Hiroi Sekai
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Here's to You, Readers! Chroma's Massive 2013 Special!


As we go through another year of our precious lives, we come out with more knowledge and much more experience. We also hopefully emerge with a set of new series watched, and maybe find some new potentials to explore as well. Along that line, I thought I would share my 2013 anime year with you, hopefully you find something new!



 
 

I quickly fell in love with the first season of Chihayafuru. Diving rather quickly (but effectively deeply) into a backstory that threw heroine Chihaya into the world of competitive karuta, the strategic game of poetry and reflexes slowly took on a whole new level. It drew me in quickly with its incredible soundtrack, high-tension competitions and slower-paced characterizations.

Season 2 only got better for me. With higher stakes, rematches with legendary opponents, reunites with established characters and more, what was already good only continued to grow and grow. It's really hard to accurately describe how well the elements blend together, but it all just clicks into place for me. This one is one of my keepers, without doubt.

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Man, the first 5 minutes of Kotoura-san was absolutely savage. If a series opts to try and fill the "break the cutie" trope, they at least try to establish who the character is with a few episodes first. Instead, titular protagonist Kotoura appears, has her childhood absolutely ripped apart, then begins to patch up for her future.

The problem for me was that these first few minutes were way too potent. I was holding my head in absolute shock, then this ridiculously high-paced and goofy opening by Nakajima Megumi started playing and this whole plot line took a backseat. I'm not trying to say I would have wanted an entire 12 episodes of Kotoura residing in this suffering state, but the contrast between the two ends of the spectrum was so sharp, the 10 episodes in between were just mundane for me. I'd actually be interested in hearing what other people think of the actual slice-of-life portions of the series, sound off in the comments!

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The idol world is indescribably gargantuan in Asia. After checking out and enjoying the world of THE iDOLM@STER, I stumbled across a music video promo for Love Live! on YouTube years later.

It was kinda weird, not gonna lie. THE iDOLM@STER stuck to traditional 2D traditional animations with a bit of clever camera movements to dynamically showcase their performances. With this series, the characters within the performances themselves were animated in a strange 2D/3D hybrid that I couldn't get used to. Moving past that, I found Love Live! School Idol Project an easygoing, but not super special experience. The characters were varied enough and had big, goofy and amusing expressions, and they had a rather linear goal they worked towards. For something with a large collection of notable music and a vibrant palette of fun-loving characters, this is definitely not a bad watch.

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The Minami family makes a triumphant return with their long overdue fourth season, and I couldn't have enjoyed it more.

If you haven't seen Minami-ke before, it features a three-sister family and their friends within the different grade levels of their school. The unity in the sisters' similarities and unique qualities shines through in every season, but it was widely opinionated that seasons "Okawari" and "Okaeri" had vastly different looks that were worse than the original. Nobody's saying anything now, as "Tadaima" gave us animation quality that almost everyone seemed to agree on. I enjoyed it a lot too. Not to mention, the show's funnier than ever! I hope this is not the end of Minami-ke, may they live on.

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If fantasy's your name, this series might just be your game. When a group of special power individuals are thrust into an alternate world with an opportunity to sprinkle some excitement into their mundane lives, there's bound to be something interesting to witness in the following events. The catch? This series is only 10 episodes long.

Regardless of its strange runtime, this series was a gave me an enjoyable experience. The protagonists are all actually likeable in one way or another, and the world they're placed in is vivid and imaginative. Ultimately, the characters will have to rise above the rest to defeat a demonic threat that threatens this new world. But you know? Even that endearing adventure pales in comparison to the infinitely amusing ending animation. Man, I love watching them dance.

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If I had to describe what exactly drew me to this series in just two words, they would be "colour palette". The character designs just burst with a vast array of fruit flavours, and I wanted to watch it just to see how they blended with their backgrounds, story and characters be damned.

Well, I sort of got my wish, because I really did not like the story or the characters, but I certainly enjoyed watching the colours blend. For me, the "romance" of the show felt empty, revolving around clichéd characters and story elements. Toss in some less-than-subtle and meaningless fanservice and you've personally lost me. However, I'd still check out the first few episodes to see if you enjoy the presentation.

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Sasami-san will do her absolute best...starting tomorrow. Until then, she will reside within her cushy abode, as the whole world turns into madness around her.

The show was very clearly animated by Studio Shaft, incorporating their usual -70º head tilts, wacky backgrounds and oft-bizarre dialogue choices. Sasami-san@Ganbarai does swap out a lot of the waxing poetic moments for some more cuddly and direct speech, making it feel a bit more like the cast is a tight-knit family. Sasami herself is played to a sweet degree by Asumi Kana, but as usual, it's Hanazawa Kana and her absolutely adorable yawning onomatopoeia that won me over.

