Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi – 03

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Stars above, that was one hell of an opening arc. We sorely regret not picking up this series last Summer, as we ended up watching several inferior shows. An inferior show, by the way, might’ve had the entire twelve episodes be about Ai solving the mystery of the village. Sunday Without God gets the job done in just over an hour’s worth of episodes, but what a just over an hour!

In this third episode, we learn what drives Hampnie (the search for his lover Hana), that he’s a little ridiculous in his fighting style (using grenades in suicide attacks), has “fans” among the more colorful half-dead underbelly (all of whom wouldn’t look out of place in Alice in Wonderland). We also learn he wants to die, but later find out not just to die, but to die happy, with many mourners and few regrets. When the whimsical baddies kidnap and torture him, Ai receives the aid of Yuri and Scar, who seem to have been helpfully shadowing her and Hampnie all along.

It’s around now when all of the pieces fall into place for Ai: both that the “heaven” her mother created was a peaceful haven of walking dead who stayed alive for her sake, and that Hampnie really is her real father, and someone she must save, not only from the baddies, but from his own self-loathing caricature of himself as an “immortal monster.”

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She just happens to resolve to do this whilst clutching her wet-from-the-river underwear, another unexpected but wry infusion of comedy to cut through the drama without lessening it, something this show has a penchant for.

Hampnie’s rescue is fantastic, with Ai, Yuri and Scar crashing the baddies’ party, unironically filling the dark barn with a wash of pure light. Now that Ai’s seen the light and knows the truth, she tells it to Hampnie, who can’t help but believe her after dismissing her as an airheaded goof earlier. We get some nifty visual poetry as the rescuers battle the baddies, and then something happens: just when he learns he has a daughter and doesn’t want to die anymore…he does.

Ai Astin then has one bittersweet, love-filled day—just one—with her postmortem father (whose real name is Kizuna Astin), before reluctantly letting him go via burial. Man, this kid grows up fast. Her parents and the villagers may be gone, but she’s far from alone: she has whole world to save, and new friends to help her save it, from foes we presume will be tougher than this week’s pushover gang.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

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Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi – 02

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Pardon our use of such a tired term, but there was so much win in this episode. It put poor Ai through more hell as we learn along with her the harsh truths of the world from the immortal but not infallible Hampnie. Hampnie is initially so cold and cruel to her not because he bears her personal malice (as the hunter Yuri bears him), but because he doesn’t think she can cut it in the real world, which is always malicious and preys on the ignorance.

We could do with less of Hampnie slugging Ai in the face, but we can’t deny he knows more about what’s out there than Ai, and he may well be right in a lot of what he says to dissuade Ai from pursuing a life of gravedigging, even if he was wrong about her not being one; that was a great moment when Scar tells him Ai did a bang-up job. And for all of the dark philosophizing, there’s still a lighter element of comedy weaved into the pair’s interactions.

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There’s a great chemistry between the two “messed-up” beings: the gravedigger with emotions born three years after it supposedly wasn’t possible, naive but learning fast; and an immortal albino who has been hardened by his life. Ai wants to help the living wherever they may be; Hampnie tells her it won’t be that simple. People like Yuri cling to their dead loved ones, who eventually become twisted into zombies. Not everything is black and white, but some black does exist.

That brings us to the 47 villagers. He said what was going on there is a mystery Ai herself must solve, but it seems logical to us that the village was already dead when he got there. He destroyed their bodies to prevent them from becoming zombies. Ai didn’t know they were dead, but clung to them all the same; had Hampnie not showed up they might’ve eventually turned on her. In any case, past gun-pointing aside, we’re excited by the prospects for Ai leaving the cocoon and finding her place in the world. She has a lot to learn from Hampnie and others, but we reckon they have a lot to learn from her too.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi – 01

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This past summer was one of our busiest seasons, with fourteen shows to keep track of. We decided not to watch a few series that we probably would have enjoyed, including Sunday Without God. A friend suggested we take a look, so we’re taking advantage of the gap between Fall and Winter to do so. After just the first episode, we’re not sorry we did. Sunday Without God has a lot going for it.

Ai (Toyosaki Aki…Hi Uiharu/Fam!) is a 12-year-old serving as the village “gravekeeper” in a world where no one can die or reproduce due to God forsaking the world on Sunday. Like Yuna in FFX, she “sends” the dead to a peaceful rest, something she’s been doing since she was seven, when her mother died. While she’s not alone (a couple adopted her and the town heaps affection and sweets upon her), we know immediately that she carries a tremendous burden for someone so young. She’s tough; moreover, she’s highly confident and proud of the work she does.

