The Top 20 Episodes of 2013

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We’ve sat through 544 episodes of anime in the 353 days of 2013 there have been so far, a not-excessive-at-all 1.54 episodes per day. The following are the twenty episodes we enjoyed the most, comprising 3.68% of the total; the cream of the crop. These episodes stuck out, and in every case had a significant emotional impact on us, whether that emotion was elation, despair, excitement, fuck-yeah-ness, etc.

We realize there are still twelve days left in the year, and many shows save their best for last, but rather than replace the episodes on this list we’ll merely add them. Accompanying each of our 20 choices is a quote from our review of it. Let’s dive into the cream:

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20. The World God Only Knows III – 10

“This is the second time in two days we’ve dealt with an episode in which the bad guys…puts our heroes’ backs up against the wall…Last week’s diversion to Point Rock was a little flimsy, but the raised stakes work here…Keima completely abandons pretense and tact. He mutters things out loud that he’d normally only think…in the end, he’s the cooler head who rejects going out in a blaze of glory”

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19. Kyousougiga – 06

“The more we learn of Yakushimaru’s past, the more it seems like he was the victim of a mad scientist/priest…Yakushimaru didn’t sign up for any of this…but he’s stuck…there’s a striking contrast between the playful bliss of the siblings’ past and their over-the-top sparring in the present…Myoue’s beads, Yase’s brawn, and Kurama’s tech smash into each other in a brilliant amplification of rough-housing”

Team Mizusawa

18. Chihayafuru 2 – 19

“[Taichi] grabs luck by the scuff of the next and gives it a good shake until it finally favors him. Of course, he didn’t win just because of luck. It was a team match and it was a full team effort. It was also, not surprisingly, the best match of the season to watch. With the table so deftly set and the pieces in position and the stakes loud and clear, all this episode has to do is let ‘er rip”

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17. Kotoura-san – 03

“Once Kotoura is in the hospital, peeking in at a battered Manabe, thinking about how he doesn’t mind getting hurt for her sake, she chokes, and decides to run (though, obviously, not for good).What she has yet to learn is that part of letting people get close to you is accepting that sometimes they’ll get hurt, and so will you. It’s not her fault, nor anyone else’s. It’s just life”

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16. Golden Time – 06

“we were expecting Banri’s “just friends” situation with Kouko to be drawn out a little more to underline how miserable it’s making Banri to be around someone who doesn’t share his feelings…but all the conditions necessary for him to let Kouko go—and confront Linda—were met this week, and in short order…In a superbly emotional, adrenalin-charged moment that nicely skirted the edge of schmaltz, [Kouko] gives him the straight answer he had been awaiting for years: No, she doesn’t want them to be apart. Yes, she loves him too”

15. Maoyu – 01

“We love anime with a Final Fantasy-like epic vibe to them, and this series truly delivers…FF can be a bit stodgy, taking itself too seriously…that’s not the case here, as there’s a nice balance of the serious thematic elements of a huge war, while also finding time for tongue-and-cheek moments…the entire situation is a bit absurd, and the series itself is aware of this, but it’s not too winky, either”

Misaka Mikoto

13/14. Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S – 14/15

“Had Touma not been worried about his friend…he may have sat in that room with Kuroko as Mikoto let herself get killed…but he was worried, and he wasn’t going to let her sacrifice herself for such a limited return”

“[Mikoto] wasn’t prepared for Touma putting his body on the line…in that moment [he] fulfilled the inner wishes Mikoto had long repressed as foolish: miracles can happen, heroes can emerge, damsels can be saved in the nick of time. And most importantly, she has worth”

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“We didn’t think this episode would be able to match the emotional powerhouse of last week, but it ended up doing just that with an unconventional but grand battle…You have to hand it to Railgun; they don’t mess around with their uber-villains”

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12. Kill la Kill – 07

“Like Mako’s family (briefly), this episode had it all. It grabbed and held our interest. It made Ryuuko the architect of her own near-downfall through a seemingly harmless choice. It rocketed us along with the family during their meteoric rise, not skimping on the details of the ritzier life they gain. It slowed them way down when they grew rich and stuffy. Perhaps most impressive was Mako’s transformation from kooky comic relief sidekick to serious foe who doesn’t hesitate to turn on Ryuuko despite all they’d been through. It was a veritable windfall of magnificence”

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11. Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 – 04

“This week, the ancient surroundings have a powerful effect on Yura, and there she not only discovers “her idea of airsoft”, but also manages to change history itself…one could dismiss the awesome, fantastical elements of this episode as just that: Yura’s delusions, but…that all goes out the window when Rento sees the same scene as Yura…the ramifications are positively spine-tingling, and elevate C3-bu to a whole other level”

(A Level that wouldn’t be reached again, as Yura’s “power” was rarely used again.)

