One of my new year’s resolutions for 2013 was to review more anime and I have done that. By combining my writing for Anime UK News with my blog and by carving out 30 minutes a day for viewing titles I have upped my anime output. As a result of these efforts I have lot of titles to choose from for my Best Anime of 2013. I’ll split this into the two categories of film and TV simply because I have seen some great films and TV. When I originally wrote this Spirited Away was on Film4 so it continues!
My top ten anime of 2013 is below followed by my final choices for my favourites of the year.
- Attack on Titan First Impression, Part 2 , Final Thoughts / Joint Number 1: Kyousogiga
- Mai Mai Miracle , Joint Number 2: Fuse: A Gun Girl’s Detective Story
- No Matter How I Look at it, it’s Yous Guys Fault I’m Unpopular (Watamote) First Impression, Final Thoughts
- My Youth Romantic Comedy is a Failure as Expected First Impression, Final Thoughts
- Gatchaman Crowds First Impression, Final Thoughts
- Galilei Donna
- Red Data Girl First Impression, Final Thoughts
- Sunday Without God First Impression, Final Thoughts
- Aku no Hana First Impression, Final Thoughts
- Kyoukai no Kanata
There were a lot of strong TV anime this year like Kyousogiga and Attack on Titan. I wanted to include Samurai Flamenco because it started out brilliantly as my First Impression, Turning Point, Loses the Plot posts sort detail. I liked how the show started as a slice-of-life title with shades of comedy thanks to the super sentai angle which charmed me with its relatable characters and sideways take on reality all the way through to the show transforming into full-on super sentai and that aspect I don’t really care for. As a result the comedy falls flat and I fear for the characterisation. Aku no Hana was a particular favourite of mine. It was a title caught between otaku bait tropes and slow cinema execution and it suffered for it because the otaku hated the style and the art house crowd generally look down on anime anyway. Those of us more open to difference loved it until the very last episode which blew all of the tension and drama that was built up. As far as anime films go there were only two that I watched this year that I really loved, Mai Mai Miracle and Fuse: A Gun Girl’s Detective Story. Anyway, for 2014 I’ll do a quick first impression post for all of the titles and then lengthier posts at the end of the series instead of the other way around.
Best Film – Mai Mai Miracle
I saw Mai Mai Miracle at the Japan Foundation’s Touring Film Programme at the ICA. It adapts Nobuko Takagi’s autobiography and the best way to describe it is as a slice-of-life tale of friendship and imagination that takes place in the lighter and darker aspects of 1950’s Japan.
The tale follows Shinko, a girl who lives in rural Japan in the 1950’s who befriends a girl named Kiiko, a recent arrival in town who is reserved and melancholy because of a personal tragedy she carries. Shinko has an incredible imagination and interest in history which she uses to make friends with Kiiko and draw her out of her shell. The two form a deep friendship through the power of imagination and get a large circle of friends. Imagination proves to be important as it allows Shinko to adapt to the harsh realities of life and overcome various real-world troubles and coming out the other side being able to see the positivity in life.
Going into the film I was expecting My Neighbour Totoro but it became a title of its own as I was charmed by its great animation and its use of the children’s perspective to tell a complex story of adapting to the harshness of real life and maturing. Each of the characters introduced is believable and the stories they bring to the screen enrich the film as the children become aware of how complex life can be. The animation relayed the post-1940’s world with great detail and managed to combine it with flights of imagination and speculation as Shinko dreams up ancient kingdoms and customs. It’s very beautiful, the story is well written and the characters are loveable. We care for them and as they grow we become absorbed in their journey.
Fuse: A Gun Girl’s Detective Story
I had been following this film for Anime UK News back when the first teasers and trailers were released in 2011. Two years on and I finally watched it and I enjoyed it a lot.
The film’s main selling point for me was the clever re-writing of the original fantasy tale it is based on to lace it into a very real period of history. The story was made more effective for me because of the gorgeous animation and colours and because of the loveable characters including the central brother and sister.
Best TV Series – Attack on Titan/Kyousogiga
Attack on Titan
I think I made clear my feelings on Attack on Titan but you may not have read that post so I’ll recycle them here. I started to read the manga in 2011 and was fascinated by the world and designs. I was excited at the prospect of watching the anime but I could never have guessed how much it would hook me. It impressed me so much that I was excited at the mere prospect of watching every episode before they aired and by the end I had started making Gifs, buying figures and soundtracks and written many, many words about the show. This was must-watch TV for me.
The show manages to brilliantly adapts and even improve on Hajime Isayama’s manga. The animation and sound design capture the unique world that Hajime Iseyama create but relayed it with even more force and intensity – which is the power open to animation although I find it hard to imagine anime beating Tsutomu Nihei’s works. The details of the Titans and the humans they devoured, their movements and the battles between them were very well painted. The Titans, their movements and freakish faces, the damage they could do were terrifying and the way the humans soared through the skies and did battle with these huge creatures was exciting. I cared about each of the characters and so I was carried along by the series.
The focus of the anime was on darkness and struggle and it was fun to watch something so gritty. I loved the themes that were with its dark story of death and sacrifice and existential growth and the black humour that was present made things. Overall I found it exciting, enthralling and energetic and excellent.
Kyousogiga is magic and chaos. It is pure emotion and love that is gleefully yet carefully revealed and it is the type of show that will not make as much of an impact on as broad of an audience as it should. The writing has been unconventional, favouring an elliptical structure to slowly paint its picture. The animation has been wild and anybody who lacks the genki gene will find all of the visual noise tiresome. It’s not just the visuals because the themes, cultural cues and symbolism are so dense that some of my Japanese friends have been unable to fathom out every aspect of what is on screen. When the final picture is revealed it’s all so simple and can be boiled down to the words love and family.
Now I’m a bit of a cynic and I can steel my heart to many things but lately I’ve been going soft lately and this anime penetrated my armour. Like Mawaru Penguindrum, get past the surreal aspects and it’s all about the adorable and likeable characters with various foibles and their family ties. It is all about love, how we love others and, when all is said and done, find a way to love ourselves as well. Love is shown in its many forms and here it is beautiful and painful to watch as the characters cling to each other and push each other away at points. It is hard to watch this and not get emotional which is a sign of just how invested I was in the series.
Moreover, the love on show comes from the creative team behind the show. Rie Matsumoto, writer and director, and her team have lavished so much love and attention on this show. They have drawn on 12th century Japanese picture scrolls and updated it with style and skill and even took the time to throw in an entire episode where some of the seiyuu visited the locations and saw the scroll and explained how the adaptation works. The imagination on show is astounding at times as the gorgeous visuals twist and tease our perceptions but what really makes this special is the way that characters connect to each other and the depiction of these connections shows how much the Rie Matsumoto and her team cared. Please, someone give her money to make something else.