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Madhouse is an aptly-named studio simply because, a lot of the series they’ve put out are…a bit mad. Here, it’s an Alice in Wonderland mad: whimsically disorienting with an ever-present tinge of malice. “Hampnie Hambart” drops by Ai’s idyllic village and slaughters everyone there save Ai. He then shatters her facade of certainty and efficacy, causing her to question everything she’s ever known or been told by the village, like whether she’s a gravekeeper at all, and whether the villagers were ever alive to begin with.

The episode deftly juggled the harsh imagery of village massacre and an undead townsperson missing part of his head (then having it blown the rest of the way off before Ai’s eyes) with lighter moments like Hampnie and Ai’s first meeting, where she contends he’s her father. Whether he is or isn’t, whether Ai’s true gravekeeper, and exactly what the heck’s going on in general; these are some of the many mysteries we look forward to exploring moving forward.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Weekly OP: Bleach (2)

Every Monday we share a video of Weekly OP or ED that we like. It could be from a show we’re currently watching, watched long ago, or never watched. Note that the videos may not hang around forever, since we have no control over them.

How did we find out about Bleach? By opening up the Baltimore Sun to a story about Otakon in 2005, where we saw a pretty good Rukia and Ichigo with his giant sword thing. Bleach would become the first show we watched regularly,  and ultimately watched it longer than we should have.

The first 26 episodes actually weren’t that bad. The world-building, character design, music, and comedy were imminently watchable, but the thing is we just hadn’t watched that much other anime, and so couldn’t compare it to anything. In any case, we liked the shinigami/hollow mechanics of the show, and were immediately charmed by Rukia, the death god who became a transfer student.

By the time this OP came along, Rukia had been taken captive and it was up to her human friends to save her. The first OP was very light-hearted, hip, and playful, but this one is all business, successfully capturing the urgency of the rescue mission and all the new characters who would stand in the gang’s way.  Our first glimpse of many shinigami captains and lieutenants whose lives we’d follow for years came right here.

Unfortunately, the mission, like the show itself, didn’t have the same urgency as this OP, perhaps because the anime was rushed out before adequate source material was published, resulting in lame filler arcs. But for a while there, Bleach was good watching, as long as you cared about the characters, which we did.

White Album 2 – 13 (Fin)

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Kazusa and Haruki go to his apartment and make love. The next morning, Kazusa leaves early with his jacket buttons. Setsuna arrives to find a guilty, dejected Haruki, but insists they see Kazusa off. On the N’ex Haruki tells her everything, but to his shock she’s not mad, knowing full well Kazusa and Haruki’s feelings for one another. Setsuna says she only asked him out so the three of them could remain together longer. At the airport, Haruki is about to leave when Kazusa finds them both. Kazusa and Haruki embrace tearfully before she leaves for Vienna. Haruki tells Setsuna she should go, but she stays with him as the snow falls.

We haven’t been on the N’ex enough times to know if conversations of the type Haruki and Setsuna had on it are a common occurrence, but if they are, the conductors must have some stories to tell. Still, the talk Haruki and Setsuna had was something that had to happen, and part of why the second White Album came to a very strong close is that things that had to happen happened, leaving nothing left on the table. Kazusa and Haruki have their (tastefully edited) passionate night together, but it’s only the one, and who knows if there’ll ever be another. After coming between them for so long, Setsuna brings the two together one last time at that airport and lets them have a proper goodbye, even if it’s painful for her to watch. But wait, not...everything is off the table, is it? With Kazusa gone fir the time being, all that remains is Haruki and Setsuna.

While she told Haruki that she liked Kazusa more than him, she didn’t mean it (and Haruki could tell she didn’t). The trio who had so much silly fun together may be no more, but the two of them remain. If you’ll indulge us, we’re reminded of Monogatari’s Kaiki’s talk about there being “no peerless person”, and that “nothing (or no one) is irreplaceable.” In Vienna, Kazusa will repair her bond with her mother and fulfill her musical dreams. Would we have liked to see Haruki jump on a plane after her? Sure, but he may be just as “useless” there as Kazusa would be remaining in Tokyo. People can move on, and because of that, there may still be hope for Setsuna (she’s there, after all). But Haruki and Kazusa were awfully in love with each other here. They may find themselves apart for now, but we see no reason why that arrangement should be permanent.

The three of them may never be as happy as they were on that stage at the school fair, but the future may yet hold happier times for at least two of them.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)
Final Cumulative Rating (26 episodes): 7.462
MyAnimeList Score
 (as of 12/30/13): 8.10

Stray Observations:

  • Carefully edited as they are, the dialogue-free love scene that starts the episode was really well done, mixing cuts of the cold, open, snowy city with the increasingly hot, steamy, intimate apartment.
  • The jacket button thing in the morning was a nice touch, but some pillow talk would’ve been nice.
  • Setsuna calls on Haruki’s phone, but not to be denied their night together, he and Kazusa ultimately ignore it. Still, dude shoulda turned that shit off.
  • We also appreciated that all peripheral characters are given the episode off; this is all about the three leads, as it should be.
  • The episode also ends by finally showing the trio perform an arrangement of the OP “A Love That Cannot Be,” which we thought was the best of a great batch of songs to come out of the show.
  • While it may not have topped our rankings,we still enjoyed this series a great deal. The musical milieu and love triangle worked, we were sympathetic to all three leads, the romance was honest and believable, and there was no simple fix in the end. It was way better than we were expecting and, along with Golden Time, makes us very optimistic about the future of romantic anime.
  • On that note, if the story of Haruki, Kazusa, and Setsuna is ever picked up (White Album 2-A?) we’ll be watching.

