Anime 2014 round-up

Friday, January 9 2015 at 02:50 (Anime, Reviews)

2014 was overall a pretty decent year for anime. The Winter season was weak and just had carry overs from 2013 Autumn, but later seasons did pretty well and the 2014 Autumn season in particular had a lot of shows to like. But whilst there were lots of good shows, the year in general lacked many standouts, truly brilliant shows that I’ll remember for years to come. Honestly I’d prefer a few really amazing shows over lots of pretty good ones, but that’s how life is. So without further ado, my thoughts on all the shows I watched through to the end this year in no particular order within each category.

Shows that have a cour running into 2015 in brackets.

Oh, and SPOILERS for some shows.

God Tier

These are the shows I looked forward to avidly each week.

Nagi no Asukara
Romance with people who live under the sea

I really don’t remember what happened in this show because I was extremely drunk for a lot of it, but somewhere along the line it went from being a stupid romantic drama to a really really good romantic drama. The second half in particular is great because Miuna. It’s completely beautiful and has a great soundtrack and characters.

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei
A guy who is supposedly bad at magic goes to a futuristic magic high school

Transcending the ‘so bad it’s good’ archetype, this show was so entertainingly awful that it was one of my favourite animes of the year. The main character was so ridiculously powerful, the worldbuilding so vague and the plot so outlandishly retarded that I couldn’t help but love it. Every week brought a new burst of Engrish or some inexplicable feat or stupid magic quirk. People say you should read the LNs to fully understand this show but I don’t know why anyone would want to ruin something so perfectly bad.

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
High school comedy romance about a girl with a crush on her manga-drawing senpai

Basically very sweet, very funny, very well animated, good music, great characters, bish bash bosh. There’s just not a lot else to say.

(Shirobako)
An anime about an anime studio making anime

At first I had no idea what was going on in this show, but then you realise that’s sort of the point. Shirobako isn’t asking you to remember every one of the vast menagerie of character names, it’s just about getting lost in the intricacies of anime production. The plot beats might be very by-the-book but the content, characters, animation and style have been excellent so far.

Good Tier

I liked these shows but they have flaws such that they can’t ascend to God Tier

Captain Earth
When I opened the door called truth, my childhood ended. It was a summer I could never forget.

I had high hopes for the creators of my favourite anime of all time (Star Driver) but ultimately this show fell short of that. The characters, animation, art and particularly direction were fabulous but the mecha action was fairly minimal and the plot and pacing were all over the place. This could easily have been the best anime of the year with a little more care.

Haikyuu!!
Sports anime about volleyball

Suffered from poor subtitles courtesy of Crunchyroll and suffered further from the usual deliriously slow shounen sports episode pacing, but overall an enjoyable watch every week. Nice character designs but nothing groundbreaking.

Fate/stay night Unlimited Blade Works
Mages and magical servants summoned from history wage war in a town in Japan

I started watching this half as a joke to see what it was like, and well… it’s F/sn UBW alright. Having read the VN (for some reason) I know exactly what’s up and this show appears to be going for a near 1:1 adaption, for better or for worse. Face animations were a bit off and I lament the lack of music from the VN (apart from LiSA slaughtering This Illusion) but overall if you can get through the hours of exposition and talking then it’s got great action and it’s a fun watch. Looking forward to the second season in April.

Ao Haru Ride
Girl meets boy, boy goes away, boy comes back

Very straightforward shoujo romance, done very well but ultimately not doing very much interesting either. There’s some love triangle stuff but ultimately it’s just waiting for the two main characters to get over themselves and hook up. I hope it gets a second season because I enjoyed the characters.

Argevollen
In a war between two morally ambiguous countries, the tide is turned by who has the best mechs

The other mecha from creators of a show I like: this time Rinne no Lagrange. This is nowhere near as clean and dynamic as that show, but instead it’s a dirty, low-budget military mecha. If you can get past the cheap look and the shaky first few episodes it has a fairly interesting plot, great mecha designs, corporate warmongering and some of the best mecha fights of the year. It got very good in the middle but the ending was quite disappointing.

