Top Anime of 2014; A Year in Review

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So with 2014 at last at an end, it’s time to look back at all the great and not so great anime of the year. 2014 felt strangely like the end of an era. The Naruto manga came to a close, and for many of us, the big three, Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece, were our gateway into anime, or, for us older fans, a reintroduction after the 90’s brought us Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball. So with Naruto ending, and Sailor Moon rebooting, it’s been an odd full circle. 2014 also saw Space Dandy being the first anime to be dubbed and broadcast at the same time in North America as it was in Japan. RWBY, an American “anime”, was licensed for Japanese distribution and merchandising. And Funimation experimented with streaming a dubbed version of Psycho Pass 2 as well as Laughing under the Clouds, with only a couple weeks turnaround from its original Japanese airing. Things are changing, and I’m excited to see where they go.

When looking back, I am of course limited to only the shows I watched, so in order to not get yelled at with, “but this one was so much better!” I’m going to list everything I saw this year. If I missed your favourite show, I’m sorry. I’m honestly quite amazed I managed to get through as much as I did. I should also mention, spring is a busy time for me, so I’m sorry for it being so sparse.

Fall 2013 leftovers:

Strike the Blood
Magi: Kingdom of Magic
Log Horizon
Golden Time
Kill la Kill

Winter 2014:

Nisekoi
Noragami
Space Dandy
Witchcraft Works
Tonari no Seki-kun

Spring 2014:

No Game No Life
The Irregular and Magic High School
Soul Eater Not!

Summer 2014:

Terror in Resonance
Tokyo Ghoul
Aldnoah.Zero
Love Stage!
DRAMAtical Murder
Black Butler; Book of Circus
Akame ga Kill
Hanamonogatari

Fall 2014:

Fate/Stay Night
Parasyte
Log Horizon 2
Gugure! Kokkuri-san!
Psycho Pass 2
Rage of Behemoth
Your Lie in April
Terraformars
I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying
BONJOUR♪Sweet Love Patisserie

Now, lets be fair, I couldn’t really include the fall leftovers for best and worst of the year, I mean, let’s just give Kill la Kill everything and be done with it, right? But they didn’t actually start this year. Nor could I use the fall 2014 shows that have yet to finish, which pains me, because Parasyte is shaping up to be my favourite show of 2014. Golden Time was my favourite romance for 2013 and Your Lie in April will likely be my favourite of this season. It’s quite vexing, but at least I still have my Fall 2014 season review to gush lovingly about them. So just keep making it impossible for me to choose, ye anime gods, just keep it up, I’ve got this.

 

Personal Top 5:

This refers to my own enjoyment, subjective to my personal tastes, though not necessarily the best in quality overall.

1. Noragami2

2. Gugure! Kokkuri-san!

3. Fate/Stay Night; Unlimited Blade Works

4. The Irregular at Magic High School

5.  Black Butler; Book of Circus

Noragami won out because it checked off everything I like in a series. I’m an Urban Fantasy, Shonen girl. Blue Exorcist, and Soul Eater, are in my top 5 of all time list, so it’s easy to see why a show like Noragami would hit all my buttons. Noragami is the story of a god in modern Japan, granting wishes in order to become more popular. Through a car accident, a regular high school girl gains the ability to constantly jump between the spirit world and her own, and thus starts hanging around with him. Cue obvious pairing music.

The characters are the best part of this show. They have a great dynamic with each other that grows into a real sense of friendship between the three mains. The action is there when it needs to be, and no one is left looking looking like an idiot for the sake of plot. The show really has done well to developed everyone and just watching them hang around each other was entertaining enough.

That said, it has it’s flaws. I am very aware of how painfully generic it was. Basically if there was an urban fantasy, shonen check list, it would hit them all, and it did them all well, but there was nothing to give it that extra oomph. The characters are loveable and fun, the setting and premise were interesting, though you can see echos of Bleach and Soul Eater. There were great, funny moments, and some poignant, emotional scenes. But what it really lacks, is an interesting villain. There just wasn’t enough of an overarching plot to keep you on your toes. I fear that because of that, this great show will fade from everyones memories and never get that second season it deserves.

I’ll be hitting upon each of these other series later on, with the exception of Black Butler, but I’ve gushed about that my Summer 2014 review.

