2013 – Anime UK News Staff Choose their Top Picks

As 2013 draws – all too swiftly – to a close, it’s time again for the writers at Anime UK News to choose their favourite shows, Has it been a bumper year in the UK for anime and manga? There seem to have been many more series to choose from. We’d like to hear from you, the readers, as well; please let us know what impressed you this year.

Anime TV Series on DVD/BD

Darkstorm – Penguindrum; despite having yet to see his magnum opus Revolutionary Girl Utena, I was excited to see Kunihiko Ikuhara’s new series and I was not disappointed. It’s the series that left me thinking about it over and over long after I finished watching it. It’s also very different to what’s currently in the anime DVD market, so it’s worth picking up if you haven’t done so already.

Ian Wolf – I suppose it has to be One Piece, primarily because FINALLY someone has released it over here. The most popular anime series of them all is now available in Region 2. Better late than never.

Genkinahito – Penguindrum. This is ambition and creative brilliance. The story of family ties is unpredictable and shot through with vivid emotions. The world and its characters (who we care about) are put through a psychological meat-grinder and what results is a post-modern surreal, symbol-packed slice of Japanese magical realism and contemporary mythology all shown in some of the most stunning visuals not topped until Kyousogiga.   

Christor- Another vote for One Piece from me! I was lucky enough to have got to review all four volumes for MyM and I have to say that it’s the best of the Shonen Jump series for me, by some margin. Also a shoutout for the Anime Ltd. release of Cowboy Bebop. Those Blu-rays are stunning, and the show itself – it goes without saying – is a stone-cold classic.

Sarah – Steins;gate – a twisty, turny sci-fi drama series that plays cleverly with the hoary old tropes of time travel and refashions them into an addictively watchable drama. Excellent characterization – and the best US dub script (sharp, witty!) and cast (J. Michael Tatum) that I’ve heard in a long time.

 Reevo – For me it easily has to be Bakemonogatari, which I’m very happy that MVM released this year.

 Bakemonogatari is everything I love about Studio Shaft, especially their unique art style compared to other releases this year. Both DVD and Blu-ray versions look fantastic, the writing is both interesting and comical for the most part, almost all the female characters feel human when their issues start to show; it’s very intriguing. Also add some of the best character commentaries and you have one of the more unique extras of the year.  It’s all these aspects that make me award Bakemonogatari my best Anime TV Series on DVD/BD award.

Anime Series available through streaming (Crunchyroll, All the Anime etc.)

Sarah – Attack on Titan. I came late to this, the grimdark anime series of the year – but when I started, I was instantly hooked. It’s an expert piece of story-telling in the way that the tension builds to an almost unbearable degree from episode to episode. And – yet another great heart-pounding score from Hiroyuki Sawano (Guilty Crown) again proving how powerful a combination great animation and the right music can be.

Ian Wolf – While Attack on Titan will probably be the series that is remember the most from 2013, personally speaking I thought Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club was the more entertaining, was more fun, and admittedly the sight of five rather buff guys with girly names in tight swimming shorts did appeal to me somewhat (I even brought a pair of Rei-style red-framed glasses).

Genkinahito – I’m going to cheat and pick two. Attack on Titan. I started to read the manga in 2011 and was fascinated by the world and designs. I was excited at the prospect of watching the anime but I could never have guessed how much it would hook me. I eagerly devoured every episode, replayed scenes and sequences, bought figures and soundtracks. I’ve written numerous posts and created Gifs. For some there are problems but I cannot find fault. The adaptation started with the perfect introduction to the world and characters before the oft criticised Trost arc but I found that was perfectly pitched at dragging us through the horror and putting is in the mind-set of the characters. Perhaps years of watching slow-cinema have made me patient. After Trost came the experience with the Recon Corps and that was a roller-coaster of emotions and fantastic animation as the anime reached fever-pitch. I re-read the manga and thought the anime captured things brilliantly and even improved on certain things. I found it exciting, enthralling and energetic and excellent and I’m hopeful for the next season being just as good.

My other choice is Kyousogiga. I’ve been a fan since the ONA and I’m happy to report that the TV series expands upon that brilliantly. While other series are busy being meta or pandering to demographics Kyousogiga is just pure magic. Like Penguindrum it’s all about the adorable and likeable characters and their family ties, gorgeous visuals and mythology only this time it’s ancient Japanese mythology. The imagination on show is astounding at times but what really makes this special is the way that characters connect to each other. It is hard to watch this and not get emotional which is a sign of just how invested I am in the series and its characters.

 Reevo – This one is much harder for me because there have been plenty of great streaming anime to air this year and my co-writers have picked most of the highlights! Attack on Titan has brought new excitement to the anime scene, Free has brought a well animated swimming anime to our screens and Kyousogiga is a ton of fun.

 It was close between two for me, so my honourable mention is, strangely, Monogatari Season 2, which continues the story with some of the best arcs of the franchise.

