This has been a rough year for me. I left my old blogging home behind and I’ve lost some friends. Because of that I felt it was important to start things off at my new blog with something fun. When I first started blogging I made anime guides in the community section of japanator.com, that is where I got started. I originally thought it would be fun to make a list for my friends who ask for my anime recommendations. Years later most of those friends still ask me directly instead of reading my guides, but I have fun making them so here I am at it again. I didn’t have as much time to work on this as I had hoped so please excuse any typos or spelling errors.
First a few disclaimers: For one, I can’t actually watch everything. If your favorite show isn’t on my list that doesn’t mean I hate it. I might, but the odds are high I just didn’t have time for it. I also don’t put much effort into being objective with quality. I do break everything I watch into three categories which I will explain bellow, but that is the full extent of objectivity you can expect to find here. This isn’t a best of anime list, it’s a favorites anime list. These are the shows of 2014 that got me going. Instead of telling you why they are so much more awesome than everything else I hope to tell you what they meant to me and share my perspective on them.
Everything on this list is on it because there was something about it I enjoyed. The few shows I finished and thought were truly garbage won’t be mentioned here. With that here are my categories. I hope you will have as much fun reading this as I did writing it!
These are the shows that you probably shouldn’t bother with unless you love their genre and have already seen everything better that it has to offer. I didn’t come away from any of these satisfied, but I managed to like them enough to include them anyway.
These are the shows that managed to be highly enjoyable, quality examples of their genre. They didn’t blow my mind, but they did keep me coming back for more and managed to end in a satisfying enough way.
These are the shows I couldn’t stop talking about even when no one knew exactly what it was I was so excited for. They are the shows that standout to me when I think about 2014 anime and the first things I am likely to recommend to someone else.
47. Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance
An abundance of harem antics, tsundere jokes and a generic demon lord fantasy setting hold this anime back from being anything particularly interesting. There were a few points where I felt like it might go somewhere interesting or do something interesting with it’s characters, it never does. Some of the characters are likable enough and this show can occasionally be funny. That is the best I can say for it.
The one saving grace of this show is that it’s fairly harmless and easy to watch. It’s not particularly smart about anything it does, but its straightforward fantasy works well enough to keep a mild investment in its characters alive.
46. Tokyo ESP
Likable characters are everything this show has going for it. Sadly nothing else about Tokyo ESP really adds up. At least explaining the appeal of this anime is easy enough? A strong female lead, a cool super hero theme, a world that needs heroes, but also despises them. All the pieces to make something interesting are here with none of the development needed to make it actually happen. In the end I liked the cast of this show enough to say that I don’t regret my time spent here, but perhaps that is damning with faint praise.
There is plenty of build up and lead in for interesting development, but the actual twists of this story are usually mind-numbingly stupid. The way the big bad is ultimately countered is one of the biggest let-downs of the year. Most of the villains are comic book evil so don’t expect anything interesting from them. The heroes are likeable and have some development, but the story itself, the reason they are all suffering in the first place? Nothing ultimately comes of it.
45. Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya 2wei!
It is personal theory of mine that this anime exists entirely to prove that some things just can’t be explained to those who haven’t been initiated into otaku ways. If you ever wondered what it might take to shock a modern otaku this is probably it. Half the jokes in this show don’t even make sense if you’re not both an initiated otaku and an initiated Type-Moon fan. Even if you are the humor at work is just as likely to make you want to drink a bottle of bleach as it is to make you laugh. The actual magical girl story manages to be interesting… If and when story progression actually happens. In this season story progression was rare. This show is like some kind of nasty otaku train wreck. For some reason I can’t bring myself to look away.
On the one hand I hate the term “whoring out characters”. On the other hand it’s the only accurate term I know for what this show does. It takes characters from the ever popular Fate/Stay universe and reduces them to their most basic form. Then it makes in-jokes about those characters. Often times they are naked or poorly dressed while those jokes are being made. Call it what you want, I think I’ve described it well enough. This show is pure, unfiltered fanservice. That is what it exists to be and what it excels at. In season one I might have said the Type-Moon service is what Prisma Illya is really all about. Season two? This show managed to have several creepy 10 year make-out sessions. I’ll think I’ll just leave it at that.
When the story happens it’s actually both interesting and fun to watch. The creep factor never really goes away, but it does become less prominent. Sadly, the enjoyable parts of this story are only a few episodes in length. Most of this anime is unrepentant fanservice. Even when the story does happen that doesn’t really change. Much of it is interesting, though it’s only ever as interesting as your ability to take something serious that had lolis making-out moments before the drama began.
44. Rail Wars!
Welcome to the literal train wreck of 2014! I’m not even sure how this show managed to be as bad as it was. The concept is simple. Sexy women and trains. The early previews talked about terrorists and conspiracies. Some of that is alluded to, but it’s never taken very seriously. The harem aspect of this show does work better than the train action, but a thematic focus on one specific heroine undermines that as well. Despite all my complaints this anime has one really cool arc in the middle of all the nonsense. The protagonist and his team are tasked with rushing a heart to a patient in the middle of a nasty storm. The ensuing scenes are fantastic. Sadly those two episodes are 95% of the value I see in this entire anime.
Classy women and camera angels with no class. These heroines seem designed to be the wet dream of every politically conservative train loving nerd out there. You can expect plenty of accidental nudity and characters who failed the test at standing up school. Along with a conservative attitude about it all that only anime can deliver. Pretty women are most of what this anime has going for it and it isn’t shy about showing them off. You can expect everyone to get their day in the sun before this show is through. Just don’t expect anything about it to particularly memorable.
43. Rokujyoma no Shinryakusha!?
Sometimes an anime that by all means isn’t very good will surprise me and have something about it that makes it compelling anyway. This was one such show and the compelling elements are easy to point out. One of them is the magical girl who no one believes is really a magical girl. There is a ghost, an invader from space, a woman from a tribe that lives below the earth. All of them are accepted at face value. Then there is also a magical girl cosplayer. No one is willing to believe someone as useless as her is the real deal. Our magical girl spends the entire show trying to save the cast from certain doom. It’s both the dramatic and comedic selling point of this anime.
