2013 Anime Year in Review, Part II: #11-20

This was one brutally hard list to compile.

Little Busters Refrain - ED7 - Large 11[2] White Album - 08 -26 Gingitsune - 12 -45

Without a doubt, the cuts for this list were even harder this year than the ones for the Top 10.  Looking at the first 10 as compared to last year, I think they come up short as a group.  The second 10 is about even.  But the third ten – the ones that didn’t make this list – is probably better in 2013.  That tells me that while the concentration of truly great series (which I consider the more important measure of a year overall) is down, this year did provide a lot of depth in terms of good to very good series.

That of course means that the last few cuts from the 11-20 list were agonizing.  That said, if I were to make an arbitrary cutoff this year it’d be 13 elite series – those are the ones that clearly stand above the rest for me.  After that the next 12-15 shows are closely grouped together, and there are some names you won’t see on this list that would have made it some years.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t like them a lot – it just means if you draw a line, some show has to be the first one on the wrong side of it.  And truth be told, between the last few shows that did make the cut and the first few that didn’t, there’s just not much of a gap.

11. Little Busters! Refrain – This is a highly deserving show, delivering some of the most sincere and raw emotions of any series this year.  It was clearly better than the initial Little Busters! series, though that one did the heavy lifting that made Refrain possible.  It was very, very close to the top 10 – in truth I suspect there’s a certain sentimental draw to the first season of Chihayafuru that made me nudge its sequel just ahead of this series.  But Refrain is, along with Kanon, the best of the Key adaptations and a real vindication for J.C. Staff.

12. White Album 2 – Easily the best romance of the year, although there was almost no competition.  There were moments in the first few episodes where I felt my interest flagging, but WA2 always managed to reel me back in by the closing credits.  The last stretch of 4-5 eps is truly excellent, and overall this is one of the better high-school romances of recent years, utilizing the age of the characters for great dramatic effect rather than inane comedy and abjectly stupid behavior.

13. Gingitsune – The cutoff for the really great series – the ones that flirted with the Top 10.  I love this show to an irrational degree because frankly, it could hardly have been drawn up more perfectly for my tastes.  It too started out slowly but once Gingitsune found its groove, it carved an identity for itself as a humane, subtle and profoundly moving story about both its human characters and their interaction with the mystical beings in their lives.  One of the best anime about Shinto ever.

14. Minami-ke Tadaima – Certainly the best Minami-ke series since the first season, directed by Ohta Masahiko.  Just hilarious, clever straight-up comedy – smart and dumb at the same time, with the ability to find humor in a dizzying array of styles with its huge cast of characters.  Tadaima found the M-K sweet spot in balancing cynicism and heart, and gave all of the principals in the cast a chance to shine.

15. Shirokuma Cafe – I called out Shirokuma Cafe for recognition on last year’s list too, because this is a special little series that deserves more attention than it received.  Another anime comedy that gets the mix of sincerity and snark spot-on, using a cast of mostly animal characters to hilariously enlighten the human condition.

16. Hataraku Maou-sama – As with White Album, Hataraku pretty much came from nowhere to find a place on this list.  It’s that rare LN adaptation that rises above cliche and formula, though at times it lost its way during the second half of its run.  I liked Hataraku best when it was brilliantly showing the Dark Lord adjusting to life as a blue-collar drudge in modern Tokyo and get ahead in the fast-food business.  Some of the best seiyuu work of any series this year.

17. Robotics;Notes – As usual, the hype was wrong about which of the two NoitaminA series starting in Fall 2012 would be the better.  R;N definitely had its lulls, but on the whole I liked it a lot – it felt as if I were watching a giant robot anime as written by Adachi Mitsuru.  Kaitou was a classic Adachi main character, that’s for sure – quietly and self-effacingly noble and courageous.  It was overshadowed by Psycho Pass and by its predecessor Steins;Gate, but Robotics;Notes is a highly underrated gem.

18. Uchuu Kyoudai – If it’d been eligible last year Space Brothers would certainly have made my Top 10 list, even as good as that list was.  It was very good this year, but to my eye measurably less brilliant than in 2012.  There were too many sidetracks, there was too much Racist Cartoon Theatre and not enough of what the show does best – show us Mutta applying his unique perspective to the challenges he faces and studying the dynamics of group behavior.  It’s still a terrific series, and hopefully 2014 brings us a return to its form from 2012 – this year ended on a pretty strong note.

19. Suisei no Gargantia – How the mighty have fallen.  After four episodes I thought Gargantia had a chance to be the best series of 2013.  Then came the horrific beach episode, and somehow the show never seemed to fully recover.  There were some fine moments in the second half, and Gargantia still managed to ask some very interesting questions with no easy answers (an Urobuchi Gen specialty).  It also brought terrific visuals to the table.  There was so much greatness in this series, but even more potential that was never realized.  There will be a sequel – I go into it with some trepidation.

20. RDG: Red Data Girl – Here’s a living example of what happens when you adapt a long-running series of novels in one cour.  RDG also has enormous untapped potential, but for me it delivered an awful lot during its run.  The scenery is some of P.A. Works’ most beautiful, the storyline complex and fascinating and I (though not most, seemingly) really enjoyed the developing relationship between the two leads.  The narrative style was unorthodox, giving a sense that things kept right on moving while we were away.  The second-best series about Shinto of the year, and in most years it would have been the best.



  1. Z

    While episode 05 was indeed the death knell for Suisei no Gargantia, in truth, the show had already lost me by episode 03. Also, too many cooks in the kitchen.

