a story of mechanized warfare and Oda Nobunaga has to be the centerpiece of it all. As far as episodes go, my vote goes towards Nobunagun, which, despite inferior production, knows how to outright put on a better show. With a color palette that can only be compared to that of the king title of flamboyancy, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and a usage of overlapped patterns and textures that is nostalgic of Gankutsuou, Nobunagun immediately appeals to the eyes as creatively different. I mean, it’s not like these are ingenious innovations; in fact some scenes come off as overly cartoon-ish, but it flaunts creative flexibility when dealing with budgetary issues. And once female lead Ogura Shio pulls out her flip phone that looks like a Digi-Device made by Nokia, you just know that she and this show is destined for great things, or maybe you could have just sensed that from the first minutes where she has recollections of Oda Nobunaga’s life, but you know, the Digi-Device is a nice touch. While you may expect things to get heavy-handed by the end of any premiere anime episode, I think you’ll be appeased with this premiere in particular, because things certainly do get a bit zany. You know it’s a big deal when Mahatma Gandhi and Isaac Newton are mentioned are alien-fighting soldiers but they don’t make an appearance because the spotlight’s all on our protagonist. From the relatable awkward loner who spontaneously blurts out military artillery jargon to the dismay of her classmates to the not so relatable spiritual (literally) successor of the great warlord Oda Nobunaga with a complementary crooked smile, she definitely makes some kind of wicked transformation. I’m not sure if “different” is enough to describe this show, but for now it’ll have to suffice. Alongside that, it’s definitely interesting and I’m sealed in for another viewing.

Rating: B


Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta #01.

Expectations: Intermediate

Review: Well that was certainly a mouthful. I’m still playing around with the aftertaste, deciding whether it was particularly good or not, to be honest. A lot of stories like to establishing world-building in a gradual process, but Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta kind of just throws you into it from the get-go. From the start of the episode, our focus is on Carl “Kal-El Albus” La Hire, the protagonist who, with his sister Ariel Albus, is leaving his hometown and family as part of an exploratory pilot unit to survey an unknown part of the world. Though they’re not quite certified aviators yet, as their initial lift-off met with ceremonial cheer and celebration from what seems to be an entire human civilization is cut short when it is revealed they are merely boarding the training grounds for their, well… training. Now situated in dormitories and an educational campus, there’s much more chance to explore friendship, tomfoolery, and of course, romance. Kal-El decides to take a stroll outside and immediately encounters his love interest, as if ordained by fate itself, and they even share a warm, wet embrace that’s pretty sensual even by anime standards to conclude the episode. The premise of the series itself is quite the attention-grabber; the concept of sending adolescents into an unexplored world always has merits as a metaphysical story-writing goldmine. It’s practically an absolute truth that when paired with robust adventure and action, a coming of age story is always much more romantic; and it very much seems like this story has a firm claim on the romance department. And of course, there’s the obvious back-story of our protagonist that seems to have a dead lock on the revenge complex. In hindsight, it’s uncanny how nostalgic this series of Fractale, which in my opinion also had an intriguing concept to it but ultimately failed to present it as vividly as it already seemed in written form. I’m not too familiar with TMS Entertainment as a studio, mainly because it doesn’t show up anywhere near as much as other studios. (Yowamushi Pedal and Bakumatsu Gijinden Roman being the only recent titles that come to mind.) For the most part, they don’t seem to have bold intentions with Toaru‘s art and animation, the illustrated character designs coming off as a bit bland at times and the landscapes a few notches beneath stunning. I was a bit aloof throughout the episode, but the final moments exuded enough genuine emotions to secure my interest for another episode.

Rating: B


D-Frag! #01.

Expectations: Intermediate

Review: How’s that for kickin’ in the new year? Consider the comedy bar officially set for the season, thanks to D-Frag!. Within the first few minutes, you might be a bit put off by the oh-so-familiar trope of a school club facing disbandment due to lack of members, but the antics they go about resisting this fate definitely prove to be a properly entertaining amount of outrageous, including but not limited to setting the curtains in the clubroom ablaze with fireworks, using a taser on a classmate, gorging another classmate with an excessive amount of water, punching another student in the face, tying and bagging said student, tricking him into dashing out a window, and then throwing a locker on him and his friends. Now that’s something you don’t see everyday, but you might be seeing it every week from now on with the likes of this show. Things are nothing short of ridiculous on this high school campus and it’s well worth the laughs it arouses. I’m particularly intrigued by the extent of the cast’s shenanigans in that it’s not only centered on the absurd Game Development Club but also the Student Council and the delinquents of the school, making the mishaps of these misfits a debacle that could virtually reach any corner of the school. Of course, the episode ends on the pretty archetypal protagonist’s resolution towards joining the club, so things might just get a bit more concentrated in terms of chaos; but the show has clearly shown that the main cast is a key element behind the hilarity. We still have a lot of plot-related questions that weren’t answered in this fray of this premiere, such as “Why is it called the Game Development Club?” and “Why is it called D-Frag!?” but so long as the hilarity ensues, I’m pretty fine with waiting on those revelations.

Rating: B+


Hamatora #01.

Expectations: Intermediate

Review: Hamatora is a series that will not let itself be overlooked. Adapted from a yet complete mystery manga with a rich cast of characters and strong sense of coherent writing, from it’s pensive OP with a voice arrange featuring Yuuki Ozaki (from Galileo Galilei) to it’s Sherlockian naming sense in its episode titles (Egg of Columbus), the series presents itself as a pretty darn serious show. But then again, it just may also be doing just the opposite, what with silly character names “Nice” and “Birthday,” people throwing chicken wings and boiled eggs in car glove compartments, and a detective trying to bribe an information broker with the equivalent of twenty-eight cents; this show may just be one-hundred percent anime after all. In solving a mystery, it’s always a good idea to trace steps. So, where does it all begin? A guy walks into a bank in the middle of a robbery and tries to get spare change from the clerk so he can afford a hamburger for lunch. And there’s no punchline to that joke, because it’s not a joke, it’s the first few minutes of the show. If I had to throw around comparisons, I’d say Hamatora has the lively atmosphere of Baccano!, the sci-fi premise of Darker than Black and the splashy art-style of Gatchaman Crowds; but in hindsight, it fails to equate to any of this respective titles in terms of execution. With series of the mystery-genre, a pretty under-represented category in anime, you kind of have to treat the first episode differently from others. Wherein an action-adventure can dish out a beautiful display of story-driven conflict from the get-go, the near-best a mystery series can do is present a filler case solved within twenty minutes, divulging just enough competence in writing to guarantee the immensity of the grand narrative (the big catch in this episode I would say is the epiphany that two different cases were actually the same mystery). In its premiere, Hamatora is slightly able to accomplish this, emanating a hearty social stigma concerning the supernatural Minimum Holders, an array of characters brimming with personality and a sophisticated world of lawlessness ripe for the solving for our dynamic detective duo. Just as necessary, the final moments of the episode is reserved for the shocking cliffhanger that reveals something that will intertwine the lives of the entire cast. In that case, the stage has been set, and we can only wait to see just how greater this series can become.

Rating: B


Witch Craft Works #01.

Expectations: Relatively High

Review: Gee, they didn’t even bother explaining anything, did they? There’s definitely something supernatural about the school Takamiya Honoka attends; a suspicious lack of teacher presence, raining buildings, mechanical bunny foot soldiers, a boy named Obama, a mysteriously aloof school idol and someone with the nerve to throw away a cute plush in the garbage can. Witch Craft Works is a particularly hearty case of the damsel in distress trope, reversed. Wherein female lead Kagari Ayaka exudes a sense of control not just through her league of fangirls but also through her quiet, calm and collected demeanor, male lead Takamiya Honoka is excessively compliant to the high school environment he lives in. In a sense, it’s understandable. I’ve had my fair share of callous high school experience but never have I seen such an inexplicable hierarchy, in which the entirety of the female population is doting over one completely detached figure, who doesn’t even so much as answer to people’s ardent compliments, let alone lead them on into submission like the conventional top-of-the-high-school-food-chain girl would. And of course I can’t forget to mention a gang of girls and one male, named Obama (Surely that can’t be his real name, can it? Maybe he too is a victim of domination from this rabid matriarchy, forced into a life of bullying-), pummel our docile protagonist for having the nerve to drop his eraser, causing the venerable high school idol to exert energy in picking it up. The roles are definitely reversed here and when push comes to shove, Takamiya is not one to push back. He lets people beat him up, steal from him, shove wieners in his mouth, fix his collar in a dainty style; he even stands by idly as rabbits are about to axe his head off and defends his bullies to avoid further complication. Pitiful in the whole sense of the word, indeed, but at least he’s not alone, anymore. While the premiere doesn’t quite elaborate on it, there’s something special about our meek protagonist that deems him worthy of being a master, or more specifically the master of a fire-elemental witch who is also the local high school hottie. His luck seems to finally have turned around, but with the welcome of one witch comes five more, five of which who are after his life apparently. This premiere is definitely a strange welcome party, but it’s put enough on the table to garner my interest. If anything, I can always count on J.C. Staff to deliver in production, and this series actually seems like one of its more detailed works. It seldom happens with anime premieres, but the sound production is what caught my interest at first first, about two seconds in really. There’s a great array of melody that really notches the execution of this series up for me. Not to be overshadowed, the visuals are nearly on-par with that of the Toaru series, maybe if we omit the obvious CG. All in all, I can confidently say that this is one of the better premieres of the season so far. I don’t find myself too captivated in the plot of it all, but the show has personality and it delivers it well.

Rating: B+


Mikakunin de Shinkoukei #01.

Expectations: Intermediate

Review: Pre-arranged marriage, male-female cohabitation and an amnesia-struck girl- there’s nothing too outstanding about the premise of Mikakunin de Shinkoukei. To be meta-fictional and quote the show in its own review, there’s a lot left to be desired here. This romantic comedy begins on the morning of Yonomi Kobeni’s sixteen birthday, the official age in which a girl can get married in Japan (with parental conset). Our female protagonist sees this as a timely indication of adulthood, but any chance of her displaying maturity is compromised when Mitsumine Hakuya, her to-be fiancé, arrives in town to live with her. Along with him comes his sister, Mitsumine Mashiro, who immediately goes at odds with Kobeni’s own sister, Benio. With the addition of these two country bumpkins, the new household of four youths sets the stage where peacefulness clashes with frivolousness on a daily basis. Now I can’t say that the cast here doesn’t have personality, they’re brimming with it in a sense; but the problem is that each person is so archetypal that the entirety of their character is consumed by the trope they respectively represent (reserved boy who easily reads others’ feelings, stubborn girl who wants to prove she’s her own person, lolicon trying to prove she’s not a child, older sister who creepily dotes over her sister). Pair that with the inconsistent, almost too forced humor, and I can’t really pinpoint anything particularly special about this series. I have to say that Mikakunin de Shinkoukei is exactly the kind of series that Studio Dogakobo is known for. Like GJ-bu! and Love Lab! before it, it has a primary focus on a group of mostly girls and their comedic high school hijinx associated with romance. Though those series had always had a solid cast of characters that drove the comedy and brought it home. Mikakunin de Shinkoukei is definitely appealing to a more serious romance story with its premise, making it even more necessary to have emotionally-investable characters; so I am a bit worried about its direction. To be honest, at this point, I sense more emotional depth in the ED than in the episode content itself. To avoid sounding any more negative (because I just re-read the above and it sounds pretty damn negative), while I can’t say anything really good about this premiere, I can’t say anything remotely bad neither. At this point, the show seems like a random mux of romance and comedy, but I think it could really prosper from pinpointing its exact intent.

Rating: B-


Sakura Trick #01.