Amagi Brilliant Park
Light novel protagonist-kun (god on earth) teaches magical people how to run a theme park

I feel bad for liking this because it’s KyoAni, but at the same time I shouldn’t feel bad, because it’s KyoAni. They excel at making good shows that are ultimately forgettable. This is ultimately what that is; a solid comedy that I won’t remember existed in a few months’ time.

Shingeki no Bahamut
Fantasy adventure that is basically the same plot as FFXIV for some reason
Literally the opening to the first episode and the End of An Era trailer are the same

The true dark horse of the autumn season (though I had faith from the beginning so ha) this card-game based adventure romp started out exceptionally strong, faltered in the middle and then brought it back somewhat for a lukewarm ending. I feel that more could have been done in this universe, so I look forward to seeing if we get more from this series in the future. Solid style and animation throughout.

Sidonia no Kishi (Knights of Sidonia)
People living on a giant spaceship have to be defended from creepy alien things by mechs

I put off watching this show because of the awful use of 3DCG to model the characters. I dislike the use of 3DCG in anime as a general rule because I think it looks out of place and ruins immersion. On mechanical objects and mechanisms it’s kind of acceptable, on mechas it’s sort of allowable if done well though hand-drawn mecha action will always be more visceral and natural. On human characters it’s just unnatural. It’s not RWBY awfulness level but there’s a certain unnaturalness to movements and faces, even by anime standards. One character wears a mask for much of the time, only to take it off and reveal a face that looks far more artificial. It got less noticeable as the series went on, but the first episode in particular is very grating. The story was exceptionally predictable with every character waving enormous death flags before they were inevitably offed, but the universe was interesting enough to keep me interested. The mecha action was… okay. Nothing exceptional but interesting designs, pity they was no variation from the one default style.

(Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso)
Girl has to teach a former piano virtuoso how to piano again

This started out as one of my favourite shows of the autumn season but despite being very pretty and having great music kind of steadily deteriorated and got slower and slower. I expected something a bit tighter out of a noitaminA project, but maybe the second half will bring it all back.

(Magic Kaito 1412)
A phantom thief performs elaborate robberies and antics in the Detective Conan universe

I very nearly bumped this one up to god tier because it’s just so goddamn hilarious, but I think I have to wait for it to finish to judge properly. Good in the same way Mahouka was but a bit more self-aware, the sheer ridiculousness of the plot and action knows no bounds. The casual reveal that real magic exists and that a side character is a sorcerer is basically never brought up again despite being pretty much universe-flipping information. The shit that happens in this show is truly off the hook ad yet it’s just so lovable. It’s a show from a forgotten time where silly single-episode arcs are okay.

(Garo: The Animation)
An adaptation of a tokusatsu show in which knights fight demons

I’m still not actually certain if I like this show. It’s kind of average in every way, and kind of unremarkable. Not predictable but I’m also not that excited to see where it’s going. I just don’t know, man.

(Log Horizon 2)
Players of an MMO find themselves trapped in the game world

Database 2.0 is generally weaker than the first season, wasting a number of episodes on fluff and boring arcs instead of a truly sweet raid sequence and showing what happened to Crusty. Also DEEN animation is quite inferior to the previous season’s Satelight with a lot of characters having visibly messy designs compared to before. Still fun and still a lot better than SAO.

Bad Tier

I tried to like these shows but they just didn’t like me.

Isshuukan Friends
Boy gets crush on girl who loses her memories of her friends every week

A lovely, gorgeous looking romance by Brain’s Base that ultimately went nowhere, did nothing and ended suddenly with nothing resolved at all. Yes it was pretty but the central gimmick wore thin very quickly and the protagonist was just pathetic and deeply annoying. Good side characters.

No Game No Life
A brother and sister who are the best at games get put in a world that runs on games

Supposedly a ‘breakout hit,’ this boring slog through what appears to be the first arc of what looks like an overly long plot finds two ‘genius’ main characters lording their brilliance over everyone else for twelve episodes in completely nonsensical ways when they aren’t engaging in near-constant fanservice and nudity. It was predictable and not particularly funny.