One other aspect that made this show work is the fact that the protagonist has a clear romantic interest in a girl who is not part of his immediate harem. And he simply isn’t romantically interested in anyone else. She even manages to have some of the other heroines side with her and befriend her. It’s a neat twist on a tired formula.
42. Magi: The Kingdom of Magic
Magi is a show of extremes. It’s either interesting or incredibly stupid. The one thing it does really well in season 2 is it’s depiction of conflict between mages and non-magical folk. I’ve found most of the moral dilemmas in this show to be cheap and naive. Something that children might enjoy, but any mature person would push aside and out of mind with ease. They managed a good one with the mage lord who wants to create a world of education for mages, but sees everyone else as less than dogs to be guided and used by mages.
I can’t recommend the rest of the show for this one moral conflict, but I will give praise where it’s due. If you have watched most of this anime, but never finished the final arc it’s worth your time. If you haven’t started the show I recommend you pick up the manga instead. I hear it’s significantly better than the anime. It’s certainly more popular.
On a side note, there are plenty of women in the most gloriously dorky, sexed-up outfits you will ever set eyes on in this anime. Senran Kagura wishes it could be this dorky. Aladdin sure does love to stuff his face in cleavage whenever he meets one of them. For the most part it’s just there and not the focus of what is going on. You will be hard pressed to miss any of it though. It’s usually hilariously ridiculous. The fact that it’s not focused on only serves to make it funnier. Don’t believe me? Just look at the screenshot I took above.
41. Akuma no Riddle
Lesbians caught up in a crazy, wish-granting battle royal. How could that possibly go wrong? For starts it quickly becomes obvious that no one will ever die. The thrill of watching a cast fight to death goes out the window. It can’t even kill the most irrelevant of its cast. I’m trying to remember if anyone actually dies in the course of this story… I don’t think they do. There also isn’t much development between the two girls and the ending feels like it comes out of nowhere.
For the most part each episode focuses on a single assassin. Their story and motivation is usually interesting, but it all goes by so quickly it’s hard to get invested in them before they are removed from the story. This is one of the most unexciting stories of its type. The rushed development of each individual assassin does give this anime some value. Just don’t expect it to deliver on its core promises. Punches are pulled at nearly every opportunity.
I was honestly tempted to cut this show from the list. I probably won’t ever recommend it to anyone, but there were a few elements of it that I did appreciate. Imagine a story where the entire point of that story is to setup one epiphany at the end. That sounds kind of smart right? The thing is I can’t explain this anime as poorly as it explains itself no matter how hard I try. The epiphany is so underwhelming that it seems most people didn’t even get it.
I did appreciate some of the unique things it did with it’s cast. One of the heroines admits to being in love with more than one person in front of the guy she is dating. And it’s cool. It’s accepted as a mater of course. The problem is that the main story itself and the relationship between the heroine and a transfer student as well as the fantastical elements of this story all seem like they are building up to something… More than what we got.
Ultimately the story feels unfinished even though it actually is. You probably need a bachelors in philosophy to get the most out of this anime. That said, if you actually understand it before the last episode you have undermined the core of what it is. Maybe I’ll re-watch this show at some point and decide my feelings on it. Maybe I won’t. It probably isn’t worth the time.
39. Garo The Animation
Garo is my first experience with anything “tokusatsu”. I’m not sure if the anime technically counts or not. I wasn’t sure what to expect and I’m not sure how to express my thoughts on the show. There was as much I liked about this anime as I didn’t like.
The brooding antihero son of Roberto managed to annoy me nearly every time he showed up on screen. The point behind his moral dilemma was so obvious that it felt like taking a sack of bricks to the face when it ultimately concluded. Knights protect, they don’t revenge. It being obvious wasn’t even necessarily the problem I had with it. He simply wasn’t a compelling character.
Roberto running around naked for an entire episode was probably the highlight of the show. I don’t even know what to say about that. Much of my feelings on this show are on hold until I see the second season. Overall I found it compelling enough to continue watching. I do want to know what happens next.
38. Recently, My Sister is Unusual.
Crass doesn’t always mean bad. This show was an interesting experience. Why do I say that? Because despite the subject matter the storytelling manages to be compelling. The slow pacing ultimately ruins much of the good that does, but it’s very easy to be pulled in by these characters and care about them. Even when that means face-palming as they fail to relieve themselves in a timely fashion.
My guess is that the mangaka knows what she is doing and simply enjoys writing the most crass thing imaginable. Perhaps the interesting thing to note is that it’s the friendship between the main character, which is also the heroine, and the ghost possessing her that really makes this story work. Honestly if not for the troll of an ending I would feel compelled to jump this up a category. That said, the ending is a troll. Down here at number 38 is where it will stay!
37. Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren
Lets get this out of the way first: This show did not need a second season. Now that I’ve said that lets look at this season on it’s own merits. The focus was on growing up and falling in love while also suffering from chuunibyo in middle school. There were so many problems with this season it’s hard to know where to start. The pacing was awful. Half the episodes in the middle of the show exist entirely for the sake of having fun with side characters. When it does get around to ending the story the ending feels unfinished. Season 1 didn’t need a sequel, it’s inferior second feels like it does.
Complaints aside, there are some good moments in this season. The “magical girl” from our protagonist’s past has to deal with letting go of her feelings for him. That is probably the more complete part of the story and it works fairly well. This isn’t something I would tell anyone to rush out and watch, but if you enjoyed season 1 you will probably find something to like in season 2 as well. Just don’t expect the story to progress with any haste.
36. I Can’t Understand What My Husband is Saying
Not much to say about this one. It’s a cute short about an adult woman who marries an otaku. A bunch of otaku in-jokes ensue. Some of them come from deep enough on the dark side of being an otaku that even I had to look them up. There is at least one Gendo pose in there somewhere. It also has its share of strangely heartwarming moments. There isn’t much to it, but it’s worth checking out if any of that sounds amusing.