Expectations: Intermediate

Review: Hey, just because you have an all girl cast, doesn’t mean you can’t stir romance into the affair. Welcome to Studio DEEN‘s more proper winter series. As if some illegitimate love child of Makoto Shinkai works and the typical slice-of-life comedy, Sakura Trick brings some interesting combinations to the screen. The wistful atmosphere accentuated by the sakura petals cascading (even indoors, geez, I pity the people on cleaning duty), the colorful depictions on screen fading to black and white sketches, and the fateful encounters of characters accompanied by pensive music paired with the simultaneously subtle and gratuitous fan-service and implications of lesbianism is especially noteworthy here. Quite suggestive indeed, though still retaining its authentic aspects of the judicious moe factor. To summarize the events of the episode: two best friends go out to get their friends some yakisoba for lunch and end up having a full-on make-out session on the high school veranda. The end. Short and sweet – and a bit raunchy if I do say so myself. The start of a high school life certainly does come with a plethora of angst, anxiety, apprehension and all forms of the like; but if you were able to predict this being the alleviation our protagonist would resort to, you have a fine eye for pubescent lesbians. All in all, it is a fun affair that we have here with Sakura Trick. While the intermix of comedy and eroticism is inconsistent for the most part, this may be one of those rarer cases where it’s actually enjoyable to watch which side will come on top in the heat of the moment. The humor here is quite straightforward, but the romantic elements are definitely bona fide. Additionally, there’s still a whole cast of characters yet to enter the fray, so we’ll see just how well they bode with the story’s love potion premise.

Rating: B


Wake Up, Girls! #01.

Expectations: Relatively Low

Review: Idol culture in Japan is definitely not something to be overlooked, considering its associations to many social stigmas as well as its dominion of fans who can be oh-so-ravenous. And it’s definitely not waning in exposure, as seen by the increase of such anime series by the season. Wake Up, Girls! seems to be this winter’s pick of the litter. It’s worth noting that I’m too much a fan of the sub-genre, having dropped every series of the kind that I have watched thus far (Love Live! was a really close class however). A lot of slice-of-life series tend to focus on wishy-washy areas, so the niche factor definitely kicks in with the whole “one male manager and dozen(s) female cast, obscure lyricism relating hope to the brightness of the sun, and not-so-poignant titular exclamation mark” formula of idol-based series. It may or may not work with real life idol groups, but when the amount of cast members supersedes the episode count of the series in such a series, you can bet there will be a misappropriation of character development and depth. And while Wake Up, Girls! is different in that it features a not-quite-dozen septet, I’m afraid I can’t vouch for too much for its other components. Ordet and Tatsunoko Pro is definitely an interesting combination of studios, but the end result isn’t anything too lavish, with a less than adequate attention to detail and a particularly drab color palette for such a focused motif on cheer. As usual, we get very casual introductions of each group member, maybe a bit too casual even. It’s no lie that I don’t even bother remembering distinctive names for characters in idol series, but I can’t seem to put an image on any faces at this point. In terms of plot, the show starts in media res, with the group roster already assembled and the team knee-deep in the difficulties of gaining public exposure. Team manager, insert-name-of-archetypal-neophytic-businessman-here lands them a meeting with a well-known producer, who comes barging in with delivery pizza slice and scantily-clad bikini in hand (not the same hands thankfully) split seconds before the end. Bringing up the challenge of sexualization in the from the start, now that’s gusto. Also worth noting was the premiere performance from the girls, a presentation void of displeasing usage of CG but still leaving much to be desired. At this point, I consider the series perfectly drop-worthy, but my leniency might allow viewing of more.

Rating: C


Sekai Seifuku ~Bouryaku no Zvezda~ #01.

Expectations: Intermediate

Review: Now there’s an anime premiere for the history books, or at least some kind of notable hall of fame of first episodes that left a very good impression and all that jazz. The story of Sekai Seifuku follows a secret society called Zvezda as they go about… conquering the world… simple enough, right? Led by the venerable Hoshimya Kate, a prepubescent loli with a supremely superiority complex, the colorful team of equally masked and costumed (seifuku can mean both conquest and uniform) crusaders do… actually, I have no idea how they go about achieving their objective of world conquest, the premiere didn’t really delve into that… For the most part, the first episode is told in the perspective of protagonist Jimon Asuta, a second-year middle schooler who is renamed “Dva” upon becoming Zvezda’s newest member, as he is thrown in the lunacy of world domination after becoming a runaway child and staying out too late (against the city’s Class 2 Martial Law). It’s definitely an interesting approach that the team at A-1 Pictures is going about here. Admittedly, this is another case of our protagonist being thrown into a supernatural-fantasy world that is riddled with awe-inspiring reactions, but rarely do we get to see the homeless child trope in urban-set anime and it’s additionally nice to depart from the classroom setting that pervades many of this season’s series. Alongside it’s unique premise is phenomenally and aesthetically invigorating production work. I’m talking about the art, the animation, the music, the sound effects, the voice cast, it’s all there to ensure every nuance of atmosphere is imbued into each and every scene. (This quality being the primary reason I was so thoroughly entertained despite being left with a blank slate of its narrative qualities.) Our fashionista characters as well as the overall feel of the series are resemblant of Kill la Kill‘s flamboyant workings, but much more attached to realism, believe it or not. If I didn’t know any better, this could very well be a science-fiction light novel adaptation. The whole martial law business totally reminded me of the kind of neo-socialism of Academy City from the Toaru series. All in all, there’s definitely a well-defined flavor to this show and henceforth all it needs is a consistency in satisfactory story-telling to have me buckled in for the whole ride, bravo A-1.

Rating: A-


Nisekoi #01.

Expectations: Relatively High

Review: Lo and behold one of my more anticipated series of the season! (Though not the more preferred series of mangaka Naoshi Komi’s, I’m eyeing you, Double Arts!) Shaft is a studio with an array of pretty much hit-or-miss shows. Fortunately, a majority of them are great watches for myself, but the occassional Dance in the Vampire Bund or Sasami-san@Ganbaranai will come along. If anything, it’s interesting to see how the studio’s auteur-istic personality will adapt a series like Nisekoi, one that belongs to such a big staple of the animanga industry (Weekly Shōnen Jump). (It’s worth noting that the big man Shinbou Akiyuki himself is at the helm of this show with the director position.) For the most part, while there are definitely distinctive Shaft elements, it doesn’t quite display the full capacity of the studio’s production values. But hey, what can you do, it’s only a two-cour series. The pattern overlays, the specially-animated special effects, gradient usage, obscure camera angles, zoomed-in portraits and peculiar background music is going to have to be enough for this premiere. As it is, there’s enough closure in this first episode to have just that stand-alone as its own story, a short story adaptation or something of that nature. Lead characteres Ichijou Raku and Kirisaki Chitoge instill a creative make-over on the star-crossed lovers complex wherein they inversely experience antagonism-at-first-sight. Upon her transfer to a Japanese school all the way from America, Kirisaki knees poor hopeless romantic Ichijou in the face, publicly challenges his masculinity and then forces him to never speak to her at school again. Their feud develops, in proportionality to the feud between their gang families as the episode endures, unbeknownst to viewers. Meanwhile, the side-story of Ichijou’s precious locket, purportedly given to him by classmate Onodera Kosaki ten years prior, deepens the emotional relationships within the trio of acquaintances. When one resolution gives way to optimism, an even bigger conflict comes to light when Ichijou and Kirisaki are forced by their families to feign a political lovers’ status. And so, let the harem begin. As aforementioned, despite its comedic premise, it’s a sweet story that is capable of emotional investment, more so with Shaft‘s contribution. As of now the original manga series has 80+ chapters to its collection and is still ongoing. There’s a lot of content to be covered and two cours should be more than enough flexibility to provide for an entertaining watch, probably even to the point where it ends prematurely to our dismay.

Rating: B+


Buddy Complex #01.

Expectations:Low

Review: When one Sunrise mecha series sees the dawn of its broadcast, another one sorties out to greet the new year, but of course. I’m not going to lie, there was an air of negativity and skepticism exuding from me as I went into this premiere. Predecessor series Kakumeiki Valrave has all but distilled the best hopes of mine when it comes to Sunrise‘s penchant for pandering. So far, I’m not even getting the same tolerable reactions as the first episode of Valvrave, though there does seem to be something about Buddy Complex that gives it a better longevity than the aforementioned, in that there’s no way it could possibly get worse so it’s either a straight-forward path or one that arches upwards. Nonetheless, I’m full of aggressive and critical questions all throughout the premiere, like “How does a bicycle outrun a flying robot but not keep up with a motorcycle?” or “How bad of a pilot do you have to be to make the mecha fall upon itself?” Sure enough, Buddy Complex is pretty much a series that has immediately been consumed by its own convolution. The time-traveling bit is definitely nothing new to mecha series; but with proper execution, any familiar premise can be delivered as a fresh take. Buddy Complex doesn’t seem to believe in that, in the very least. Upon escaping immediate danger, characters Watase Aoba and Yumihara Hina have perhaps the most pitiful exchange of words I have ever experienced in anime history. “May I ask you something?” “What is it?” “Everything.” “I understand.” I’m sure we’re all familiar with the trope wherein a protagonist suddenly finds him/herself in a perilous situation that leads to a farewell of his/her old life and an introduction into a new one that bears the fate of the entire world. It’s done in a standard way when the urgency of the scenario is gradually coalesced into the acceptance of the hero, but that particular scene in this series was substandard, so emotionless and automated that the dialogue sounded like it came from the mecha’s Google translate pronunciation app. Alternative qualms include the fact Yumihara was easily able to outwit and outpilot this week’s antagonist, but when police cars show up and the antagonist, whose bloody body is now rife with shards of debris, stands back up, there’s enough of a threat for Yumihara to alter her entire long-term plan and throw our protagonist into a time portal. Talk about spontaneity. If anything, I watched this first episode because I really just wanted to know why it’s called Buddy Complex. Now without an answer to satisfy my viewing, I’m not so sure this series has a buddy or friend in me, a fair-weather one at the most.

Rating: C-


Noragami #01.

Expectations: Relatively High

Review: In Bones we trust. It may have been a mistake to put off the series I had the highest expectations for until now, but the pay off in the end is definitely proving to be rewarding. From the air of it, I can already tell Noragami won’t be my favorite Bones anime series, but that’s not even an insult by any means. With its permissible premise, dainty atmosphere and droll characters, which includes a girl who emulates signature moves of pop-iconic martial artists foolhardily, it’s a wide cut above the rest of this season. Thus far, it’s been an interesting mixture of action, fantasy and comedy. And while I’m left wondering which of the three genres will end up taking over, it’s not like I’ll have any complaints no matter what the outcome: with Bones at the helm of the show the art and animation for any given fight sequences are bound to be pleasing, as already teased; further supernatural elements will enhance the established very fantasy-oriented plot; and the lightweight humor enchants me to a satisfactory degree already. Noragami is easily one of the locked-in stars for the season. What we have here is a short and simple review for a simply sublime series.

Rating: B


Nourin #01.

Expectations: Intermediate

Review: Watching two seasons of Gin no Saji is nowhere near enough to make me an expert in agricultural schooling in Japan, but I’m fairly sure even those who are would be surprised at the genre-bending Nourin is going about with converging the idol sub-genre with the aforementioned. Admittedly, I was initially put off by the series’ introductory idol performance (Dear God, the lyricism in the song and just the title ‘Cordless Telephone’ reeked of over saturated sunshine happiness.), but thankfully its focus shifted to the agricultural side of the fence, where the grass is most certainly greener. The animanga industry could definitely use more agriculture series, and it’s wonderful that such a niche topic can wield such a wide range of emotional connectivity. Behind the helm of Nourin‘s anime adaptation is Studio Silver Link, quite possibly one of the most modest studio in my opinion. To me, they have a pretty subtle reputation as one the higher studios of art and animation, particularly the rare case where artstyle flaunts itself more than just pure quality. And with a color scheme resemblant of a certain oh-so-favorable Jinrui wa Sutitai Shimashita, I am all on-board with this show visually. (Really though, the landscape shots were such a treat.) Alongside the splendid production is an eclectically fun cast of character with a backing from some very familiar seiyuu voices that I can’t seem to put names to at the moment but nonetheless are very effective. The characters feed off of each others’ comedy naturally, and I don’t think that’s just because they grow crops together, this is definitely a matter of botany and chemistry. An angelic homeroom teacher costumed in wings who poses in ways that the camera adores and could almost compete with the likes of Kill la Kill’s Mankanshoku Mako (that is until you get to her bipolarism), a busty sassmaster that is understandably associated with the cow she brings around and is nicknamed “Boobs”, and the side-lined love interest, best female friend of the protagonist that I am pretty much smitten with already. Albeit predominantly female, the cast is looking wholly entertaining and the supposed lead character who dominates the series’ promotional art and the in-narrative world of idol-worshippers has yet to make an official appearance of more than one sentence spoken. Last but not least, was that a baby kangaroo in the classroom?

