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Best anime of 2014


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Posted

Another tough year down the drain. There were several deserving shows, regardless of the endless flow of mediocrity, and they deserve a mention.

Space Dandy

One of the all-time greatest creators in anime, Shinichirō Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo) returned with a fantastic premise in experimentation: start with a ragtag bunch of bounty hunters (Dandy, Meow, and QT) and throw them into impossible scenarios, and then... reset each episode, wipe it clean for the next one. This is anthology done right as each episode became a showcase for the top animators, directors and writers in the business. That did recycle the overall shtick, but somehow, each episode managed to shoot for the highest peaks in blending or bending genre, mixing parodies and homages. I often applaud creativity over technical execution, especially when ambition and originality plays a huge factor in this surreal and over-the-top series. You could say Space Dandy "saved" anime in 2014, but truth be told - there wasn't much to save in the end. Both whimsical and great, Space Dandy would've been a strong contender in any other year, because there's absolutely nothing like it.

Kill la Kill

Anime is an unique medium that isn't as grounded in mimicry or verisimilitude - and that means the creators should push its boundaries every time, exploit the medium without respect to realism in the slightest. And Kill la Kill is the latest exponent of this philosophy, in a long line that dates back to Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and FLCL - a madcap, hyper-kinetic spectacle with a barely coherent plot and outsized, totally outrageous characters. Absolutely zero filler episodes means this show had impeccable pacing. Admittedly, there were plenty of fan-service-y innuendo and inside baseball jokes (many of the puns are based on Japanese words), so many of the references might fly over your head. Competently animated, and completely slick with its stylized aesthetic, Kill la Kill is a shot of adrenaline to your groin, and doesn't let go until you're pumped at maximum capacity, frothing at the mouth, ready to change the world - or at least blog on the next episode.

And... that's it.

Two. Frigging. Shows. All. Year. Jumping Jehoshaphat. 2014 was a down year in Anime. I mean, we are talking the Leastern Conference bad in the NBA these days. Even my favorite anime bloggers burned out (Psgels) or delegated the burden (Scamp) or started blogging other non-anime shows (Guardian Enzo).

Flops?

PSYCHO-PASS 2

Decent science fiction ideas in the wake of Gen Urobuchi marred by substandard execution.

Fate/Stay Night Whatever Whatever

No matter how great a studio is, it just can't get beyond the ridiculous high school setting.

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Posted (edited)

Regardless of my recent lack of interest in the anime genre, I was curious about the newest work of Watanabe that you mention (one of my fav animes of all time is Cowboy Bebop, I liked the anthology feeling of it and the cool mixture of styles and themes, with a pervasive melancholic mood surrounding it all; just delightful). So after reading your review i'll definitely give a look at it.

The last animes I gave a try were Aoi Bungaku and Kids on the Slope, not animes from 2014 though, but worth a glance; the first is a series of adaptations of japanese literary classics (Akutagawa, Dazai, etc.), with an unequal narrative, execution and visual narration and style, some more interesting and great, others just okay or nothing special. The special thing about it is that usually mangas are the ones that get adapted or used as an inspiration in anime, here is short stories from the japanese canon; Kids on the Slope I saw some episodes, an is about the development of a jazz band, I think of the slice of life genre, and it is from Watanabe, it do not think it reaches the summit of Bebop, or even Samurai Shamploo, but it has its moments, and anyways I haven't finish it yet, plus there are tons of jazz and musical references, and humor.

Edited by Paulus
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Posted

Paulus, I started watching anime regularly in 2010 and besides 2014, I've blogged a list of best anime of each year:

2013

2012

2011

Sakamichi no Apollon was an excellent contender and I wrote the following:

Probably the best executed show of the year, with high production values and wonderful scripting and deft touch. Somewhat rushed ending diminishes it slightly.
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Posted

Anyway, to continue my spiel against the quality of anime today is that it's likely that anime has already cannibalized its sources: once the manga well ran dry it moved on to the light novel. Some even argue that the light novel is already empty and anime is now digging into visual novels for adaptation. Naturally that shifted the focus from a multitude of genres for a wide variety of audiences towards an otaku-centric market.

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Posted (edited)

Plus, it does not help at all to the current anime situation, the losses of two great, interesting and innovative minds in the field: Satoshi Kon and Ryūtarō Nakamura. I was hoping to see Despera, another anime with the same creative crew of Serial Experiments Lain, yet the project remains in hold because of the death of Nakamura, a shame. Also Satoshi Kon was so awesome, I saw all of his work, always intelligent, fun, well written, well drawn... Fucking life, fucking death.

Edited by Paulus

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