Well, it has been a year, hasn’t it? 2014, as a whole, was a pretty disappointing year in anime. This has been the first year that I’ve actually watched simulcasted seasons for the entire year, so perhaps there’s some of Sturgeon’s Law in effect, but overall I felt that 2014 was far inferior to 2013 in terms of top level quality, mid-tier depth, and low-tier hilarity. To be completely fair to 2014, I did end up watching a lot of 2013 shows this year, but, by way of comparison, shows like Chihayafuru 2 and Monogatari Series: Second Season only served to further expose the weakness of this year.
But it’s more fun to talk about the good things that happened this year, so that’s what I’m going to do. Unlike last year, I’m not going to do caption awards. I’ve already done that with each season, so if you want to see which shows were notable in certain areas, check out those posts:
Winter 2014 | Spring 2014 | Summer 2014 | Fall 2014
So, without further distraction, I present my top anime of 2014! Here’s the Best Girl of 2014 to kick things off!
The Winter 2014 season has come to a close, and so it’s time to assess the shows that I watched, rate them and rank them. What follows is are short reviews and rating on a scale of 1-10 of the shows that I watched during the winter 2014 season. Overall, the season was one of the least impressive I’ve seen, although it did has a few shows I genuinely enjoyed.
Here’s the format I’ll be following. I will be going through the list of shows I’ve been watching in ranked order. Each show will be given a rating out of 10, as well as a short review and any awards the show won (Best Animation, Best Comedy, etc.).
Tiered rankings will be found here, and full series reviews for the shows that need them can be found on the Reviewed Anime List, as well as on the front page of the blog as I post them.
Let’s get started!
And so passes the best show (by far, I should add) of the Winter 2014 season, Silver Spoon, as Hiromu Arakawa adds to the legacy of her writing. This was a show that transcended both the genre and the medium as the sheer, unbridled (that was intentional) authenticity of Arakawa’s personal experience shines through at every moment. It wasn’t the flashiest; it was the funniest; it wasn’t even necessarily the most fun to watch. But it was honest and true to the human experience, and there is no replacement for that.
To be totally honest, I was pretty torn as to how I wanted to rate this show. My gut instinct was that Silver Spoon is a 9/10, the first one I’d seen in a quite a bit. But my current rankings didn’t really allow for that, which lead me to believe that my rankings, once again, needed something of an overhaul. So, that’s what I did. Silver Spoon gets a 9/10 from me, setting it at the very top of tier II. This is a show I would want to show to my kids when they are Hachiken’s age, because it hold that much meaning and that many valuable lessons.
While I’ve only been watching simulcasted anime for three seasons, the Winter 2014 season is probably the weakest I’ve seen. This is mostly due to a number of very inconsistent shows. I’ve seen batches of shows that were consistently excellent or consistently mediocre or consistently bad, but Winter 2014 has brought many shows that just can’t make up their mind if they want to be good, bad or just run-of-the-mill. It’s a frustrating phenomenon, which makes those shows that are consistently good much more valuable to us viewers. So, which shows are falling more on the good side than on the bad? Read on to find out. Here’s a hint:
Another new season of anime is kicking off, the Winter 2014 season, and so we get to sift through another batch of premieres to find what’s Quality, what’s just Entertainment and what’s dropped. The list will be updated until final decisions are made on all shows, and my current watchlist can be found here. Let’s get to it!
The fall season is beginning to draw to a close, and the first show to finish up is the excellent Silver Spoon, or Gin no Saji. Chronicling the high school adventures of Hachiken Yuugo at Ezono Agricultural High School, this anime with a seemingly strange premise is from the writer of Fullmetal Alchemist and lived up to EVERY expectation I had.
Silver Spoon is a show all about farming, which means it has three main themes. Food, animals, and food. How do you make a compelling story out of that? With excellent writing. The show is written masterfully, and all season long I would finish an episode and go, “Wow. That was perfectly written.” The coming of age story has been done over and over again, but Hiromu Arakawa puts a spin on it that I have never seen before. Hachiken, who was a perfect student in middle school, is initially way out of his element at Ezono. He’s never really been around animals before; all he knows how to do is study. But he is immediately faced with the challenge of realizing the pigs (specifically a runt, whom he names Pork Bowl) he is raising will soon be slaughtered for food. Taking the life of anything is serious, and even at the end of the initial 11 episodes, Hachiken still hasn’t completely come to terms with the matter. Continue reading
We are now rounding the bend on the Spring 2013 season of anime and I still am watching 12 shows. So, to help you figure out which shows you should go marathon and catch up on, I present the Spring 2013 Anime Midseason Report. You can find my current watchlist here.
This post isn’t meant to be a ranking system for the season’s anime (that will come later), only a report on what’s been living up to expectations and what’s falling short. So, in no particular order…
The Eccentric Family (Watch)
The writing in the show is wonderfully strong and has a natural Japanese feel to it that gives a very nice sense of culture. That trait is an extremely important one, as staying true to the Japanese lifestyle, language and approach is what makes this show so unique. Despite the more serious turn lately, the anime has not lost an ounce of its charm from the beginning of the show. Rather, the introduction of new characters has deepened the experience and adds layers to the wonderful complexity of the main characters. The Eccentric Family also holds the viewers’ trust faithfully, gently following up on its promise to unravel the web we’ve been shown. It is an exceptional bit of storytelling and well worth your time.
