Shinsekai Yori is the story of a group of children growing up in a seemingly perfect society of telekinetics. Together they live their peaceful, idle lives oblivious to the dark secrets the adults are keeping from them. That is until one by one, their friends begin to disappear. This anime sports some of the most excellent world-building and realistic character writing you’ll find in this medium. There’s a pervasive sense of mystery and dread that pushes you all the way to the final episodes. The clues and questions will keep scratching at your head every step of the way until all clicks together at the marvelously executed finale.
Sorry if I’m being a bit vague but I really don’t want to give away too much. This one of the must-watch diamonds of 2013. So go watch it, please?
When you ask the question, “What is the best action anime?” Most people will tell you Fate/Zero (they better). Wriiten by Gen Urobochi of Madoka-fame and animated by Ufotable who you might know for Kara no Kyoukai. Fate/Zero had an excellent reception among anime fans. It’s movie-level production values makes it one of the most high-quality shows to ever air on Japanese television.
This is the prequel to Fate/Stay Night, the visual novel published by Type-Moon. However, do not watch the Fate/Stay Night anime from 2006 by Studio Deen. It’s a poorly made adaptation and not necessary for enjoying Fate/Zero.
Fate/Zero details the events of the 4th Holy Grail War. A battle royale where sevens mages summon seven heroic spirits from all across history to fight to the death. The victor who obtains the grail can have a single wish granted.
The advantage of battle royale-style stories is that the viewer gets to explore the personal motivations and colorful personalities of a large cast of characters all while engaged in high-tension, high-stakes conflict. And Fate/Zero delivers on this promise and then some. The action setpieces have superb buildups and payoffs. The viewer gets to see the planning stages of every move each mage makes and keeps you guessing how the battles will turn out. The servants are all highly-skilled warriors and the animation proudly touts their combat skills. This show features some of the most well-choreographed, insanely fluid, fight scenes in anime. Period.
By opting for a 50 minute exposition in episode 1. Fate/Zero successfully avoids most of the pitfalls of having a large number of characters by flying through all the introductions and jumping to the interactions. Every character, both magi and servants, are well developed through their conversations and clashes with the other characters. Urobochi never wastes a line of dialogue. All of it provides some kind of insightful understanding of their actions or personal philosophies.
Did I mention Ufotable is remaking Fate/Stay Night this Fall season? Yes, they are and it’s going to be one of the biggest hits this year. So if you haven’t seen Fate/Zero now is the best time. It’s on Netflix.
Welcome to the othermost criminally under-watched show of 2013. For a while, I couldn’t decide whether this show or Kyousougiga would be my AOTY 2013. I chose Kyousougiga because I enjoyed the mythical tone but it’s a matter of preference. That being said, Uchoten Kazoku is another visually stunning masterpiece by PA Works and also happens to be a family drama as well.
In this fantasy version of Kyoto, there exists a balance between three races. The Tanuki whom possesses the ability to shapshift, the Tengu who control the wind and the skies, and the humans that go about their lives blissfully unaware of the nature of either race. Uchoten Kazoku centers on a family of Tanuki who have recently lost their father and are adapting to the changes and grief it has brought them.
Uchouten Kazoku understands organic conflict on a level you will rarely find in other works of entertainment. In reality, people don’t achieve self-actualization, reach the apex of their character, and continue living their lives while breezing through issues with the lessons they’ve learned. Life is a constant struggle with oneself and the world. This reality is appropriately captured as the four tanuki brothers flounder through their days. Trying to understand what their father’s legacy means for them.
The setting of Kyoto is just as much of a character as the rest of the cast. Every episode tours the city’s many scenic vistas and synergizes with the driving emotion of the characters’ interactions. Ultimately, connecting the themes of outer-perception and inner-perception that the brothers explore while trying to learn about the different views and impacts the other two races have on their way of life.
Uchoten Kazoku is a marvelous one-of-a-kind anime that delivers on an artistic, thematic, and entertaining level. Its deep commentary on life, love, and family is thoughtfully written and will leave you in equally deep thought. The art alone is the envy of even the most successful shows. And unquestionably, a crowning achievement of modern anime.