Koimonogatari – 06 (Fin)

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Sengoku traps Kaiki in a enormous mass of snakes. Kaiki starts to talk himself out of dying, telling her he knows about her dream to become a mangaka. He tells her that nothing is irreplaceable for humans, not even her love for Koyomi, and if she remains a god she will never be happy. She eventually cools down and the snakes disappear.

Kaiki implants a slug oddity to extract the snake talisman. Koyomi arrives; Kaiki tells him to take the exorcised Sengoku home and disappear from her life. While departing from town, he is ambushed and beaten to death by someone he believes to be a junior-high victim of his past con, who mentions the same name Sengoku blamed for her predicament: Ougi.

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“Then do you want to become a manga artist?”

Sengoku has seen through all of Kaiki’s intricate lies and preparations. He’s beaten, and he knows it. But those seemingly innocuous, small-talky words above, he changes course. Armed with fresh insights on Sengoku’s situation, he abandons his previous strategy for a new one. In this regard, he practices what he preaches to her: nothing should be so important that it can’t be replaced. Humans can re-do anything at anytime, be it god-deception plans, romances, or dreams.

Half-forget what we said last week: Kaiki doesn’t quite regard Senjougahara a daughter, but  as a past love. One who was as useless with him as Sengoku would be with Koyomi; some people fit others better. In their last phone call before Kaiki’s demise, Senjougahara expresses satisfaction that she was able to deceive him into believing she loved him. We read that as her saying in her very Senjougahara way that she’s glad her (genuine) feelings reached him, even if only for a time, and it didn’t work out.

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Even if we never learn the truth—be it about Senjougahara and Kaiki or the conspiracies that Kaiki contemplates before he dies—in future series, we can say with certainty and with no intent to deceive whatsoever that this was our favorite arc of the series, which transformed Kaiki into the anti-heroic, romantic, ultimately tragic human being the arc’s retro opening portrayed.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)
Final Cumulative Rating (26 episodes): 7.957
MyAnimeList Score
(as of 12/30/13): 8.79

Stray Observations:

  • Now we see the reason for the retro OP: the retro-styled half is the romantic ideal of Sengoku’s secret manga, while the contemporary-styled half is the harsh but human reality. Very neat.
  • We’ll admit that for someone ruthless enough to casually add to her kill-list, Sengoku sure keeps Kaiki alive for a long time, doesn’t she? Perhaps she didn’t gag him with snakes because part of her was giving him the chance to talk her out of godhood?
  • Sengoku blamed Ougi for her becoming a god. The kid who killed Kaiki got his/her info from Ougi. We suggested that Ougi was related to the darkness that dispatched Mayoi; was all this Ougi’s way of dispatching Kaiki?

Valvrave the Liberator – 24 (Fin)

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New JIOR’s plan PR falters when the Council leans on the media to report their stunt as a hoax. Cain sorties and defeats X-eins. Haruto body-jacks L-elf and defeats Cain, but loses all his runes in the process and dies. The Royalists begin a coup of Dorssia, and ARUS takes advantage to rid themselves of the Magius, leading to a long, bloody struggle. In the future, a new Galactic Empire thrives based on peaceful interaction with extra-terrestrials like the Magius.

Since he never showed up in any of the future cold opens, and due to the amount of memories he’d lost in all the fighting, we were fairly certain Haruto wouldn’t survive the final battle. When he first his the “Yes” button to “resigning his humanity”, it didn’t (just) mean turning into a rune-sucking monster. Most humans, after all, do whatever they can to survive. He and the other Valvraves, on the other hand, were given eternal life and the choice to give it all up fighting for the survival of others, which meant laying down his life. Of course, even had he gone after Cain with everything he had (and everything he was), he probably still wouldn’t have beaten him without L-elf by his side.

We reach end of the Valvrave saga a little disappointed. The finale had some moving moments, the episode felt rushed, and the epilogue was a little paltry after so much epic struggle: Satomi and Takahi get married, Saki and Akira are teachers of some sort, and all the fallen heroes from the past get…cheesy marble busts all crowded together in a musty room. Between Cain’s defeat and the good future, we’re a little fuzzy on how the world achieved the peace they enjoy. The final shot of Unit 1’s cockpit was a bit on the preachy side, trying to tidily sum up the moral of the show. Trust alone isn’t enough to garner peace. Humans will always harbor secrets; how they’re unveiled affects the course of history.


