It’s quite late, but I thought I’d share my top five anime series of 2014. It was a great year for anime, and one that provided me with a really tough decision on what I would place on this list. There were some absolutely great series last year, and with many currently airing sequels this year, it’s an awesome time to be an anime fan! So, without further ado, here’s my list of the top five anime of 2014.
Note: Series that run for two cours, unless it is a split cour, between 2014 and 2015 are not counted on this list.
5 – Magica Wars
A short form anime made this list? Why, yes it did. Although not as long as any of the other series on this list Magica Wars was one of the best to air this year. Unashamed of riding off of the clichés of the genre, Magica Wars – and its focus on representatives of the different prefectures of Japan – was utterly charming.
Running for two cours (26 episodes) the series put together a wide variety of story arcs. The sheer number of characters introduced was also a pleasant surprise as they provided strong stories throughout each three to four episode arc.
The animation was also one of the stronger points in each episode. Making the show look gorgeous, without the need to run for 25-minute intervals.
4 – Tokyo Ghoul
This series was a surprise. Not knowing anything about it going in, only having the image of the protagonist with his awesome, yet slightly creepy, mask on hand there were no expectations for this one. And it turned out to be really good.
A dark, oftentimes horrific, series that lives up to its claims, Tokyo Ghoul pulls no punches. Following Kaneki’s dive into the world of ghouls after an accident that truly messes up his life was as engaging as it was disturbing.
Directed by Oscar nominated director Shuhei Morita, Tokyo Ghoul has a cinematic quality that is not commonly seen in televised anime. Despite budgetary issues with this season, it also managed to make good use of the frames available and put together a visually appealing series that remained true to the original artwork, as well as relatively fluid.
It also had one of the best opening themes of the year, a visual masterpiece with a great audio track behind it.
3 – Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun
In a year full of comedies, Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun takes was the best comedy of the year. With its focus on a clueless manga artist, and the girl who adores him, setting up the series – it only got better as it went on.
Introducing a wider cast, each with different personalities, and shifting the focus to their misadventures as well as the main duo, everything clicked together in a way that none of the other comedies this year could fully manage.
Also, Ari Ozawa, our leading lady’s voice, has marked herself as an actress to follow after this performance. Providing something different to the usual set of voices, highlighted by Kana Hanazawa’s massive presence this year, she has shown that she can handle a lead role and the possibilities in the future are exciting.
Note: After writing this, I discovered that Ari Ozawa is one of the main characters in Winter 2015’s Rolling Girls. An impression of her performance will be updated upon the viewing of that series.
2 – Witch Craft Works
Now this series was one of the best ways to start off 2014. Wacky, and at times completely crazy, yet managing to pull together a cohesive tale, Witch Craft Works was a pleasure to watch, and to re-watch.
The gender role reversal was a highlight of the show, but despite it being a very strong comedic portion of the earlier episodes it was used to further benefit the story being told by way of strong character development. Although no leaps or bounds were made in the characters, subtle shifts were more than satisfying.
And then there’s the animation. If the number one series wasn’t as good as it was, this would easily have taken the top spot for 2014. With some of the best work J.C. Staff has put to screen (and this was the televised version), this was a real piece of eye candy week after week. Particularly, the fire effects, which were vital due to the heroine’s powers, were stunning. Never before has flame in anime been this detailed and alluring to watch.
Honourable Mentions –
Before we get to the number one anime of 2014, here’s some series that did an amazing job, but just weren’t up to the same level as those included in the top five.
Kill la Kill – One of the most fun pure action romps put to screen. Although it could be viewed as racy by many people, the pacing and plotting was strong and the animation managed to use typography in ways that anime doesn’t seem to try to do. As a graphic designer/animator this is a wonderful series. As an action fan, it’s even better.
Rage of Bahamut Genesis – A pulp sword and sorcery series with the best animation of the year. Some major hiccups in the pacing and plotting kept this from being part of the top five, despite its overall greatness. Definitely a showcase piece for what all anime based off of mobile card games should strive for: originality and fun.
No Game No Life – Taking the best parts of Sword Art Online and mixing it with the allure of the original Yu-gi-oh!, this series worked on many levels. Add in the great performances from the main cast, props to Yoko Hikasa in specific as Steph, and the awesome animation from Madhouse and this was a worthwhile watch.
Noragami – Based upon the manga series of the same name, this was another great adaptation by Bones. Telling the story of a god down on his luck and trying to earn enough money to make his own temple, it manages to balance out zany antics with heavy character pieces that jive in the best of ways. With an anime only finale, to the season (there’s a possibility that it could continue), that manages to impress on multiple levels; this one was almost in the top five.
1 – Haikyu!!
A sports anime that does everything that anyone can want from a great series, Haikyu!! was my favourite series of 2014. With great, fluid, animation and wonderful performances by every member of the cast, this series was astounding.
Production I.G. outdid themselves on the animation here, with every movement animated wonderfully, and never a noticeable moment of oddly animated characters. Looking better than any of their other recent projects, it was also one of the most gorgeous anime of 2014, out-classing most other series to start, save for Witch Craft Works and No Game No Life.
Also, the audio was astounding. Great performances from the whole cast, particularly Kaito Ishikawa as Tobio Kageyama and Yuu Hayashi as the awesome upperclassman Tanaka Ryuunosuke, provide the necessary gravitas and emotion to every scene. And the wonderfully composed and placed soundtrack keeps the mood set to whatever it needs to be.
Witty dialogue, great plotting and excellent pacing all push the story forward and make the characters memorable. All the while it manages to delve into emotions that aren’t usually situated with sports anime. It manages to hit the whole gamut of emotion as it moves towards its heart wrenching ending. Thankfully, it has a second season planned for the Fall 2015 season and has me giddy for more.
Haikyuu!! was the best series of 2014 without any question. It is amazing and highly worth watching. As are all the other series on the list.
If you’re looking to watch any of them, you can find them on Crunchyroll and Funimation.
Haikyu!! is available to stream on Crunchyroll
Witch Craft Works is available to stream on Crunchyroll
Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is available to stream on Crunchyroll
Tokyo Ghoul is available to stream on Funimation
Magica Wars is available to stream on Crunchyroll