Kousaka Kyousuke, Gokou Ruri

9/10. Oreimo 2 – 07/08

“We were fully resigned to Kyousuke further stalling or outright rejecting Ruri so that he can continue his dead-end quasi-romance with his little sister. Instead…Kyousuke finally makes the right choice: he chooses Kuroneko. And we couldn’t be happier…”

“If you’re not a fan of Kuroneko or this new union, then it was a pretty rough and tedious episode to watch. As for us, we loved every last moment…They go out a ton, have lots of fun, and Kyousuke ends up learning far more about Ruri and liking her much more than before. We love seeing Kyousuke like this, because lord knows he’s earned the right to have an normal relationship with a smart, beautiful girl who isn’t his sister”

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8. Hataraku Maou-sama! – 05

“Not only was this the most action-packed episode, it was also the funniest by far…with an epic, cinematic feel and a lot of well-oiled moving parts humming along in perfect harmony and formidable speed. But in the midst of all the magic spectacle and comedy, the four core characters stay true to themselves throughout”

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7. Kyoukai no Kanata – 06

“A curious cold open…is the harbinger for perhaps the funniest, most inventive, and most satisfying episode of Kyoukai no Kanata yet…one that helps the show take one more step out of the shadows of its KyoAni forebears…there are times when the characters act a little bit too dumb or short-sighted, but the episode knows this as well as we do…In fact, it revels in it, as things go from bad to worse, despite the gang exerting more and more energy each go-around”

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6. Suisei no Gargantia – 01

“The opening battle is a tour de force of sci-fi mayhem, with a lot of different weapons and formations and tactics flying around the screen. After that thrilling and auspicious start, the episode slows down and takes its time; we go from a fantastic hi-tech world to somewhere that wouldn’t be out of place in a Miyazaki film”

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5. Chihayafuru 2 – 25

“This was a beautiful episode that had Chihaya cooped up in hospital, leaving her little to do but study Arata, think about Arata, talk to Arata, and summon feelings for Arata that she doesn’t understand…Also brilliant was the use of Chihaya’s poetry, as read by Oe (by far the best character in the show at reading poetry) to indicate that Taichi’s window is rapidly closing, and further dalliances only make his climb steeper”

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4. Uchouten Kazoku – 10

“[Ginkaku and Kinkaku’s] petty mischief lulled us into forgetting that the family they represent is not merely a political rival but an existential threat to the Shimogamo family. This week they’re charged with capturing the youngest, weakest Shimogamo, while their father, Soun, takes the lead in executing a carefully-planned takedown that is devastating in its efficiency. The episode oozes with imminent dread that gradually builds like that storm as things go from bad to worse…A day filled with so much hope and promise turns to utter shit for the Shimogamos, many of whom never see what’s coming”

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3. Aku no Hana – 10

“[Kasuga and Nakamura’s] great deviant adventure stalls in its infancy, and isn’t allowed to start back up. Nakamura muses that over that hill could be the end of the world, and until they actually get there, for all intents and purposes, it is… It isn’t until he’s between the two girls, faced with the choice of one, that he completely tears himself down in an effort to make himself undesirable to both”

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2. Onimonogatari – 02

(Monogatari Series: Second Season – 18)

“In the last episode we remarked that Oshino Shinobu is unlike any other entity inhabiting the series due to her longevity, scale of experience, and moral complexity…we knew when we delved deeper into her past, it would be something to behold; and so it was: a bold, indulgent, tantalizingly unique approach is utilized in visualizing Kiss-shot’s epic tale”

Nakamura Sawa, Kasuga Takao

1. Aku no Hana – 07

“Kasuga adds to his sins and the relationship between him and Nakamura becomes even deeper, more intimate, and more fucked-up, culminating in one of the tensest, sexiest, most powerful sequences we’ve ever seen on television, period”

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RABUJOI’s Top 15 Female Seiyus of 2012

Japan’s anime industry produces more than 60% of the animated series in the world, so with all those series being produced, you’re bound to hear the same seiyu in multiple places. It could be said that a good seiyu is one you don’t notice – that is, you’re focused on the character and not the person voicing him or her. But it’s inevitable that you’ll hear someone enough that you’ll recognize them instantly upon watching a new series.