Rating: 6 (Good)
Final Cumulative Rating: 7.333
MyAnimeList Score (as of 12/27/13): 7.74

Nagi no Asukara – 13

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The day of the Ofunehiki and the hibernation arrives. Manaka tells Hikari she’ll tell him her answer after the ceremony, while Chisaki is still thinking about Kaname’s confession. When the ceremony begins with Akari as the Ojoushi-sama, Uroko uses the sacred fire to light her way, then knocks out Hikari’s dad along with the rest of Shioshishio. Multiple whirlpools open up; Akari and Tsumugu are thrown overboard. Chisaki, Manaka, and Hikari dive in after them. Chisaki rescues Tsumugu, but Kaname is crushed by a fallen concrete bridge pier. Shioshishio is cloaked in some kind of barrier. Manaka offers herself to the sea god so Akari is spared. Hikari tries to reach out to her but the sea pushes him away. Akari surfaces safe and sound.

We’ve reach the midpoint of the series, to where everything has been building up: the Ofunehiki. There’s a little more buildup early in the episode as characters arrive at peaceful places in their lives prior to the big event. In bittersweet scenes we see Manaka tucking her sleeping parents in, Chisaki’s parents letting her go, and even Hikari’s dad and Uroko cordially seeing off the four. Manaka and Chisaki haven’t properly addressed the confessions they’ve received, but both Hikari and Kaname assure them they’ll love them no matter the response. In all of these instances, with the focus on everyone’s lives and the futures they’re stepping towards, their personal affairs and conflicts loom large and prominent. And then nature—courtesy of the sea god, if you will—cruelly proceeds to dwarf and dash all of those hopes and dreams.

The episode gives the start of the Ofunehiki a proper level of pomp and ceremony: the fires, the flags, the fishing fleet. Akari and Hikari are transformed by their new traditional garb. In lighting the way, Uroko seems to be holding out an olive branch to the surface. But things turn sinister and it looks like the sea god really will try to claim Akari. While she survives, the town now seems to be totally asleep (and covered by…something), Kaname is taken out of the picture altogether by a freak accident, and the fate of Hikari and most importantly Manaka is left up in the air. If she became a sacrifice and Hikari surfaces, that’s a hell of a turn. We have no idea where the series will go in the second half, but all the upheaval here left us eager to find out.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

RABUJOI’s 2013 Anime Rankings, with Haiku

Here they are, dear readers: all 44 series we watched this year (five dropped), ranked by their cumulative ratings as of today. Seven Fall shows still have one episode to go this year, so we’ll update this list as we complete them.

We’ve also included what the thousands of denizens over at MyAnimeList (MAL) thought about these same shows (again, as of today). One of the reasons we switched to a 10-point rating scale is so we could roughly compare our ratings to MAL’s.

Analysis: While we’ve always thought we had a tendency to overrate things, we actually gave 21 non-dropped shows lower ratings than MAL, while rating 18 shows higher.

Our ratings actually came quite close to MAL’s—within 0.4 points or less—on a dozen shows:

  • Kimi no Iru Machi (+0.020)
  • Amnesia (+0.077)
  • OreShura (+0.082)
  • Tamayura: More Aggressive (+0.177)
  • Maoyuu Maou Yuusha (+0.217)
  • Kyousougiga (+0.310)
  • Free! (-0.013)
  • Nagi no Asukara (-0.177)
  • Oreimo 2 (-0.242)
  • Vividred Operation (-0.273)
  • Tamako Market (-0.320)
  • Kakumeiki Valvrave 2nd Season (-0.375)

MAL also agreed with us that Valvrave’s second season has been better than the first.

The biggest outliers (not counting dropped shows) were Aku no Hana (we rated it 1.358 points higher than MAL), and The Unlimited (we rated it 1.290 points lower than MAL). There’s a good reason for each: Aku was incredibly polarizing, while The Unlimited likely went over better for those familiar with the Zettai Karen Children universe (which we weren’t).

In all, we were off of MAL’s scores by +/- 1 full point or more on only six non-dropped shows. By no means do we strive to match the average consensus from MAL (we just looked them up today), but it’s fun to compare, and it’s good to know we’re not totally insane about our taste in anime. We may be way off the consensus on a few occasions, but that comes down to personal preference, which is unique to everyone.

Finally, we decided to write a haiku either summarizing the show or our impressions of it…with, er, varying results. Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!

44. InuHasa

Guy turns into dog
Become’s favorite author’s pet,
who then tortures him.

Final Cumulative Rating: 5.000 (scissored after 5 episodes)
MyAnimeList Score: 6.74

43. Log Horizon

Trio of heroes
in a real-life MMO;
Low rent SAO?

