2013 Winter Anime Season Retrospective
The 2013 Winter anime season was remarkably strong, with more than one or two notable series that you should definitely watch. Even thought I had to rank the good series in order it’s important to note that the top three in this list are completely interchangeable. It was very hard for me to decide which should be first or second, and on a different day I might have ordered them differently. All in all it was a very good season with great series that everyone can enjoy.
Gods fighting each other for supremacy, a magical chatting room, onsen nudity, a hermaphrodite girl and trips back and forth in time. No, that’s not a short summary of the entire series. It’s what Sasami-san@Ganbaranai managed to accomplish in merely four episodes, and it did so in style. What I initially believed to be a show about a hikikomori (whether a sober one like Welcome to the NHK or a fantastic one like Rozen Maiden) turned out to be a ambitious take on Haruhism. In the end though Sasami-san reinvented Haruhism by avoiding all the ugly pitfalls the Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi fell into and providing a perfect mix of innovation and mischief.
Consistently surprising, entertaining and good-looking, Sasami-san@Ganbaranai is a reminder why we all enjoy watching anime. The series kept improving to the very end (the chat room parts were hilarious!) and had more twists then I ever expected. Even though the ending was a bit rushed it’s still hands down the best series this season. It’s also the only series on this list that I strongly believe will have good sales in the U.S., despite (or maybe because of?) the relatively low sales it had in Japan. The series covers the first four light novels out of ten, which means a second season could at some point be produced. I sure hope it does.
Verdict: Be sure to buy this when the Sentai release hits store shelves.
Bakuman remained consistently fun to watch. Even though the third season wasn’t full of nerve-wrecking cliffhangers like the second season it still kept me immensely satisfied. There is no other show quite like Bakuman. Mashiro and Shuujin’s enthusiastic attempts at creating a hit manga are contagious. Eventually it knocked on that creative door within me, reminding me that I too have been neglecting some projects that only I can bring to life.
The final season of Bakuman saw Mashiro and Shuujin finally getting some credit for their hard-earned work. It ends a ten years cycle that started back in episode one when the two decided to team up together. It also ends one of the more diverse and thrilling shounen shows in recent years.
Verdict: If you like anime that always try to advance forward, and propels you forward alongside it, by all means give Bakuman a shot. Pros and Cons aside, this has been one long and very satisfying experience for me, and I can’t recommend it enough.
From the New World (Shinsekai Yori)
The ending to From the New World is fantastic. It answers all the questions that matter and wraps up all the open threads the series had left. The level of animation remained embarrassingly limited to the very end, but the gripping story and dark atmosphere kept things running smoothly.
Verdict: I’m happy I got the chance to watch From the New World. Despite being a slow starter and frequently changing its presentation style early on it bloomed into an anime not like any other in this day and age. Those who like mystery, horror, science fiction and a dark dystopian world should not miss it.
Despite its unappealing beginning and even chillier middle I still managed to enjoyed Psycho-Pass’ ending. Eventually the harsh circumstances (Kogami escaping, Makishima trying to kill everyone again) forces Akane to grow a backbone! And when she finally does take the action into her own hands…well, Kogami is still the one that ends up doing all the job. What did you think? That worthless Akane would become a hotshot all of a sudden? Of course not. But that’s exactly why I liked the ending. Most of the enforcers got their time in the limelight, Akane and Ginoza got their asses kicked because they are two incompetent losers and things ended in a definitive (albeit a bit too philosophical) way.
Verdict: I can’t decide whether Psycho-Pass was ultimately worth my time or not. It isn’t the sophisticated anime it set out to be and it doesn’t have the character appeal needed to become a major hit. The plot is hills and valleys (mostly valleys). If you enjoy cop dramas you might like Psycho-Pass. As long as you don’t expect too much out of it you won’t be disappointed. Considering the nice ending I wouldn’t object to a second season either. It just shows that a good ending can go a long way in making a somewhat dubious series more acceptable.
Robotics;Notes worked really hard to make things appear reasonable. Sure, there were robots, but these were the clumsy useless robots that we know from real life. Robotics;Notes also worked really hard to build our expectations, keeping all its secrets hidden until the last possible moment. And then, in episode 19, the series entered its last stage and fell apart completely. A digitalized villain? Super robots that shoot missiles? Brainwashed people? What the hell is wrong with you Robotics;Notes?
It took the robotics club a year to build their first robot (it was half ready when they started working on it), and it took them a few months to create their second robot with the help of some JAXA engineers. And then…they build their best robot in four days. I kid you not. Four days. What a terrible way to end a perfectly mediocre show.
Verdict: Robotics;Notes completely toppled over in its last episodes. Worst than that – the part that toppled over was the painstakingly constructed realism this series tried to accomplish from the very beginning. Although it initially had some nice ideas going for it (like the everyday use of tablets) Robotics;Notes ended up being a waste of time. No need to watch this one people.
Maoyuu Maou Yuusha
I’m not really sure where to approach Maoyuu Maou Yuusha from. Should I begin with the god-awful boring economics blabber each episode opens with, or with the lackluster action or maybe with the forced stale love triangle? Perhaps it’s best to complain about the off-the-rails pacing that never stops to lets you truly enjoy anything. But hands down, the story of Maoyuu is the real stinker here. The concept of the show, fueled by a great first episode, seemed legit if a bit tricky to accomplish in an entertaining manner. And that’s exactly what happened: the series ended up being boring. By the 8th episode or so I’ve even noticed that this show has a formulaic nature: every episode begins with talks about the economy, move to talks about the political situation, adds a minute or two of fighting (just so we won’t feel completely cheated out) and ends with a semi-romantic love scene between the hero, the demon king and the woman knight. So yeah, the pacing is off, the story is boring, the love triangle is just for kicks, and each episode repeats the same formula so that it never is better or worse than the one that came before it. Without spoiling anything I’ll even add the series has no ending. It just ends midway with nothing being resolved or decided. Talk about betraying our expectations.
Verdict: When all is said and done Maoyuu Maou Yuusha just isn’t entertaining in the slightest. I can’t think of even one aspect the show got right. It never made any bells or whistles, except for earning the dubious title of worst anime series of winter season 2013 that is.
Phew, that was a long retrospective, wasn’t it? Next season I intend to play catch-up with all the physical anime releases on DVD and Blu-ray that I haven’t gotten to yet. So instead of doing a full-blown season review like this one I’ll probably follow a couple of series along the way and report my findings in smaller posts. Until next time, happy anime viewing everyone!