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"Everybody loves somebody". Tamako Market needs to be installed into every peacemaking campaign in existence, as we'd never have another reason to fight again.

Everything about this damn series was way too lovable. Tamako is simply darling, her family is filled with mochi-loving fanatics, and everyone else in Tamako's little market and school all have their own quirks that make them sublime. Going back to the tagline of the series, everyone truly does exert love in the show, from wearing hearts on their clothing to spending day and night building their affection for right angles; it's really hard to not enjoy something so innocent. I loved every single moment of it, especially the gorgeous ending theme.

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No, those are not gym shorts, those are the actual school uniforms. From the creator of Strike WitchesVividred Operation featured girls flying around in mechanized suits while still somehow sporting ridiculously short shorts.

But underneath all of the thin layers of lycra was just a bit of classic fun and drama. It felt like nothing really special for me, but watching this group of girls come together and fight off threats to their city in explosively colourful bursts was just plain fun. Once again, the palette was what drew me in, but I really did enjoy this one a lot more than Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru. Little warning though: if cameras with orbits around plump butts is an annoyance to you, there is quite a lot of that in this.

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Climb, little ones! Ascend to a place you once thought you couldn't. Yama no Susume showcases the adventures of two classmates who take up the hobby of mountain hiking. The problem is, one of them is deathly afraid of heights.

The show is a weekly short, lasting about a fifth of what a regular show does in runtime. However, with its lighthearted nature and charming visuals, it does a good job of setting a fun pace that actually gives it some volume. At the end of every trek, we also got an ending theme from Tom-H@ck, which most reflected his works from K-ON!. Short but sweet, I liked the entire package.

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With the P.A. Works badge stamped to this production, I immediately jumped on board for this short little atmospheric series. It all started off with bits of intrigue like a gorgeous shrine environment with a maiden that had the unique curse of destroying any piece of electronics she came across. Now, she's heading into a public school, watched over by a guardian who doesn't seem to be too fond of her.

There were a lot of interesting potentials for me from the very start. I actually wanted everything to fall into place and to see just what paths they would take this walking EMP curse to. However, it all kind of changes by the middle, and in my eyes, it kind of even dumped its Red Data Girl namesake. There's a blooming romance between lead maiden Suzuhara and her brooding guardian, and to me it felt really forced. The curse is not really addressed much, and just seemed like the story lost its way. I wouldn't watch it again personally, but maybe the setting and beautiful visuals might offer more for you.

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If I was the lord of darkness, I could see nothing closer to hell than having to work in a McDonald's ripoff. Well, that's exactly what he has to do in this series, and it's downright hilarious.

An alternate world shows us a devastating battle between the dark lord Satan and the great hero Emilia, eventually forcing the evildoer to retreat into a portal that leads to the human world. Alongside his loyal general, these two symbols of all things bad must find a place to rent, build a budget to buy necessities, and best of all, find jobs. The show did a wonderful job with its comedy for me, and there were plenty of scenes where I either laughed straight out at the presented jokes, or just the overall irony of the situations. To top it off, it features a pretty dang stellar cast to set the ridiculous stage in motion.

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Man, I miss Amagami SS. After my own experience with Photokano, it kind of spent the entire show constantly reminding me of why I liked Amagami SS that much more.

This show did not appease me visually. Character designs struck me in a range from okay to downright proportionally ludicrous, making the harem/romance element already difficult to grasp onto. Tack onto that a creepy attachment to the DSLR camera, planting the protagonist as cameraman for high school girls who hop about in consistently skimpier outfits. There's even a whole slew of disturbances around the protagonist's little sister, like when she hops on him in a bathing suit while soaking wet, only to have him slurp up the water she left on his face afterwards. I still get shivers.

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After everything that's been said about this season of Ore no Imoto ga Konnani Kawai Wake ga Nai, I look back to it all and still get overridden with those vibrant memories of it.

It's just such a strange premise to think about. One day, Kyosuke defends his insanely tsundere little sister from their overly traditional father. The reason? Sister Kirino may be the family jewel as a model, sports star and academic queen, but she is also a major closet otaku for imoto dating sims. The show revolves around Kyosuke getting pulled into this world against his will, and all of the crazy people he meets along the way. All I can say is, season two was just as strangely enjoyable. It utilizes scenarios that are just pure madness, but still somehow can relate to any person. Every single person has secrets. Every single person has obsessions. Every single person wants to relate to someone for those secret obsessions. The ending to this show truly crosses a boundary that most series cannot begin to dare crossing, and even with that fan-splitting caveat, it lives on in our hearts in some way. I think no matter what you've heard, it's a series worth watching.

