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Anime of the Year 2013 (15 to 11)

In case you’ve just started reading my Anime of the Year 2013 series, be sure to start with (25-21) and (20-16) before proceeding onward from here.

Koyomi Araragi is still the hero15. Monogatari Series

Each time we’ve revisited this amazing philosophical comedy, it has unfortunately decreased in quality—relatively speaking.  A franchise that was my anime of the year for 2009 and took my number six spot last year still tells really smart stories portrayed by a top-notch cast of voice actors.

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Fall 2013 Wrap-up

The conclusion to this season left me a little more disappointed than the last few seasons.  A lot of anime that seemed to have tons of potential just flopped and even the ones that had a strong story throughout the past three months often left me high and dry upon their conclusion.  There were a few surprising gems that glittered amongst the mud, but metaphorically speaking, none of them were diamonds.  Click here if you want to see how my final rankings differ from my predictions at the start of the season.

Iona and Gunzou1. Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio (9/10)

What made this series so strong was the priority it gave to its character development. Not a single second was wasted on little side characters, but at the same time their significance to the story was not ignored.  This series also had the courage to go 100% CG, which made for epic maritime battles that flowed seamlessly with the rest of the animation.

Manaka gets caught by Tsumugu again2. Nagi no Asu Kara (ongoing)

The vision of this anime’s setting cannot be given enough praise.  Not only is it beautiful, but it’s hard to imagine the complex clash of cultures emerging so organically from this simultaneously heartwarming and tragic story.  We’re only halfway through, but if things keep going at this rate, I think I’m looking at a candidate for anime of the year 2014.

Haruki, Setsuna and Tomua3. White Album 2 (7/10)

What an adventure these three young people undertook.  Their talents and chemistry brought them together to have a ton of fun, which was a treat to watch and in some ways almost experience along with them.  The real tragedy of this series is the ending that left nobody happy.  I wonder if like the first season of this IP, when the season of White Album returns we’re going to get a sequel that will give a better conclusion.

Fino is ready, Raul looks incredulous4. Yuushibu (7/10)

I can’t think of many other recent series that understood what made the premise of their setting so much fun and managed to just keep the jokes coming one after another (Servant x Service did come close).  It also had an amazing, underlying theme about salesmanship, economics racial equality that could be the cornerstone of any moral compass.

Mirai Kuriyama smiles5. Kyoukai no Kanata (7/10)

Oh Kyoto Animation.  What will you come up with next?  It’s one thing to take a bunch of random anime tropes and throw them into a blender–but this series takes nearly everything that I love about anime and sets it into a story that merges serious and ridiculous fun arranged into a complete piece that never failed to make me smile.

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Anime of the Week (12/15 – 12/21)

Anime of the Week – Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio
Iona tries to reason with her sisters, I-400 and I-402

Such fabulous writing. Each member of the Fog that Gunzou and Iona cross paths with grow in their own unique ways and subsequently choose their paths to follow accordingly. It stays so true to each character and that’s something definitely worth praising.                              

December 15 Monogatari Series Ep. 24 I’d have hoped that discussing the details of of Kaiki’s plan to deceive a god would lead down a more philosophical path than the conversation actually brought about.
Little Busters Refrain Ep. 11 It saddens me to find out that Angel Beats borrowed so heavily from the themes that had already been laid out here in Key’s earlier title.
White Album 2 Ep. 11 It’s hard learning the truth about love. I’ve lost count of the number of times the three main characters not only betrayed each other, but also betrayed themselves.
December 16 Magi 2 Ep. 11 Morgiana continues to be my favorite character in this series. She’s such a strong woman in every meaning of strength and I always find myself cheering for her.
December 17 Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio Ep. 11 Although they stuck with each other rather than become allies of Gunzou, it was still interesting to see the unique way I-400 and I-402 came to realize they were more than weapons.
Unbreakable Machine Doll Ep. 11 It’s quite clear this series will not resolve its core conflict between Raishin and Magnus. And with no second season in sight, another anime falls victim to airing before a sufficient amount of content was finished being written.
December 19 Coppelion Ep. 12 It’s hard to sympathize with the antagonists when they keep turning down every chance for redemption they’re given. But it’s also annoying when the protagonists keep giving the bad guys second chances that put everyone they’re trying to save in danger.
Kyoukai no Kanata Ep. 12 It’s ok to bring someone back from the dead if there was a good reason to do so. Personally, I’m not sure there was even a good reason for anyone to die in the first place.
December 20 Nagi no Asu Kara Ep. 12 So far this series has had a great pace, but this episode really seemed to be dragging its heels. Last week established how things were going to happen, so lets go already.
December 21 Outbreak Company Ep. 12 Personally, I think having the climax of this series be in the previous episode was a huge mistake. It left the season finale with nowhere left to go and just foundered about without going anywhere.
Yuushibu Ep. 12 This series did a great job sticking to its theme and not wandering. While it never achieved any level of sophistication, I enjoyed every ridiculous minute of it.
Freezing Vibration Ep. 12 This franchise’s first season told a much more interesting story about what it means to be a pandora. Vibration just stagnated and followed a rather ho-hum plot about military bureaucracy.