 

Worst of the Year:

So from the best, let’s go to the worst show of the year. For this one, I don’t even need a top 5 list. Sure, there were plenty that I wasn’t too thrilled about and had to really push myself to finish, Terraformars, and Nisekoi come to mind, but I know they did have their fans, even if they weren’t my thing. However, there was only one show I watched this year that not only did I hate, but even the fans of the franchise hated.

1. DRAMAtical Murder.3

Good god, kill it with fire. Animation – horrible, plot – bad, pacing – what’s a pacing? And wasn’t this thing supposed to be based on a “Boy Love” visual novel? Not as far as I could tell. You’d think pandering was the one thing you could count on an anime to do right. Nope! The only thing this show had was amazing character designs, but that’s it! I really feel bad for the fans of the visual novel, because this really is one to avoid at all costs.

 

Best Anime Openings/Endings:

I love anime openings. I have hours worth of JPop on my itunes just of anime openings, so this was a hard list for me to make. What I look for most, is not only a good song that really gets me pumped for the show, but awesome visuals that tell me a story. Flashy scenes are all right, but if the opening can make me feel something, that brings it to a whole new level. So coming up with this list was very difficult. I did go back and rewatch every opening, so I feel I ought to mention the runners up, because there were just so many good ones out there. They, in no particular order, were; Love Stage!, Soul Eater Not!, No Game No Life, The Irregular at Magic High School 1st, and Strike the Blood 2nd.

However, my top 5 are;

1. Black Butler; Book of Circus4

2. Aldnoah.Zero

3. Fate/Stay Night; Unlimited Blade Works

4. Gurure! Kokkuri-san!

5. Kill la Kill 2nd

Four and five are really enjoyable and fun, with great music, but the top three here are really the major stand outs. They all have exactly what I love, and are an experience in themselves. Honestly, those openings have more depth and emotion than some of the shows I watched – see above. Black Butler got the number one spot because it started with a really unique intro. It gives you the feeling of being on a ride, taken through a carnival. It then changes and the visuals pretty much told you the back story of the main characters, while including action for the upcoming story. It really sets it apart from the others. Funimation conveniently has the title opening on youtube.

For the best ending, it was much harder to come up with a list. Most endings are soft, with a character walking away, or looking wistfully into the distance while the credits roll. There really isn’t much going on to set them apart. But occasionally, they manage it.

My top 5 endings are:

1. Witchcraft Works5

2. Hanamonogatari

3. Noragami

4. Love Stage!

5. Log Horizon 2

Witchcraft Works won out for being the most original. It features chibi’s of one group of witches singing the closing while basically being put through a series of horrible witch trials. It’s actually really cute in an oh-my-god, sort of way. Hanamonogatari’s ending is also really unique.  It sort of gives a representation of what it would have been like if the two main characters had been friends. The other three were fun but not unique like the first two.

 

Best Lead Characters:

This one I couldn’t make a top five for. There was just too much to go through to do it proper justice. But if a character stood out, it should stand out; I shouldn’t have to rewatch every series to find who ranks in number four and such. So with that said, who stood out the most for me in 2014?

1. Rin Tohsaka – Fate/Stay Night; Unlimited Blade Works

2. Yatogami – Noragami

6For women, this was easy. Rin Tohsaka. I cannot begin to tell you how much this girl has impressed me, but I’ll try. A high school girl—a Japanese, anime, high school girl—acting like a well rounded, fully realized, individual. I feel like hell froze over. I mean her boobs were even well proportioned for her body and age. What is this?

Alright, maybe I’ve become a bit cynical in my old age, but believable, female high school students, is not something I hold my breath for. Rin is down to earth, emotionally stable, confident, intelligent, and very human in her decision making. She knows what she’s about, and is not about to be pushed around. At the same time she’s caring and considerate, while not willing to sacrifice her goals. Rin wins for best girl, and that’s all there is to it. I kind of want to be her when I grow up.

Men were a different matter. The one character that I would love to put as number one, was Shinichi from Parasyte. But the series hasn’t finished yet, so for all I know, he may turn into a complete knob during the second half. So with Shinichi out of the running, my second choice becomes Yato from Noragami.

