Yes, yes, yes, yet another "Top whatever amount of anime from 2014" list. Ah, but this isn't just a strictly my Top (blank) overall favorites (oh to be sure, there is that (in a manner of speaking) as well). You see, I loved a hell of a lot of anime this year. I saw well over 100 of them in 2014, in fact. So there is just no way I can do all of the ones I liked justice by just doing a Top 5 or Top 10 list. So in addition to that list, I am going to be listing my favorites in different categories, such as my Favorite Story, or Favorite Fantasy, etc. As for what is or isn't "eligible" well it is simple, it had to complete at least one season in 2014 (if it was a series) or it had to be first released in 2014 if it was a movie or online release (sorry The Wind Rises, that means you are out, because you first came out in 2013).
So before were get into this bad boy, let me just say what a hell of a year this has been. This year was the first full year I've seen anime in since I came back from my hiatus from the medium (last year I started in the Spring season). And god damn did this year really shake up my Top 10 personal favorites list, both from seeing some of the better shows from past years via the Ani-Club and from the shows of this year. To put that into perspective, 2013 only put 2 new shows into my Top 10 favorites (Arpeggio of Blue Steel and Silver Spoon). 2014, however, managed to shove 5 new shows into that list (Steins;Gate and Durarara!! via the Ani-Club being 2 of them, the other 3 being shows that I'll talk about later), in doing so, actually knocking Arpeggio out in the process.
On top of that, I've been having a really productive year, writing wise. On Ani-TAY alone, I churned out 6 different Top OP lists, and that was just a side thing I did to compliment the 31 different anime reviews I've produced this year. And that's just the things on Ani-TAY. That's not counting the reviews and group projects I contributed to the Crunchyroll Newsletter.
Many things were iffy this year, but I am glad to say anime was one of the few things that overall wasn't. Here's hoping 2015 can be as awesome of an overall year as 2014 was! So with all that said, let's get this show on the road!
Ping Pong the Animation
Far and away Ping Pong had my favorite start to finish story. Great character arcs for virtually the entire cast, and though things become slightly predictable towards the end (because they foreshadow the holy hell out some of these events), it is how they execute the events down the stretch that makes this a non-factor. Plain and simply, Ping Pong is, in my opinion, the best story ever told in anime in only 11 episodes, and showed that a show doesn't need to be hampered by only being one cour long.
Honorable Mentions: Mushi-Shi -Next Passage-, Silver Spoon Season 2
Rage of Bahamut: Genesis
Be it the incredible fluid and detailed facial expressions all the way down to the little details (for example pay close attention to the GIF above, for the longest time I didn't even notice Kaisar being reflected on Favaro's sword, that is some god damned attention to detail right there) I just simply loved everything I saw from Rage of Bahamut: Genesis' visuals.
Honorable Mentions: Mushi-Shi -Next Passage-, Ping Pong the Animation
"Winners and Losers" - Haikyuu!!
It is one thing for a sports anime to give the token look at a team losing to the main characters getting all emotional at their defeat. It is another thing entirely to basically flip the genre the bird and focus an entire episode around paying tribute to those who have fallen and had their dreams crushed. But that is exactly what Haikyuu!!'s 16th episode does, giving Karasuno's first opponents and Karasuno's girls' volleyball team a chance to stand in the spotlight as they and dozens of others reflect upon one of the most emotionally painful experiences in sports; the first round exit.
Honorable Mentions: "Lightning's End" - Mushi-Shi -Next Passage-, "The Last Milk" - Silver Spoon Season 2
Kill la Kill
What is there really left to be said about Kill la Kill in terms of its quality as an action series? It is wall to wall over the top action fun. It is to magical girl shows as Gurren Lagann was to mecha series. Of course a lot of people see it as all flash and no substance (though I don't feel that way, honestly). But even then, when it comes to being an action show, is there anything wrong with that? Anything at all? Point is, for me, Kill la Kill was the most overall "fun" show of the year.
Honorable Mentions: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, Rage of Bahamut: Genesis
Rage of Bahamut: Genesis
This was kind of a tough category for me to pick just one favorite in, because there were many really fun adventure series this year (including one with "adventure" right in its freaking title!), but in the end my favorite just has to be Rage of Bahamut: Genesis. It feels like someone's tabletop RPG campaign playing out right in front of our eyes. Sure it isn't an original adventure tale, but when a tried and true yarn like Bahamut's is done as well as it is, there are few that can top it.
