Best anime of 2014

Well, this is a bit of a conundrum. Last year felt like it had more standout series, to the point that I could just plug in everything I rated 8 or more on MAL and get just the right amount of nominees. Not this year, where I’ll have to go a bit deeper into my lists, and make some hard choices between the 7s.
(It doesn’t help that I refuse to choose anything that was already on my 2013 list, to avoid ridiculousness such as KILL la KILL charting two years in a row. Which is why I’m also disregarding the likes of Samurai Flamenco and Silver Spoon.)

So, without further ado, the list…

[1] Mushishi’s second run
I mentioned a while ago that I found marathoning through the original run of Mushishi harrowing, given the amount of shit (usually) decent people go through in there. I also speculated I’d probably enjoy it more on a more relaxed schedule. Come this year, and it turns out true : once a week is exactly the right pace. It lets each story sink in properly. The storytelling is just as good as ever, if not even better ; and those new tales feel anything but superfluous. They genuinely explore some new ideas about human nature that were yet to be covered.

[2] Barakamon
Exactly the right mix of coming-of-age story (with an adult protagonist !), “kids being kids are adorable” warmth, and very well-paced gags. I knew from the first episode I would love this, and I was never disappointed.

[3] Rage of Bahamut – Genesis
Cue the usual surprise at a pay-to-win smartphone game adaptation being so friggin’ good. But hey, there’s some mileage to be gotten from taking just the generic background setting, as well as enough money to make some jaw-dropping setpieces, and then build a fun original from scratch. Every character oozes charisma, and it’s just way more fun than it has any right being. Now, the actual plot with the angel/demon war wasn’t as interesting, but it was still a good framework for the entertaining stuff.

[4] Hanamonogatari
This year’s token contribution from the -monogatari franchise wasn’t exactly the most outstanding the series’ ever been, but it was still very good indeed, with some neat insights into Suruga. Still as good-looking as ever, of course.

[5] Shirobako
I love me a good work-com, and this is one of the most promising we’ve seen in ages. Likeable characters, with each new episode offering insight into their life struggles ; an uncompromising but not mean-spirited look at the anime industry ; and some genuinely imaginative design ideas to liven up the proceedings.

[6] Parasyte – the Maxim
Speaking of good design ideas, this horror series gets tons of mileage out of its concept, and it’s always entertaining to watch thanks to its well-paced black humour. And I say this despite not being a fan of the genre (having a weak stomach for gore).

[7] Tonari no Seki-kun
One simple idea. Tons of variations. Perfect execution. ‘Nuff said.

[8] World Conquest Zvezda Plot
This series has issues, and the first episode is a mess. But once you’ve grokked that this is a sentai show from the point of view of the Quirky Miniboss Squad (and happen to share the writer’s conviction that smoking is Evil), it’s a fun romp that never takes itself seriously and is bursting with cute ideas.

[9] Nobunaga Concerto
You either love or hate the stilted CG artstyle ; I found it fit the “history book” aesthetics and even the constant dull surprise enhanced the script’s dry wit. And that’s where the strength of the show lies : writing so charming it transcends the tired old cliché of a premise (modern kid thrown into the past and takes Oda Nobunaga’s place !) and turns it into a wonderfully cute series.

[10] Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun
2014 was a great year for comedy shows, and this was one of the best of the lot. Consistently funny, with great characters, and having tons of fun gently teasing the excesses and clichés of shoujo romance manga. (Or comicbooking in general, really.)