Final Cumulative Rating: 5.667 (logged off after 3 episodes)
MyAnimeList Score: 8.08

42. Strike the Blood

Powerful vampire
meets pretty young sword shaman
Childhood friend jealous.

Final Cumulative Rating: 5.714 (struck after 7 episodes)
MyAnimeList Score: 7.67

41. Coppelion

Follows adventures
of radiation-proof girls
icing stealth bombers.

Final Cumulative Rating: 6.000 (copped out after 4 episodes)
MyAnimeList Score: 6.74

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40. Vividred Operation

Color-coded girls
with cool CG mecha suits
Lots of booty shots

Final Cumulative Rating: 6.417
MyAnimeList Score: 6.69

39. Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke

Really long-lived dude,
bad guy from the older show,
main character here.

Final Cumulative Rating: 6.500
MyAnimeList Score: 7.79

38. Valvrave the Liberator (1st Season)

Kids form a nation,
vampire mecha pilots,
screwed at every turn.

Final Cumulative Rating: 6.583
MyAnimeList Score: 7.44

37. Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta

High hopes for this show
after Hoshi no Umi.
Huge disappointment.

Final Cumulative Rating: 6.600 (panty-shot down after 10 episodes)
MyAnimeList Score: 7.51

36. Danganronpa: The Animation

High school whodunits
Demonic bear and pink blood
Hope versus despair

Final Cumulative Rating: 6.615
MyAnimeList Score: 7.56

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35. Amnesia

Heroine gets lost
jumping back and forth through time
Is caged at one point.

Final Cumulative Rating: 6.667
MyAnimeList Score: 6.59

34. Love Lab

Better than OP
Better than “love club” premise;
Better than rating!

Final Cumulative Rating: 6.692
MyAnimeList Score: 7.67

33. Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova

World War II vessels
Pretty girl avatars
Ample explosions

Final Cumulative Rating: 6.727
MyAnimeList Score: 7.69

32. Servant x Service

Office slice-of-life
Long-named lovable she-goof
Tacked-on imouto

Final Cumulative Rating: 6.769
MyAnimeList Score: 7.93

31. Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince

Underachievers,
armed with shiny new mecha,
proceed to kick ass.

Final Cumulative Rating: 6.917
MyAnimeList Score: 7.52

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30. Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. (Oregairu)

Three social outcasts,
linked by a car accident
Snappy dialogue.

Final Cumulative Rating: 6.923
MyAnimeList Score: 8.05

29. Tamako Market

Weird conceited bird
Lovely lived-in market town
Slice-of-life done right.

Final Cumulative Rating: 7.000
MyAnimeList Score: 7.32

28. Blood Lad

Otaku vamp boss
Human girl turns into ghost
He vows to save her.

Final Cumulative Rating: 7.000
MyAnimeList Score: 7.74

27. Kimi no Iru Machi

Guy moves to Tokyo,
dumps new girlfriend for his ex.
A bit of a cad.

Final Cumulative Rating: 7.250
MyAnimeList Score: 7.23

25. (tie) White Album 2

Light music club formed
Love triangle formed with it
One girl cut in line

Final Cumulative Rating: 7.333
MyAnimeList Score: 7.98

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25. (tie) Toaru Kagaku no Ralgun S

Railgun in too deep
Fights city’s dark underside
Gets help from her friends

Final Cumulative Rating: 7.333
MyAnimeList Score: 8.27

24. Valvrave the Liberator 2nd Season

Safe on neutral moon
Then things get complicated
Lots of people die

Final Cumulative Rating: 7.455
MyAnimeList Score: 7.83

23. Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru (OreShura)

Fresh take on harem
Girls have good motivations
Nice pastel palette

Final Cumulative Rating: 7.462
MyAnimeList Score: 7.38

22. Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen

Goddesses in girls
Gamer must reconquer hearts
Third time is the charm

Final Cumulative Rating: 7.500
MyAnimeList Score: 8.52

21. Oreimo 2

Kirino returns
Kyousuke dates the black cat
Then “marries” sister.

Final Cumulative Rating: 7.538 
MyAnimeList Score: 7.78

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19. (tie) RDG: Red Data Girl

Shy god-vessel girl
Her reluctant protector
A quiet romance

Final Cumulative Rating: 7.583
MyAnimeList Score: 6.73

19. (tie) Nagi no Asukara

Town under the sea
Four struggle with their feelings
As their world’s end nears

Final Cumulative Rating: 7.583
MyAnimeList Score: 7.76

18. Hataraku Maou-sama!

Devil comes to earth
Gets a fast-food part-time job
Comedy ensues

Final Cumulative Rating: 7.615
MyAnimeList Score: 8.16

16. (tie) Tamayura: More Aggressive

Girl starts photo club,
which only has two members,
including herself.

