Have you seen all of the anime series that came out this year? If your answer to that question was no, then we have a way for you to narrow down your plan to watch lists. We here at Mahou Tofu decided to take ten of the highest rated, non-sequel anime series that ended this year and, after watching them, we ranked them. Check out how we ranked the following series and read why we believe that you should watch them.
*The bold ranking indicates the writer of the endorsement for each series.
#10. Ano Natsu de Matteru (J.C. Staff)
All the world’s a set, and all the men and women merely actors. Yup, Shakespeare definitely said that. Ano Natsu innocently begins with a group of friends (plus an alien) making a movie over the summer. As a series that focuses so much on film-making, the cinematography, from purposeful scenic shots to the occasional chase scene, definitely meets the high standard.
However, the film-making process ultimately becomes a path through which suppressed emotions are brought to surface, and the camera’s lens is able to (metaphorically) reveal a character’s true feelings. How is a person, whose entire life is an act, supposed to act in front of a camera? Ano Natsu takes the emotional turbulence of a love polygon and manifests itself as a movie within an anime, a story within a story, a theatre where actors play people.
Average: 7.55, Bryan: 7.5, Will: 7.6
#9 Mirai Nikki (Asread)
While survival games are certainly nothing new to the world of Japanese media, Mirai Nikki takes a delightfully unique spin on the archetype by giving each character cell phones with interesting diary abilities. The series also introduced the epitome of yandere characters: the ever-popular Gasai Yuno, and Mirai Nikki’s fluid animation really stands out we get to see Yuno hacking fools up. Surprisingly, the series has a great focus on romance, and Yukiteru and Yuno definitely win the year’s award for Most Unorthodox Romantic Relationship.
Like most survival horror works, Mirai Nikki puts the value of human life on a weighing scale and pits it versus another’s. Who comes out on top is typically the person with the greatest desire to live. However, in Mirai Nikki this idea gets blown away, as greater and more complex motives, like to protect loved ones and construct a better future, inevitably override the natural instinct to simply kill to survive.
Average: 7.8, Bryan: 7.8, Will: 7.8
#8 K (GoHands)
K is a visually striking anime that focuses on things that one would not have expected based on its advertisement. The series introduces us to an alternate version of our world where “kings” gather followers that utilize psychic powers to further their goals. The great animation and unique powers make for a fantastic action series that any battle anime fan can appreciate.
However, the series also throws in questions that cannot be answered through violence alone. The deep relationships that are developed between the characters and question of what is right add another level to K that will separate it from your average action series. Watch K for an action series that can get you out of your battle anime rut.
Average: 7.9, Bryan: 7.6, Will: 8.2
#7 Another (P.A. Works)
“How does it feel to not exist?” Another takes the subtle mind-bending of classic Japanese horror and combines it with the violence lauded by Western horror (Final Destination anyone?), creating a genuinely thrilling anime experience. This series has become notorious for its gruesome death scenes, which P.A. Works deserves mad props for, but the reason this series deserves to be on our Top 10 is how well it slowly unravels the narrative from episode to episode.
Little bits of the mystery are revealed at a time, leaving you to speculate about the possible outcomes and just about what the hell is going on. Part detective mystery, part psychological thriller, and part bloodbath, Another keeps you guessing all the way up to the very last episode and will make you question what it truly means to “exist.”
Average: 7.96, Bryan: 8.4, Daniel: 8.2, Will: 7.3
#6 Hyouka (Kyoto Animation)
KyoAni’s latest adaptation about an apathetic high school student with incredible deductive reasoning solving various everyday mysteries is a curious little show. It wants to be both a mystery and a slice-of-life show at the same time, but can’t seem to strike a balance. What you do get are some memorable characters from the Classics Club and top-notch animation that you would expect from KyoAni.
Don’t expect a mysteries filled with murder and violence – what you get are lightweight mysteries that seem straight out of an Encyclopedia Brown book, which fits considering that we’re following high school students. The show’s strongest point are its characters that are worth getting emotionally invested in, and their clashing personalities and great chemistry keep the momentum going even through some low points. If you like high school slice-of-life stories with interesting characters and the occasional mystery, this show is worth checking out.
Average: 8.0, Bryan: 8.0, Daniel: 7.9, Will: 8.1
#5 Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita (AIC A.S.T.A.)
Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita is an anime with a wonderfully ridiculous story. The setting is a world that is in the process of rebuilding after the decline of human society, but the actual story rarely feels post apocalyptic. A race of fairies has sprouted up in the world and our main character is an ambassador that has to go through hilariously difficult situations in order to handle relations between the two species.
Jinrui is one of those series that makes sure you are watching something that you have neither seen before nor ever imagined would exist. If you allow yourself to take in everything that is going on, you will be treated to a beautiful world where the laughs don’t stop and your mind will constantly be kept active by the questions posed in the story. Watch Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita for one of the most unique experiences of 2012.
Average: 8.25, Bryan: 7.7, Will: 8.8
#4 Sword Art Online (A-1 Pictures)
Sword Art Online is an anime that makes us question the choices that we make when we enter the online world. Thousands of people find themselves trapped in an online game where you cannot log out and if you die in the game you die in real life. The world of online gaming is not new to many of us and the ability to re spawn in these games has lead to a devaluing of life.