Anime of the Week (12/8 – 12/14)

Anime of the Week – Kyoukai no Kanata
Akihito rushes to catch Mirai at the last second

This is the kind of love that I really like. It found its origins slowly and was discovered as two people traveled a rough and difficult road together. But the end result was a couple who would gladly lay down their lives for one another but chose to live for each other instead.                              

December 8 Monogatari Series Ep. 23 What a cliffhanger. And I just know that whatever was in Nadeko’s closet is probably a majory plot point and won’t be revealed until the season finale.
Little Busters Refrain Ep. 10 Aw man. The pace of this series has turned into a mess. There’s still three more episodes, but now they’re doing a clip-show-ish review of events leading up to this point? *shakes head*
White Album 2 Ep. 10 I’m not sure the order of events was properly planned for this series. Was it really worth the emotional baggage to reveal Haruki and Touma’s past this late?
December 9 Magi 2 Ep. 10 The gladiator battle had a really good pace to it, but the crowd is really messed up. One minute they’re on Alibaba’s side and as soon as it looks like he’s about to lose, everyone abandons him? Surely someone who bet money on him should still be on his side, right?
December 10 Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio Ep. 10 Formerly nothing
more than weapons of war, it’s a real treat to see these young women discover they can be more than that by integrating into themselves the best traits of humanity.
Unbreakable Machine Doll Ep. 10 A good revenge story always gets my blood boiling. I can taste Raishin’s hatred and frustration at having to bide his time and wait for a proper time to strike.
December 12 Coppelion Ep. 11 As a writer, what do you do when you’ve run out of ideas? Throw in a ridiculous mecha that the bad guys were somehow hiding and not using the entire series despite getting their butts kicked the whole time.
Kyoukai no Kanata Ep. 11 I most certainly hope that someone I love never lays down their life for me. If it’s you or me, I’ll always say “both.” Never forget that discretion is the better part of valor.
December 13 Nagi no Asu Kara Ep. 11 I know there’s a certain romance to a story about confessing your love at the end of the world. But we should take that as a lesson that we shouldn’t wait until the end of the world to do the important things in life.
December 14 Outbreak Company Ep. 11 Although this series seemed sympathetic to the issues surrounding otaku culture, in reality I think it still depicted us as a dangerous social phenomenon. I don’t like that one bit.
Yuushibu Ep. 11 A true hero doesn’t become a hero because he’s seeking the fame. They’re just brave men and women who make the right decision when nobody else has the courage to step forward.
Freezing Vibration Ep. 11 I totally called it. It took two seasons, but Chiffon turned out to be the character who you hope never opens her eyes.

Anime of the Week (11/10 – 11/16)

Anime of the Week – Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio
Haruna protects Makie

When described in simple terms it seems very straightforward, but too often an interesting villain will be killed off for dramatic effect when if that character had lived he or she could have continued to serve a purpose in forwarding the story. That Arpeggio makes good use of its character resources is a testament to the vision of its writing.                              

