Comparing the strength of a anime season to a prior or future season is an old game that people never seem tired of playing. The relevance of these comparisons is a game that’s just as old, though often played by a different set of people. I fall into the group that think these types of comparisons are a valid tool and I don’t mind using them.
In that spirit, let me say clearly and unequivocally that the winter season of anime was better and I miss it.
With that settled, let’s move on.
There are some bright spots this season and these will be what we focus on today. Read on to see a rundown of the best anime airing this season.
#1 – Hunter x Hunter
Yes, Hunter x Hunter didn’t begin airing this season; but, it’s scary-awesome how good this anime is and I would be committing a grave offense by not mentioning it. For the third season in a row now – Fall 2013, Winter 2014, and Spring 2014 – there has been no anime that has been able to challenge Hunter x Hunter for the number one spot. If you are a fan of anime which contains character development with true impact, well thought out plotting, superb storytelling, characters with real depth and personality, and high class animation quality then you really need to be watching Hunter x Hunter.
#2 – Tonari no Seki-kun
No one seems to really know how many episodes of this series are actually left, maybe not even the animators 🙂 . So, I’m not entirely sure it belongs here but I did include HxH and though it’s not in the same league as Hunter x Hunter, Tonari no Seki-kun, nonetheless, continues to be the best comedy anime since Nichibros (Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou). Which, to refresh your memory, ran during the Winter 2012 season. Yes, it’s really been two years since Nichibros aired. Kana Hanazawa is arguably the best seiyuu in the industry right now and this anime is 98% her tearing it up with A+ comedic material.
#3 – Knights of Sidonia
Let’s get this out of the way – I hate, hate, haaaaaate, h@te, HATE, double dog hate, triple stink-eye hate, to infinity and beyond hate the 3D CG characters in Knights of Sidonia. I’m not ruling out that there may come a day that 3D CG characters actually look good in an anime but that day is still a distant dream. Even so, the rest of Knights of Sidonia is top rate and allows it to take the early lead as the best new spring series. Set on a generation ship – the Sidonia – which had been enjoying a 100 year calm on it’s journey to flee a dire alien threat who’d already wiped out Earth centuries ago, the most impressive part of this anime has been the confidence and attention to detail in setting up the scenario and it’s willingness not to pull it’s punches when bad things happen to good people. It’s a crying shame this is only a one cour series; I hope a second season will be announced soon.
#4 – Ping Pong
One of the moments etched into my memory as an anime fan was the first time I witnessed the genius of director Masaaki Yuasa. I was a much newer fan of anime so I decided to watch Kaiba solely based on the genre, science fiction, and the animation company, Madhouse. My body wasn’t ready – as the saying goes. I’d never seen animation like that before. The fluidity of movement, the sense of motion, the impression of gravity acting upon people and things, along with intelligent use of shot compositions made Kaiba come alive in a way I now know is rarely achieved in anime. Since then anything by Masaaki Yuasa is put on my watch list immediately, regardless of content. Which is primarily the reason why I gave Ping Pong a chance; otherwise, I’m normally not a big sports anime fan and give the genre a wide berth. Now with four episodes seen I can report that, as a Masaaki Yuasa fan, I’ve very pleased with Ping Pong. And, as a general anime fan that’s not necessarily a big Masaaki Yuasa fan, I’m very pleased with Ping Pong so far. To me, a sports anime works when the focus isn’t on the game but on the characters and this is the route Ping Pong has taken. The cast of Ping Pong is stocked with very interesting characters – I’d even go so far as to say that Ping Pong has the best cast of the new Spring season anime series. That Masaaki Yuasa and crew have turned all their prowess into making the ping pong matches a unique and captivating experience is just icing on the cake for this anime.
#5 – One Week Friends
One of my criteria for a “strong” season of anime is that it contains of a wide variety of shows of at least “good” quality. This season is just too heavily tilted to only a couple types of series with too few series rising above the mediocre-to-almost-decent level to be considered a strong season of anime. After the weekly slogging through of all those meh series I need my palate cleaned and I achieve that with a dose of something different and good. One Week Friends aka Isshukan Friends is one such series. I will not defend it’s absurdly unrealistic set-up; it’s obviously been engineered that way to ensure the series is full of happiness, sadness, and touching sentiments. I don’t care though. I’m willing to give each show I watch one pass and with One Week Friends it burned it’s pass on the initial set-up. To compare, Golden Time ultimately failed because it had to keep asking for passes to keep it’s train-wreck-of-a-story going. In the 5 episodes I’ve watched of One Week Friends the story has unfolded in a logical manner, I like the characters and they behave in accordance to their personalities, we’ve seen hints of character development which bode well for it’s future, and it’s been able to touch the viewer and make him/her feel happy and sad. In short, it appears that this anime will not need to ask it’s viewers for another pass. This makes sense in light of how well this anime is being executed. This series remains me of the Brains Base of old when everything they touched was gold.
#6 – Mushishi: Zoku Shou
Confession time – I never particularly liked the first season of Mushishi and this second season is shaping up to be more of the same. I don’t like the fact that I don’t really like this franchise because everything about it screams to me that I should love it. I’ve tried to tear apart my feelings for Mushishi to figure out why I feel this way about an anime of such obvious quality and the best I can come up with is the main character lacks character – he’s basically a walking database of knowledge with no real personality – and the individual episodes are often very similar in nature – human does something that almost allows a mushi to kill him/her and the main character has to lend his sage wisdom to save the day. I don’t find this a wholly satisfactory reason but it’s the best I can come up with. So, I don’t begrudge the people who love this series; however, I’m not going to pretend something to cover up how I feel.
#7 – Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
I fully expected Jojo to be much nearer the top, to be completely honest. Even with factoring in the reset in narration for a new Jojo, this series is under-performing. The main issue isn’t the slow pacing but the new Jojo; he’s shaping up to be the weakest Jojo so far. There’s plenty of time for him to grow into a good Jojo, so, I’m not worried yet. However, this weakness in the main character is creating further ripples to weaken the show. Grandpa Jojo has lost all his mojo – probably because he can’t be seen upstaging his grandson. The side supporting characters seem bland as well. I also dislike the reason our heroes have to go defeat Dio – young Jojo only goes because his Mom can’t handle her Stand power, because she’s a girl, and will die. I refuse to believe her sex makes her incapable of controlling her power. She’s also a Joestar just like the rest of them to boot. If there’s one Joestar that could handle this power it should be her, what with all the crap she has to put up with. I think a better young Jojo would have resulted in the story not needing to stoop to this level to get the plot going. Another issue this series is going to work on is making Dio a convincingly bad bad-guy. So far, I find myself thinking that Gon, as he is now, from Hunter x Hunter could make Dio pee his pants in terror, sorry, pardon my French. 🙂
I am really happy that Walk Like an Egyptian was chosen for the ending song; it’s a truly great follow-up to Roundabout from the last season.