Anime of Tomorrow
Anime of the Year 2014
Ok, I know I’m WAY late to be posting this, but my new year was super-busy with me moving and getting a new job. My life has been rather hectic these first few months of 2015 and things still haven’t really settled down, but I’m finally getting around to ranking my favorite anime of 2014. Better late then never, right?
As in previous years, I won’t be including anime that didn’t finish airing until after the fall 2014 season. So if a series started in fall 2014, but ended sometime in 2015, to me it doesn’t count as a 2014 anime. Any of those series will be included in my 2015 anime of the year list, which I’ll write in early 2016. I’m also only including series that I watched all the way to their conclusions, so if I dropped a series halfway or gave up after one or two episodes, it won’t be on this list. Lastly, I’ve only included TV anime, so there won’t be any movies listed, either.
I also want to be clear that I’m not evaluating these series by any metric other than how much I enjoyed them. So don’t expect some breakdown of plot, art, music and characters each getting a certain number of points and then the scores being added up to determine which is better. I’m going to try to keep my reviews much simpler than I have in the past because I want to get this done. Ok, here I go!
41. The Pilot’s Love Song – This series seemed like a really exciting adventure drama about two young people letting go of their troubled pasts, but just kind of petered out towards the end and had no conclusion.
40. Yuki Yuna wa Yuusha de Aru – I was hoping this would be a sweet magic girl series that was about overcoming hardships, but ended up being rather below average.
39. Akame ga Kill – I won’t spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t watched this fairly decent action series. But the first time something dramatic happens, it’s heart-wrenchingly unexpected. However, if you keep using that same plot device, it loses its impact very quickly.
38. Black Bullet – When the setting is a world that’s really messed up, you expect that by the end things will have improved somewhat. Not so with Black Bullet (though things didn’t really get any worse, either).
37. Inari Kon Kon, Koi Iroha – I’m not entirely sure what I expected of this cute, quirky little series when I started watching it. I think I was interested because when I lived in Japan I always admired the design of Inari shrines. But like many of the 2014 anime I ranked poorly, this story didn’t seem to go anywhere.
36. Tokyo ESP – I was initially interested in this series because it was related to Ga-Rei Zero. It’s not often where the plot leads the characters to end up in a place where everyone is worse off than where they started.
35. Glasslip – P.A. Works has a distinct and beautiful art style (even if they overuse Adobe Aftereffects). But too many of their stories meander and just get lost.
34. Rail Wars – In a series with this much ecchi, I’ll admit that the only reason I stuck with it is because of its unusual story about the Japanese railway system (do you believe that excuse? =P ).
33. Magical Warfare – Aren’t all of these “magic school” dramas jumping on the Harry Potter bandwagon a little late? I kept up with Magical Warfare because it has an interesting magic system and it handles romance in a rather unconventional way for a high-school drama (there really isn’t any).
32. Jinsei – If a high school drama wants me to watch, it needs to have an original premise. For example, Jinsei is about the writers of the “life counseling” column of the school newspaper. That’s pretty specific, isn’t it?
31. Prisma Illya 2wei – Illya is my favorite character from the Fate series and I continue to watch this silly show for its upbeat tone and how fresh it is juxtaposed next to its much darker cousin, Fate/Stay Night.
30. Akuma no Riddle – Survival game anime are starting to wear thin on me. But watching this one reminded me of The Idolm@ster because it has such a colorful cast.
29. ImoCho – Little sister anime usually follow a morally-questionable plot, but in this series the female lead has no blood relations to her stepbrother. The story has some tragedy and conducts itself in an honest manner, even if it’s a little bit ecchi.
28. Nisekoi – This harem anime could have been (maybe even wanted to be) a much more serious romance story about finding lost love. But it gets distracted by inflating its female cast.
27. Magi: The Kingdom of Magic – The sequel to The Labyrinth of Magic continues to follow a loose reinterpretation of A Thousand and One Arabian Nights and for my money is the best shounen action-drama that’s still ongoing (bye bye Naruto and Bleach–oh how your filler arcs ruined you).
26. No-Rin – This anime about a former idol who goes to an agricultural high school made me laugh for all of the wrong reasons. But it still made me laugh and that’s what counts.
25. Little Busters Refrain – The conclusion for Little Busters makes it the weirdest Key anime I’ve watched so far. While it was definitely touching to see the characters grow, the methodology by which it achieved this result was too obtuse for my tastes.
24. Ore Twintail ni Narimasu – A superhero anime about the power of twintails. I love you Japan.
23. Chuunibyou Ren – After the conclusion of the first season of Chuunibyou, this second season felt like the plot was walking around in circles instead of moving forward. Character growth has halted and that makes me sad for such endearing characters.
22. Sword Art Online II – The second season of SAO had the same problem as the first–Alfheim Online. The first half of this series went into Gun Gale Online and had an engaging story with interesting characters. And then the second half went back to Alfheim Online. *bleh* While it was definitely better than season one, the ALO arc still failed to hold my attention as strongly as GGO.