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There's an attack on humanity, and it's up to humanity itself to decide if it wants to band together to fight the threat, or to crumble under the pressure and fight themselves. This is a series that a majority of seasonal viewers will have already started watching, but it's worth mentioning all the same.

The series did a fantastic job throwing me right into its rich atmosphere. A dreary, yet somehow still inviting city drenched in brown is quickly filled with the differing personalities of our three main protagonists. They live a life of falsified prosperity, until gargantuan monsters break through their fortified walls and begin to slaughter everyone. The show utilizes some really dynamic action scenes with some great twists and turns, all to an unforgettable soundtrack. Like most, it's been a real joy to watch for me.

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"Cuties" is right. After a prior season where the animation quality seemed to take a rather strange turn, this one reimagined the character designs into a simpler, more traditional look. It seems like the fans were definitely more appreciative of this one.

The balance of comedy with light drama felt much healthier this time around. With the original two seasons of Hayate no Gotoku! being much more comedy based, then having their following season focus on more serious moments, it feels like the series finally hit a nice point in the middle with this season. It once again brightened up the colour palette as well, which gets an instant thumbs up from me at the least.

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This one felt like Yuru Yuri Lite to me, but that still put a big goofy grin on my face. The series features three girls of differing personalities, spending their extra-curricular time in a tiny cramped clubroom talking about random things. It's hard to accurately describe exactly what it is they focus on for each episode, since a lot of the time, Yuyushiki has its heroines looking up the most bizarre things on Google- I'm talking literally anything that just pops into their heads.

Some of the jokes didn't work for me. I think the charm I felt came from seeing the girls enjoy themselves so much, regardless of if what they were talking about was ridiculous or not. This series reinforced to me that you don't need to always be laugh-out-loud funny to be enjoyable. Sometimes, watching a quirky cast enjoy life is more than sufficient.

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By the divine power of crabs, let this goofy series receive the blessings of a second season. As short and as simple Aiura is, I had a blast watching it week after week.

Yes, the series is only a couple minutes long and yet again features three girls going to school. What made this more enjoyable than Yuyushiki for me was how much closer the characters felt as a leading cast. By no means did Yuyushiki accomplish this poorly, but Aiura just did it better for me. The watercolour backdrops were gorgeous to look at, and I'm already getting a smile thinking back to the playful Kanako's antics. The whole show is about the length of a normal anime episode, so it could definitely be a good pick up series to check out.

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I really, really wanted to like you. I mean, just look at how freaking adorable the character designs are.

Things even started out relatively interesting for me, with an energetic young girl losing almost all of her emotions thanks to a stony cat statue with mystical powers. On the opposite end of this curse is our protagonist, who now can't help but blurt out his perverted thoughts at school. As the two try to reclaim their normal lives back, the show just drifted more and more towards highlighting awkward fanservice scenes to play up the protagonist's pervy nature. For me, I could only take so much. It hurt even more because there were genuinely cute moments in between that could have had much more focus.

If anything, definitely check out the original artist Kantoku's works. His character designs are absolutely adorable.

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As much a story about a mother as it is about the coming-of-age of her eccentric daughter, Hanasaku Iroha: Home Sweet Home was an incredible experience for me.

Let's quickly look back to Hanasaku Iroha, the P.A. Works series that featured the hardships of Matsumae Ohana, a girl who was basically dumped into work at a traditional Japanese inn by her runaway mother. Forced to work up to her grandmother's very high standards, the series took you through Ohana's own emotional turmoils and triumphs. It's still an unbelievable series in my eyes. I could not have asked for anything more, but this movie does it by giving a hearty backstory to Ohana's mother in her teenage years, leading up to the difficulties she faced before and when she had her adorable daughter. The movie doesn't stop there though, giving more depth to side characters and providing greater relevance to their appearances in the original series. This is a movie I'll be rewatching for a very, very long time.

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Divergence meter, unknown. Yet again, we're getting a movie that provides some additional layering to its original series. Unlike Hanasaku Iroha: Home Sweet Home however, this is a movie that I could be okay with never existing in the first place.