 However, my pick is ultimately Eccentric Family. I adored everything about this show. In my view, this is the best anime studio P.A.Works have made and the inclusion of Koji Kumeta (Sayanora Zetsubou Sensei) as character designer gives the show a much more interesting look.

 This is another anime adaptation from one of Tomihiko Morimi’s light novels (Tatami Galaxy). The smart writing and character interactions give the show a lot of charm, there are also plenty of memorable moments in the whole series and it was one of my highlights of the summer.

 It gets my anime steam award and I hope to bring more of my season picks next year.

Film (in cinema or on DVD/BD)

Darkstorm – For me it’s Oblivion Island; I saw this at the BFI Anime Film Fest last year, and it was one of the films I was most excited to get on DVD/BD this year. It was a joy to watch from start till end and I’m thrilled to have it sitting besides my other favourite animated films from the likes of Studio Ghibli and Disney.

Ian Wolf – The K-On! Movie, which admittedly did have some flaws – why they played bagpipe music when the band flew into London I don’t know. But the humour and the music made it a joyous final outing for Ho-Kago Tea Time (for now at least).

Genkinahito – Mai Mai Miracle, which I saw at the Japan Foundation’s Touring Film Programme at the ICA. It’s the tale of a girl in rural Japan in the 1950s with an incredible imagination which she uses to make friends and overcome troubles. It is animated by Madhouse and directed by Sunao Katabuchi, a chap who has worked on Black Lagoon, but it struck me as being as being close to some of Studio Ghibli’s output. It’s very beautiful, the story is well written and the characters are likeable and the entire film is accomplished.

Christor- I really fell in love with From Up On Poppy Hill. I know Goro Miyazaki’s first flick Tales From Earthsea is perhaps considered Ghibli’s weakest, but his sophomore effort was a major step up. A simple, sweet story brought to life with the usual Ghibli flare, it does a beautiful job of evoking growing up in Japan in the 60s.

Reevo – I was fortunate to go to Scotland Loves Anime for the third year running and the line-up did not disappoint and in that line-up was my favourite anime film of the year.

 Patema Inverted takes the premise of inverted characters and uses the upside-down effects and makes it more than just a gimmick; it’s put to good use and seeing it on the big screen was a great experience.

 I was also very happy to review the film as well and it takes my film award. I look forward to the future UK release!


Darkstorm – Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. I’ve considered myself a Sailor Moon for a long time as I used to watch the older episodes on Fox Kids back in the day and I owned a lot of the original Tokyopop volumes. Despite that, I’ve never actually read or watched the series from start to finish. That is until these re-releases came out; I was excited not just to own the new gorgeous reprinted editions, but also to finally go through Usagi’s journey from her first battle till the last victory. I was not disappointed in the slightest and I’m now not only excited but very prepared for the new anime due to be released next year.

Ian Wolf – Vertical’s release of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin was the best here. It has everything: hardback volumes, glossy pages, plenty of colour, interviews, and a great story. It is great to see Vertical putting the effort into making this one of the best manga releases in ages.

Sarah – Magi by Shinobu Ohtaka (Viz media) This new shounen manga series has all the right ingredients: appealing characters; an exciting plot; an intriguingly different Arabian Nights-0tyle setting – and Ugo, a headless djinn. Shinobu Ohtaka really knows how to tell a story and her artwork is a delight; Volumes 1-3 are already out, with more to come in 2014 (and the anime series too.)  

Coup de Coeur – the title (anime or manga) that unexpectedly stole your heart!

Darkstorm – Another was mine; I heard many mixed things about this series before I watched it myself. Although I can see its flaws and why others may hate it, I can’t help but find it really entertaining and fun to watch the mystery unravel. Right after I watched it I immediately recommended it to a bunch of friends, even those who aren’t massive anime fans, which is something I don’t always do.

Genkinahito – My Youth Rom-Com. The set-up is like a harem story in a high school and it is populated by a cast with archetypes but what makes this special is the characters. The main character, Hikigaya Hachiman is a vicious cynic and loner who is comfortable being an outsider. His reflections on life and the way characters interact with each other create an insightful way to re-examine society and our ties to each other as they each have different perspectives. It is funny and painful. Hilarious and awkward. I can keep going back to it.

Most looking forward to in 2014

Darkstorm – Aside the Sailor Moon anime I mentioned above, I’m also looking forward to finally seeing the 3rd Rebuild of Evangelion film when it’s released in March. Manga wise there’s the last few volumes of Vampire Knight to purchase.

Ian Wolf – If it finally gets shown, the new Sailor Moon anime will be a must-watch. Concerning print, titles of interest include My Little Monster from Kodansha, the final volume of Vampire Knight from Viz and both the manga and original light novel versions of Sword Art Online from Yen.

Christor- I am more excited about Space Dandy than pretty much any show in recent memory. It’s been far too long since we’ve had a Watanabe sci-fi show, so it can’t come too soon for me!


Sarah's been writing about her love of manga and anime since Whenever - and first started watching via Le Club Dorothée in France...

More posts from Sarah...