Apr 01

Best of Winter 2013

My expression after this season…

The Winter season of anime has never exactly been a hotbed for quality shows, but boy, trying to pick a top five out of this year’s crop was… a challenge, to say the least.

Its not even that everything was especially bad, just… average. Probably didn’t help that half the season was either shorts of sequels to bland slice of life shows. Genericness abounded everywhere, as you’ll see when I struggle to remain overtly positive even about some of the stuff that made this list…

Anyway, hit the jump to see my favourite shows from the season just gone, for better or for worse.

With a name like that, this is probably some crappy slice of life show. That’s what I thought going in. Then I saw the first ten minutes and jesus. Kotoura is a psychic, able to read the minds of others from birth. Which makes her wonder why everybody lies all the time. Blurting out people’s innermost secrets makes her unpopular everywhere she goes, as all her friends and even her family abandon her, because everybody knows humanity hates the truth. The halfway point of the show has her going into breakdown. And that’s where I should’ve stopped watching.

Because then the opening plays, an upbeat fluffy piece completely at odds with what you’ve just seen and Manabe enters. Credit where its due, the first time they use fanservice in this show its actually done smartly with a purpose. But then the episodes roll on and it becomes painfully clear all the initial promise of this show won’t be followed up, as the ESP club goes on mundane activites with little point in the long run other than going “Kotoura has friends now, isn’t that amazing!”.

The last couple of episodes did try to resolve some issues and plotpoints, but it was too little, too late and even then they fell flat. Predictable, bland and lacking any real direction, this was by far the disappointment of the season.

What’s that? How did it end up on this list? As I said, this was a season of medicority, and those first ten minutes were all it took to make something stand out.

My first reaction to the OP of this show was that my ears were in physical pain. This was another bittersweet thing to watch. Utilising a Spice and Wolf esque story of telling a story about economics, the show focuses around the Hero of humanity and the Demon Queen joining forces to bring an end to war, famine and other problems plauging both their species. And it starts off dandy, talknig about improving harvests and educating others to spread this knowledge.

And then the shows seems to remember it only has 12 episodes to get its story across in so hammers the fast foward button, the pacing leaping onwards in its quest to get to the end, jumping from location to location, months passing in the blink of an eye. Before watching the last episode I assumed this was a 13 episode season, and it wasn’t until I saw “Fin” that I knew otherwise.

Its a shame too, as some of the cast are interesting to watch but get next to no screentime, the story has a really weak resolution, with a massive amount of stuff left unresolved, some of the plot points and conflicts feel really forced and… argh. The first episode had me hopeful of something great, but it shot itself in the foot time and time again afterwards. As I said, bittersweet to watch, as this by rights should’ve been so much better.

What is it with these insanely long titles for shows? Anyway, Mondaijitachi. Taking place in Little Garden, a world to which others with various powers of various descriptions are teleported to so they can escape their boring lives and play games with other power weilders. The games can be anything you like, for anything you like, from a game of chess to a duel to the death.

That premise sounded great to me, and the leading cast seemed cool too, a girl who essentially had Lelouch’s Geass power, another girl who could talk with any kind of animal and gain their abilities, and a guy with superhuman strength and speed. I assume. They never really explain his power, and to be honest, as the show went on he got annoying to watch as he was portrayed as totally and utterly unbeatable.

And therein lied one of the problems of the show. You never really felt like the cast were in danger. Even as they risked their lives to help resurrect the “No Names” clan to their former glory they were screwed out of, you never felt like they were backed into a corner, despite the finalés best efforts. It was enjoyable enough to watch, and the characters helped raise it above medicority, but I wish they’d done more with what they had, even if they only had 10 episodes to work with.

An idol show, at number two? No, I’ve not gone insane or succumbed to kawaii, this was just surprisingly good. In order to save their school from closing for future generations, a bunch of girls form a school idol club because what better way is there to gain popularity.

And being a music centric show, it does the ingenious thing of putting the focus on the music, and the girls working their butts off to become popular. Its far from an easy journey to the top, they go through numerous hardships and failures, and in the end they don’t become the best there ever was, but the show always seems to remember its about the journey, not just the goal.

The animation isn’t anything special, and the 3D CG segments that appear in ever idol show look as weird and out of place as ever, but the songs are quite catchy and don’t let up. If you’ve been wanting a music fix, this show’ll be right up your alley.

Let me preface this by saying I have never watched the original Zettai Karen Children. Hell, pretty much nobody bothered subbing this, and it was the last show I watched when viewing all episode 1s of shows. I had no expectations whatsoever. And then it turned out to be pretty damn good.

Revolving around Hyobu Kysouke, the antagonist of the original series, this spinoff looks into his life and actions, as he tries to save the espers of the world from the prejudice and punishment they are subjected to by normals. Shown from the perspective of undercover agent Andy Hinomiya whom Hyobu saves from esper prison, the show asks some interesting questions about how fair and just the treatment they get given by the populace is, and whether Hyobu’s methods of saving his kin are the right way to go.

Throw in some badass psychic battles, a nice sidecast even if they don’t get much time to develop, probably a boatload of references to the original show and some nice animation, and you’ve got a solid show. The ending was a mild disappointment after the rest of the show, but not enough to put any big damper on it. Not a must watch, but if you’ve got some spare time and want to pick up a short series from this season gone, this is your best bet.

Gainax is dead. Long live Gainax 2.0. Long live Trigger.

And we’re done. For those wondering where comedies like Senyuu and Mangirl are, they fell flat after a few episodes when they ran out of jokes. Now to hope that the Spring season makes up for this one. Attack on Titan and Flower of Evil sound great, and I’ll be watching the second seasons of Railgun (because I love Railgun) and Oreimo (because I love taking the piss out of crap shows), so next time see my thoughts on those and most of the other stuff airing in Spring.