Time for more Monogatari! We’re finally up to the last arc I’ve already watched, and one I actually wrote an old essay about. Hanamonogatari was great back when I watched it the first time, and remains great now. It’s one of the most focused and self-contained arcs, and it’s got a wonderful balance of character interiority, humor (thanks Kaiki), and beautiful visual tricks. Having this come at an even pace relative to my other reviews actually helped me appreciate how this arc really was a visual step up, and the work this arc does for Kanbaru’s character is just spectacular. Just a really well-composed and compassionate short story all around.
I had to stretch to get a top 10 this year. I’m ready to admit that. Last year, it was easy – in fact, it was too easy, and I ended up expanding my list to twelve shows basically by necessity. But this year didn’t have quite the top shelf of 2013, and so concessions had to be made. There are certainly a couple notable absences here, with I’m guessing the biggest ones being Kill la Kill, Space Dandy, and maybe Nozaki-kun. The reason for those absences is simple – I didn’t like any of those shows very much. If you’re looking for a general “all the shows that enjoyed positive appraisal among the kinds of people who make a point of appraising shows,” I’m guessing all three of those would be included, but this is my list, and I’m gonna talk about what I wanna. (Incidentally, if you are looking for a list like that, my fellow critics at ANN all contributed their own top five lists to this recent retrospective – and that’s all shows that started in 2014, so even my list over there is pretty different). My list may be a little shorter this year, but it’s still got some real gems, and considering three of the year’s best shows aren’t included simply because they aren’t finished (Shirobako, KimiUso, and Parasyte), I’d say we made off okay. Let’s run it down!
“When they love you, and they will
Tell ‘em all they’ll love in my shadow.
And if they try to slow you down
Tell ‘em all to go to hell.”
Kanbaru knew who she was, once. She was a runner. A basketball star. A girl in love. She was somebody, at least – a specific person. There were things typical of her; she knew where she stood and where she was running to. But at the beginning of Hanamonogatari, her path has shifted from a fixed track to an open field – her past offers no clues, her future holds no direction. She’s not a basketball star anymore. Her schoolgirl crush has shifted to respect for an absent friend. All that’s left now are hard choices, and a heavy rain of insistent, contradictory advice.
We’re three quarters of the way through the season now, meaning it’s once again time to first tremble at the reality of our encroaching deaths and then swiftly distract ourselves with the thought of new cartoons. I don’t think this summer will be able to match this spring’s selection, but this spring had possibly the best crop of shows since I started this whole blogging business (competing fiercely with last summer’s Uchouten Kazoku, Monogatari, and Gatchaman Crowds), so that’s not really a fair complaint. It’s certainly no last season, either – we have some real potential gems to look forward to, and if worst comes to worst, Jojo will carry us through the dark times on his broad yet secretly nurturing shoulders. So let’s start with the obvious, top-tier, serious-reasons-to-expect-greatness contenders.
Oh right, first I should explain how this list works. For my previews, I only really highlight shows I’m actually excited about – I don’t think anyone would get much out of me saying I’m gonna be skipping thirty-some shows, and if you want premises or staff, you can always check anichart.net. Anyway!