Before I announce what anime were best in their respective fields, I want to show every anime I watched in 2014. To specify by anime in 2014, I mean any anime that I have watched and completed during this year. It does NOT exclude anime made earlier than 2014 that I ended up watching in 2014.
Here is the List of anime I have watched during 2014.
- Amagi Brilliant Park
- Engaged to the Unidentified (Mikakunin de Shinkōkei)
- Golden Time
- Howl’s Moving Castle
- Hunter x Hunter (2011)
- Kagerou Project (Mekaku City Actors)
- Love, Chunibyou and Other Delusions
- Log Horizon 2
- Mushishi Zoku Shou
- A Lull in the Sea (Nagi no Asukara)
- Nodame Cantabile
- Ping Pong the Animation
- Patema Inverted (Sakasama no Patema)
- Rose of Versailles
- Psycho-Pass 2
- Sword Art Online 2
- Terror in Resonance (Zankyou no Terror)
Hunter x Hunter (2011)
The true successor to Dragonball, the franchise that made Shounen what it is today. Gon is a reincarnation of Goku in his Dragonball days, young, innocent, friendly, and curious. Nowadays, even the Shounen genre has romance intertwined, and though I think there is a time and place for it, it just doesn’t fit Shounen anime. Shounen is all about adventure, friendship, and cool powers. In all regards Hunter x Hunter delivers.
The base of every story is the writing and I am sad to say that in general anime lacks first-class writers. Hunter x Hunter is one of the many exceptions to the stereotype and boasts the finest writing Shounen has ever seen. Bringing enthralling characterization, superb world building, and immaculate pacing to a simple story of a boy searching for his father, Hunter x Hunter grabs your attention and never lets go.
Madhouse did an amazing job improving upon an already prodigious source material. What impresses me the most is that throughout the long 4 year run of this show the general quality of the show did not drop. The fight scenes and body language of the characters are all top notch. Long running anime has a trend of going downhill as time goes on. It’s very difficult to put out an excellent episode week after week for years on end, yet somehow Madhouse does just that. If anything can be said, Hunter x Hunter got better over time as one of the few shows that grew with its audience.
The manga was first created in 1998 and is still ongoing today. Unlike typical Shounen shows each arc is vastly different than each other in genre and content, ranging from war and politics to the ever popular virtual reality game. Though I just discovered Hunter x Hunter this year, if I were to read it since the beginning I would have began at the age of 3 and continued to read until age 19. The whole story starts off very childlike and lighthearted but matures with its audience. Some of the later arcs are so emotionally powerful and profound that you forget your even watching a Shounen.
Easily my favorite Shounen anime of all time. It’s been a fun ride Hunter x Hunter, I am sad to see you go.
Rose of Versailles
Rose of Versailles is a little known anime about the french revolution that aired in 1979. The fictional characters are placed within the nobility of the French monarchy and are forced to decide whether to side with their family and friends or uphold their morals. As like any traditional Shoujo, there is plenty of love and drama, but unlike more recent Shoujo anime Rose of Versailles does not put this at the forefront every episode. The focus is regularly put on the increasing tension between the nobles and the rest of the population, while the romance is left to simple character interactions.
Surprisingly enough the art holds up pretty well and it is quite pretty to look at. Though there are some gripes about the incessant use of sparkles, I would say that Rose of Versailles was a large factor in shaping how Shoujo anime is portrayed today. On the other hand the animation is practically non-existent, leading to the action sequences to be quite dull.
The reason why I enjoyed this more than any run of the mill Shoujo was due to the fact that the romances did not encompass the character’s life. Many characters were in love, but that was not all they were. There were other facets to their life that did not involve a partner, and when feelings bloomed I understood the reasoning behind it. I recommend Rose of Versailles for any that are looking for a Shoujo that is a little eccentric by today’s standard and doesn’t mind the older style.
Harem isn’t my favorite genre, so there is one thing I require from a harem anime to watch it. It has to be self aware and know what its trying to accomplish. Nisekoi knows exactly what its doing all the way to the title which translates to False Love.
