As always, I’m excluding shows that already ranked in my 2014 top (ie, no Shirobako or Parasyte).
1) Durarara!! x2
There was a lot to fear with this sequel. A new studio with little experience, the risk of diminishing returns (especially after the Yellow Scarves arc being a bit of a step down)… Could the magic be recaptured ? Well, YES. The first part stumbled a bit out of the gate, having trouble to find its feet despite having lots of good parts. The second part, though ? Pure gold. A bunch of character-focus episodes that found again the greatness of the best of the first season, followed by the various new threads finally clicking together, and a finale that pulls the rug in a spectacular manner. I can hardly wait for the third part (starting in a couple of weeks’ time).
2) Yuri Bear Storm
Ikuhara is a master at what he does. The characters may be less compelling than his previous opus, but instead the story gains in laser focus and clarity of purpose. This series had a point to make, and made it beautifully. Roar, roar.
3) Mushishi – Suzu no Shizuku
This final special episode was the perfect ending to a great show. It encapsulated every strength, while telling a story that leaves you feeling that everything has been told. Many series would dream of such a conclusion.
The idea of combining a zombie survival show with a student slice-of-life structure was pure genius ; it produces a result that’s not only a great iteration of both genres, but a strong series on its own. And it’s executed so well, with careful seeding and foreshadowing of its big twists.
5) Death Parade
After Death Billiards, there was a question as to whether you can build a full series out of it. The answer is a resounding YES : while some of the episodes didn’t quite hit home, enough of them did, and the framing story was good enough to carry the show through. Also, one of the best OP sequences of the year.
6) Gatchaman Crowds Insight
Amazingly, this was even better than the first season. It tackled head-on some of the more problematic bits that had been raised, making itself all about the impact of the Internet and social media on democracy. The main antagonist here was group-think, something the heroes couldn’t just punch. (Well, technically they did, but you know what I mean.) That we can have anime tackling directly those themes is something to rejoice about.
7) Little Witch Academia 2 – The Enchanted Parade
The original special was a lot of fun, with perfect execution of its premise. This is even better, building on everything that made it work and expanding the scope just enough. And you’re left wanting for more, of course.
8) PUNCH LINE
The main problem this show had was that it was too clever for its own good, and hid its carefully-designed conspiracy & time-travel plot under a façade of gratuitous fanservice and deliberate ridiculousness. If you’re used to this writer, you could see the method in the madness relatively quickly (and he does do good absurdist comedy) ; otherwise, you may have missed this gem.
This season was a microcosm of how I feel about -Monogatari as a whole. Ougi Formula/Sodachi Riddle/Sodachi Lost was the show at its best, focusing on character exploration and barely having any actual Oddities in play. Shinobu Mail, on the other hand, was a rambling mess more interested in losing itself into its own ass, caring way more than me about its own mythology. But then, I’ve yet to find any Shinobu-focused arc I cared for. Still, it did have its moments, Kanbaru was a delight as always, and the Tale of Sodachi was more than enough to make up for the second half of the season’s weakness.
10) PSYCHO-PASS : the Movie
I never would have guessed the next stage of this franchise would be an exploration of how the Sybil System handles colonialism, but it’s way more interesting than “let’s have it face an even more undetectable and creepy asshole trying to subvert the system”. Expansion does make sense as a natural progression for Sybil, and the way it shakes down in the end feels like a classic S-F tale. Well done, PSYCHO-PASS, you’ve finally shown you’ve got more than one story in you.
HONORABLE MENTIONS : (aka : all my 7s)
– Gangsta got knocked off the top 10 by a hair. This Black Lagoon/X-Men hybrid had just enough style and sense of purpose to carry it over its total lack of any resolution (with a sequel all the more unlikely after Manglobe went under). Also, bonus points for featuring a deaf protagonist and thinking it through.
– the Japan Anima(tor) Project as a whole. Not all of the shorts were winners, but enough of them were to make it all worthwhile. Special mentions to “Comedy Skit 1989”, “Bureau of Proto Society” and “Robot on the Road”.
– The “better luck next year, maybe” awards : Concrete Revolutio, a conspiracy mash-up of all of the superhero subgenres at once, and Gundam – Iron-Blooded Orphans, which bit the bullet and made explicitly itself all about family. Both have been compelling shows, but they’re barely halfway through their runs and deserve to be re-evaluated when they’re done.
– Noragami Aragoto is every bit as good as its first season, which unfortunately still places it in the bottom half of the top 20. Ditto for Knights of Sidonia – War on the 9th Planet.
– Blood Blockade Battlefront had a lot of potential, and there were a few episodes that really clicked, but way too many of them fell just a bit short of working, the main plot wasn’t too compelling, and it focused too much on the wrong characters. Good try, though.
– Maria the Virgin Witch was a series that had something to say about the horrible treatment of women’s sexuality (both in the Middle Ages and in a wider context). Unfortunately, that wasn’t quite enough to make for a compelling story.
– The Rolling Girls, just for the awesome world-building.
– Yatterman Night, for having good ideas on how to turn the franchise’s premise around, although it did stumble quite a bit at times.
– Shimoneta – A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist, because we don’t get enough political satire in anime. That it actually had something to say beyond its initial arc was very welcome, and made up for much of the repetitive running gags that weren’t that funny in the first place.
– According to my notes, the 3rd season of Working!!! was still good, finally resolving some of its long-running threads in clever ways. Good for it.
– Rokka – Braves of the Six Flowers belongs to a genre mashup – heroic-fantasy + classic mystery – that greatly appealed to me. It mostly delivered on that front, had fun characters, cool designs, and one of the most hilarious epilogues of the year.
– Yamada-kun & the 7 Witches was sometimes a bit rushed ; but it’s still one of the best and funniest romantic comedies in my book.
– One-Punch Man was good at what it did, and I love some of the weird superheroes in there. Still growing a bit repetitive by the end, though.
– Charlotte had many terrible episodes and twists ; that I still enjoyed most of it speaks volumes for the good bits of it.
– The Perfect Insider had a nicely-designed central mystery and fun main characters. Sure, the culprit was completely full of shit, but that’s what villains do.