Rating: B+


Maken-ki! 2 #01.

Expectations: Intermediate

Review: Aficionados of fan-service and appreciators of altered anime physics, look no further, Maken-ki! 2 is here. Although to be fair, if you aren’t acquainted with the series by now, you can’t really call yourself a connoisseur of either of the two. There was just an OVA release last season too. Anyway, I’ve long since had my exposure to the series back when the first season debuted, but subsequently dropped it for reasons that really don’t need further elaboration. But you know what they say, second seasons mean second chances. Wait, what? They don’t say that? At all? Okay, fine! I’m doing it for bosoms! I’m not ashamed to say it! Second season or bust! Believe it or not, there is a premise to this series, it’s just buried beneath volumes of breasts and veiled behind straps of underwear pinned onto display boards, which is actually an incident that coincides with this premiere episode’s introductory content. That aside, the over-arching story here centers on protagonist Ohyama Takeru, who enrolled in Tenbi Academy to avoid taking an entrance exam and to not avoid the transition from its status as an all girls school to its status as a co-ed school. What Takeru did not expect however was the battlefield that the school campus would turn out to be, essentially serving as an arena for students who use spiritual energy called Element and magical items called Maken to duel their hearts out. Season two of this robust series has been handed from Studio AIC to Studio Xebec, a welcome improvement. I view Xebec as more of an old-school studio for whatever reason but it’s indefinitely a solid studio in terms of presentation and production. With what I’ve seen in this first episode, there’s assuredly no reason to complain with such a consistency in detail. I mentioned in last year’s round-up post that there’s a breadth of aesthetics when it comes to the art of fan-service and Maken-ki 2! itself is looking like an early contender for this year’s claim. It’s hard to imagine, but I figure the animators working on the show enjoy producing the visuals here just as much as they think the viewers enjoy watching them. With most of that being said, I’m not sure what path the show is going to take now, given that I’m not too accustomed with the source material. But if the OP is anything to go off of, there may be some worthwhile fight sequences on the up-and-coming (in the department of fan-service and action). This week’s advent that gave way to a lot of bare revelations was something of a treat in itself, but I readily welcome a wider display of entertainment for episodes to come. Gosh, I can’t type anything without sexual innuendos reverberating in my mind.

Rating: B-


Hoozuki no Reitetsu #01.

Expectations: Relatively High

Review: I can perfectly understand how Hoozuki no Reitetsu may come off as a particularly niche series after one look at its promotional material (though I’ve noticed that the pattern lately is that more niche means the more intelligent, to be honest), but I’m very much surprised how under-the-radar this show is, considering it being the studio-successor to last year’s critically acclaimed Shingeki no Kyojin. Studio Wit has properly etched its mark in as a production studio to be taken seriously; and sure enough, after invigorating the anime industry’s shonen genre with aforementioned adaptation, their subsequent adaptation of Hoozuki no Reitetsu is giving a more tenuous nostalgia with its Heaven and Hell premise that reminds us (or just me) of the Japanese mythology motifs that pervaded the earliest days of shōnen, with the likes of Dragon Ball, Yu Yu Hakusho and more. But enough talk about young boys though, Hoozuki no Reitetsu is a series with its own distinguished reputation, originally a comedy, supernatural manga, it was nominated for the 5th Manga Taisho Award and won at last year’s Japan Media Arts Festival Awards. Going into the first episode of this celebrated series made me realize that it really is quite niche. The dark humor is jargon both in its atmosphere and in its cultural allusions. I didn’t find myself laughing out loud, as that is seldom the case with such humor, but rather chuckling at some of the gags in appreciation to their wit. (In one scene for example, Momotaro’s dog companion says, “even your anger is old-fashioned” in response to the irritated manner in which he stomps his feet in place – this being a comedic jab that I would have wholly mistook had I not recently read The Tale of Heike‘s chapter involving a similar scenario with the character Shunkan.) But rest assured, the content does not limit itself to distant anecdotes of the far past, and it actually does well in blending contemporary culture into the fray (i.e. insulting Momotaro’s dog by calling him the son of the company Soft Bank‘s mascot, Otosan). It’s definitely an interesting set-up we have here and with the manga series being ahead by ten whole volumes, there should be enough material to adapt the best of the best of it in one-cour. It’s not every season that you see an anime’s premiere end on the note of winning an all expense paid trip to Australia, but it does give way to comedic opportunities, just take a gander at the music video for The Lonely Island‘s I’m On A Boat (ft. T-Pain) and try to tell me otherwise.

Rating: B


Space☆Dandy #01.

Expectations: High

Review: He’s Space. And he’s Dandy. What more is there to it? Quite a bit, actually. The story of Space☆Dandy is set in an technological future where two need-not-be-named empires engage in unyielding, intergalactic warfare for control of the universe. And the reason behind their irrelevancy is because the limelight resides upon the one and only Space Dandy, a “dandy in space” whose career path of hunting unidentified alien species coincides with his life pursuit of visiting every Boobies “breastaurant” in the known galaxy. His stellar quest is aided by companions QT, a robot assistant, and Meow, a Betelgeusian alien that bears undeniable similarities to what humans commonly domesticize as pet cats. Episode one of Space☆Dandy goes through the motions of proper introductions of each character, ingraining heaps of personality into the show from the start. A foreboding organization sought out to be Dandy’s main antagonist too looms in supporting scenes. And really, if the grandiose premise of spatial exploration and adventure isn’t enough for you, there’s always the charming comedy bits to fall back on. Even further, the art and animation here are also a spectacle within themselves. We’re talking about the work of Studio BONES here so there really wasn’t any skepticism in the first place (on my behalf at least), but this series is literally just one fine specimen of artists and animators enjoying their careers. This first episode sees them pulling out all the stops to make sure theatrics and pageantries are full throttle from the start. It’s an extravaganza from start to finish, and the last scene even presents a dazzling fireworks show that apparently leads to the main cast’s deaths and the end of the show. What a note to end on. But we damn know that’s not it because the reception to this first episode is screaming “Encore!” And, I guess because the preview kind of plainly gives that away and teases that the buffoonery does indeed ensue. All in all, this is a series I respect to much in conception and execution. That BONES is essentially challenging the stagnation of the anime industry with Space☆Dandy, even going so far as to premiere it overseas, is enough reason for me to pledge viewing allegiance here. And of course, with all cards on the table, it’s needless to say that this is shaping out to be a damn good show.

Rating: A-


Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha #01.


Expectations: Intermediate

Review: There’s an air of realism to Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha that makes it a much more credible amount of cute and overall emotional. The competition of harem in the most genuine sense, a cast of school-going characters that is diverse yet representative of a universal youthful demeanor and campus-wide affairs that are much more realistic than the anime norm. Realistic indeed, that is, until things take a sudden turn and get quite supernatural. Fortunately, just as it can do better than the run-of-the-mill slice-of-life series, Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha proves in the latter half of the episode that it can very well blend in fantasy elements too, a fortune that can be accredited to the Shinto gods, perhaps. Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha follows the life of ordinary, lovestruck schoolgirl Fushimi Inari. After inadvertently publicly humiliating her secret crush, Tanbabashi Kouji, in gym class and then witnessing his confession to Sumizome Akemi, the most popular girl in school, she makes an impulsive wish to the gods to become the target of Tanbabashi’s love, Sumizome. In doing she so, she soon realizes the extent of tragedy that her foolishness can bestow upon her close friends and comes to terms with her own ignorance. The Goddess Uka-no-Mitami-nokami cannot grant any human more than one wish however and instead grants Fushimi the ability to transform appearances. What ensues is a tale of young life and love, spun with a thread of supernaturality. Immediately, the show has an intriguing resemblance to last year’s Gingitsune wherein it’s presenting itself to be a very toned-down, genuine story of everyday life. Despite its more quirky bits like the Goddess playing visual novels when no one is watching and Fushimi adorning her newly-bestowed transformation ability with a magical girl routine, the narrative is headed by feelings of wistfulness and pining. The adaptation of the original manga is helmed by Production IMS, a studio that has less than five series to its name. While I can’t say the production value is great, I’m also in no position to debase it. If anything, its presentation associates finely with the quelled-down nature of its story. With only ten episodes scheduled, it’ll be interesting to see how extensive or concentrated the story will turn out to be.

Rating: B-


Mahou Sensou #01.

Expectations: Intermediate

Review: Gun bullet pierces concrete wall. Gun bullet doesn’t pierce magical ice. Blade doesn’t pierce bamboo sword. Blade pierces magical ice. The weapons of Magical Warfare make less sense than the ones of Rock, Paper, Scissors. But disregarding the frivolousness of comparing echelons of artillery with childhood games, it’s still a bit much, Mahou Sensou. Nanase Takeshi is a high school boy with a dark past. In his paraphrased words, he would go anywhere to get out of his household, even hell. So, when one day he leaves for school and is engulfed in an other-world or magic and conflict, I suppose there’s not much he can complain about. In writing it sounds generic, the premise of Mahou Sensou, but I can guarantee you, as far as first episodes go, the execution is even more so generic. (Even the title is horribly bland, now that I think about it.) From the lengthy explanations of magical hierarchies that go in one ear and out the other (for the protagonist and the audience alike, I presume) to the convenience of three characters of the main cast becoming magicians on the same day, it’s not the kind of introduction that I would call proper. In fact, it’s pretty rushed and sloppy. I’m not saying there’s no hope for the show but from what can be seen so far, i.e. a cast of fairly unremarkable archetypes, a rather tame surrogate plotline that revolves around a brain-washed brother, and an evil organization with a pretty laughable title (Ghost Trailer); there’s not much to be expected henceforth. I have a particular amount of faith in Madhouse as a studio, though its repute doesn’t tend to exhibit consistency like others do (BONES, Ufotable) and the proof is in the pudding with this case, as the premiere episode Mahou Sensou doesn’t seem to boast any exceptional production values. For now, I’m fine with peering through a couple more episodes but the bar has been considerably lowered as a provision.

Rating: C


Wizard Barristers Benmashi Cecil #01.

Expectations: Intermediate

Review: Going in to Wizard Barristers – Benmashi Cecil‘s first episode, what you’ll immediately be graced with is quite frankly one of the most highlighted and aesthetic action sequences of this season’s premieres, consisting of intense gunslinging accompanied by realistic and gruesome depictions of blood, scintillating magical castings of fire and a full-speed locomotive as the backdrop. But what is a dynamic and lively scene chronicled by the presence of robust female character Erari Quinn eventually transitions into the greater narrative of the series, centered upon Sudou Cecil, the proverbial moe girl first seen waking up late for her first day of work. So close, Wizard Barristers, so close. Leading roles aside, there’s a lot to this series that utterly screams potential. In a season rife with magical organizations, magical societies and magical warfare; Wizard Barristers does well in centralizing u[pm one specific concentration of magical-fantasy, to be specific the judiciary branch, and to be even more specific the act of defeating criminal magic-users and subsequently representing them in the magical courtroom. Who would’ve thought, huh? It’s a pretty peculiar spotlight but it’s done well alongside a greatly-executed more general and extensive world building. There’s a great establishment of atmosphere in the show from the onset whether it’s from the sound production with some tracks featuring a melody of soft vocals as we follow our heroine motor-scootering to work, the actual story content that touches on pretty thorough social stigmas such as the institutionalized bigotry towards wizards, or the splendid visuals. Worth mentioning is Studio ARMS spectacular work on the production. The premise of wizard barristers presiding over lawsuits in the “magical courtroom” was enough to give me a “case of the week” feel to it, ultimately likening it to crime stories of the Ghost in the Shell anime series (the female character who I thought was the protagonist at the beginning of the episode reminded me of Kusanagi Makoto more than enough but I guess we can settle for the girl with the identical hair color); but additionally so, the gleaming art style and attention to detail reminds me of the best of the best illustrated scenes in Suisei no Gargantia (also a Production I.G. work). Wizard Barristers is a pretty shocking turn-around for Studio ARMS, which is primarily known for the ecchi likes of series including but not limited to Hyakka Ryouran and Queen’s Blade, because what we have here is a becoming series already established with solid visuals, story, characters and not yet even ripe with its full potential.