Nisekoi is about a young boy, Ichijou Raku, who made a promise with a girl to marry whenever they reunite. The only problem is that he can’t remember her face or name and the only memento he has of her is a locked pendant. Jump forward to the high school years and Raku still hasn’t found the girl and due to a series of events involving the Japanese mafia and gangsters, he has to form a fake relationship with the new transfer student. Resembling other harem anime fan service ensues and more girls are added, all of whom form bonds with Raku. So what makes this harem anime different than the rest? Absolutely nothing.
Nisekoi just contains all the normal elements of a harem and executes them better than the competition. Cuter girls, more funny gags, more drama, cuter girls, more outfits, more cheesy moments, and did I mention cuter girls? At the core of every harem anime are the heroines and the ones in Nisekoi are adorable. Shaft has a knack for animating attractive anime characters.
There are three major factors contributing to why Nisekoi heroines are better than in other shows. One, Shaft has a large budget due to their success with the Monogatari series and thus is allowed to dump money into Nisekoi’s animation budget. The show is gorgeous to look at and though the show lacks any action I could almost say that animating a cute blushing girl is just as difficult as animating an action sequence. Two, the voice actors for the heroines are spot on for their character personalities. There have been too many harems that I have watched where the girls are cute but I couldn’t stand listening to them. Third, the show carries itself with an inexplicable charm. I’ll be grumbling about how cliche each episode is but all the while I will have a huge smile on my face and be ready to watch more.
If nothing else you can always participate in the waifu wars which can be fun in itself and with the next season of Nisekoi showing in Spring it looks like this war will be a long one. Chitoge, best girl.
Amagi Brilliant Park
Its been proven many times that Kyoto Animation is the master of comedy in anime. There are few other modern studios that have had repeated success in the genre, and most that try fail terribly. The reliance on repeated gags and character tropes is the bane of humor in anime, and though Amagi Brilliant Park still uses them, KyotoAni understand that for gags to work, timing is everything.
Amagi Brilliant Park isn’t exactly the most original thing in the world, but like I mentioned above with Nisekoi, sometimes all one needs is good execution. Honestly there is not much to talk about this show. Some episodes are hit and miss, but when it’s a hit, its really good. The animation is excellent as expected of Kyoto Animation nowadays, and the character designs actually provide half of the laughs for me. The drama in the show leaves much to be desired, but as a comedy this show is gold.
A classic romance often mentioned in the same vain as Clannad. Too bad I actually dislike Clannad and did not have high expectations. I was happy to be proven wrong as Toradora offers a delightful romance between two characters who learn the difference between a crush and true love.
Ping Pong the Animation
The unique art style seems to make a lot of people drop this show, but please do yourself a favor and watch this if you haven’t. I cannot emphasize enough how little exposure this show is getting in comparison to the quality of entertainment it provides. The forgotten show of the summer season, but easily the best anime of the year. Another beautifully crafted coming of age story to add to anime’s repertoire.
As the name suggests Ping Pong the Animation follows many ping pong players as they progress through competitions and life. Uncommon for sports anime, it doesn’t follow one character or team in particular but switches the limelight between a couple competitors. Each of these players are fully developed and are compelling in their own right. Kazama’s isolation, Smile’s cage, and Sakuma’s determination all were magnificently illustrated, their journeys often time hitting painfully close to home. As a former competitive athlete it resonated with me.
Ping Pong explores various themes but the one that I enjoyed most was one of talent, and how he uses it. The discovery of talent, the agony of dedicating ones self to something he may never master, learning to admire other’s talent and lastly doing something just because he is talented at it. All interesting ideas that come from one of many facets of Ping Pong the Animation.
The art is easily the most polarizing part of the show, but its such a shame that so many people are unwilling to watch it just due to the aesthetic. Though not elegant and crisp like Unlimited Blade Works, the art in Ping Pong has its own charm. The rough edges and constant changes of shapes and sizes perfectly fit the ping pong matches, making it look as if the characters fly across the screen. The ping pong ball is always perfectly clear yet everything around it just seems to morph creating a player perspective of absolute focus. With this disheveled style character’s faces feel incomplete yet are still very expressive. It’s as if the art allows my imagination to fill in the gaps.
