Check-in Station Year in Review: 2013 (Summer)
There are some anime seasons that are just good. There are seasons that are memorable. And then there are seasons that are legendary. The Spring 2006 season saw the debut of the most influential anime since Evangelion, Haruhi. On top of that, it had Higurashi, Ouran High School Host Club, Gintama and Aria! The Fall 2006 season aired the beginnings of Death Note and Code Geass, two juggernaut series at the same time! Fall 1995 saw the debut Neon Genesis Evangelion and the first Ghost in the Shell movie. And yet, I look at this Summer 2013 season and wonder – does this rank as one of the best seasons of anime ever?! It’s insane to think about how low the expectations were going into this season. My own expectations were near rock bottom. When it came to what hype I had, it was all regarding the two returning series and nothing else. Even then, Bakemonogatari‘s second sequel was getting a lot of hype from the anime community because of the mixed reactions Nisemonogatari received (I loved it). And there was no telling if Symphogear G was going to be able to live up to the hype,pacing and expectations set by the first season. But what we got this season was an ever rolling, ever growing ball of quality, memorable anime.
Summer 2013 was the little engine that could. It was the nerdy kid turned super star. Summer 2013 was the best of 2013! And I’m proving it here!
I missed a lot of good anime in Summer 2013, yet I was still very, very pleased with what debuted that season. I didn’t even get to see hits like Gatchaman Crowds, The World God Only Knows S3 or Silver Spoon. But what I did get to see was still a stellar line up of entertaining anime.
Let me start by listing off these series: Watamote, C3-bu, Servant X Service, Love Lab, Eccentric Family. You know what all three of these series have in common? For me they were all huge surprises and incredibly entertaining! My god! Five completely different series that I had no expectations for, and all of them were great! All of them knocked my socks off in some way! All of them were special in their own way! And I swear, each and everyone of these series deserve their own end-of-year post praising them. But I can’t go on forever, so I’ll just briefly give them their do here.
Watamote is a polarizing show. It’s plain to see when I talk to one person then another. I see tweets praising the show, I’ve seen tweets where people said they couldn’t put themselves through the torture of watching this show. But I think most of the time, both sides appreciate the show. It’s just a matter of one being able to tolerate what they see, and the other not wanting to feel bad while watching it. This show is an exercise in schadenfreude. If you’ve ever watched the Peanuts cartoon or strip, much of it revolves around the troubles and failures of a boy named Charlie Brown, as he generally fails at life, and is picked on by others. This is what’s going on with poor Tomoko, but with an anime/otaku twist. This show isn’t about a lot of enduring the ignorance of others, or about promoting good Christian values, or about failing and then dusting yourself off to try again. Watamote is about the failing of a girl’s personality. It’s a painful and sad tale of a very lonely girl who is so caught up in her delusions, arrogance and hobbies that she can’t function socially. It’s about not growing up fast enough, and then refusing to grow up. And we’re meant to soak this all in and enjoy it as a dark comedy.
For some this works, for others it crushes their spirit and makes them turn away. I’d say that’s powerful stuff. And what keeps some of those viewers coming back through all the pain is the familiarity of it all. The show is very “local”, very “common”, it’s relatability is very high. In each episode, you’ll find scenes that will very familiar and personal to you. It helps you laugh at the bad moments, or even feel sad at others. On top of that, the show is so creative and well directed that I couldn’t help but notice. What you would think would be the premise for an anime that was very bland and cheap to produce is actually full of thoughtfulness, detail and heart. There are episodes with special ending scenes and music. And the shows original ED theme is splendid tune that really gets me excited. It also helps that it feels kinda like a broken version of one of my favorite ED themes ever, “Vanilla Salt”. The show goes so far above and beyond my expectations and hopes, that it’s actually one of my front runners for anime of the year.
Another front-runner for anime of the year is Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 (or C3-bu for short). C3-bu is something I almost missed, but when I heard the amount of hype oozing out of Aeroblip, I decided to give the little show a shot. I honestly expected it to just be K-ON with paintball instead of “light music” (whatever the f*ck that’s supposed to mean), and I wasn’t totally wrong – until I was totally wrong!
