2013 was an outstanding year for anime, particularly when compared to the slightly underwhelming year of 2012. Somehow, I was able to shovel down 46 new series this year from start to finish, and while there were many great contenders, 10 series stood out above the rest.
My top 10 series may have been clear cut from the other 35, but the rankings among those 10 were actually all really close and their places could easily have been switched at the drop of a pin. But alas, this is the order I’ve gone and stuck with, and I think it’s a fairly good representation of my taste in anime.
To qualify for the list, the series must have ended in 2013. Also, things that I didn’t watch/didn’t finish but I know that they’re pretty good: Monogatari Second Season, Shinsekai Yori, Psycho-Pass.
10. Non Non Biyori (Silver Link) – 8.7
Nyanpasu~ One of the most recently aired entries on this list, Non Non Biyori is the very definition of idyllic and easygoing. From the gentle music to the beautiful country setting to the nice long establishing shots, the series is a feast for the senses while keeping you feeling relaxed. But of course, there are tons of silly comedic moments as well as plenty of culture shock as Hotaru Ichijou learns to adapt to life in the middle of nowhere. Maybe it’s because I have a higher tolerance for cute girls doing cute things than most people, but I really loved this series. It combines the quaint charm found in series like Aria and gives it some over-the-top yet very subtle comedy. Non Non Biyori doesn’t set out to achieve anything big, and that just might be its greatest strength. Also, I refuse to believe that Hotaru is a 5th grader.
9. Little Busters! ~Refrain~ (J.C. Staff) – 8.7
The conclusion to what is arguably the most well-known visual novel ever, the story of ~Refrain~ met the hype, my expectations, and then some. In my final episode impression, I made the bold statement that this series has the best story of 2013 and I think I still stand behind that claim. The buildup from the beginning is just so great, and J.C. Staff deserves praise for tackling the incredibly non-linear nature of the second season’s narrative. The term “emotional roller coaster” has never felt more appropriate, taking its viewers on a turbulent ride through twists and turns. I feel that everyone has to experience this particular journey at some point in their lives.
8. Shingeki no Kyojin (Production I.G.) – 8.8
The series that needs no introduction; it should be no surprise that Shingeki no Kyojin lands a spot on my top 10 anime of 2013 list. The series is a geniunely intense watch, to say the least, and I often found myself with sweaty palms during each episode (I think it takes a bit more than a few cheap tricks to pull that off). I believe that SnK’s biggest strength is the huge world that it created, which in turn has spread like wildfire around the world. The mystique of titans, the values of the military, the corruptness of the government. All of this was born within the walls of this great series.
7. Hataraku Maou-sama (White Fox) – 8.8
What struggle is greater and more eternal than that of the hero and the demon lord? Well, how about the struggle to find employment in a hard economy? No need to fret though, this series is proof that anyone can find a job in the stiff Japanese market, so long as they have magic demon powers to back it up. Hataraku Maou-sama is one part non-stop comedy, with some of the most outrageous scenarios ever, and one-part non-stop McDonald’s commerical (my diet has never been same). A great mishmash of characters coupled with everyday-ish events that actually take place outside of a high school, and we’ve got a recipe for success.
6. Kyoukai no Kanata (Kyoto Animation) – 8.9
Seeing KyoAni do action was something that I feel a lot of people were looking forward to for a while. I for one was not disappointed, as the action sequences are some of the most fluid and spectacular I’ve ever seen. The story’s definitely no slouch either. Kyoukai no Kanata throws you into a supernatural environment, forcing you to learn the rules through experience rather than having characters spell out every little thing for you. As you start to understand more about the youmu elements and the Spirit World, the story and the characters become more and more complex. Also, the idol episode is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in my life.
5. Zetsuen no Tempest (Bones) – 8.9
Speaking of good narratives, Zetsuen no Tempest boasts one of the most interesting ones I’ve seen. Taking loving cues and tropes from Shakespeare’s plays, ZnT is awfully self-aware of itself and the concept of good endings versus tragedy is discussed at length. Extravagant soliloquies are abundant, but with appropriate anime twists of course. It’s hard to comment on the writing of an anime because I simply don’t know enough Japanese, but the ability to weave meaningful quotes and Shakespearean themes into the narrative is impressive to say the least. This crossroads of cultures serves to show just how similar the two media are, as both love to indulge in melodrama, forbidden love, and death.
4. Kami Nomi zo Shiru Sekai ~Megami-hen~ (Manglobe) – 9.0
The long-awaited 3rd season to one of my favorite series, and I don’t think I was in anyway disappointed (other than the fact that it cut out quite a bit from the manga). The Goddesses Arc jumps right into the action and it almost feels like a completely different series. And yet it doesn’t because we still have the glue that holds it all together: Keima Katsuragi and his god-tier conquering skills. The large-scale conflict and focus on serious romance keep things fresh, while still retaining the great cast that makes the series special with each main character representing and poking fun at a trope. Needless to say, I love all of the characters in this series.
3. Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo (J.C. Staff) – 9.1
I love series that can mix serious elements with over-the-top comedy, and Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo is as great of an example as any. The story focuses on a fantastic cast of strong personalities all living under the same roof, maturing as they undergo the ordeals of adolescence. I can say for myself that finding a purpose in life is probably the hardest thing anyone has to do in life (I’ve yet to do it), and the struggles encountered throughout the series felt very real. Of course, let’s not forget the overabundance of cats in Sakurasou. Also, if you don’t find Mashiro and Yuuko adorable and hilarious, then you’re a goddamn asshole.
2. Suisei no Gargantia (Production I.G.) – 9.2
I’ll be honest. Mecha series typically don’t interest me in the slightest. Luckily, Suisei no Gargantia had a lot of other wonderful things to offer, namely a great atmosphere. Lush, ethnic music coupled with a beautiful lived-in world draws you into the well-written story by everyone’s favorite guy, Gen Urobuchi. Like Sakurasou, Suisei deals a lot with finding one’s place in the world as well as how to become independent and in control of one’s own destiny. Even if Suisei didn’t have a great story, I’d still wanna watch it just for the amazing world. I’d love to know what happens everyday to the residents aboard the floating colony known as Gargantia.
1. Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S (J.C. Staff) – 9.6
Was there ever any doubt? Railgun S jumped up the list of my favorite anime of all time like it was no thing. I’m not really sure what I can say that I haven’t really covered in my review, but just know that I love everything about this particular season. Even the second arc that got everyone down worked for me (mostly). Amazing animation, deep characters, and a great balance between serious plot and fun, Railgun S takes the cake for me. When the MISAKA sisters were introduced, it was pretty much game over. It would have taken a hell of a series to beat Railgun S for my top anime of 2013.
Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya (Silver Link) – 8.5
Tamako Market (Kyoto Animation) – 8.4
Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. (Brains Base) – 8.4