It’s that time of year again, a time to make lists of awesome things and rank them in a manner that will either cause massive joy or intense butthurt. This year I’ve decided to reduce the “clutter” of previous years by removing the sub-categories and sticking with a solid top 10 list. Have a favorite that didn’t make the list? Post in the comments below, everyone loves the potential for pointless debate and flamewars! But seriously, every now and then someone comes up with a hidden gem, so post away.
Disclaimer: Yes, I know this is a bit late. Blame me for getting into Freedom Wars and binging on the Awesome Games Done Quick marathon when I should have been working on this.
Gillman Edit Note: I put this up over a month after I got it. That is on me.
Studio Trigger’s first major TV anime, Kill la Kill, was also one of this year’s most talked about anime. Kill la Kill presented us with the wacky, over the top struggle of man versus super-clothing, along with tons of action, comedy, and unapologetic fanservice. The folks at Trigger let loose with everything they had on this series, and it resulted in one of the most amusing shows of the year. This show has been haunted by massive amounts of hype and hate from every corner of the internet, but do yourself a favor and check it out for yourself if you have not done so already.
This is David Production’s adaptation of the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure manga, and it has continued to prove itself as one of the best manga adaptations around. In this part Jotaro Kujou, a rebellious Japanese high school student, discovers he has a strange power known as “Stand”, a being he can summon at will with incredible power. Eventually he ends up on a long journey to Egypt in order to save his mother from a stand user named Dio, whom is also an old enemy of the Joestar family. While the Stardust Crusaders arc is considered to be one of the “weaker” stories within the JoJo saga, it is hard to deny that this is still incredibly entertaining. SC won’t wrap up until the next season concludes this year, but this show was awesome enough to make the list.
What’s this? An AOTY ranking with slice of life in the list? You better believe it, this isn’t Anime News Network after all. Gochiusa, for those that don’t want to have a mouthful every time they name the show, is a comedic slice of life about cute girls working in a coffee shop, and maybe even something about an old man turned into a fuzzy bunny. While this may not sound incredibly interesting, Gochiusa is a fun and silly romp with quirky characters and charming humor. This type of show isn’t for everyone, but if this is something you can get into you won’t be disappointed. For additional fun, watch for the occasional nods to Metal Gear Solid.
Chaika is one of those rare treats when an LN adaptation is not only concluded, but is also concluded within the same year. This is the story of a young girl that lost her memories, and is searching for the remains of her father so she can have his funeral. The problem is her father was the infamous Emperor Gaz, a man responsible for a massive war that almost destroyed the continent several years ago. Chaika soon seeks the aid of a pair of mercenary “Saboteurs”, a class of fighter that uses magic to hone themselves in battle. Chaika takes place in a unique and interesting fantasy realm, reminiscent of something one would find in a JRPG. This show had lots of great things going for it, including an amusing cast of characters, a fascinating setting, and plenty of action and adventure. Good fantasy anime doesn’t come around often, and Chaika fills the void nicely. While some feel the ending has a bit of a “rushed” feeling (and it honestly does), I still loved this show and felt it came to a satisfying conclusion.
Sidonia is a “love it or hate it” sort of show. Most of the criticism surrounding it is focused on the fact that it is entirely animated in CG. While full CG anime does have a different “feeling” about it, especially with the way human characters move, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth checking out. Sidonia is a mecha anime about a war between the remnants of the human race and the Gauna, a race of aliens that drove mankind out of the Solar System. Sidonia is full of unique designs and interesting lore, and will keep you hooked all the way to the last episode. The story will continue later this year.
