It has been quite a while since a post appeared on the blog, hasn’t it? Hopefully there are still some readers out there eager for some more stuff! Feeling a bit stiff when it comes to writing, I figured the best way to get it all started is to revisit my favorite anime of 2014! After this, I hope to slowly return to form.
Truth is, I haven’t seen a lot of anime lately. We’re a few months into the new year and I have only seen two new series, which is a new record for me. Instead, the time has been spent watching older, completed, anime whenever the urge has kicked in. As a result, it has made me feel rather distant to the anime community.
When it comes to the year 2014 in anime, my stance is that it has been a fine year. There has been a few standout series, but apart from them it has been more difficult to pinpoint any noteworthy.
That said, I would like to give some honorable mentions to Hanayamata and Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de. The former is your typical school series featuring girls forming a club – this time yosakoi – but it’s executed so well thanks to director Atsuko Ishizuka (Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo, No Game No Life) it becomes a joy to watch. The latter is surprisingly my favorite anime by Trigger (Kill la Kill, Inferno Cop) and is a random comedy about kids gaining superpowers while doing nothing but fool around with them.
I would also like to mention the movies Patema Inverted, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica: Rebellion and Tamako Love Story – especially the latter, which is a sequel to the mediocre and lifeless series Tamako Market. The premise to tell a love story sounds so impossible with the boring cast it has, but instead it works so perfect it’s almost magical. It’s a combination that shouldn’t work, yet works perfectly. Also, let’s not forget about the special episode called GJ-bu@ that’s a great, but ultimately fluff, sequel that only served to remind me how much I love GJ-bu.
One disclaimer to whoever ends up reading the list below: I have yet to watch Mushishi Zoku Shou. I did watch the special episode in the beginning of 2014, but the series I have not. Had I seen it, however, chances are high it would end up as my favorite anime of the year.
Nagi no Asukara is a strange beast. It’s a relatively long romantic drama that tends to be overly dramatic at times, yet I cannot help but love it. It is one of the very few anime that has made me actively engaged with it on a weekly basis, not to mention furiously ship characters with each other. Talking about doomed ships with @illegenes on Twitter has never been more emotionally devastating.
It also helps that the series boasts some great character development and is a visual treat, especially as I find the use of blue in a water and winter landscape utterly beautiful. To me, this was as much a great series as it was an experience.
This is the closest we will get an anime adaptation of Yotsuba. While Barakamon also tells the story of a young man doubting his future as a calligrapher, truth is it shines at most whenever it’s about hijinks starring the young and energetic kid Naru. She dominates the screen and has that sense of playfulness that can be difficult to portray, making it an utter charm to see whatever she comes up with next. Overall, one could say Barakamon is 2014’s feel-good anime.
To me, this is the great surprise of the year. Even more surprising considering how poor I found the first season:
“I do not get Psycho Pass. With the exception of the first episode the overall production was weak. Tons of still frames, a plot that went nowhere and characters that spouted deep quotes by famous people every time they were on screen. There was nothing thought-provoking, not any more than Kotoura-san or Maoyuu Maou Yuusha.”
With this in mind, why did I end up having such a great time with Psycho-Pass 2? Especially as it’s deemed awful by fans of the first season, something I later learned after having completed it. To this, I’m not exactly sure. Perhaps I was in the mood for dystopian action?
For one, I found the pacing much better. Spanning only eleven episodes this time around – all focusing on a single, larger, case – helped to give a sense of focus and urgency the predecessor lacked. Furthermore, it lacked the quasi-philosophical nonsense and instead mainly raised relevant questions when necessary and let the majority of interpretation up to the viewers. I immensely enjoyed the story itself, being a perfect series to marathon over the span of two days. It’s chockfull of small details and hints it keeps you on your toes, while also leaning heavier towards action than before. At the end, it all comes full circle and the obvious outcome plays out perfectly coherent within the rules of the universe.
The only conclusion I can reach, judging by the weekly discussions I ended up reading, is that viewers expected to be spoon-fed and were so angry they cried foul rather than wait for the next episode. At least that is the impression I got, anecdotal evidence be damned. I wish I had written a post about the story shortly after finishing it, as I have by now forgotten many important details to give anything more than general arguments as to why the events in Psycho-Pass 2 were perfectly logical.
Sadly, however great this sequel was, it will most likely end up redundant as the upcoming movie seems to ignore it completely. Great series, nonetheless! Plus, Akane is badass.
I was quite fond of Silver Spoon when it aired and even more so of this follow-up. Where the first season was all about establishing Hachiken’s character and finally coming to terms with his choice of attending an agricultural school (well, to a degree), this one is more about showing us how difficult a farmer’s life can be – so much Silver Spoon 2 eventually decides to kick out one of its characters from the cast!