Servant x Service (Maybe Watch)
Still funny, although it has taken a turn out into relationship land, away from workplace humor. That being said, the narrative is plenty entertaining & has actually shown some moments of real emotion. The OP song is certainly one of the best of the season and overall Servant x Service is a really enjoyable addition to a Thursday afternoon. Small warning for some innuendo type humor, but other than that, I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a light-hearted show with good laughs.
The World God Only Knows: Goddesses (Watch)
Keima’s still at it and, albeit a couple episodes in the middle, TWGOK has maintained an admirable amount of dramatic tension and a sense of urgency throughout the entire season. Far better than the first two seasons in terms of emotion, the third season has also continued to develop Keima. Despite the rather odd premise, there is a strange, lovable charm about this show that effectively causes you to invest in every single romantic relationship. Strong recommendation for anyone who like romantic comedy.
This is a more detailed look at the best anime the summer 2013 season has to offer and why you should watch them. To see a brief summary of all the shows I previewed (the first 3 episodes), go here.
To see the midseason report on every show I’ve been watching during the summer 2013 seasons, go here.
#1. A Certain Scientific Railgun S (continuing from Spring 2013)
- That’s right, Railgun S is the number one anime to watch this season, even passing the much adored AoT. Focusing on the Sister’s Arc from Misaka’s perspective, Railgun S holds a few advantages over the aforementioned Attack on Titan. Firstly, Railgun S is building off a previous season, one that focused mainly on character building, rather than plot. That is not to say the first season was boring, for it certainly was not, but having that groundwork to stand on allows the show to connect you better to the characters. Railgun S, thus far, has done characters better than Attack on Titan, mixing in excellently animated action scenes with potent moments of human pain. Furthermore, the thematic discussion that the series engages on human cloning is one that is relevant to today’s world, a trait that can be hard to find in the midst of a fantasy setting. Misaka is a fantastic protagonist, who runs through the full gauntlet of human emotions as she struggles to bring an end to the inhumane experiment that oppresses her conscience. Combined with a lack of annoying fanservice and excellent OPs and EDs, A Certain Scientific Railgun S is the best anime of the season.
#2. Attack on Titan (continuing from Spring 2013)
- No surprise here, Attack on Titan is the obvious choice for the number two anime of the summer 2013 season. If you want quality production, Attack on Titan has it in spades. The animation, music and voice acting are all top notch. More importantly and more impressively, Attack on Titan spectacularly engages the human emotions and passions awakened in a desperate struggle for survival. Death is everywhere in this show, but unlike your typical shounen, Attack on Titan makes it clear that each of those lives was valuable. People aren’t thrown away in this show to die for the sake of the plot. When they die, whether it is in battle or because the government has sacrificed them to sustain itself and the upper classes, the tragedy is not dismissed. You will think after this show. It’s impossible to avoid. And it’s not for everyone. The Titans are terrifying, the animation doesn’t shy away from displaying blood, but none of it is overdone to the point of being gratuitous. I rank Attack on Titan behind Railgun S mainly for the characters. I’m not sure if it is due to the pacing (which can, incredibly, seem absurdly slow and blinding fast at the same time), but I still struggle to relate and connect with Eren, Mikasa and Armin. Perhaps that is simply because I am so detached from their circumstances that I cannot understand them. Regardless, if you can stomach the violence and bloodshed, watch Attack on Titan.
The summer season of anime is upon us, and there are a lot of new shows to watch. But just because there is a glut of new, shiny things to observe doesn’t mean every show is worth your time to watch. Out of the spring season, I only ended up watching 4 shows all the way through, which honestly is probably a pretty good number. I want to share here a list of the new shows of which I intend to watch at least the first couple episodes, and my thoughts on which are worth your time to watch.
I feel like this show understands my life…
You may notice the omission of Free!, Watamoe, Recorder and Randsell, The Eccentric Family and a few other shows. Time is valuable, and none of those piqued my interest enough to make me want to watch an episode. I may take a look at R&R or TEF if I hear good things, but right now, this is my official testing list. (EDIT: I did pick up TEF, and added my first impression below.) It’s times like these that I curse myself for being too stingy to pay for the Crunchyroll premium membership. I’m a week behind with every show, but it’s cheaper this way. And cheaper is better.
I plan to post final yes/no verdicts after the 3rd episode of each show. 3 episodes is usually about 1/4 of the way through, and if a show hasn’t shown itself to be worth my time through the first quarter, I won’t have high hopes for it turning things around going forward.
Continuing from Spring 2013
- Attack on Titan
- To Watch, or Not to Watch: I plan to eventually write a review on episodes 7-13, but if you can tolerate the violence and blood, Attack on Titan is definitely a show you should be watching. It has great potential going into the next half of the show, and it will be interesting to see if the writers can capitalize on the thematic and emotional gold that I saw glimpses of in the first episode. Verdict: Watch.
- A Certain Scientific Railgun S
- To Watch, or Not to Watch: I’ve never divulged by thoughts on Railgun in this blog, but I really like the show, and it continues to impress with strong writing. Plus, with fripSide continuing to do the OPs, you could watch the show for those alone. Has less to prove to me than Attack on Titan; does characters a little better and it’s better paced. Verdict: Watch.
New in Summer 2013
- Servant x Service
- To Watch, or Not to Watch: Easily a top contender for OP of the season. A fourth of the way through the show, and it’s still entertaining and some of the dynamics between characters are coming out. The third episode strayed a little bit, getting bogged down in the same stupid joke, but the character development was really nice. Should be a fun watch through the rest of the season. Final Verdict: Watch. Continue reading