To cut to the chase with this show, it gets quite dark and deep. And surprisingly becomes hard to watch at times because the characters can be such idiots and bad people. And by people, I can specifically mean Yura Yamato. Holy hell does she have a character arc in this show! A real character arc. She goes from sweet, naive and kinda sucky to kinda badass and cool, but a little too enthusiastic and aggressive. And from there she just starts a hard descent into being ruthless sh*tbag who wouldn’t stop to help an injured person on the ground! I honestly found points in the show where I hated her! And I even found hate to go around for other characters in the show, too. This show full of cutesy girls doing cutesy things actually got an emotional response out of me! And I think it would with most anyone watching it, too!
That said, this show wasn’t all about pissing me off. I enjoyed the attention to detail (when it was there) for some of the more enthusiast related paintball activities. The show did a good job of teaching a few things about the sport/hobby without making it seem like we were being taken aside for a lesson before hopping back in the anime. The characters very quickly went away from feeling like archetypes, and more like full-fledged characters. And the relationships between these characters were fluid and dynamic. Everyone reacted appropriately and on their own terms to a situation. I never felt like the parts where characters became friends or enemies were forced, but instead were believable results of actions taken in the story. And I haven’t even mentioned how much the OP and ED themes and animations kicked ass. In fact, the OP theme for C3-bu is PERFECT for the show! It so quickly makes you excited for the show, while adding weight to the narrative before it even begins. It’s a memorable series that I would happily recommend to ANY anime fan.
GAINAX is not dead folks! GAINAX IS NOT DEAD!
One of the least recognized shows this season or year is Servant X Service. A lot of people found the premise and the actual execution of this show to be too bland, mundane and boring. I found this show to be fun and a welcome true to life approach to an adult world. Servant X Service more or less IS MY LIFE. And guess what? Adult life isn’t all about saving the world or trying to catch up to those older than you. No one gives a sh*t about you being a prodigy. You’re in your prime and expected to perform. The excitement you get from life isn’t based on predetermined school events. The excitment from life comes from the people around you, and the events you choose to partake in. The stakes are a bit higher and scarier when it’s about you satisfying strangers and paying rent you young motherf*ckers!
*ahem* Sorry, I guess I popped off a little bit.
What recognition this series did receive was for its wonderful and creative OP animation and the crazy song that went with it. What recognition it gets from me is in the quirky and entertaining characters, and the surprising amount of attention paid to relationships, whether they be work related or very personal. And while the main conflict that starts the show and ends it is stupid, the bits of fun in between are where I got my joy.
While the characters in the show were their own mix of quirky fools that befit any comedy anime, what I liked about them was not only how they worked together (usually badly) but how they lived together. There were plenty of characters with more than one strong relationship with another character in the group or series as a whole. One example would be an veteran worker dating a temp worker who is great friends and loves making clothes for his younger sister. The drama is the usual crap involving Japanese people not being able to speak their mind, but I do like how much unsaid love their is between the brother and the sister, the real problem comes with the brother doesn’t know how to act like f*cking boyfriend.
This show has a very laid back atmosphere akin to shows like Azumanga Daioh (I do talk about this show a lot) and Working. I find this show a very easy recommendation for anyone who isn’t too interested in seeing violence (aside from the expected slapstick), and wants some easy and fun to watch.
Another easy going slapstick comedy is Love Lab, but this show places much more of its emphasis on comedy than atmosphere. I went into this show ignorantly expecting and hoping to find a yuri comedy show. Instead what I get is just a good comedy series with a mostly female cast. I can live with that! The show’s dumb, and silly and super slapstick (we even get giant paper fans). What I loved about this show was how it’s cast of completely different characters ended up coming together in unexpected ways to help each other and their fellow students.