Final Cumulative Rating: 7.667
MyAnimeList Score: 7.49

16 (tie) Maoyuu Maou Yuusha

Demon King’s a girl
She and Hero join forces
Great allegories

Final Cumulative Rating: 7.667
MyAnimeList Score: 7.45

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15. Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3

Girl joins war games club
Has a knack but grows obsessed
Alienates friends

Final Cumulative Rating: 7.692
MyAnimeList Score: 6.76

14. Monogatari Series: 2nd Season

Cat finds self; time travel
Snake god; the darkness comes
Deceiving a god

Final Cumulative Rating: 7.909
MyAnimeList Score: 8.67

12. (tie) Sasami-san@Ganbaranai

Amaterasu
Stuck inside a listless girl
Wants a normal life.

Final Cumulative Rating: 7.917
MyAnimeList Score: 6.81

12. (tie) Free!

Cast is mostly male
Swim club returns to glory
KyoAni trolling?

Final Cumulative Rating: 7.917
MyAnimeList Score: 7.93

11. Chihayafuru 2

Karuta battles
heat up exponentially,
much to our delight.

Final Cumulative Rating: 8.042
MyAnimeList Score: 8.67

The Top 10

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10. Kotoura-san

Shy girl can read minds
Finds someone suited for her
Doesn’t ruin it.

Final Cumulative Rating: 8.083
MyAnimeList Score: 7.40

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9. Gatchaman Crowds

Social media
Very cheerful heroine
A whimsical romp

Final Cumulative Rating: 8.250
MyAnimeList Score: 7.58

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8. Samurai Flamenco

A hero rises
Bad guys get more outrageous
Never accept evil

Final Cumulative Rating: 8.182
MyAnimeList Score: 7.28

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7. Suisei no Gargantia

Earth one big ocean
Space pilot and his mecha
Fish out of water

Final Cumulative Rating: 8.308
MyAnimeList Score: 7.81

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6. Kyoukai no Kanata

Girl with cursed blood
Half-demon half-human guy
Fall for each other.

Final Cumulative Rating: 8.333
MyAnimeList Score: 7.83

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5. Kyousougiga

A fantastic world
A tale of love and rebirth
of one family.

Final Cumulative Rating: 8.400
MyAnimeList Score: 8.09

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3 (tie). Kill la Kill

To avenge her dad,
girl dons a strange uniform
Powerful weapon.

Final Cumulative Rating: 8.500
MyAnimeList Score: 8.04

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3 (tie). Golden Time

Guy has amnesia,
forgets old love, finds new one…
Then he remembers.

Final Cumulative Rating: 8.500
MyAnimeList Score: 7.99

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2. Aku no Hana

When he’s caught with shorts
Girl makes guy contract with her
Deviant within.

Final Cumulative Rating: 8.538
MyAnimeList Score: 7.18

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1. Uchouten Kazoku

Tale of redemption
A family of tanukis
With “idiot blood”

Final Cumulative Rating: 8.769
MyAnimeList Score: 8.13

15 Great Characters from 2013

We showed you whose voices we liked this past year, now let’s take a look at some of our favorite characters. Mind you, this isn’t a ranking, just an alphabetical list.

Bell Hydra (Blood Lad)

Bell was our favorite character from this relatively so-so show, because you never quite knew whose side she was on, or rather she was always on her own side, and always tried to stay on top. Her magical trickery was more than a match for Staz’s brute force, regularly frustrating him to no end. And then she fell for the guy. We also liked her sense of style, as she’d randomly change outfits throughout the run.

Chamber (Suisei no Gargantia)

Ledo’s trusty, badass Machine Caliber wasn’t just a tool, or the brunt of numerous sight gags as he performed manual labor, but a character in his own right, with his own arc that paralleled Ledo’s. The strict Galactic Alliance subroutines that drove his behavior gradually softened the more time he spent on Earth, to the point he rebelled against authority and sacrificed himself to save his pilot.

Ebisugawa Kaisei (Uchouten Kazoku)

By the time we actually see Kaisei in human form, it’s nine episodes into the show. But before that she’s seemingly always around in disguise (something she excels at), including at crucial point in one of the show’s many flashbacks. As Yasaburou’s would-be fiancee, she represents the peace that was meant to be struck between the families, and her playful banter with Yasaburou always tinged with a kind of quasi-spousal loyalty. She even plays the heroine by freeing Yashirou when things get hairy.

Gokou Ruri (Oreimo 2)

When she showed up at the Akiba real-world meetup in the second episode of the first Oreimo, we would have never guessed how far Kuroneko would come, leapfrogging over all others to become the best character on the show. As Kyousuke struggles with his relationship with Kirino, he also independently forms a bond with ‘Neko, who gets better the more sides of her we see: be it at home, at school, and in girlfriend and post-girlfriend modes.

