This year we saw the release of a number of high profile and interesting anime come out of Japan. From space Nazis and disturbed school girls, to tanukis and overly flamboyant swimmers; 2013 was memorable to say the least. Out of everything I watched, and despite a rather disappointing conclusion, I believe that the best anime of this year was definitely Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin). Produced by Wit Studio with help from Production I.G., and based on a manga by Hajime Isayama, Attack on Titan brought a lot originality and freshness to the art form which I hadn’t seen in years. In a way, it made me fall in love with anime again and brought back memories of being a kid and waiting every week just to see what would happen next.
The show featured the exploits of Eren Yeager, his adopted sister Mikasa Ackerman, and their friend Armin Arlert, as they fought for their livelihoods against an insurmountable threat: the titans. Attack on Titan featured plenty of action to keep those with ADD interested, but it also lent itself to plenty of dramatic moments that really pulled on the viewer’s heartstrings. In addition, the anime had plenty of likable supporting characters so that even when the main characters weren’t around, the show didn’t miss a beat. The animation, music, and voice acting were all top notch as well, which all helped to seal the deal and make the series one of my favorites.
Although Attack on Titan did start to falter near the end and this led to some unfortunate disappointment, overall it was an extremely enjoyable watch that I would recommend to anyone who can handle a little gore. It will keep you on the edge of your seat guaranteed, and have you rooting for humanity in a way that is seldom seen these days.
We’ve seen quite a few anime in 2013. Some were good, one was not, but there were two which stood above the rest: Aku no Hana and Attack on Titan. These two anime did practically everything right, from the characters–both major and minor–being engaging to their stories being memorable in different ways. With Attack on Titan, its story was action oriented but it had enough intellectual musings to keep fans wanting more. Aku no Hana, on the other hand, was philosophical and revealed man’s inner ugliness. It’s nice that Attack on Titan explored mankind’s setbacks in hypothetical settings, but Aku no Hana ventured deeper into the psyche of man and that’s why I loved it.
This series took what seemed like an ordinary admiration and warped it into a dark secret from just one impulsive mistake. The main character was already regretful for committing such an act, but that shame didn’t suffice for the creator; another being had to know of his plight. This anime reveals the weak will of the main character, and showed just how much abuse one person can endure to keep a secret hidden. It first made you pity him for his predicament, then hate him for his spinelessness. You wanted to yell at him when he had self doubt about getting the one thing he always wanted, then scratch your head when he developed Stockholm syndrome for the very person who abused him. The anime was just so cruel, but the abuse forced him to face his shortcomings as a human being. It also made me glad I wasn’t a middleschooler in Japan. Those kids were ruthless.
This year was a definite surprise within the anime community, as we saw several [smaller] popular series and one that stood out above the rest. That last part is obviously alluding to Attack on Titan, whose formidably undeniable popularity vote will have it placed on every other “Top Anime of the Year” list. There is no doubt that Attack on Titan was one of year’s most appealing (ironically enough) anime and this was sustained when Crunchyroll and Funimation both simulcasted the series at the same time it premiered in Japan. In addition, the original manga it is based on saw its sales skyrocket to become a multimillion-dollar franchise. It became so popular, that it spawned two spin-off manga, four visual novel adaptations developed by Nitroplus (Steins;Gate, Robotics;Notes), and even an action video game called Attack on Titan: The Last Wings of Mankind.
Despite an impressive amount of paraphernalia, and an even better anime adaptation spearheaded by Death Note director Tetsuro Araki, I still find myself leaning more towards the psycho-sexual campiness of Aku no Hana. Originally a work by Shuzo Oshimi, Aku no Hana (The Flowers of Evil) was meant to be the sociological experiment that the characters and viewers were submitted to. And what an experiment it was. Directed by Hiroshi Nagahama and written by Aki Itami, this remarkable character study was meant to be everything but pastoral. If anything, it was a perturbing exercise on human nature and loneliness masquerading as a cautionary tale. Aku no Hana tells the story of Takao Kasuga, a [perverse] bookworm who forms a contract with an equally dangerous mind named Sawa Nakamura, who blackmails him after finding him stealing Nanako Saeki’s gym clothing; who also happens to be his love interest.
While the plot may not seem all that, this anime more than lives up to its theatrics and caustically strips bare its deeply introverted characters right before our very eyes. I haven’t seen a school drama this realistically intense since I was in school myself. Director Nagahama knew the sensitivity of the original text and decidedly rotoscoped this adaptation, which in a way is more uncannily suited to Oshimi’s vision (to which he agreed). This decision, however, has attracted heated backlash yet made the series all the more notoriously famous. It would be nice if this fame was more positive though, because seeing a series succeed as much as this one did for a character study, is something we probably won’t see until season two is released. If that ever happens. Aku no Hana also reunites Nagahama and Itami who had previously worked on Mushishi, an equally profound and abstract tour de force.
There you have it. Those were our picks for the cream of the crop of the year. Perhaps in the not too distant future, we will hold a “Best of” award commemoration, yet this will depend entirely on how many series we watch and just how intently we follow them. We would like to give a shout out to Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club for [obviously] being the most accessible series of the year, and to The Eccentric Family for being the most environmentally aware as well as the most faithful to its setting, in this case Kyoto. We would also like to applaud Aku no Hana director Hiroshi Nagahama for his outstanding bravery in deciding how to adapt such a story. His work bested the other directors in terms of what’s possible in the medium, and for that he deserves a special award of some kind.