Yato’s adorable, while being a badass with a questionable past. He has some character growth while also being the hand that helps along others’ personal growth as well, proving he’s much more insightful than his goofball exterior gives off. For any Gintama fans out there, he’s kind of like Gintoki light. With his piercing blue eyes, you’re never sure just what exactly is going through his mind but it’s always far more than he shows. Noragami could not have survived without just how loveable his character is.

There are, of course, runners up that stood out in my mind and I’d love to give a shout out for. Kanbaru from Hanamonogatari showed far more character depth than we’ve seen from her in the previous Monogatari series, Adolf from Terraformars made me fall in love with only one episode, Joker from Black Butler was a truly sympathetic villain, and while I’ve had my reservations about Tokyo Ghoul, I feel next season Kaneki is really going to shine.

 

Best Music:

This is another hard one, because without listening to every sound track all over again, how can I judge? In this case, I can only go on what I remember standing out. While I recall Noragami, No Game No Life, and Black Butler having noticeable soundtracks, there was only one show that I can honestly say made my ear get up and do a happy dance with glee when ever it played.

1. Aldnoah.Zero

7This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the name Sawano Hiroyuki. Pretty much everything he touches turns to gold. If you don’t know who he is, he also composed the soundtracks to Blue Exorcist, Kill la Kill, Guilty Crown, and Attack on Titan. He uses big orchestras, big choirs, epic vocal tracks, just incredibly sweeping strings with powerful horns. I love it, and make a point to check out any shows he’s attached to. Now, I didn’t watch Sword Art Online, whose composer I also love, so maybe I’m wrong in placing this at number one uncontested, but until I do, Aldnoah.Zero wins.

 

Best Comedy:

81. Gugure! Kokkuri-san!

2. I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying

3. Love Stage!

4. Tonari no Seki-kun

5. Space Dandy

I don’t watch a lot of comedy, so this list was pretty small to pick from to begin with, but Gugure! Kokkuri-san! was absolutely wonderful, so it won easily. A bunch of loveable misfit gods/spirits come together to become a family for this lonely, little girl, whose a complete oddball in her own right – hilarity ensues. It’s episodic with small amounts of character growth through its twelve episode run. By the end, you can’t see how these characters ever functioned apart, it’s just family and I love that about it. I really feel this was the hidden gem of the year. I’m hoping for this, more than any other show this year, to get a second season.

I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying and Tonari no Seki-kun were both five minute long episode shows. So with them, it wasn’t particularly difficult to keep the humour up for a few minutes at a time. Love Stage! was a great romantic comedy, and Space Dandy, well it had it’s moments.

 

Best Romance:

1. Love Stage!

9I’m sorry, I did not watch enough to truly make a list. Golden Time would be in number one if it hadn’t started last year. I absolutely recommend it if you want a more mature relationship, as it takes place in university rather than high school. Your Lie in April is shaping up to be very good, but we’re only half way through that, so I can’t judge. And I did not like Nisekoi, it’s everything I dislike about high school romantic comedies. That’s not to say it’s bad, it’s just not for me. I don’t have the patience for anime that takes twenty episodes to maybe hold hands.

Love Stage! was great. It had great comedy, great characters, and great development. It’s been talked about extensively elsewhere on this site, so I won’t go further. Let’s just all hope for a season two.

 

Biggest Disappointments:

1. Psycho-Pass 2

2. Space Dandy

3. Hanamonogatari

4. Tokyo Ghoul

5. Terraformars

10To clarify, this doesn’t mean the show was bad, it just didn’t live up to expectations. I don’t want people to think I’m irrationally attacking their baby. When it comes to Psycho-Pass 2, I think the disappointment was pretty much universal. The show felt like filler, the characters didn’t grow. The main character actually felt like she was fighting against growth, while acting as those the revelations of season one had no effect on her. It was frustrating and boring. There were many parts that, even after rewatching them, just didn’t make any logical sense. It really was a letdown after having such a strong season one.

Space Dandy, just didn’t do anything for me. Call me a stick in the mud, but the comedy was just too immature most of the time, and a lot of it just fell flat. I will say there was one brilliant episode early on, involving zombies, where they just kept taking the joke further, and that was great. I loved that episode, but aside from that, there was nothing that impressed me.