35. Strike the Blood
I should hate Strike the Blood, but I don’t. Every critical sense I have tells me it’s garbage, but then I enjoy watching it anyway. The antics aren’t particularly amusing, the setting is generic urban fantasy, the characters have simplistic personalities… I find it all charming anyway.
The one element that I really love about this show is that everyone matters when the fighting starts. The computer wiz has to do her thing and on the front lines the protagonist always gets help from his “observer”. In this kind of story the protagonist usually punches things in the face for the win and is so disgustingly powerful all the girls sit back awestruck. The protagonist of this story is disgustingly powerful, but hes also kind of an idiot. The heroines are always a vital part of the fight.
The way it ends with a side story that involves a certain character coming back in time to save her parents Back to the Future style meant this show ended on a surprisingly good note. For all I feel compelled to hate this show, I would watch a anot
34. Persona 4 The Golden Animation
How do I explain and rate a show that is entirely dependent on someone playing a game or watching another anime? That is what this anime is. It’s essentially the new bits of added to the game in anime form. The focus is largely on Marie. I would even argue it’s the best version of her story and involves her in events she isn’t involved in otherwise. Thing is it completely skips through the rest of the game’s story. You are expected to know what happens. In practice it feels like a visual novel where you are skipping the bits you have already seen to romance another heroine. I personally found it works really well for what it is.
The only problem with this anime is that you either have to play the game or watch the amazingly awful anime based off the original game to get anything out of this anime. If you are like me and thought it was a shame Marie wasn’t more integrated into the story of Persona 4 Golden then this anime is a nice treat. Otherwise it’s probably best to just pretend this doesn’t even exist.
Fun fact: Marie’s VA(Kana Hanazawa) sings the ED for episode 11.
33. Mushishi Zoku Shou
Otherworldly fantasy is the name of the game. Mushishi is one of the best slice of life shows I’ve watched. Sadly the elements that made the original new and unique feel tried and true at this point. Much of the appeal of Mushishi is how strange it all it is and some of that is lost simply because of how many episodes it has.
The laid back pace often means that things that actually are dramatic don’t feel very dramatic. That said, most of what this show does is explore human relationships and how they are effected by strange phenomenons. It is dramatic. There are occasional moments where the drama hits home in force, but they are the rarity. Most of the time drama in this show is simply bittersweet.
Despite my complaints this show is always an adventure. The simplistic lives of the people in this story make it feel like returning to ancient times. The fantastical elements make it feel like another world entirely. If you haven’t seen this show you should give it a chance. It’s hard to marathon, but it’s also fantastic at what it does.
32. Date a Live Season 2
Dating sim humor at it’s best, or at least that is what I said about season 1. Season 2 isn’t nearly as funny and ends up feeling caught between interesting storytelling points. Three new heroines are introduced and antics ensue. Much of the old charm is still intact and that counts for a lot. The development of the story is slow and asks more questions than it answers.
This season has the feel of a second book in a trilogy. The production values aren’t particularly high, but this show always manages to be a lot of fun to watch. I didn’t fall for any of the new heroines which is probably why I ranked this show as low I did. I am eagerly awaiting a third season. I’ll probably break down and read the novels eventual either way.
31. Trinity Seven: 7-nin no Masho Tsukai
Mindless harem fun with a neat magical system to explore. Trinity Seven doesn’t break any molds, but the things it does well are strong selling points. For one the music and acting are both fantastic. The overall production values are high enough to make this show better than it probably should have been. The way magic works in this world is neat. It’s always the most irrational thing for the person who uses it.
Each school of magic is taken from one of the seven deadly sins. At first I thought that defining the schools of magic with the 7 deadly sins was just chuunibyo bait. It certainly is chuunibyo bait, the protagonist is even refereed to as a demon lord candidate, but there is more to it than that. A girl who wants for nothing is the master of greed. A girl who expects nothing draws her magic from envy. The free-spirited protagonist draws his magic from control, a part of pride. The story revolves around a boy going to magic school so that he can save his cousin.
Trinity Seven is a harem show by all means, so don’t expect it to be something else. It’s just good at what it does.
My idol show for the year. One of the few I managed to finish in time for this guide. Locodol is a low key story of girls in a small town who become local idols. The thing that sets it apart from ever other idol show is the way it focuses on the small town aspect of their job. Nothing super exciting ever happens, but it builds up a good atmosphere and proved to be fun to watch week after week. The cast are all likable and small town charm comes though in spades. This show isn’t going to blow anyone’s mind, but it’s a cute slice of life that I would recommend to anyone who likes such things.
29. If Her Flag Breaks
If Her Flag Breaks proved to be one of the more surprising shows of the year. I went in expecting it to be terrible and it actually wasn’t. Even the harem antics managed to have a unique feel to them. Everyone is in love with the protagonist and everyone is cool with the fact that everyone is in love with the protagonist. It all feels incredibly weird and it turns out that it being weird is a vital part of the story. The story itself won’t blow anyone’s mind. If I’m honest It was kind of dumb. I found it charming despite how dumb it was.
28. Amagi Brilliant Park
I learned something watching this. Mascots shouldn’t talk. They become normal characters when they talk. Despite that Amagi Brilliant Park managed to be a fun ride from start to finish. The appeal of the mascot jokes didn’t last long, but this anime had other things to make me laugh. The ridiculous situations almost always build into something hilarious. Sometimes it felt like It completely forgot what its story was all about.
The characters and their antics are usually funny enough that I didn’t care about the poor pacing. In the end the story does deliver on its early promises and the show has a cute, if predictable send off. This show was no Full Metal Panic, but then maybe it is unfair to compare the two. It did well by its own merits. It wasn’t the masterpiece I had hoped it would be, but it wasn’t the failure I feared it might be either. If KyoAni ever revisit this world I’ll be sure to tune in.
27. Chaika: The Coffin Princess
Chaika tries to be many things and it manages to be some of them successfully. It’s a fun adventure in a world that never feels fully explored. The story approaches critical mass with the sheer amount of characters thrown at the screen. Again most of them feel like they are never fully explored. The pacing can be really awful and the animation occasionally falls apart in a way that only Bones can manage. I could sit here all day and list minor problems with the storytelling of Chaika. Thing is? It was a charming adventure tale despite all its minor issues. I suspect most of the problems are adaptation decay though I may never know for sure. If you’re looking for a fantasy adventure Chaika won’t let you down.
