[Underwater] Mikakunin de Shinkoukei - Engaged to the Unidentified - 10 (720p) [C2E75374].mkv_snapshot_14.42_[2014.03.14_01.20.54]

The Top 15 Anime of 2014 – #10 to #1

2014 was a good year for anime. It’ll take several years to see how things settle out before one is able to compare it to earlier years but I think it’ll rank just fine in comparison. The death spiral that the doomsayers say is neigh still hasn’t kicked in yet and that probably bothers them, just like a certain pause does for another group of people.

I intended this year’s look at anime to be slimmer and more focused. To that end I trimmed 17 categories but now that we’re at this last part a quick word count check reveals that I’ve written almost the same amount this year, ~13,000 words, as I did back in 2012.🙂

Before getting to the top 10, if you need a refresher here’s the links to other parts.

The Best Anime of 2014: Part 0 – The Worst Offenders
The Best Anime of 2014: Part 1 – Cast and Character Awards
The Best Anime of 2014: Part 2 – Genre and General Story Awards
The Best Anime of 2014: Part 3 – VMA Awards
The Top 15 Anime of 2014 – #15 to #11

#10

kill_la_kill12302Kill La Kill

Fall 2013, 24 episodes
Director – Hiroyuki Imaishi, Series Composition – Kazuki Nakashima, Animator – Trigger
MAL score – 9/10 Great, TNS score – 11/12 A+
Nominations – 11, Runner-up – 3, Winner – 2

Scores and awards are definitely one metric to measure how good a show is but they are also limited, as is any single metric of measurement. A third measure of a show can be how it compares to it’s peers, both present and past. This is an obvious and tried-n-true measurement tool but it has it’s problems as well. In the case of Kill la Kill, even though I tried very hard to do otherwise, comparisons between it and Gurren Lagann were almost never far from my thinking about Kill la Kill. I’m pretty sure if I’d never have seen Gurren Lagann then Kill la Kill would have finished much closer to the top of this countdown. There were some ways that Kill la Kill was definitely better then Gurren Lagann. Hiroyuki Imaishi has gotten to be an even better director since Gurren Lagann, for one. I think the cinematography as a means to aid the storytelling and to impress the viewer is stronger as well. The animation of Kill la Kill, especially the high impact fight scenes, however, was a step down from the seven year old Gurren Lagann. I won’t blame the reliance of CG animation over hand drawn animation, per say; I think there wasn’t enough time and money so more CG was used to try to patch things over and CG animation still can’t replicate the versatility and range of expression that hand drawn animation is capable of. I also didn’t like the story as much as that of Gurren Lagann. I realize they were trying to say different things but Kill la Kill’s didn’t grab my attention as much. I know this entry sounds rather negative but I did enjoy Kill la Kill enough for it to earn this tenth spot.

#9

[FFF] Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru - 01 [0B95C73D].mkv_snapshot_22.38_[2014.12.11_02.58.21]Yuki Yuna is a Hero

Fall 2014, 12 episodes
Director – Seiji Kishi, Series Composition – Makoto Uezu, Animator – Studio Gokumi
MAL score – 9/10 Great, TNS score – 11.5/12 Near Perfect
Nominations – 6, Runner-up – 1, Winner – 0

Garbage in, garbage out. Many, if not the majority, of the people I saw that talked about Yuki Yuna as it aired dismissed it as a “Madoka clone” and then complained when the ending did not fit the script that they themselves had outlined for it. The thought that maybe they were wrong in their initial assumptions about the show never appeared to cross their minds. I was initially surprised by the ending too but, instead of dismissing the show immediately, I thought back over the show and it became obvious that there were little hints the series would go in the direction it did well before the end. Like in episode 20 of Shirobako, where the writer was surprised over how straightforward the other staff members are proposing to end the anime they’re trying to adapt, I think one of the problems people might have had is Yuki Yuna did not mind being straightforward about itself. This anime is about Yuki Yuna who, with her friends, is given the chance to apply the desire to be heroes to real life and, with some stumbles and bumps along the way, become real heroes. There is no need for Machiavellian schemes and agendas but that’s not to say that story is a simple one. Even with all the revelations that happen in this anime series, I feel it might really just be an introduction to a larger story.