Wixoss is yet another show that aired two seasons in the year and came to a conclusion. I had originally passed on this show because it was made with the intent to promote the Wixoss card game, an otaku-oriented battle card game similar to Yu-gi-oh or Pokemon. I honestly never thought something like this could end up as one of the best anime of this year, let alone good enough to watch. Wixoss starts off looking like a fairly cute, innocent show about friends playing a card game together. One day Ruuko gets into the game in hopes of making some new friends, but she discovers that one of her cards can talk. Ruuko finds out she is a “selector”, a girl who can “battle” in Wixoss against other selectors for the prize of having a wish granted upon winning enough victories. Of course, none of this is quite as pleasant as it sounds. Wixoss quickly becomes a grim tale full of twists and turns, and it is amazingly well done. I never thought I would be singing the praises of a card game anime, but now I’m putting one in my top five anime of the year. What crazy times we live in.
Grisaia is an adaptation of one of the most popular visual novels in Japan. It tells the story of Mihama academy, a special school for troubled youths. A young man named Yuuji is the first male to attend this school, and the story is centered on his encounters with each of the other students and their pasts. Oh, and did I mention that Yuuji is one badass motherfucker? Grisaia appears to be a typical harem/ecchi anime, but you will soon find this one hits with a much more dramatic punch thanks to its cast of severely troubled characters. If you are wondering how well the adaptation was handled compared to the game, you will find lots of varying opinions. As someone that has actually played the game, I can say that there were many cuts here and there (the game is fairly long) and some of the character arcs were not as well done as others. That being said, I felt they managed to do a great job of taking on the monumental task of adapting such a big game into a 13 episode anime. This was a great watch, and the other two games of the trilogy have been announced for anime adaptations as well. Of course the game is better, but the anime is worth checking out.
No Game No Life was another one of this year’s more popular shows, meaning for every person that enjoyed it there is that anti-fanboy frothing at the mouth with rage over it, lurking the internet and waiting to attack anyone for praising the show. Despite all the flamewars and nonsense surrounding this show, it still wound up in my top 3. NGNL is about a pair of NEET siblings, Shiro and Sora, who are drawn into another world by a mischievous god named Tet. This world is ruled by a set of commandments that allow people to take power and property from one another through wagers and games, something Sora and Shiro have a passion for. NGNL is one of those anime that people will often label as “otaku pandering” because it displays a strong affection for, and many references to, modern otaku culture. This may be a deal breaker for more casual fans of the medium, but it is also part of what makes this show so entertaining. NGNL is an incredibly fun show with a goofy cast of characters, lots of intensity, unique designs, and awesome animation.
A surprise hit of the year, Yuki Yuna (or Yuyuyu) was described as a slice of life/magical girl show. What they did not say was that Yuyuyu is a really damn amazing magical girl show. This is about a group of friends that are drawn into a fight against the Vertex, beings from another realm seeking to destroy the human world. With the power of the “Hero System”, these girls can transform and fight the Vertex with superhuman abilities. Unfortunately not everything is a clear cut as it seems, and with great power comes great sacrifices. A lot of people tend to compare this to Madoka because it is a magical girl show that gets darker as it progresses, but I hate making that comparison since this show stands out so much on its own. Yuyuyu has moments of being cute and fun, moments of incredible action, and moments of gripping drama, and executes all of them to near perfection. Add to that some cool designs and an excellent soundtrack, and you have one of the best anime 2014 had to offer.
In a decision that is likely to rustle a few jimmies, my anime of the year is a full-CG film. Stay with me here, I’ve got good reason for it. This is a story about an agent of Diva, a satellite nation in orbit around Earth where mankind is “digitized” for their survival, who is sent to a post-apocalyptic Earth in a physical body to hunt down a hacker capable of breaking into the “world” of Diva. This anime takes a lot of the “old school” themes of 80s and 90s sci-fi anime, and combines it with modern style and animation techniques. While many “purists” have a hatred for CG animation, this film demonstrates CG can be pushed to make some really incredible anime. The “cel-shaded” look maintains the typical anime aesthetic, while at the same time unleashing incredible, fast-paced action sequences that rival some of the greatest anime of all time. This film has a good mix of action and story that fits well within the time allotted for a movie, something that seems to be a lost art in anime films. Rakuen delivers amazing visuals, a good story, a great voice cast, and some generous helpings of fanservice. This is 2014s “must see” anime, don’t miss it.