Goto Hidenori (Samurai Flamenco)

While he may look good in uniform to some, Goto is neither a model, idol, or gaudy superhero. He’s just an ordinary guy with a quiet police gig with a loving long-distance girlfriend and a modest abode. As things go absolutely apeshit around him, he stays grounded, even when driving pink Hummers into rockets. All these superheroes and villains around him have made life a lot more interesting, but it hasn’t changed the decent, unassuming man that he is. He’s the show’s steady anchor.

Hayashida “Linda” Nana (Golden Time)

While she delayed her response to her longtime childhood friend’s confession by mere hours, Linda ends up losing everything once he gets amnesia, has his feelings for her resurface year later when they reunite in college, and he then decides to distance himself from her so he can focus on his girlfriend, after much will-they-won’t-they teasing. It’s a shame she has to go through so much, considering she’s such a kind, caring, beautiful person. But the cookie just didn’t crumble her way.

Kaga Koko (Golden Time)

Koko is one of the most interesting characters of the year because of how quickly she transitions from irritating crazed shrew to sympathetic love interest. After chasing the wrong guy for years, she finds Banri. She’s not as perfect as she looks, but she’s very tough on herself, constantly trying to be a better person and girlfriend. Considering what her status as Banri’s girl means to Linda, you’d think she’d be a character to be loathed, but the show excels at making everyone’s situation understandable and sympathetic.

Kaiki Deishu (Monogatari Series: Second Season)

We first met him in Nisemonogatari, where he was unveiled as the con-man who gave Senjougahara crabs (well, it’s not quite that simple…) but in any case, he was something of an easygoing villain: powerful, but not particularly motivated. In Koimonogatari, he’s given a mission by that same Senjougahara in her time of dire need, hits the town, and gets to work. It’s been extremely enjoyable watching him playing the role of hardboiled private eye, father figure, even unspoken love interest.

Katsuragi Keima (Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen)

The second season of The World God Only Knows wasn’t as good as the first, but this third one was excellent, as all the chickens come home to roost and things get infinitely more complicated for our cynical, bespectacled gamer. Keima is most effective (and entertaining) when his back’s against the wall, but this season he also actually ended up feeling something for his conquests. There’s no easy reset button for him, which showed growth.

Kotoura Haruka (Kotoura-san)

Kotoura-san may be an almost disgustingly adorable character, but the show wastes no time establishing precisely the kind of person she is and why, based on a traumatic past in which her parents basically abandoned her. Watching her transition from looking at herself as a curse upon all who associate her to someone with worth who deserves a happy life with caring friends (and a boyfriend) was immensely fulfilling.

Mankanshokou Mako (Kill la Kill)

We touched on this in Suzaki Aya’s profile; Mako has made the full transition from goofy comic relief sidekick to full-fledged crucial participant in the overarching drama of Kill la Kill. She’s the one who first reached out to Ryuuko, opened up her home to her, gave her the family life she never had, and then snapping her out of a near-fatal frenzy. She’s also not afraid to speak her mind to everyone, be it Ryuuko, Elite Four, Satsuki, or Nui.

Nakamura Sawa (Aku no Hana)

An example of a character we liked precisely because she scared the hell out of us. A part of that fear comes from the intense realism of the series. Subtle human movements that more stylized animation wouldn’t pick up are on full display, and Sawa slinks and slithers across the screen, and sometimes breaks into sudden startling movements while messing with Takao. Yet for all of the mayhem she causes in his life, she’s far from evil incarnate: she’s an intensely frustrated young woman, a victim of the benign dullness of the town that doubles as her prison.

Nana (Golden Time)

Nana is one of the best supporting characters we’ve come across this year, someone with a fierce sense of individuality who forces people to either accept her or fuck off, and gives off the air of not caring about anyone, when the polar opposite is true: Nana turns out to be both a caring reliable friend to Linda (and unwitting would-be matchmaker) and a decent neighbor to Banri. Hopefully his disassociation from Linda won’t mean much less Nana.

Shimogamo Yajirou (Uchouten Kazoku)

Like Kaisei, part of what we love about Yaijioru is how much impact he makes despite how little we see of him. For the vast majority of the show he’s a frog in the bottom of a well, where he tries to forget his life as a human, which he deemed as an abject failure. As another victim of the Ebisugawas, he was forced to believe he was responsible for getting his father cooked. Even when the truth came out, it took getting him drunk to spring into action to save his family, but his contribution was vital.

Wakamiya Shinobu (Chihayafuru 2)

Another supporting character introduced as a “big bad” in the first season, the brilliant, quirky, melancholy Queen Shinobu plays a much larger role in the second, showing us her past and how heavy is the head that wears the crown, as she simply isn’t interested in team matches or fulfilling any of the royal responsibilities expected of her. She and Arata also spend a lot of time together, making her a rival to Chihaya in love as well as karuta.

