Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Top 10 Anime Of 2014

What's going on everybody? For the first time (Out of many more to come) I am compiling what I consider to be my personal favorite anime in an attempt to wrap up a relatively exciting year. We've seen carnivorous parasites taking over humans, a squad of psychologically disturbed students coping with their pasts, and even a few cute lesbian high school girls. And even though these topics just barely scratch the surface of everything we've encountered this year, they've still played a hefty role in everything good that has emerged from it.

So before we get down to business, I'd like to clarify that everything on this list BEGAN airing during 2014. I am not counting shows that ENDED during the year (Sorry, Nagi No Asukara). This list includes a few sequels to shows that aired in years prior, seeing as I'm not a jerk and would still like to give respect where respect is given. So without further ado, I bring to you the best of the best -- at least in my opinion.

10) Chuunibyou Demo Koi Ga Shitai! Ren

Though being but a shadow of its former-self, the second season of Chuunibyou brings back our beloved Rikka Takanashi, or the "Wielder of the Wicked Eye". However, this time we are also graced with the presence of her arch-nemesis, Sophia Ring, also known as Satone Shichimiya. And even though the level of comedy has been dumbed-down overall, Chuunibyou still feels the same as it did in 2013. The relationship between Rikka and Yuuta is making progress, and it's clearly evident within this installment. Focusing on the inner-workings of both heroines, Chuunibyou Ren exemplifies how romantic curiosity can impact any unsuspecting adolescents just trying to survive high-school. Those curiosities are dealt with in a multitude of ways, and the viewers of this season get to witness it all through different pairs of eyes (One of those pairs being exponentially more wicked than the others).

9) Grisaia No Kajitsu

Grisaia busted its way into my heart immediately after its pilot episode. Being the adaptation of an adult visual novel (Which earned it extra points right off the bat), the course of the show was already known to many when it graced the eyes of the general public in late 2014. Though the visual novel still reigns supreme in comparison to its anime-counterpart, Grisaia introduces us to five of the most interesting characters all year. And each one is complete with their own emotional trauma! (Batteries not included). Needless to say, this show comes equipped with an extremely unique story and one of the most memorably bad-ass protagonists I've ever come across. Watch this, pick up the VN, do whatever -- just don't overlook it. It's worth the watch and has my stamp of approval.

8) Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya 2wei!

If you aren't into magical loli-girls or the Fate/series, feel free to just scroll past this. But for those of you that don't hate fun and actually want to make the right choices, pick up the Fate/Kaleid Liner series. This sequel and comedic-spinoff takes place immediately after the first season of Fate/Kalied Liner with Illyasviel and Miyu continuing their search for the servant cards desired by the London "Mage's Association". However, something goes terribly wrong and Illya's consciousness is split in two, with the outcome being another physical manifestation of her (Just this adaptation is tan and wants to make out with everything). So, obviously in this scenario, the best thing for Illya to do is find a way to stop her second-self from making out with all of her friends while keeping her true-self alive both socially and physically -- because Anti-Illya also wants to kill her and become the REAL Illyasviel Von Einzbern. Regardless of the oh-so complex story line, Fate/Kaleid Liner 2wei is completely adorable and each character is lovable in their own way -- especially Kuro (Anti-Illya). The show gets better as it goes on and easily fits itself into my top ten for the year.

7) Kiseijuu: Sei No Kakuritsu (Parasyte: The Maxim)

Parasyte took the world by storm when it first hit the TV-screen late in the year, nearly two and a half decades after its manga was publicized. Set in a world where a new species is attaching to and consuming the life-force of humans (And some other lesser-creatures), Parasyte takes viewers for a ride every single episode. Within the first twenty seconds of the first episode, I witnessed a spectacle that immediately set the tone for everything that this anime was willing to put out. Death, fear, and social unrest will take the forefront in guiding you down a path illuminated by the one true human desire -- the need to live. The great thing about Parasyte is that not only the main character evolves throughout the course of the show, but the world and even the parasites themselves are evolving, both literally and figuratively. It's always refreshing seeing a show that isn't afraid of killing off characters. But seeing one that kills them off just because they are weak is a phantasm I will always look forward to, no matter how dark that may sound.

6) Sakura Trick

Okay listen up, Sakura Trick coming in at number six MIGHT make me look like a bitch. Especially after Parasyte came in at number seven. BUT this damn anime is filled with so much cuteness that I literally overloaded week after week until the point where I wished I was a lesbian high school girl. Do you know how many times I've ever wished something like that before? Zero. Never even thought of it. But now, oh man, you don't even get it. At least not until you feast your eyes on this. Sakura Trick follows best-friends Haruka Takayama and Yuu Sonoda as they make a promise to always be together. They then seal this promise with a kiss in the shadows of an abandoned classroom and try their best to keep their relationship a secret from everyone else. Haruka and Yuu have the best on-screen romance and chemistry out of any other couple this year, hands down. They are completely dependent on one another and you will cheer them on the same way you'd cheer on a best-friend confessing to some girl he's been secretly Facebook-stalking for years. The story is barely there, but those two are just so cute together that it overshadows everything else you could possibly want out of an anime.

