With 2014 behind us, it’s always nice to take stock of the year past and remember some of the anime that made their mark – both good and bad.
Compared to last year, my favorites list is much smaller this year, mostly because I actually didn’t find 2014 to be a particularly inspiring year for anime. Sure, it was good and fun while it happened, and I enjoyed my time watching all the new series, but looking back, I have found that I really can’t think of many true standouts. As such, I added a couple new categories, and hope you’ll enjoy this entirely biased selection of my picks from the year past.
Note: This list only contains anime that ended in 2014, and will consequently not include any anime that started in 2014 and spans into 2015…. For this reason, don’t expect to see Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works, Garo, or Shirobako in this post. Please note, I haven’t actually seen every single anime that aired in 2014, so it follows that series that I didn’t see won’t be on this list even if you think they belong here.
And, of course, if you have any of your own favorite picks, I’d love to hear them! Suggestions on what I should watch, but missed, in 2014 are also very welcome (for your reference, here’s my MAL profile and my Hummingbird library)!
4. Ping Pong The Animation
Don’t be scared away from watching this great anime simply because the visuals might not be of the same quality or style you’re used to seeing in anime… Unless you want to miss out on a great character-driven sports series involving ping pong! The characters really carry this series, and I loved seeing all of their different approaches to and reasons behind dedicating themselves to this sport. Definitely a little gem that many (including myself!) left behind in the Spring 2014 season.
3. Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
Constantly and consistently funny, I loved every moment of Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun! Light hearted and with an extended cast that shone just as brightly as our main protagonists, I had a great time watching this anime as it parodied all the tropes found in shoujo romance manga.
Quirky and silly, I found the comedy spot on and especially loved the running gags that came up throughout the series. Female lead, Sakura, was also so delightful to watch, with her varied and hilarious facial expressions, energetic personality, and wonderfully matched voice.
2. Space Brothers
Yes, it’s hard to believe, but Space Brothers concluded in 2014 after a run of 99 episodes… of course, the story doesn’t end there, but because the anime has now caught up to the currently on-going manga, this animated adaptation had to come to an end. Chronicling the trials and tribulations of Namba Mutta and his journey to realize his dream of becoming an astronaut like his younger brother, Hibito, Space Brothers was consistently and wonderfully touching, inspiring, and funny.
It’s crazy to think that I’ve been following the story and characters of this series since 2012, and frankly it almost feels like cheating to have it on this list because of the great emotional connection and investment I have in it all… If you haven’t seen it yet, I wholeheartedly recommend this anime to everyone!
1. Space Dandy
Endlessly stylish and inventive, Space Dandy was simply an anime about a dandy guy in space… Episodic and full of a nice mix of ridiculous comedy, high energy action, dashes of fanservice (boobies, baby), plenty of satire and parody, and a poignant or philosophical moment here and there, I never knew what I was getting into with this anime. It also had a brilliant soundtrack that was varied and fit the mood so well, especially when paired with this anime’s absolutely stunning landscapes that were imaginative and often surreal.
While not every episode was a total winner, when this show was good, it was absolutely magnificent and completely memorable. It’s hard to say what I loved so much about Space Dandy, but perhaps it’s just the way every episode was so different (in terms of direction, music, animation, theme, and so on) and yet strangely similar, with the constant thread being our main character, Dandy…
4. Samurai Flamenco
Full of ridiculous plot twists, changes in tone and mood that tended to turn on a dime, and every superhero trope in the book, at its core, Samurai Flamenco was an exploration of everything it means to be a hero.
With a lively cast of characters and some incredibly vivid moments (how can we forget that gorilla?), this show moved through such a range of emotions and situations, switching between comedy and melodrama one scene to the next, making it one zany ride. It’s not perfect, with the middle sections lagging and the animation often lacking, but overall it was a silly and quirky series that gave a lot of laughs and a lot of food for thought.
3. Knights of Sidonia
Suspenseful, action-filled, mysterious, and gritty, Knights of Sidonia was a ton of fun to watch despite the CGI exclusive animation, generally flat characters, and out of place harem. What had me going back week after week was definitely the setting, with all the world building adding a lot of much needed depth and weight to this sci-fi mecha series. I can’t wait to see what happens next, and luckily I won’t have to wait long because its sequel, Sidonia no Kishi: Daikyuu Wakusei Seneki, will be airing in Spring 2015.