Honorable Mentions: Chaika - The Coffin Princess, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun
The main reason Nozaki-kun is my favorite comedy of the year is a rather simple one. Despite the fact that I eventually could see so many of the jokes coming from a mile away through binoculars (mainly because they are so well set up the punchline is obvious as all hell), they all worked, and all still had me rolling around laughing. It also helps how Nozaki-kun was able to make such a simple premise as turning all of the gender roles in a romance shoujo around into such a hilarious series. This show takes the piss out of romance shoujo and it is just glorious to see.
Honorable Mentions: The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior, Tonari no Seki-kun
Ping Pong the Animation
Despite its name, very little focus is actually put on the game of ping pong. Instead the focus is on the extremely compelling cast of characters in Ping Pong. It is the trials and tribulations of these characters that really hoists the show up from being merely "good" or even just "great" and into that upper echelon of "legendary". The prodigy who is too lazy to actually try, the emotionless machine who pushes people away the more he focuses on the sport, the fallen foreign star who is trying to reclaim his glory, the megastar who has a very complicated home life, even a pair of guys who go on their own journeys of discovery after they quit the game. Ping Pong is less a show about a game and more a show about the people who play a game growing up.
Honorable Mentions: Mushi-Shi -Next Passage-, Silver Spoon Season 2
Rage of Bahamut: Genesis
Like I said before, it feels like a tabletop RPG campaign in animated form. But beyond that is some of the interesting things we get to see, such a giant magical mecha, and even a zombie necromancer. Bahamut also uses the cards from its source game to good effect by giving us some fun spins on traditional fantasy monsters, such as a Cerberus who is not much more than a sadistic doggirl with two even more sadistic (but uber cute) dog puppets she wears on her hands. Sure it isn't as new in some aspects as Chaika is (Chaika has a great new magical system and fun new takes on mythical monsters), but the tradeoff is Chaika also has a rather convoluted main villain, while Bahamut's is literally a giant fucking dragon, and sometimes simpler is better.
Honorable Mentions: Chaika - The Coffin Princess, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works
Trinity Seven doesn't reinvent the harem wheel, but that's ok. By merely being the most consistently entertaining harem series of the year for me (in a year where I felt several harem series had rather disappointing second halves, no less), it ends up my favorite. It also helped that the voice acting was top notch. The line delivery from everyone really endeared them to me. And of course Arata specifically not being like your average harem lead greatly helped. Lastly, the majority of the girls actually got some decent focus on them. So many of the harem shows this year had an uneven sharing of focus. Hell Trinity Seven is dare I say the only harem series where I honestly don't care which of the girls "win", because I like them all.
Honorable Mentions: The Comic Artist and His Assistants, Nisekoi
I Can't Understand What My Husband is Saying
This is my favorite romance of the year for one exact reason; Kaoru and Hajime behave like a real damn couple. They fight, they get on each others' nerves, they pay attention to what they both love, and of course they actually make love. This isn't yet another round of the "Will they, won't they?" song and dance. They are already a married couple by the time we see them, and that makes this show refreshing because we actually get to see their relationship, not another buildup to them possibly getting together.
Honorable Mentions: Sakura Trick, The World is Still Beautiful
Knights of Sidonia
Ok, there's no two ways to say this, I think 2014 was an absolutely horrific year for sci-fi anime. There were just so few that I felt were legitimately good, and one of them isn't eligible to me because it is continuing into Winter 2015 (Parasyte). Space Dandy? It was just too inconsistent for me. It had some good episodes every now and then, but most of the episodes went over for me about as well as a long, wet shart in church. Psycho-Pass 2? Hahaha...no. Aldnoah.Zero? Heavily flawed and trying too hard to be edgy(plus the previews for season 2 are making the ending to season 1 look like another god damned fake out.....). Knights of Sidonia was pretty much the only eligible pure sci-fi series I'd call "good" from this year, and that's it. My honorable mentions are barely sci-fi at all for crying out loud (and even then, are more fantasy that sci-fi)! But of course that's not to detract away from Knights of Sidonia's own actual merits. I thought it was really tense at times and had some nice mecha designs. Plus who doesn't love fun times with physics?
