final day of the year 2014first day of 2015, and as per usual I’m going to go through what we’d seen in the past 4 season and talk about shows that I didn’t manage to fully discuss due to the lack of commitment throughout the year. 2013 was a fantastic year, with the likes of Gatchaman CROWDS, Uchouten Kazoku and Kyousougiga dominating the top of the list, and Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta being my lasting favourite series from that year 12 months later. As a whole 2014 doesn’t have that many strong series, but it did bring us something that’s truly special. Without further ado, let me present my top 10 series from 2014.
Disclaimer: this is my personal list from the series that I watched which finished in 2014. If they aren’t on the list it’s either due to I didn’t get around to watch/finish them or I don’t like them that much.
Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda
Alice in Wonderland is a good way to describe this show. Confident in it’s own set of rules, this magical little series marks a great debut of one talented writer to the anime industry. The usual theme of family aside, this show is filled with constant beautiful imagery and oddities which creates a dream-like atmosphere. Not everything has to be explained, and the magic is better preserved this way. The colourful cast all contributed to this off-beat absurd comedy nicely, and this show knows how to place them at a timely manner throughout the story. This series is full of charm, and the aftertaste is the interesting one that you experience when waking up from a weird long dream.
Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka?
To this day, I still don’t understand why I really enjoy this series so much. Maybe it’s the quirky character humour, maybe it’s the beautiful pseudo European backdrop, or maybe it’s just how adorable all the characters are. Despite being a cute SoL series, this show changes the paces up nicely between episodes so it doesn’t ended up being mundane at all. There’s enough variation to keep things interesting, and the characters are different enough so that their interactions are often amusing. I also have to applaud the creator to know when to move on when a character trope becomes tiresome, and proceed to remake her into the best girl in the series. On top of a great visual polish and a warm art style, there’s quite a lot of sugar in this series.
Shingeki no Bahamut
At the end of the day, Anime is about entertainment. It can entertain us with great stories and characters, or enthral us with great visual and audio spectacles, set our minds free to places that no other mediums can do. Shingeki no Bahamut isn’t one with innovations, and is quite cliché in so many ways, but is one that plays its cards nicely. With an eccentric rogue protagonist leading the way, this fun adventure that takes many elements from western fantasy is a thrilling ride from start to finish. This series just oozes money in every scene, and the animation quality is brilliant on top of great visual style. The heavy western flavour also adds to make it a rather different adventure in recent years. It’s just a sensory feast, without any moral preaching that might put off some viewers. The cinematic experience is its strongest point, and to say this is one of the most entertaining series this year wouldn’t be an exaggeration.
As weird as it sounds, this show probably resonates me greatly due to my rugby background. The interaction between a playmaker and a strike runner in this series just hits a great nostalgia bone in me. For a sport series to work, especially one targeted toward the JUMP demographic, it needs to sell the passion to me, to make me experience the same level of enthusiasm and desire as the character themselves. After a rather lackluster first half barring the magical first episode, this series went into full throttle in the championship arc. Each episode is filled with character emotions and their thirst for victory as one by one they overcame their own mental hurdle during the matches. The games are also fantastic neck and neck intense battles between great teams. What elevates this series from others though is the way they end it. Plenty of hope, regret, and just powerful moments that solidify this group as one team. With sequel already announced, I can’t wait to see how they move on from this point onward.
Every once in a while there comes a show which resonates greatly with viewers, and this series does that nicely. This show is half, okay maybe more than that, about the rural setting Yotsuba!-like peaceful childish shenanigans, and half about appreciating one’s own obsession towards art. The great balance between the heartwarming moments and the the internal struggles that our protagonist Handa gradually overcome is what makes this series such a joy to watch overall. It has its calm moments, the usual fish-out-of water comedy skits, and having a massive man child in Handa is a great design as the latency in his maturity only helps to heighten the lessons learnt across the series. Every episode all leave me with a massive fuzzy warm sensation, and echoes with my current stage in life as well. This series is extremely charming, and that OP is definitely one of the best this year.
Yuki Yuna wa Yuusha de Aru
This show is such an enigma. Toying with the viewer’s expectations in the earlier episodes by showing foreshadowings and red herrings every now and again, Yuyuyu established an interesting entity for itself. Being a multi-media project, the ongoing prequel story adds a lot to the setting itself. Throughout the 12 episodes we followed the girls as they accept and learn their new role as the guardians themselves. The lighter moments serves as great contrast with the more solemn series of events in the second half, and the story built up a great deal of sympathy for those characters. If it wanted, it could just be a nice SoL series by itself and it could still work nicely with its sense of humour, yet the writer added another side of the coin to counteract with it. It may look like mahou shoujo on the surface, but those girls are more similar to conscripted special forces, and their sacrifices needed to survive. The series delivered a fantastic character moment in ep9 when all the prior build up paid off and gave us a moment that’s well executed and heart wrenching at the same time. Yes there’s the highly unpleasant ambiguity at the very end, which dropped this series down in ranking. However, for the majority of the episodes, this show handled itself with great care and love. It’s just so beautiful, with the best soundtrack of the year to support it.
