Top Ten lists are fun, so as I’ve been skimping on my usual blogging duties recently I thought it’d be fun to do a bumper round-up of mini reviews from what I think are the best anime that came out this year. To be truthful I’m quite woeful when it comes to keeping up anime so there will be obvious gaps in my list, so feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments. :-) For this list, an anime title needs to have had a physical release in the UK in 2013 on either DVD or Blu-ray, no streaming or fansubs here. Please note that there is no order of preference.
From Up On Poppy Hill – Goro Miyazaki’s second Ghibli feature. It’s far better than Tales From Earthsea, so that’s a good start. I doubt anyone will put this one down as a significant turning point in Studio Ghibli’s history, but it’s pleasant enough and beautiful to look at.
One Piece seasons 1-4 – Proving that patience is virtue, the UK finally started to get One Piece released on DVD. The pacing can sometimes be a little wonky to help fill its lengthy runtime but the characters are varied, the designs interesting and its overwrought drama can really throw you for a loop if you allow it. It’s more than just another anime show, it’s a worldview that loves fun and adventure. If you let it, it will consume you.
Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt – Take FLCL, add an American cartoon vibe and aim it at mature audiences. This series is the result. Gainax certainly don’t do things by halves and even their flawed attempts are far more interesting than what the majority of other studios are putting out.
Berserk 2 – The Battle for Doldrey – The middle part of the Golden Age Arc in the movie series was the only one to get released this year. While the drama is allowed to build up slowly in both the original manga and anime, the film’s shorter runtime forces it to accelerate through its source material’s intricacies and rapidly bludgeons its way through the violence and sex. It’s remarkable that it’s as watchable as it is, and the promise of the third film fills me with an equal mix of excitement and dread.
My Neighbour Totoro – A steelbook reissue doesn’t exactly make this a new release proper. Never mind though. It’s Totoro, and I’ll use any excuse to include it.
Lupin III: The Women Called Fujiko Mine – The Lupin III franchise attempts to return to its roots in this short series. Acting somewhat as a halfway house between the typical goofy post-Miyazaki Lupin and the super-sleazy manga, it does a great job at being engaging with both its plot and design. Moreover, it requires zero prior knowledge of the series and with luck will pave new paths for future endeavours.
FLCL – A Blu-ray release of Gainax’s bizarre coming of age story where the line before adulthood is expressed with robots and aliens bursting out of peoples’ heads. It rapidly changes in design and tone without warning, seemingly for no reason other than to amuse the animators. If it didn’t do so well at being entertaining it probably would still be doing the rounds at haughty animation festivals worldwide. It’s quite insane, and great fun.
Perfect Blue – Satoshi Kon’s first feature length film as director arrives on Blu-ray, whose loss in 2010 is still being felt. It looks a little rough around the edges these days, but Perfect Blue is a quality mature thriller and a true anime classic.
Wolf Children – It’s somewhat irresponsible to recommend something I’ve not yet seen, but I’m doing it anyway. Sources I trust are singing its praises, and I loved the director’s previous films The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Summer Wars, so this will definitely be worth a peek.
Kids on the Slope – A 12 episode romantic drama of three friends and their relationship with 1960s jazz. The rotoscoped animation for the music scenes are an obvious highlight, but genuine interest in the story prevents it from being a one trick pony. The last episode is a misstep in an otherwise wonderful series, but still leaves on a good note (every pun is intended).