It’s really no different than live-action actors. You know who they are, but there’s a contract in place between performer and viewer that puts aside the reality for the duration of the performance. We’ve been watching anime for many years, and in that time, we’ve taken a liking to a number of seiyus’ voices, and in some cases have given series a try purely because they voice a character. For whatever reason, we’ve also always paid far more attention to the female voices than the male ones.

Hundreds of seiyus contributed to the 48 series we watched last year. The time for end-of-year lists has passed, but we thought we’d go ahead and list our 15 favorites from 2012 anyway. Note that the list only includes female seiyus who voiced at least one main/leading role in a series RABUJOI reviewed in 2012 (including dropped series). We love Chiwa Saito and Hirano Aya, for instance, but we only heard them in bit roles last year. Main characters are in bold. Our favorite characters are starred*.


15. Omigawa Chiaki

Eureka Seven AO (Elena Peoples*/Miller Joe)
Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam (Magnolia)
Moretsu Pirates (Endou Mami, Flora Chapie)

We first heard Omigawa as Maka in Soul Eater, and like that manic series, her voice is…an acquired taste. It’s a bit on the shrill side, even when she isn’t worked up, but she did a really good job toning it down with Minko in Hanasaku Iroha. She merged Maka’s energy and Minko’s angst in her turn as Elena Peoples, who can be upbeat and dorky one minute and seriously scary the next. She was a nice fit for Elena.


14. Yuka Iguchi

Girls und Panzer (Reizei Mako)
Nisemonogatari (Araragi Tsukihi*)
KoiChoco (Ougibashi Kana)
Medaka Box (Mochibaru Sasae)
Sankarea (Furuya Mero)
Sket Dance (Usami Hani)

We know Yuka well from the Index franchise, and all the roles she played in 2012 are the same kind of small, cute moe characters at which she excels. While her performances as Mako and Mero were intentionally low-energy affairs, Tsukihi was a more balanced, nuanced role, requiring her to verbally spar with the great Kamiya Hiroshi.


13. Taketatsu Ayana

Sword Art Online (Kirigaya Suguha*)
Guilty Crown (Tsugumi)
Hyouka (Kimura)
Sket Dance (Obaanyan)

Prior to this year we knew Taketatsu primarily as Kirino in Oreimo, in which her role as a tsundere imouto was eventually overshadowed in our books by Kuroneko (more on her further down). With her role in SAO, we’re now comfortable labeling her the “little sister seiyu”, though that may not be entirely fair. It’s not a mark against her; her voice, capable of harsh anger, biting drama, indecision and cutesiness, is well-suited for sibling roles.


12. Kotobuki Minako

Natsuiro Kiseki (Aizawa Natsumi*)
Guilty Crown (Kusama Kanon)
Hyouka (Henmi)
Medaka Box (Nabeshima Nekomi)
Sket Dance (Akina)
Sukitte Ii na yo (Kitagawa Megumi)
Tari Tari (Mizuno Youko)

Kotobuki’s is an interesting voice capable of evoking an air of defiant earnestness and determination with underlying notes of vulnerability, which matches perfectly with Natsumi, who is strong and athletic but also emotionally uncertain. Ditto Megu-tan, who for all her glamour and popularity, is a self-loathing misanthrope nevertheless desperate to be wanted and needed.


11. Takagaki Ayahi

Natsuiro Kiseki (Mizukoshi Saki*)
Tari Tari (Sakai Wakana)
Chihayafuru (Young Mashima Taichi)
Sket Dance (Nanba Kyouko)
Sword Art Online (Shinozaki Rika/Lisbeth)

It’s fitting that Saki and Natsumi are best friends who start the series with a falling-out, because Takagaki, like Kotobuki, has hints of fragile definance in her voice. We first heard Takagaki in Umi Monogatari as the very hard, cold, skeptical Kanon who eventually softened in her dealings with Marin. Saki, Wakana, and Rika are all characters that are perfectly pleasant on the surface, but whom you don’t really want to piss off.