Rating: B


Short Series:

Tonari no Seki-kun #01.

Expectations: Relatively Low

Review: Tonari no Seki-kun is a modest series, each episode briefly detailing an account of innocent school girl Yokoi Rumi falling victim to involvement with her neighbor’s antics. While no series may aspire to be like Tonari no Seki-kun, delinquents across the world might find themselves striving to be like the eponymous Seki Toshinari, who, as established in this episode, is a master of killing time. This week’s edition of the two lead characters’ school life has Seki-kun experimenting with the engineering of dominos; but the title of master is not so dismissible, and latter episodes will surely have him pulling even more tomfoolery out of his school bag of tricks. In terms of tone, the show is definitely one targeted towards younger audiences; the duration of each episode is enough to vouch for that, as is the production budget. Honestly, I would be a bit concerned how this misdemeanor behavior affects some children watching the show, but it’s all in good fun. In no way is the series lofty, its premise is structured on a pretty stable trope, the dynamic between Yokoi and Seki, in which she is the one punished for his transgressions in the classroom but is ultimately entertained by the touch of liveliness he instills into the classroom. It’s a relation that I believe most people can sympathize with. It’s the bridled kind of adolescent show with characters that we are all too familiar with; and while it’ll never be covered within the span of the series, fans at home don’t have to be shy about imagining worlds beyond the one portrayed on-screen. An angsty teenage relationship between the two, a declaration of love, a hearty romance, and the like.The show’s accessible, it’s simple, and it does what it aims to.

Rating: B-


pupa #01.

Expectations: Intermediate

Review: It’s a damn shame, after being such an anticipated show amongst many viewerships. A year late and an episode runtime fifteen minutes shorter than presumed, pupa no longer has much to its name. I’m not going to lie, Studio DEEN is one of my least favorite anime producton studios. Knowing their work from Hetalia, Higurashi and Sankarea (to name a few), I never really expect anything from them to be particularly excellence in production value. Hakkenden, being the latest series of theirs that I watched, was enough to convince me otherwise. It had a very acceptable standard of detail. But with its other foibles, I could never consider it a great adaptation. (The plot structure and pacing especially was horrendous.) As far as this premiere goes, pupa isn’t really changing a thing about views on Studio DEEN. Similar to the aforementioned, the here pacing immediately gives the impression that it has wholly been compromised by episode’s shortened runtime, never allotting a moment to proper character introductions before it even indulges in the shock value of guro depictions and untimely cliffhangers. The fact that the two protagonists are siblings and that they were abused as children is a revelation that is merely glimpsed upon before overlooked for the next segment of plot sequentiality. By the end of the episode, what we have is an appalled brother staring aghast at his sister who has mutated from an adorable young girl to a cardinal, disfigured, tentacled monster. In description it sounds like quite the jaw-dropper, but really, there’s no excitement here. With no emotional investment in either character whatsoever, there’s no way for us to feel the full breadth of the impact. Further hindered by the show’s new format is of course the production. The art style of the show is definitely peculiar, but I can’t imagine that it’s a result of creative choices as opposed to a depressed budget. The color palette flaunts a very soft display, as if the show is an animated watercolor painting. The movements reflects this with very gradual changes as if instead of elements on the screen moving, the canvas is actually fading away to reveal another underneath it, drawn slightly different. It has a credible effect, but again, I can’t help but about the relation between deficiency in funding and auteurism. I’ve no idea what happen with the show’s green-lighting process, but after all’s said and done, pupa regrettably premieres with the most disappointing episode of the season thus far.

Rating: D+


Strange+ #01.

Expectations: Relatively Low

Review: I came in with skepticism out the butthole, but what were unjustified misgivings turned into comedy gold. To explain the satirical genius of Strange+, it’s brilliant precisely because it takes the same amount of content as the shows it parodies to do its business but delivers it in one-eighth the time. With the comedy-mystery structure of Cuticle Detective Inaba before, it may just prove to be more worthwhile to abandon lofty ambitions of narrative, especially in the short episode format. The womanly figure in the latex suit, the chibi-fied leader of the crime-solving team, the bulky brawns of the operation, the long-haired bishoujo, the case of the wealthy owner in jeopardy of heist, the culprit plot twist, the traditional rolling boulder in enclosed hallway trap, the multiple rooms getaway and so much more; all the routines are there and Strange+ intends to play off them all, in quick, facetious succession. With traps more obvious than the likes of Looney Tunes, how could you not expect this kind of off-the-wall buffoonery? There’s really no blaming it for its sexual make-over of its characters, who are each traps in and of him/her/itself, when they are so effective at adding an extra nuance to each and every comedic gag. From having an explosive, ass-tastic punchline from episode one to the aforementioned, this show came with three minutes of well-prepared delivery.

Rating: B+


Onee-chan ga Kita! #01.

Expectations: Intermediate

Review: Onee-chan ga Kita! continues the conquest of short series this season by enacting out familiar themes, motifs and tropes but in a much less enduring duration. I mean, if you’re going to represent the idealisms of moe, it’s best to do it in such a way that captivates the hardcore reaction-ists as well as the appreciators who can still become disinterested with indecent overexposure. And it seems the best way to do that is to limit the sensation to three minute weekly dosages. It’s a certain type of genius and I really do fear for the fate of normal length anime series, at least what is now considered a normal length anime series. (I’m even reviewing a majority of them genuinely and to their own standard, when last season and year did not see so much as one review for a short series.) While many series nowaseasons are lacking in valid story-lines, a revolution of short series will essentially be the point of no return as the industry falls completely into an era of moe and character-based series. And as far as it stands, I’m much more inclined to watch Onee-chan ga Kita! weekly than a few series on air that draw out the amusement of their content, which puts me at a foreboding infliction of self-doubt. The show itself is an adaptation of a comedy 4-koma entailing the oh-so-scary business of sisterly love, especially when it’s not legitimately blood-related. Alongside seventeen year old sibling Mizuhara Ichika, who is indubitably a lunatic of love but unbearably cute in her own respect, are her friends Hayasaka Ruri, a sadist, and Mochizuki Marina, a curvaceous quarter-Japanese with well-perceivable Western ancestry, who have yet to be introduced. Though, from the complex of protagonist Mizuhara Tomoya’s newly-ordained sister shown in this premiere, I’m sure the respective two will bring their own touch of personality (or imbalanced and psychotic psyche) to cover all bases of character intrigue. 4-koma manga and short anime adaptations altogether are on the rise (though it’s worth noting many 4-koma series get regular length adaptations), and if anything I hope this means setting a higher standard for regular time slots. For now, there’s just really no resisting it.

Rating: B-

「Anime Tidbit #02.」 The Sound Effect of Hiizumi Akina’s Tuning and Esoterism (Yozakura Quartet ~Hana no Uta~)

Anime: Yozakura Quartet ~Hana no Uta~

(Sample)

I seldom open the rift between dimensions (only on weekends) but I have been exposed to enough shōnen anime series to accustom myself to the axiom of thought that all story elements that make the narrative more bad-ass should correspondingly look and sound bad-ass. As such, you tend to hear a lot of digitally-produced ethereal sound effects to accompany a protagonist’s “sure-kill move” or “secret technique” in anime. Thankfully, Yozakura Quartet ~Hana no Uta~ has done its part in disrupting our complacency with this mindset. While definitely mechanized, the sound for Akina’s Tuning and the Elders’ scientifically-produced variant, Esoterism, is wholly on the other side of the eargasm spectrum (And it certainly does seem like the type of noise that would accompany a person’s ejaculation, if anything at all. A variant of the brown noise, if you will.) The complementary screen captures of characters’ pupils void of irises, what could be construed as a signal-less electronic output device and flashes of light that scream vociferous thunderclaps stand testament to the insistently grating dissonance of metal, the God-forbidden Second Coming of dial-up internet cacophony (this time on crack cocaine), the electric migraine that is so graciously and modestly referred to in the show simply as Tuning. Boy is it an earful and with extended exposure, will definitely have adverse effects like it does to our protagonist in the story; but, equally bad-ass nonetheless.

「Anime Tidbit #01.」 Hagimura Suzu’s Head’s Design-savy, Re-appearing Caption (Seitokai Yakuindomo*)

Anime: Seitokai Yakuindomo*

 

It’s two-dimensional, it’s three-dimensional, it rotates and revolves like a planet in orbit around the sun that is her head, it has a secondary rainbow-gradient stroke, it changes color by the letter, it has a striped-pattern overlay, it marquees, it spins like a wheel, it’s worn and curved like a crown and it even comes with a nifty pointing arrow. The design-savy caption has a mind of its own as it numerously appears in different fonts, hues, and kinetic animations to insist that Student Council Treasurer Hagimura Suzu is indeed present! Its presentation throughout the episode seems like a typographer’s keyboard-happy dream come true, and heck, it’s only the first episode of the series. Studio GoHands‘ magnificent standard for art and animation is a marvel established by the artistry of its illustrative work and further enhanced by the beauty of its more subtle intricacies, such as the meticulous typesetting work presented upon this diminutive, ちび girl’s head.

A Year of Anime (2013)

Preface: And so, another year of anime has passed. Every year, it seems like the industry is prospering to new levels, and I am happy to say that alongside it, so does my involvement in it. Looking in retrospect, I can honestly say that I am astounded at how much the anime industry has changed. This year we’ve seen adaptations of manga, 4koma, novels, light novels, visual novels, games, mascots, and multi-media franchises. Additionally so, well-anticipated sequels and original adaptations have graced the year and proved to be just as enthralling. I am proud to say that I have matched this flourishing activity with that of my own. This year I have managed to watch _ anime series and finish _ of them. This post will serve as an extensive retrospection, including thoughts and reactions that I will do my best to recollect for respective premieres, highlight episodes, endings, and series in general. Of course they will all be assimilated into reviews primarily focusing on the “best anime of the year” motif, but the first half of this post will consist of specific awards concerning notable aspects of the medium while the second half will consist of the annual top series. And so, without further ado,

Disclaimer: If you find yourself disagreeing with my opinions, I urge you to respond with a list of your own. There are series I haven’t seen, thoughts I haven’t thought, feelings I haven’t felt, and perspectives I haven’t shared; but I’m sure I’d like to.

WARNING!! SPOILERS AHEAD!!

Eligibility: Anything that aired within the year.

Best of (Story):

Best Story: Kyousougiga

I wouldn’t say that the writers behind Kyousougiga have a god-complex like many big-time shōnen mangakas, but they sure as hell do the trope better than a majority of them. Penchants for imbuing characters with absolute power aside, Kyousougiga delivers the greatness of its story in leaps and bounds. In ten episodes, we are presented with a long-enduring, beautifully-scripted family drama that sees its own members traveling between planes of existence, becoming rulers of a civilization, practically waging war amongst each other, and the like. Fast pacing, of course is a common aspect (and what many would consider a weak one) in one-cour series (Kyousougiga being even shorter than one-cour) and yet, the series is able to leave behind with every episode’s premiere a vast depth of underlying content, whether that be the symbolism of Buddhist culture or the rich story-building with the planetarium of the thirteen planes. These facets are subtle but do so much to augment the main storyline; ultimately remaining uncultivated by the viewers’ intrigue without additional attention (It’s no wonder there’s multiple recaps episode in which the cast of the show provides background information on the show’s premise). It’s a needle in an imaginary haystack.

