2013: The Anime Year in Review

Looking back this was a fairly average year in anime. There was a lot of crap of course but there were also a fair number of shows that were well-made and entertaining.

Outstanding Anime of 2013

Rescued ratShin Sekai Yori (started Fall 2012) (Crunchyroll) is a solid adaptation of a serious science fiction story. It is far more sophisticated than what usually passes for sci-fi on television. This may be too dark for some tastes and is definitely not suitable for young children. Older viewers may find it very rewarding.
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Sasami-san Ends

As I’ve said before, Akiyuki Shinbo is an enormously talented director but his work tends to leave me cold (with the major exception of Madoka Magica which is all-around amazing). I enjoyed Sasami-san@Ganbaranai (Anime Network) more than most of his shows but I still can’t really recommend it, particularly after watching the final episode which was not titled “Sasami Makes a New Frenemy” but might as well have been.
Jou and Sasami
We have an interesting premise about ancient barbaric gods in a modern setting. The story is fascinating, often unsettling and sometimes quite funny. But ultimately the characters are not people I would like to get to know better and the story itself doesn’t make much sense. Sure you can look up the mythological references, but some random mythological references don’t make an incoherent story coherent.

Bottom line: interesting but not great.

Sasami-san and Shinto concepts of death

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai has gotten noticeably darker with the appearance of Sasami’s dead mother. By now I’ve dropped the hypothesis that Sasami is an ordinary girl with Shinto-based delusions. This really is an offbeat story about ancient Shinto gods and goddesses. (I think.)
Sasami's Mother
Anime in general is full of references to the Shinto religion, but it is usually a lightweight pop Shinto. Sasami-san takes a more scholarly approach, one that is both more esoteric and darker. To fully understand the show you need some background in some of the older Shinto traditions.

There are actually 3 fairly distinct concepts of death and the afterlife associated with Shinto.
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Some crazy fans have taken the OP for Sasami-san@Ganbaranai and replaced all the characters with characters from Madoka Magica (via Crunchyroll).

The result looks amazingly good. It probably helps that the shows are from the same studio so the style of the artwork matches. It’s interesting to see which Madoka character they think corresponds to each Sasami-san character.
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Sasami-san@Ganbaranai–Anime Early Impressions

Sasami end cardSasami-san@Ganbaranai (“Sasami @ Unmotivated”) (Anime Network) is the latest show from director Akiyuki Shinbo, whose previous works I have considered brilliant but often unwatchable. The new show is strange, disturbing and surreal. Either it is about a disturbed girl with delusions influenced by Shinto mythology, or it is a Shinto religious allegory that uses a disturbed girl as a metaphor. Or who knows, maybe it’s both.
Sasami with Amazon box
The main character is Sasami Tsukuyomi, a high school student who is a hikikomori (shut-in.) She has panic attacks whenever she goes outside and sees the sun. So she stays home and plays around on the Internet.
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