Honorable Mentions: Log Horizon (Season 1), Sword Art Online II
Favorite Slice of Life:
Silver Spoon Season 2
Silver Spoon is not just my favorite slice of life show from 2014, it is my favorite period. For about half of the year it was actually sitting all nice and cozy as my third favorite anime of all time. Sure it may have taken a slight bump down the rankings, but I still love this show a lot. I just can relate to Hachiken so damn much, and it was great to see him grow and evolve as a character. Not only do we get a look at the lives of our primary characters, but a peek into the lives of the people in the agricultural industry, and no joke, agriculture is a harsh way of life.
Honorable Mentions: Barakamon, HaNaYaMaTa
Haikyuu!! is about as perfect as I've seen a sports anime be made. It has hilarious comedy, a great cast a characters you can't help but cheer for, and some surprisingly emotional parts as well. This show's greatest strength was how it was able to use its pauses to manipulate every possible reaction it caused in me. Each key moment is beautifully framed for maximum effect. If there was ever a perfect sports anime to introduce people into the genre, that series is Haikyuu!!.
Honorable Mentions: Hajime no Ippo: Rising, Yowamushi Pedal
ME!ME!ME! - Anima(tor) Expo
Hey, I never said I'd restrict my Favorite Short to only those that were short series. I'd be doing Studio Khara a great disservice if I didn't recognize the amazing work they've been churning out with the Anima(tor) Expo that is currently running. For those that don't know, the Anima(tor) Expo is going to ultimately be a collection of 30 anime short films with Studio Khara doing the majority of the animation work on them. ME!ME!ME! is currently the standout short out of the 7 shorts released to date. It has no actual dialogue, because ME!ME!ME! is actually a music video with the music coming from TeddyLoid with Daoko doing the vocals. It is amazingly well animated and to date no one has a consensus interpretation of what exactly happens in ME!ME!ME!. Some people think it is about a guy trying to get over his former lover by drowning himself in anime and games. Others think it is about a guy who is too much in love with his anime waifu that it ruined his relationship with his ex. And others still have their own ideas of what is going on. All I know is it is one hell of an experience. One major word of warning, ME!ME!ME! is extremely not safe for work, as there is copious amounts of nudity in it, so fair warning.
Honorable Mentions: Encouragement of Climb Season 2, Tonari no Seki-kun
Ragyo Kiryuin - Kill la Kill
Ragyo easily gets the nod here because she was just so damn fun to hate. She was evil, through and through. I mean generally speaking anyone who sexually molests their own daughter is not all that nice. On top of that, she defies all logic, being a literal source of light in and of herself. And yet despite that, she still somehow casts a shadow. Lastly, I just have to love how she is pretty much one giant shout out to the works of the great Go Nagai. Oh Ragyo, if it wasn't for you Kill la Kill wouldn't be as fun as it was.
Honorable Mentions: Akira Midousuji - Yowamushi Pedal, Shaula Gorgon - Soul Eater Not!
Favorite Male Character:
Yuugo Hachiken - Silver Spoon Season 2
I've said it before, but I really do think Hachiken has the best character arc I've ever experienced. From a coward who ran away from his responsibilities to turning into a someone who takes on too many responsibilities. Hachiken has his head on his shoulders now, and in Season 2 he found his balls, as he is finally able to nut up and stand up to the people who intimidated him.
Honorable Mentions: Kong "China" Wenge - Ping Pong the Animation, Sei "Seishuu" Handa - Barakamon
Favorite Female Character:
Naru Kotoishi - Barakamon
What can I say? I can't help but love the little hellion that is Naru. She's a tomboy through and through, she likes to just barge in on Handa whenever she feels bored pretty much, and yet she is so damn adorable and acts just like a real kid would. Doesn't hurt that she is actually voiced by a real kid, too. Naru is just a spark plug that will liven up the day for anyone and everyone.
Honorable Mentions: Rita - Rage of Bahamut: Genesis, Satsuki Kiryuin - Kill la Kill
Top 10 Favorites of 2014:
10) Tonari no Seki-kun
Oh man did I love this short series. Consistently funny, and used its short length to maximum effectiveness. On top of that, Seki-kun's creativity was simply amazing. Sure many of the things he did were rather mundane, but he made them entertaining. Plus Kana Hanazawa managed to carry an entire show by herself!
9) Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun
Another show that was just absolutely hilarious on a consistent basis. It may not have been my absolute favorite show from Summer, but I still had tons of fun regardless. The cast was funny and memorable, despite their overall lack of depth (which isn't really a problem in comedy series, as we are here to laugh, not go into deep character analysis with them).
I just can't help it. ME!ME!ME! was one of the more compelling things I've seen all year. It does not hurt its cause that every time I go back and watch it, I notice some new details, inching me closer and closer to probably figuring this whole thing out.
No other show managed to draw me in this year as Haikyuu!! did. I flat out actually cheered when things went Karasuno's way, that's how much I was able to immerse myself into this series. I mean for crying out loud, I even cosplayed Karasuno's team captain this year, and I don't cosplay as a character from a show unless I absolutely love it.
6) Rage of Bahamut: Genesis
I don't know what else I can really say about Bahamut at this point. I mean I'm still fresh off of reviewing the show, too. It was just one hell of a ride from beginning to end, and as much as I love this show to death, it is some kind of perverse joke that a mobile card game gets such an amazing anime series based on it, while so many far better games with interesting stories and worlds get half-assed or even no-assed adaptations time and again. Still, here's to you Bahamut, a series was ready absolutely pass on until I heard the reactions to the first episode.
5) Kill la Kill
Ah, the show that pretty much cemented my comeback into anime and ensured I'd be back full time. I absolutely love Hiroyuki Imaishi's work. I'll flat out admit it, I'm a bit of an Imaishi fanboy. Now while Kill la Kill still doesn't top Gurren Lagann as my favorite of his works, I still love it more than enough for it to be one of the new series to claw its way into my Top 10 favorites this year. Just such a damn fun series.
Now this show I almost missed entirely due to FUNimation waiting several weeks before they started simulcasting the show. But I'm glad I sucked it up and still gave the show a chance. Easily my favorite from the Summer season, and despite it not "winning" anything from me aside from Favorite Female Character for Naru, I knew it was going to place high on this list. Just because it was barely recognized above doesn't mean anything besides that I thought a choice few shows did some things better. I'm increasingly coming to realize that I am a sucker for slice of life shows set in the backwoods of Japan, and needless to say this was one of the other new additions to my Top 10 favorites list.
3) Silver Spoon Season 2
As I said in my review of Barakamon, I felt that show was only my second favorite slice of life show of the year. My favorite was, and still is Silver Spoon Season 2. It isn't that much of a surprise to myself, as Silver Spoon was my favorite show from 2013, so another set of even better episodes would only improve Silver Spoon's stock with me. I'm still eagerly awaiting that third season. Any day now...
2) Ping Pong the Animation
Now this show I actually almost didn't watch at all. I passed over it in the Spring season and was going to be content with not experiencing it probably at all, despite near constant nudging from FruityDrinks to see it. Well I eventually did watch it, but at first it was at a somewhat slow pace, as the story wasn't really going yet and I was adjusting to the art style. But eventually everything just clicked and I marathoned the rest of the show. And now I am damn glad I finally caved in and watched Ping Pong, because it was just phenomenal. It goes without saying that as it is my #2 favorite of the year, placing over shows that I said made it onto my Top 10 favorites list, this too made that list.
1) Mushi-Shi -Next Passage-
I know, some of you might by wondering how the hell a show which didn't "win" a single category from above managed to be my #1 favorite work of anime for 2014. Well for starters, Mushi-Shi's greatest strength is also its weakness here. Mushi-Shi is an anthology series, in this case, Next Passage was made up of 20 episodes and 1 special, and each of them is a stand alone story. Because of its it doesn't have the strength a continuous narrative would have, but it also doesn't have the weaknesses of a continuous narrative.
The trade off is because each story is the length of a single episode, they don't get to be as deep or detailed as they should be. At the same time, there are very few, if any, weak episodes. It also helps that not only was Mushi-Shi already one of my favorite series to begin with, this was basically the Year of Mushi-Shi, as we had something Mushi-Shi related in all four seasons. We had a 40+ minute special in both the Winter and Summer seasons, and 10 episode seasons in the Spring and the Fall. When I get down to it, Mushi-Shi -Next Passage- is the only anime series this year where I didn't want any of the episodes to end.
So those are all of my favorites from the year! As I said earlier, this was one hell of a year. I had a lot of fun, and look forward to another year of great anime!