Honorable Mention(s): Shin Sekai Yori, Hunter x Hunter

Best Arc: Chimera Ant Arc (Hunter x Hunter)

Hands-down. I’ve avoided writing an explanation because I have an entirely separate blog post dedicated to the arc and its importance in the making.

Honorable Mention(s): Greed Island Arc (Hunter x Hunter), Sisters Arc (Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S)

Best Plot Twist: Inari is the son of God (Kyousougiga)

Inari pulls out the most batshit plot twist ever since a particular shōnen series did something of a similar vein and subsequently received widespread acclaim. But it’s not a twist that’s completely out of his ass, no, it’s out of his scabbard and it’s a sword, that he uses to stab… his daughter and his brother. Inari’s, for lack of better words, “change of heart” and status as son of God effectively makes him the most ambiguously evil character of the year (Yes, I see you, Squealer, but I knew your ass was evil from the beginning!). Wherein most plot twists live for shock value, Kyousougiga‘s is one that more so answers questions than raises them, kind of… The unraveling mystery of the Kyousougiga family comes to a modicum of clarity when we finally know what the deal is with this enigma of a character, a man who married his own painting, denied an grief-struck boy from suicide (which was practically synonymous with salvation in his culture), crafted two more children from his artistry, and then abandoned them. He then creates a final child, leaves her too, and comes back to stab her in the event of discussion. And with that, we come full circle. Wait, no we don’t, what the fuck just happened!?

Best Dialogue: Monogatari Series: Second Season

I’m not sure how much I need to argue for this, seeing as how Monogatari is arguably the most dialogue-driven series in anime history. Furthermore, Studio Shaft has pretty much perfected the art of capturing scenes of conversations after all the installments of the series. Overhead shots, low-angle shots, grandiose locales, over-exposed eye shots, immaculate focus on lips, lens flares, burlesque poses, melodic soundtrack, interlaced text, inter titles, you name it and Shaft will dramatize it masterfully. For me, NisiOisin is famous for his dialogue wit; he’s like the anime-version of Quentin Tarantino, wherein his stories not only feature cutting-edge subject matter with obvious appreciation towards pop culture, but also gritty presentation in discourse. It is said that the practice of conversation itself is an art form; with that in mind, I guess we can add another point to Monogatari‘s stylistic roster.

Honorable Mention(s): Uchouten Kazoku

Best Fight: Annie v.s. Recon Corps (Shingeki no Kyojin)

One of the main factors that soared Shingeki no Kyojin to the status of a masterpiece and true shōnen series for me was how intense the literary device of conflict was portrayed through its writing. Not only does the battle of an entire damn corporation against one girl last throughout the entire twenty five episode run of the show, but is also thoroughly and adequately foreshadowed, developed, materialized, and extended. As Annie is the first revealed titan, her story is one that is irrevocably attached to every other motif in the story. So when the nigh conflict finally comes to pass, it is quite literally her against the world (at least the world we’ve been shown thus far), and it does marvels in terms of emotional depth. Her one-on-ones with Eren, Mikasa, Levi, Hanji alike are all equally compelling match-ups. I do admit that as a result, original author Isayama kind of set a trap for himself as to how to make her imminent defeat as satisfying as possible. Personally, what I wanted most was her to fall in her fight against Mikasa and Levi in the woods (specifically to Mikasa), so I was a bit disappointed when that didn’t happen. But what ensued was also undeniably great (we even got Mikasa’s callously delivered jab at her as she literally fell from the walls of human civilization). And it goes without saying that what preceded it was also undeniably incredible. From the confines of the training camp to the plains beyond the walls to the innermost areas of the woods to the central stage of the town, the struggle against Annie was long, enduring, and just pure epic. Annie is a dead ringer for a great fighter and it’s not just because she’s a practiced boxer.

Honorable Mention(s): Kite, Gon and Killua v.s. Yunju, Centipede and Mosquito (Hunter  x Hunter)

Best Death: Deishuu Kaiki (Monogatari Series: Second Season)

Kaiki’s is a death that pretty much received the royal treatment. Not only did he get to be the narrator for a good part of the series (and a whole volume if we’re talking about the light novels), but he was also glorified in redemption by saving the lives of virtually the whole main cast of the series. The guy had a golden carpet laid out for him, one that led to his death. To be honest, with all the aforementioned story aspects that could be considered huge foreshadowings, I was in utter disbelief when the time, his time, finally came. Of course, I was long since emotionally invested in Kaiki (the scene of his altercation with Ononoki about his romantic history is iconic to me) , so when the finale decided to end with that as a cliffhanger, you know the writers are just reveling in how trauma they’ve caused you.

Honorable Mention(s): Kite (Hunter x Hunter), Shimogamo Souichirou (Uchouten Kazoku), Squealer (Shin Sekai Yori), Misaka 9982 (Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S)

 

Best of (Character):

Best Male Character: Shimogamo Yasaburo (Uchouten Kazoku)

Yasaburo gives hope to all the lackadaisicals in life. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Uchouten Kazoku is an adaptation from a novel, seeing as he’s such a textbook example of a character from a, well… book. While other protagonists are off gallantly saving the world from evil, the host of this show has his hands full with just the affairs of his own family. In actuality, Yasaburo may be the narrator of the series, but he could hardly be considered the centerpiece of it, seeing as how there’s a dramatic representation of the family Shimogamo family as a whole, eccentric unity. He doesn’t solve all the conflicts by himself; he acknowledges his own flaws and the flaws of his relatives. Nonetheless, it is the brilliance of his constant self-reflection that is the determinant aspect of the show. Without Yasaburo’s retrospections, there would be no underlying concepts to grasp from this everyday story. He is a phenomenally written character in that he is not only able to relay the brimming emotions from the cast of the story but also from the audience itself.

Honorable Mention(s): Gon (Hunter x Hunter), Deishuu Kaiki (Monogatari Series: Second Season), Joseph Joestar (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure), Staz Charlie Blood (Blood Lad), Sakishima Hikari (Nagi no Asukara)

Best Female Character: Mayoi Hachikuji (Monogatari Series: Second Season)

Hachikuji is the most admirable fifth-grader ever. Hachikuji has retained my endearing impression since her introduction in the first Bakemonogatari series, where she became the first girl, besides Senjougahara, who Araragi met. And again in Nisemonogatari, she graced the premiere episode with arguably the best scene of the series, establishing the profundity that an elementary-schooler should not by normal means possess. This year’s installment marked her unfortunate and highly untimely passing, but not without a proper emotional send-off that saw her usually composed disposition crumble before the callousness of her fate and the sincerity of Araragi.  And that may just be the allure of her character. Physically, Hachikuji represents a moe archetype, but the juxtaposition of her overtly mature demeanor completely transmogrifies the enticement of her character into something else entirely. That we can fawn over her preciousness as well as regard the sophistication of her personality allow us to flip both sides of the coin with concurrent content. She’s a delight.

Honorable Mention(s): Hajime Ichinose (Gatchaman Crowds), Mankanshoku Mako (Kill la Kill), Misaka Mikoto (Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S)

Best Protagonist: Gon Freecs (Hunter x Hunter)

In terms of a lead role for the story, you can’t get any better than Gon Freecs. Sure, the main plot is driven by his quest to hunt down his father, but just a little more inspection and it should be obvious just about everything else breaks down as a effect to the cause that is his character. It was Gon’s stubborn heroism in the face of Nobunaga that tangle the protagonists further into the web of the Phantom Troupe. Greed Island was wholly an adventure for the sake of the plot’s main objective, but Razor’s clash with Gon was a personal battle of clout. And presently, Gon’s fate in the Chimera Ant arc was an outcome of him deciding to take Killua with him to see his father, triggering the Greed Island game to transfer the two to Kite instead.  That all is resultant of the nature of his character holds true to his definition as protagonist of the series.

Honorable Mention(s): Shimagamo Yasaburo (Uchouten Kazoku), Misaka Mikoto (Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S)

Best Antagonist: Neferpitou (Hunter x Hunter)

Neferpitou is an exceptionally unique case. Despite his role as a secondary antagonist in the Chimera Ant arc, the modicum of his presence and actions in the story have had such a grave effect that he fits the bill of antagonist so damn perfectly. In correlating Pitou with the big bad Mereum himself, Pitou actually seems more evil, and that’s not just because of the huge blow dealt upon the latter’s reputation by the oh-so-moe Komugi (though that is quite a large part of it). Let’s lay a few comparisons to establish this scale. Firstly, while Mereum did in fact kill his own mother by emerging from her womb, it was ultimately an inadvertent and consequential action. Conversely, there’s an overt implication in portraying Pitou as wholly apathetic to the matter as he even withholds resurrecting the Queen, a possibility only with his Nen ability. Secondly, while Mereum shows no sympathy to any other, he does not actively seek cruelty. Neferpitou is one who heavily follows the path of carnage, Exhibit A being his brutal victory over Kite compared to Mereum’s abandoned triumph over Komugi, which occurs on a much less severe battlefield. Thirdly, Neferpitou is the epitome of the word monstrosity in that he has remained the most unknown figure out of the Royal Guard and King himself despite being the first born and first introduced. His aura has thus far been acknowledged as the most terrifying, in which its immensity is horrid enough to outweigh Shiapouf’s, which incapacitated one of the greatest, professional hunters, as well as make Colt believe Netero, the arguably strongest character in the entire Hunter x Hunter series, has no chance against the King. Speaking of which, there is still a relationship of tremendous tension between the King and Neferpitou, one that hints ample treachery and conflict. To say that he even might betray the omnipotent king he serves is basically saying this motherfucker is bad news, big bad news.

Honorable Mention(s): Mereum (Hunter x Hunter), Squealer (Shin Sekai Yori), Annie Leonhart (Shingeki no Kyojin)

Best of (Genre):

Best Action: Hunter x Hunter

Togashi has put an unbelievable amount of work in conceiving Nen combat as well as structuring its introduction and continual coverage. Hunter x Hunter. The concept was first presented in the Heaven’s Arena arc and every since has had a hearty and soulful coverage of new components to the expansive technique. Moreover, it’s given fruit to some of the most creative action scenes and fights of the year, enabling Togashi to import his adoration of sports, board games, video games, and more. And while these might sound as cutting edge as the visceral nature of physical combat, don’t even think for a second that the series lacks in that area whatsoever.

Honorable Mention(s): Shingeki no Kyojin, Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

Best Adventure: Hunter x Hunter

Hunter x Hunter takes this cake with ease. As if last year’s events that saw our protagonists chasing around a group of the strongest characters in the series and getting mixed up in a Mafioso fiasco wasn’t enough of an adventure, Gon and Killua kicked in the 2013 year with the first official episode of the Greed Island arc. And if a whole arc devoted to two pre-teen boys playing a massively multi-player role-playing game isn’t the epitome of adventure for you, then I don’t know what is. From that virtual entanglement to the current Chimera Ant arc, it’s as if the boys have properly gone from a gamer’s heaven to what anyone would consider hell. It’s been a helluva an adventure, but hell, what’s more adventurous than going to hell and back?

Best Sci-fi: Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S

A common topic of discussion when it comes to technology is how it will inevitably influence warfare. Thankfully, modern warfare can be avidly represented in fiction without any worry of physical consequence. The account of Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S, and the entire Toaru series in general, is one in which its author immerses himself in a world of science fiction and tailors it to his own craft. Unlike some other sci-fi series of the year (Psycho-Pass, Suisei no Gargantia), Railgun largely implements the motif into an extra component of its series, action. A major part of Toaru‘s fun is identifying each character with their science-based powers and comparing them with each other in that sense. The story etches them out to be people defined by their powers and that adds a new measure to their persons. But it’s not only the characters themselves that receive the grand scientific treatment. The story itself dons its most intriguing essence from the employment of science-fictional themes, each arc offering respectable and engaging concepts of philosophy that rival the aforementioned rival series. The Sisters arc is one such exceptional example of such daring and sightly feats. (The whole issue of clones being human or not taken up one notch when they’re the clones of the protagonist and the underlying implication of kinship is beckoned.) Railgun is a series that knows how represent its classification as science-fiction story in exhilarating and dynamic style and depth.

