Best of the Best: 2013

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It’s “Oscar” season, and again time to pay tribute to the best anime had to offer in 2013.  And my earnest congratulations to Miyazaki Hayao and Studio Ghibli for representing anime at the Academy Awards this year.


This year’s winners:

 












Best Song: “Yokan” by Itou Masumi – Red Data Girl ED

This is always an absurdly difficult, pick ’em category every year.  But today this is the one I liked the best – a gorgeous, perfectly fitting companion piece to this underrated series.

Honorable Mention: “Wareta Ringo” by Taneda Risa (Shin Sekai Yori ED1), “Dou Kangaete mo Watashi wa Warukunai” by Izumi Kitta (Watamote ED1)








Best Soundtrack: Kyousougiga

Kyousougiga gets the nod here because it’s the soundtrack that pretty much has everything – every mood the show demands, the soundtrack delivers.  For me this is probably the most cinematic soundtrack of the year, and maybe its most beautiful.

Honorable Mention: Zetsuen no Tempest, Shin Sekai Yori













Best Original Screenplay: Todo Izumi – Kyousougiga


There was only one original series on the Top 10 this year, so this one isn’t a surprise.  Izumi Todo may not be a real person (it’s a nom de plume that represents the collective Toei staff) but they crafted an exquisite work of art here – a series of grand, soaring ambition with layers of complexity woven seamlessly together/

Honorable Mention: Hanada Jukki (Robotics;Notes), Urobuchi Gen (Psycho-Pass)













Best Adapted Screenplay: Mochizuki Tomomi – Rozen Maiden Zuruckspulen


This is the more competitive category in anime most years, but especially this one.  From a strong field Mochizuki emerges for delivering a series that raised Rozen Maiden to heights it had never seen in anime, refusing to pander along the way.  It’s a subtle psychological drama that works on multiple levels.

Honorable Mention: Kamishiro Tsutomu (Hunter X Hunter 2011), Suga Shoutarou (Uchouten Kazoku)













Best Art Direction: Takahashi Maho – Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge

Once again a very tough category, with many worthy contenders.  Dansai Bunri takes the nod because it displayed a unique and compelling art style from the first moments, reminiscent of Gurren-Lagann (with whom is shares many staffers, though not Takahashi-san) while creating its own vision.  This is the sort of show that other anime will be compared to visually for years to come.

Honorable Mention: Okamoto Harumi, Takeda Yusuke (Uchouten Kazoku), Satou Ayumi, Okada Tomoaki (Zetsuen no Tempest)













Best Animation: Hunter X Hunter


I added this category this year, because it didn’t seem right to honor art direction but not the animation staff.  Hunter X Hunter takes the nod for delivering what may very well be an unprecedented amount of Sakuga animation over the course of a year – the consistency of the animation with this series is astonishing, and some of the action scenes are among the best ever delivered in a TV anime.

Honorable Mention: Kyousougiga, Uchouten Kazoku













Best Character Design: Hayashi Yuuki – Kyousougiga

There was no single series where the character design jumped out for me as much as Nazo no Kanojo X did last year, but Kyousougiga takes the prize for the timeless look of the residents of both historical Kyoto and Mirror Kyoto.

Honorable Mention: Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge, Shin Sekai Yori













Best Supporting Actor: TIE: Namikawa Daisuke as Squealer/Yakomaru, Shin Sekai Yori and Koyama Rikiya (Multiple Roles)


Yes, there are ties at the Oscars – look it up – and I simply couldn’t choose here.  Last year’s winner Namikawa had his usual great year (H x H, Kaminai) and in truth, his astonishing turn as the tragic villain of Shin Sekai Yori may have been the year’s strongest in any category.  But I couldn’t overlook Rikiya-san, who delivered no less than three deserving performances, all completely different: as Wang Qi in Kingdom, Samon in Zetsuen no Tempest and Coach Hanashima in Ginga e Kickoff.

Honorable Mention: Ono Yuuki as Ashiya (Hataraku Maou-sama), Mamoru Miyano as Berg-Katze (Gatchaman Crowds)













Best Supporting Actress: Yokoyama Chisa as Biscuit Krueger, Hunter X Hunter 2011


Yokoyama-san hasn’t been a fixture of anime in recent years, but she made a glorious return as Bisky (who is generally believed to be based on Togashi-sensei’s wife, Sailor Moon mangaka Takeuchi Naoko).  Yokayama nailed the comedic parts, but Biscuit is a deceptively subtle and deep character, and she has some quietly powerful emotional moments that are crucial to both the “Greed Island” and “Chimera Ant” arcs.  