SAO takes this horrible situation in order to make us question the impact of our decisions in a world where we may not physically exist, but what our minds experience is definitely real. From beautifully animated fighting scenes to a romance that anyone can get into, this series provides an experience that all kinds of people can enjoy. Watch Sword Art Online for an emotional journey that shows us what is truly worth fighting for.
Average: 8.25, Bryan: 8.2, Will: 8.3
#3 Kuroko no Basuke (Production I.G.)
I’m not a huge sports fan at all, yet I thoroughly enjoyed Kuroko no Basuke. How the hell did that happen? Well, the greatest appeal for me was the focus on the Generation of Miracles, the color-coded (down to the name) team of basketball players with superhuman abilities. Of course, these guys are just in high school, so hilarious interactions are bound to happen. From Kuroko’s eerie habit of appearing out of nowhere to the coach’s inability to cook to Midorima’s lucky items, chances are you’ll be laughing more than anything else.
Production I.G. also did a masterful job of animating all the players’ movements in a very real manner, which made me feel like I was watching an actual game (hell, it’s better than actual games). The development of teamwork, cool abilites, and exciting battles (well, basketball games); this is shounen done right, and I couldn’t be more excited for the second season.
Average: 8.7, Bryan: 8.8, Will: 8.6
#2 Sakamichi No Apollon (Fuji TV)
Shinichiro Watanabe and Yoko Kanno reunite in this adaptation of high school friends bonding together through their shared love of jazz. Set in 1960s Japan, the story follows Kaoru Nishimi, a quiet and introverted high schools student who, after moving to a new town, creates lifelong friendships through the music of jazz. The music is one of the big highlights, featuring covers of some well-known jazz standards such as “Blowing Away the Blues” and “Moanin’.”
However, the show’s biggest strengths come from the emotional draw of its main cast as they go through the hurdles of young love and growing up in a decade filled with change. The animation is crisp and clean, with some interesting rotoscoping effects for some of its musical numbers to try and give it a more realistic look. Overall, the series as a timeless feel to it, and like any good jazz song, is enjoyable no matter the time or place.
Average: 8.83, Bryan: 9.0, Daniel: 9.1, Will: 8.4
#1 Chuunibyou Demo Koi Ga Shitai! (Kyoto Animation)
Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! is an anime that truly lives up to what is expected of a Kyoto Animation series. Our story revolves around a young man that is trying to escape his embarrassing past and the girl that won’t let him forget about it. From its beautiful animation to its very relatable situations, Chuunibyou is a series that any anime fan can enjoy.
The series separates itself from your average slice of life anime with the emotional journeys that most of the main cast see themselves going through as the question of how to act in society is constantly asked. Any fan of KyoAni’s work will notice its similarities to things like Hyouka and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya which made for a very good experience because those are very good things to be compared to. Watch Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! for a heartwarming story that will grab the attention of almost anyone.
Average: 8.96, Bryan: 9.5, Daniel: 8.4, Will: 9.0
Kimi to Boku. 2 (J.C. Staff), Bryan’s Pick
Kimi to Boku. 2 continues the story about the daily lives of five high school guys. The greatest strength of the series is actually its simplicity and that nothing is overstated. It’s just a group of guys, each with distinct complimenting personalities, hanging out with each other.
The character traits are honest, genuine, humorous, and the group dynamic is just plain fun. When I watch the series, I think to myself “Man, I’d totally hang out with these guys.” A good number of the main characters are sarcastic, lazy, and generally remind me of myself, which may explain why I enjoy the series so much. Here’s hoping for a third season.
Nisemonogatari (Shaft), Daniel’s Pick
The Monogatari series can be very divisive depending on what you’re interested in. The series follows Koyomi Araragi, a seemingly ordinary high school student (as they always are) who gets involved with many different people and their encounters with the supernatural. The series isn’t a typical action shounen; in fact, there hardly is any fighting at all, as we see Araragi getting his face kicked in multiple times. The show’s real draw is its powerful writing, courtesy of Nishio Ishin.
Characters frequently engage in witty banter and monologues are used extensively. The dialogue between Araragi and Mayoi during their encounters is by far some of the funniest in the series. The series touches upon various supernatural themes, and these are represented in the strange animation style Shaft is known for, which has improved since Bakemonogatari in my opinion. Though the plot can drag a bit, especially in the Karen Bee arc during the first half of the series, the snappy dialogue and great character interactions are enough to keep me happily interested each episode.
Tonari No Kaibutsu-Kun (Brains Base), Will’s Pick
Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun is a classic shoujo with a very surprising female lead. The series introduces us to the classic situation of a popular and fun loving guy that meets the overly studious girl and the two start to try and balance each other out. The thing that really separates this series from your average shoujo is the fact that the female lead is a very unique character.
Instead of doing the usual thing where the studious girl gives up on her work to be with the guy, she decides to work twice as hard in order to fit in all of the things that she wants to do. The male lead is entertaining and the overall story is something that can appeal to a lot of different people. Do not let the fact that it is a shoujo romance stop you from giving this series a chance. Watch Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun for a romance with a uniquely strong female lead.