My Top 13 Anime of 2014

Disclaimer:

Hey guys, Stuart here, and I’m sadly announcing that I am discontinuing the Monogatari write-ups. With school on my ass twenty four seven I can’t reasonably continue writing posts about the series. Also those write-ups always took forever to write, so there’s that too. That being said, I’m not abandoning this blog, but it will definitely have a lower output for a while. I’ll probably start writing for it a lot more once summer vacation comes around, but that’s no guarantee. Honestly, I’ve just lost motivation to write anything extra about anime or video games.

Well anyways, the year of 2014 is over, and with it’s time for the obligatory top whatever number sounds good anime of the year list. There are of course a few restrictions, such as no sequels or spin-offs, but this year I’m being a little more lenient than I normally would because, honestly, this year just wasn’t that great. Sure the Fall and Summer seasons had a ton of great shows, but a lot of the year was uninteresting shlock. However, the good shows this year were really good, but I still needed some extra leeway to make this top 13 list, so I’m including shows that both finished, and started in 2014. Normally I would make it so it would just be the shows that finished this year, but some of the titles that started in this Fall season just couldn’t be ignored. So without further ado, let us begin my personal countdown of my Top 13 Anime of 2014! This list is entirely based off of what show’s I enjoyed; so opinions will vary. On with the show!

zvezda

13. World Conquest Zvezda Plot

If you had told me during the beginning of the year, or hell even a few months ago, that a show called World Conquest Zvezda Plot would be one of my favorite anime this year, I probably would have just laughed at you. However last month after hearing some rather positive comments about the show from anime blogger Bobduh, I decided to cautiously check this thing out. And boy was I surprised by it’s quality!

At it’s core Zvezda Plot is a rather lighthearted show, featuring a lot of hit and miss comedy, crazy hi-jinx, and garishly moe character designs. However underneath that all is a really charming show about a strange surrogate family who still love the world enough to conquer it, even though they’ve been outcasted by it. While the plot is sometimes too frantic to follow, the fun, relatable cast and good direction from Wolf’s Rain director Tensei Okamura, really elevate it above the show’s otherwise cluttered writing. Overall Zvezda, while not being the most breathtakingly animated or written show of the year, packs enough heart and playful cleverness to make it one of the most underrated shows of this year. A true dark horse title worthy of its spot at number thirteen on the list!

Chaika

12. Hitsugi no Chaika

A lot of people give Bones a little too much crap these days. While they haven’t been at their top form in recent, they still have the ability to produce really fun shows. This year was a pretty good example of this, because while they did create the disappointing Captain Earth and underwhelming Soul Eater Not, they also created Space Dandy, Noragami, and, well, Hitsugi no Chaika!

Chaika is an interesting show, because while it is a good show, it’s writing often stumbles, creating plenty of unimpressive episodes. What the series lacks in writing though is completely made up by its great execution, which lends a charm and fun winking self awareness to the shows otherwise generic anime fantasy setup. It also helps that the story has a likable cast, such as the cute and heartstrong Chaika, the sly and devoted Toru, and the silent but deadly Akari. Every character is a joy to watch, and while the series’ second seasom ends on a rushed note, the typically excellent Studio Bones action scenes really breath life into this show. I fell in love with it the moment I heard Chaika’s broken Japanese, and I hope you will too!

get a room

11. Haikyuu!!

Sports anime are pretty underrated. There a lot of amazing shows in the genre, from the shonen antics of Kuroko’s Basketball, to the heartwarming character drama of Chihayafuru, at their peak sport shows can express a variety of intense and relatable emotions. However sports anime are always at there best for me when the combine the genre’s love of heart pumping matches, and heartwarming stories about its characters into one cohesive package; and Haikyuu does just that!

Following the trials and tribulations of shorter than average high school volleyball player Shoyo Hinata and the rest of his team members, Haikyuu tells a very relatable and down to earth tale about Kurasuno’s rise to the top. They matches here are challenging, and a lot of hard work is needed in order for their team to win. It also doesn’t help that Hinata and the hotheaded Kageyama are still struggling to work out their own problems. From Hinata’s inexperience, to Kageyama’s uncaring nature, each player has to work hard to achieve their goal of taking their team to the top. The tone is strangely realistic considering the anime is based off a popular Shonen Jump sports manga, and while each character has their strengths on the court, they don’t have an ridiculous superpowers like the people in Kuroko’s Basketball. All of this refreshing content is rounded off by a great sense of humor, and the typically nice looking animation from Production IG. In the end, Haikyuu is a really enjoyable sports show that you shouldn’t  be overlook in the slightest!