#8

silverspoon32052Silver Spoon 2

Winter 2014, 11 episodes
Director – Otomi Deai, Series Composition – Taku Kishimoto, Animator – A-1 Pictures
MAL score – 10/10 Masterpiece, TNS score – 11.5/12 Near Perfect
Nominations – 5, Runner-up – 1, Winner – 0

The new hawtness in anime blogging top 10 countdowns is to wait for split season anime series to finish airing before including them in the countdowns. The rationale is that they are conceived to be a single series but split up for commercial reasons. There is some merit to this argument and that’s why I’m not including the first part of Aldnoah.Zero into consideration for this list, because it’s story was very incomplete after just the first part. Other series like Silver Spoon, however, function just fine as separate series and I will continue to consider them separately. So, if I’d finished my 2013 list, it would be apparent that Silver Spoon is making it’s second appearance in the top 10; last year, 2013, the first season finished at number five and this year it’s finishing at eight. The question immediately comes to one’s lips – why did this season rank lower? It’s a bit of an unfair question since there’s no drop off in quality from the first to the second seasons but it’s also a bit on the mark. I liked how the first season introduced it’s central conflict early on – what will the main character do about the piglet – and also the second season felt like it was the start of a larger story that’s going to take seasons to resolve themselves. In this, Silver Spoon would be highly reminiscent of Natsume’s Book of Friends. I thought the second season Natsume was a step down because it started to stray from being entirely about the stand-alone stories of returning names to the spirits of the first season but once the third and fourth seasons came out and I rewatched them together I realized how silly I was to think the second season was a lesser season because it fit perfectly the story of the whole. I think if more Silver Spoon anime gets made this franchise might contend for a spot on my all-time list.

#7

[Underwater] Mikakunin de Shinkoukei - Engaged to the Unidentified - 12 (720p) [B43AA5DB].mkv_snapshot_17.52_[2015.03.03_19.24.50]Engaged to the Unidentified

Winter 2014, 12 episodes
Director – Yoshiyuki Fujiwara, Series Composition – Fumihiko Shimo, Animator – Dogakobo
MAL score – 9/10 Great, TNS score – 12/12 Perfect
Nominations – 5, Runner-up – 2, Winner – 2

This series looked terribly mediocre and cliché. I would have written it off completely, unwatched, but I decided to give it a small chance after the animation studio did such a wonderful job with their last series, Love Lab. The first episode of this anime was “not bad” and the opening that played as the ending caught my attention. Second episode, introduced the real ED, and the show was still “not bad” with a side of, wow, love the OP/ED. Third, fourth, fifth episodes came and went and the expected failure of Mikakunin de Shinkoukei to engage the viewer as a lovely-dovey rom-com and succeed never materialized. I slowly just came to accept this series knew what it was doing and enjoyed every last minute of it. Knowing this is a really great little show that focuses on it’s characters and knows how be funny and entertaining doesn’t mean I’m not aware that, to those that haven’t watched it, it still looks like a terribly mediocre and cliché series. I really hope this gets a sequel, because not only was this a great series – when it probably shouldn’t have been – I have the strong feeling that there’s still plenty of life left in the series – when it probably should have exhausted it’s supply of fresh material after a few episodes. This is the anime I most loved to watch this year.

