Top Ten Anime of 2014

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!

Continue reading

Top Shows Addendum

So I wrote my Top 30 Shows of All Time list, and that was great and super convenient for a while, until I came to a startling revelation – there are more than thirty good shows, and even worse than that, people keep making new ones. Clearly there’s no way I could have predicted this turn of events, but I’m doing my best to take it in stride. And in the spirit of promoting More Good Things, I’ve decided to create this Additional Top Shows supplement.

I don’t really want to cut off shows when they fall out of the thirty – I’d rather recommend more good stuff than less, and the number was initially envisioned more as a quality marker than a hard, arbitrary line. And so instead of having shows disappear and be gone forever, shows that drop out of the thirty, or that just barely don’t make it, will instead find their home here in the Top Shows Addendum. I hope you enjoy this jumbled list of Slightly Less Top But Still Pretty Great Shows!

Continue reading

Sekai Seifuku and the Island of Misfit Toys

“So they make it back and when everybody hears their story, they start to realize… maybe they were a little hard on the misfits. Maybe misfits have a place, too.”

My mother loves Christmas. Not for any religious reasons – my family has pretty much always been a bunch of godless heathens. But because it’s a family holiday. Because it means time spent together, and the opportunity to express how much you care about those you love. I’ve always had a loving family, for which I count myself lucky. And one memory I always associate with Christmas is that old stop-motion Rudolph movie, where Rudolph meets an elf who wants to be a dentist and goes on all sorts of strange adventures.

The movie’s pretty great, actually – it’s whimsical and endearing and clearly made with a great deal of heart. But at the center of a movie that with every fiber of its existence wants to stress the importance of being together with those you love, the main characters find themselves visiting a strange place that threatens the exact opposite – the Island of Misfit Toys. On this frozen, forbidding rock, toys gather that have been rejected by the world – toys that don’t fit into the roles they’ve been assigned, toys that fail to live up to their owners’ expectations. Though strange and laden with melancholy, these toys end up gathering together in the wilderness, making a family of their own and awaiting the day the world will accept them once again.

Continue reading

Sekai Seifuku – Episode 12

Sorry I’m so very late on this one – I decided to space out the finales of the three shows I’m writing essays for so that I’d actually have a first draft of each done before I checked out the finale of the next, and Sekai Seifuku unfortunately drew the short straw. That’s not its fault, though – of the three (Kill la Kill, Samurai Flamenco, and Sekai Seifuku), I’d say this is easily the best show, and I’m very excited to see it end. All of its ideas and characters have bounced off each other, exposed new reflections, and finally come together, and it’s looking like everything will end with the father who spurned his family and the little girl who accepted everyone into hers. A bright spot in a very lousy season, Sekai Seifuku has always maintained a great sense of wonder and magic buoyed by both a general atmosphere of melancholy and the sharp edges of the truths it’s toying with. I’ve come to really care about this family, and though the show itself is basically a living demonstration of how often families don’t work out, I’d like to see a happy ending for these characters.

So let’s conquer the world.

Continue reading

Winter 2014 – Week 12 in Review

Fell behind on basically everything this week because of Anime Boston, so I’m struggling to catch up as fast as I can. Of what I have watched, well…

Continue reading

Sekai Seifuku – Episode 11

Alright, very behind, but here I am. The last two weeks have done a tremendous amount of work in pulling this show’s threads together – family, identity, childhood, belief, it’s all lining up and it’s all working great. The Neverland the main characters have inhabited is falling apart under the disapproving gaze of Asuta’s father, and pretty much everyone is fighting back in their own way. Kate’s dream has powered Zvezda’s belief so far, and last episode featured each member of the team in turn sacrificing themselves in service of that belief. On the one hand, this was very generous of them, and demonstrated how much the members of this family care about each other. But on the other, none of them really had a choice – as the Chief glibly stated, he’s only done what promised the greatest chance of survival. All of these characters have been thrown away, but up until last week, Asuta didn’t realize this – he thought he still had power, thought he held the trump card of still being valued. That’s not the case anymore – he is a member of Zvezda through and through, reviled by the real world and given purpose only by the girl who believes he has value in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

Girls, actually. Renge also believes he has value, and unlike Asuta, Renge actually deserted a family that truly valued her. White Light may have lost its purpose and surrendered itself to power for power’s own sake, but it still had a job for White Robin. In abandoning that, Renge may have made the first act of willful rebellion against the defamilyzing status quo – she’s not a misfit, she’s a beacon. That’s interesting, but I honestly hope it’s not relevant – what would it say if the people this inhuman structure valued really were more valuable? Better to be valued by Kate, who sees purpose in everyone, than to be the favorite child of callous, unfeeling parents. Better Zvezda by far.

Alright, that’s enough rambling. I like this show, you guys. Let’s see where it goes next.

Continue reading

Winter 2014 – Week 11 in Review

Fantastic set of episodes this week, even from shows I’ve kind of given up on. Glad to see the season ending so well!

Continue reading

Sekai Seifuku – Episode 10

CONQUEST TIME. Sorry I’m late on this one – I came down with some kind of terrible affliction this weekend, but I think my head is finally clear enough to work through the pain. I’m very excited for this episode – both the preview and the spoiler-happy internet have primed me to expect some crazy revelations, and last week’s episode already displayed the show’s themes coming together beautifully. Masks were flying off left and right, White Light and Zvezda each made their philosophy that much more clear, and Jimon once again demonstrated he’s still not quite comfortable with his new family, even as he deliberately spurns his old one. Jimon’s in the classic protagonist spot here – at the fulcrum of both the show’s two “families” and its ideas on family in general, he’s also the least aware of all the forces sparring around him. He’s the kid caught in the crossfire of a feud much larger than himself. And as the personal is the political in Sekai Seifuku, the squabbling parents hanging over his head might just fighting over the fate of the world itself.

Let’s get to it.

Continue reading

Winter 2014 – Week 10 in Review

Standard Winter 2014 week this time – Kill la Kill was entertaining, Sekai Seifuku was good, and Witch Craft Works did its job. Everybody else… I dunno, I guess ending a season is harder than it looks!

Continue reading

Sekai Seifuku – Episode 9

Conquest time! Once again, probably gonna keep these notes pretty brief. Depends on the episode, though – if this turns into an incisive exploration of the intersection of family, youthful idealism, and reality, that might not be the case. Anyway. On with the show!

Continue reading