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order)
Aldnoah.Zero followed the Code Geass school of storytelling : start big and never stop running. It was often dumb and the villains didn’t make that much sense, but it had enough momentum to keep itself going. I’m dreading the second half a bit, what with the crazy cliffhanger it’s going to have to follow upon, but at least it’ll be interesting to watch.
Amagi Brilliant Park is yet another very funny workcom, with impeccable comedic timing and lavish attention to detail.
Black Butler – Book of Circus : I’m surprised how I keep liking each new season of this better than the last. It helped that the most annoying characters were kept out of focus, and the ending was wonderfully dark after playing the audience’s hopes up.
Gundam Build Fighters Try… wait, why wasn’t the first series even in my honorable mentions last year ? Was it just starting to ramp up ? Because this was definitely near-top10 material. Anyway, this is slightly less good, but it does recapture the spirit of it : fun fights, fun characters, fun worldbuilding.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure – Stardust Crusaders isn’t exactly my biggest disappointment this year (*cough* Irregular at Magic High School *cough*), but it’s a noticeable step down from the awesomeness of Battle Tendency. Still a lot of fun, but very padded out with its “Stand of the week” format.
Knights of Sidonia was more than often a bit odd, and its artstyle making it difficult to differentiate between characters who weren’t even clones sometimes hindered it, but there’s a lot to love here once you get the joke of how it takes the piss out of generic harem routines. More than that, it’s a genuinely fascinating piece of worlbuilding with a proper story attached. I’m looking forward to the second season.
– This is the second year in a row Log Horizon gets an honorable mention, bypassing the “no charting twice” rule thanks to its second season. It did run afoul of the “narcolepsy rule”, though. (No series I’ve fallen half-asleep while watching an episode can get in to the top 10.) It’s a show that can get a bit too sedate and cute at times (and that’s why I love how ridiculously hyper DATABASE is), but when it’s on, it’s golden.
– I enjoyed the first season of Love Live! tremendously, and the second one was at least as good. Losing its “save the school” plotline turned out to be a blessing, as it allowed to give more focus to what the heroines really wanted all along.
Mekakucity Actors was this year’s token impenetrable SHAFT show : outstanding direction and artistic design, obtuse non-linear storytelling that rewards those viewers who’ve sticked with it to the end, and some genuinely creepy episodes all along the way. It’s not for everyone, but I’m glad they keep making these.
No Game No Life was lovely in many respects, with some genuinely clever ways to build setpieces around simple games (including the most epic game of shiritori ever)… It’s just a shame about the rampant fanservice. While it’s overall playful, that slightly nasty undercurrent makes it hard to recommend outside its natural audience.
– I’ll probably have forgotten all about Noragami in a couple of years’ time (aside from its soundtrack joining my Iwasaki playlist), but it was a nice enough urban fantasy romp with impressive comedic timing and cool ideas.
Ping Pong is worth watching for the breathtaking direction alone, but there’s also a lot to be said for a sports show that doesn’t follow the usual plot beats of the genre and lets its heroes lose at unexpected times.
– It’s clear by now that Psycho-Pass 2 is nowhere as good as the first series, but it’s still plenty enjoyable if you can overlook how stupid the plot has become. It’s got plenty of “clever” ideas to cover over the fact that it doesn’t have that much new to say, and that’s good enough for me.
Space Dandy was the platonic ideal of unevenness, and I’m sure that was part of the idea. Some of the variations on the concept missed the mark by being a bit dull or just too bizarre, but there were enough good episodes to make it worth watching. And it actually did land its ending properly, which was a downright miracle.
Still, the World is Beautiful : wow, a fantasy romance where royals actually running the country is the core of the show ! It having what’s probably the best female lead of the season helps a lot, too.
Terror in Resonance had flaws, including a civilian viewpoint character who barely witnessed anything and a botched denouement. But the cop show/conspiracy part of it was a lot of fun, and the direction made the most out of the setpieces.
Witch Craft Works managed to edge into the list at the last minute thanks to a timely marathon. It’s much more entertaining than I initially gave it credit for, with pitch-perfect comedic timing that never fails to have antagonists crushed in five seconds if it can be funny. And it looks incredible, too. Shame about the very boring male lead, but you can’t have it all.

via [Anime] The 2014 RPG.net Best Anime Vote – Page 7.

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Jhiday

I've been kinda blogging about anime for years... but mostly on forums (such as RPG.net's Tangency) and other sites. This site is an archive for all that stuff, just in case.

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