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
I’ll admit, shoujo romance genre is one that I avoid like plague due to the fact that in my own highly biased view most of them are filled with stereotypes and melodrama and mundane progression, which is why I am loving this series so much. This comedy makes fun at the genre itself while still maintaining some interesting romantic aspects. It subverts the tropes simply by reversing the role of the characters, and there’s always innovative punchlines that comes with each episodes. The characters each has an aspect that clashes with the existing stereotypes, and their interactions always brings out something amusing to watch. I find it hard to not like any of the characters. The mangaka knows a lot about shoujo romance having drawn another series on a more orthodox take in parallel with this series, and those jabs all hit the marks extremely well. Never once was I not laughing in any of the episodes, and having the great animation from Dogakobo helps a lot to the presentation. This show is witty, adorable, and funny, and that’s what you need for a comedy series really. On top of that there are plenty of OTPs within the set up which helps smoothing out between each skits nicely. The fact that there’s also some slight insight into manga creation and anime/game/manga culture tropes makes it easier for me to relate to the jokes too. Undoubtedly the funniest show this year, and one of the best surprises to say the least.
Even if it’s highly similar to another entry to this list, Silver Spoon is more about the coming of age at the stage of life when it’s time to be independent, to take up responsibilities, to roam free. There’s the awkwardness of adolescence, the insecurity toward adulthood, and just overall focus on the transition period. The comedy may be hit or miss for some people, but this series delivers in spades on the lesson of making harsh choices, life, and just growing up from the sheltered environment into a proper adult. The titbit of information on the rural farming adds some nice flavour to the show itself. Despite being a rather larger cast, all characters are all adorable and are one that I’d love to hang out with. The first half back in 2013 focused more on the acclimatisation of our protagonist into the foreign setting, while the second half emphasis more on the drama aspect and places more toll on the characters, gave us a great setback that further develop the cast a lot more. It is genuine, funny, and manages the emotional investment really well. There are plenty of moments where you empathise with those people, and those scenes are presented with great elegance. Those carefree sequences serves to build up the characters and allows a greater contrast when the sadder moments hit. As a footnote, I really really love the two Ending songs.
Probably the most polarising one this year, Samurai Flamenco follows its protagonist Hazama Masayoshi as he journeyed through different Tokutatsu tropes. This series is sincere to its belief in the heroes and acts upon it. It has fantastic characters, and the chemistry in their interactions is simply sublime. It is in some way unpredictable, yet stays true to its themes and follows a simple 4 eps arc pattern. Masayoshi is the most endearing character this year, and watching him grow little by little through the different facets is a great joy. At the same time his interactions with Goto provides some fun commentary in all those madness going on. This show has its own quirky genre-savvy humour and has plenty of great moments. To this day I still go back to watch ep16 again and again.
While all the tokusatsu elements can be a distraction to some, it tickles the great nostalgia bone just with how cheesy they all are underneath the clever jokes this series plays on them. You can just feel the passion, the raw desire, and the purest fanboyism to the genre. The few insert songs are just brilliant classic style tracks that adds to the tone really well, and great to sing along with. This is a nice tribute to the genre in its own weird way, and I applaud shows like this that’s slightly off-beat yet still has plenty to talk about. Despite its limitations in the visual department where a lot of the time it just looks like dogshit, this confident and smart 2-cour show loves its roundabout method to deliver a simple message, on what it takes to be a hero. Everything builds up to the final arc where it comes full circle once again, focusing on the main duo and their hidden secrets as the final confrontation. At the end of the madness, it’s about the people, and love. Also, best proposal scene this year.
Ping Pong the Animation
Where do I begin? The unique yet satisfying high quality animation that makes characters seem human, the jaw dropping presentation during the matches, the utterly brilliant soundtrack that complements the scenes perfectly yet also stand strongly by itself, the emphasis on the theme of maturity, heroism, and freedom, the elegant characterisation of the five main protagonists, and just a simple tale of the joy of the sport overall. Ping Pong is quite a match made in heaven. The crude art style can be initially off-putting for some people, but once characters start moving it’s just a great visual spectacle in its own unique way. If I was still holding some doubt to director Yuasa’s ability to create instant classics, I sure am not now. Adapted from a cult classic manga series from 20 years ago, the modernisation did not distract it one bit. Each scene is beautifully crafted, and every moment are meticulously directed. I love shows with great ensemble cast, and all five of them received fantastic characterisation as we follow them to their appreciation of the value of the sport itself.
