So I had plans to write a bunch of posts featuring my favorite anime series for the entire year of 2013. Unfortunately, my list of things I actually watched during this year (54 new series) was far too big for me to narrow anything down! So I decided to share 10 of the best moments in anime this year instead.
Note: the following posts do not necessarily reflect my personal opinion about each series as a whole. I may have also skipped some really great moments; but then again, these are simply from my opinion only. This post contains spoilers!All shows and their episodes can be seen on Crunchyroll.
10. The Graduation Ceremony (The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, episode 23)
The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, as a series, originally ran starting from the Fall 2012 season, but finished in its second season in Winter earlier this year. Graduations are one of the most momentous events in anyone’s lives, and the one featured in this series is no exception. In a last attempt to save Sakura Hall, the dormitory where our main characters live, the graduating seniors come out with an ingenious plan to have every last student be compelled to reject the school board’s hasty decision.
Graduating valedictorian, who just happens to be Sakura Hall resident, Misaki Kamiigusa, shares her memories of the dormitory, thereby making Sakura Hall itself a character for the series (but that’s for another conversation altogether). In one of the craziest exchanges between the board and the residents afterward, all of the students and graduates come together and stand up for Sakura Hall.
This moment captures the compelling climax of how all of the characters, despite their failures and shortcomings, finally make a successful mark in their lives. By voicing their opinion and repealing a decision made by those in much greater political power, the residents of Sakurasou have a graduation to remember!
9. Sumire Plays by the Rules (Chihayafuru 2, episode 2)
I’ve seen a lot of moments this year where the most ordinary or awkward of things become the most dramatic scenes ever, but this one takes the proverbial cake. Chihayafuru in its second installment of a 2-season chunk came out in Winter of this year and finished in Spring.
Of the new protagonists added to the cast comes Sumire Hanano, a freshman at Chihaya’s school who appears to be more boy-crazy than anything else. Her constant search for love (in all the wrong places) brings her to the karuta club, where she hopes to get their president Taichi to fall in love with her. After being hounded by the ace Chihaya, however, Sumire blurts out her intentions and runs away from practice crying. With a convincing speech from member Kana-chan, Sumire returns and decides to play by the rules.
No one typically thinks of trimming nails as a dramatic event, but for Chihayafuru, it is one of the biggest turning points for Sumire. In the game of karuta, one’s fingernails should be trimmed because of the use of swings and grabs during the game. Sumire, who is far too conscious of looking beautiful, first refuses to trim her nails. And yet, as Kana-chan said, the writers of Hyakunin Isshu, the poetry behind the cards, expressed their love by abiding by the rules of tanka poetry. And with that, Sumire abides by the rules in a chance at her own love story.
8. The Saddest Pilot Episode (Kotoura-san, episode 1)
Kotoura-san is a comedy series about a girl with ESP and her life in high school that came out in Winter. Yes, I said “comedy,” and yes, I said “the saddest pilot episode.”
Comedies in general are supposed to entertain us by exploiting the human condition for us to laugh at (typically), but this series truly tosses between comedy and tragedy many times over. Why? Because the first 10 minutes of the entire series starts out in the most tragic of ways! Our protagonist, Haruka Kotoura, agonizes over her past, flashing back to her early life as a psychic. The first few moments seem fun and cute, but they rapidly grow into the most terrifying events in a child’s life. Haruka’s doctors could not diagnose her, her father and mother separate, her mother abandons her, her friends at school ostracize her, and the abandoned kitten she took care of is put down!
Like many others who watched this pilot episode, this mortifying tone lingered throughout the series, despite the fact that after about 10 minutes into this episode, Kotoura’s life changes as she enters a new school. The comedic portion of the series begins at this point, but no one can truly escape the feelings from that pilot portion!
7. I am Not an Insect (Mushibugyo, episode 21)
Of all the characters in an underrated show like Mushibugyo, swordsman and infamous killer, Shungiku Koikawa has by far the greatest back story. He becomes the “Killer of 99” after his mother’s death, where he seeks revenge on her murderer, his own father. He then joins the Insect Magistrate’s Office to slay giant bugs that raid feudal Japan instead.
In the series’ second season with the insect-human arc, Koikawa faces the two most pious insects among Sanada’s Braves, and for the most part, gets his butt handed to him. He is about to lose to both of these insects when he makes his conviction by looking back on his hands, the hands that slayed 99 people in cold blood. His father, the murderer whom he held a grudge against, was to be his hundredth kill, but suddenly decided to spare him.