Honorable Mention: Nazuka Kaori as Frau Kojiro (Robotics;Notes), Han Megumi as Mushibugyou (Mushibugyou)













Best Actor: Miki Shinichirou as Gintarou, Gingitsune

It’s been a glorious return to prominence for the reliably superb Miki-san, who seemed to disappear from major roles for a few years.  I almost feel guilty giving this award to him for a role that’s so perfectly suited to him that he plays it with seeming effortlessness, but the results are simply too perfect to ignore.  Miki as Gintarou joins the ranks of great seiyuu/character marriages in anime, and Gintarou stands as one of the best youkai characters in years.

Honorable Mention: Sakurai Takahiro as Shirokuma-san (Shirokuma Cafe), Hiroaki Hirata as Nanba Mutta (Uchuu Kyoudai)













Best Actress: Izumi Kitta as Kuroki Tomoko, Watamote


This is always a very strong category, but as with Nakahara Mai in Jinrui last year, choosing Kitta Izumi is probably the easiest decision on this list.  Izumi-san carries the series, which is almost completely told from Tomoko’s tortured perspective.  Kitta nails all of it – the nastiness, the snark, the heartbreaking loneliness, the awkward shyness, the hilariously off-kilter asides.  This is a great, great performance – and one that had to happen for Watamote to be the brilliantly successful adaptation it was.

Honorable Mention: Taneda Risa as Saki (Shin Sekai Yori), Kobayashi Yuu as Outa Shou (Ginga e Kickoff)













Best Director: Koujina Hiroshi, Hunter X Hunter 2011

This category is exquisite torture every year, without fail seemingly the toughest decision on the board.  There are far too many great directorial achievements this year to single out only one – to ignore the likes of Matsumoto Rie’s juggling of time and perspective in Kyousougiga or Shin Oonuma’s finest hour with Watamote is absurd.  But I think to give Koujina-sensei too little credit simply because we’ve become accustomed to Hunter X Hunter’s brilliance and because he makes it look so easy would be the greater crime.  Togashi’s manga is by no means an easy one to translate to the screen as faithfully as Koujina and Madhouse have done it, and nearly every change he’s made has been for the better.  Like almost everything about this series, it’s almost a miracle.

Honorable Mention: Ishihama Masashi (Shin Sekai Yori), Ando Masahiro (Zetsuen no Tempest)













Best Romance: White Album 2

It wasn’t exactly a great year for straight-up romance in anime (which is hardly unusual) but WA2 emerges as the clear favorite.  The series plays out like a Greek tragedy, where the audience can see the heartbreak coming but is powerless to stop it.  It also does a fine job of creating empathy for the characters who are making so many mistakes with their lives – because they’re the mistakes of youth and inexperience.

Honorable Mention: Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge, Servant X Service













Best Comedy: Watamote

Like last year’s winner Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita, Watamote is far more than simply a comedy. But as black as it is, this is a comedy, and a frequently hilarious one.  As painful as this show could be to watch, the gallows humor is what keeps it from descending into despair – and gives Tomoko’s story just a whisper of hopefulness.

Honorable Mention: Minami-ke Tadaima, Hataraku Maou-sama













Best Drama: Shin Sekai Yori

You can’t define Shin Sekai Yori by genre any more than you can Watamote – these genre classifications are arbitrary in any event, which is why I’m disinclined to include many of them.  But there was no series this year that packed more dramatic moments into its run than Shin Sekai Yori.  It’s a beautiful and terrible story full of personal tragedy and deep, profound philosophical and moral challenges.

Honorable Mention: KyousougigaHunter X Hunter 2011













Best Series: Hunter X Hunter 2011

A foregone conclusion given the year’s Top 10 list, but it bears repeating that Hunter X Hunter 2011 was the best anime of 2013.  And it may very well be the best shounen adaptation of all-time.

Honorable Mention: Shin Sekai Yori, Kyousougiga













Best Picture: Kaguyahime no Monogatari

2013 may very well be remembered as a monumental – and sad – year for anime in cinema.  It’s very likely that it saw the release of the final films for both the titans of Ghibli (despite rumblings of another false retirement, Miyazaki Hayao appears interested only in a new manga).  Of the two, I prefer Takahata Isao’s Kaguyahime no Monogatari, which I rank as the second-best of his career after Grave of the Fireflies.  It’s a beautiful, simple and heartbreaking film.  Miyazaki and Shinkai Makoto both released strong films this year, but I give the nod to the elder statesman of the group.