26. Tonari no Seki-kun
One of the more amusing shorts I’ve seen. Seki-kun is a simple thing. There a boy who sits near a girl in a class and he is always playing around with something. She can’t bring herself to ignore him and pay attention to their lessons. Hilarity ensues. There isn’t much to this premise, but it has an extreme amount of charm.
How this show managed to be more than utter garbage is beyond me. I write it down and it sounds so dumb. There is a moment in this show where Jack the Ripper turns out to be Florence Nightingale and then he flies off to rescue Nobunaga from a giant squid possessed warship, or something like that. Somehow it was awesome!
This anime drags in the middle and isn’t the prettiest thing to look at, but it manages to have so much fun with its Nobunaga possessed heroine that it’s hard not to fall for it. It’s also surprisingly well thought out. Many events in our history are explained as things that actually happened to prepare for an ultimate alien invasion. The combo of dumb popcorn action and well thought out history antics make this show what it is.
24. Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou
This is a story about awful people bonding. A masochistic pervert, a sadistic older woman, a pathetic middle aged woman with loose morals and the list goes on. What makes this story really shine is the way the characters make a sort of dysfunctional family. Ultimately the moral of the story is to be yourself. The masochist has moments where he seems like the smartest person in the show. He is comfortable in his own skin and can tell you why.
Kawaisou has a way of subverting expectations and being more than just another teen drama. The drama between the protagonist and his crush is endearing. Their development isn’t particularly romantic, but for a story about pathetic people bonding it fits together with the rest of the story nicely none the less. Kawaisou proved to be one of the better relational dramas of the year.
23. Black Bullet
Few shows manage to make me genuinely angry. This one did. Not at the show mind you, but at the events that take place within it. Black Bullet isn’t shy about killing characters in horrific ways. In particular it isn’t shy about brutally murdering children for a chilling effect and otherwise using children as tools for warfare. By the time I made it to the end of this anime I was tempted to start rooting for the monsters. The depiction of evils humanity is capable of are particularly strong here. Maybe even too strong. On multiple occasions a young girl asks the protagonist to kill her while she is still human. Then there is the school lynching…
What is justice exactly? Is it protecting the people who let the awful things in this story happen take place? Watching as the cast members inevitably fall to or because of corruption is painful. It often caught me off guard. I didn’t expect this show to be as dark as it was. For better or worse it is that dark. The moral dilemma is interesting because the villains are given the chance to make compelling arguments for their cause.
One particularly crazy villain who seems obviously evil at the start of the story becomes more and more grey as the show progresses. There is one poignant point where that same once villain joins the heroes in their quest to save the world. When others are unhappy about taking in someone who murdered their friends he replies by telling them that he was just giving their friends the fight they wanted, fully prepared to murder anyone who might attack him. The weird thing about it is that you get the sense he is telling the truth. They hated me, they attacked me and I killed them all. What’s so wrong with that? It’s also that moment that makes me think Black Bullet was easily the darkest show I watched all year. I don’t think I would be a good guy in this universe. I can just imagine Kagetane smiling behind his creepy mask and saying “That’s the point. What do I hide behind this mask? It’s your face!”
Noragami has one obvious problem. It ends. This anime starts strong and it even ends strong. It’s one of the better shows Bones made this year. Sadly it feels like it’s just getting started as the show pulls to a close. All the right pieces are there for a fantastic continuation that will probably never come. What we do get involves an unlikely friendship between a has been god and a middle school girl. The little bit we learn about the world they live in makes it sound like a fascinating place. The gods are full of personality and their antics are usually amusing. The cute, pink-haired poverty goddess rarely failed to put a smile on my face. I fear this show will fade into obscurity. It’s a shame because it was off to a promising start.
21. Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha.
One of the sweeter shows I watched this year. Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha(that’s a mouthful) portrays the basics of falling in love and what love is in a genuine way that I don’t usually expect from anime. The thing that really makes it stand out is its more fantastical elements. The heroine of this story is granted half the powers of a goddess at her local shrine. She becomes friends with the goddess and learns to deal with having divine power in situations that almost always end up making you want to saw dawww out loud. The goddess herself starts hanging out with the heroines brother.
I can’t make this show sound cool, but it was one of the cutest things I watched all year. Very little in the way of fanservice or sexuality. It’s a love story that doesn’t try to seduce its audience. A real rarity for anime. Characters are likable because of how genuine they are. We have a story that isn’t just about falling in love, but acting out of love even when it’s not the most convenient option for anyone involved. What can I say, I really liked this show. It was laid back and simple, but it had a lot of heart.
20. World Conquest Zvezda Plot
There are plenty of stories about secret organizations trying to take over the world. If I were to look I could probably even find several from the villain’s perspective. World Conquest isn’t really about taking over the world. That simply isn’t the question it asks. Instead the question becomes is the world worth taking over at all? Kate, the immortal loli from ages long past thinks it is. This show manages to be silly and symbolic, often both at once. It isn’t particularly deep, but it does ask some good questions. For the most part it’s silly and fun.
The moral of the story may have been lost on most who watched it. I will admit I had to stop and make sense of the show after I finished it. The protagonist never allows Kate to conquer him for one. He always makes a point of how he doesn’t think she is completely right. Perhaps the biggest failing of World Conquest Zvezda Plot is that the moral of the story is not the easiest to follow. At the end of the day this show is still fun to watch even if you don’t fully understand all the symbolism behind it. It’s simple a shame that it isn’t explored better than it is.
19. Witch Craft Works
Gender reversal fun at its finest. Witch Craft Works isn’t necessarily deep or meaningful with the way it portrays it’s whiny male princess or it’s stoic female knight, but it is fun. Everyone loves their perfect stoic heroine, but the only thing she cares about is her “princess”. So naturally everyone hates him. Their antics simply make them seem like a prefect fit for each other.