November 10 Monogatari Series Ep. 19 I’ve always liked Bakemonogatari for its intriguing, philosophical dialogue. But this arc is nothing but story.
Little Busters Refrain Ep. 6 What is the point of challenging Kyousuke to? Riki, if you’re mature, just stand up to him and say, “no.”
White Album 2 Ep. 6 This series is far removed from the typical tropes that pervade high school romance anime. It’s amazingly refreshing.
November 11 Magi 2 Ep. 6 After thinking about it afterwards, I don’t think Hakuryuu was in the wrong, but in the heat of the moment I was shocked.
November 12 Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio Ep. 6 I’m loving this series for the little things. Haruna could have died protecting Makie for cheap drama. But she didn’t.
Unbreakable Machine Doll Ep. 6 As pretty as it is, one of the annoying things I’ve noticed in this series are the switches between hand drawn and CGI.
November 14 Coppelion Ep. 7 When everything seems hopelessly lost and the world goes crazy, letting yourself join in the madness might sound like fun.
Kyoukai no Kanata Ep. 7 I’ve nothing against revenge. But if it’s an undertaking you want to pursue, make sure your motivation is sound.
November 15 Nagi no Asu Kara Ep. 7 At first I thought the reason people shouldn’t leave the sea is because of decreasing births, but that may not be the case.
November 16 Outbreak Company Ep. 7 I admit to having been so dazzled by the wonders of Akihabara that I forgot why I had gone there in the first place.
Yuushibu Ep. 7 As much as you wish people would gravitate to a store with better customer service, in the end they’ll want the cheaper one.
Freezing Vibration Ep. 7 Definitely not the most sophisticated of stories, but I’m feeling despair gradually transitioning into hope.

Anime of the Week (11/3 – 11/9)

Anime of the Week – Nagi no Asu Kara
Chisaki and Manaka watch the Tomoebi

The big events in life are certainly important, but our day-to-day interactions shouldn’t be forgotten, either. And when we hurt those who are close to us, we can apologize, but given the opportunity to truly make it up to someone, it may be a little cliche, but actions speak louder than words.                              

November 3 Monogatari Series Ep. 18 Many claim they would not wish to have immortality. To them I say, you have not found the joy of simply living.
Little Busters Refrain Ep. 5 I appreciate that Riki and Kyousuke are helping Rin break out of her shell, but hasn’t she done that already?
White Album 2 Ep. 5 Perhaps my life has been easy and my goals not too lofty, but I’ve never had to drive myself to the point of collapse.
November 4 Magi 2 Ep. 5 It should be the wish of every parent that they raise their children to live a life of happiness greater than their own.
November 5 Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio Ep. 5 I find it ironic that in a desperate moment bereft of morality, the decision made nonetheless created something beautiful.
Unbreakable Machine Doll Ep. 5 As this series gets a little harem-ish, I’m glad Raishin isn’t the kind of guy who gets flustered by women.
November 7 Coppelion Ep. 6 There is a fine, but distinct line that separates trust and kindness from naivety and Ibara crosses it far too often.
Kyoukai no Kanata Ep. 6 I really wish these kinds of episodes that don’t forward the plot would be relegated to blu-ray bonus episodes or OVAs.
November 8 Nagi no Asu Kara Ep. 6 Everyone has some moments in their childhood they’re not proud of. But getting past those mistakes is a part of growing up.
November 9 Outbreak Company Ep. 6 The theme of this anime is dealing with racism and caste systems and how dissolving barriers is good for society.
Yuushibu Ep. 6 This series is going much better than Hataraku Maou-sama because it understands where the jokes are in its source material.
Freezing Vibration Ep. 6 This is why I love this series despite its ecchiness. It tells a twisted story that contorts your feelings.

Anime of the Week (10/27 – 11/2)

After a long hiatus, I’m bringing back Anime of the Week, but in a different format. Before, I was just posting whatever I had typed up in Twitter after watching each episode. But that wasn’t working out for me for a couple of reasons. The character limit, while good at encouraging me to be concise, didn’t allow me to fully express everything I wanted to say about each episode. The second reason I’m doing away with Twitter is because it’s the wrong medium for reviewing anime. I know this because I hadn’t gotten a new Twitter follower in months and only two or three over the past year. These catch-up Anime of the Weeks will be leading into my Anime of the Year post coming soon afterwards, so you’ve got something to look forward to while I rehash stuff that aired last month and as always, thanks for reading.