The characters who really made this show for me were Natsuo Maki and Sayori Mizushima. Natsuo was the heart of the comedy of this show. While it was Riko Kurahashi who brought everyone together, Natsuo felt more like the show’s center. Sayori was just a good character. I initially suspected her of being a sleezy, almost evil character. But she turned out to be a great friend, and a welcome dose of intelligence to this group of idiots. I think this show would be a great early anime for newbies to the medium. It’s basic and classic comedy, and good characters make this a very easy watch.
The last show that surprised me has comedic elements, but overall I found to be the most touching of the Summer season’s five surprises.
Eccentric Family, or The Eccentric Family is Japanese as hell. It’s so Japanese that I think some Japanese people might miss some stuff. But that doesn’t mean that it’s hard to understand, or follow. It’s not an impenetrable wall of inside jokes and references. Eccentric Family is actually one of the most easy to relate to shows you can watch. All you need is an extended family and some love and animosity between its members. And who besides an orphan doesn’t have that?
This show is a mesmerizing blend of the mundane with the magical. The strange washes over the normal. And humans are just another cog in the machine of life, sitting alongside proud tengu demons and mischievous and foolish tanuki. It’s a conspicuous blend of species in a almost disturbingly intimate blend of food chain dynamics. The show is about family in every sense of the word, whether it be a nuclear one, a broken one, an extended one, an implied one amongst acquaintances or one forged through a common goal. And to top is all off, this show may manage to sneak into my annual viewing traditions of cartoons and anime thanks to its strong message and sense of morals.
Of special note are some memorable, mesmerizing and reviling characters that just don’t escape your psyche after an episode is done. My awe and enchantment born from merely viewing the beautiful Benten is only matched by the disgust I feel for Soun Ebisugawa. It’s their presence along with the show’s strong moral, heart and beautiful color design that makes me with this show had 75 more episodes.
There is no smooth transition from any anime to Symphogear G, just like there is no subtlety to this show. This series is a unique whirlwind (or some may say natural disaster) of a franchise. All the stuff that pops up in a series that would usually make you say it was terrible, only makes this show stronger! It’s almost as if there should be a fairy that pops up and slaps you whenever you ask “why” while watching this show. You shouldn’t watch Symphogear G and think about things like logic or logistics. Motivations don’t have to make sense, and there’s no amount of blood loss that is a considered lethal. All you have to focus on is just how bad everyone wants something. You have to look at these little girls and their big punches, and just soak in the violence and spectacle that the show is.
I will give the show proper credit for one-upping its predecessor. The show was more intense; with a cliffhanger almost every episode. It was more violent; one of the main characters had her arm ripped off and eaten! It was more stupid; Dr. Ver was a total sh*tball a-hole the entire series and they never give any decent reason why. They just site that he’s power mad and arrogant as hell. The only disappointment I had was that the ending was as awesome as the originals, and that Maria Cadenzavuna Eve turned out to be a total disappointment as a character.
If I were to recommend this show to anyone, I would do it so fans of shounen battle anime/manga, fans of mahou shoujo who like the newer more raw style of the genre has taken in the last decade and don’t mind how extreme this goes, and the insane. This show is an easy watch, but that’s only because it’s so brain dead and fun at the same time. But I do appreciate the unique and intense style it brings to the mahou shoujo genre.
The final series I watched and completed this season was the stellar Monogatari S2. There are so many words I have for this series. And that is because it drew out so many emotions from me. I love Bakemonogatari, and I fear that I may have to move one of my favorite shows off my super secret Top 10 list for that series. But in many ways, Monogatari S2 may be even better than that first series. It gets so much right, and even ups Bakemonogatari by making its weakest characters have some of the best most intimate moments of the series.
We’re given deep, intimate, painful looks into the pasts and psyches of four very important characters, Shinobu, Nadeko Sengoku, Mayoi Hachikuji and Kaiki. Even the faux oddity White Hanekawa gets some amazing moments of clarity. The show doesn’t revolve around Koyomi anymore, nor his irritating need to be a hero all the time. Instead, this series brilliantly forces its side characters and “princesses” to face their own problems with their own strength of will in a much more empowering way.