5) Tokyo Ghoul

Dark fantasy is a genre I've been interested in ever since my days in middle school. When you mix that with horror, something I've loved for even longer, there are only several ways you can go wrong. But none of those ways find their way into Studio Pierrot's "Tokyo Ghoul". The Ghouls are a superhuman race that have been running rampant through different districts in Tokyo, killing and eating humans in order to survive. But these ghouls aren't just mindless killing machines. They are intellectual creatures and have dreams and desires the same way humans do. Ken Kaneki becomes a ghoul after having the organs of a deceased one transplanted into him after the two suffered a would-be fatal accident. From that point on, we follow him as he undergoes a transformation in which his human self starts to fade away. Kaneki must fight the urge to consume those he once walked alongside, but at the same time he must stay alive. The greatest part of Tokyo Ghoul lies within the remarkable voice acting from literally ever single character. Up-and-comer, Natsuki Hanae, seemingly becomes Kaneki during his transformation, and I can't even put to words how impressed I was. Tokyo Ghoul only gets better as it goes on. The most fantastic part, however, is that you will wind up wanting the ghouls to win instead of the humans.

4) Akame Ga Kill!

Akame Ga Kill isn't your average "Warring kingdoms" anime. Instead, it is an action-packed voyage through the workings of Night Raid, a group of assassins that our main character, Tatsumi, gets himself caught up in. Each member of Night Raid is immensely different from the next, but they are all lovable in their own way. You wind up caring and worrying for each one within just a few hours. But just when you find yourself getting a little too attached to a specific character, they are yanked away from you and you are left petrified when everything was bright and sunny just moments before. The story actually makes progress and so do the characters (The ones that stay alive, at least). And within almost no time at all, yet ANOTHER assassination group is sprung on you with a cast of characters that nearly parallel those of Night Raid. So now viewers are stuck cheering on one of the two groups only to find that they aren't very different at all. Although it might take a few episodes for Akame Ga Kill to get into the right mood, it quickly becomes an unforgettable tale and a contender for one of the best war-stories to ever be animated.

3) Shigatsu Wa Kimi No Uso (Your Lie In April)

Being a singer/songwriter, it's easy to say that music has always been a huge part of my life ever since I was young. But for the main characters of Your Lie In April, music is the only thing that keeps them going. After losing his mother at young age, Kousei Arima can no longer hear the sound of his piano. Being an award-winning concert pianist without the ability to hear, he drops his talent altogether and falls out of what was once his entire life. That is, until he meets another musically-inclined girl one day that has a secret and a past of her own. Needless to say, Your Lie In April tugs on your heartstrings from the get-go and continues to boost tissue-sales all across the country every Thursday. The sound quality is remarkable the same way the characters are. The story-telling is unparalleled and riddled with flashbacks to a time when things were much better than what they have become. And with perhaps the strongest character development of the year, Your Lie In April is safely locked as a personal favorite of mine.

2) Shirobako

At its core, anime is just another form of visual entertainment -- the same way movies and regular television shows are. And just like in those aspects in the industry, there are many different forces that must come together in order to properly craft it. Shirobako gives us a glimpse into the world of actually making anime, and a very realistic and accurate one at that. The only thing that Aoi Miyamori knows for certain is that she wants to work in the anime industry. But once she winds up inside it and sees everyone with pre-determined aspirations of EXACTLY what they want to do, she starts to question why her dreams aren't as specific as theirs. Shirobako is gleaming with comedy and an extensive cast of characters that all get the screen-time they deserve. And I'm talking a good 30+ characters -- it's an entire studio's worth. The problems these characters face are realistic and easily extend outwards to the real-world in which many of us aspiring filmmakers and anime-makers inhabit in the same exact manner. Considering how I can personally relate to this story and how it's so different from anything else I've seen animated, it is easy to say that Shirobako is an all-time favorite of mine that it pained me to put at number two instead of number one.

1) Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works Pt. 1

For those that know me personally, this shouldn't be that much of a surprise. I've been a huge fan of the Fate series for years now. And being the avid fan that I am, hearing of another installment focusing on my favorite character, Rin Tohsaka, easily gained my attention. Unlike the Unlimited Blade Works movie from 2010, this episodic version does not feel rushed and adds many new aspects that even the Blade Works route in the visual novel didn't touch. In addition to that, the first two episodes are each the length of a short movie and set the tone of the story right away. The original voice cast is back once again and they are explosive in their respective performances. Hell, if the second season of this route is as good as the first, it might even wind up as my favorite Fate adaptation out of all of them. If you haven't gotten into the series, I highly implore you to do so. If you have tried to get into the series and it wasn't your cup of tea, try again with this series. It is great for both newcomers and avid fans alike. Equipped with an unforgettable cast and a story riddled with so much loss and despair, it is no surprise that Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works Pt. 1 has come out victorious as the best anime of 2014.

Thanks for reading, everyone. It has been a fantastic year in anime. I'll see you all next year.

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