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Top 10 TV Anime: 2014 December 30, 2014

Posted by navycherub in Anime, Essay, Top Anime.
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  • Welcome to my top 10 anime of 2014
  • This is just mine (navycherub’s), and the opinions of the other writers weren’t taken into account, probably because they are Objectively Wrong
  • The rules for qualification are twofold:
    • The anime must be designated as a TV series on MyAnimeList
    • The anime must have completed its run in the year of our Lord 2014
  • So, for example, Kill la Kill would count, but Shirobako would not
  • Each entry also gets an “honorable mention” or two, which contain shows from this year that aren’t on my top 10 but are still worth checking out if you enjoyed the entry in question. I did this basically as a compromise so that I could have a reasonably sized list and still point out some other decent shows the year had in store
  • Enjoy!

yowapedaYowamushi Pedal

Yowamushi Pedal started out a bit slow, and for a while I thought that it would just pick up at some point. Eventually, though, I realized that the pace was, ironically, Yowamushi Pedal‘s strength. It isn’t hugely concerned with the technical details of its sport, though it will give them the time of day when necessary; instead, Yowamushi Pedal focuses on the emotion behind the wheels. There are no villains, and at some point no characters you won’t be rooting for, because the show is so good at expressing the motivation behind every kilometer, every rotation of the pedals. Many sports anime try to make every character important and likable, but few succeed to the extent Yowamushi Pedal does.

Honorable mention: the author had another one of his manga adapted between the seasons of Yowamushi Pedal: Majimoji Rurumo, a very different but similarly charming comedy show.

nozaki

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

Speaking of comedies and anime with wonderful casts, Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun hits that ball straight out of the park. The formula has been seen before and it tends to set off warning signals in my head, too: sketch comedy formats usually run out of steam quickly, and shows with large casts that manage to incorporate them all effectively are few and far between (especially in a one cour show!). Nozaki-kun was clearly unafraid of either of those things, as it flaunted them with grace, style, and laughs for the entirety of its run. What makes it stand out on top of all of that, though, is the voice acting and comedic timing. I tried reading some of the manga, and it just wasn’t the same at all without the amazing directing choices and delivery from every single voice talent involved. Also, this happens to be the first of two anime involving Sawashiro Miyuki and basketball on this list.

Honorable mentions: Amagi Brilliant Park, another comedy this year that lived and thrived off of its cast and comedic timing, and Sabagebu!, a sketch comedy surprise that should provide with plenty of laughs.

mushishi

Mushishi Zoku Shou

Mushishi had a great comeback this year, bringing us what basically amounted to a whole year’s worth of content between the split-cour season of Mushishi Zoku Shou as well as two hour long specials to tide us over while we waited for each batch of episodes. None of them disappointed, either – the magic of the first season wasn’t ever lost, and aside from some updated visuals it was almost like Mushishi never went away in the first place. Just like last season, though, there were better stories than others, and this time around I sometimes felt like some stories didn’t really need whole episodes devoted to them. It never truly failed, though, and I was always left wanting more. Also, the new opening is great, even if many of the episodes left it out!

Honorable mention: Hoozuki no Reitetsu, while being strictly a comedy series, shares a sense of down-to-earthness and traditionally Japanese vibe with Mushishi Zoku Shou.

silver spoon

Gin no Saji 2nd Season

The first season of Gin no Saji was successful for sure. It told the beginning of a heartwarming coming of age story that utilized its setting well, too. The follow up, though, took the stakes up a notch, and really blew me away as a result. Hachiken’s seemingly limitless optimism and penchant for selflessness is pushed to its limits in the second season, leading to plenty of dramatic moments, character evolution, and completely earned emotional catharsis all around. Other members of the cast get plenty of time to have their stories unwind more in the sequel, too – Mikage’s family goes through hardship, and there is a small baseball subplot that manages to be stronger than most of the dedicated sports anime that aired this year. This is what all follow-ups should feel like.

Honorable mention: Barakamon carries a lot of the same themes as Gin no Saji, from discovering yourself to appreciating the simple things in life, and they have a pretty similar setting, as well.

space brothers

Uchuu Kyoudai

Uchuu Kyoudai, otherwise known as Space Brothers, finally ended its fairly long run this year, much to my dismay. During its tenure, Uchuu Kyoudai introduced a very large cast of incredibly lovable characters, and then forced you to watch as they reached for their dreams and frequently fell, or at least hit huge hurdles along the way. From beginning to end it was exciting and engaging, if sometimes slow as molasses, especially near the end. Even so, I cherished every moment spent with the show and its huge dreams of space progress juxtaposed with completely normal human struggles, all the while never wallowing in its own drama long enough to make it feel like a slog. I hope it comes back someday, but for now I am quite satisfied with the adventure presented as it was.