Despite all the gender reversal stuff, the story is actually fairly basic and straightforward. The thing that really makes it stand out is just how much fun it has with everything it does. The characters have a way of drawing you in and making themselves compelling. You want to see the protagonist together with his protector. She sacrifices everything for him in a kind of endearing and absolutely creepy sort of way. If that doesn’t convince you there are magical kaiju bunny fights in this show! That has to count for something.
18. Log Horizon
I’m an MMO gamer. Getting trapped inside an MMO sounds more like something I actually did as a teenager than some crazy fantasy. Exploring the world of Log Horizon ends up being a special experience for me. I adore the way this show takes an MMO setting and slowly transforms it from a game into a real world. I suppose you could argue that the only Log Horizon we have ever known is in fact a real world, but the thing is most of the characters don’t realize that immediately. On top of that they all recognize that they are still on a server. The thing that made this portion of Log Horizon compelling for me is the way the game world evolves. The government of Akibahara becomes less reliant on game mechanics to keep themselves safe and more and more it begins to resemble a real world organization.
The pacing drove me a bit batty. Much of the events or these last twelve episodes were simply things that needed to happen to progress the story. Despite that, I find that I can always forgive the direction things take. Even when that means an entire episode is spent listening to a pep talk on how gamers can’t afford to give up. The epic fantasy nature of this story means it turns like an 18 wheeler and I get that, but I’m also ready for this war to get started. I’m not expecting any kind of action based masterpiece, but political and economic intrigue have always been Log Horizon‘s strong suit.
17. Shirogane no Ishi Argevollen
Argevollen is mecha war story that is more interesting for it’s politics than it’s mecha combat action. It takes a few episode to get rolling, but once it does it proves that you never know what to expect from this story. Very few things play out in a traditional mecha way. And when dumb mecha tropes rear their head they are usually far more intelligent than they initially seem. It’s interesting to note how similar some of the situations in this story are to other mecha and how completely it blows those expectations out of the water. Interesting moral dilemmas, an interesting take on power conflicts, interesting character relationships and mecha tropes that never play out the way they are supposed to. What more could you ask for from an anime war story?
I was honestly tempted to place this show in the standout category. I feel like a few of the episodes do deserve it. Overall I think the early pacing of this show holds it back. Back at episode 1 none of us had any way of knowing that it was going to subvert all those mecha trope flags it raised. Part of that I want to blame on mecha fans, but I can’t bring myself to be too upset with them. The production staff shot themselves in the foot when they didn’t make it more obvious those tropes were going to get slapped down. Imagine a Madoka Magica where Kyubei doesn’t show up until episode 6. Everyone would have given up on it before they got that far. Because of that this show isn’t something I can call a masterpiece, but it’s close enough that I will highly recommend it anyway.
16. Lord Marksman and Vanadis
Every so often there is a show that comes along where I just completely fall for it head over heals, quality be damned. This year there was one show like that and it was Lord Marksman and Vanadis. Which is not to say the quality was all bad. The acting is good and the music is fantastic. The backgrounds look amazing and the more tender moments of the show never left me wanting. So what are the problems? The animation itself isn’t very good and the world sometimes feel under explored. Useful world building information is explained on splash screens between scenes in the form of long textual explanations. There was probably a better way to adapt those details, but on the flip side at least they weren’t cut entirely.
So what did I love about this show exactly? Ellen for one. She would be a villain in most fantasy stories I’ve experienced. She is pragmatic with her goals and something of a warmonger. I really appreciate the way Lord Marksman and Vanadis allows her to be a “good” guy. Or maybe I just appreciate that it respects her pragmatic leadership style and ambitious goals and allow them to function. She is also a good friend to Tigre thought the show. There are some harem undertones, but they don’t mean that much in light of the fact that Ellen legally owns Tigre. It’s a neat relationship dynamic, one of my favorite from this past year.
Another thing to love about this story is the rise to power. Tigre starts as a lowly baron and ends up coming one of the most powerful forces in his home kingdom. Tigre has a weapon that may essentially be the one ring of power for all we know at this point. The magical weapons have personalities, but are rarely allowed to voice them. Even when they do I get the sense that it’s the god or goddess who granted the weapon and not the weapon itself that talks. It adds a degree of mysticism that works nicely for this fantasy world. Either way it seems obvious that this story is set to put Tigre on the throne of his home kingdom by the end if not more than that. Something Ellen seems to expect early on and others start to acknowledge by the end of the anime. Ultimately the story we get in anime form is incomplete, but it does manage to find a good ending point.
I could rant about other aspects of this show that I loved, but I think I’ve said enough for the sake of this guide. I will need to hunt down the light novels and see if they are as enjoyable.
15. Kill La Kill
If you have been following me since this anime started you know I have mixed feelings on it. Putting those aside for the moment I think it’s absolutely one of the standout anime of 2014. The animation never added up the way I wish it would have, but the sheer amount of hotblooded personality is a force to be reckoned with. The bonus episode may have helped ease some of my hatred at the often mediocre animation of Kill la Kill. It gave this show the one thing it was still missing, but I wont spoil the fun.
I do have a lot of minor complaints about this anime. Poor animation held back many fight scenes. Some of the comedic developments just didn’t seem funny to me. Despite all of that I feel it’s accurate to call Kill la Kill a motivational masterpiece. In large part because of what the music adds. If you’re anything like me the first thing you think of when someone mentions Kill la Kill is the music. I just want to get up and sing along every time they play Don’t Lose Your Way.
This won’t be a popular opinion, but I honestly don’t see Kill la Kill being considered more than average if not for the music. What do the character even have to lose? Who cares? The music sells it in such a passionate fashion it doesn’t even matter. Hell the music even tells the story on its own. That is the power of Kill la Kill and why it’s one of my standouts list for 2014.
14. Aldnoah Zero
A roller-coaster ride with some of the best action scenes in 2014. Aldnoah Zero still needs to prove itself in its second half, but there are plenty of reasons it already deserves praise. For starters the action is top notch. This mecha fulled warfare story is full of heart-pumping fights. The music and animation are fantastic and the twists in story kept me on the edge of my seat. The major twist at the end of the first season leaves me worried for what is to come, but we will see how that plays out when it gets here.