lisa

10. Terror in Resonance

Terror in Resonance was definitely one of more controversial titles of the year, earning massive hype, which was followed up by massive disappointment. People have complained about how it’s not a good thriller, its message is messy, and it’s all style and no substance; but honestly, I don’t care. Even if its narrative and character development is admittedly kind of jipped, and even though some parts of its message is questionably executed near the end, the main thing I love about this show is its passion. The whole show is one beautiful cry of adolescent repression, featuring some of the most beautiful moments I’ve seen in any anime. From Lisa riding on the back Twelves bike, Yoko Kanno’s gorgeous score sweeping you up in the moment, to Nine’s trippy dream sequences, this show is truly on another level presentation wise. It also helps that when this show’s writing fails Shinichiro Watanabe’s direction is there to help elevate it. Everything here really comes together to create a powerful and memorable experience, even if you don’t like it.

Basically what I’m saying is that I really like Terror in Resonance. It may be flawed, but boy is it beautiful nonetheless.

Tokyo Ghoul

9. Tokyo Ghoul

Originally I thought Tokyo Ghoul was going to be much lower on this countdown, but expectations can be deceiving, and before I knew it this strange little oddity rocketed up to number 9 on this list. Initially speaking I was really skeptical of Tokyo Ghoul. Back when I say it in the early days of the Summer 2014 Anime Chart, I was worried about what it would be like, but something about it intrigued me. Luckily though Tokyo Ghoul turned out to be more than I ever expected it to be, featuring incredible direction and strangely likable characters. And while I will fully admit the anime is a subpar adaptation in terms of fully exploring the original manga’s material, for a show that’s only twelve episodes long, it’s pacing and cuts of those 60 chapters of manga feel pretty reasonable.

This is all helped by Shuhei Morita’s almost god like direction, which pretty much owns the show. Without his talented handy work the show may have come off as a bit of a hot mess, but his help and the strong, albeit sometimes underdeveloped character writing, really brought this show up to a whole new level. Also the final episode is the best one that aired this year, so it has that going for it.

fate stay nope

8. Fate/stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works

I often feel like this adaptation of Fate/stay Night is mostly noteworthy for how much it doesn’t suck. While I haven’t read a lot of the visual novel, what I have read is overwrought, sexist, and filled with some of the worst prose I’ve ever processed. Then again that may have just been the translation, but hey, what do I know?

This anime takes all of that bile, trims it down, and really exposes the core of what makes people really like Fate/stay Night so much. All of the character’s clashing ideals and baggage make for a compelling cast, and while the romance is kind of downplayed in this adaptation, that certainly has its own appeal. These aspects combined with the fantasy jargon and concept make for an enjoyable experience, and Studio Ufotable is able to execute all of these elements with ease. The animation is top notch, the action scenes stellar, the pacing is excellent, and it’s able to effectively use previous development from Fate/Zero to make everything a much more interesting experience. My only real complaint is that the structure is a bit repetitive, often having an episode of action, which is then followed by an episode of world/character building. I may never be a full on Type Moon fan, but if there’s one thing this show and Fate/Zero have proven to me, it’s that I definitely shouldn’t underestimate their stories.

nozaki kun

7. Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun

Another surprise for me, Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun may not be the highest slice of life comedy on my list, but it certainly was the funniest. Featuring a brilliant and playful cast, this show managed to simultaneously parody the heck out of the shoujo genre, while homaging it in a really heartfelt way. Every episode is drop dead hilarious, with great comedic writing and timing around every corner. Sure it may be lacking in plot, but can you really fault it when it’s so great in every other aspect. From the likable characters, to the nice animation, Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun is hilarious fun at it’s best.

rough time

6. Parasyte

The first of two currently airing shows on my list, it may be a little iffy to put this show up so high considering it’s only half way over, but Parasyte really is that good! Featuring a set of brilliant themes, and great production work from Madhouse, every turn of this show is like a travel down a dark and mysterious path, one that makes you question the nature of our humanity while also just being a thrilling ride. The action is superb, and Shinichi is a brilliantly complex character. It’s sad yet extremely entertaining to watch the show tear apart his humanity, and slowly turn him into a cold emotionless animal. So far this show has the type of high quality artistry that makes for a consistently good show, and I doubt it will be stumbling into oblivion anytime soon.

samflam

5. Samurai Flamenco

Make no mistake about it, I love Samurai Flamenco, despite it being the most obviously flawed and messy show on this list. The tone is scattershot and the plot haphazard in direction, and this combined the consistent production problems that plague this show, make it a bit of hard one to like for most. However out of everything on this list, Samurai Flamenco had some of the biggest guts in its execution.

