2014 is slowly coming to an end and it’s almost time to greet the new year. This past year has been a pretty interesting one for anime with some surprising revivals, interesting experiments, and some major disappointments. There’s been quite a bit of bad but for the most part there’s generally been a lot of good to be had so it’s time to talk about the best of the best when it comes to anime in 2014
Best Anime Opening- Unravel by T.K.
There’s been a lot of good anime openings this year like Amazing Break for Terraformars, a few done by Back-On, and Moon Pride for Sailor Moon Crystal (and in the case of that last one it’s arguably better than the show itself) but Tokyo Ghoul’s is a standout. It’s a pretty catchy song and has some nice visuals to go with it but more than that, the lyrics to the song perfectly capture Kaneki’s transformation over the course of the series as he struggles between his humanity and his inner ghoul. Opening songs that are actually about the show they’re for rather than to sell a music label are pretty rare and even though there’s been a few others like that this year, this is the one that best understands the spirit of the show it’s for.
Best English Dub- Toradora
It’s been a good year for dubs, and there’s been a lot of big ones like Sailor Moon, Kill la Kill and of course Attack on Titan, with all of them being successes (or mostly successful in AoT’s case thanks to a certain script writer). With all that the dub that really stood out the most this year was for a show many never expected to see dubbed, and has probably fallen under most everyone’s radar because of it. Toradora has stood the test of time as a series and the dub had some big shoes to fill but the actors really went above and beyond to deliver with a lot of extremely exceptional performances, and really sticking to the heart of what made the show so beloved in the first place. I’ve mentioned this before in my review of the series this year, but even if you’re not particularly big on dubs, it’s definitely one that deserves taking a look at.
Available for streaming on Crunchyroll
Best Character- Favarro Leone (Rage of Bahamut: Genesis)
Anime’s generally always been filled with fun personalities and this year was no exception but Favarro easily blows away the competition. He’s the kind of lovable rogue that doesn’t really pop up much in modern anime and the show really knows where to take his anti-hero traits and make him likable enough that you can’t bring yourself to hate his guts, even when he’s at his worst. Of course anti-heroes do have at least a bit of hero in theme and as the show progresses he becomes a somewhat more heroic and well layered character while still sticking to the traits that make him so much fun to watch. He’s a shining example of how to do that character type right and hopefully he won’t be the last.
BEST OF GENRE
Best Mecha Series- Gundam Build Fighters Try
Mecha shows haven’t fared to well this year with shows Captain Earth starting out well, but ultimately not going anywhere and Argevollen being a decent war commentary but too slow to grab anyone’s attention. So interestingly rather than so-called “Gundam killer” Aldnoah or even this year’s actual Gundam series, Try takes the crown. It’s legitimacy as a mecha show is sometimes questioned but it’s hard to deny it’s charms, even if it’s an obvious toy commercial (and a darn good one) and it’s hard also hard to ignore the sheer fun that is plastic models beating the crap out of each other. The show never tries to be anything too ambitious but that’s to it’s favor as where other mecha shows this year failed by not saying enough, this one takes the cake by just being as is.
Available for streaming on Youtube
Best Comedy Series- Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun
Comedies have done pretty well this year and there’s some pretty good stuff to choose from like Kawai Complex and Gugirri-san but Nozaki-kun is really something special. The show serves as a nice affectionate parody of shojo manga tropes, often putting a spin on some of the different character archetypes, while also not shying away too much from what makes those work. It’s almost always funny, it’s characters are charming and it’s hard to not root for Chiyo getting with Nozaki, even if the show’s not likely to let that happen anytime soon.
Best Action Series- Akame ga Kill
Akame isn’t exactly the best written action show this year, and far from the best animated, but when it comes pure action, this show has some edge. The battles throughout the series are always intense, it’s characters never safe from death (if sometimes too much so) and there’s almost never a moment where something crazy isn’t happening. It’s a non-stop thrill ride from beginning to end, and even if it’s not always as smart as it thinks it is, it knows how to deliver on over-the-top action
Best Slice of Life Series- Shirobako
Slice-of-life shows have fared just as well as comedies have this year, with the two sometimes intermingling, but Shirobako stands out from the rest of the pack. It’s a pretty nice look into how the anime industry works behind the scenes, and portrays both the creativity and the struggles that come with working in that industry, even if it’s not completely honest about the latter. More than that though, it’s also a nice coming-of-age story for young adults trying to find their place in the world, and the balance between pursuing your dreams and handling reality. The show’s still continuing on into next year so hopefully it can keep it’s momentum going, but for now, it’s looking to be a winner.
Best Sci-Fi Series- Knights of Sidonia
There’s been a lot more notable sci-fi series this year such as World Trigger, Parasyte and Psycho-Pass 2, but most of them have struggled (and in the case of Psycho Pass 2 turned into a non-stop trainwreck). Though while Parasyte is a better show, nothing quite gets sci-fi this year the same way Sidonia does. The world of the series is fascinating, full of mystery and really fun to explore as the show delves into it. It’s completely 3DCG animation actually helps to add to the atmosphere of the show rather than take away from things, and really gives the show the feel of a retro 80’s sc-fi epic, and the show pretty much takes that ball and runs with it.
Available for streaming on Netflix
BEST SHOWS OF 2014
Best Series(Adaptation)- Parasyte-the maxim & Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (tie)
Adaptations are always mixed in execution throughout the year, and this year especially show as there were a lot of heavy hitters, but while some succeed in finding an new audience, others failed spectacularly with many more being left in the middle of the road. With all that said, these two shows are exceptional adaptations and so much so that it was pretty much impossible for me to choose between one or the other. Parasyte does a good job of modernizing it’s source material while sticking to its strengths, telling the chilling story of Shinichi’s transformation into something not quite human. Tokyo Ghoul covered similar territory, and pretty well at that, but Parasyte has a lot more breathing room to tell that story and it uses it very well, having it all occur gradually while never shying away from violence (which Tokyo Ghoul was a little short on thanks to censorship) and hard hitting tragedy (now if only the musical score was better…)
Fate/Stay Night also takes the best of it’s source material and uses it as a springboard, taking some of the best elements from it’s original three separate storylines, and weaving it into one solid piece of storytelling. The show’s tale of idealism v.s. reality when it comes to heroism is a familar one, and told slightly better by it’s prequel Fate/Zero but while it’s not quite as deep, the show is a much better production with some of the best action sequences this year (though Parasyte’s no slouch in that department either) and great visual direction. Both shows stand as examples that an adaption doesn’t necessarily have to be an exact panel by panel recreation to succeed and hopefully there can be more like these in the near future.
Parasyte available for streaming on Crunchyroll
Best Series (Original)- Rage of Bahamut: Genesis
This one shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone who’s seen my episode reviews of the series on The Fandom Post but I adore this show and it’s really something special. It’s a gigantic love letter to Hollywood cinema in terms of theatrics and an incredibly gorgeous looking production with a fun cast of characters and some solid storytelling. The series never really looks to break the mold in any particular way in terms of genre tropes but it really knows how to have fun with them and takes the best of both worlds by having tons of surface level fun and giving just enough depth to it to make the show hard to dismiss. It’s also a show that has the potential to reach a more casual audience and hopefully Funimation takes the opportunity to capitalize on that. In the meantime though, this series stands as one of the best if not the best for the year and if you haven’t seen it, you should go and correct that mistake immediately.
And there you have it. Some of the best of the best when it come to 2014. This year has been a mixed one but after a slow start it’s ended on a pretty high note in terms of notable shows and there’s plenty to check out. Now hopefully 2015 proves capable of doing even better.