Anime of the Week – White Album 2
Touma grabs Haruki's necktie

I can’t exactly say I had a joyous high school life–it probably could have been worse. But I think I enjoy watching well-written high school romance anime like this one because in hindsight I can see where I had to pass on the opportunity to be happy then as opposed to living my dream today–a full decade after graduating. I don’t regret my choices, but it’s heartwarming to life in someone else’s shoes in twenty minute increments each week.                              

October 27 Monogatari Series Ep. 17 If this arc is about Shinobu, then there’s not enough time left to do two more arcs. Will it be Kanbaru or Hitagi next?
Little Busters Refrain Ep. 4 Rin and Riki have a long history as friends, but their sudden declaration to start dating seemed abrubt.
White Album 2 Ep. 4 Alright Setsuna. Don’t misinterpret things. Be mindful of the old adage, “assumptions make an ass out of u and me.”
October 28 Magi 2 Ep. 1 I would never call this series great, but it dances a fine line between childish and mature that appeals to both audiences.
Magi 2 Ep. 2 He’s helped Aladdin and Alibaba so far, but Sinbad’s power level puts me more in mind of a final boss character than an ally.
Magi 2 Ep. 3 I know all too well what it’s like to be the guy in a group of friends who is the least appreciated of anyone in the group.
Magi 2 Ep. 4 I’ve never liked stories about children banding together to form their own society because inevitably they’re going to grow up.
October 29 Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio Ep. 4 On one hand this series is about man understanding machines, but on the other it’s also about machines discovering humanity.
Unbreakable Machine Doll Ep. 3 Do you ever have one of those moments when you say to yourself, “oh man…I should have seen that coming”?
Unbreakable Machine Doll Ep. 4 The fights in this series use a style that is a compromise between making up rules and using clever tactics.
October 31 Coppelion Ep. 4 Dying to atone for your mistakes won’t solve anything. Dedicate your life to solving the problems you’ve caused.
Coppelion Ep. 5 Necessity is the mother of all invention and finding ways to survive in a radioactive wasteland is a force for motivation.
Kyoukai no Kanata Ep. 5 I’m glad to see that Mirai and Mitsuki have found their self confidence and allowed themselves to make some friends.
November 1 Nagi no Asu Kara Ep. 5 On one hand there is a push to safeguard the community of the sea, but it can’t come at the cost of others’ happiness.
November 2 Outbreak Company Ep. 4 Even if you’re trying to help them some people can’t take a hint. I admit that I’m occasionally one of those people.
Yuushibu Ep. 3 For as silly and ecchi as this series is, it really excels at putting a fantasy-world twist on just about every aspect of daily life.
Yuushibu Ep. 4 Unlike in America, Japanese culture has a hard time accepting that it’s possible for a man and a woman to just be friends.
Yuushibu Ep. 5 Usually the clueless girl seems like she’s being taken advantage of, but Fino is sinister enough to take care of herself.
Freezing Vibration Ep. 4 The writing tries too hard to be dramatic, but as ecchi action series go I’m enjoying it more than Kill la Kill.
Freezing Vibration Ep. 5 No one person can defeat the monsters that lurk within society. It takes the effort of many to change hearts.

Anime of the Week (10/20 – 10/26)

Anime of the Week – Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova
Gunzou discusses human philosophy with Iona

As the artificial intelligence of our machines continues to get smarter and we humans interact with computers more and more in our daily lives, we will increasingly place human attributes on them simply as a by product of our own nature. So it’s interesting to see the reverse happening—AI intentionally seeking out humans in order to become more like us.