    Robotics Note was stronger in it's quirky side characters than main IMO.
    Still liked the more orthodox approach of Psycho-Pass better.

  2. k

    No Gin no saji in the top 20? I though it was one of the most underrated shows of the year and it's definitely in my top ten shows of the year. It's story was engaging without being the least bit offensive. It was heartwarming and even made me cry in parts.

    I'm definitely watching the second season of Gin no saji this winter. It's one of the shows I'm most looking forward to.

  3. As I mentioned a few times in the comments to the top 10 post, Gin no Saji is eligible for the 2014 list because I'm judging it as one two-cour series.

  4. t

    I am surprised that PP and SxS didn't make it to top 20. while RDG and gargantia, which were less good, made it to top 20…
    RDG was huge disappointment this year. so much potential.
    Gargantia was good. animation alone can't make a series. yet, there were interesting theme behind gargantia. true, not fulfilling its true potential. but not wasting that potential in total. in total it's between OK and good. for me.

    I have started seeing WA2, since everyone says how great it is.
    I hope i'll finish this ASAP

  5. They're more good in my book. If I could pick the best five eps of any series, no doubt S x S would have made the list.

  6. i

    While rewatching Bakuman (which hasn't been truly great, you can see the genius of O+O and Kasai everywhere) I think I know why GE dislikes the editor Yoshida. It's because Hiramaru is said to be modeled off Togashi, though I think Sorachi is more fitting. Evidence suggests Togashi though as the real Yoshida edited HxH and Hiramaru married a mangaka like Togashi did, not to mention the hiatuses.

  7. I actually had no idea that Hiramaru is modeled off Togashi – in fact, unless I heard it from the mangaka I'd bet it was urban legend. In any event, I dislike Yoshida because he's an asshole that exploits his author to a disgusting degree.

  8. i

    The mangaka never mention who or if they model the characters in Bakuman from, although there is an actual Yoshida and a few other characters in SWJ. Yoshida is an asshole but he's hugely entertaining as well and after reading the Hirumaru=Togashi rumor, I can almost imagine him and Togashi doing battle over deadlines.

  9. F


    Am glad to see Gingitsune counted amongst the greats of 2013. ^^

    I thought there was a possibility WA2 or LBr might make it into the top 10, but had completely forgotten about GKickoff, Chihayafuru 2 and Bakuman 3 while I had somehow shelved HxH because I didn't think it would qualify b/c it had finished airing yet. Ah well. :)

  10. N

    Great and honest review. Really great, but very subtle feels throughout the whole show and that was refreshing for an anime. Tepidly hope that there will be a season 2! I loved this so much, but I would be totally happy if it ended solidly on this note, but at the same time, I want to see where everyone goes!

  11. K

    I'm genuinely shocked that Blood Lad didn't make it.

  12. R

    Now that the top 20 shows are out, I can't help but feel that 2013 wasn't as good as 2012. To me, 2012 was a year with chock-full of creativity, variety and quality, but in comparison we had a bad Winter and a lacklustre Spring even though Summer and Fall gained ground to save the year. 2013 was quite a polarizing year — we had some great shows, including a few classic, and tons of others that were meh, if not disappointing and sad. Perhaps it's actually the same every year, but this is just how I see the year.

    Your list looks very logical, and it shouldn't surprise those who have been following your blog. I agree that Refrain is so much better, but I can't seem to like Key's materials. I think I'm amongst the very few who are not impressed by Kanon. WA2 was a show that gained a lot likes, but no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't make myself interested in the characters — I could only blame myself. As for RDG, I love it. It's flawed, quite so, but I loved the two leads and enjoyed watching them grow close and interdependent on each other. I love Izumiko. She represents a character when it's done — she's weak, sheltered and protected, but she tried and stretched herself beyond her comfort zone. The ED is also my favourite of year.

    I was trying to do my #11-20, but I really couldn't find one to fill the last spot, so screw it…
    11. Red Data Girl
    12. Hataruka-sama
    13. Zetsuen no Tempest
    14. Bakuman
    15. Servant x Service
    16. Robotic;Notes
    17. Gingitsune
    18. Love Lab
    19. Minaki-ke Tadaima

    Now I can't wait for your Best of the Best post…

  13. Z

    To me it's not that simple as that, as many series were split over both years.

  14. R

    That's true. I just feel that there were either really good shows and the meh, leaving not that many in between than the previous year. Maybe I forgot something and will say the same when 2014 coming to an end…lol.

  15. p

    It's impossible for me to do a 11-20 list for me considering I don't I even completed 20 series this year :/. About 70-80% of shows end up always being put on indefinite hold or dropped.

  16. M

    Glad to see WA2 and Hataraku made it on this list but like thedarktower said,I'm surprised Psycho-Pass didn't make it. Shows like that not your cup of tea Enzo ? 😛

  17. Why not just read my series review post? I think my view on the strengths and weaknesses of that show is pretty straightforward. It would certainly have been in my third 10.

    I would say, for the record, that P-P is very much in my sweet spot as an anime viewer. The issues I had were with the execution.

  18. K

    Posted the previous comment in the wrong post. Having too many tabs open can get very confusing.
    On topic, the surprise for me this year was most definitely Hataraku. It seemed at first that White Fox was wasting their talents on mediocre source material, but obviously, I was quickly proven otherwise.
    White Album 2 also proved to be exceptional. I'm quite hesitant about watching series centered around love triangles, because based on past experience, it tends to be facepalm inducing. But seeing the praise it got here at LiA, I decided to give it a chance this morning, and ended up spending the better part of the day marathoning the series. Very heart breaking to watch likeable characters get hurt despite their innocent intentions.

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