Some say that Koikawa did not kill his father out of compassion, but our protagonist, Jinbei Tsukishima, knows far better. Koikawa did not kill his father out of compassion, but rather for the opposite reason. If he managed to kill his father out of vengeance, he would be no better than he was, truly an “insect” among humans. That day, Koikawa declared he is not an insect like his father. He is an “Insect Slayer!”
6. The Chewing Gum Message (Nagi no Asukara, episode 5)
Nagi no Asukara (A Lull in the Sea) is probably one of the sappiest of soaps I have seen this year (not that I didn’t enjoy it, I truly did). And like the fingernail trimming in No. 9 of this list, this is another one of those ordinary or awkward moments that became a truly dramatic moment (though honestly, it wasn’t nearly as ordinary or awkward).
With Akari’s relationship with a surface human coming ever closer to marriage, her future step-daughter Miuna is compelled to do everything in her power to make her leave. Miuna is introduced in the series by chewing on gum and pressing it against the wall where Akari works to spell out a message. The message is implied as spelling “Go Away” and remains unfinished. Miuna’s hatred toward the sea dweller continues until she is confronted by our main protagonist Hikari, Akari’s kid brother, who saves her from drowning. She opens up to him, telling him that Akari was trying to replace her mother who had died years before. After much convincing that she did not want Akari’s mother-like love to leave her, Miuna and Hikari decide to finish the message overnight.
Akari comes into work the next morning, discovering the two of them in the alley where the wall is. The message is completed, but has changed to reveal Miuna’s true feelings for Akari. And in this moment, Akari embraces her future step-daughter, and tears flowed from my eyes like crazy.
5. Who Lived as a Human, and Died as a Human (Sunday Without God, episode 3)
Sunday Without God is by far my favorite series to have come out of the entire year of 2013. And the last moments of its first arc had to make this list.
Finally meeting a stranger in a new world where people can no longer bare children or pass on without the help of a grave keeper, Ai has a tenuous love-hate relationship with Hampnie Hambart, a man who is said to be immortal. This man single-handedly massacred Ai’s entire village and she feels that she can never forgive him. But in a turn of events, she realizes that Hampnie Hambart was actually revealing to her the most macabre of truths: the fact that her entire village was filled with “the deceased,” the equivalent of the undead in this new world order. After a few more revealings from an old friend, Ai realizes that Hampnie Hambart is actually her father, and tries to save him from bandits that had captured him. And yet in the attempt to rescue him, Hampnie Hambart feels himself dying for the first time, in the presence of his friends and his daughter.
Before becoming one of the deceased, Hampnie Hambart reveals to Ai that his real name is Kizuna Astin. And despite his fourteen years of hating the idea of the deceased walking amongst the living, he decides for just one day, that he would abandon his sense of justice and be with his daughter Ai.
Ai knows that wishing for this moment to stay with her father is the one thing she cannot have. And as the young half-human-grave keeper, Ai lays her father to rest next to her deceased mother. Death is the one fear that many of us as humans have, but to be immortal is a far greater fear in that one’s humanity is completely lost. And by goodness, the once immortal Kizuna Astin had saved his humanity. Here at last, Kizuna Astin is laid to rest, one who was born a human, who lived as a human, and died as a human.
4. The True Salute (Attack on Titan, episode 16)
If the previous series was my favorite of all the series this year, I have to also mention by far the fans’ favorite series as well (and yes, I enjoyed it too). Attack on Titan has gotten a lot of hype ever since it came out in its take on a post-apocalyptic world where humanity is trapped within its own walls against man-eating giants that put them in their place. A lot of moments from this series could have clearly made it to this list, but for the sake of diversity, this one scene made the cut.
After Eren had been sent to train with the Survey Corps as the only human who has thus far been known to transform into a titan, the remaining members of his recruitment group are assembled to join one of the three branches of the military. Since all of the recruits had witnessed and survived the horrors of a real invasion by the titans, many of them decide to join the Military Police or the Garrison. For Eren’s friends and rivals, however, their convictions have already been decided as they stay in the ranks to join the Survey Corps. At this point in human history, the Survey Corps is the least favored position among the military forces; and yet in their whole-hearted decision, the remaining recruits stand steadfast before the Survey Corps commander.
With deepest respect, commander Erwin Smith gives them the most honest of Attack on Titan’s signature salutes, and the recruits return it. And that this moment, the tide of this series shifted as the Survey Corps leads the way into being humanity’s greatest hope.
3. Guillotine Gorilla (Samurai Flamenco, episode 7)
At first, I enjoyed the Fall original, Samurai Flamenco, because of its realistic and comedic approach to portray a would-be superhero. A lot of the jokes were campy and the comedies of ordinary life made the series enjoyable. I almost confused it for a shounen series. That is, until about the last five minutes of episode 7.