Does that mean it's bad? No way. Steins;Gate had such a robust cast with a rich storyline that establishing something new within it can only serve to be exhilarating. I suppose the problem I have with this movie is that it's an altercation of the existing story, meaning that it doesn't really end up adding much to the overall plot in my eyes. There's a really nice focus on deepening the bond between mad scientist protagonist Okabe and genius girl Kurisu, but once again, this was established with great tenacity in the original series. When it boils down to it, this film is fun if you want some new content within the Steins;Gate universe, but it may not add the divergence that you may be looking for.

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Within a dew-dropped garden, a shoemaking student and a teacher meet. Both individuals trudge through life with their own faults and complications, but within this garden, it matters not, for this is sacred area of exchange.

This is a gorgeous looking piece of cinema by famed director Shinkai Makoto, who I had the honour of meeting this year. He was a very humble man, and his retort against everyone calling him "the next Miyazaki" definitely stuck to his public demeanour. As humble and well-spoken as he is, you can always feel the love he puts into his works, and Kotonoha no Niwa is no exception. For me, it was a very heartwarming experience.

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If the image above doesn't encapsulate every piece of goodness within the world of photography, I don't know what does. Your best friends, your precious family members, a breathtaking landscape, and that lovable bit of lens glare. It even showcases the one problem you always face, you often forget to put yourself in the photo!

Tamayura was a cuddly little calming series about a group of friends and their school lives together. In the center of this pile of companions is Potte, a tiny girl with a love for her camera. At times the series can feel quite slow, because that's exactly how it was intended to be. As a small caveat of its style, it needed to be watched when I was bright and awake, not anytime else. When I did however, I grew to adore its ties to photography and bonding. This season only continues to move it forward in the right direction.

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Certainly an odd release from the famed Kyoto Animation. Almost completely devoid of their usual bright-eyed cuddly girls, Free! is bursting at the seams with testosterone. I don't even think Michael Phelps is this ripped.

KyoAni doesn't give up that high school setting and friendship element though. From a young age, Haruka loved to swim, and his affiliation with water turned into an obsession of sorts into high school. Despite what everyone says, he swims for his own personal zen. Haruka is not the only character who has a feminine sounding name. Everyone else in this explosive-muscle club has names like Makoto, Rin, Nagisa and Rei. Parodies of tropes aside, Free! did provide me with a decent start-to-end story of bonding, exhilarating swimming races, and intensive soundtrack pieces. It's hard for me to say if you'd enjoy it or not, but at the very least, I say don't let the homophobes drive you away from it.

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Does the thrill of running through ferocious terrains while trying to hunt down your opponents with a high-powered airsoft gun sound exhilarating to you? That's almost exactly what this series is about.

Having been sent to an absolutely princess-like castle of a school, timid Yura settles into her new room, only to stumble across a replica Skorpion airsoft gun amongst her roommate's possessions. It's not long before Yura is shown the world of airsoft: a treacherous and high-octane war in an attempt to shoot, or be shot. It gripped me quickly with really jazzy background music with some really creatively fun airsoft battles, and as Yura slowly gets lost in this new polarizing world, I was excited to see her excitement towards the game grow.

The series sort of lost me towards the end. There's a very potentially intriguing psyche profiling of Yura as the series grows and she loses her own self within the sport, but it felt just a little too oncoming and bitter for me. There's some great placeholders for her reasoning, but the changes she goes through aren't that of a newfound maniac, it's those of a mentally unstable person. It's a bit shocking to watch, and it left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. It's sad, because I still think there's a lot in here for people to enjoy.

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Speaking of battles of intensity, how about one against your will? How about one where losing equates to death?

Danganronpa: Kibo no Gakuen to Zetsubo no Kokosei – The Animation is a ridiculously long title. It also has a bizarre art style that I can't say I've seen outside of Studio Lerche's works. This massive cast of widely varied characters find themselves admitted to a prestigious school, then waking up that locked school, forced to kill each other without getting caught. Kind of like the game it's based off of, this series shows you the scenes of the crimes and has you try to figure out who committed the murders and how. Unlike the game however, it doesn't move at your own pace. Through no fault of the anime, I find this to be a major caveat of shows like this. It's still an interesting watch, but having played the game myself, I would recommend checking that out if you like the premise.

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I find your lack of laboratories...disturbing. Love Lab actually focuses on a school club that is eventually tasked with helping their entire prestigious campus with romance-related questions. When did the idea for this club blossom? I'll let you find out for yourself.

I'll say this though, it's a pretty ridiculous scenario. Let's just say that two wildly different personalities came face-to-face under some rather bizarre circumstances. The varied, yet still fun characters of the series does give it some charm, and the setting being an all-girls school filled with attendees who are lovestruck with the main character is pretty amusing. While the jokes weren't always laugh-out-loud funny for me, I had a good time watching the antics of this strange club every week.