Honorable mention: It’s a little bit of a stretch, but Log Horizon is similar to Uchuu Kyoudai if you like the idea of a large cast of characters working together and against each other for various larger goals.

space dandy

Space Dandy

Probably the single most charming show to come out this year, Space Dandy is a playground of imagination the likes of which we aren’t likely to see again in some time. Technically one of two Shinichiro Watanabe shows on this list, but Space Dandy is more like a two cour showcase of as much talent as can possibly be stuffed into the show as possible. This of course means that not all episodes are created equal, but there are no flat-out misses in the entire run, and the hits result in some of my some of my favorite single episodes of anime of all time, including my favorite episode of all as portrayed in the above image: A World With No Sadness, Baby. Space Dandy managed to both kick off my year on a ridiculously good note and keep that feeling going every Saturday night for half of the year. It was a very sad day when it finally ended, baby.

Honorable mention: Hard to match Space Dandy in raw creativity, but Trigger’s first full-fledged anime Kill la Kill certainly makes an effort.

hanamonogatari

Hanamonogatari

If you know me at all, it should not come as a surprise to you to hear that Nisio Isin’s Monogatari Series is my absolute favorite franchise of all time, and last year’s Monogatari Series Second Season certainly did not disappoint. Well, Hanamonogatari manages to end the “Second Season” set of arcs in the best way possible: by skipping forward in time a little bit and addressing the fears of growing up that were building throughout the previous year’s new arcs. I imagine that Hanamonogatari was made at the end of the anime’s run of these arcs instead of the middle like it is in the novels because Shaft realized that it works so well as a transitional piece, capping off building feelings while also leading us to the end of the road that is soon to come. It also managed to add some much needed complexity to Kanbaru’s character, much like what Second Season has been doing the whole time for the rest of the cast. This is also the second of the two Sawashiro Miyuki plus basketball shows that managed to make my top ten.

Honorable mention: Without a doubt, Kyoto Animation’s Free!: Eternal Summer is the perfect companion to Hanamonogatari, as they both maturely and deftly venture into the same territory of the challenges of entering the adult world.

hunter x hunter

Hunter x Hunter (2011)

Why do you have to leave us, Hunter x Hunter? Oh yeah, because Togashi hasn’t written hardly anything past your perfectly chosen stopping point. Hunter x Hunter has been an amazing ride for the past few years, one that is hard to even sum up in only a few sentences because of its incredibly scope, change in tone, and willingness to tackle themes normally thought to be beyond the reach of its genre. It performs gracefully through all of it, though, and manages to build a world of limitless possibilities and wonderful characters, politics, adventures, and monsters (and, at the best of times, all of those things at the exact same time). There is hardly a dull moment in the entire 149 episode run, and I would recommend this show to anyone who is even slightly interested, as well as most people who aren’t.

Honorable mentions: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, of course, as it shares many quirks, and they both base their action drama around restrictions that force creativity.

ping pong

Ping Pong the Animation

I have a huge affinity for sports anime – I think that using sports as both a means for interesting conflict in itself as well as weaving the sport into the drama of the characters’ lives is something that, for some reason, only Japanese media seems to understand. I also understand, though, that sometimes it does take some inherent interest in the sport to get over the wall and appreciate a sports anime. Ping Pong the Animation manages to get this formula so right that, ironically, calling it a sports anime is almost a disservice to it, because of the implications the genre comes with. A good sports anime makes the viewer understand not just the passion for the sport, but what that passion means for the characters, so that you don’t even have to be a fan of the sport to embrace the drama. Ping Pong accomplishes this and more, with characters whose motivations and feelings are equally meaningful and easily expressed, through not only the narrative but the art itself. Oppressive, rigid, free and flowing – Ping Pong plays with your perspective visually so that everything it wants you to understand, you understand viscerally, and as both a story and a piece of animation it is a huge triumph.

Honorable mention: It might not reach nearly the same heights as Ping Pong, but Gundam Build Fighters manages similar successes: the characters are so fun and the animation so fluid that it is easy to fall in love with the show, even if you don’t know a lick about the Gundam franchise.

zantero

Zankyou no Terror

I was a bit torn on what to put as my number one spot; Ping Pong is essentially flawless and seems like it should take the top, but in the end I realized that it is my list and I shouldn’t lie to myself or you, so here we are. Zankyou no Terror is not only my favorite TV anime from this year, but also probably this decade so far as a whole. No other show has resonated (ha) with me so strongly in a very long time, and even with its flaws, its accomplishments are enormous. It is quite an ambitious project – very rare is it to see an anime that so directly fights against real life Japanese politics in the way Zankyou no Terror does. It approaches many angles, efficiently, effectively, and in very little time; post-Occupation worries; the current government and the Unites States’ wish to eventually militarize Japan; the Japanese peoples’ desire for pacifism that has been so prominent since the Pacific War; and, of course, the literal children of these past generations, living in a world created by their parents, a world they feel like they have no place in. Even if you aren’t of the historically or politically inclined type, the show’s more basic themes of isolation and sovereignty are so strong and universal that they simply cannot be ignored. This is all capped off with sublime directing from both Shinichiro Watanabe and the up-and-coming Tachikawa Yuzuru, who go to great stakes to make Zankyou no Terror a cinematic experience like very few others in the world of anime, let alone television anime, and it is easy to see why I think we have been blessed immensely with one of the strongest, most emotionally charged anime ever made.

Honorable mention: Like I said, nothing really matches the strides this show took in a narrative sense, but another MAPPA show from this year, Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis is quite similar in visual style, also attempting to emulate live action cinematics in an animated world.

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