Looking over the past year’s offerings I thought it would be interesting to compile a list of what I felt were my favorite series that aired, and that it could be the beginning for others to think about the same thing and/or catalyst some discussion as well. The result you will see below.
Please do note that these series are primarily a list of what I enjoyed the most. They reflect my taste more than anything else, and while visual or audial or storywriting or acting based comments or such have a place in it they are not intended to be an “objective evaluation” of the elements that make up the art medium itself. I am not an “art critic” nor a “specialist”, nor should readers expect such highly trained or cultivated viewpoints from me. I am a fan writing to other fans and sharing my experiences and tastes first and foremost. Anyway – on to the listings!
10. Soredemo no Sekai (Spring). Like Isshukan Friends, this adaptation was another one of those manga series that was pretty much guaranteed to succeed with me unless it were mangled very badly – and fortunately it was not. Like Ao Haru Ride it is also a shoujo manga adaptation and the VA work of the lead pair was absolutely stupendous – in some ways producing a more effective result than the former in terms of the couple’s chemistry. And the final ep has one of the most beautiful scenes and music from the entire year – I still am moved by it even after watching it several times – and well as one of the best endings for the year’s series.
09. Majimoji Rurumo (Summer). The biggest unexpected surprise series of the year for me, this one was absolutely endearing and adorable, smacking of something from anime series in the late 90’s or so. The author is obviously absurdly talented, and for those who enjoy this series and also enjoy sports themed adaptations they might give the 2 seasons of Yowamushi Pedal a try. The only drawback for me was the (understandable) anime-original ending – this series is a very detailed story that actually gets into equally dark territory that is barely, barely hinted at in the anime, but even so is so effectively done that it is able to stand completely on it’s own with the genuineness and realness of it’s characters, but of a flavor that is like a friend one has not seen for a long time.
08. Nagi no Asukara (Winter). This is probably the most controversial series of my top ten listings – it definitely polarized anime discussion most everywhere I looked. It’s first class animation (the incredible art of P.A. Works is almost unrivaled in this year – perhaps only Fate/Stay Night: UBW S1 and Shingeki no Bahamut are in the same category in my opinion) and luscious soundtrack were indisputably great, but the story and the characters was where many people stumbled, as often happens when Okada is “showing her chops”. I personally loved this series and most everything about it from beginning to end, but it is definitely a series that easily riles one up and/or upsets the viewer.
07. Ping Pong (Spring). Brilliantly done in so many ways, do not let the non-standard art style put you off. This is a great story with superb character development. It was engrossing, exciting and grippingly presented and really does represent the phrase “larger than life” at times. The original source material is a manga, yes, but there has also been a live action movie adaptation as well that is also recommended. Personally I enjoyed the anime a bit more, though.
06. Hanayamata (Summer). And here we have the second offering from Kirara manga source material that made it into the top ten this year. I expected Hanayamata to be a favorite of the season before Summer began, and it delivered on every front for me. Beautiful in most every respect, with excellent writing, good voice acting, etc. I guess it could be compared a beauty like the bright, colorful, floral patterned yukata the main characters all wore when dancing.
05. Ao Haru Ride (Summer). I expected to enjoy the anime adaptation of the manga Ao Haru Ride, but did not expect it as much as I did. It was absolutely delicately, beautifully done – I absolutely love the pale water color style I.G. studios can crank out (between Brains Base’s Isshukan adaptation and this one I got 6 months of lovely “water colory” animation), and it is super effective with shoujo stories, as it was here for me. Special nods to the exceptional VA work in this one, especially of the lead pair. In some ways the adaptation was more engaging than the manga source – something which is rare for me!
04. Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka (Spring). Kirara manga adaptations weigh in their first resounding success with this series, which may be the manga company’s most financially successful adaptation in terms of a single season after K-On! This was lovingly and delicately animated, and if one knows the source material it is clear that it was lovingly adapted as well. It would be hard to have a more vivid and well done representative of the “cgdct” genre! ^^
03. One Week Friends (Spring). To be honest this series was a guaranteed success for me. I adore (and adored) the manga before the adaptation aired, and the production of the series by Brains Base was just superb, and in almost every single way – from the art style, the voice acting, the story telling and the soundtrack. Those who have not seen this series should be prepared to be moved, even at times to tears. Between this series, Nagi no Asukara and a few others the year had some pretty successful stories set in Middle School as contrasted to the often used High School setting.
02. Mikakunin de Shinkoukei (Winter). Nowhere near the sublimity of Mushi-shi Zoku (what is?) the number two spot for the year belongs to the series I was most excited to see and most anticipated week in and out – there was something about this series that just engaged (no pun intended) and not just grabbed, but violently seized me from the start and never let go. It is a somewhat light hearted 4-koma manga adaptation, but the character portrayal and development is … astoundingly effective, and the story development does not lag behind either; while in every ep in the background there was a dim melody of melancholy and mystery. Everything in this series just “worked” for me, and of all the series that have aired this year this is the one that has retained the strongest “re-watchability”. The female lead (Kobeni) is hands down the most memorable and endearing one of the year – and she had stiff competition, let me tell you.
01. Mushi-shi Zoku (Spring and Fall). There is nothing I have ever seen in anime that comes close to being similar to this incredible series. It is thought provoking, but interestingly in a non-rational kind of mode of thought. It leaves you thinking and pondering about many things, touching on the longevity of the natural world alongside the lives of individual people, the relationship between the two, and suggesting that we are much more part of the fabric of nature as our default reality than we think. Excellent, excellent material that is moving, yes, but moving because it simply IS, as opposed to coming across as an “objectively contrived lesson”. It is almost like a reminder of how things actually are, but a reminder that is like the sound of a running river or stream, or of the wind in the trees, or waves rhythmically lapping the shoreline. Looking forward to the movie, but man, I am so thankful for the wonderful source material and the wonderful adaptation. Hands down, no contest, with nothing even coming close, this is the anime of the year for me. It has been magnificent.
I should also add a few series that for me qualified for the Honorable Mentions category: Log Horizon Season One, Kanojo ga Flag o Oraretara and Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus (the latter would easily have broken into the top ten were it not for my aversion for horror and/or gore – it was an extremely powerful series).
My favorite currently ongoing series include Akatsuki no Yona, Shirobako and the second season of Log Horizon.
Biggest disappointments of the year include Glasslip, Sailor Moon Crystal and Zankyou no Terror.
Finally, a section dedicated to music:
My favorite 5 OPs, EDs, Insert Songs and BGMs:
OPs: Zankyou no Terror, Nisekoi OP1, Glasslip, Soul Eater Not! and Mikakunin de Shinkoukei.
EDs: Grisaia no Kajitsu ED3, Log Horizon s1Yama no Susume s2 ED2, Atelier Escha and Logy, Ping Pong ED1, Log Horizon s2.
Insert Songs: Soredemo Sekai (ep 12 – farewell song “Ame Okuri no uta”), Mikakunin de Shinkoukei (ep 12 – Kobeni love song).
BGMs (in no particular order): Noragami, Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, Hitsugi no Chaika (s1 and s2), Yuuki Yuuna Yuusha, Saki Zenkoku, and Nagi no Asukara.
And there we have it! Looking over the past year it general it looks like Spring was the strongest season for me, followed by Summer while Winter and Autumn were the weaker links overall. Please feel free to add your own lists in the comments section below.
See you all in the Winter 2014-5 season!
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