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If you haven't seen it before, Working!! was a series that set itself within a family restaurant and featured a quirky staff cast. Utilizing comedy, slice-of-life and even a little bit of romance, it played all of the right cards for me. Years later, Servant x Service gives us a very similar premise, this time working inside of a government approvals facility.

It all sounds pretty normal, right? How about if your manager was a talking stuffed rabbit plushy? Yeah. It's pretty clear the cast all has their irregularities, but the show does a great job somehow making them all seem like plausibly normal people as well. Work drives you a little crazy sometimes, we all know that feeling. We all can relate when you're caught in what appears to be a neverending chat with an elderly customer (god bless them) asking for every minute detail about how things work or telling one of their usually interesting stories. It's a show we can all relate to in some way.

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Ever wonder what diabetes would visually spew in your direction? I'd imagine it'd be akin to what Kiniro Mosaic presents. Every single damn thing in this show is sweet, sweet, sweet.

The series gives a good chunk of its opening segment to an "English" (not even close, fellas), blond haired girl named Alice and her homestay from Japan, Shinobu. In a pretty amusing reversed obsession scenario, Shinobu becomes obsessed with England during her stay. Still, they fit in Alice falling in love with Japanese culture as well, and she eventually treks overseas to reunite with Shinobu. This is when we see all of Shinobu's charming friends, including Aya, the most adorable lesbian-in-denial you'll see for a while. But at the end of the day, the show stealer by far is Karen, Alice's comrade-in-arms voiced perfectly by Toyama Nao. Every moment with her on screen is pure bliss for me. Dare I say, it's golden.

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Is anyone confused with the naming scheme yet? We had BakemonogatariNisemonogatariNekomonogatarithen Monogatari Series: Second Season. Is this Final Fantasy or something?

All jokes aside, the Monogatari series has become a pretty big hit in the anime community. In my eyes, it's where a lot of people got their first, or at least earliest exposures to Studio Shaft's flashy cutaways, multi-layered backgrounds and spine-tinglingly painful neck tilts. Underneath all of that, it's a romp through the mad world of personified monsters, birthed from curses set upon our characters' own trait deficiencies. Bakemonogatari still holds a solid foundation in my eyes, providing a good balance of characterization, creative curses and extravagant visuals through combating these monsters. As some of you may have read, I thought Nisemonogatari piled on way too much of the fanservice and lost itself along the way. This is why this season's decently solid return to what made it pop for me was worthy of thanks.

Alas, all good things grow tired when they don't move forward as they expand. Something about the Monogatari series is now tiring to me. Every time they talk about another movie or series upcoming, I picture sitting through more of the exact same vocal tones in conversations. I picture seeing the same ludicrous stacks of books or red summer skies as backdrops. I feel the same cutaways, the same in-jokes about molesting, the same way character lean back 170º to look at someone instead of turning their body around. I personally just need a break from it all. However, I would not even begin to wonder why someone else may be just as excited as ever for its next iteration and its bizarre stories.

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Both seasons 2 and 3 aired this year, but at the pace these episodes fly, we could have completed 4, 5, 6, and 7 within the year. They're holdin' back on us, man!

For those of you still residing on Planet Earth within the confines of sanity, Tekyu is a tennis seri...no it's not. It's a series about a group of girls being in a tennis club, but spending their entire lives failing miserably at trying to replicate what normal humans do. If you were a bizarre alien race visiting Earth, I would try and befriend these girls first. They are absolutely mental. Eating a ping pong paddle as if it were a rice cracker? Playing a tennis video game on the tennis court? Mowing down a baseball team with Apache copters after a rigged baseball game? Daily activities for these people, and that's just a taste of the madness. If you can appreciate some blazingly fast and mindless fun, this is definitely a series to check out.

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Basically meaning, the goddess arc. Kami Nomi zo Shiru Sekai put the harem genre in a pretty fun light for me, giving us a really solid cast of heroines portrayed by a very solid cast of seiyu. It was a series that I enjoyed a decent bit, having been somewhat personally bored of harem-like series for a while beforehand.

Megami-hen introduced something new, all while keeping the same cast we're familiar with and allowing them to develop even further. The gimmick this season is that the original heroines play host to goddesses who act as their occasional alter egos. Just like before, gamer Keima has to win over their hearts, but this time he's pressured with an opposing force, working hard to destroy the goddesses before he can get to them. The gimmick worked pretty well for me, and it refreshed the concept enough to make me re-appreciate these characters we were building. Lots of good fun, but of course, check out the first season to see if the show tickles your fancy.