Hachiken’s journey to find his path in life may be far from complete, but after this season you can clearly see a possible outcome for him. It may be open-ended with no sequel in sight, but is a satisfying conclusion that, much like the first season, manages to tell its own narrative arc. Shame the manga is still unlicensed in English.
Sword Art Online was the worst anime I had seen in 2012 and I still stand by it. It is a complete mess in terms of narrative, so much even a competent visual production cannot save it. Jump forward to two years later and I really dug what Sword Art Online II had to offer. It was a complete opposite from before and here we are today, a moment when I call Sword Art Online II one of my favorite anime of the year – even better than Log Horizon.
How did things change so drastically? For starters, the story is much more competent this time around. Reki Kawahara is a person I deem interesting and would love to learn more about, as this is the first time I so clearly have encountered a writer in constant growth. It was already obvious between the first two arcs in Sword Art Online, but the jump is much further when you look at Sword Art Online II.
The stories themselves may not be particularly noteworthy, but the execution is simple and to the point. It’s the type of easy-to-swallow stories that really appeals to me when they work, which is the only decent way for me to describe how I feel. In Gun Gale Online, Kirito is tasked with finding a murderer. There, simple! Even more so when you look at the execution: no fluff, no overly philosophical musings… just a cool action story. Now, particularly Gun Gale Online does suffer from a slightly jarring backstory that borders on a retcon, but that is luckily the biggest offender this time around.
My favorite arc is no doubt Mother’s Rosario, which follows Asuna and the new character Yuuki as they try to defeat a floor boss (No Kirito!). It’s such a well-told arc that comes full-circle with everything we have learned throughout Sword Art Online and Sword Art Online II (so much, it even changes the perception of the very first arc of the franchise!). Apart from being a great story in itself, it’s also because of a highly personal reason I hold it as a highlight of the year. I cannot shed any details as not to spoil the moment, but it made me remember a very emotional time from four years ago. I once experienced the very thing that transpires in the story and its portrayal is nothing but perfect. It mimics it so perfectly I could not help but cry my heart out. At this point, it was clear to me that yes, Reki Kawahara does understand video games after all.
I’ve longed for a good sci-fi story in ages and I finally got one that engaged me. In full CGI, no less! Yes, you read that right. Knights of Sidonia is all computer-animated, everything from vehicles, backgrounds to characters. But it works! The lighting and rough look helps create very unsettling vibes to remind me how empty and vast space actually is. It’s also used to great extent in order to create scenes that wouldn’t be possible with traditional animation, something that creates intense scenes and gruesome alien confrontations.
… which reminds me the second season should be airing by now!
I must admit these Monogatari OVAs we receive every now and then – Nekomonogatari: Kuro, Hanamonogatari and Tsukimonogatari – are much more appealing to me than the full seasons. I cannot put my finger on why this is the case, apart from them being more visually polished. If anything, it’s because I end up watching all of the episodes at once. This creates a focused and pleasantly bit-sized approach to the stories. They also happen to be strong stories in themselves, with Hanamonogatari being one of the strongest in the franchise. Simply put, more Monogatari is a good thing.
Pure creativity spread over the course of 26 episodes. A new episode means a completely new story with a completely new team behind the wheel. From musicals, to space ramen, to racing, to… anything! There are no limits apart from a cat, robot and dandy in space. What amazes me is how many of episodes I still remember, whether it’s the best or worst ones. That, in itself, is noteworthy.
No Game No Life is dumb. It’s smug. It’s highly sexualized. It’s a great example of what not to show anime skeptics.
But… it’s so much fun. It’s so insane. It’s so intense. It’s so entertaining. I cannot even bring myself to defend my love for it. All I hope is for a second season. Pretty please?
This is it. It’s the shounen anime to recommend. It’s been three long years, but what a blast it has been. Despite having ended over six months ago (time passes quickly!), it still feels strange to not have a weekly episode of Hunter x Hunter to look forward to. This is the longest weekly series I’ve followed. I could write a lengthy text as to what makes Hunter x Hunter so dang good, but in this case you’re better off heading to Guardian Enzo’s blog “Lost in America: Anime & More” on which he currently has written a whopping 199 posts on the series!
All I can do is to give a huge thank you to everyone involved making this adaptation a possibility. May there be one day you’re able to animate more.
How do I put it? Yama no Susume 2 is very personal and dear to me, as written before. It has potentially affected my life, making me remember an event from the past and an urge to pursue it (which, as a side-note, Honey and Clover also helped achieve).
I want to go on an adventure.
Yama no Susume 2 reminds me of that.
Sometimes that is enough of a reason.