Honorable Mentions: Suisei no Gargantia, Psycho-Pass

Best Fantasy: Kyousougiga

The imagination behind the making of Kyousougiga is enough for people to get lost in and inhibit for decades, if not centuries. As a matter of fact, that’s essentially what happens in the plot of the series itself… so it must be true! Many people say that FLCL is the coolest anime series ever; but in my opinion, Kyousougiga gives it a damn good run for its money. The vastness of Kyousougiga‘s imaginary and stylish world is what allows it to be such a fine flight of fancy. It’s not difficult for an original anime project to overload and contrive its story with attempts at culture-clashing, such as worlds with anachronistically parallel existences of advanced technology and medieval customs. It’s been done many times before and has failed many times before (though the connotation behind failed is pretty ambiguous). But when a series like Kyousougiga comes along, it drops the hammer to prove that it is a fantastical world entirely possible (in fiction at least) with the implementation of superb and seamless story-writing. The fantasy elements of Kyousougiga are indeed visual astonishing; but equally, their cultural and historical allusions and subtle symbolism are what enhance the depth of the story to new heights. It’s simply fantasy done right.

Honorable Mention(s): Uchouten Kazoku, Shin Sekai Yori, Monogatari Series: Second Season, Zetsuen no Tempest

Best Drama: Kyousougiga

Kyousougiga takes the zenith of drama to the heart of human relationships, the family. Within its ten episode span, the series has family members from the main cast living with another, eating with another, playing with another (and here’s where it gets weird), trying to kill another, creating another (by wholly unconventional means), trying to send another into an alternate dimension, forming an incestuous relationship with another and the like, in no particular order. Try imagining all the sentiments and emotions associated with that kind of dysfunctional family. While the show doesn’t quite cover every possible base, what it does unravel from these heartstrings is one intense enveloping development. From sub-genres such as the family drama to concepts from Sigmund Freud’s “Family Romances,” there’s all kinds of maudlin sagaciousness in the writings of Kyousougiga. With every episode, the show leaves a severe sense of yearning in the core of your heart and pit of your stomach, and god damn, it’s not even your own family.

Best Romance/Harem: Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko

HenNeko is definitely a series that leans more towards the harem side of the spectrum as opposed to the romance side. But hey, in a world where people are still asking every day what exactly is love, there’s no helping that there will be radically different interpretations of the timeless concept. While series like White Album 2 are the much more conspicuously advertised romance series, I’ve recently come to accept subtle heart-to-heart moments speaking much louder from the actual heart than the forced melodrama of vulnerable, angsty teenage interactions, even if one appears in a comedic romance and the other in a dramatic one. There’s a Japanese aesthetic concept called yūgen that is inexplicably more complicated than anything I can explain about it, but the general gist of its nuance is the beauty that is not directly displayed but that can be presumed from its deep and mysterious subtlety. I’ve all but applied that to my impressions of romances in anime. Wherein a charming relationship is eventually tarnished by melodrama forced into the writing, a casual interaction of genuine sentiments can still hopefully bloom into a beautiful enchantment, even after the open-ended conclusion that most harems offer. And oh boy, is there a lot of such sentimental scenes in HenNeko. Yokodera Youto is one hell of a genuine kid, a hapless pervert, but a good kid. His prepubescent life is fortunately full of interactions with bombshell beauties, adorable girls and even a loving mother (that is not his own). With all these cards on the tables, yes there’s a lot of room for eroticism and total fan-service, but the anime does a great job at being much more than just that with conflicts after conflicts overcome by friends bordering on the realm of romantic interests (except for the mother, that’s just sweetness of family). Not romance in the literal sense but love is definitely in the air for this one.

Honorable Mention(s): Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru, White Album 2

Best Fan-Service: Yuusha ni Narenakatta Ore wa Shibushibu Shuushoku o Ketsui Shimashita

You may call me a pervert, but I hardly believe that I’m the only one.  Anime has long since made fan-service a staple  of its industry, and it only seems to become more affluent as the years go on. Simply put, sex sells. (Even animated sex.) And so does the more toned-down version of it. At this point, I have to admit myself that after so long, the approach of fan-service has pretty much become an art form. At the very least, I think we can agree that there’s a distinction amongst the kinds you see, be it blatant fan-service, subtle fan-service, or anywhere in between. Yuusha ni Narenakatta Ore wa Shibushibu Shuushoku o Ketsui Shimashita, or Yusibu, definitely leans more upon the blatant side of the spectrum, but hey, to avoid sounding too lascivious, let’s just say for the most part it seems the artists and animators enjoy what they’re doing. Instead of just slapping a pair of, for lack of better words, somethings, on the screen, they put on a pretty detailed and lovely show, especially during those various action sequences where there’s a generous display of physics. I’ve officially re-dubbed this show into I Couldn’t Become A Hero, So I Decided to Continue Admiring Boobs and Butts.

Honorable Mention(s): Walkure Romanze

Best Comedy: Hataraku Maou-sama!

Hataraku Maou-sama! is one of the biggest disappointments of the year for me, not because it was a horrible series all through-out; but rather, because it showed a vast amount of potential to be a big hit until it just plummeted straight to the pits of hell. From now on, it just might be my go-to series to reference when explaining to someone the fatal flaw of having just too many damn characters, an affliction it unfortunately caught early on in its run. Nonetheless, ignoring my gripes about such things as the total side-casting of favorable character Ashiya, I have to give credit where credit is due, because Maou-sama! was one hell of a riot in its early stages. Its opening sequence was an ingenious transition from some mighty sakuga animation of a demonic war that gave it a sense of severity to a total turnabout scenario of the almighty demon lord and his right-hand man trying to escape the clutches of a local police station. Hilarity ensues as their misadventures just get wackier, for a small chunk of episodes at least. In the end, while not the most consistent in its delivery, Maou-sama! was definitely the comedy that garnered the best laughs from me this year.

Honorable Mention(s): Yuyushiki, Little Busters!, Minami-ke Tadaima

Best Slice-of-Life: Uchouten Kazoku

I’ll admit that I have a pretty warped perspective on the slice-of-life genre, I mean, how the hell is Uchouten Kazoku, an anime about tanuki, humans, and tengu, a slice-of-life series? What kind of delusions about life do I have, right? I don’t want to sound too pretentious in saying this (mainly because it reminds me of how my college professors teach certain cultural aesthetic values), but for me, slice-of-life is an aspect more focused upon the feeling and response of profundity that can be realized in everyday happenstance as opposed to mere content matter being situated in everyday situations. While I can’t put it into words in any manner cohesive, I can vouch my sentiments with the series itself. Uchouten Kazoku is a masterful expression of everyday values. I don’t know any tanuki or tengu who have seen this show or even read the original novel, but I can speak as a human when I say this narrative has taught me volumes about themes that are quite simplistic in nature.

Honorable Mention(s): Gin no Saji, Servant x Service, Yahari Ore no Seishun Rabukome wa Machigatteiru

Best Mystery: Zetsuen no Tempest

Zetsuen no Tempest dwells in a realm of multiple genres: fantasy, drama, romance, action. While any of these may be the most suitable categorization, there is no doubt that the mystery that interweaves the destinies of the two male protagonists and the fates of the magic and regular world is a driving force behind the series’ entire narrative. Every speck of romance and drama is linked to the characters’ attempts to solve the grand mystery of the show: Who killed Fuwa Aika? Needless to say, when the epiphanizing moment finally does come to pass, there’s a multitude of fantasy and action blended into the mix too. Whether you consider Zetsuen no Tempest a mystery series or not, the clear and present one within its plot was by all means more rousing and well-written than those of any other series that may have haughtily garnered the title of mystery this year.

Honorable Mention(s): Little Busters! ~Refrain~

Best Horror/Thriller: Shin Sekai Yori

Once you’re over the fears of mainstream monster movies after a few restless and sleepless nights, give yourself a whirl at the relentlessly haunting prospects proposed in Shin Sekai Yori, because, oh boy, is it one warped world. The suspense and terror of Shin Sekai Yori isn’t a fear factor that derives purely from its warped world of genetically altered humans, hive-mind/groupthink, mutated warfare, and the like; but also from the mindful construction of its story. The deft story-writing within the original novel is highly complimented by the staff of A-1 Picture’s capability in adaptation, leading to each episode’s grievous revelations. The doleful atmosphere that pervades the entirety of the show really is a reflection of the dystopian world they are trying to present. The inevitability of sympathizing with the main characters paired with the fearful amazement of identifying with them as humans (if you can still call them that) is something is a creepy conflict in itself.

Best Sports: Yowamushi Pedal

I think my opinion that anime can make anything interesting started with sports anime. I’ve indulged in my fair share of sports anime, but I wouldn’t say that I’m an avid fan of the genre. A majority of them seem to fall into the trap of formulaic matches, wherein the newcomer protagonist has to overcome hardships to make it into his renowned high school team, and then overcome more severe hardships to make it into the varsity of his team, and then overcoming even more severe hardships to win against other renowned high schools teams, and then finally overcome the most severe hardships to prove he can compete on a national, or even international level. Who would’ve thought that a series about bicycling in a circle would give me a brand new outlook? Like many sports anime before it, Yowamushi Pedal is authored by a total nerd of the respective sport, which is reflected in how in-depth the explanations are, but that is ultimately a great thing. Sports series are especially influenced by the passion of the author, to the point where even the characters start reflecting it. For me, Yowamushi Pedal takes that extra mile. Like a well-seasoned bicyclist, it’s not concerned with rushing into the immensity of its own plot; it’s all about fun. In one whole cour we have yet to see an official match between any of the bicyclists. The reason why of course being that there’s no reason to hype anything into something official. More importantly, we’ve been given a story about the love of a sport and the characters having genuine fun, both of which are pretty damn infectious. Someone get me my riding helmet!

Honorable Mention(s): Diamond no Ace

Best Short Series: Aiura

Honorable Mention(s): Senyuu.

 

Production:

Best Art/Animation: Hunter x Hunter

Hunter x Hunter has appropriately won over the title of best shōnen anime adaptation in my heart, a distinction that previously belonged to the adaptations of Fullmetal Alchemist by Studio Bones, a studio that too used to be my decisively favorite. The series in general is a dream anime come true, and while that’s not all due to the art and animation, god damn, are those two factors a monumental part of it. From one-on-one action scenes to chase scenes to sports showdowns to board game matches, the production staff at Madhouse know exactly how to make Yoshihiro Togashi’s captivating narrative come to life, and maybe even punch you in the face afterwards. It isn’t something that occurs from the get-go but one of the most infamous things about Hunter x Hunter is its hefty decline in art associated with its many hiatuses. In spite of this, the staff behind the anime managed to commence the adaptation with visual splendor that only increased in value as the episodes continued, even well into the three digit episode count. In reading respective chapters after watching new episodes every week, I can indefinitely say that the art and animation speak for themselves and in much more than a thousand words. More often than not, the anime counterpart of sequences have a much more immense effect in terms of atmosphere, tone, mood and any other determinants that make for a awe-inspiring viewing. Madhouse serves as a stronghold that protects Hunter x Hunter from the disease that abominably afflicts all other ongoing shōnen series. An honorable act worthy of highest praise, thank you Based Madhouse. 

Honorable Mention(s): Kyousougiga, Shingeki no Kyojin, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Red Data Girl, Nagi no Asukara, Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S

Best Opening: 「sister’s noise」 by fripSide (Toaru no Kagaku no Railgun S)

While precipitately playing the ED theme in order to interlace it with the intensive last moments of an episode has long since become an art form in the anime industry, the less notably innovated OP theme is still trying to figure out ways to catch up with the novelty of its counterpart. But fear not, because the production staff of Toaru no Kagaku no Railgun S have matched the artful construction of an episode with the jolting impact of fripSide‘s musicality. Whether it’s played right at the start of the episode or right after the shocking revelation of a short dialogue, 「sister’s noise」 is a banger that will electrify you into a proper Railgun-viewing condition. Frequent intakes of the song, even after finishing the series, is permissible but do be careful around water.

