While my good buddy Mike Toole handled the best manga of the year, 'tis now the time for me to do the same for some of the best anime to come down the ol' pike in 2013!
However: this is not a typical "TOP TEN BEST OF" list based upon arbitrary numerical values. No sir! I don't like doing those. Not because I don't fancy myself as some immense arbiter of taste - I sure do, by golly - but rather, I know that a lot of you patient TR readers out there aren't cramming every single anime into their mind's gullet. So instead of a Best Of, this is the Ten Most Notable Anime of 2013! Anime that deserve attention, that broke from the mold, or did something otherwise remarkable or interesting.
10) Attack on Titan
This one's a gimme, and for much the same reason that Mike also featured it for his 2013 list of manga. Although, in my opinion, the anime adaptation's got a bit of a leg up on the original manga. While the manga occasionally looks rushed or muddled, the anime is almost consistently visually stunning. To the point where the studio responsible for the animation - a newer subsidiary of Ghost in the Shell's Production I.G called Studio Wit - occasionally stumbles on their deadlines here and there, leading to a few underwhelming filler episodes and clip shows.
But that's all water under Attack on Titan's immensely enjoyable bridge. This show is dramatic and fascinating, moves at a breakneck pace with engaging characters, and is one of the few recent anime series of note that's garnered a significant amount of attention from beyond the usual otaku-circles.
The remarkable thing about this is: Attack on Titan isn't on Cartoon Network or late-night cable TV! No sir, Attack on Titan was only being streamed - subtitles-only - on Crunchyroll, with a dub and DVD release scheduled for next year. If you'd told me a few years ago that one of anime's biggest hits of recent years would explode in North America without a TV broadcast airing, I'd call you a liar and a heretic.
But that's a testament to Attack on Titan's rather universal appeal. Also, it allowed this to happen.
Here's another one I'm stealing from Mike Toole's list! (Although in fairness, we each came up with our lists independently of each other. Caveat!)
Nonetheless, Watamote, or rather, No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!, is a stunningly insightful look at high-school misanthropy, no matter if you watch it or read it. In both manga and anime form, Watamote so totally nails the feelings of alienation, bitterness and misinformed judgment that come from puberty that it hinges on being uncomfortably unwatchable. More than a few times has this show triggered long-buried feelings of social anxiety, which is not something I expected from an anime show set in high school. As a high school-aged nerd myself, I watched anime to escape my feelings of anger and loneliness, and here comes Watamote to remind us of how utterly pointless that escape usually is.
Catch up on Watamote on Crunchyroll.
8) Short Peace
Switching gears a bit, here's one of 2013's more unique offerings: an anthology of four separate short films headlined by the wunderkind Akira creator, Katsuhiro Otomo.
Throughout the '80s and mid-'90s, anthology films - or "omnibus" films, as they were known in Japan - were a relatively normal sight. You had your films like Robot Carnival, Neo-Tokyo (which actually got a bit of notoriety here in the west, as one of Neo-Tokyo's shorts, Yoshiaki Kawajiri's Running Man, got quite a bit of play on MTV's Liquid Television), and my personal favorite, Memories.
Unfortunately, these "omnibus" films were often costly and rather difficult to exhibit. They were hardly box office draws, and Western audiences never seemed to really warm to the concept of watching a bunch of unconnected stories in different styles by different directors. It's a shame, since virtually all of them were great.
Which is why it's time to sing Hallelujah to Short Peace, the centerpiece of which is a brand-new 30-minute short directed by Otomo himself. Notably, that short film, titled Combustible, was exhibited in 2012 all by itself at several festivals, and even landed a coveted spot on the shortlist for animated shorts considered for the 2012 Academy Awards. It didn't make the final cut, but hopefully that emboldens future endeavors from Otomo and his motley crew of Japanese auteurs to take more risks and make more of these wonderful short films.
Short Peace has yet to find any distribution in English, but hopefully it won't suffer the same fate as the Genius Party omnibus films, which were only released legally in Australia.
And now, in a complete 180 from critically acclaimed short films, I would be remiss if I didn't include on this list the exuberantly goofy Free!
Some backstory here: Over the summer, the Tumblrverse went apeshit over a leaked trailer from animation studio KyoAni, that was little more than a short commercial pitch that featured lithe, shirtless, taut high school boys in swim trunks and speedos, glistening with water all over their tight bodies.
Ardent fans of animated boy-flesh screamed in droves in the hopes that "Swimming Anime," as they were calling it, would one day see a legitimate release. Well, their battle cries were heard, and "Swimming Anime" became Free!, a lovingly animated tribute to Fujoshi, a somewhat derogatory Japanese term that refers to female fans of animated men and the relationships between them.
Free! is sort of refreshing, really. After years of lovingly-rendered female boobs and crotches in anime, designed specifically to titillate and enrapture sad men, turnabout is indeed fair play. There's enough room on this planet to placate any amount of sexual orientations with animated fanservice, no?
And if that's your thing, Free! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.