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.
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Spoiler Notes for Nagi no Asukara

Manaka from ED
The usual warning applies: if you haven’t watched Nagi no Asukara (Crunchyroll) and you have any possible interest in watching it then you should watch it before reading the rest of this post.

If you have watched it and payed close attention and are pretty familiar with Japanese culture and folklore then you may not find anything new in this post. The show is actually more generous with explanations than the average Japanese fantasy. However not everyone got all the key points, so you may find this helpful.
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Nagi no Asukara Ends

I enjoyed Nagi no Asukara (Crunchyroll) but it’s not perfect. It has some pacing problems. Of course that’s common with Japanese TV shows. Hopefully you have some overall story to tell, but you have to organize it into one or two cours, each consisting of 12 or 13 episodes of 24 minutes each. For ratings reasons each cour should end at a dramatic high point and each individual episode must be interesting enough to keep people watching, all while advancing the overall plot.
Eyecatch on Seawall
A very small number of shows do it perfectly. Nagi no Asukara has some great episodes, but also a fair number that drag.

But now it’s time to look back and evaluate the series as a whole. I think it’s pretty good. It has an innovative premise, terrific artwork, likeable though flawed characters and a story with real emotional resonance. But not everyone likes it and I quite understand why it isn’t to everyone’s taste.
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2013: The Anime Year in Review

Looking back this was a fairly average year in anime. There was a lot of crap of course but there were also a fair number of shows that were well-made and entertaining.

Outstanding Anime of 2013

Rescued ratShin Sekai Yori (started Fall 2012) (Crunchyroll) is a solid adaptation of a serious science fiction story. It is far more sophisticated than what usually passes for sci-fi on television. This may be too dark for some tastes and is definitely not suitable for young children. Older viewers may find it very rewarding.
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Nagi no Asukara–Anime Early Impressions

Nagi no Asukara (Crunchyroll) is one of the new season’s more interesting shows. This has a rather unusual fantasy setting. It takes place in Umimura (“Sea Village”), which of course is located on the ocean floor, and in a rival village on the nearby shore.
What I initially had a hard time dealing with is that, except for the fact that there are fish swimming around, life under the sea is pretty much like life on land. The people wear regular clothes, walk on the ground, cook, eat soup out of bowls and watch television. Well, they can swim if they want to…
You just have to accept that this is all possible because of magic. Or to be more precise, due to the beneficence of the Sea God.
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