#6

[Vivid] Tonari no Seki-kun - 01 [16FB3015].mkv_snapshot_06.19_[2014.02.24_23.50.47]Tonari no Seki-kun

Winter 2014, 21 episodes
Director – Yuji Mutoh, Writer – various, Animator – Shin-Ei Animation
MAL score – 10/10 Masterpiece, TNS score – 12/12 Perfect
Nominations – 5, Runner-up – 2, Winner – 0

Take one boy whose creativity isn’t being engaged well enough at school so he thinks of new ways to entertain himself every day; add one girl who wants to be a good girl and diligent student yet can’t stop herself from giving into temptation by getting wrapped up in the imaginary worlds and adventures the boy creates one desk over; and, the result is Tonari no Seki-kun. It’s so simple but it’s so brilliant to watch. The twin pillars that lets this short anime, 7 minute episodes, run with these top dogs is the endless creativity shown by Seki – he’s like the OK Go of the anime world – and the vocal performance of Kana Hanazewa who speaks ~99% of the spoken lines in the show and delivers one of her best performances yet.

#5

[HorribleSubs] Haikyuu!! - 25 [720p].mkv_snapshot_23.54_[2015.01.29_03.03.39]Haikyuu!!

Spring 2014, 25 episodes
Director – Susumu Mitsunaka, Series Composition – Taku Kishimoto, Animator – Production IG
MAL score – 10/10 Masterpiece, TNS score – 12/12 Perfect
Nominations – 10, Runner-up – 1, Winner – 1

Hey look, one of the all male sports anime that a certain segment of the female demographic enjoy watching and no one else does – Pass! – is what I, like a lot people thought of this anime sight-unseen. Later on, I stumbled upon an interesting club on MAL who tracks the changes to the score of the airing anime on a weekly basis and if it improves for the week gives the series a +1 and -1 if it goes down then tallies the result at the end of the season. One of the things I discovered was that Haikyuu!! had a flawless string of +1’s during it’s run, which even a cursorily examination of this club’s data told me was uncommon. I finally gave in, with the help of watching a few well animated clips, and discovered the number 5 anime of 2014. Haikyuu!! is a great cast of characters, drawn well and voiced well, allowed to be themselves and push the story ahead without any heavy-handed tricks of the creator yet still was able to create an abundant amount of tension that keeps the viewer interested and on the edge of our seats as the volleyball matches are played out and we root for our favorite characters – and what more does one want from an anime. I apologize to everyone that plays and/or loves volleyball for saying this but volleyball is a pretty weak sport and one I don’t particularly care for it but this anime made me excited to see it played.

#4

[Underwater] Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun - 01 (720p) [C389E67E].mkv_snapshot_00.54_[2014.07.26_03.51.43]Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun

Summer 2014, 12 episodes
Director – Mitsue Yamazaki, Series Composition – Yoshiko Nakamura, Animator – Dogakobo
MAL score – 10/10 Masterpiece, TNS score – 12/12 Perfect
Nominations – 7, Runner-up – 0, Winner – 1

The scores might not show it but each number we now climb is a significant hurdle that the higher ranked anime have had to overcome with bitterly tough exertion. Of course, none of these anime series looked like they were particularly straining, they made it look easy which is the mark of master. Take Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun; it’s really just a story about a girl who worded her confession of love such that the boy thought she was a fan of his work – he’s a shoujo mangaka with a female pen name – which causes him to rope her into being one of his many assistants that help him finish his manga and she pals around with a loose group of friends, assistants, and acquaintances, while hoping the standard shoujo romance tropes much actually occur and then finding all the ways to be disappointed when they do. The series makes it look easy but it’s exceedingly difficult to be that funny all the time and develop a great cast of characters and be heart-warming and soothing and clever and constantly fresh.

