Your Top 5 Anime of 2014 (And Ours)
Amy McNulty

Amy McNulty is a contributing member of the Daily Streaming Reviews team. She heroically covers Naruto Shippuden for us, along with Gugure Kokkuri-san and Wolf Girl & Black Prince. Earlier this year she covered Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun.
5: Hozuki no Reitetsu
Who knew hell and bureaucracy could be this much fun? The look of Hozuki no Reitetsu is like a classical Japanese painting brought to life, complete with King Enma, oni and heroes from Japanese folklore. Although you may have to brush up on Japanese mythology to appreciate many of the jokes, the payoff is well worth your effort. Deadpan Hozuki, one of hell's top-ranking government officials, is more obsessed with bureaucracy and order than Futurama's Hermes Conrad, and the secondary characters, particularly the bloodthirsty yet adorable animals, almost make Japanese hell seem like a place viewers would want to visit. Almost.

4: Barakamon
Making a living in a creative field is tenuous at best, and if you're one of the lucky few to gain recognition and earn decent money for what you do, you should probably avoid punching your critics in the face. Professional Japanese calligrapher Seishu Handa learns this the hard way, and to escape the scandal of injuring an important curator in the field, he moves to a tiny island to hone his art and cool his head. The place is sparsely populated at best, and Seishu has no choice but to become friendly with the folksy, welcoming residents, particularly a precocious little girl named Naru. I'm a sucker for slice of life, middle-of-nowhere countryside stories that are big on laughs and devoid of melodrama—and in both of these respects, Barakamon delivered in spades.

3: Mushishi: The Next Chapter

When the first season of Mushishi aired nearly a decade ago, it quickly became one of my favorite series, so it's no surprise that the long-awaited follow-up made it into my annual top five. The dreamlike atmosphere, refined color palette and slow-but-not-too-lax pacing always put me in a relaxed mood. The episodic style and supernatural twists facing laidback protagonist Ginko in every story make the series perfect for both viewing in small doses and for marathoning.

2: Parasyte -the maxim-

When the Parasyte manga was first serialized in Mixx Zine, I wasn't yet a horror fan, so my young, squeamish self couldn't read more than a few issues of the parasitic alien invasion story before throwing in the towel. At the time, I never would have guessed that all these years later, it would get an anime adaptation that keeps me so consistently riveted. While sometimes squirm-inducing, the animated version of Parasyte is hardly as grotesque as I remember. There's observable character growth in protagonist Shinichi Izumi, a tension-wracked plotline and the real sense that danger exists for these characters around every corner. I particularly love watching Migi, the parasite infecting Shinichi, analyze the emotional humans around him with callous and unprejudiced observations.

1: Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun

Although he pens a popular shōjo manga empirically, high schooler Umetaro Nozaki has considerable trouble reading the atmosphere. Classmate Chiyo Sakura has had a crush on him since before she knew he created manga under a pen name and her multiple failed attempts to confess her feelings ultimately lead Nozaki to believe that she's a fan. Always on the hunt for free labor, Nozaki wastes no time in recruiting Sakura as an assistant. The rest of the cast serves as models for Nozaki's manga, although often with a twist. (The timid, easily embarrassed female protagonist in the manga comes from his observations of a playboy with a secret shy side, for instance.) With its four-panel comic pacing and deliciously flawed characters, the laugh-a-minute Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is my top pick of 2014.


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