What show would dare switch genres, not once, but three times throughout it’s run? What show would dare parody sentai and tokusatsu shows, while also paying homage to them? And what show would do all of that, and yet still try to make smart commentary on the nature of heroes and justice in our society? Samurai Flamenco that’s who! It was consistently entertaining, brash, and full of NICE JUSTICE! And while it may have put me off while it was airing, I haven’t been able to get it out of mind since its final episodes aired in March. Samurai Flamenco may be messy, but it’s sure as hell isn’t stupid!

moreep

4. Space Dandy

No other show this year was as much of as a breath of fresh air as Space Dandy was, and this is coming from the year that brought us Samurai Flamenco, World Conquest Zvezda Plot, and Terror in Resonance. All shows, which by most standards, would be considered daring, and weird outliers in the anime market. However Space Dandy one ups them all, just through the amount sheer creativity in each episode. It’s with this project that Shinichiro Watanabe brought together every single underground director and writer in the industry to create all twenty six episodes of this often funny, often stupid, and sometimes thought provoking anime. It’s sheer brazen chutzpah refuses to be ignored, as it jumps from genre to genre, animation style to animation style, and more in each individual episode. Some episodes are better than others, but when top episode lists vary from person to person, you know your show has a lot to love and admire. Space Dandy is often plagued with inconsistency, and sometimes overly ridiculous ideas, but it never once bored me. Just like the protagonists show, this show just goes with the flow, baby! And I love it for that.

ping pong

3. Ping Pong the Animation

Technically speaking this is probably the best show of year. From the quality of its writing, to the unique visual style and direction, this show is really impressive from every standpoint. Its adolescent characters are painfully relatable and realistic, each sporting their own believable motivation for playing ping pong and doing what they do. The pacing and direction is excellent, taking us through these character’s journeys in only eleven episodes, without feeling rushed or forced. And the animation, while definitely low budget, is really a sight to behold, making great use of symbolism and visual metaphor throughout its runtime. Basically Masaaki Yuasa has delivered yet another poignant, and beautiful work of fiction; and I hope he keeps delivering more stuff like this in the future.

airplane babies

2. Barakamon

Yikes, a slice of life about a calligrapher who moves to an island in order to regain his artistic motivation, and instead gets involved with the islanders wacky daily exploits, which also help him regain his motivation!? You must really have bad tastes Stuart! Well while I would agree that the premise sounds painfully generic on the surface, Barakamon really is that good. The main protagonist Seishu Handa is extremely relatable to me, and his struggle to find his own unique voice in the calligraphy world is belivable and heartwarming. The rest of the cast is also great, from the realistic child characters Naru and Hina, to the dry Hiroshi and Kawifuji, every character is funny and likable. This is all helped by the amazing voice acting, which features not only a great performance from Daisuke Ono as Seishu, but also features real child voice actors as the children. This combined with the nice animation, created a really heartwarming and delightful experience, which immediately rocketed its way into my heart. Believe me or don’t, but personally Barakamon was one of my favorite shows this year.

behind the fence

1. Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso

It’s pretty dangerous putting a show that’s only half way over on the top of the list, but I’m pretty confident this show has what it takes to stick its landing. Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso at first seemed like a Nodame Cantebile rip-off, right down to it being about a romance between a piano and violinist airing of Fuji TV’s Noitamina anime block. However, this show was so much more than that!

At it’s core, Shigatsu tells the story of a broken group of adolescents, all maturing, all burdened by the past and themselves (Well except for Watari). Not only does it tell a good coming of age story though, but through it’s gorgeous direction, animation, and music, it’s able to convey a variety of different emotions. The fear of the stage, the crippling confusion of being in an abusive family relationship, the feeling of being stagnation; but if there is one thing this show is masterful at it’s the feeling of hopefulness that pervades throughout all of these characters rocky journeys. The passion of playing music on stage, the simplistic beauty of first love, and the knowledge that you aren’t alone and have someone to lean on during tough times, just like Kaori and Kousei do in the show. Overall, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso is a beautiful show, both writing and production wise; making it a worthy choice for number one of this list.

***

And that’s it! I hope next year will be more interesting as, while it may not have seemed like it in this post, I really had to really stretch myself to make this list. Normally things like World Conquest Zvezda Plot wouldn’t make it on this list, especially last year when there were too many good shows to count, but this year was rather messy quality wise. That being said, next year is shaping up to be potentially very interesting, if not because of the massive amounts of interesting sequels, but also because there are a couple of cool manga adaptations I’m looking forward to! I hope you enjoyed this list, and I’ll see you soon with a new surprise post. Hopefully. If everything goes well. If I don’t procrastinate… Now that I think about it the odds of that are rather uneven.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

  • Wake Up Girls! (aka the weirdest Idol anime I’ve ever seen)

 

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