Honorable Mention: Kaze Tachinu, Kotonoha no Niwa

As always, sincere thanks to everyone for following and supporting Lost in America in 2013. Overall it wasn’t as strong a year for anime as 2012 and 2014 is off to an uneven start, but Spring seems to hold a good deal of potential – hopefully 2014 will wind up as a strong year for anime and manga.  It’s already seen LiA break traffic records every week so far.  My best wishes for a great 2014 to all of you.

Enzo

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22 comments

  1. M

    Slightly surprised on the supporting actress award. Not that Yokoyama-san didn't deserve it, but I can't remember you ever mentioning it specifically.

    I should mention that Hanada-sensei's Robotics;Notes isn't an original screenplay since it is based on a Visual Novel.

  2. Yea, I know, but in this instance the anime basically hit at the same time the VN did, within a couple of months. It's a judgment call, I admit, but I went with it.

    Who would you have chosen for supporting actess, just OOC?

  3. M

    Tomatsu-san as Big Sister Maid (Maoyu) deserves an honorable mention for Best Supporting Actress, IMHO

  4. R

    God…you have no idea how excited I am to see this post. I just came home after my part-time work. I haven't had supper yet, but reading and responding to this post motivates me more.

    I agree with most of choices. I love "Yasumi" by Itou Masumi — listening to it almost everyday — but what I love the most is the soundtrack of SSY. Almost every piece of it can be a stand-alone, yet each contributes to the whole making the soundtrack a masterpiece, and each reminds me of the brilliance and greatness of the show. I love Uchouten Kazoku — it's my second favourite of 2013 — but I agree with RMZ winning the best adaptation. Mochizuki-sensei's talent totally shines through the show, and, to me, RMZ is a solid proof of why Mochizuki-sensei is one of the best of the best that you can get. Both Namikawa Daisuke and Izumi Kitta deserve winning the best actor and actress, and I'm biased when it comes to Koyama Rikiya and Miki Shinichirou. I also agree with SSY — my most favourite of 2013 — winning the best drama. I haven't watched all three best movies yet — still waiting for the sub, if I didn't miss it.

    Overall, 2013 is a fun ride — it had a bad Winter and a disappointing Spring but one of the best Summer seasons in years. At the same time, we got to watch rare shows — and commercial flops — like SSY, Uchouten Kazoku, Kyousougiga, RMZ, and Watamote — making me feel that there are still studios and people who would invest and insist in quality and pushing the boundaries. For that, I'm glad.

    Thank you, Enzo, for all your thoughtfully and passionately written posts in 2013. It's fun reading and conversing with you and your readers — and that's an important reason for why I love it here more than anywhere else. All the best and successes to you, too, and look forward to another fun year with LiA.

  5. S

    Great post, I especially agree with Namikawa Daisuke's strong performance as Squealer. But I'm pretty sure RDG's ED song was titled "Yokan"…

  6. Yeah, you're right – don't know what popped into my head there.

  7. Z

    Well this is always a pick between the series you like sort of affair.

  8. M

    The results are as authentic as moe Oscar jii-san's facial hair. He simply connotes the best anime has to offer!

  9. m

    totally agree with best song. there's just no one like itou masumi

  10. n

    >Mamoru Miyano as Berg-Katze (Gatchaman Crowds)

    I'm surprised you even remembered the guy's name. 😉 But indeed, Miyano played a memorable performance with that role. Good you mentioned it because I really liked his character. I stopped following the series after you stopped blogging but might as well finish it for the sake of seeing Miyano acting all crazy.

  11. Miyano has many personas he can call on (not always successfully, to be sure) but B-K was one of the better batshit character depictions in recent anime. He came close to saving the series a few times, but the hill was too big even for him.

  12. R

    To me, Miyano's acting had been a bit over the top in the past, and that didn't make the characters that he portrayed sound genuine. It's not until when he did Okabe in Steins;Gates — it's like he has a reborn completely nailing the right balance in his acting, and ever since he's a brilliant actor in my view.

  13. T

    How did Shin Sekai Yori not get at least a honorable mention for adapted screenplay? Did you just not want to have it put in all the categories?

    Also great choice on Bisky, definitely my favorite supporting character in Hunter.

  14. Who would you drop to get SSY in there? That's the issue. And TBH, I think the adaptation made some changes that were not for the better, as great as the series was on the whole. If the screenplay hadn't made those changes a tremendous show would have been even better.

  15. S

    Too bad there's no best romance category for HasebeXLucy :D.