The real selling points of the story for me were in the way Inaho manipulates and destroys his enemies. It’s not every day that a stoic, nerdy protagonist is given a degree of personality without simply explaining everything going on inside his head. He manages to remain cool and methodical in the middle of intense battles. His own intense degree of focus gave the battles a unique feeling. I wanted stand up and cheer for him and maybe even did, but I also got the feeling he would tell me to be quiet and stop distracting him.
The storytelling of Aldnoah Zero leaves some things to be desired, but that is somewhat understandable considering it’s unfinished. I could honestly see this show being anywhere from my top pick next year to something I don’t even finish depending on how it plays out. As far as this year is concerned the intensity of the action and power of the twists in the story are what earned it a spot on my standouts list for 2014. Lets hope it can do the same again next year.
13. Sakura Trick
After watching a dozen or so totally not lesbian slice of life shows and jokingly saying “just make-out already” here comes Sakura Trick.. Not only do they in fact make-out they do it so often that the compilation video on youtube of Sakura Trick girls making-out is about half the length of an entire episode. In a 12 episode show that is a lot of making-out. This show is like eating pure sugar. People like to say it doesn’t have any substance and you know what, it really isn’t a deep or meaningful thing. I just so happen to think that is perfectly okay.
So why exactly do I like this show so much? I’ve already established the making-out part. I’m not going to pretend like I don’t appreciate it for that. There is more to it that that. This show reminds me of my first romantic relationship. Both because my personality really was that of an obsessive girl who just wants to sneak away and make-out and because the overall atmosphere is familiar. People complain about how this show isn’t deep and you know what, sure it isn’t, but often times real memories we treasure aren’t very deep either. This anime does a good job of depicting that kind of romance in a slice of life setting. I’m a guy by the way, just in case that was in question.
So back to this being on my standouts list. Some of you probably think it doesn’t belong. You might even be able to make a compelling argument for why it’s utter shit. Consider this, Sakura Trick is unique in its slice of life genre. There really isn’t any anime other fluff like it. Years from now if someone makes another fluffy slice of life lesbian show what is the golden standard it will be compared to? Sakura Trick. Years from now when someone asks for a fluffy slice of life lesbian show what are people going to recommend? Sakura Trick. People do ask for this kind of thing. They asked for it before this anime existed and they will continue asking for it.
Like it or not this show was a big deal for what it was. It may not be a breakout hit compared to some of the other items here, but it doesn’t need to be for it to be relevant to its own genre. That is what earned Sakura Trick its spot on this list.
Sabegebu! was one of my biggest surprises of 2014. I remember looking at the preview with the guys at my last blog and laughing about how awful it looked. We almost didn’t even bother covering it. Then I watched the first episode and laughed my ass off. I had to go back and explain. “Hey guys, I know you aren’t going to believe me, but this show is actually kind of well… great.” And no they didn’t believe me. Twitter didn’t believe me either. A few weeks went past and the show went from something no one wanted to bother with to something it seemed like most of my friends were watching.
Where do I even start with what this show does right? The oh so insightful narrator? The way the protagonist is an amazingly awful person? How it has some of the most hilariously unsexy “fanservice” of the year? Maybe I should mention the poor gravure idol girl who always dies first? Or the helicopter rescue crew that die to protect the secret of a girls smelly poop? Nearly every episode ends with a shootout. Each one more hilarious than the one that came before it.
Sabegebu! earned it’s spot on my list by sheer force of hilarity. The earlier portions of each episode are not always amazing, but the shootouts always are. Violent comedy of the year right here. Few anime manage to combine awful people and senseless violence for such amazing comedic effect.
11. Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works TV
This is probably my laziest choice for a standout this year. Fate/Stay Night is here because UFOtable are amazing at turning this universe into anime. As someone who has read through this route in the visual novel I love the way they are handling it. It’s not the high action deal that Fate/Zero often was, but I like the change of focus. I also know there will be plenty of fighting in the second half. Truth is most of the major standout moments from this route start taking place right after the point season 1 cut off at. This was the “boring” half of the story. If we can call it that.
One thing that that is sorely missing from other adaptations of this story is all the subtly in Nasu’s writing. There is rarely a sole reason or motivation behind why things happens as they do. This adaptation captures that and even manages to expand on it. I’m sure there are some Fate/Zero fans thinking we are crazy as we uwe and awe at the many faces of Tosaka Rin, but for those of us who fell in love with this story first it’s an incredibly experience.
The reason I included this other than on its merits as a technical master piece is because UFOtable and their sole focus on the Type-Moon universe are turning it into what is for all practical purposes its own genre. I guess time will tell as we see what they actually adapt, but the list of things they could do next seems pretty long right now.
10. Golden Time
Obsessive infatuations and whiny ghosts of the past. Golden Time is a story of going away to college, growing up, finding friendship and love all with a fantasy twist. This show has some major technical problems. The dance sequences are unintentionally terrifying for one. There are other times when this show just randomly looks horrific. It’s a recurring thing that detracts from the quality.
Despite the technical problems this relationship drama is a joy to watch. A love triangle between different personalities. A “perfect” girlfriend with delusions about love and life. A frightened boy who is trying to become a man without any memory of his past. A guilty childhood friend who feels responsible for said memory loss. There is no lack of dramatic situations here. The things that really brought this drama home for me were the more tender moments. The bits of character growth and bonding. Those worked really well in my opinion.
The magic of Golden Time is largely in the way it does something different. There are an untold number of high school romance anime, but stories in college and beyond just kind of don’t happen. When they do it’s even more rare that they are any good. Technical issues aside, Golden Time challenged the norm. My reason for including it on this standouts list is because it helped to chart the unknown. It was far from being a technical masterpiece, but it’s charm won me over none the less.
The Monogatari franchise is such a strange thing. You never really know what you are going to get when you start a new arc. Will it be nothing more than pervy antics? Will it be something that is both brilliant and ridiculously pointless about the difference between something fake and something real? Maybe it will tell a straightforward tale of growing up and moving on? That last one certainly wasn’t what I expected, but it was exactly what I found in Hanamonogatari.
