Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Anime Best of 2013, Part 1: An Introduction

2013 is nearly over, and 2014 is about to start. And throughout January 2014, I will be looking back at this past year of anime and all its highlights (and lowlights).

2013 was a very packed year of anime for me. This year, I finished a total of 57 shows that aired within the year (according to the criteria I list below), meaning I was essentially watching more than one entire 12-13-episode series a week--and that's not counting all the other anime I watched that aired before this year! That is definitely a lot of anime.

For my "Best of 2013" series, I will be specifically looking at shows that fulfill the following criteria:


  • Only TV shows with at least two hours of total airing length (~5 full-length episodes, or 10 half-length episodes) count. No OVAs or movies are eligible.
  • All shows that began airing in 2013 that I have watched a complete season in its entirety are eligible.
    • This includes shows that I did not start watching until after they finished airing but did finish before the end of the year.
    • "Complete season" is determined by whether that season has its own entry on Anime News Network's encyclopedia.
      • Shows such as AKB0048 next stage, for which a previous season aired before 2013, or Silver Spoon, for which a later season is scheduled for 2014 or later, still count.
    • Only shows that aired on TV during 2013 count. Student Council's Discretion Lv. 2 will count as it aired on TV in Winter 2013, despite getting a special NicoNico distribution in Fall 2012.
  • Also eligible are any shows which started airing before 2013 but finished this year and at least one cour (~11-14 episodes) has aired in 2013. This includes the following Fall 2012 shows: Magi ~ The Labyrinth of Magic (season 1 only), The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, and Robotics;Notes.
    • The entirety of the first season of Little Busters! and Little Busters! Refrain will be counted as one show.
    • Not counted under this rule are some shows which finished this year through some select "special" episodes but did not air at least one full cour of episodes this year, such as Girls und Panzer and Saki Achiga-hen: Episode of Side A.
  • Not eligible are the following Fall 2013 shows that will continue into 2014: Golden Time, Kill la Kill, Log Horizon, and Yowamushi Pedal. They will be eligible for the "Best of 2014" entry next year.
In addition to looking at all the anime I watched this year and how much I liked them, I will also be looking at various individual aspects such as animation/art, openings and endings, characters, and other things that interest me about this year. Note that certain individual "best of" lists may have their own eligibility rules, which I will note in those particular lists.

Also, keep in mind that this entire series is my opinion only, and given the kind of crazy person I am, your opinion will differ. And I think that's great! Comment and let me know what your opinions are, because I'm definitely interested to see what others think of this year's anime. Just be respectful of others' opinions, because getting into fights over anime is kind of stupid. (Unless you're Kirino and Kuroneko or something.)

Now, at this point, I might normally say that this is all for now, and to look forward to when I post my first list… but why wait to start the fun? Since this post is an introduction, let's look at anime's best introductions with my Top 10 Opening Episodes of 2013!




Top 10 Opening Episodes of 2013

Having a strong start can be both a blessing and a curse. A strong opening episode can get me to immediately fall in love with a show, which then makes me more invested in that show as the season goes on. That said, sometimes the show cannot live up to the greatness promised by that first episode, making the whole show something of a disappointment. Nevertheless, in my opinion, assuming the rest of the show is the same, it's better to have a strong opener than not. After all, sometimes first impressions are the best impressions. With that said, let's look at the top 10 Episode 1's of 2013!

Special rule: No sequels are eligible for this list (spinoffs are okay). Shows that started airing in Fall 2012 are not eligible. Shows that started airing in Fall 2013 but have yet to finish are technically eligible, except none of them made this list. Basically, any show for which their very first episode aired in 2013 counts.

#10. Sasami-san@Ganbaranai

"Chocolate, chocolate, and chocolate? Where is the love and election?!"

If there is one thing you can count on from Studio SHAFT, it's that they'll animate something quite… different, right from episode one. This is definitely true of one of 2013's most sadly overlooked gems, Sasami-san@Ganbaranai. The premise suggests, for example, a show about a shut-in girl using surveillance to spy on her doting brother. However, that only scratches the surface of the sheer insanity in this episode, involving a trio of superpowered girls and a world that is turning to chocolate. Yeah, you read that part right. There's actually a method to the madness in this show, though, something which the rest of the series does delve into.

#9. Tamako Market

This is what happens when you ignore the "do not feed the birds" sign.

Cute and charming, Tamako Market might be regarded as one of Kyoto Animation's lesser series, but not by me. The first episode introduces us to the colorful and interesting cast that makes up this show, especially the talking bird that finds himself the source of much comedy. Oh, and also the quirky, right-angle-loving Kanna. It's a fun, enjoyable episode, and a perfect way of getting into this show.

#8. The Eccentric Family

"Look, I even wore your favorite: bear-print!"

You know a show's going to be interesting when it features a guy in a girl's school uniform and running about as if he doesn't care at all about his appearance. There's a lot to love about this show's introduction to the world of tanuki and tengu: the *cough* eccentric family members it introduces us to, the mysterious and strangely ominous Benten, and just an overall sense of wonder at this strange mashup of the normal and the supernatural. 

