After an onslaught of man-eating titans and terminally unpopular high school heroines, another year of anime is officially in the rearview mirror. As we all huddle indoors and wait for the first Big Thing of 2014 to appear, I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon of year-end award columns. After all, it’s a natural part of the otaku lifestyle to bicker endlessly about whose favorite show is the best. Let’s get right into it and hand out some imaginary trophies!
Best Series Everyone Watched: Kill la Kill
Runner Up: Attack on Titan
2013 was apparently the year of big epic action shows, as the impressive battle sequences in Kill la Kill and Attack on Titan seemed to have everyone talking. My pick ultimately goes to Kill la Kill by virtue of its clever jabs at its own genre. It also managed to give us a sense of grudging respect for many of the villains, a rare feat when the easy option is to just make the bad guys a collection of despicable jerks. Attack on Titan excelled at conveying the terror of fighting giant, hungry monsters, but didn’t put much effort into breaking out of the action series formula.
Best Series Nobody Watched: Silver Spoon
Runner Up: Space Brothers
If 2013 was a year where loud action shows grabbed most of the attention, a quiet slice of life series like Silver Spoon never stood much of a chance. Anyone who gave it a shot, however, was treated to an honest and well-researched account of modern farm life, along with a surprisingly intelligent look at our relationship with our food. Meanwhile, Space Brothers deserves similar credit for continuing to make us care deeply about its cast of astronauts, whether they’re facing a major crisis or the mundane difficulties of everyday life.
Biggest Surprise: Free!
Runner Up: RWBY
There was never any doubt that Free! would be a major success amongst people who like watching handsome guys parade around in tight swimwear. What I never saw coming was the genuine quality of the show itself. The highs and lows of the Iwatobi Swim Club made for an entertaining season of episodes, and Free! successfully proved that a fanservice show doesn’t have to be shamelessly sleazy in order to get ahead. RWBY broke a different stereotype by showing us that a small production team from outside of Japan can put together a solid anime series, and I commend the folks at Rooster Teeth for their work on it.
Most Comedic Comedy: The Devil is a Part-Timer!
Runner Up: Outbreak Company
When you take the cast of a typical fantasy series and have them work minimum-wage jobs in modern-day Japan, it’s hard not to make an amusing comedy. The writers of The Devil is a Part-Timer! took that premise and turned into far more than an amusing comedy: they made a great one. With a well-developed cast of endearing characters and an excellent sense of parody, Devil works amazingly well on multiple levels. In another year, the clever otaku comedy of Outbreak Company might have been enough to sweep this category, as its only mistake was coming out in the same year as one of my all-time favorites.
Most Dramatic Drama: Psycho-Pass
Runner Up: Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet
While its first half ran at the end of 2012, I’m still counting Psycho-Pass for this year’s awards. A sci-fi police procedural following in the footsteps of classics like Ghost In The Shell, Psycho-Pass mixes insightful social commentary with the genuine impression that things could go horribly wrong for its heroes at any moment. Being guided by the twisted mind behind Madoka Magica and Fate Zero certainly helps that sense of impending disaster. Gargantia wasn’t quite as engaging, but still managed to make us sweat when it threatened to destroy its little post-apocalyptic slice of paradise.
Sportiest Sports Series: Chihayafuru 2
Runner Up: Yowamushi Pedal
There was a time not long ago when I might have scoffed at the prospect of watching sports anime, laughing haughtily as I looked down my nose at the constant use of tournament structure for a plotline. Things have changed in recent years, thanks in no small part to absurdly compelling cast of Chihayafuru. Even with my high expectations from the first season, the second installment managed to have me shouting at the screen as fictional people played a game about memorizing verses of poetry. If there isn’t a third season in 2014, I shall be incredibly sad. At least I’ll have Yowapeda, which has managed to make bicycle racing fun without even having to use Queen’s classic song. Biiiiicycle…
Best Series With An Obnoxiously Long Title: WataMote
Runner Up: My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU
Seriously, anime producers, stop with the paragraph-long titles already. It’s no longer novel or amusing. Still, No Matter How You Look At It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular! was an excellent piece of comedy, giving viewers the chance to laugh at the geeky social failings we’ve all gone through at one point or another. SNAFU makes the list for having enough confidence in its misanthropic protagonists that it didn’t feel the need to bombard us with gimmicks or fanservice. And you know what? It was all the better for doing so.
Best Show From 2012 That I Didn’t Watch Until 2013: Girls und Panzer
Runner Up: Dusk Maiden of Amnesia
No one likes to talk about it, but we’ve all got a backlog of shows that we missed the first time around. I wrote off Girls und Panzer in 2012 because of its insane girls-with-tanks premise, but it’s a charming show that was clearly crafted with love by its creative staff. It’s absolutely worth a try, and Sentai Filmworks has recently been savvy enough to release the entire series on Blu-Ray. The same goes for Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, which made me laugh, cry, and look warily over my shoulder at night.
That’s all I’ve got for 2013, folks. It was a pretty impressive year for anime, and I had a difficult time narrowing down nearly every single category. Hopefully next year will bring us more exciting new shows to get into forum arguments over. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even (finally) get around to covering the occasional manga-related topic this year. Happy 2014!
Kawaii Overthink is written by Paul Jensen. You can follow his ramblings about anime on Twitter.