By James Robert Shaw (The Wind up Geek)
I’m an old otaku. That’s not measured in age but in taste. I’m from the generation when Gundam 0083, Gunbuster, Ranma ½ and Kimagure Orange Road reigned supreme [Yes folks, James is that antiquated – Ed]. The North American version of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (Battle of the Planets) started my love for anime and eventually, all things Japanese. But in early 2002, I felt disenfranchised with what televised anime offered. I was seeing more series emphasizing fan service over creating a good story.
I walked away without a tear shed for a genre I loved for decades. During that time, I made disparaging remarks about anime. The relationship was over and I was bitter, until 2013 when something rekindled my interest. “I’ll give it another chance,” I said. At first it looked as though things hadn’t changed but I searched deep and the reward was worth it.
Here is my list of anime favourites from 2013. I’m hoping the upcoming 2014 products will be just as bright.
Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club
Plot: Three friends relive their earlier glories by creating a swim club. With a new recruit they compete in a swim tournament.
The Good: The strong friendship between the original three is established early in the series.
The Weird: This is female fan service to the extreme. High school boys wearing speedos are the norm. They even have washboard abdomens. Guys, I’m serious. If you’re in a house with non-anime fans (wife, kids, etc), you may feel less than masculine after being caught watching an episode of this series.
The Wonderful: The story is very well written. The rivalry with former friend and swim team member, Rin, is what pushes the plot forward.
Plot: Three sisters, descendants of Galileo must put aside their differences and fight a mysterious powerful organization determined to claim Galileo’s inheritance.
The Good: Set in 2061, global warming is no more but a second ice age has set in. Alternative fuels are used for new technology.
The Weird: A goldfish is the ship’s AI on Galileo. Even weirder, the ship is a goldfish.
The Wonderful: It has a steampunk feel to it.
(The Devil is a Part-Timer!)
Plot: The lord of all that is evil, King Sadao, is defeated in his realm by the Hero Emilia. Sadao escapes through a portal with his second in command and arrives in Japan. With no magical abilities to aid him and that he magically changed to look like every other human, he must rely on his instincts to survive.
The Good: It’s funny to watch a supremely evil being resolving day-to-day problems by taking a part-time job.
The Weird: Why did the script writers jump the first couple of months of Sadao’s landing and then refer back to their first months in verbal recollections?
The Wonderful: I wonder the same as the Hero Emilia, is Sadao truly changing for the better or is that a front. I also wonder if Emilia is falling for her arch-enemy. The chemistry amongst the characters is familiar, like that from Ranma½. More please!
Plot: Elder Tales is a popular online fantasy RPG. After its most recent gaming patch, 30, 000 Japanese players are trapped online.
The Good: This isn’t Sword Art Online. Its a lighter series that doesn’t demand too much emotionally from the viewers.
The Weird: Naotsugu’s thoughts on women.
The Wonderful: Though not as serious, the characters involve you in the story arc. You almost wish you were trapped in the game and fighting alongside them. Don’t worry Shiroe, I have your back!
Non Non Biyori
Plot: Five children living in the countryside village of Asahioka. Each of them learning at a different grade level in one classroom at the village’s only school.
The Good: The writing of Atto, most of the humour is derived from the character development.
The Weird: Renge Miyauchi – when she says “non” after sentences.
The Wonderful: The series works. I watch the stories because of the characters. Please make more!
Plot: Future Japan, crime is judge by the Sibyl System which measures one’s state of mind in units called a “Psycho-Pass.”
The Good: Police detectives who are no longer of a “clear hue” (peaceful mind) are stripped of their authority and are then relegated to the ranks of a Enforcer, similar to a human K-9.
The Weird: Future Japan looks similar to Neo Tokyo from Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 film, Akira. Japan is so screwed.
The Wonderful: The series is dark and gritty. The Characters have layers to them. It seems almost everyone has a secret to hide.
Suisei no Gargantia
(Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet)
Plot: An interstellar mech pilot from a galactic war slips through a space-time vortex and ends up on an unknown planet.
The Good: You’re kept guessing at the planet the pilot is stranded on.
The Weird: There is a strong environmental message but it’s the deviation from the gentle story into scenes of shock, by storyboarder Tomohiro Hirata, that is used most effectively to get that message across.
The Wonderful: In the end you feel as though the series has rewarded you. There is still so much more to explore that at least a second series is needed.