Four words I never thought I’d say pertaining to anime – thank goodness for summer.
As I speculated in the 2012 edition of this post, 2013 didn’t turn out to be quite the year 2012 was. But thanks to a better second half than first, it recovered from looking like a bit of a debacle to being somewhere close to average. I don’t see a lot of greatness on my list, but there are a lot of very good shows, and even more that were at least watchable. Given a choice I’d rather have fewer of those and more quality at the very top – those are the series that matter in the long haul – but it could have been a lot worse. That said, no less than 30% of my Top 10 were shows that carried over from 2012 – that much more evidence of what a strong year it was for anime.
For the first time since I’ve been an anime fan, Summer may very well have been the best season last year. Considering that – as usual – it offered the smallest number of new series, it certainly had the best batting average. 3 of my Top 10 series came from the Summer lineup, and that’s certainly never happened before. Spring, usually the standard-bearer, was flat-out weak, and Winter was salvaged only by carryovers and sequels. Fall turned out to be pretty decent too, with a good chunk of those good-to-very good series in the 15-30 range of my year-end rankings. Overall my list is spread over 7 seasons – the most since I’ve been blogging.
Here’s this year’s breakdown on the Top 10 list:
- Fall 2011: 1
- Spring 2012: 1
- Fall 2012: 2
- Winter 2013: 1
- Spring 2013: 1
- Summer 2013: 3
- Fall 2013: 1
- Madhouse: 2
- A-1 Pictures: 1
- Toei Animation: 1
- TYO Animations: 1
- Silver Link: 1
- P.A. Works: 1
- Gokumi: 1
- DEEN: 1
- BONES: 1
It’s a great year for new entries, as Toei, TYO, Silver Link, Gokumi and DEEN all make their first appearance on the list. A-1 Pictures is the only studio to appear on every one of LiA’s Top 10 lists; Madhouse is the only multiple entry for the second straight year (though admittedly it’s for the same two franchises).
By Source Material:
- Manga: 6
- Novel: 3
- Original: 1
Surprise – no LN adaptations in the Top 10, after only one each in each of the last two years – only Hataraku Maou-sama snuck into the Top 20. It’s a bit of a down year for original series, which is interesting as there were quite a few released – they just didn’t reach the same quality level we’re used to seeing. A terrific year for novel adaptations (which always tend to be front-runners). Manga adaptations now have half of the 30 available spots over the last three years. Considering that manga and LN adaptations comprise a vast majority of the new anime series these days that’s not surprising – but the fact is that despite being represented in roughly equal numbers in the industry’s output, manga has 7.5 times the representation on the last three lists as light novels. Incidentally, this is also the first time NoitaminA has been shut out – although they didn’t even compete for much of the year.
All in all 2013 was certainly a mixed bag for anime. It suffers coming as it does immediately after the best anime year since 2008 at the least, but it was a year where we saw some of the unsettling trends in industry strengthen their grip. There were certainly more formulaic light novel adaptations than ever, and more series that looked as if they were developed by a marketing department and not a writer. I think that what we’re seeing is that there are still exceptions to the risk-aversion that dominates anime today – somehow shows like Shin Sekai Yori, Kyousougiga, Uchouten Kazoku and Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge still got made. But while we still – for now – have these ambitious shows at the top, until some of them actually start producing at least acceptable financial return producers are going to be under ever-growing pressure to stop green-lighting them.
No discussion of TV anime in 2013 can be complete without mentioning the dynamo that is Shingeki no Kyoujin. It missed out (not by much) on my personal Top 20 list, but it managed to break out of the ever-shrinking box anime has trapped itself in and reach the consciousness of the general public – both here and overseas – like no anime since Evangelion. I have my issues with the adaptation, though I did like it a lot, but in the larger sense I think Shingeki is great for anime. The industry is operating under a “House of Pies” model, with 90% of new series trying to get a slice of one of two pies the industry has decided to depend on – the Monogatari pie and the slightly-smaller Kuroko no Basuke pie. Attack on Titan proves that it’s possible to massively succeed by going after a much, much bigger pie – the general public. It’s not an easy thing to do, but the rewards can be enormous (as Shingeki proves). If it encourages more production committees to try the same strategy (which is roughly the BONES modus operandi, though they haven’t had a hit like this one) then Shingeki has done anime a great service.
As for movies and OVA, it was a pretty strong year. We had new works from both the titans of Ghibli – likely their last – and a new film by Shinkai Makoto. None of them represents the absolute pinnacle for the director, but Takahata Isao’s Kaguyahime no Monogatari may be his second-greatest film after Grave of the Fireflies. It was a terrific year for anime at the Japanese box office, with 6 of the top 10 spots for domestic films (Miyazaki’s Kaze no Tachinu is at an astonishing ¥12 billon and counting). There wasn’t too much that was exceptional on the OVA front – this format used to be quite experimental but is now basically the domain of unaired TV episodes and side-chapters – but there were some solid efforts from shows like Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun and Minami-ke, and the standout from the Young Animators Training Project, Death Billiards.
That wraps up the wrap-up – look forward to the year-end favorite series poll shortly, and the “Best of the Best” post to follow. As always, thanks to everyone for visiting, commenting and supporting LiA – we had another big leap in traffic, and taking the blog to Japan has been a real pleasure. I look forward to spending 2014 with you – let’s hope it’s a great year for all of us, and for anime and manga.