2. No Game No Life
In terms of pure, mindless enjoyment, No Game No Life takes the cake this year as the anime that was just plain fun to watch. Full of fanservice, colorful animation, and plenty of stupid humor, this anime follows two shut-in siblings who excel at all manner of games as they are suddenly pulled into a fantastical world where all conflict is resolved through the playing of games. Forget entertaining any suggestions of deeper meanings or serious themes…. this anime was all about having fun and enjoying the ride, because it was never about if our sibling pair would win, but rather how they would circumvent the rules and come out on top.
1. Amagi Brilliant Park
Fantasy and reality blend in a colorful and comic way in Amagi Brilliant Park, a short anime by KyoAni about an amusement park populated by fairies and other-worldly creatures from an alternate dimension. When their livelihoods and home are threatened by a lack of visitors to the park, it’s up to high schooler, Kanie Seiya, to get the attendance rate up and save them all! Well timed comedy and a colorful cast with lots of personality make this anime plenty of fun.
Anime that made a splash in 2014 (and, that you might want to check out, but only because everyone will be talking about them):
I won’t delude myself and pretend that Aldnoah.Zero was really any good, but will say that it did contain some memorable moments, mostly in the final 5 minutes of the last episode. Characters were mostly bland and one dimensional, fights were less than inspiring, and the overall plot was nothing to write home about. But, a little star power goes a long way, and in this case simply attaching Gen Urobuchi’s name to this anime was enough to start up the ever fickle hype machine. There’s going to be a second season of this anime in 2015, and hopefully it turns out better than the first one.
Kill la Kill
Kill la Kill didn’t end up “saving anime”, as some proclaimed (not that anime needed saving, anyways), but it did have some fun fights, a few nice visuals, and some stand out tracks on the OST. Overall, it’s not bad, but the muddied storytelling and flat characters made for an incredibly unfocused ride. While I think Kill la Kill would have been better served as a shorter, more tightly written series, I did quite enjoy the second half, even if it often felt all over the place in terms of theme, story, and characters.
While pretty much the entire middle section of this anime was one massive yawn, Tokyo Ghoul did have amazing first and last episodes. Perhaps it’s worth a watch just for those two, if only because they were so stylish, suspenseful, and tense. Premise was interesting but ultimately felt underutilized, while the characters bored me to no end. At least the OP was good. You’ll be hearing much more about this series in 2015 when the sequel comes out in the winter season.
Zankyou no Terror
Despite having some great animation, some meaty themes, a few memorable scenes, and one of the best soundtracks of 2014, Zankyou no Terror ultimately fell a bit short of my expectations. I loved the premise involving two mysterious students and their reasons behind an elaborate series of terrorist attacks in Tokyo, but while this anime had few moments of brilliance, it ultimately never felt like it was pushing the boundaries or fulfilling its potential quite enough. Defint
I’d rather not mention:
4. Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil
I don’t know why I watched the entirety of this series, but I did, and it wasn’t a fun time. There was some weird fanservice involving a groping frog, lots of awkward CG, and some terribly managed/judged court cases. Also, magic. And, mechs. And…. the devil? Actually, I have no idea what happened in this show, and it probably doesn’t matter because it’s unlikely that I’ll ever watch this one again.
3. Tokyo ESP
What should have been a fun fantasy/action series about a young girl suddenly gaining the ability to phase through matter and her fight against an evil group of power-users, ended up being an anime that was rife with poor animation, dull fights, boring characters, and terrible pacing from start to finish… I hear the source material is better, but if this anime was supposed to inspire me to check it out, it failed miserably.
2. Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta
I was optimistic about this when it first aired, but what I hoped would be a fantastical coming of age tale full of exploration, self discovery, and a sweeping romance, turned out to be a lackluster, plodding anime with a cast as dull and predictable as nails. Inconsistently written and populated by bland characters, I felt nothing for all the “tragic backstories” and romantic subplots scattered throughout the narrative, which made the whole viewing experience lack any impact.
Like many of the series in this section, Glasslip was a total waste of time and potential that I cannot believe I managed to slog through. Of course, there are worse anime out there, but for me this one tops 2014 because of the way it used a few nice visuals and a curious premise (not to mention the momentum of P.A. Works previous and much better anime, Nagi no Asukara) to string the viewer along for a full 12 episodes. I kept telling myself it would get better, the story would pick up, something would actually happen or be explained, but in the end, nothing happened, nothing changed, and nothing made sense. What a waste of time.