With all of this talk of complex themes and experimental artwork, some may think its too progressive and trying too hard to be intelligent, but it does not lose sight of the most important thing for sports anime. Ping Pong the Animation is just plain fun to watch. One of the anime I would genuinely call a masterpiece, if you only watch one anime from 2014 make sure its Ping Pong the Animation.
Mushishi Zoku Shou
Mushishi is the master of building an atmosphere and sucking you into a narrative. The whole direction of the show is phenomenal and my favorite part of it is the soundtrack. The slow repetitive nature of the melodies induces you into the trance while Mushishi’s aesthetic takes you on a dreamlike pilgrimage where you learn lessons about the world and life. Mushishi is an experience that should not be missed out on and Zoku Shou is the successor it deserves.
Best Male Character
Sakuma Manabu from Ping Pong the Animation
I actually would choose any of the characters from Ping Pong the Animation, but I thought Sakuma’s was the most compelling. Sakuma had nothing but determination to be the best and after giving all of it to Ping Pong, he was left with was mediocre skills that could only take him so far. It’s so painful dedicating ones self and being unable to produce results, and Ping Pong the Animation depicted this flawlessly.
Coming to terms with your lack of talent in a sport is difficult. I am not saying I worked as hard as Sakuma, but as a former competitive swimmer with a height of five feet and six inches I could relate.
Best Female Character
Naru from Barakamon
Naru is a young, sweet country girl from Barakamon. She is the perfect catalyst to break down the walls around the city boy, Handa. The character interactions between Handa and Naru drive the show’s comedy and characterization. As Handa spends more time with Naru he begins to learns how to relax and enjoy life. I have to especially commend the voice actor for Naru, Hara Suzuko. She is so talented and really brings out the contagious energy in Naru that makes Barakamon a joy to watch.
Tiramie from Amagi brilliant Park
Obviously the funniest character, would come from the best comedy anime of the year. Tiramie’s laughs come from the contrast of his character design and his personality. He is the fairy of flowers in the form of a pink dog that has shady interest in young woman. Tiramie constantly visits pachinko parlors and has a hidden collection of immodest photos of his female coworkers. His cutesy voice and facial expressions push him over the top as the funniest character of 2014.
Character with Best ASSets
Sento Isuzu from Amagi brilliant Park
All of the competition for Fifty Cent actually came from Amagi Brilliant Park since I did not watch many shows with well endowed characters. An honorable mention to Sylphy from the Elementario group though.
Suruga Kanbaru from Hanamonogatari
This was a difficult choice between Chitoge Kirisaki from Nisekoi and Kanbaru, but in the end I decided on Kanbaru. Mainly because Hanamonogatari had more impact on me than the mindless fun of Nisekoi. I have been doing episodic posts for Hanamonogatari and the last one will be out soon.
The focus of the Chimera ant arc are the themes of humanity and identity, and Gon’s breakdown is a heart wrenching yet thrilling scene that perfectly embodies these ideas. After the loss of his mentor, Kite, Gon has been slowly losing sight of his own identity, going from a young boy who wishes to protect his friends and find his father to one who only seeks revenge. This was the first time that Gon was truly powerless to do anything, and at first he blamed himself for Kites death, but as time goes on this sorrow turned into rage. Gon begins to blame Pitou, Kite’s killer, and becomes obsessed with revenge.
Madhouse did a brilliant job displaying the changes of Gon and his inner conflict throughout the whole arc. When blaming himself Gon’s memories were shaded blue, while it became shaded red whenever thoughts roamed to Pitou. This contrast was used repeatedly and just added that much more tension to the breakdown where all colors and thus emotions were eliminated, but Gon was not the only one effected by this.
Killua, Gon’s friend whom has gained his humanity from accompanying Gon throughout the show now has to watch in agony as Gon becomes what Killua once was. An emotionally riveting scene produced by a studio that improved the already phenomenal source material.
2014 was an amazing year in anime for me, probably the best of all time. I wrote a lot more than I expected and started a bit too late this year. Next year will have more awards and probably will be split into two parts or more. So what did you think were the best anime of 2014?