In a media-sponsored joint drug bust for the police and our vigilante hero, a perpetrator swallows mysterious pills to transform himself into a monstrous villain! The SWAT team tries to stop this criminal, but are completely ineffective. The villain, declaring himself as Guillotine Gorilla, then grabs each SWAT officer and beheads each one in the guillotine that makes up his stomach area. Samurai Flamenco and his police officer friend, Goto, team up together to apprehend the culprit, only for him to blow himself up and saying the series’ catch phrase: “Viva Torture!”
Samurai Flamenco was a show that most anime fans ignored because of its mellow first six episodes. After that turn of events however, I’m pretty certain the series got a lot of attention after that! My friends who were hesitant in watching it at first started to gain a lot of interest in the series (whether or not they actually started watching remains to be unknown). Guillotine Gorilla is pretty minor of a character in this series, as his screen time only lasted in this moment, but his role in Samurai Flamenco clearly changed the entire tone of the series.
2. I am Human! (Maoyu, episode 9)
I was quite hesitant at first to watch Maoyu (Maou Yuusha, literally Demon Lord and Hero) because the main points of this fantasy series was to feature the biggest-chested “Demon Lord” ever, appeasing of course, to the typical male otaku. However, the themes of political struggle and humanism that stemmed from this series changed my mind about it. And my opinions about Maoyu can simply be summed up by this very moment.
Maid Ane (literally “big sister maid”) is a human serf who is taken in by Maou who is adjusting herself into the human world as the Crimson Scholar. Although most of Ane’s role is to be trained as a maid, Maou also takes her in as her No. 1 pupil. With Maou’s teachings of equality, justice, political science, and economy, Maid Ane quickly grasps new ideas in a Medieval world and starts to believe that Maou’s vision is the coming of a new world order. When Maou is asked to return to her world in the demon realm, she leaves Maid Ane with a talisman ring that transforms her to look like Maou and is asked to remain as a substitute, so as to not arouse suspicion in the human world.
Unfortunately for Maid Ane, the authorities also used this time to capture the Crimson Scholar and hold her for treason as they were led to believe that she is in fact a demon (well, they couldn’t be more right). Maid Ane, disguised as Maou, is placed in a stockade and brought forth to the townspeople for a public flaying and stoning. When the Church officials declare her a criminal and commands the people to stone her, Maid Ane makes the most compelling speech to the crowd.
She admits, without revealing her true identity, that she was a serf, a class that is often considered even below insects. But then she was saved and was given a chance to truly live, and recognized the beauty of this life. She is human. The Church declares heresy from Maid Ane, but the people were compelled to protect her instead. They then began to question the very structure and rules of their society and even began throwing stones at the officials.
This moment made possible the change in their kingdom’s rules and very makeup of society, bringing forth a new and positive order. Maid Ane is actually one of my favorite characters in all of anime, and her declaration of being human is the moment that makes her my favorite.
1. It’s Time to Begin Your Journey… (Space Brothers, episode 75)
I’ve been watching Space Brothers ever since the animated series began in 2012. The story of two brothers who want to become astronauts has always been a heart-warming ride in their respective life journeys, and each episode felt like there was more new material and lessons to be learned. Having said that, in the sixth season in Summer of this year, we watch as big brother Mutta straggles behind on his training as little brother Hibito has made it back from the moon by making public appearances in the United States and Japan.
Mutta is forced to work with the engineering division of NASA as his training records showed he was the least likely candidate among the ASCANs (astronaut candidates) to ever become an astronaut. But that doesn’t discourage him at all! Mutta comes up with a brilliant idea to change the moon buggy’s current design (which I will not spoil in detail, for those who aren’t caught up). Mutta presents this idea to NASA’s board of directors with a somewhat indifferent response. He then decides to set up a trump card by performing a sky trick for the NASA chief executive.
After the presentation and this trick, Mutta gets a visit from his previous instructor, Vincent Bold. “It’s time to begin your journey,” he says, “your journey to the moon.” (Okay, I’m paraphrasing, but that’s what he says in a nutshell).
At last, Mutta, who is often branded as the least likely candidate as an astronaut for health reasons, is finally given a chance to get to the moon, a feat that his younger brother has already made. At last, he can truly live like a real astronaut (granted still in training). And at last, in this very moment, Mutta has finally landed a legitimate success in his astronaut career. If every journey begins with a single step, Mutta has finally began to take that very first one!