#3

[eraser] Shingeki no Bahamut Genesis - 01 [AB52BDBA].mkv_snapshot_12.02_[2014.12.26_02.56.43]Rage of Bahamut: Genesis

Fall 2014, 13 episodes
Director – Keiichi Satou, Series Composition – Keiichi Hasegawa, Animator – Mappa
MAL score – 10/10 Masterpiece, TNS score – 12/12 Perfect
Nominations – 14, Runner-up – 2, Winner – 3

I always like to keep a rough running tally of the top series during the year because it helps me discern the quality of the airing anime and it helps make putting together this list easier. For instance, My Top Anime Series of 2015 has at #1 – Shirobako, #4 – Death Parade, #6 – Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, #9 – Aldnoah.Zero, and #15 – Kofuku Graffiti. These rankings will obviously change a great deal after how strong these series end and what other good anime airs in 2015, but, that’s how it looks right now. Going into this past Fall 2014 season I saw one anime series – Psycho Pass 2 – that could potentially take the number 2 spot for the year. We all know how that turned out and the less said the better. I didn’t expect Shirobako, who’s first half would have netted it the number 4 spot, or Rage of Bahamut: Genesis which almost surpassed the number 2 anime. If I wanted to be a touch juvenile I’d sum this series up as saying it put the epic back into epic fantasy. Or I could say it’s what a cross of Indiana Jones and Lord of the Rings would look like. However it’s characterized, though, Rage of Bahamut: Genesis was a rather unique anime series and one I hope that inspires others in this mold to be made. A sequel would be appreciated as well.

#2

[Commie] Ping Pong - 02 [621FE2F9].mkv_snapshot_19.30_[2014.05.07_03.43.13]Ping Pong The Animation

Spring 2014, 11 episodes
Director – Masaaki Yuasa, Series Composition – Masaaki Yuasa, Animator – Tatsunoko Production
MAL score – 10/10 Masterpiece, TNS score – 12/12 Perfect
Nominations – 14, Runner-up – 2, Winner – 5

My personal most hyped series from 2014 was this anime. Hyping anything before it airs is always a very risky thing since it seldom lives up to the hype and the disappointment sinks the show. If there was one series, however, that deserved to be hyped it was this anime and if there was one anime most likely to live up to it’s hype it’s this, the latest from genius director Masaaki Yuasa. I still breathed a sigh of relief when the final episode ended and I no longer had to worry about if I was going to like a sports anime centered on ping pong; I knew that I loved it. Masaaki Yuasa, among his accomplishments for this anime, somehow bent time and space because he somehow fit a 2 cour – 26 episode – anime series into just 11 episodes without sacrificing anything. Now the wait commences to see what Masaaki Yuasa will do next. I can’t wait to see.

#1

hunterxhunter21230Hunter x Hunter

Fall 2011, 148 episodes
Director – Hiroshi Koujina, Series Composition – Atsushi Maekawa and Tsutomu Kamishiro, Animator – Madhouse
MAL score – 10/10 Masterpiece, TNS score – 12/12 Perfect
Nominations – 12, Runner-up – 1, Winner – 5

If asked about which genres of anime I least fond of the list would go something like this: long shounen series, sports anime, video game adaptations, mecha series, and shoujo series. Yes, I realize the irony of this in light of the top series I just covered. Maybe I should come up with more genres I don’t like to see if I’ll be proven wrong again. I was so impressed with Hunter x Hunter that I am about >this close< to granting it a variance to my self-imposed rules and let it place first on my top anime of all-time list. I’m not worried that a second watch will lessen my opinion of Hunter x Hunter but I don’t know when I’ll find the time to rewatch all 148 episodes again. When I do eventually end up putting Hunter x Hunter as my number 1 all-time anime I hope another statement – I don’t expect to ever watch another anime series better then Hunter x Hunter – will be proven wrong too. (Though, I’m kinda worried it won’t be.)

And with that, the look back at the best (and worst) anime of 2014 is complete. I hope some of you reading this were enticed to try some of the anime featured here. Regardless, thank you for reading.

11 thoughts on “The Top 15 Anime of 2014 – #10 to #1”

  1. 2014 was a good year for anime especially Summer and Fall. Rage of Bahamut was an unexpected joy and I would also appreciate a sequel. It was certainly unique compared to what we have seen in a while. It could have been made incredibly childish but the writers avoided that pitfall.