Monogatari has always been high on dialog and introspection, but this arc reached for new heights. Most of the things animated in this arc are just there to keep your attention off the fact this is a two and half hour lecture. If this had been made by anyone other than Shinbo and Nisio Isin I doubt I would even bother to watch it. But it was made by them and I’m glad I did. At it’s core it’s a story of motivation. Something Kanbaru is lacking. She feels like she is stuck. When she is faced with a sudden change she doesn’t know what to do with herself. She needs to confirm who she is for her own sake. I can’t easily convey this, but the dialog and directing are both brilliant. The return of Kaiki and his -I-won’t-give-you-a-reason-to-hate-me-just-because-you-want-to-speech- didn’t hurt.
Hanamonogatari proved to be one of the smartest things I watched in 2014. I picked it for my standouts because I found it brilliant. I had to watch it twice to really get the most out of it, but I felt it was worth watching twice so I don’t hold that against it. It also managed to be something very different from the usual Monogatari fair. I can’t say there were no perverted jokes, but the change of perspective meant they either went away or became something different. The humor was actually conspicuously missing. It felt weird, but it was also a good reminder of why I like this series in the first place.
8. Engaged to the Unidentified
Dogakobo have become one of my favorite studios in the last few years. Both of their anime from this year managed to leave a strong impact on me. Engaged to the Unidentified tells the story of a young woman who discovers that she is engaged to a boy from out in the country thanks to her deceased grandfathers arrangements. If someone from the county wasn’t alien enough this show has some fantasy elements going on to really emphasize the point. This anime weaves a heartwarming, well nuanced tale with a premise that is rarely explored by anime.
At it’s core Engaged is a romantic comedy. The thing that really set it apart for me was the way the story slowly unravels. The fantastical elements are hidden at first and come out as the story progresses. Our heroine’s ties to her fiance are not as simple as they first seem. It manages to portray a cute low key romance between all the antics. In particular I loved the focus on the arranged marriage aspect and how that works in Japan. I should probably say that it isn’t forced on the heroine. It’s her choice. She has to decide what she wants to do with her future and that is a part of what makes this show so interesting. The antics themselves are another selling point of the show. This is one of the funnier anime I watched this year.
The reason I included this as one of my standouts is because it managed the whole arranged marriage theme very well. It was something that could have gone wrong at any moment and never really did. In practice this is also one of the shows from 2014 that I have recommended to friends most often. In part because it’s the show they haven’t seen, but also because of how much I enjoyed it. Hidden gem of the year perhaps?
7. Mekaku City Actors
Multiple continuities, crazy Shaft directing and only an ongoing fairy tale at the end of each episode to make sense of things. Mekaku City Actors provided a mystery that never was entirely clear even in it’s final moments. I’ve heard a few people say this show was meant as fanservice and doesn’t do very well on it’s own. I’ve even seen a supposed quote from the original author saying something along those lines. Thing is that wasn’t my experience with it. I made sense of it and all I knew going in was one song. That one song is in the anime so I didn’t really have any advantages.
I loved this show for making me think. Not necessarily about anything important, but about the story itself. About what was taking place on my screen. It made me think and it kept me questioning the entire length of the show. It managed to leave me satisfied with its ending and leave me questioning exactly what happened. That is a rare combo. Blazblue is probably the only other story I can think of that managed it. Blazblue the game that is, its anime was terrible.
I’ve included Mekaku City Actors on my standouts list as one of the best mysteries of the year. It’s a standout as a puzzle. One lacking technical graces and production values that makes up for its shortcomings with style and questions. If you don’t like puzzles in your stories you probably won’t appreciate Mekaku City Actors. Actually if you don’t like puzzles in general you should probably stay away. But if you do like puzzles? Your in for a treat.
I will also say this: It’s best not to expect word games from this anime. It isn’t like Monogatari. The puzzles are in the situations and not the dialog. Which ultimately makes it something very different from Monogatari despite a similar visual style.
6. SoniAni: Super Sonico The Animation
I have a confession to make: I am in love with Nitro+’s busty musical mascot, Super Sonico. The infection started when I picked up SoniComi planning to make fun of it and blog the experience. I’ve discovered that I’m just not very good at this whole mocking thing. Instead of making fun of it I ended up defending it and well… That post never happened. I figured it was just a fluke. The whole appeal of SoniComi is in the way you communicate with Sonico. That just wasn’t going to work in anime form. I was right, it didn’t work.
The Sonico anime starts off introducing Sonico, her friends, her job and just generally explaining what she is all about. The intro to the anime wasn’t the godawful thing some people said it was, but it wasn’t exactly exciting either. The thing is having a story about a busty idol girl who always tries really hard at everything just isn’t going to be interesting on its own. Sonico is a mascot, an idol. There isn’t much room for growth. That’s the thing though. Sonico’s anime isn’t really about Sonico. It’s about the people she interacts with the places she visits. Both how they have effected her life and how she effected theirs. The same way all my favorite slice of works when I think about it.
There is one particular episode of this anime where Sonico goes on a road trip. She gets on a bus without thinking about the destination and just rolls with the experience. The directing is fantastic. Sonico interacts with several people in various situations in a way that perfectly captures the feeling of randomly exploring the world and looking into the unknown. Ultimately I don’t really expect anyone to believe me. But I will say this, most of the people I’ve convinced to watch past the first few episodes of this show do like it. Maybe not as much as I do, but that is aside the point.
I picked Super Sonico The Animation as standout because it’s a slice of life experiment that I happen to really love. One where the directors take the story any which way they want, all the while keeping true to the distinct feeling that is is a silly mascot show. There is a “murder” mystery episode, several good musical episodes, a “zombie” episode that they try to relate to fat shaming and even that road trip I mentioned. The experiment doesn’t always work, but it’s almost always fun to watch anyway. Sometimes it does work. Several of the episodes managed to leave a strong impression on me. For that well… Here it is!
5. Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
Comedy of the decade. Maybe not, that might be an exaggeration, but I can say without a doubt that I haven’t laughed this hard at an anime since I first watched Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu. Nozaki-kun managed to bring about some of the funniest situations with a cast where anyone could be the main character and it would be worth watching. It also manages to provide some of the more interesting character dynamics of 2014 with the way these characters relate to one another.
While not exactly something I would call satire, Nozaki-kun plays with gender rolls in a way that makes the cast come to life. No one is ever exactly what you expect. The author of a popular girls manga series and self proclaimed sage of love advice is ridiculously dense at the real thing. The beautiful voice of the choir club belongs to the most uncouth student in the entire school. The prince who all the girls are in love with is in fact a woman. The list goes on and on.
The thing about this anime that landed it on my standouts list is its comedic genius. The way the jokes are delivered is perfect. The timing is great, the reactions are great, the way the characters play off both each other and audience expectations is great. Simply put this is one of the funniest things I’ve ever watched. I’ve found comedy to be one of the biggest things people disagree on so your mileage may vary, but for me? It doesn’t get much funnier than this.
4. Rage of Bahamut: Genesis
Bahamut is one of the few shows I went into with zero expectations. Each week I came back thinking surely this show is going to let me down now. It never did. I don’t know where the funding came for this, but I also don’t really care. It was one of the technical marvels of the year. It didn’t have the consistency of animation that some bigger titles of the year had, but it made up for that with amazing direction. There are always a dozen things going on in this show and keeping track of them all was a joy. Enough so that I had to re-watch the final episode twice to make sure I caught them all.
Bahamut has a way of pulling you in. Its characters and their quest are easy to invest in. It’s an adventure. One where you never really know what will come next. Demons? Pirates? Zombies? Dragons? Angels? Historical figures and gods alike with a loose tie to their mythology? It has all of these things in spades and manages to weave a tale where it all works together in synergy.
This show is a standout for making me want to stand up cheer and call out FAVARO at the top of my lungs. It’s also something I consider a masterpiece of visual storytelling. The subtlety with which questions are answered and characters develop was a real joy to watch. The battles have an epic feel to them that manages to remain fun even in the darkest moments. It often reminded me of a Disney movie. The storytelling flows in a way that only an anime original can manage that makes it work. I hope the teaser at the end of the show turns out be a second season. I would love to watch more.
3. Akame ga Kill!
Do you have any desire to know what it feels like to become emotionally numb? No you say? Well that is a shame. Akame ga Kill would love to demonstrate it for you. The themes of this show struck a cord with me early on. I usually don’t like assassin stories very much. Forced morality usually ruins it for me. Broody characters who can only be broody because they live awful lives so of course they are. Akame ga Kill laughs in the face of that mentality. Actually it laughs a lot in general. You never know if a fight will end with a brutal death or a punchline as someone makes a last second escape.
Make no mistake this is a shonen story. I’ve seen people complain that it’s not dark and gritty enough, or that it lacks depth. Also that the anime original ending ruins the show somehow. I can’t bring myself to agree with any of those claims. I can understand why people would want to reject the ending, it’s brutal. It’s brutal, but it’s also fitting. My experience with large amounts of tragedy and darkness is that most well-functioning people don’t brood, they laugh. It’s for those reasons that Akame ga Kill manages to feel very human to me.
Akame ga Kill earned it’s spot here for the way it portrays morality and idealism. The characters of the assassins group our protagonist joins tell him early on that they aren’t heroes of justice or really even justified at all. They fight against corruption, but that necessarily doesn’t make them right. It’s a pragmatic fight, justification is something to be created by the victor. There are several times the characters acknowledge or point out that they aren’t really cut out to be assassins. Assassins have no room for idealism. They have a role and they fulfill it, simple as that. When someone dies in this story it’s almost always their idealism that gets them killed. The fact that they weren’t able to be perfect assassins. Added to that is the fact that many of the villains are sympathetic. Add all that up and you end up with a powerful story.
2. Sword Art Online II
It’s no secret that I am a big fan of SAO. Its had ups and downs getting here, but it’s a show that romantically portrays a fantasy I am in love with. I enjoyed the GGO arc. I thought it was good and managed to relate with it in a personal way. SAO S2 managed to be something personal to me throughout the course of the entire show. I plan to blog more about that later.
The part of this show that earned it’s spot at number 2 here was it’s final arc, Mother Rosario. It managed to be even more personal that GGO and also what I consider to be one of the best parts of the SAO story in general.. When I say it was personal I mean that it brought up feelings and memories from my past. Memories that are not the most comfortable things to deal with. It made me think, it made me feel and it made me work my way through things I had run away from. How could a story like that be anything less than one of my top picks for the year?
There are many things that can be said about this story, but saying them takes me a lot of thought and time. For now I will leave it at this. Season 2 of Sword Art Online once again managed to capture the more romantic side of playing an MMO. This time with a more tragic bend to it’s finale. I will write more when the words find me.
1. No Game No Life
When I think of 2014 anime No Game No Life is the first things that comes to mind. I plan to read the light novel, I absolutely adored the way it mixed fun fanservice elements with philosophy on gaming and life. This show captures the way I think better than any other story I can think of and portrays it a delightfully amusing way. An appreciation and respect for the unknown, pragmatic motivations, a belief in the potential of humanity that gets mistaken for optimism. The themes and symbolism of this story left me smiling from ear to ear every episode. Not only is this show my favorite anime of 2014. You will probably see it again if I’m still doing this when it comes time to a make a decades favorite list in 2020.
I have a test that I setup for fantasy worlds. It’s simple test. Would I want to live there? If not would I want to visit? 99% of fantasy the answer is no and no. Even children’s fantasy like Pokemon fails the test. No Game No Life is one of the very few to get a yes to both. It’s a world where everything is a game. That mentality colors the entire show. Mad House hasn’t made a TV anime I’ve really liked in years. They made up for it all at once with this one.
If you want to read more of my thoughts on this show check them out here. If you want to talk to me about it you should respond on my new blog, or twitter. I don’t think wordpress will notify me of comments on my old site as I am no longer a member there.
That’s it! Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think of 2014’s anime. I would love to hear it.