2013 was a year filled to the brim with great… good… decent… passable… existent shows. In a year full of shows that exist in such a fashion, there are a few that go above and beyond by actually having good content. While I wouldn’t say that my thoughts on the top ten are definitive, I will admit that anybody who disagrees with the uncontestable opinions stated here is wrong and should feel very bad. So here we go, the Indisputable Top 10 of 2013.
10. Inferno Cop
It should probably be clear at this point that I’m a fan of deliberately, or at least notably, awful entertainment. It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure, but I love when a show throws away all pretenses toward actually being good, and instead focuses on being as bleach-gluggingly dumb as physically possible. If The Cart Driver’s love of Inferno Cop feels disingenuous, know that it really isn’t. Nobody would say that it’s a marvelously-written harbinger of a new anime golden age, but Inferno Cop combines hilariously stilted/cheap animation with nonsense that teeters on the edge of brilliance, and probably remains the only show from this year that I’d recommend to the layman. Trigger clearly had fun making this, and anybody who didn’t have fun while watching doesn’t know what fun is.
9. Namiuchigiwa no Muromi-san
I really do not like dolphins. I’m sure not every single one is a sadist that kills baby porpoises for fun, but the fact that they have the capacity to do so makes me mistrust the smug fucks. Thankfully, Muromi-san is in agreement, and had the good sense to make an entire episode around the titular lead beating the shit out of them for minor to nonexistent transgressions. I probably should not have liked Muromi-san as much as I did. For every good gag, like the episode-long dolphin throwdown, there was at least one that fell flat. When it worked though, thanks in part to the episodes with quality jokes tending to be entirely full with quality jokes, it made for one of the most enjoyable shows of the year.
8. Senki Zesshou Symphogear G: In the Distance, That Day, When the Star Became Music…
Symphogear isn’t a show that I think can really be blogged in an interesting way. Ultimately, everything I had on it quickly descended into “Oh man, you won’t believe what happened!” like I was drunkenly recollecting it for a friend. If Senki Zesshou Symphogear: Meteoroid Falling, Burning, and Disappear, Then… was the epitome of dumb, Senki Zesshou Symphogear G: In the Distance, That Day, When the Star Became Music… somehow rushed past the pinnacle and well out of Earth’s orbit.
I don’t want to relay too much of what happens, because Symphogear is a dish best enjoyed without any preparation beforehand. My 12 Days post covers what I thought were the best two moments, but the addition of a campy scientist villain pulling the moon into Earth’s orbit using a doofy-looking plasma hand, and an idol performance being broadcast in front of the Taj Mahal to crying Indian men, makes for one of the best watches of the year. Just don’t expect it to actually know what the fuck it’s doing, and joy will follow.
7. Attack on Titan
Bombastic and stylish as fuck, Attack on Titan is probably the one show that will be remembered years from now when people look back on 2013. What really makes the show is its depiction of the titans themselves as unrelenting lumbering beasts with the face of Chevy Chase. While the pacing could have been better, several moments of stellar directing, particularly in Annie-centric episodes, save non-fight scenes from being tedious.
As the series continues and we learn more about the titans, the struggle against them feels ever-more desperate, and the damage against our protagonists starts to take its toll. A show that can reasonably suspend disbelief for almost its entire run is a good show, and that’s sure as fuck what Attack on Titan is.
I never got the criticism that Watamote cruelly victimizes an innocent Tomoko. Most of the humor comes, not from her misfortune, but from the mental gymnastics that she goes through to get to the point of misfortune, and how the aforementioned mental gymnastics make it worse—almost all of her problems are internal. Tomoko is the butt of 100% of the show’s jokes, but the key to Watamote’s success is knowing when to make her humiliate herself for acting like a shitstain, and when to lay off and give her a moment’s respite.
It’s a harsh show, but it’s only harsh because it knows that Tomoko can be a better person. It knows that the road to being socially competent is long, potholed, fractured, and steeply-inclined, but she can traverse it with an encouraging slap on the back—and the occasional narrative slap for being a jerk. Watamote is a series that knows exactly how to handle Tomoko, and it wouldn’t be as downright hilarious if it didn’t.
Intent is ultimately what makes a series click, and Kyosogiga’s intent is laid bare right from the start. This is a show that just wants to depict a rather odd family’s reunion, while combining a folk-tale aesthetic with incongruous sci-fi elements. Some of it feels arbitrary, but it adds up to a one of a kind, memorable world filled with colorful individuals whose struggles I really cared about. If the finale didn’t try to clumsily connect it with tangential metaphysical concepts, Kyosogiga probably would have been near-perfect at what it set out to do. As it stands though, it’s still pretty damn good.
4. Monogatari Series Second Season
I want to be mad at Monogatari. It’s undoubtedly pretentious at times in places and the constant use of recap episodes to pad its runtime ground on my nerves, but it just does so many things right that I keep coming back to it. While I enjoyed Bakemonogatari, the one thing that it lacked was focus—it felt like an extended, disconnected introduction that sampled interesting plotlines, without actually bringing them to their full potential. Nisemonogatari had that focus, which I enjoyed much more, but didn’t quite have the personality of its predecessor.
Second Series proves that when the characters are expounded on, and their various faults are presented and exaggerated from non-Ararararagi points of view, Bakemonogatari is one of the best character studies in the medium. Something that can not only justify its objectification of Nadeko, but outright make that objectification a fundamental component in her pathos, is not to be disregarded. As Scamp said, it made each of the Worst Girls infinitely more sympathetic.
Hanekawa’s still the worst girl, though.
3. Silver Spoon
RIP Pork Bowl
2. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
If there’s one thing that JoJo knows, it’s escalation. Battle Tendency in particular capitalizes on this perfectly, starting with breaking the fingers of corrupt policemen with bottle caps in New York City, and ending with Joseph getting in a punch up with a demigod while being jettisoned into space by a volcano blast. Everything between those two points is a beautiful curve of Joseph being the most arrogant son of a bitch on the face of the planet, whose arrogance actually feels justified throughout. Considering the shoestring budget, what the show accomplishes is simply phenomenal, and would be worth a number one spot, if it weren’t for…
1. Non Non Biyori
Non Non Biyori is quite the rarity—a slice of life show that seamlessly blends the setting and the characters, without using Japan’s glorified UNIQUE FOUR SEASONS as a crutch. The characters all exude charm, and the town itself has a tranquility that can only be had by being left behind by the modern world. To make up for a lack of a coherent connecting element, the series builds on certain character quirks to drive each episode along. Of particular mention is Renge, who actually acts the part of a first grader, as opposed to a teenager with the mind of one. Wildly imaginative and knowledgeable in how to best use her charms, her only limits are a lack of life experience, and a lack of children her own age to socialize with. The other girls are alright too.
I’m going to miss Non Non Biyori. Its subdued, natural humor and genuinely enjoyable cast got me through many a sleep-deprived Monday. JoJo may have had Stroheim and fights with reverse-vampires in Venice, but it didn’t have Renge.