#7. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (Oregairu)

"I will use my powers of sarcasm to deflect this towel coming at my face."

The snark. Oh, the snark. In a show that I can only describe as "delightfully cynical", Oregairu starts out with a gauntlet of "rom-com-gone-wrong" happenings: lead male Hachiman's paper on the stupidity of high school life, his encounter with the equally-sharp-tongued Yukino, and an attempt to bake cookies that goes wrong and yet might have somehow come out right in the end anyway. Maybe. One way or another, it's a great, fun first episode, partially in being able to reminisce about all those stupid parts of high school that you just have to laugh at now.

#6. Maoyu

"Honey, remember the time we met and how you saw a hologram of me making out with a makeshift hug-pillow with you drawn on it?"

Here's probably the biggest case, in my opinion, of a first episode that promised great things but never quite went through with those promises. For a show touted as a spiritual successor to Spice and Wolf, Maoyu's first episode definitely feels like it could be just that, with an exploration of a fantasy world and its political and economic workings, and one "demon king" who wishes to change the world for good… and it's also got some romance to go with it! Unfortunately, the world itself never quite got explored as much as I would have liked (and neither did the romance), though some other elements keep the show an overall enjoyable show. The first episode, though? Wonderful.

#5. Yuyushiki

Yuzuko used Maunder Minimum! It's super effective!

As far as enjoyable shows go, there aren't many that can beat Yuyushiki. In terms of putting a smile on your face from the first second to the last, this adorable show of three girls goofing off and having fun with each other is unmatched. From their borderline flirtatious antics to their choice of after school activity, the popular pastime of looking up random stuff on the Internet, this is an episode that casts aside all notions of being all serious and dramatic in favor of just being a plain joy to watch.

#4. Non Non Biyori

No funny caption here; just enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Non Non Biyori is one of 2013's true hidden gems, a nostalgic, beautiful reminiscence of a simpler life in a rural world that is slowly fading away, disguised as a cute-girls-doing-cute-things show. This show has lots of beautiful scenery and a nice, relaxed pace--perfect for fans of iyashikei shows like Aria the Animation and Tamayura. Of course, there's also the fun cast we get introduced to, but that's almost secondary to the sheer beauty of this little episode.

#3. Kotoura-san

"Wait! I thought this was supposed to be a silly, ecchi romantic comedy!"
Kotoura-san might have been the Episode 1 to make the biggest impact on me, in terms of what I was expecting going into it, and what I got instead. What should have been a stupid, fanservicey rom-com intro episode ended up being the heartbreaking story of a girl whose inadvertent telepathy causes her to get ostracized from society… and the heartwarming tale of a perverted but good-hearted guy who helps her realize that not all people are bad. It's almost a stand-alone story as it is, really (something that the top three have in common). Alas, the show never does quite reach the quality level of its first episode again… though at least, some of the stupider rom-com aspects aside, it does still manage to be overall an excellent show.

#2. Gingitsune

How about a Hisako Kanemoto-voiced orange-haired girl who's had a happier childhood this time?
I've already talked before about this show's first episode and how its portrayal of the relationship between the herald of the gods, Gintaro, and Makoto, the shrine maiden that can see him, is surprisingly reminiscent of a Christian's relationship with God. That aspect alone would make this episode easily one of the best first episodes of the year. Honestly, the whole "cute and charming" factor that I have touted in other first episodes in this list is just icing on the cake for this one.

#1. Kin-iro Mosaic

They literally cannot say "goodbye" to each other.
Oh, man. Where do I begin with this one?

The first episode of Summer's main cute-girls-doing-cute-things show focuses on the main characters' past, namely the time when Shinobu goes for a homestay in England in Alice's house. Despite the two girls' being completely unable to speak or understand the others' language, they somehow manage to become friends, all culminating up to the point where they have to say goodbye to each other… and do so by saying "Hello" in the other's language.

First of all, it is worth noting that in the original 4-koma, the entire homestay was covered in three panels of one strip. Yes, this first episode managed to take three-fourths of a strip and expand it into one of the most heartwarming, beautiful segments in anime. The episode is a lovely, practically standalone tale of two people who become friends despite culture and language barriers, and that final goodbye scene is just incredibly amazing, in almost a poetic way. Of course, this just makes their eventual reunion in high school that much sweeter.

It's almost too bad that the rest of the show wasn't quite as good as the first episode; if it was, this show easily could have been one of my absolute favorite shows of all time. As it is, it's simply, well, one of the best shows of the year, still. That said, this first episode is just so beautiful and amazing that I would say that it's not only my favorite first episode of 2013, but also my favorite first episode of all time.

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So, what do you think? What are your favorite first episodes of 2013? Perhaps you instantly fell in love with the ridiculous action of Kill la Kill, or the radically different The Flowers of Evil, or the gruesome Attack on Titan (which was way too gruesome for me, so I did not enjoy it one bit, although I do like the show as a whole a lot)? Or maybe you actually agree with me on a lot of these? Let me know what you think in the comments!

And, of course, Happy New Year! I pray that your 2014 will have an excellent Episode 1. And Episode 2, and 3, and 4, and so on.

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