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We all know that one person in our school. The one who has transcended the world of humans and entered their own little world of living life however they damn well please, no matter the social rejection. Kuroki is that character, and a show about her life was just plain amusing and cringeworthy to witness.

I almost want to make analogy of knowingly getting on a rollercoaster that is guaranteed to crash and burn, but it's a lot more like letting one of your friends get on that rollercoaster instead, spending the next few minutes genuinely concerned with a slight sick taste of anticipation for what inevitably happens. We've all been Tomoko's shoes somewhere in life, having phases of social awkwardness that we fill with our own personal quirks. We've done those embarrassing things and had someone close to you find out. No matter just how cringe-worthingly awkward it is to get such an upfront seat to a socially inept life, but the bits and pieces to said life can always be relatable in some way. That's what I like about this series; it reminds us that nobody is perfect, and it did so in a wonderful blend of spine-tinglingly awkward, but often hilarious ways.

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An anime based on a game that was based on gaming. Did you just roll your eyes at me? How rude.

I'm personally not a massive fan of the Chojigen Game Neptune game series. Aside from its colourful art style, it felt like yet another side quest filled dungeon crawler games without a strong focus on story. While fun in the semi-mindless and even somewhat mellow sense, they're not my favourite. True to its original nature, Chojigen Game Neptune: The Animation retains the game's mixture of flashy combat with Japan's well-known ecchi tag. It's filled to the brim with characters, fun music and sexual innuendos, and fans of the game wouldn't have it any other way, I'm sure. I just don't feel like this series is for me.

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If the image above signifies to your brain circuits that this is a colourful idol series built around raving fans swinging glow sticks, keep on walking. This is Kyoto Animation's very anticipated dark action series built around a theme of spirit hunting and blood.

I recall stumbling across the trailer for the series and being really intrigued. It showcased blazing battles of fiery excitement, atmospheres shrouded in miasmic tones, and icy glares from bitter rivalries. In a sense, I did catch small bursts of this. In a completely different sense, the promotional videos failed to warn me of the endless filler consisting of running jokes about sexy glasses and little sisters. After I discovered that these jokes would fill up a good percentage of every single episode, I was strangely most thankful towards the insanely off-topic bit that turned these mystical spirit hunters into pop idol stars. Definitely won't be a rewatch on my end, but it seemed to have been pretty well-received.

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Very, very, VERY pretty. This little P.A. Works adventure through the waters of time is unbelievably gorgeous, both visually and on a much deeper storytelling level. The first thing that hit me when starting this series was the breathtaking atmosphere, with cloud patterns unseen in most anime and underwater shots that are literally peeling with age. Eyes burst with aquamarine life as they gleam in the sunlight, reflecting the water the characters call home.

It all hit me on a pretty deep level when I started experiencing the actual story elements of the show. It's not a small story by any means, incorporating a dying underwater species that is forced to reunite with the people on land after they separated ages ago. The underwater people need to rely on the humans to adapt to their unfamiliar surroundings, and eventually, the humans need to rely back on the sea-dwellers to prevent a tempest from destroying their world. Amidst the chaos, a phenomenon forces our group of protagonists to rediscover exactly what it means to grow up. This series is still running, so I hope I might entice you to check it out.

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Y'all liked Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, right? It was a ball-bustingly action-packed adventure from underground straight over the stratosphere and into the far reaches of the galaxy. It sported a talented team of people working on it, and the effort put in made it a cult classic of sorts for anime fans.

Over half a decade later, that team would return as a different animation studio to bring us a different type of adventure. Studio TRIGGER's list of preceding works is minuscule, comprised of a 13 episode short and a short film created for Anime Mirai 2013. Technically speaking, this is their first fully-fledged release. It still features the pandemoniac animations and the ludicrous extents they go to, all contributing to the fun the show can have with itself. Honestly, I didn't find the characters here to be anything special in any way, but I didn't dislike any of them either. I liked using the tired theme of torn clothes being used as a metaphor for becoming truly free, instead of just the typical fanservice that just parades it with no added value. There's a pretty good theme of growing stronger on both the inside and outside that I also enjoyed. I'm pretty confident that you'd at least enjoy KILL la KILL if you liked Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, but if you haven't experienced the colossal galactic mecha for yourself, perhaps this series might drive you towards it.

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Wait, it's not set in high school? What witchcraft is this? Golden Time starts off with the protagonist Tada Banri entering college. Yes, there is life after high school, it seems. I think that's what I kind of like and dislike about Golden Time so far.