Images Courtesy MyAnimeList

Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova – 12 (Fin)

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Consumed with rage, an out-of-control Kongou has transformed into a massive sphere that destroys the entire American Fog fleet, then turns on I-401. When she disables the concept communication system, Iona volunteers to make direct contact with Kongou. When Iona arrives on her deck, Kongou fights her with everything she has, but the power of Iona’s will is enough to neutralize her onslaught. Finally, Kongou gives in, the sphere is dismantled, and the battle ends with Iona warmly embracing her. The I-401 arrives in Hawaii to successfully deliver the warhead.

When it all came down to it, Kongou whipped up a storm of anger not because she hated Iona or the other converted Fog ships, but because she was afraid. She didn’t know what was happening to her, and didn’t like it; she was fine with everything the way it was before, and wanted things to stay that way. When things continued to thoroughly not go her way, she lashed out—she is a weapon, after all; it was an extension of her purpose, multiplied 512 times. And we have to say, as final bosses go, she is a doozy; we’re slightly surprised the I-401 wasn’t blown to smithereens in the first five minutes. But that’s the thing: as much as she may fear it, change has come, and no amount of torpedoes, missiles or supergravity lasers can blow it up.

Iona realizes the best way to make that clear to Kongou is by going there in person in a truly badass gambit, hopping from missile to missile. She takes a beating, but ultimately Kongou’s cold (and now confused and unfocused) orthodoxy is no match for Iona’s awesome will. Gunzou’s order was only a formality; she came up with the idea on her own, which shows how far she’s come, and how futile Kongou’s attempts to deny it are. Still, we’re glad Kongou didn’t immediately join the gang, choosing to ply the seas alone and explore her new reality. And with the last Fog battleship converted, the show comes to a tidy yet satisfying close.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)
Final Cumulative Rating: 6.833
MyAnimeList Score 
(as of 12/23/13): 7.66

Stray Observations:

  • Some of the slickest battle CGI of the show happened here. Iona’s one nimble little minx, isn’t she?
  • Regarding Kongou’s tenuous state throughout the episode, remember that she did absorb (not merge) with Maya, destroying her in the process, and despite the fact Maya didn’t have a core, Kongou probably feels a bit guilty about that.
  • Takao gets her body back, and the first thing she does is pounce on Gunzou.
  • Meanwhile, Kirishima remains a teddy bear. WTF? It’s the end; give the poor girl her real body back!
  • The communique from Hawaii was in very good English, but it was still a little grating.
  • After all the emotion she unleashed in Kongou, we were kinda hoping for Iona to finally give her captain a kiss or a hug or something…but no love. Perhaps she’s merely abiding by the “non-fraternization with superior” reg…

Weekly OP: Koimonogatari

Every Monday, starting today, we’ll be sharing a Weekly OP or ED that we like. It could be from a show we’re currently watching, watched long ago, or never watched. Note that the videos may not hang around forever, since we have no control over them. 

This week is the final arc in Monogatari Series: Second Season: Koimonogatari or “Lovestory”, a shining example of blending old and new animation styles and a retro song evoking a superb feeling of nostalgia. 80’s Senjougahara and Kaiki rock!

Kyousougiga – 10 (Fin)

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Koto and Myoue travel to the celestial plane and meet their grandfather, God, who tells them they’ll be the ones to replace Inari, who will then disappear. Not liking the sound of that Koto and Myoue leave the plane and travel through a time continuum until she finds Inari and Lady Koto and busts in with her hammer. As she beats up Inari for being selfish, Myoue restores Lady Koto. God agrees that the thirteenth plane will be allowed to exist, while Inari will not disappear and remain with his family.

Just as it always announced at the start of every episode (or in this case, at the end), Kyousougiga was a story of love, life, and rebirth; with the latter two being possible because of the first, a love that started with a rabbit that became a beautiful woman. Inari states that before her, he merely wandered the world aimlessly, separate from it. Lady Koto and their children became his real world, and the start of his real life. He went on to make a common mistake family heads often make, out of stubbornness and obligation: to arrange the future in which his offspring would live; a future that didn’t include him, as he’d pass his duties to them.

Armed with the wherewithal to challenge his unilateral decisions was Koto. Just as she wanted to spend a little more time with Myoue before carrying out his death wish, Koto loved her father too much to let him quietly disappear. This results in climactic celestial family squabble, and ultimately, a happy ending for all. Inari meant the transfer of his heart and soul to be his final act of love to his children, but the only love Koto wanted was to experience the love of her family all in one piece, including him, sharing sunsets, meals, and other good times.

For all its whimsical extravagance of its fantastical setting, Kyousougiga always remained true to its staunchly human, immanently relatable themes of love and family. It was a story that left us as warm and fuzzy as, well, a rabbit.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)
Final Cumulative Rating: 8.400
MyAnimeList Score 
(as of 12/22/13): 8.08