Honorable Mention(s): 「Small worldrop」 by Annabel (Red Data Girl), 「Guren no Yumiya」 by Linked Horizon (Shingeki no Kyojin), 「Uchouten Jinsei」 by milktub (Uchouten Kazoku)

Best Ending: 「REASON」 by ゆず (Hunter x Hunter)

The radio tells us that the greatest feeling associated with music is upbeat happiness. While I generally detest the music that dominates the radio waves, I have to agree with this sentiment, for this year at least. 「REASON」’s dual usage as an insert song and ED during the Greed Island Arc wasn’t anywhere near enough to make me tire of its effect. From coming out of my computer speakers at the end of each Hunter episode to coming out of my earbuds during my walks home from school, the song stirred emotion and adventure in my heart and had me tirelessly waiting for the new episode of Hunter x Hunter each week. And if that doesn’t define the meaning of a great ED to you, then I guess the only option left is to have the music speak for itself (yes, this is my obvious attempt at getting you to watch Hunter x Hunter).

Honorable Mention(s): 「Qué Será, Será」 by fhána (Uchouten Kazoku), 「Wareta Ringo」 by Risa Taneda (Shin Sekai Yori), 「BLOODY STREAM」 by Coda (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure), 「Gomen ne, Iiko ja Irarenai.」 by Miku Sawai (Kill la Kill), 「Song for friends」 by Rita (Little Busters! ~Refrain~), 「Owaranai Melody wo Utaidashimashita.」 by Mikako Komatsu (Kami-sama no Inai Nichiyoubi)

Best Soundtrack: Uchouten Kazoku

Honorable Mention(s): Shingeki no Kyojin, Monogatari Series: Second Season, Hunter x Hunter, Gatchaman Crowds, Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S

Best Seiyuu (Male): Withheld

Best Seiyuu (Female): Withheld

Best Character Design: Fantasista Doll

Shōnen mangakas across the industry are jealous of Anmi’s character designs for Fantasista Doll as they sit at their tables drawing their side characters with the same spiky hair as their protagonist. Well, if they aren’t, they should be. In considering the premise of Fantasista Doll, in which each character virtually gives birth to five others (each doll owner has five servants who server him or her), it’s nothing short of amazing how creative and unique Anmi was able to make each character, visually, at least. While there wasn’t much room at all for the show to provide coverage in the department of personality, what’s enough for the imagination of the audience is the stylish hair and the chic wardrobe. Not to get too superficial or materialistic, but these are dolls we’re talking about, so I’d say it’s all fair game.

Honorable Mention(s): Nagi no Asukara, Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai NEXT

Best Studio: P.A. Works

There’s a lot to consider when thinking highly of an animation studio. To begin with, there’s a lot a respect that should be allocated to every studio just for partaking in the creation of anime as a medium; but in pinpointing the exceptionally reputable studios, there is indeed a lot of consider. Art, animation, sound, voice casting, original works, chosen source material, etc. As far it all goes, I believe that  P.A. Works has never failed to do any of these poorly in any of its series. Of this year’s Red Data Girl, Uchouten Kazoku, and Nagi no Asukara, there is an abundance of undeniable art at work here. If I had to attribute each series with a respective quality, I would favor Red Data Girl as a daring recreation of a historically and culturally rich fantasy novel series, Uchouten Kazoku as a wondrously creative adaptation of a quaint but profound novel imbued with the magic of anime, and Nagi no Asukara as a bold original work that rivals the latent astuteness of conventional forms of literature. Whatever the qualifier may be for each series, they have all been a delight to experience with P.A. Works behind the helm. While I find myself yearning for continuations of such series, much like a lot of other series by other studios, there’s a considerable degree of trust in P.A. Works that even when they do move on to new projects, the standard of excellence will always be there. Now that’s the kind of studio you can trust.

Honorable Mention(s): Madhouse, J.C. Staff, Production I.G. (inclusive of Studio WIT)

Best Premiere (Episode): Shingeki no Kyojin

I feel like this is such an appropriate distinction to have when talking about anime. Lately, it seems as if all premiere episodes get trapped in their own intent to catch the audience’s undivided attention with an over-the-top first impression. Luckily, Shingeki no Kyojin is a series that succeeds in doing this while also retaining its promised excellence throughout its entire runtime. From the start, we can praise Studio Wit for doing such things like delaying a new episode in order to have it meet up to their standards of art and animation; but the mere fact of the matter is that the first episode of the show is a flawless introduction to the overlying themes and motifs. It gives us a taste of its callousness, it establishes the essence of its world, and it kills the main character’s mother… Is it even possible to not keep watching after all that?

Honorable Mention(s): Uchouten Kazoku

Best Finale (Episode): Monogatari Series: Second Season

The modern day formula for anime adaptations is to pick up a project without any clear idea of profit and then lett the blu-ray (and other) sales decide the remainder of the series’ fates. As such, each season is riddled with the open-ended final episodes of many promising series. In that case, series like the Monogatari Series are a blessing to have, for us viewers and I assume for the production staff who can proceed with adapting a series to a better degree of freedom. What occurs from such flexibility are finales such Monogatari Series: Second Season‘s, in which the perfectly-paced, thrilling death of Deishuu Kaiki is the most effective cliffhanger since, well… before anime made cliffhangers a generic, everyday, or rather, every episode occurrence. Oh, and lest we forget the impactful resolution to the Hitagi End arc that sparked an aspiring mangaka child’s ambitions, detailed an conclusion to one of the series’ more significant romances, and saved the lives of quite nearly the whole cast. A job well done, Kaiki and Shaft.

Honorable Mention(s): Uchouten Kazoku

Best Episode: Withheld

Best Scene: Withheld

Adaptation:

Best Original Series: Kyousougiga

Honorable Mention(s): Nagi no Asukara, Gatchaman Crowds

Best Manga Adaptation: Hunter x Hunter

Honorable Mention(s): Shingeki no Kyojin, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Yowamushi Pedal, Blood Lad, Yozakura Quartet ~Hana no Uta~

Best Novel Adaptation: Uchouten Kazoku

Honorable Mention(s): Shin Sekai Yori

Best Light Novel Adaptation: Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S, Unbreakable Machine-doll

Honorable Mention(s): Log Horizon

Best Visual Novel Adaptation: Little Busters!/Little Busters! ~Refrain~

Honorable Mention(s): Robotics;Notes

Best Game Adaptation: Danganronpa Kibou no Gakuen to Zetsubou no Koukousei The Animation

Best 4koma Adaptation: Yuyushiki

Honorable Mention(s): GJ-bu!

Best Spin-off: Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S

Honorable Mention(s): THE UNLIMITED – Hyoubu Kyousuke

 

Miscellaneous:

Most Deserving of Sequel: Blood Lad

Blood Lad was a series operating over a ticking timebomb, but it did a damn impressive job nonetheless. As a ten episode series, Blood Lad devoted a majority of its duration towards proving how stylistic it is. With a black comedic world only comparable to the wackiness of Soul Eater, meta-fictional protagonist Staz, and an inclination for genre-mixing, Blood Lad is a series that can only be described as an undeniable product of present day’s new wave of animanga. Now while that is a description that fits the anime adaptation for the most part, the last few episodes did exceptionally well in progressing this view. While yes, contemporary in every visual fiber, Blood Lad proved that it also has the depth of traditional story-writing and the coolness of shōnen series. In its fleeting moments, Staz shows just how much of a bad-ass and passively womanizing protagonist he can be, and things shift into an exciting arc with the most foreboding antagonist yet. But alas, one of this year’s biggest disappointments is that there is no resolution to this rising action.  Don’t let your blood boil for too long.

Honorable Mention(s): Kami-sama Inai no Nichiyoubi

Most Under-appreciated: Shin Sekai Yori

Shin Sekai Yori is indubitably one of the most intelligent anime series of the year, if not the most. Both in its written and animated form, it has merits beyond simple admiration. And though excellence isn’t something proportionate with under-appreciation, Shin Sekai Yori is a certain special case. It deserves a hell of a lot of attention, that much is for sure. What ails me isn’t the mere fact that it failed to live up to its performance in sales, but additionally how much its artistry was received with contempt. During it’s run-time, it was nearly unavoidable how harsh viewership was towards the series, whether it was for its art or for its content matter. And in my opinion, that was an outright travesty. By the time the criticisms beckoned in, the series had already proven that is was more than capable of being a masterpiece of an anime series. The themes and motifs it rung in with its narrative were thrilling, philosophical, and well-informed. If you ever needed one, Shin Sekai Yori is a referential backing to the fact that commercial reception does not define the greatness of a work.

Honorable Mention(s): Uchouten Kazoku

Exceeded Expectations: Girls und Panzer

Girls und Panzer is what would would happen if a production staff working on a new series by means of the girls and guns formula went along with the proposal but suddenly decided to actually make the series an endearing and worthwhile experience. I really can’t tell if it was the entire team behind the series that had this intent from the beginning or if it was decided mid-way by one person influencing the creation as whole. If it was the latter, I would consider that one hell of an infiltration mission, especially if accomplished in something as conspicuous as a war tank. Girls und Panzer starts off as a pretty tame show, but what begins to unravel once those girls get inside those thirty-plus ton tanks is a charming coming-of-age story that rivals a majority of other slice-of-life series and a unique sensation of an anime that will have you jollying along and repeating the show’s signature catch-phrase at least once, “Panzer Vor!

Honorable Mention(s): Log Horizon, Unbreakable-Machine Doll, Yozakura Quartet ~Hana no Uta~

Most Regrettably Unwatched: Chihayafuru 2

Honorable Mention(s): Uchuu Kyoudai, Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199, Kingdom, Hajime no Ippo: Rising

Most Ridiculous: Samurai Flamenco

Ridiculousness has pretty much become a staple in anime, but can someone please tell me what the hell happen with Samurai Flamenco? As a noitamina series, Samurai Flamenco received some pretty high expectations early on, but I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted how seriously it wouldn’t take itself. Rampant with similarities to Iron Man, kaijuu flicks, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Avengers, Super Sentai, and more hocus-pocus, Samumenco is a series not to be taken lightly, or seriously, there’s just no plausible approach to it.

Most Ridiculous Portrayal of Breasts: Fuji-san (Namiuchigiwa no Muromi-san)

Guilty Pleasure: Kakumeiki Valvrave

Cards Chess pieces on the table, Code Geass was an anime series long-withstanding on my list of all-time favorites. But with Sunrise next series to be in a similar vein, Kakumeiki Valvrave, there was a like-hate relationship nearly immediately. I place the primary blame on the potential I saw in the first episode, that was all but truncated once the show began focusing on other, less endearing happenstances. Additionally, my unjustified hate takes form whenever I hear news of Valvrave topping blu-ray sales whilst other series, brilliant series, are nowhere to be seen. Regardless, there has to be some form of enjoyment from this show, even if masochistic, when the ending of each episode (in which there is an attempt to elicit emotional response by the dramatic maiming, killing, wiping the consciousness or vampirizing of a character) still somehow draws at least one tear from my eyes. When all is said and done, what I like to think is my better side won the fight and had me dropping the series at episode 22, but just that number itself is a testament to how much I lingered on. It was a guilty pleasure.

 

Best Anime of 2013:

#10. Zetsuen no Tempest

As opposed to a series that flaunts excellent source material, outstanding production values, and greatness in other such criteria; I personally feel Zetsuen no Tempest does just the opposite. Granted, at the helm of its production was Studio Bones, one of my personal favorites, there’s just something about the majority of the series that does not connect with me, mainly on a story-driven level. For the most part, I don’t find myself attached to any of the characters and somewhat find the dramatic plot less exceptional than it makes itself out to be. Maybe in a sense, this is another clear example of the production on an anime level, i.e. the studio, being the higher level of influence. There are two major categories that I rate an anime series in: conception and execution. While I can’t place the former for Zetsuen as being positively good or bad; I can say that when the two come together, they rightfully present the series as one of reputable amusement. Watching Zetsuen was a fresh walk in the park (or should I say a not so fresh walk across the world for our two protagonists), and it was a damn entertaining one.  The unconventional story of the internal conflict between best friends, the collision of the magical and everyday world both looming on destruction, and the humane searches for true logic and reason was certainly one to remember for the new year (and I usually have a disdain towards stories that make the actual act of referencing Shakespeare into a motif).