Banri's wish to enter the peaceful adult world of post-secondary education is immediately demolished by the explosive personality, Koko. This is the psychotic girl you accidentally dated for her looks, then regretted the decision for the rest of your existence. She's the girl who you should have slammed a restraining order on from the moment you laid eyes on her, but didn't for some reason you're still deeply searching for. At its core, I am really enjoying how Golden Time dares to tackle more risqué topics that don't fit into the stereotypical high school environment, but at the same time, these characters are played up a little bit too much to make some of these really interesting potentials hold their weight. It's almost counter-intuitive, much like what bits and pieces of college felt like, to be honest. We'll see how it goes from here, but so far, I say "not bad".

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After what I considered to be a bit of a rocky start to the adaptation of one of KEY's most well-known works, this continuation really brought it home for me. Much disdain was expressed for Kyoto Animation's lack of involvement with the animation, with a slingshot effect that flung the majority of the inertia at J.C. Staff instead.

It's a shame too, because a lot of the initial focus was placed onto the overall quality of the animation rather than the characters and the story. In my eyes, a studio always has time to make up for weaker quality animations, either during the latter portions of the broadcast period or at least in the subsequent Blu-ray releases. Look past this, and hopefully you see the tight-knit group of fun friends who go through all sorts of adventures together. As it's a KEY work, you know these adventures aren't always upbeat and happy, but these characters were just so enjoyable that I wanted to see every bit of their time together, good or bad. This season really stepped it up for me and made me love this series.

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Slice-of-life killed it this year. From Kiniro Mosaic to Tamako Market and Minami-ke Tadaima, blissful smiles barraged my expression endlessly, and Non Non Biyori contributed a huge portion of that as well.

There's something about life in the countryside that is so well portrayed in anime. Perhaps it's because so many actual portions of Japan are traditional countrysides. Regardless, these settings always allows us step away from technology, bustling suburban life, metropolitan shops and all that. It allows us to focus on this really cute cast of varying grades in school, spending their day-to-day lives trying to find their own creative ways to have fun with said limitations. Perhaps that means walking through a dark tunnel to visit the only local sweets shop. Maybe it involves sewing dozens of plushies in the form of your favourite senpai. While these all sound like mundane tasks in an everyday life, I say sometimes life in its most simplest form is interesting to witness. Check it out, and hopefully you experience the same peaceful bliss that I do when watching this series.

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C'mon Red, a Charmander against a Geodude? I thought you knew your type matchups. Pocket Monsters: The Origin takes us back to the past with a smack of nostalgia, as Pokémon Red and Blue players will be able to experience the first generation of these little critters once more. We all played as Trainer Red, selecting either Charmander, Squirtle or Bulbasaur, and later realizing how the first portion of the game differed depending on who you selected.

It was a staple for a kid growing up in the 90's. Likely being many kids' first forage into the RPG franchise involving capturing and battling monsters, trudging through colourful cities and trying to "catch 'em all" became a task that many tried to achieve, but likely couldn't. Along the way, we learned of the types of Pokémon and who fares better against what types. Strangely, Red in this anime adaptation didn't really seem to learn that. There were many moments where I was flailing my arms wondering why he sent out Pokémon with major weaknesses to his opponents. It would have been understandable if he was just starting off his adventure, but even up to the battle with Giovanni, he was doing the same thing. While not executed perfectly in this element, the animations and the soundtrack are most certainly up to par here. If you grew up playing the earliest games or even watched Ash Ketchem take the Indigo Plateau in the 90's, this one is probably going to deliver for you...for the most part.

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Hozuki, Kazuki and Hazuki Ferrari. These three wildly different sisters are apparently descendants of the one-and-only Galileo Galilei, and early on in the first episode, their contrasting personalities show in heavy bursts. That doesn't mean they still don't treat each other as a caring family would, though.

This fact becomes even more apparent when the sisters are accused of terrorism surrounding a treasure left behind by the great Galileo himself. To clear their name, they must band together with some unexpected friends and find the treasure before their competition does. In every sense of the word, this was an exciting adventure series for me. While maintaining the traditional world feel with olden hints left behind like any great ol' treasure hunt does, the Ferrari sisters travel around the world in a mechanical flying ship. Speaking of the sisters, they're really fun to watch, with those varying personalities playing into some unique conversations that only quarrelling sisters can showcase. Oh, and it features my absolute favourite opening theme for the entire year.

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And the number one spot goes to...the best portrayal of the pure joys of a josei series I have experienced ever. Showcasing every single step of young Chihaya's journey from discovering the simple card game of karuta to her slowly developing love for the poetic connections to its history, Chihayafuru and its sequel offered me nothing but the best.