Hanamonogatari, and it kills me to say this, because I love the Monogatari series, and Kanbaru’s always been my favourite character from that series, but in this one, the four episodes of dialogue with five minutes of action actually got to me. I know why it was, Araragi-kun was absent for most of the show, and it’s his bantering with Kanbaru that I love the most. In the past, I’ve voted him best male character on year end polls, so that goes to show just how strong of a character he is. When he finally showed up, it was great, the ending was once again the satisfying brilliance I’ve come to expect from the Monogatari series, but getting there was painful this time.

Tokyo Ghoul I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t hate this show, I just feel the first three quarters were a mess. I think next season’s going to be awesome, but the pacing and Kaneki’s character development were just too all over the place in the beginning. It was hard to keep watching. I’m glad I did, but what a disappointment that first half was.

11Terraformars. I feel bad complaining about all these other shows, and their pacing problems while this guy’s standing in the room. I’m not sure I can accurately describe the pacing of this show without including the words “Dragon Ball Z” to make you understand. Yes, I dropped the DBZ-bomb, and I stand by it. Not only that, but this show wins the distinct honer of “Worst Censoring Ever” award, something both Tokyo Ghoul and Love Stage! were up for.

 

Most Fun to Watch:

This is for the just-turn-off-your-brain-and-go, shows. They may not have been the most poignant, emotional, thought provoking, or ground breaking, but damn, it was a fun ride. My criteria for this category was what kept me up, marathoning eight episodes in a row.

1. No Game No Life12

2. The Irregular at Magic High School

3. Akame ga Kill

4. Noragami

5. Fate/Stay Nigh; Unlimited Blade Works

Now I am the first to say I thought that No Game No Life was over-rated. It wasn’t particularly memorable, the fan service was cringeworthy, the characters didn’t develop, and there was that one girl who would switch between perfectly competent and dumb as a brick for plot purposes. Not to mention the sister’s eleven and introduced with a panty shot. But aside from that, man was that show addictive. It worked on you like a sports anime, you constantly wanted to see how they would win the next game, what would be the next clever strategy. You were always left wanting to know, what will happen next. It’s fun, it’s entertaining. Best show of the year, it is not, but chances are you’ll enjoy it.

The Irregular at Magic High School I actually struggled not to put at the top. I hold back, despite it being superior to No Game No Life in almost every way, because No Game No Life was just that addictive. No Game No Life’s like otaku crack, but The Irregular at Magic High School is right up there too, using a similar sports premise for much of the show, that keeps you wanting more. There are some great characters, with interesting dynamics, and even character growth in the minor cast. There are also some great combat scenes and strategizing going on. It’s a bit more generic a premise though, which I suspect made a lot of people pass it over, calling it just another superpowers at high school show. But I was addicted the whole way through.

Akame ga Kill, Noragami, and Fate/Stay Night I’ve talked about before. They’re all very addicting, with great action, and fun characters.

 

Best Series Overall of 2014:

1. Fate/Stay Night; Unlimited Blade Works

13This should be a no brainer. Parasyte and Kill la Kill are right up there, but since they only had half a season this year, Fate/Stay Night wins, hands down. It has everything. The animation and art, the music and opening/closing, the action and fight choreography, the characters and relationships. I’m sorry if I sound like a fangirl, but- I’m A Fangirl. Noragami won my personal preference because it just fits so neatly into my “type”, but I recognize that Fate/Stay Night is by far the superior work. I will say, it hasn’t lived up to Fate/Zero though, I just prefer the more mature, adult characters to high schoolers but it’s incredibly strong in its own right. Plus, there’s Rin.

 

So 2014 has come to a close, and 2015 is already looking to be another excellent year in anime. I can’t believe the amount of material I got through this year and it still feels like I only scratched the surface of what’s been released. Being a part of this site has made me check out so many more shows that I never would have clicked on, and I hope to continue sharing my discoveries with you all next year!

 

Bonus category

Creepiest Brother Sister relationship!:

1. I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying14

2. The Irregular at Magic Highschool

3. Hanamonogatari

4. Witchcraft Works

5. No Game No Life

Why do you do this to me, anime? Why? This was easier to fill than the comedy list.

Author: Ashley Dawn



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