2014: The Anime Year in Review

It seems that it’s more or less a requirement for experienced anime bloggers to complain that the current season and the current year are the worst ever, a far cry from the glory days of the past. I’m pretty sure that 5 years from now bloggers will be bemoaning the dreadfulness of the 2019 season, as compared to the glory days of, say, 2014. Each year brings us a mountain of crap that is quickly forgotten, plus a few shows that people will remember fondly and even rewatch in future years.

So as usual in my annual review I will mostly ignore the shows that failed (and especially those that didn’t even try) and focus on shows that provided solid entertainment and may have some chance of being remembered fondly in future years.

Outstanding Anime of 2014

Mushishi familySeason 2 of Mushi-shi (Crunchyroll) is a rare example of an anime that aims to be high art. There is no middle ground here: such a show always seems to end up either great or unwatchable. Fortunately this one continues to hit the “great” mark.

Manaka from EDNagi no Asukara (Crunchyroll) (started Fall 2013) had some slow moments but looking back I can’t think of any other show in the past year that affected me as strongly. What starts out looking like a whimsical fairy tale turns into a powerful work of high fantasy.

After workAmagi Brilliant Park is just silly, but it is inspired silliness, perfectly executed and hilarious from beginning to end.
Continue reading

Mushi-shi Season 2–Anime Midseason Impressions

Mushi-shi Sequel Series (Crunchyroll) turns out to be a split season, like Fate/Zero in 2011-2013 (but without the cliffhanger.) They’ve stopped after 11 episodes, but promised to restart in the Fall.
Ginko in rice field
Why did they do that? Almost certainly for financial rather than artistic reasons. They probably need to raise the money for the remaining episodes. This has always been an “arty” niche series–high quality without the prospect of blockbuster DVD sales. Hopefully they will be able to raise the money to keep going.
Continue reading

Mushi-shi Season 2–Anime Early Impressions

I don’t have much to say about Mushi-shi Sequel Series a.k.a. Mushishi Zoku Shou (Crunchyroll). I reviewed the original series here. I gave it 5 stars. The new season has the same cast, the same studio, the same look and the same kind of writing.
Bird mushi
So anyone who liked the first season will probably feel the same way about the second. It’s a matter of taste, but I like it a lot.

Each episode is a self-contained story, which means that you don’t need to have watched the first season to enjoy the second. Since I consider it a classic I would recommend that you do watch the first season (it’s available on Hulu) but if you don’t you should still be able to follow the stories in the second season without much trouble.

Mushishi OVA

Girl with mushi
Mushishi (2005-2006) was one of the best anime series of all time. It had a sombre but often beautiful visual style. The writing was splendid with a unique blend of fantasy and rationalism.

Nothing has been heard of the series since then–until now. A new single episode has been released and can be viewed on Crunchyroll. It is a self-contained story so you don’t need to have watched the original series to enjoy it. Even better, we are promised another season of Mushishi beginning this Spring.
Continue reading

Mushi-Shi — Anime Review

5 Stars
Superficially this series resembles Kino’s Journey. Both are collections of short stories tied together by a similar device: a lone traveler who moves from place to place, each week meeting new people who have a different story to tell. Also in both cases the story-telling is first-rate.

Yet the two series are very different in tone. Kino’s Journey is darkly satirical and focuses more on the follies of nations than the fate of individuals. Mushi-Shi is more humane and more personal. Most of the stories are poignant rather than tragic.

Another thing that distinguishes this series from most others is the superb artwork. The backgrounds in particular are amazingly beautiful.
Continue reading