10. Uchida Maaya

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! (Takanashi Rikka*)
Sankarea (Sanka Rea)
K (Hyuuga Chiho)
Kokoro Connect (Mihashi Chinatsu)
Moretsu Pirates (Yunomoto Izumi)

Uchida impressed us with both of her main roles, which both happened to be emotionally wounded individuals living outside conventional society; one by choice (Rikka), one against her will (Rea). Uchida channels the pure, innocent Rea’s deep pain from a lifetime of abuse an humiliation by her overbearing, borderline father. Rikka wasn’t the victim of abuse, but she was deceived by her parents, and she found solace in Eighth-Grade Syndrome.


9. Kayano Ai

Aquarion Evol (Suzushiro Mikono)
Guilty Crown (Yuzuriha Inori, Ouma Mana)
Hyouka (Ibara Mayaka)
Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam (Millia)
Medaka Box (Kikaijima Mogana)
Rinne no Lagrange (Muginami)
Sukitte Ii na yo. (Tachibana Mei*)
Chihayafuru (Ooe Kanade)
KoiChoco (Shigemori Mao)
Moretsu Pirates (Hoshimiya Ai)
Natsuiro Kiseki (Okiyama Chiharu)
Sket Dance (Saotome Roman)
Tari Tari (Matsumoto Fumiko, Kurata Tomoka)

Kayano was the busiest of our Top 15 this year, providing talent for more than a quarter of the series we watched, plus a few we didn’t, including seven main roles. The majority of them are right in her wheelhouse: her delicate, gentle, willowy voice is ideal for characters who – at least initially – lack confidence and a sense of self worth.

You can say that about Mikono, Mayaka, Millia, Mei, Kanade, and Ai. That’s not to say she’s one note, only that she has a speciality and is good at it. Inori is a more opaque, ethereal character, while with Saotome Roman she just has fun poking at shojo tropes. But our favorite character she voiced would have to be Tachibana Mei.


8. Tomatsu Haruka

Natsuiro Kiseki (Hanaki Yuka)
Sword Art Online (Yuuki Asuna*)
Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun (Mizutani Shizuku)
Accel World (Wakamiya Megumi)
Binbougami ga! (Rindou Ranmaru)
Kokoro Connect (Nishino Nana)
Moretsu Pirates (Gruier Serenity)
Sket Dance (Kanou Arisa)

With Tomatsu, versatility is the name of the game. You can’t get much different than the peppy ball of energy that is Hanaki Yuka and Mizutani “Dry Ice” Shizuku, yet she nailed both. In between those extremes was Asuna, one of the best heroines of the year despite turning into a simple damsel-in-distress in the second half of SAO. She voiced the super-girly Princess Serenity and the super-manly Rindou Ranmaru – another pair of opposites.


7. Shizuka Itou

Amagami SS+ (Morishima Haruka)
Jormungand (Koko Hekmatyar*)
Kokoro Connect (Fujishima Maiko)
Moretsu Pirates (Misa Grandwood, Talvikki Launo)

Our first encounter with Shizuka is as Tachibana’s first conquest in the anime adaptation of the Amagami SS dating sim, in which her clear, crisp, almost aristocratic voice goes well with the character’s beauty and popularity. But there’s also a maturity to her voice, best exhibited with Misa, who is the ship’s doctor and voice of reason, and also a mentor of sorts for Marika.

She commands the respect of the crew despite her odd outfit. And then there’s Koko, the young arms dealer who seeks to force cumpulsory world peace. There’s breeding, money, and a certain arrogance in her voice, but also a keen intellect and copious confidence.


6. Yoshitani Ayako

Nazo no Kanojo X (Urabe Mikoto*)

The saliva-obsessed mysterious girlfriend was 20-year-old Yoshitani’s first and to date only role, and we’re going to pilfer the sentiments from a commenter on MAL: we fell in love the second we heard her voice. It’s not your usual anime girl voice; it’s very natural, warm, sensual, and subtle. This one role was more than enough to earn her a spot on this list, and we can’t wait to hear her in something else, though it will be hard to top her performance as Urabe.


