The year 2013 saw a lot of releases from Sentai Filmworks come out and the variety meant there was a lot to like. Some of it came in the form of upgrades from DVDs that people had bought before, which was a good way to not anger those that had bought DVDs when Blu-rays weren’t being produced, but it generated a lot of conversation as well. The main draw, however, are the shows themselves. This year had a lot of neat things coming out and there was no way anything was going to top Tsuritama in my mind when it came to what Sentai was bringing out this year.
Tsuritama – A show about fishing wasn’t high on the list of series that I thought I’d get into, but this one completely did it. Of course, it included some aliens as well but it’s an absolutely wonderful show that focuses on the bonds of young men growing up in different situations and understanding their struggles. The alien component is what sets it all in motion but even that falls to the side often enough that you can just get into the groove of it all. The animation and design work for it is stellar and still stands out strongly today as something unique and special, easily topping our list for this year.
Golgo 13 Complete – With a taste of the manga in the 90s and the couple of films released decades earlier, getting to see this modern take on the character animation-wise with a four-cour run was just fantastic. Sentai did them all on DVD and ended up with Blu-ray rights not long after but it was a series of standalone episodes worth revisiting and having it look the best possible. It’s a great look at a cold professional at the height of his career and the challenges he faces in working around the world without glorifying it or making it this slick and breezy thing.
Kokoro Connect – The concept for this was really good in the whole body-swapping realm and I absolutely adored that instead of just focusing on wacky hijinks that it dug into the emotional problems and lives of these kids. It was a really good exploration of emotions, viewing people through other lenses, and really coming to understand yourself as well. It’s the kind of project that really dug into the meat of things – and could have done more of it – but also knew to have just enough lighter moments to balance it out. It’s a really strong and involved project that hits a particular sweet spot for me with young love, how one views themselves, and their place in the world.
Kids on the Slope – This series didn’t be as big as a lot of people thought it might based on the talent behind it, but it was one that was strong and engaging as it focused on life in 1966 with complicated issues of the time. Good period/historical pieces in anime are few and far between that aren’t involved in action pieces so I really appreciated this combined with its heavy focus on music. It’s one of those hidden gems at this point because it never achieved real critical mass yet has a solid base of fans to it. The exploration of music and life in this time, coming of age as the first generation born after the war offers a lot to explore.
Colorful: The Motion Picture – Based on the novel and most definitely not the pervy OVA that came out years before, Colorful is a beautifully haunting film of life and death and the struggle that it is to exist for some. With stunning animation in a great many scenes and coming from the novel as its source, Keiichi Hara directed this film and it was emotionally resonant for a lot of people struggling with life in a way that’s hard to comprehend for most people. It gives a really good voice to them and a way to be seen in a world that they feel is so incredibly stacked against them.
Bodacious Space Pirates – The life of a sanctioned pirate in space is a great concept to begin with, but putting a high school girl as its captain was the icing on the cake. With some really beautiful animation and design concepts to give it a classical feel, the show did a great job of exploring the fun of staged space piracy at first before exploring more serious issues and the kind of training they all go through to learn how to work in space to begin with. The piracy side is a great accent and the series has a far more relaxed pace about it than you might expect as well a good sense of wonder about it all.
Listen to Me, Girls. I Am Your Father! – This show always gets the dirty looks for its existence and it certainly has its issues in how it plays out with the fanservice, but at its core, it’s a really good story involving loss, the bonds of family, and finding a new way to move forward after tragedy. It’s one that has some good emotional stakes as it plays out as we see each of the individual struggles as well as the “Father” as he finds himself in this role that’s definitely beyond what any young man would have to deal with. The animation and design work is definitely great and it has a quality about it that made it a lot of fun to watch.
Mysterious Girlfriend X – I’m a sucker for a good love story but I really like a weird one. Such is the case here on this series based n the manga where a young man finds himself addicted and in love with a new transfer student – except that he’s addicted to her drool. There’s a really weird sense of humor about this show in how it operates and it delivers something that feels very askew and unusual in the way that will delight many viewers as it’s not “typical” material. The relationship that grows between the two leads is hilarious because of the drool element but it moves beyond that and explores a lot more when it comes to teenage relationships.
AKB0048 – I’m not a huge fan of idol shows at this point and a show that seemingly involves dozens of them should be a huge turnoff. But AKB0048 and its sequin season hit a really sharp science fiction element that makes it work as part of a larger battle that’s being fought. It doesn’t delve deep into the politics or economic aspects of it all, but through it we get these girls as the front line forces acting as revolutionary and insurgents to inspire and tell the story of the past. It’s not exactly a strange concept but it’s pulled off so expertly here with the likes of Shoji Kawamori and Mari Okada so as to really surprise and shock at times.
Girls & Panzer – Tanks on a boat! While this series didn’t wow me as strongly as a lot of its fanbase, it’s definitely a key title for the company and one they did up in a great way, along with subsequent installments. Giving us a world where humanity lives on ships with large communities and then focusing on a high school tank division and all that comes from that with the love of mechanical animation and design and cute girls, this show delivers the goods that make for a rousing good time. The strategy elements are great but it also hits the right sweet spots with the cast and their group dynamic, competitiveness, and bonding.
Chris has been writing about anime, manga, movies and comics for well on twenty years now. He began AnimeOnDVD.com back in 1998 and has covered nearly every anime release that’s come out in the US ever since.