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Like any other year, 2014 was a pretty good year for anime; and unlike any other year, I had the chance to check out all of the ones I had any interest in. I’ve sampled around one hundred and thirty anime this year, and dropped about a hundred; but of those I’ve either completed or caught up on, there’s a sizeable table of worthwhile shows. Over the next twenty days, I’ll be counting down and discussing my top 20 favorites.
In order to keep this list relatively uncomplicated, I’ll be judging based solely on episodes released this year. In other words, if a show is currently only halfway over, then I’ll be judging based on only the first half, and if a show only aired its second half this year, then I’ll be judging based on that half. This might seem like a strange way to handle a list like this, since I’ll be judging halves of a lot of shows, and even probably talking about some shows that are near the end of their run; but the point of this list is only to be the top 20 anime of 2014. This is not so much a judgement of how each of these anime stack up against one-another as a whole, but of how good they were this year specifically.
Also, let me stress the obvious fact that this list is entirely my opinion, and neither reflects general consensus, nor any standard other than my own. If you don’t agree with the order of this list, or with the things I put on and left off, that’s fine. I’d ask that if you feel the need to list your own favorites of this year, you contain all of those comments in this video, and reserve the comments on each subsequent video for discussion of those shows. All of these videos will be completely spoiler-free analytical reviews as I want to introduce new viewers to each of these shows, as well as to give their fans something they can share with others and say, “this explains why I like this show so much.”
Before we dive into the main list, I thought I’d talk about some shows that I dug from this year that either weren’t good enough to make it into my top 20, or which I don’t have enough to say about to dedicate an entire video to them. I’ll be breezing through these pretty quickly, so check the description for a list of all the shows that I mention.
True fact, if you do a google image search for the word “clusterfuck,” the first result is a screencap of Guillotine Gorilla from episode seven of Samurai Flamenco–an image which has come to represent the moment when viewers realized that what had seemed at first like a Kick-Ass style story about some guy who decides to fight crime dressed as a super hero, had suddenly morphed into a full-on tokusatsu show. As the series continued into 2014, Samurai Flamenco took viewers on a wild ride through every type of hero story imaginable, joined only by the thematic questions of what it means to be a hero, both on the personal and social level.
The second half of Samurai Flamenco featured some of the most insanely cool and some of the most bafflingly horrible episodes of anime this year, resulting in something that’s hard to recommend on the level of, “hey, you might like this,” but possibly worthwhile on the level of, “here’s some crazy shit you’re not gonna get anywhere else this year.” I made a more complete analysis of this series earlier in the year, which you can find in the description if interested.
It’s very easy to dismiss a show like Nourin, which seems to crassly reach for the low-hanging fruits with its humor and revolve around lots of immature sexuality, cliched characters, and a narrative that expects you to care without ever really earning your ability to do so. However, to dismiss this series out of hand would be to ignore that a significant portion of it is really goddamn funny. Yes, the humor is largely lowbrow and slapstick, but the voice acting is fantastic, the timing is almost always spot-on, and the scenarios are often surprisingly original thanks to the show’s uniquely being set at an agricultural school in Northern Japan. The style of humor and types of characters that you’ll find here are those which anyone who’s seen more than two harem shows will be familiar with, but the execution soars above much of its ilk, and delivers on a couple of the outright funniest episodes of anime that I watched all year.
Unfortunately, the show’s biggest weakness is that it doesn’t seem to recognize its strengths. Every so many episodes, Nourin tries to go for more emotional or romantic moments, and they usually fall completely flat due to how absurd and stupid the rest of the show is. I can’t really take a dramatic scene with these characters seriously, especially when a lot of the things which they get emotional about are kind of juvenile. I would’ve been okay with the show’s occasional bouts of moodiness when they weren’t taking up too much screentime, but the last three episodes end up focusing on these aspects a lot and really dragged down the overall experience, making it a lot harder to recommend the show on the whole.
Would I have watched all of Nourin if I’d been sober the entire time? Possibly not. I watched this show on a shitty streaming site while fairly drunk, and something about that rustic, almost nostalgic experience allowed me to enjoy the first episodes enough to keep going longer than I thought I would. Altogether it was probably my favorite Silver Links show that I’ve seen yet, not that that’s really saying anything.