#09. Nagi no Asukara

Nagi no Asukara is a series I had been looking forward to nearly a year before it’s premiere. In the same vein as Kyousougiga, Nagi no Asukara exudes an indescribable aura that all but declares its status as an original animation. I have yet to fully understand this ambiguous distinction amongst source material of anime; but if I had to place key features; they would revolve around written structure, story-length and experimentalism. Relatively, the main reason that Nagi no Asukara finds itself in the top ten of this year’s list despite being only half completed is because it rightfully feels like a one-cour series.  Okada Mari is an infamously controversial writer in the anime industry, amongst professionals and fans; and I think she establishes some very unique ground with Nagi no Asukara. Her emotionally-manipulative writing is a craft that seems to blend well with the other great aspects of the series. The world-building is sensational and the themes are brimming with profundity. Oh, and the participation of Studio P.A. Works and character designer BURIKI and is also a huge plus in the visual and sound department. And that just might be it. Nagi no Asukara is conspicuously not a story of grand design; it’s a fluid mixture of individually magnificent elements. Or, at least it has been thus far, and hopefully will continue to be.

#08. Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S

Railgun S speaks volumes about the light novel-adapted side of the anime industry. In its conception, it nearly rivals the literary aptness conventionally admired in novels and the emotionally-driven advents found in manga. There’s a lot to be admired about the Toaru series whether it be the breadth of its scientific background (something that you can see the author has an genuine interest in), the imaginative integration of fantasy elements, the multitude of ambitious story arcs, the wide cast of characters (enough for this series to be a character-focused spin-off of the original), or anything else. The franchise clearly deserves any and all success it has amassed over its soon to be decade-long run. That being said, I confess that the original Toaru Majutsu no Index anime series was one that I did not find intrigue in and promptly dropped. So when the anime adaptation of Railgun S came around, I can honestly say that not only did it show me the greatness of the series itself, but also the weight of an anime’s production staff. Railgun S is an anime adaptation that goes above and beyond. The action sequences are on par with the bests of this year. The art is wondrous. (Take a look at any of the landscape shots.) The soundtrack is a great earful. There are cinematographic shots that I would be amazed at even if they were in high-profile movies, which are generally more expected of such. And there is an aesthetic atmosphere to each episode. Join all these elements together with its aforementioned depth of story, characters and just general writing prowess; and I can definitely recognize Railgun S as one of J.C. Staff’s gem series.

#07. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

I dare say that you will never find absurdity of this kind anywhere else; and in that sense, the series is damn faithful to its title. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a cultural icon and a historical relic. A relic not in that it’s old and outdated, but rather in that as a newcomer to a series with a long-withstanding history of appreciation, you should admire it as an archaeologist would a newly discovered artefact.  (I swear I did not intend to conceptually link this description to the premise of the Battle Tendency arc. Next you’re going to say that it was pure coincidence!) At its base, JoJo is for all intents and purposes a shōnen series but the sensation of its flamboyant character designs, personalities, styles, and dare I say stances; will have that classification being the least of your thoughts. In a way, watching JoJo will be like living the experience of shōnen anime itself, as the charisma of the characters will be enough for you to join in and throw away all expectations of any sense or convention. It’s a damn euphoric phenomenon. It is wholly entertaining in evolved ways, and that David Production was able to revitalize the flair of this series is an astronomical accomplishment in itself. For the most part, you don’t even have to be mindful to notice the creative of this adaptation. It’s gushing out of its pores (take one look at the color palette). Hirohiko Araki and David Production, a team of ingenious and innovation.

#06. Shin Sekai Yori

My expectations of Shin Sekai Yori were drastically different from what it turned out to be. My expectations of A-1 Pictures series have never bordered on the realm of such grievousness, and I recall it namely being an adventure series. Needless to say, the true face of the series was nothing short of a tremendous shock, by all means favorable. Shin Sekai Yori is arguably the most well written series to air this year, and it is at the vanguard of the army of anime series adapted from novels that is pressing me into actively reading literature once more. But of course, until then, it hurts it no way to indulge in the phenomenal anime adaptations of already outstanding narratives. From the start, let me just say that Shin Sekai Yori is a myriad of new levels reached: the content is radical, the art controversial, the structure unfamiliar, the mood thoroughly and wholly melancholic, and the generic anime tropes nonexistent. I myself found myself disagreeing with a few tidbits, but anyone with a relatively open mind should be able to see the genius at work. Shin Sekai Yori brings to the screen a prodigious fiction of philosophical themes and undeniably artistic delivery. If it was served on a dinner plate instead of a television or computer screen, it would be glimmering and gorgeous food for thought. It is a story of life, death, fear and hope all amassed into one hell of a show.

#05. Monogatari Series: Second Season

I’ve been a fan of the Monogatari series since its first anime adaptation aired. To me, it’s the only notable long-running series that isn’t straight-up shōnen, which is admirable. Though, oddly enough, with each season that it airs, there’s always one pivotal scene that reminds me wholly of shōnen nature. (Even in the one episode adaptation of Nekomonogatari Kuro, I recall the totally bad-ass line of Araragi’s: The only thing I feel for a cat-eared high school girl in her underwear is lust.) This year’s Monogatari Series: Second Season is no exception. In fact, it probably contains the most overtly shōnen -esque arc yet. What, with the transformation of a character into a god and the glorified death of a side character, I can’t imagine any sequence of events more shonen. Casting that similarity aside, Monogatari retains its best and the worst aspects in this year’s installment. The worst thing, in my opinion, being the slow build-up at the beginning of each arc, something I know is off-putting enough to make some viewers drop the show entirely. But that of course is a huge mistake, every episode of Monogatari presents content finely tuned by author NisiOisin; and when things finally do interconnect into an intricately written resplendence, the pay-off is huge. Knee-deep in the pinnacle of entertainment, what you’ll be experiencing is a dashing combination of phenomenal story-telling supported by superbly conceived dialogue mixed with culturally elegant allusions and fascinating character interactions. Concurrent minimalism and meticulousness, implementation of innovative cinematic methodology, riveting soundtrack. Studio Shaft’s alluring and stylistic production may be the signature feature of the series, but its source material is also a literary force to be reckoned with. If the Monogatari series consisted of movies instead of anime cours, it would give auteurism a whole new standard.

#04. Uchouten Kazoku

Let it be known that I never got over the way their ears were modeled in Uchouten Kazoku. But as unrealistic as they seemed to me, you can bet that the rest of the series made up for it, because, oh man, was Uchouten Kazoku the realest shit this year. It had me sympathizing with sentiments I didn’t even know made up my everyday life, and I still don’t know how that’s possible. There’s should be a proper distinction for fantasy series that integrate fantasy element as well as author Tomihiko Morimi does into real life. Uchouten doesn’t require the over-the-top themes or magniloquent tone of other big-hitters when it can centralize itself upon a singular and simple theme such as family and prove that “wait, it’s actually not that simple, its vast prospect that constitutes infinitely unique experiences and this is just one scope of emotions associated with it,” and then in the end take it all back with, “actually, it can be simple, life can be simple, as simple as you make it, and that doesn’t make it any less fun or interesting or even eccentric.” Perhaps it’s the concentration that Uchouten has in delivering that one universal message overtaking the entirety of the show’s atmosphere that makes for such an effective delivery.  Incidentally, it’s quite interesting how Studio P.A. Works chooses to present this effect by means of adaptation (the most notable I would being the dynamic of simple character designs and beautifully meticulous scenery). In describing the series, I will never not feel the need to paraphrase from it, watch it because it’s fun.

#03. Kyousougiga

Kyousougiga is the coolest show since FLCL. It has been quite the successful year for brunette female leads. The chirpiness of Ichinose Hajime (Gatchaman Crowds) and spunkiness of Yarizakura Hime (Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta) immediately come to mind. Hell, I’ll even factor good ol’ goofball, no-star Mankanshoku Mako (Kill la Kill) into the formula. But ultimately, when the hammer falls, I just have to give the highest distinction to the happy-go-lucky girl living in an imaginary world with her crazy family and, well, universe-defying hammer. Kyousougiga is a series that is only limited by imagination, but the fantastical things you see ironically give the impression of things completely beyond your imagination. In that respect, it quite literally is a field trip into the amazing minds of its creators, delightful the whole way. But it would be a huge mistake to amount the series to excellence in only that department. The premise itself is something deeply rich and abundant with themes of Buddhism, Shinto history, Japanese literature, Japanese cultural aesthetics, and more. Put alongside this the beautiful production in art, animation, and soundtrack; and there’s a winner in all respects.  Anyone who is currently watching the anime adaptations of One Piece and or Toriko should understand a long-withstanding disappointment I have in Toei Studios. But the Izumi Todo team behind Kyousougiga has effectively restored my faith that behind the commercial juggernaut that profits off the most popular animanga series in the world, there is still a passionate staff. Like the picture book that it is based upon, Kyousougiga doesn’t need the additional modes of animation, sound, and the like to tell an overtly spectacular story; but nonetheless, it does.

#02. Shingeki no Kyojin

Shingeki no Kyojin is without a doubt the year’s most renowned, celebrated, and lauded anime series, a fact you cannot escape in real life at anime conventions or even at home on the web. It’s as unavoidable as death is in the series. While the marvelous adaptation of Hajime Isayama’s work doesn’t quite find itself at the top of my own list, there’s no way I can overlook the series’ splendor. As an avid fan of the shōnen genre, I can honestly say Shingeki features some of the most conceptually thrilling and dramatically moving fights in shōnen history. Even now, I’m still a bit conflicted as to how Shingeki stands above some of the other bests. While I can perfectly say that many other series of this year were better written and structured, I have to submit to my genuine emotional response towards this show, which was pure enjoyment. Let’s just say I’m glad this is a round-up of the best anime of the year and not, say, something like manga, light novels, or any other form of literature. To be frank, I place a majority of the magnificence of Shingeki in the work of Studio WIT. The experience of Shingeki would have been less favorable if not for the dynamic blend of its excellent animation, restructured story, grandiloquent voice acting, and emotionally-stirring soundtrack. While bombast in every nature, that domineering presence of the show was an aspect that it cultivated into its signature. The show delivered its own greatness week by week, and that has obviously made its mark, especially considering the universal reception.

#01. Hunter x Hunter

From Ufotable’s adaptation of Fate/Zero to this masterpiece of Madhouse’s, it’s another year where shōnen reigns supreme. (For any naysayers out there, the Fate series is most definitely of this genre, if not a variant of it, just considering how it’s the origin of the oh-so-shōnen term GAR.) Hunter x Hunter (2011) continues into its third year and proves this year once again that shōnen is indeed not dead, in a literal and cultural sense. This reboot set a whole new standard for adaptations last year with its damn fine adaptation of the manga’s Yorkshin City arc, an accomplishment that automatically placed the series into the year’s top rankings for me at least. And believe it or not, it’s only gotten better and better, per episode and per arc. By the end of last year, my preference went to the highly deserving Fate/Zero, leaving Hunter x Hunter as second best; but that standing alone was enough to vouch for its presence.  At that point, of course, it was already an apparent near-masterpiece of an anime, but for it to possess such promise that would manifest into the undeniable masterpiece of this year’s Chimera Ant arc is something that deserves a new whole level of praise. (And this should no way undercut the similar brilliance of the Greed Island arc.) Actions speak louder than my words, and there is tons of that in Hunter x Hunter; but that’s not all you can expect in this atypical adaptation. Hunter is the quintessential best of both worlds (of anime) in that its source material is already an exquisitely and masterfully written manga and that its production studio marvelously integrates the aspects of animation into this story. The show is a heavy-hitter in all aspects of anime: art, animation, writing, voice acting, soundtrack, you name it.