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  2. @GoodbyeNavi: I definitely agree with you about Rage of Bahamut. I think some people did find it a bit too childish but I thought the writing was just too smart and connected to not be taken seriously.

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  3. Ah, the “Madoka Clone” argument. I got so tired of having that discussion with people. I don’t know what your experience was, but my experience was that almost every time I saw someone making that argument, when I checked their anime lists on MAL, they had never watched a magical girl series that pre-dated Madoka. Either Madoka and Yuki Yuna were the only two magical girls on their lists, or they’d only seen other post-Madoka shows like Daybreak Illusion. So naturally they’re going to see Madoka’s fingerprints all over Yuki Yuna, because they have no other reference point. Madoka was written as a genre deconstruction, of course, and was never meant to be anyone’s first magical girl series anyway, but that’s a whole nother issue.

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  4. @Jim D.: That’s interesting to see about the frame of reference of people who’d say that. It’s kinda like younger readers that dismiss Lord of the Rings because it’s too similar to Harry Potter – they don’t really have the knowledge to be making an informed decision.

    I’ve absorbed a lot about magical girl series through osmosis but Madoka might have been my first completed magical girl series. I do have several on my mental list of shows I should really get around to🙂 .

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  5. This is my three-step Magical Girl prescription. For people who haven’t seen Madoka yet, I always recommend watching these before they watch Madoka, but it also works for people who’ve already seen Madoka and want to watch some of the series that influenced it.

    1. Lyrical Nanoha, season 1. Akiyuki Shinbo directed both shows, and his experience with Nanoha heavily informed his approach to Madoka. Really, the biggest difference between them is Madoka’s more nihilistic attitude (courtesy of Urobuchi’s writing). Nanoha is the more optimistic series of the two, but it still gets pretty intense.

    2. At least one season of a “traditional” mahou shoujo for young girls (Madoka and Nanoha are aimed squarely at adult men), to get a feel for the genre when its played straight. Suggestions: Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, Pretty Cure, Shugo Chara, Tokyo Mew Mew

    3. At least one dark/deconstructive magical girl series that came out before Madoka. Best choice: Revolutionary Girl Utena, the first true deconstruction of the shoujo and magical girl genres. Other choices: Mai-Hime, Uta Kata (both also very influential on Madoka, though not nearly as good), or Princess Tutu (I haven’t seen PT, as I noted, but everyone tells me it fits the bill)

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  6. @Jim D.: Thanks. I’ll definitely keep this list handy for future reference.

    I would like to update my top anime of all time list this year since it’s 3 years old and out of date now. One of things I want to try before I do is “test” Madoka and see how well it’s held up. One of things I’ve wondered since watching it is if some of my esteem for the show comes from not being really aware of the genre and giving it credit for things that are common in the genre. Watching the shows you mention above then rewatching Madoka might be the perfect way to test it.

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  7. You’re welcome! There are three seasons of Nanoha, but only the first was directed by Shinbo, so it’s the only one that’s essential for any filmography analysis of Madoka. If you like it, though, then you’ll definitely enjoy season 2 (Nanoha A’s), which improves on the original’s formula in almost every way. After that it veered away from magical girl into sci-fi/military anime; the third season feels like a Gundam/Stand Alone Complex crossover with a dash of magical girl flavoring – still entertaining, but there’s no comparative value at all.

    And Sailor Moon is of course the original, not the utter mess called Crystal (which I’m now trying to bleach out of my brain after suffering through 14 episodes of its inanity).

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  8. @Jim D.: That’s an interesting way to twist a franchise.

    I stomached 11 episodes of Crystal and could do no more. I suspect I might never get to the original Sailor Moon series, even though I like many of the people that worked on it, but I’m not averse to doing so. I don’t think I’ll have the time. Of your list of traditional shoujo I’d probably give Cardcaptor Sakura a shot first. It’s Madhouse and the director went on to Chihayafuru. He’s also directing the upcoming Ore Monogatari!! which I’m definitely watching.

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