October 20 Little Busters: Refrain Ep. 1 Something that had always bothered me about season one was the conspicuous absence of a Kurugaya story arc.
October 21 Little Busters: Refrain Ep. 2 Now this is an interesting twist. I wonder what it’s going to take for Riki to put an end to this endless eight.
White Album 2 Ep. 2 I was going to muse philosophically about how persistence pays off, but instead I’ll just say Haruki is a lucky idiot.
Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio: Ars Nova Ep. 2 This series is showing an excellent flair for military tactics. But the final scene worried me this might turn into a harem.
Unbreakable Machine Doll Ep. 2 Humans have an incredible capacity to attach personalities and emotions to inanimate objects so we can relate to them.
Kill la Kill Ep. 2 I’m not the biggest fan of fighting tournament anime or older aesthetic styles, but this series is a nice blend of both.
October 22 Kill la Kill Ep. 3 It would seem this anime won’t be able to measure up. At this rate of fanservice development, it may fall below Freezing.
Yuusha ni Narenakatta Ep. 2 I’m all for chasing your dreams, but there also comes a time when you have to be practical and think about your livelihood.
Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio: Ars Nova Ep. 3 I like Gunzou’s matter-of-fact take on life. He could be a model for many of us—someone who is comfortable being himself.
October 23 Outbreak Company Ep. 2 I expected this anime to be mostly comedy. But recent developments show it may be taking a more sociological path.
Outbreak Company Ep. 3 The plot may be a bit straightforward, but it’s got enough charm and challenges to give it a good amount of depth.
October 24 Freezing Vibration Ep. 2 I like the direction this second season is taking. In the face of a powerful threat, camaraderie trumps rivalry.
October 26 Freezing Vibration Ep. 3 The first season had a plot that was more focused on character development, making season two feel stagnant.
Nagi no Asu Kara Ep. 4 Throughout mankind’s history, cultures have disappeared through assimilation. Is the same fate inevitable for Shioshishio?
Kyoukai no Kanata Ep. 4 Too often we make the mistake of assuming we must cope with our problems alone because nobody else could understand.
White Album 2 Ep. 3 The characters’ backstories are very well devleoped, but I’m not seeing their current actions lining up with their pasts.
Little Busters: Refrain Ep. 3 I’m torn. On one hand I want Riki to choose a girl. But I’d also like to see Key tell a story without a couple.

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Anime of the Week (10/6 – 10/12)

Anime of the Week – Monogatari Series: Second Season
Nadeko tells it like it is

In order to break a stalemate where nobody wants to confront the problem at hand, it might take a sharp tongue that can put the situation into plain words so everyone can accept their mistakes and move on.

As a side note, Kana Hanazawa has played some really amazing characters, but the skilled writing of Nishio Ishin has allowed her to bring forth an impassioned Nadeko, which is the icing on the cake.                              

October 6 Monogatari Ep. 14 Although Kana Hanazawa is well known for playing quiet girls, she’s a good enough actress to play any role she’s given.
October 8 Rozen Maiden Zurückspulen Ep. 12 Is it just me or is there a disconnect in fiction between people experiencing the supernatural and incredulity?
Rozen Maiden Zurückspulen Ep. 13 Although the endings was sloppily left open for a second season, I like the message that life is not a single path.
Unbreakable Machine Doll Ep. 1 This series is showing an excellent balance of comedy, action and drama—all of my favorite genres—plus a sharp art style.
October 11 Kyoukai no Kanata Ep. 2 Based on the flashback at the start and Mirai’s comments at the end, both protagonists have some demons to deal with.
October 12 Coppelion Ep. 2 Laying down your life to save a loved one never sits well with me. I think it’s better to find a way both of you can live.
Kill la Kill Ep. 1 Decrying the Nazis in the history class of this fascist school is laying the irony on little thick don’t you think?
Strike the Blood Ep. 1 I don’t have anything to complain about this series, but it had nothing compelling about it. It was just ordinary.
Yuushibu Ep. 1 There’s been a lot of hero/demon lord anime of late. I’m not sure if this’ll be better or worse than Hataraku Maou-sama.
Kyousou Giga Ep. 1 This is one of those anime that has an interesting style, but there’s absolutely no indication of what it’s about.
Nagi no Asu Kara Ep. 1 This is the most refreshing premise for an anime that I’ve seen in a long time. And Kana Hanazawa takes the role of heroine.

*Keep up to date with my daily mini-reviews by following me on Twitter.