21. Kill la Kill – I’ll admit, I was a late adopter of this series. I couldn’t watch it week-to-week because it wasn’t holding my interest. But once I could watch each episode back-to-back its unique premise and style really grew on me. Far and beyond one of the most bizarre anime I’ve ever watched; the characters made it all worthwhile.
20. Terror in Resonance – Some anime creators start out from their earliest drafts with the intent to make an artistic work that is meaningful and leaves an impact on the viewer. One of the most serious and professional TV anime I’ve watched in a long time.
19. Noragami – Overflowing with the themes of eastern religions, this anime is a little difficult to classify. One part action, two parts philosophy, it deals with the difficult concepts of freedom, morality, absolution and existence.
18. Inou Battle Within Everyday Life – What if you suddenly gained superpowers, but had no reason to use them? That’s the question this fun high school comedy seeks to answer as the characters deal with a new reality of how they’re supposed to use their new abiliities–or even if they should use those powers.
17. Log Horizon (season 1) – The “trapped in a video game” setting started with .hack//SIGN and has become something of an anime subgenre by this point. Where most anime in this category follow the characters’ attempts to escape, Log Horizon manages to set itself apart from the crowd by dealing with how the players trapped in the game world form a new society.
16. Shingeki no Bahamut – A war between angels, demons and dragons with a motley cast of human heroes, anti-heroes and rogue heroes caught in the middle; all with their own motivations, but seeking a common goal makes this one hell of an adventure.
15. Tokyo Ghoul – What if there was a secret society of people who live their lives just as we do, loving and caring and feeling for their families and friends, but they had to eat other people in order to survive? A young man finds himself caught between the world he thought he always knew and a world he never knew existed. It is the story of the human monster that in some ways is a metaphor for society itself.
14. Issukan Friends – Amnesia is a storytelling mechanism that is used often enough, but rarely in such a touching, heartfelt manner with such sweet and kind characters. This is one of those anime that will melt your heart with its innocence.
13. Amagi Brilliant Park – What if it was the reluctant hero’s responsibility to restore a theme park to its former glory? Now what if the mascots of that theme park were not people in costumes, but actual anthropomorphized animals and objects from the land of magic? One laugh after another.
12. Knights of Sidonia – An incredible science fiction anime with an amazing setting and CG art style that allows storytelling to flow seamlessly with its futuristic theme. As the characters test the limits of morality in a world that must make concessions we would never consider, you can feel the tension of humanity’s survival on the line.
11. Tokyo Ravens – A little bit magic high school, a little bit eastern religion and a little bit romance all addressing the issue of reincarnation. It is the question of whether or not a person should bear the burden of their past lives or live in the now as his or her own person.
10. Hanayamata – I’m always a sucker for the after school club anime. I love getting caught up in the passion of the characters as they work to make their dreams come true–especially if it enlightens me to a more obscure part of Japanese culture.
9. Mekaku City Actors – Shaft is just a masterful company when it comes to unconventional storytelling methods. It’s amazing how the very nature of this anime’s plot and setting can be kept a mystery for most of the series, bits and pieces being teased to the viewers as the story progresses, culminating in a dramatic reveal at the climax.
8. Mushishi Season 2 – Few anime capture the imagination like Mushishi. Watch it and let it blow your mind.
7. Denkigai no Honya-san – I make no attempts to hide the fact that I’m a moe fanboy and this hilarious comedy shows another side of the otaku lifestyle in a way that’s cute and sometimes a little bit too honest.
6. Nagi no Asu Kara – Where I felt that Glasslip was a failure of focus by P.A. Works’ writing department, NagiAsu receives full marks from me for its imaginative setting, gorgeous art style and a story about the intersection of two very different worlds whose people must come to terms with their differences.
5. The Irregular at Magic High School – It would seem “magic school” is an emerging subgenre of anime as of late with series like Magical Warfare and Tokyo Ravens all hopping on the bandwagon. But of all these recent titles, this one is really firing on all cylinders with its story that gets you invested in the characters and a level of strategy and politics in all of its confrontations that is every impressive.
4. Psycho-Pass 2 – The second season of my 2013 anime of the year lives up to its predecessor admirably. The implications of being able to scientifically measure a person’s morality lead to a story that is rife with countless ethical conundrums.
3. Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – This hilarious romantic comedy has it all. Colorful characters, ridiculous misunderstandings, unrequited love–all built around a goofy premise as Nozaki seeks inspiration for his girls’ manga.
2. Sakura Trick – Usually yuri / girls’ love / lesbian themes in anime are just a side dish for the purpose of getting the male fanbase to keep watching. But Sakura Trick is a true romance anime that treats its lesbian characters seriously and with dignity and for accomplishing that feat, it has received my praise.
And finally, my 2014 Anime of the Year title goes to!
1. No Game, No Life – To make the characters feel intelligent without making the viewers feel stupid is often a difficult task for anime. But Shiro and Sora take every advantage they can and if their opponents didn’t see it coming, then it was their own fault for being cocky. I can think of no other series in recent years that was more satisfying to cheer for the underdogs.
That’s it! I’d like to hear your thoughts on my choices. If there are any series you would like me to elaborate on, let me know in the comments.