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!

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12 Days of Anime, #3: Lisa Feels The Wind

There’s just something about that open road. Modern society is an inescapable monolith, and wherever you go will be just one more spot on the map, but when you’re young and hopeful and feel like freedom is a real thing, the road has a real power to it.

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Terror in Resonance and the Shadow Children

“When heaven has a line around the corner,
we shouldn’t have to wait around and hope to get in
if we can carpenter a home in our heart right now
and carve a palace from within.”
The Antlers

“Tramps like us, baby we were born to run.”
Bruce Springsteen

The world is against us, but the world is at our backs. The future could be ours, or there might just not be a future. There’s no “outside” of what we’re escaping, but we move forward anyway. Our only certainties are the wind, the darkness, and the distant horizon.

We live in the shadow of a great and terrible machine. That’s Terror in Resonance’s opening assumption; an assumption the show often takes very literally. Its characters weave in and out of society’s sunlit face and shadowed reality, and the rigidity of our modern social order is perhaps the show’s single constant antagonist. Whether they struggle against it or accept its presence, it is always there, always dictating the lives they may live. Terror in Resonance is a story of adolescent rebellion and societal alienation. It is a story of what the world demands of us, and what we become in its eyes. It is a story of anyone who is cast as a child by the world, and of the things only children can do.

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Zankyou no Terror – Episode 11

Welp, here we are. In spite of everyone’s best wishes, the bomb’s been set – nobody wanted this, but this is where alienation has brought us. I’ve really enjoyed this show, and I’m confident it’ll end well, but I can’t say exactly what that ending will be. I doubt it’ll be happy – the context this show is stabbing at isn’t a happy one, and our actual world doesn’t offer any easy solutions to the questions of power dynamics and societal disconnect we’re dealing with here. All I’m hoping for is an ending that stays with you – I think one of art’s highest purposes is holding a mirror to the world, and I think Zankyou is as angry and driven a show as I’ve come across in recent memory. Let’s see it through to the end.

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Summer 2014 – Week 12 in Review

I don’t even know what to say in this intro, because nothing else this week comes close to Aldnoah’s lunacy. Everything else was fine, good shows are good, yada yada. Let’s get to the show.

Oh wait, also, I’m apparently gonna be one of ANN’s staff reviewers now in addition to my streaming work. Meaning I’ll be doing regular full-show reviews there, along with participating in their completely insane Preview Guide. Meaning I’ll be watching the first episodes of basically every goddamn full-length show coming out this season, and writing some sort of reflection on every single one of them. Meaning my hands are probably going to be bloody stumps by the end of next week.

So that’ll be fun! Something to look forward to. Anyway, Aldnoah fuckin’ Zero.

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Zankyou no Terror – Episode 10

Welp, time for terror. Twelve’s betrayed Nine in order to save Lisa, Shibazaki’s learned the truth, and Five is as ridiculous and show-warping as ever. Let’s see what happens next!

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Summer 2014 – Week 11 in Review

No crazy shakeups to report this week – my lineup’s approaching the end with relative grace, and everything I’d hoped to be good or at least okay has been good or at least okay. This is disappointing! I miss being able to tell you guys something is absolutely awful and wretched and a wonderful thing to get really childishly disappointed about! Hopefully next season will fix this – I’m planning on checking out way too many shows, and have no idea what I’ll end up covering for ANN, so there’s a solid chance I’ll have something to be a big jerk about again. Until then, please accept these humble reflections on shows that are actually pretty good.

Incidentally, I haven’t gotten to this week’s Hunter x Hunter, but I’ll likely watch that later tonight and either add my comments or make an additional mini-post. Busy week!

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Zankyou no Terror – Episode 9

Time again for terror! Lisa’s been captured, Twelve’s made his choice, and Nine stands alone. With three episodes left, it seems unlikely this will all end in smiles and rainbows, but I’d sure like for Lisa and Twelve to get out of this, at least. That may defeat the show’s purpose, though – Nine’s anger is just as understandable as their connection, and no one can really escape the world they’re born into. All you can do is adapt or burn the damn thing down.

Incidentally, vestenet made a great post about Zankyou’s historical context over at Isn’t It Electrifying. I’d definitely check that out to see some of the more specific unrest and political circumstances Zankyou’s building on!

Alright, let’s get to terror.

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Summer 2014 – Week 10 in Review

No complaints about this week in anime – my favorites were great, my second-strings were either solid or great, and I’m barely even watching anything beneath those. Aldnoah continued last week’s “wait, let’s try to be actually good again” streak, Zankyou recovered from its wonky Hollywood interlude, and Hunter x Hunter is just making me too emotional right now. Also, Shounen Hollywood whipped out one of the most absurd, confident concept episodes I’ve seen in… ever? A long time, at least. Let’s run them down!

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Zankyou no Terror – Episode 8

A new Zankyou! And it couldn’t come soon enough – with both Barakamon and Zankyou on break, last week was pretty much a barren anime wasteland. I’ve had to sustain myself by actually paying attention to what’s happening in videogames, which is something I would never recommend to any human being. Anyway! The last episode of Zankyou was Hollywood as all hell, but I doubt the entire show is suddenly going to tumble into meaningless action movie territory. I’m guessing this episode will be more of a cooldown, and Zankyou’s generally at its best when it gives its ideas room to breathe – plus, I’m very interested in seeing how the events of last episode impact both the relationships of our three young terrorists and Shibazaki’s career prospects. Let’s get down to terror!

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