Karuta is a simple game to execute, physically. A reader draws a card from a box, chants out the phrase on it, and a one-on-one competition erupts to disarm the opposing player of their matching card. Not only is it a game of interpretation and movement speed, but as the show so beautifully illustrates, it's about understanding where each poetic verse was birthed from. One who fervently studies the readings and truly understands their origins can capture a good reader's enunciations before others can. That's what I love so much about this series. Chihaya loses a lot, and there are players that are immensely superior to her. However, instead of letting it deter her, she digs deeper with her own self, only allowing her self-improvement drive her further. It's an absolutely admirable trait for a protagonist, and it's a token example that you never see the world for what it is from the very top.

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Least Favourite Series: Kyokai no Kanata

 
 

After heavy pondering, I still can only find one single solitary thing that I enjoyed about this series, and it only amused me because it almost had no ties to the actual series itself.

Kyokai no Kanata promises a dark adventure epic filled with bloody battles, spiritual ties and a cute protagonist wearing thick red frames. In ways, it delivers all of that. In other ways, it delivers far too much of one of these and oversaturates the intrigue of the other two points. When your lead protagonist literally spends every single episode making eye-rolling remarks about the goddess status of glasses, then another joins in with the same eye-rolling remarks involving his little sister, my entire being rolls along in its preemptive grave. I recall antagonists appearing out of thin air, but I literally can't remember a single thing about them. What I do recall is three different instances that I actually fell asleep in pure boredom. I may have greatly disliked this series, but there's definitely something here that drew other people in, from reading some other peoples' experiences online. Maybe see if it lives up to the hype from your own perspective.

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A unique series deserves a kickass unique opening sequence. This opening animation sequence utilizes so many dynamic methods of presentation and movement that it feels so alive. There's a great focus on showcasing the different personalities of the three main sisters, along with the adventurous hunt they're initiating...and victim to. The animations may be wonderfully creative, but so is the song itself. Every piece of the puzzle here gave me something to look forward to in the show itself, and that's exactly what a great opening does. I enjoyed it so much that I always return to view the opening sequence on its own, even though the full length version of the song is more enjoyable.

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Least Favourite Opening: Sonna Koto Ura no Mata Urabanashi Desho?

 
 

It pains me to put this opening theme in this position, because I am normally a huge fan of Nakajima Megumi's music involvements. However, when I watch the opening sequence to Kotoura-san, I don't see any coherence or thought put into it. The visuals were just kind of plain, complete with walking, walking, running, and not much else. The frantically paced song definitely does not complement the visuals, let alone what emotions the show tries to implement at times. It all feels like a big clustered mess to me. If you're not getting a full visual of what I see about this opening, the ending does a complete 180, using depressing visuals as a stark contrast. They don't mesh together well, in my opinion.

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Just...gorgeous. Tamako Market was a very simple series, revolving around a small open marketplace, its residents, and the special relationships they all share with one another. While the show held a cutesy, fun tone that was filled with upbeat music, there were these really creative scenes in between where characters unveil their personal troubles to a record shop owner. It resembles a beaten middle-aged man leaning over a bar counter downing whiskey on the rocks, but instead it's high school girls listening to oldies on record while sipping coffee. This ending theme took that fascinating setting and fused it with a dreamlike sequence set to an absolutely beautiful song. It's crazy to think Suzuki Aya is new to the voice acting game, as she nails everything about this role perfectly. I'm addicted to this ending, visually and audibly.

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Least Favourite Ending: Baby Sweet Berry Love - Ogura Yui

 
 

It's interesting, isn't it? Series that I disliked this year end up having theme songs that I dislike as well. You may think I'm being sarcastic, but that's not usually the case. If anything, I'm always grateful to leave an unpleasant experience with some good music, but I really personally found nothing to like with this one. The song itself is sporadic and frantic, and the theming doesn't really make sense to me. The ending animation features the main girl Tsutsukakushi Tsukiko (how's that for a name?), and it seems like they wanted to portray her before and after personalities within the show. Tsukiko was always bubbly and sweet, until a curse turned her into an emotionless shell. However, instead of providing a really interesting contrast, they just have both versions of Tsukiko doing overly sweet dance moves. It's unnatural to the in-show character, and it was honestly jarring for me. I ended up skipping the ending every episode.

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With that, thank you all for joining us for another year of Hiroi Sekai fun! I've spent enough time talking about what series I personally liked and disliked, but we'd love to hear what you thought of the 2013 anime year! Let us know in the comments below, and we'll see you again for more of our 2013 music countdown.

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