2014 was a year full of decent, entertaining shows, but once I started compiling this list, I found that not a whole lot of shows particularly stood out. It was easy to find ten anime that I wouldn’t hesitate to put on this list, but if I removed any of them, I found it difficult to find a replacement. I’ve never been the type to try out every single show that airs in a season, so maybe it’s just a matter of having a low sample size. In any case, 2014 may not be a year of great anime, but it was definitely a year of fun anime.
(Note: this list includes anime that ended in 2014, and movies whose home releases were released in 2014)
10. Mikakunin de Shinkoukei
It’s only this year that I’ve started to understand and appreciate the concept of sakuga. I would probably have completely ignored this show if it weren’t for Shirobako sparking my interest in animation and the people behind them. Mikakunin de Shinkoukei has set a personal record for making me take 970 screenshots over 12 episodes. On the hands of anyone other than Doga Kobo, this would have ended up as just another romcom adaptation. Instead, Mikakunin turned into this romcom with a surprising amount of effort put into its animation, resulting in a colorful cast with many cute quirks put in by the animation team. Its comedy didn’t really reach laugh-out-loud levels, but at least it stayed amusing all the way to the final episode.
9. Saki Zenkoku-hen
Saki had a rough start. It took more than half of the first season for it to become what it’s known for: superpowered lesbians on the mahjong table. Achiga-hen might have had its moments like Toki sacrificing herself on the mahjong table by using her future sight, but it’s unfortunately brought down by awful protagonists. Saki: Zenkoku-hen is where the series finally finds its strengths, which mostly consists of Ritz coming up with the craziest ways of cheating on the mahjong table, displayed in colorful ways as summoning the evil spirits of the Northeastern Gates into the mahjong table, or having Saki herself unleash oppressive pressure so strong that it breaks the monocle on a table in the viewing room. It’s reassuring that Saki will always be that show about superpowered lesbians with mahjong undertones.
8. Sekai Seifuku – Bouryaku no Zvezda
Consider me one of the few people who came into this show expecting at least a decent or good show. Hoshizora Meteor is one of the more prominent eroge writers, though he’s no longer in the eroge industry. Even though I didn’t really like Forest (which was the only Meteor work I read when this aired), I knew that he would be at least capable of writing a good story. And while Sekai Seifuku didn’t really reach Kusarihime levels of great, it was still a fun and surprisingly heartfelt story about childhood and idealism. Sekai Seifuku is a good show to watch while sitting and waiting for the Girls’ Work anime that’s delayed until the end of time.
7. Gin no Saji/Silver Spoon
I just love shows that teach an aspect of real life that I never knew about. While I had my doubts about Hiromu Arakawa writing a manga about farming, Silver Spoon quickly dispelled those doubts. It helps that she actually grew up on a farm, so the show always feels like it’s coming from somewhere real. Silver Spoon is a show about growing up and learning new perspectives. Seeing Hachiken grow from an ignorant city boy to a capable farm hand is great, and his romance with Mikage is just plain adorable. It’s a show that is, unfortunately, probably never getting a third season; regardless, it’s a good show that should definitely be watched.
6. Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
The other Doga Kobo show this year which didn’t really get into my radar, but somehow turned into my favorite show of that season. Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun was a lot more amusing than I expected it to be. Even for someone like me who isn’t that into shoujo manga, it’s still easy to appreciate the tropes it makes fun of. Nozaki-kun‘s cast is very colorful, and goes beyond stereotyping shoujo manga characters to make fun of them. Plus it has a ton of good reaction faces to choose from. The best gauge of a good comedy show is the amount of reaction faces that they provide, and Nozaki-kun easily scores a 10 on that metric.
5. Kara no Kyoukai – Mirai Fukuin
Kara no Kyoukai has always been my favorite Type-Moon work, and I’m both sad and happy to see that the whole thing has been animated until the end. Mirai Fukuin is a great epilogue to the story of Shiki and Mikiya. While people will always complain about Kara no Kyoukai being Nasu’s amateur attempt at being philosophical – which to some degree I agree with – to me, this series will always be about the romance between Shiki and Mikiya, with Shiki filling the gaps in her heart and Mikiya bringing Shiki to normalcy. Which is why this movie feels very fulfilling to me: it’s a hopeful epilogue that gives a sense of closure to the all of the relationships in the series.
4. Tamako Love Story
Tamako Love Story is a movie I wouldn’t have expected to watch, much less like, a year ago, considering that Tamako Market wasn’t even in my radar. And yet here it is, fourth on my top ten list for this year. Tamako Love Story is exactly what it says on the title: a love story. It’s a plain old love story between a guy and a girl who grew up together. But the movie just portrays it very well – there are subtle, well-placed details throughout the movie that will make you appreciate the romance. There’s no melodrama, no exaggeration; it’s just the story of childhood friends who realize that they love each other. Tamako Love Story is awkward, yet cute; Tamako Love Story is a film about adolescence at its prime.
3. Gundam Build Fighters
I will admit now that I have never touched anything Gundam until I watched this show. Mecha shows aren’t exactly my favorite; though I don’t really dislike them, I also don’t find myself actively seeking anything from the genre. But I suppose Gundam Build Fighters is a borderline case: it’s a show about toys, and the toys happen to be Gundam plastic models. It’s one of those shows that takes its premise completely seriously, and it’s all the more fun because of it. Gundam Build Fighters is a show that even non-Gundam fans can appreciate thanks to its great cast, and the fact that the show just wants to have fun with its premise. It also has the most adorable couples, and what is probably the cutest Finnish girl you’ll ever see in anime.
Monogatari Series Second Season has been all about playing with the audience’s expectations of the characters. It builds on the characters from First Season and shatters your expectations of them. Hanamonogatari is no exception: this time from Kanbaru’s perspective. Hanamonogatari is perhaps the most different arc in its tone, owing to Kanbaru’s surprisingly normal point of view. She knows her weaknesses and accepts them, in contrast to the other characters who try to deceive themselves into looking better than they actually are. She makes a great contrast with Numachi, who’s always running away from her problems and feeds off on the misery of others. Even if Hanamonogatari feels different, I think that it’s also Monogatari at its best – it’s about two characters just baring to each other their weaknesses, their own inner devils. This arc is about as Monogatari as you can get.
1. Kaguyahime no Monogatari
This is another one of those anime that I wouldn’t have appreciated as much had I watched it a year ago. Kaguyahime no Monogatari is a surprisingly solid tale about Kaguyahime’s childhood and her struggle against the suffocating lifestyle of the rich. I’ve always been fascinated with mythology and folklore, so I’m glad I experienced The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter in such a great adaptation, backed by stunning visuals and great animation. It’s a magical film that everyone can enjoy.
Special Mention: Ore, Twintails ni Narimasu
I think this screenshot encompasses perfectly what this show is: a dumb joke taken completely seriously and just runs with it for twelve episodes. This is a show where twintails are the most powerful, most coveted items in the entire universe. This is a show where the protagonist is a twintail nut that transforms into a cute, twintailed, sword-wielding loli that does Obari poses, where the Yellow Ranger wears thick armor so she can strip it all off in the middle of battle, and where the antagonists just want to make everyone in the universe understand their fetishes. Ore, Twintails ni Narimasu is shamelessly stupid, but at least it’s honest with what it wants to be.