5. Chinatsu Akasaki

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! (Nibutani Shinka*)
Kill Me Baby (Oribe Yasuna)
Kokoro Connect (Nakayama Mariko)
Moretsu Pirates (Harada Maki)
Tari Tari (Hirohata Nanae)

We didn’t notice Chinatsu until we watched Kill Me Baby, in which she portrays Yasuna, the comic half of the double act comprised of her and Sonya, the high school student who assassinates in her free time. As the funnier, sillier, and more unorthodox partner, Chinatsu exhibits a unique blend of manic energy, restlessness, and melodrama, when appropriate.

With Shinka she’s given a more dimensional character, one with a dorky past she’s not proud of that still leaks out. She’s a reformed weirdo, like Yuuta in a club otherwise full of raging weirdos.


4. Kitamura Eri

Nisemonogatari (Araragi Karen*)
One Off (Maezono Rie)
Black Rock Shooter (Izuriha Kagari)
Girls und Panzer (Darjeeling, Tsuchiya)
Kyousogiga (Yase Douji)
Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam (Tatiana Wisla)
Sket Dance (Quecchon)

It was a relatively quiet year for Kitamura, who at least in our viewing experiences specializes in portraying haughty/smug/arrogant characters like Toradora’s Kawashima Ami, though she can also do kiddie stuff like Rie. Her Tatiana in Ginyoku no Fam is a smaller, more role and is more polished, lacking the sizable chip on her shoulder in the first series.

Most of what we heard of her this year was in Nisemonogatari as the older of Koyomi’s little sisters; the one who almost lets things go a bit too far between them during a very intimate toothbrushing session.


3. Toyosaki Aki

Accel World (Kurashima Chiyuri)
Kokoro Connect (Nagase Iori*)
Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam (Fam Fan Fan)
Medaka Box (Kurokami Medaka)
Natsuiro Kiseki (Tamaki Rinko)
Hyouka (Zenna Rie)

Like Iguchi Rika, our first exposure to Toyosaki was in Railgun, in which she portrayed the delicate but diligent, flower-crowned Uiharu. While she was pleasant enough, she was pretty much outshone by the more prominent Misaka and Shirai. In Last Exile she has top billing and a whole big steampunk world to explore as the valiant, fearless, adorable sky pirate Fam. It’s the role she was born to play, and while she gets a little preachy and idealistic towards the end, that’s the writers’ fault, not Toyosaki’s.

We were most impressed by her powerful performance as Nagase Iori, still fresh in our minds as the last four episodes were mostly about her totally losing her shit. Her descent into darkness and eventual redemption comprise some of the best character work of the year in our books, and showed that Toyosaki has the chops to do heavier stuff when called upon.


2. Sawashiro Miyuki

Black Rock Shooter (Takanashi Yomi/Dead Master)
Kokoro Connect (Inaba Himeko*)
Zetsuen no Tempest (Kusaribe Hakaze)
Btooom! (Kira Kousuke)
K (Awashima Seri)
Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam (Liliana)
Natsuiro Kiseki (Aizawa Suzuka)
Nisemonogatari (Kanbaru Suruga)
Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun (Yoshida Yuuzan)

Every time we hear Sawashiro’s unmistakable voice, our ears perk up; we can’t help it. We’re not exactly sure why we like it so much; it’s a difficult thing to put into words. Is there an untranslatable Japanese term for “vulnerable strength?” Or “warm force?” Granted these aren’t traits unique to Sawashiro (many other seiyus on this list possess it), but there’s just something about her. Even if it defies easy description, Sawashiro’s golden pipes are always welcome. We could watch a Kokoro Connect spinoff focusing on Inaba Himeko all day.