The show is so much darker as well. More than once, we’re told that a certain character is unable to be saved, even with the extreme lengths Koyomi goes to save her. Shinobu’s past is a sick and tragic one that is made of such detail of such grand scale that it makes you wonder if its a myth, even in the context of the show. We see Tsubasa run headlong into her hangups and desire to be with Koyomi, only to see an utterly heartbreaking moment at the end. Nadeko Sengoku, almost unanimously described as the show’s weakest character, actually hijacks this entire series! We see her utterly broken down and destroyed by every element available in the show, only to see her reach the greatest of heights attainable in this series. I swear, I see moments from Nadeko in this arc that make me want to go back to her scenes in Bakemonogatari and Nisemonogatari with a fine-toothed comb. Her break down in this series is the stuff of legend!
And then there’s Kaiki.
If this Summer season is known for its surprising quality of series, then it should also be known for Kaiki who is hands down this seasons biggest surprise character. He’s remembered very well from his moments in Nisemonogatari. He’s a force almost totally in juxtaposition to Koyomi’s existence. Plus his mysteriously intimate relationship with Senjougahara and her past has left a nasty and bitter taste in the mouth of the lovely couple. And that’s not even mentioning all the horrible crap he pulled on the kids of the town, conning them into buying crap that only ruined their lives. And yet by the end of Monogatari S2, he surpasses even Nadeko as the its best character. He is the hero, the savior, the X-Factor needed to ensure that another season of this show could even be made. There is so much depth to his character and back story that its a shame that we’ll likely never see him in the franchise again.
Moving on to other endeavors, I did give a shot to Blood Lad (two whole episodes), but I quickly found out that its terrible color palette and the prospect of picking up another quirky shounen battle show wasn’t to my tastes. Plus, I have a strong hatred of most shows featuring vampires in anime. It’s something I developed over time.
When it came to legacy series, I did give two episodes of the infamous Sword Art Online a shot. It’s gained the reputation of being the most polarizing show this decade, which makes me anxious to pick it up again and finish. For so many people to hate the series, they must have loved it at some point. And I really, really did like what I saw when I originally did see it. Also let me say again that you CAN compare this show to .hack//SIGN. The premise is very similar, so don’t bullsh*t me.
The one movie I watched this season was Ghost in the Shell: ARISE. And I was not disappointed. It turned out to be damn good, and doesn’t disappoint this fan of the TV series at all. I will be happily watching the second movie in this series of movies soon.
The only other project I worked on during the summer was my updated list of the hottest chicks in anime, my update to the harem hall of fame, and I went to see Pacific Rim in IMAX 3D. That kicked ass and left me with tears of joy and pride on my face, and in my heart by the time it was done.
My oh my. What a fun season summer was.
Summer 2013 Recap
- Blood Lad
- Love Lab
- Uchouten Kazoku (Eccentric Family)
- Servant X Service
- Symphogear G
- Monogatari S2
Legacy Series Watched
- Sword Art Online
Finished Series and Movies not from this Season
- Ghost in the Shell: ARISE
End of Year Nominations:
Episode of the Year
- Monogatari S2 ep15
- Monogatari S2 ep20
- Monogatari S2 ep26
- Uchouten Kazoku ep6
- C3-bu ep4
- Watamote ep8
- Symphogear G ep5
Character of the Year
- Yutaka Hasebe & Chihaya Megumi (Servant X Service)
- Yura Yamato (C3-bu)
- Benten (Uchouten Kazoku)
- Kaiki (Monogatari S2)
- Sayori Mizushima (Love Lab)
- Dr. Ver (Symphogear G)
Anime of the Year
- Monogatari S2
- Uchouten Kazoku
Worst Anime of the Year
Worst Character of the Year
- Soun Ebisugawa (Uchouten Kazoku)
- Sonora Kashima (C3-bu)
- Professor Nastassja (Symphogear G)
- Maria Cadenzavuna Eve (Symphogear G)