Glasslip
Romantic drama thing with glassblowing and occasional hallucinations

Following on from the success of Nagi no Asukara, this show… was pretty bad overall. The art and animation was classic PA Works but the use of still frames at random intervals speak a lot about the budget this show had. It’s nice to see original shows rather than adaptations in the romance genre, but even despite that this show still went nowhere and did nothing. I’m not actually certain there was a plot and random things kept getting added in, like the male protagonist suddenly talking to imaginary clones of himself. Wut?

SAO Tier

The true baddies, inexcusably poor.

Sword Art Online II
Kirito is the best at everything ever and he plays games on the internet

Holy shit this show was bad. After complaining about how the entire GGO arc could have been about half the length without the needless padding, the second half enters into ‘random adventures in fairy land’ including retrieving a sword that is never mentioned or used again after a ‘raid boss’ (Log Horizon promptly put this to shame) and a stupidly drawn out arc about a girl with no personality or interesting traits who we’re supposed to care about because she has AIDS and is going to die. When the stakes are dropped from ‘We have to save these 10,000 players from a vicious world of death and danger’ to ‘We have to save mai waifu from being raped by some evil geezer’ to ‘We have to stop this murderer on the loose in this game’ to ‘Oh no we have to save these fluffy NPC creatures’ to ‘We need to get realm first on this raid u guize’ you can’t help but feel that the writer for this series has no real sense of large-scale plot pacing.
In the end this show found a use in making Log Horizon look good, even when it wasn’t.

Aldnoah/Zero
The human race is split between those on the earth and those who live on Mars and they don’t get along very well

This show overall had lots of potentially good stuff that ultimately came to nothing:
The animation was great – but the direction and fights were bad.
The CGI was decent – but the mecha designs were totally awful and the transformations were laughable.
The music was overall pretty good – but they threw it in at random times and often the tone didn’t really fit. Also the same soundtrack Sawano’s done six times already.
The character designs were good and some of them were interesting but we got to focus on the dull main characters constantly instead of Cruhteo sassing around.
The setup and universe building was decent, though it’s nothing most mecha viewers haven’t seen before, and ultimately it was wasted on long boring situations.
Inexcusable things include Cruhteo getting offed and the colossally awful ending in which everyone of note gets shot.
Basically the show might be fun if you don’t watch any mecha, but if you’ve seen any before it’s a paint-by-numbers script without any soul behind it, with the only real twist being the stupid ending. Overall A-1 trying to be Sunrise and throwing money at a project they don’t understand. Second season will be interesting.

(Cross Ange)
Half-naked lesbians fight dragons in mechas

By contrast from Aldnoah, this is Sunrise being Sunrise down to a tee. However, unlike Aldnoah the badness here is actually quite fun; Sunrise are the kings of the spectacular trainwreck, and trainwreck this is. It could almost be bumped up to ‘Good’ status on sheer entertainment value alone but it’s just not quite there. This is a big-budget thing and thus looks very nice, but it’s just so dumb and so gratuitous that I really don’t know what to think. I wish it had more actual mecha action and less of the whole cast getting naked every six seconds.

So that’s it for 2014 (apart from the carry overs, obviously). Up for trial for next season are:

Kantai Collection because I’m a goddamn sucker for cute girls and mechanical bits and big guns that go ‘BA-DUM’ and have recoiling barrel things.
The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls because goddamit I watched all of the first anime and when I was in Akihabara it was smothered with posters for Cinderella Girls.
Death Parade is the full series follow up to the Madhouse-produced short Death Billiards. DEATH BILLIARDS.
Aldnoah/Zero 2 because I hate myself and there might be more good insert songs.
Rolling*Girls is an original project by Wit Studio. I have no idea what it’s about but I’ll roll with it (laughs).
Kuroko no Basuke 3 is the third season of Kuroko no Basuke. I have to watch it so I can still be friends with Mike.
Yoru no Yatterman is a new Yatterman anime(!) by Tatsunoko. The last time they revived one of their older franchises in a new way we got the excellent Gatchaman Crowds, so I’m psyched.

Also Anne is like soooo cute omg lol (⁎⁍̴̛͂▿⁍̴̛͂⁎)*✲゚*。⋆♡

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