2013 Anime Year in Review – Wrap-up

Watamote - 05 -19 Shingeki no Kyojin - 04 -27 Kotonoha no Niwa - Movie - Large 42[2]

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:

By Season:

  • Fall 2011: 1
  • Spring 2012: 1
  • Fall 2012: 2
  • Winter 2013: 1
  • Spring 2013: 1
  • Summer 2013: 3
  • Fall 2013: 1

By Studio:

  • 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.




  1. a

    The title of the article is 2012 instead of 2013. lol for the typo

    Same sentiments. Pretty happy about Summer 2013, never have I thought it would be one of the stronger seasons for the year.

  2. Heh. Fixed, thx.

  3. t

    well, we've said it quite a lot lately in 2013 posts.
    but yeah, it was a good year, with really good anime in variety of genres. very few were really outstanding, of course there were some big disappointments too, but in general – pretty good year for anime.
    true, some of them (even some of the outstanding ones) were "leftovers" from 2012, which proved how much strong it was. well, after all, fall season mostly is quite a strong one, as was in 2012. I am not 100% sure it'll be the same in fall 2013, but of course some of them will be on top of 2014 final impressions. it's always like that.
    that aside, as for 2014, I expect very good year. firstly because of the return of studio BONES with 5 anime which are slated for 2014. secondly, sports. in 2013 there weren't enough sports except for chihaya 2 (and some others less good as free or Ro-Kyu-Bu! SS). however the end of 2013 (fall season) blitzed with 4 good (and outstanding) sports that are still on-going. not to mention we have baby-steps and haikyuu slated for spring 2014. really look forward to it. so I see a great change ever since fall season in all related to sports anime, and I am sure it's gonna carry on in 2014.

    as for movies, it was quite strong year – berserk, ookami kodomo, garden of words were on top of the top. but others did well too – mardock scramble 3rd, Hal, S;G. and even the less good movies had some great side – gorgeous nerwareta gakuen and AO NO exorcist, madoka recaps and so.
    true, I am looking only at BD in that matter. so I didn't include 2 Ghibli movies. but I know even in japan it was very good year for movies. and I really looking forward to 2014 to provide us great anime movies.

    thanks for blogging and working hard in LiA as always. we are greatful to you Enzo (:

  4. Thank you for your many contributions, Darktower. Hope you have a great 2014.

  5. m

    "Madhouse is the only multiple entry for the second straight year (though admittedly it's for the same two franchises)." – hahhaha, well i hope that will hold true for next year as well

  6. p

    Hmm, to me it's seems that the top of the crop for 2013 has been stronger than any recent year (even 2011, which is the best year of anime imo since 2006-07) in recent memory, but on the midtier end of things it was significantly lacking. Maybe it was the fact I didn't finish many series this year (finished about maybe 15 TV series and about 10 movies/ovas), but then again I didn't have the motivation to said series.

    I'm trying to watch a few more before the new season starts and also before Animesuki Awards starts the voting stage. The two big ones is to finish off Silver Spoon which I got halfway and also to start on the second Chihayafuru season. I don't get it myself, but these two series should be cup of tea but for some reason despite being pretty good series, I was never engaged and felt an urgency to watch them.

    Zetsuen no Tempest is up there as well, I did like what I saw of the first 4 episodes but never got around watching it. As for Hunter x Hunter and Uchuu Kyoudai, I think I am a point of no return for those series – I am simply way far too behind and I no longer have the patience to marathon long-running series. Didn't hate either, in fact I quite like Uchuu Kyoudai but when the last episode you watched was episode 8, then the end of the tunnel is simply too long. Same with Hunter x Hunter, though I wasn't exactly enjoying that one as I was still stuck in the hunter exam arc and got bored because it seemed like I was watching Naruto Chununin exam arc, which I don't have the patience for (I understand H x H manga did it first before Naruto did).

  7. L

    I'd recommend sticking with HxH until the Yorkshin city arc, that's when the story diverges from its heavy focus on games and tournaments (which is funny, because Togashi's YYH also had a long-ass tournament arc).

  8. Although IMHO, you will never find a deeper, more exciting and psychologically messed-up tournament arc than Heaven's Arena. It's Togashi at his best.

  9. K

    Are you going to do something like a "Predictions for 2014" post?
    A ton of series have been announced for the year that look fascinating.

  10. t

    LOL that would be nearly impossible.
    even though a lot of series have already been announced, we still have a full year in front of us, so a lot more shows will be announced and we may never know what will hit the jackpot so soon without even being told what's gonna be in this whole year.

  11. I don't really do a yearly predictions poll, because in anime it just isn't possible to meaningfully see more than a season ahead due to the development cycle. My season previews are something of a quarterly predictions post (like pegging Reitetsu and Inari Konkon as sleepers, for example).

    If you ask me how I feel right now vs. this time last year, I would say very slightly better – spring doesn't look stellar (like 2012's did) but marginally better than 2013 did. And we have a few interesting announcements like Hi Score Girl that don't have a date yet, plus BONES getting busy.

  12. M

    I assume the Summer 2011 refers to Hunter x Hunter? But I believe the show started in Fall 2011.

  13. Indeed, fixed.

  14. M

    These wrap-ups seem pointless tbh. Everything in the data is skewed towards one person's opinion, so unless we're all a hivemind, you're not getting much measure out of it. Oh yeah, LN's are increasingly a poor source of material and Shingeki is a big deal.

    The less we all agree, perhaps the better it says about variety in that year.

  15. M

    Considering a blog is a site where a blooger shares their opinions on a certain subject, I'd be shocked if this weren't the case… But maybe that's just me.

  16. L

    Honestly, the reason I'm here at all is for Enzo's retrospection on this year of anime, so I don't know why it being only HIS opinion is a problem. I may agree or disagree on some points, but again, I'm here to read someone else's opinion.

    If you wanted quick discussion with no definite consensus, you'd probably best head over to a decentralized discussion platform, like a forum or something.

  17. M

    I didn't say it was a problem, just lacking value. If you were to pool together a group of bloggers' opinions you'd likely find a stronger case for those conclusions. But if you guys derive worth out of a singular opinion on the subject then more power to you .¯_(ツ)_/¯

  18. S

    Good point(s) Maxulous. I totally agree. One persons subjective top 10 list is fine, but extracting useful statistics out of that list is a slippery slope.

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