1. Hanazawa Kana

Aquarion Evol (Zessica Wong)
Binbougami ga! (Sakura Ichiko)
Black Rock Shooter (Kuroi Mato)
Moretsu Pirates (Kurihara Chiaki)
From the New World (Akizuki Maria)
Zetsuan no Tempest (Fuwa Aika*)
Guilty Crown (Shinomiya Ayase)
Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam (Alvis E. Hamilton)
Nisemonogatari (Sengoku Nadeko)
Sket Dance (Agata Saaya)
Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun (Ooshima Chizuru)

Really? We need to say why? She’s Hanazawa Kana. She’s the shit, THE END. She wields the voice of an angel sent from heaven (Ooshima, Sengoku), a demon from hell (Sakura), and everything in between: tsunderes, pirates, bitches, little sisters, shy introverts, loud exhibitionists, conflicted souls. She makes subpar characters better just by voicing them and makes good characters great.

RABUJOI’s Top 15 Anime of 2010

15. B Gata H Kei – A surprisingly solid and funny series that really delved into the unclean mind of a teenaged high school girl approaching the threshold of adulthood. Her antics and attitudes toward her eventual boyfriend were the source of constant entertainment.

14. The World God Only Knows – Having a character with a ridiculously obsessive gaming habit really invigorated what would have otherwise been a placid but uninspired sequence of romances. That his vast gaming experience gave him such an edge in analyzing and conquering real-life girls’ hearts proved a winning theme.

13. Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt – No shows matched the manic intensity and sheer irreverance for dignity as this latest Gainax installment, which had excellent, diverse animation and a kick-ass soundtrack.

12. So Ra No Wo To – The first anime-only “Anime no Chikara” series didn’t turn out to be the best, but it was still quite good, being perhaps the anime that most closely resembled a Miyasaki-like alternate fantasy world, richly depicted.

11. Katanagatari – Spreading out its twelve installments over tweleve months gave this series the most presence this year, and when each month ended it created great anticipation for the next. Some months were better than others, but the chemistry, music, and clever battles were more than enough to put this epic journey on the list.

10. Working!! – Sometimes you just need a simple, happy, straightforward slice-of-life without villains, monsters, or the world on the line. Working!! was just the ticket, with an eclectic cast of oddballs just working at a restaurant.

9. Star Driver – While only half over, this series was the best of the fall, and firmly established its penchant for gorgeous vistas, short-but-sweet battles, cinematic score, and intricate tangle of characters, most with dual personas.

8. Senko no Night Raid – The anime that went there: China in the 30s, to be exact. It told a story different from history, but it didn’t go all nationalistic about it; there was no black-and-white here. But there were spies with superpowers, which was awesome.

7. Durarara!! – This show did such a good job establishing the rich, energetic city of Ikebukuro, Tokyo, the real place was one of my first stops on a summer trip there. But it wasn’t just the soul of the city it captured, but the complexity of its people and their hopes and dreams. It could have ended better but few series started as good as this.

6. Angel Beats! – From episode one, this series pulled you straight into the afterlife and played by its own rules. An etherially beautiful yet confined setting, a sizable cast of lost souls, a soaring soundtrack, and the right dose of comedy earns Angel Beats! its high standing. More than anything, it was just fun.

5. House of Five Leaves – Though I was originally hung up on its creepy and altogether unattractive character designs, I wisely stuck with this ultimately gorgeous, atmospheric story of a time in Japan long past when life was tougher. It’s a well-told, well-acted, authentic story that really drew me in.

4. Occult Academy – In any series here deserved 26 episodes, it was this third and latest “Anime no Chikara” series. It did a great job developing Maya’s character, but too often went on side-tangents and had an incredibly-rushed ending. Still, the best episodes of this series can be counted among the best single episodes of the year for the sheer awesomeness they packed.

3. Shiki – Shiki started off slow and strange, but its meticulous build-up paid off in the best way. It too suffered from odd character design, but once one was acclimated to it it really complimentary to this dark and twisted horror story. Vamps and werewolfs are so overdone these days, but Shiki really contributed something unique and terrifying. Its soundtrack was also among the best of the season.

2. The Tatami Galaxy – Density. That’s what this series had in spades. Visual and verbal. For those who could keep up with the rapid-fire narration, it was an immensely satisfying and hilarious ride, with an ending that tied it all together.

1. Armed Librarians – The Book of Bantorra – This cool, confident, unrelenting anime wrapped in late January, making it just eligible for a 2010 list. January was a long time ago, but the awesomeness of Bantorra still shines clearly in my memory. No series throughout the remaining months packed so many interesting characters, stories, twists and turns into its run.