Over this past year, I've shown you my picks for the anime you should be watching for the spring, summer, and fall seasons. You've even had the chance to weigh in on your favorites. So without further ado, here are Kotaku's picks for the best anime of 2013.
But first, the ground rules (which I shall bold in the vain hope that people will read this before commenting).
1) The series must have finished its run in 2013. This means that still airing shows like Kill la Kill are not eligible, but 26-episode anime that started in fall 2012 are.
Attack on Titan is clearly the breakout anime of this past year; so it's probably no surprise to see it on this list. And while I still maintain it has some nagging pacing issues, it delivers an exciting adventure in a world unlike any we have seen before.
Attack on Titan is filled with deep mysteries and complicated characters; but what really makes it stand out is the sense of true danger—the possibility of death that threatens each of the characters at nearly any given moment. Add to this the Spider-Man-style visuals and amazing action climaxes, and you have a series that will capture your imagination for weeks—if not years—to come.
We all know the typical tale: The evil Demon King raises an army to conquer the world, but the hero and his/her allies appear and eventually defeat him—who, of course, escapes at the last moment. This is where The Devil is a Part Timer begins, as the Demon King comes to our world and begins to conquer it from the ground up... by becoming an exemplary employee in the fast food industry.
In other words, The Devil is a Part Timer is a comedy that revels in subverting all the tropes common in the classic hero versus demon king story. But more than that, it is a critique of entry-level working life in Japan that uses a cast of—quite literally—otherworldly characters to excellently hilarious effect. From start to finish The Devil is a Part Timer is a funny, thought-provoking, and surprisingly touching anime that is bound to put a smile on your face.
I generally don't enjoy slice-of-life anime; that should tell you how enjoyable Silver Spoon must be to make it on this list. Silver Spoon is the tale of a city boy entering an agricultural high school in rural Japan as a means of escaping his old life. Of course, this leaves him in a world of horses, cows, pigs, and chickens that he knows nothing about.
But more than being a fish-out-of-water comedy, Silver Spoon is a story about growing up—the struggle to find what you really want to do in life. Yet, on top of that, there are even more layers to Silver Spoon: a commentary on the moral quandaries of raising animals for food and an investigation of old versus new ranching techniques. But perhaps the most telling aspect of Silver Spoon is how interesting and entertaining all of this becomes.
While at first glance Gatchaman Crowds appears to be your run-of-the-mill Sentai-style superhero show, that is actually little more than the frame the series is built around. What the show is really about is the creation of a smart phone app that turns being a good person into a video game and the social implications that stem from it. Moreover, it is an exploration of what it means to be a good person—as well as what it means to be a superhero.
With a captivating female lead, fun visuals, and a great central concept (that is especially relevant to gamers), Gatchaman Crowds is one of this year’s biggest surprises.
There are a lot of things to like about Beyond the Boundary: It's visually stunning, with a wonderfully creative world, and meticulous in building a believable love story between its protagonists. One of its best aspects is that it doesn't hold your hand. Rather, it throws you headlong into a world hidden within our own—one brimming with monsters, magic, and monster hunters—leaving you to learn the rules of the world by observation instead of exposition.
Another strong point is its characters—especially insofar as their motivations. Everyone has their own secrets which dictate their actions in Beyond the Boundary—though many are far from what they appear to be on the surface. Best of all, Beyond the Boundary is one of the few anime out there that isn't afraid to use the viewers’ knowledge of anime tropes against them in order to build a surprising (not to mention satisfactory) twist.
If you are more interested in anime feature films, here are Kotaku’s picks for the best five to hit theaters this year (click the links for the full reviews).
Over this past year, despite the massive amount of anime I watched, several anime managed to slip through the cracks and did not get a mention in the “five anime you should be watching” posts each season. Some of these didn't really get good until past their mid-way points. Others were not mentioned because I hadn't yet begun recommending anime mid-season. However, these anime below all deserve a shout-out regardless, as they all never made a top five anime list but probably should have.
Maoyu is a deconstruction of a demon-king-versus-hero story where the two realize that no matter who wins, everyone loses. Thus the two set out to advance the world technologically and economically to a point where peace won't inadvertently cause more death than war.
Watch on: Crunchyroll
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU is the tale of a friendless, pessimistic slacker who is forced to join a club that has no other purpose than to help people with their problems. Thus, along with the club's only other member—a girl so beautiful and intelligent that she finds herself ostracized as well—he does everything from proofreading bad fiction to planning school festivals, all with enough snarky humor to make Daria fans proud.
The Hentai Prince and the Stony Cat
The Hentai Prince and the Stony Cat is the hilarious (and more than a little perverted) story of a boy who wishes away his ability to lie and a girl who wishes away her ability to show emotion. Beginning as “Liar, Liar: The Anime,” it only gets funnier—not to mention crazier—as it goes on, as more and more wishes throw their little corner of the world into chaos.
Space Battleship Yamato 2199
A remake of 1970s classic anime Space Battleship Yamato (Star Blazers to those in the West), Yamato 2199 is an anime about a starship that must travel across the galaxy alone to retrieve the one item capable of saving the human race from extinction.
Watch on: Japanese Blu-ray (It has English subtitles.)
In a world where your mental state is constantly monitored and being mentally troubled gets you sent to prison despite no crime being committed, Psycho-Pass is the story of a young cop caught up in a series of serial killings that threaten to pull down the entire society.
Well, there you have it: the best anime series and films of 2013, as well as a few anime series that are finally getting their well-deserved recommendations. To vote for the best anime of the year, head over to Talk Amongst Yourself: Ani-TAY and click on your favorite in our 2013 anime poll.
For all of our Kotaku anime reviews, click here.
Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.