Favourite Anime of 2014:
December 29, 2014 3 Comments
Like previous years I wont be putting these series into any particular order, which is probably the hardest thing I can think of doing – partly because I don’t like scores, and also because I don’t really have a particularly favourite anime this year.
Witch Craft Works:
Witch Craft Works came as somewhat of a surprise to me. It is adapted from a manga that I particularly enjoy, and one of my ain surprises was that it was a good anime adaptation that appeared to keep the central premise and feel of the original manga intact. One of the main reasons I love the series is the way it turns the damsel in distress and knight in shining armour dichotomy on its head by presenting the central male character as the ‘princess’, and the main female character as the stoic knight with great power. Takamiya is apparently the strongest individual in the world, or at least his body holds the strongest power in the world – at least, that is what we are lead to believe – but he is a particularly innocent, gentle individual (he is by no mean pathetic)/ Whereas Kagari is the strong witch with immense power and very protective of Takamiya. There are loads of little moments within the story where these two characters interact in what would be fairly normal ways for other stories, but with role reversals, and numerous magical goings on as part of the daily routine. I also liked the character designs, costumes, and character overall. The ending was also great, and one of the greatest earworms in anime.
I have had a difficult relationship with the Space Dandy series, jumping from being utterly bored, to loving every minute. I suppose that is the inherent problem in a production method that meant guest directors and writers were working on almost every episode, so each story was self-contained and incorporated the various styles and ideas of each director who worked on it. While as a whole the series wasn’t entirely special, there were enough stand-out episodes, such as the one set in/on Limbo that give it a spot on this list.
Hozuki no Reitetsu:
God I loved Hozuki no Reitetsu – portraying the Buddhist hell as merely a well oil government department, one kept going by the incredibly boring, but hard working, and also quite evil public servant was pure genius. That is about all I have to say about the series, easily one of the best this year.
Barakamon remains a fascinating series – I didn’t entirely know what to expect from it, and was pleasantly surprised at the wonderful story of a calligrapher maturing as an artist and as a human being. The setting seems to be fairly unique at the moment when most anime are set in a city. By choosing the Goto islands off the western coast of Kyushu as the series setting we are presented with a very different impression of Japan. Instead of the city, where everyone is in a hurry, and people are always nice, in a somewhat artificial way, the islanders are certainly more upfront, even more abrupt. The interactions between Handa and Naru, a seven-year-old girl make up the core of this series, and it is through this relationship that we see Handa grow as an artist. Although really we are watching it to see him utterly fail at coping with a new environment, along with his inability to create the calligraphy he wants. The cast are all great, and the moments when Handa gets his inspiration have to be some of the most memorable scenes I have seen in anime in many years.
Kaze Tachinu/The Wind Rises:
I do love Ghibli films, they certainly aren’t the be all and end all of the anime industry, but the care and attention that is put into the magical worlds of their films is always a wonderful sight to behold. I remember my local art house cinema featuring a Ghibli season many years ago, and getting a chance to see films like Mononoke Hime, My Neighbour Totoro, and Whisper of the Heart on the big screen. What I particularly like about their films is the magical worlds that they as a studio, and Hayao Miyazaki as a director create, complete with curious monsters straight from Japanese myth and folk stories, alongside themes of environmental damage, and the loss of national identity that Miyazaki sees in the younger generations. This makes The Wind Rises a particularly interesting film, because it is arguably the first ‘grown-up’ film Miyazaki has produced since Porco Rosso. A film about Jiro Horikoshi, a particularly brilliant aircraft engineer, who’s dream to create the best aircraft can only be realised within wartime and the realities of Imperial Japan during the first half of the twentieth century. In a way the films themes demonstrate the reality of creation, and explore the complicated relationship that many designers during this period had with the regimes they were working under. It was a fascinating film, which was beautifully animated, and had a wonderful score accompanying it.
Girls und Panzer – Kore ga Hontou no Anzio-sen Desu:
Girls und Panzer was one of my favourite anime of 2012 and 2013. It is one of those series that looks utterly ludicrous at first glance, and yet demonstrates the creativity found within the anime (and by extension manga, and light novel) medium. The central premise of tank warfare as martial arts, a way or ‘do’ to enlightenment is something bizarre, yet oddly appealing. As I have mentioned before, I initially dismissed it as something that may be ironically enjoyable, only to realise that it was a truly, and honestly enjoyable, and well-produced anime. The Anzio OVA brings the same qualities from the original series, introducing new, eccentric characters, and presenting a brilliantly animated and choreographed action sequence that puts Peter Jacksons Battle of the Five Armies to shame. It might be a simple OVA, but its one of my favourite anime this year.
I loved the original Seitokai Yakuindomo series, with its weird characters and constant dirty jokes. Yes it is immature, but it’s the best sort of immature. The second season is essentially the same, with the same weird characters, and the same sorts of jokes, and in this case I don’t think you can have too much of a good thing. I do have to wonder why it took so long for a second series to be made when there are so many OVA episodes with enough material for a second, and even third series.
Mushishi Zoku Shou:
Mushishi was a fascinating series that dealt with the interconnected nature of the human and spirit worlds found within Japanese folklore and belief systems. I loved the original, and loved the first half of its sequel, but the second half hasn’t been nearly as interesting, which is a shame. However, I still very much enjoy the series, and love the ambience created by the beautiful animation and soundtrack.
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun:
I love the way Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun deals with shoujo manga, dispelling all those romantic images of princes rescuing princesses (or the modern day equivalent) by presenting the reality (or at least A reality) of manga creation. Watching Chiyo slowly come to terms with the inner workings of shoujo manga, and seeing all her illusions and dreams dispelled by the oblivious Nozaki was truly wonderful to watch. The entire cast helped to make this an incredibly enjoyable, and very funny series, full of eccentric characters, and completely bizarre situations, all in the aid of creating the most romantic shoujo manga possible. That the creative process happens to be so utterly weird and dysfunctional simply adds to the series charm.
Shingeki no Bahamut – Genesis:
Shingeki no Bahamut has been one of the seasons, and even years great surprises for me. I knew absolutely nothing about the series at first, other than it was based on some sort of card game. What Mappa, along with Satou Keiichi, Yamamoto Sayo, Hasegawa Keiichi, and many other staff have successfully done is create a truly engaging story set in a fantasy realm of angels, devils, and mystical creatures. The characters are engaging, and the animation has been beautiful throughout, with a story that may be somewhat simplistic on closer inspection, but is appealing and creates a believable, and above all, enjoyable narrative. That they have created all this from what looks like a fairly simple card game deserves a significant amount of praise.
Amagi Brilliant Park:
I love anime series produced by Kyoto Animation – their incorporation of the surreal into the everyday, coupled with their beautiful animation, and wonderful storytelling consistently produces series that I absolutely adore – and I am quite happy to admit. This year has also been filled with a good number of wonderful series and films from KyoAni, although the most memorable, and most enjoyable has been Amagi Brilliant Park. Its cast of eccentric characters have been great fun to watch, with a perfect balance between comedic and serious moments. What I particularly liked about the series was the way it took a fairly simple premise, and added an element of fantasy into the mix. We all know that mascot characters have someone inside them – they could be young, or they could be quite old – but what if there was no one inside that mascot, and instead they were real, and came from a realm of fantasy and magic? The entire cast of the theme park are from another world, and watching them perform, only to go out drinking afterwards, and in the case of Tiramie, Macaron, and Moffle, act like middle-aged salarymen added an extra layer of comedy. I truly loved watching Amagi Brilliant Park, and feel that while the central premise was important, it was also more of a solid base for all the eccentric characters to stand on and entertain us.