TAMAKO LOVE STORY
If you missed out on last year’s adorably intimate Tamako Market, and you’re into comfy shows about close-knit communities, I recommend giving it a look. It comes as an original series from the creative minds behind the K-On anime, and has a lot of the same appeal. Tamako Love Story is the film sequel to the TV series, focusing on more romantic elements and an even more low-tempo, down-to-earth feel. It’s an enjoyable experience, though ultimately I didn’t find it as memorable as a lot of others seemed to, but if you enjoyed the TV series then I definitely recommend checking out this film as well.
Coming out of the young animator training project, Harmonie is a short film from the same people who created Pale Cocoon, Eve no Jikan, Mizu no Kotoba, and Patema Inverted, which were all things that I found to be just okay, but I know that a lot of people enjoyed all of them–and if you’re one of those, be sure and give Harmonie a look. It’s a lot less sci-fi oriented than the others, though there’s an element of almost paranormal or magical fantasy at play in how the show sets up its potential romance between the two main characters.
While Harmonie didn’t hit me in the feels like it seemed like it wanted to, I was impressed with the direction and editing, which lent a strange intensity and density to scenes of characters just standing around talking in a classroom. Every scene felt like it had a certain weight and flow to it, which I thought was cool, and elevated it above the kind of straightforward story that it could have very easily been by giving it a unique tone.
NIHON ANIMATOR MIHONICHI
Studio Khara, which until now has primarily been responsible for the Rebuild of Evangelion films, began releasing a weekly series of high-quality short films towards the end of the year, including most famously the fantastic sensory overload ME!ME!ME!; which became an internet phenomenon thanks to its trippy, symbolism-laden story and titty-bouncing intense music. The other shorts, while less memorable, are still creative and fun in their own right, and all of them worth checking out.
Besides all of these, there were a number of shows which I thought were pretty okay, but couldn’t hold my interest long enough for me to watch them all the way through to the end, either because I fell behind while they were airing, or because I realized that the story wasn’t going to get very far before the end of the series. I’m putting a list of these on-screen, along with basic genre descriptions for each, so if you’re a huge fan of these genres then you might consider these shows to be worth looking into. The list will be present down in the description as well.
That does it for honorable mentions, so be sure and subscribe to my channel and stick around, as tomorrow I’ll begin to reveal my top 20 favorite anime of the year. Seeya then!
Out of 130 anime that I sampled in 2014, I’ll be counting down my top 20 favorites over the next 20 days! Full playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLw6UBKuaMyFAxI1scBKFw_KEvKLzh-EaR
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Honorable Mentions and Where to Watch Them:
1. Samurai Flamenco: http://www.crunchyroll.com/samurai-flamenco
fuller review: http://youtu.be/4f4TjqqFag0
2. Nourin (no legal streams)
3. Tamako Love Story (no legal streams)
tv series review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leeM_U7HKZ8&list=UUHhnf3RgHabfk5f2gUX6EVQ
4. Harmonie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmrloAtHkqg
5. Nihon Animator Mihonichi: http://animatorexpo.com/titlelist/
Sabagebu! (spastic comedy): http://www.crunchyroll.com/sabagebu-survival-game-club-
Black Bullet (ridiculous action fun): http://www.crunchyroll.com/black-bullet
Love Stage (adorable yaoi romance): http://www.crunchyroll.com/love-stage
Locodol (comfy comedy, cute girls): http://www.crunchyroll.com/locodol
Haikyuu! (shounen sports): http://www.crunchyroll.com/haikyu
Gundam Build Fighters (hot-blooded giant robots in shounen sports form): https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLJV1h9xQ7Hx-0WipavLDd3mFSLJL1r2XQ
Nagi no Asukara (preteen love drama with gorgeous visuals): http://www.crunchyroll.com/nagi-no-asukara-nagi-asu-a-lull-in-the-sea
Mekaku City Actors (Vocaloid album adaptation, SHAFT-tastic): http://www.crunchyroll.com/mekakucity-actors
Happinesscharge Precure (mahou shoujo): (no legal streams)
Golden Time (college romcom): http://www.crunchyroll.com/golden-time
Bakumatsu Rock (stupidest ever in best way): http://www.crunchyroll.com/samurai-jam-bakumatsu-rock
Tribe Cool Crew (fun kids’ dance show): http://www.crunchyroll.com/tribe-cool-crew