10: Aku no Hana
Aku no Hana came to be the biggest shock to the anime community in 2013 for a few frivolous reasons, and was subject to further criticism for a few legitimate ones. Sitting through the questionable use of rotoscope was an achievement in and of its own, but sitting through the pacing was another story entirely. In order for the anime to adapt what little material it was dealt from the manga, Aku no Hana made the decision to rely on its tense, oppressive atmosphere to carry the show. If anything, it was successful in conveying that exact image of Kasuga’s world. For me, it kind of worked. I almost forget about the pacing problems because of it.
Rather, what makes this anime memorable is how it systematically breaks down Kasuga’s hypocritical worldviews. While he embraces his “deviant” nature and the “fuck society” attitude, he also yearns for an ideal high school life with a perfect girl to fawn over. The two girls who (in a way) represent those two dreams end up tearing him apart from the inside out. It’s perverse, disgusting, and profound.
As much as I am indifferent towards Butch Gen and his other works, what Psycho-Pass succeeded in doing is making me ask questions about how its world works. While some tidbits of information were spoonfed to us in its overzealous use of exposition, others were more subtle. Maybe not subtle as in a guy whacking at a pedestrian’s head in the middle of the street, but subtle as in wondering how a society can rationalize a spectacle as unfamiliar. Or perhaps hyperreal.
Exploring the ins and outs of the dystopian society Gen built up was ripe with interpretation and enjoyable to discuss with others. It bordered on pretentiousness at times with its infodumping and classic literature parroting, yes, but overall it didn’t bring down the experience too much.
Anyways, Akane carried this show with her badassery and that’s all that matters.
8: Silver Spoon
Season 2 when.
7: Uchouten Kazoku
I had a hard time reconciling the tone shift in the second half. I still do because this anime would be much higher on the list if I was able to reconcile them, but this just highlights what I wanted out of this anime. I needed a bit more subtle character interaction in the second half, and with everyone choosing sides and spilling their hearts twice over, it became a bit difficult to appreciate that. I was not aware that the Ebisugawa family (with the exception of Kaisei) had to actually be evil, nor did I accept how fast Benten was able to come back to her former place, or a lot of other fast and dirty developments. Perhaps the changes were a long time coming, but it certainly didn’t seem that way in the first half.
Despite all the gripes I have, though, I cannot ignore how much this show worked for me when I first started watching it. The scenery porn was, well, scenery porn, and the character interactions were both entertaining and weighted with hidden meanings. I like this shit. Make more of this.
6: Chihayafuru 2
Among the members of my old speech and debate team, there was stigma attached with advancing to the next round of performances/debates. On one hand, you’re a step closer to reaching the coveted first place prize. On the other hand, it means sticking around until much, much later in order to undergo those rounds. See, if you fail to advance, you are suddenly given back a lot of your time to use as you see fit, while people on the fast track are basically stuck until the bitter end, wondering if reaching for first place was worth the effort at all. It usually is, but that doesn’t stop you from complaining.
Similarly, Chihayafuru’s magic started to wear thin when it was clear they were going full ham on the team battles, taking up a whopping sixteen episodes in a row out of twenty-five , from the preliminaries all the way to the championships. However, I feel that, given the outcome, it was worth sitting through. It stayed the same bubbly, light-hearted Chihayafuru I knew and enjoyed from its first season. It integrated its two new members well enough, given the cast could only grow larger, and a lot of familiar faces showed up again. A couple of promises from last season, like Arata coming back to play, were fulfilled in spades. Sure, the story isn’t profound in any sense of the word, but getting me excited about card games again should be a recognizable feat of its own.
5: Otona Joshi no Anime Time
If you don’t know what this is, it’s a series of short stories by older women, made for older women. While all four are ostensibly about different things, they project views about women that seem a bit… strange to us American viewers. One story showcases an estranged housewife who only finds joy in cooking for a man. Another one is about a woman who has a shitty time in a shitty marriage, yet chooses to only reminisce about happier times rather than try to fix her problems. Not the most glamorous place to put a woman, don’t you think?
It would be easy to proclaim these types of characters to be wrong, or misguided, but what holds me back is the fact that I’m not a middle-aged Japanese woman living in Japan. These are stories that talk about issues so far removed from my personal views that I can only observe, and to that extent I can enjoy how it’s executed in animated form. Its uniqueness is what brings me this fascination towards Japanese society. Media that reflects its own society, as a result, can become endlessly fascinating to people willing to look further. Meaning me. Suck it.
4: Girls und Panzer
Girls und Panzer is the sports anime for people who don’t like sports anime. It simplifies, at times trivializes, the need to characterize beyond tropes in order to funnel its attention towards what it does best: tank battles. Of course, if the novelty of cute girls driving tanks wasn’t enough, it was the attention to detail and its bombastic charm that would keep you hooked.
I couldn’t care less about the accuracy of the actual tanks, nor could I care that the physics were (mostly) believable and the numerous problems involved with driving tanks were not sidestepped. What mattered is that the anime took its silly, shitty premise and made it fun. Adding to that, giving the tanks some trope-driven personality made the experience all the more enjoyable. It also helped that it didn’t take itself completely seriously.
I still don’t remember their names, though.
Sure, a colorful cast of characters and impressive visual direction can be memorable on their own, and its down-to-earth, heartful focus on familial bonds is a treat to witness, but what impacted me the most about this little unexpected gem was the music. I had no clue who Go Shiina was before watching this anime, and seeing that he hasn’t done a lot for anime music I’m suddenly looking forward to whatever other projects he may be involved with in the future. I may have just picked up a new favorite anime composer.
There’s a lot of gold to be dug from the OST, but I (as well as many others, I’m sure) always come back to this particular track.
2: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
JoJo’s is extremely quotable, both with its ridiculous antics and its equally ridiculous poses. Do you count how many breads you eat? I can even lift this heavy boulder! German science is the best in the world. When did you put a grenade in my scarf? He’s using the icicles as rope! …And other such things. The biggest entertainment value of this anime is seeing all the characters work through the story’s twisted bouts of logic. I don’t mean silly. I mean twisted. Perhaps we don’t really say this all that often because of how Western pop culture has molded us, but JoJo’s is decidedly violent and gory in comparison to its competitors. It works because it serves as a harsh juxtaposition between the gory and the ridiculous. Perhaps coming together as “bizarre”. I believe that to be another contributor to how popular it has become with the rest of us.
Admittedly, I burned out of my rabid excitement sometime around the last few episodes, but what JoJo’s succeeded in doing was delivering to us a story that defied all expectations. A hyper-masculine romp of awesomeness, bringing with it its own brand of fabulosity that no other anime in our time can match.
1: Shinsekai Yori
I had my eyes on this show since the previews came out. I stuck with it even through its numerous focus and pacing issues. This anime isn’t for anyone looking for immediate satisfaction with each episode: it’s for people seeking to be rewarded for their dedication. And boy, did this anime deliver.
We may joke about the shaky cam, the Shinsekai Yaoi/Yuri, and the jarring animation shifts from time to time, but the atmospheric pressure this anime holds is nothing short of terrifying. A highly servicable soundtrack and creative visual direction brought the fear and anxiety levels up to eleven, which made up for its admittedly shoddy animation. From this, we’re given an incredible story of intrigue and terror, spanning across three different periods of time, and ending on the highest note I’ve seen from anime in a long, long time.
- Silver Spoon S3 when
- You bet your ass I’m going to be watching SAO II. Gotta hop on the hatewagon eventually.
- If I had to pick an unfinished Fall anime to put on here, it’d be a tie between Nagi no Asukara and Samurai Flamenco (since I’m not watching Kill la Kill).