The matches are exciting and gripping by themselves with the show’s stylish presentation, yet the clash of values and beliefs between the characters is always the focus. This is not a typical sports genre, Ping Pong transcends the stereotypical limitation and gave us the best human drama this year. The joy of the sport, and the fun in playing, the story illustrates its message from the different perspective of those characters. There’s discovery, there’s redemption, there’s soul searching. Defeat is not the end of the journey, but instead a new opportunity for change. We still see the characters even after their exit stage left, and affect everyone around them in highly meaning ways. Each of them are well fleshed out and breathing, and it’s hard to not empathise with their journey. The writing flows naturally and stretches the limit of the medium with great intelligence,with plenty of great moments like the Christmas montage in the middle of the series.
This show is just perfect. I fell in love with it since ep1 when the seiyuu for Kong delivered the best monologue of the year. It was filled with rage, frustration, and corresponding with what’s going on on the table it’s just so powerful. It’s the exact moment that I clicked with this show, and Ping Pong never fail to surprise me with the way it pushes the boundary in storytelling and characterisation. I just love every one of them, how they interact and influence each other, and just their own personal tales told within the 11 episodes. Above all, the themes of redemption and joy are the most prominent ones. This is a great coming-of-age story told from the angle of sport athletes, and one that will no doubt go down in history as one of the classics.
There you have it, my top 10 shows of 2014. In the past year 29 series completed, and in 2015 there are still Tokyo Ghoul, Stardust Crusaders, Prisma Illya 2wei, PokemonXY, Aldnoah Zero, Shirobako, FSN, Garo, Parasyte, Log Horizon and also Grisaia has already got a sequel announced. I wanted to also mention Tokyo Ravens for having the 2nd strongest ending and the best romance this year, Corona for making me want to see a highly unlikely sequel so bad, P4GA for giving us the brillaint Adachi arc, and Tokyo Ghoul for an excellent excellent ep12.
In case you are wondering, unfortunately I didn’t manage to finish either Mushishi nor HxH in time, but I’m sure that they would feature in this post somewhere have I completed them. Log Horizon is kind of an interesting one considering that my assessment would be highly influenced by the ongoing second season, therefore I group them together and categorise it as a 2015 entry.
2014 was a year dominated by plenty of hiatus from my end due to both real life commitments and the general lack of feedback from this blog’s end. I’m still not too sure whether I can rectify it next year, but hopefully I can go back to pumping out regular content again. It’s a massive commitment to keep up weekly update, and I would love for you guys to give me some feedback in any ways so I know you guys are interested in my posts. I’m really hyped up about 2015 though, especially the spring season when Stardust Crusaders, UBW and Grisaia are all going to reach their finale. It’s hard to know what the upcoming year will entail, but hopefully you guys will still stick around.
Now, here’s my special honorable mention that needs its own section:
Kenzen Robo Daimidaler
If you’d read my assessments so far, you’d realise that I place great emphasis on the unpredictability, energy, and just satisfying presentation. The more a show sticks to its guns and delivers a passionate yet unpredictable outing, the more I love it. On first look KRD is just yet another ecchi robot series, but once you actually watch it and experience it, it is just so much more. It’s taking on an extremely absurd and stupid joke, and ran with it like crazy until the end. It follows its own rules, and just ignore all stupid logic as it stays faithful to the craziness in the super robot genre. The antagonists are hilarious, and those mecha battles got some extremely smooth animation going for it. I knew this show is going to be something special when I heard the best Opening theme song of this year, and this show delivered some unexpected brilliance by ep4 and 5 where the quality in story presentation was just absurdly good.
You can call this show stupid, but the fact that it went all out with all the hot bloodedness makes it a highly engaging watch. Similar to TTGL it just escalates and escalates, and that final episode also brought out a marvellous speech on top of the acoustic rendition of the opening theme song. I was fully on this boat the whole way, and despite some weakness in the 3rd quarter, this show is just so entertaining to watch. Considering that I almost ignored this show until I saw just how much of a madness the official site was, it just shows that it pays to give every show a try and see what they are like without being influenced prior. Probably the most underrated series this year, but understandable considering that you need to have a deviant sense of humour to appreciate it. If I am to rank it solely based on enjoyment, this show will be in my top 3 no doubt.