    (And speaking of ServantXService, I'd have considered Aki Toyosaki for best supporting actress for her work as Megumi Chihaya. I loved her snarky voice only slightly less than Tomoko's)

  16. K

    Animation quality is technical. It has less to do with personal preference than other categories. Enzo, I know you love HxH. But best animation? Honorable Mention for Kyousougiga and Uchouten Kazoku with no mention for Kyoukai no Kanata or Yozakura Quartet? Compounding the issue is the fact that most of Kyousougiga's best animation was footage re-used from its 2011 and 2012 releases. Should that really qualify?

  17. s

    To be fair, while animation is mostly technical (in the same way visual effects in live-action are mostly technical), visual style is also an important factor to the overall product in that how you present your visuals (both art and animation) can influence the product. Although at the end of the day, the technical aspects play a far larger role

    But yes, I do feel the same about HunterXHunter getting best animation because from a technical standpoint, there were other series airing in 2013 that had better animation than it (and that's just a plain and simple fact). As good of a series as i thought Kyosogiga was, it earning an honorable mention for best animation in 2013 over other series that had high-quality animation with good art direction was a bit puzzling; I mean i can see why kyosogiga would get an honorable mention as it exuded an energetic visual flair but the series had plenty of short cuts in its animation (static backgrounds and foregrounds, limited in-betweens, disappearing faces, lack of dynamic lighting) making for an average technical effort. The animation was only great in certain moments. Its art direction was what made it stand-out..then again art-direction is not animation but kyosogiga gets points for having vibrant and immersive art (presentation saved it)

    At the end of the day tho, i can see the reasoning behind Enzo's picks so I understand his decision.

  18. s

    Again, to be fair, kyoukan actually has a lot more going on technically than ur usual kyoani show so dont know if saying its pedestrian on the technical side is quite right; the sole fact that it was an action series required it to have more well-done in-betweens than usual (and more movement) along with the fact that it boasted higher-particle effects, frames, refraction, defraction, and reflection due to the often use of shields, high-and low contrast shadows in certain eps, blah blah blah animation-babble (hahaha god i sound so pedantic).

    What held it back a bit was the art-direction ( i wish it looked more like the CM that was released for the LN; whoever was directing the art for that knew exactly what type of world this series was meant to reflect) which i will agree has been better in other Kyoani shows but did not pack quite the punch this time around due to the soft and drab-like color-palette's used to portray a more gloomy setting. Ep 5 was as close as the series got to having an artistic direction somewhere along the lines to something like Hyoka, but then again that ep was one of the tighter ones in general.

  19. I think I made my rationale for H x H clear in the post. As for Kyousougiga, I think you're underestimating just how technically proficient the animation is – and how much of it is brand-new, and not part of the ONA.

    As for the others you suggest, I don't actually consider YQ that technically strong – I think the art direction and the cinematography stand out more than the animation itself. As for Koyukai no Kanata, I think it's quite pedestrian by KyoAni standards – certainly more reliant on CGI than any series I remember from them. Yes, their bare minimum for animation is always very high quality – but I don't find KyouKan to be one of their more outstanding efforts either technically or artistically.

  20. K

    What can I say? The breadth of this disagreement is vast. To me, it's self-evident that Hunter x Hunter has mostly average animation, with occasional exceptions.

    Episode 112 is a case in point. Granted, that's now 2014, but its mix was typical of most of the recent episodes. I liked Pitou's leap, and how that created vapor cones indicating transonic speeds. That was three seconds of inspired work and it did not rely on the manga as a ready-made storyboard. The only other sequences that used a lot of frames were Youpi's two transformations, but they didn't come close to Pitou's leap. The rest of the show was mostly slide show.

  21. K

    Edit: Just in terms of quantity, one average episode of Kyoukai no Kanata had as much high-quality animation as an entire cour of Hunter x Hunter, and all the good sequences of new animation in Kyousougiga (2013) put together was about the same amount as two average KyouKan episodes. Typical of Kyoani shows, it had good animation all over, not just in the action sequences.

    I'm also surprised that you weren't impressed by Yozakura Quartet's Ryo-timo sakugafest. The cinematography was OK. The art direction was so so. But the brief bursts of animation, almost totally limited to the action sequences, mind, was really good.

  22. w

    Why is Robotics;Notes under 'Original Screenplay'? Wasn't it a VN adaptation?

    Oh, and how do you imagine Miyazaki will fare at the Oscars this year? I haven't seen any of the nominees, but it looks like he doesn't have very strong competition.

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