Your Top 5 Anime of 2014 (And Ours)
5: Fate/stay night
There were some really fantastic shows this year, and quite a few of them would've been right at home on this list. Fate/stay night makes the cut thanks to its spectacular action scenes and engaging story. It's rare to see quality writing and animation come together in a single series, but both easily hold their own here. Compelling heroes and villains make the battle sequences all the more enjoyable, and I'd be hard-pressed to decide on a favorite character. Considering my long-standing nerd crush on Saber, that's really saying something.
4: Ping Pong
Ping Pong certainly stood out with its unusual visual style, but that's not why it's fourth on my list. What impresses me is the show's ability to avoid the pacing issues that so often plague sports anime. Plenty of screen time is devoted to letting the characters grow and evolve outside the context of the sport. This lets the matches unfold organically, uninterrupted by obnoxious expository monologues. The various rivalries are all compelling in their own way, and the characters’ abilities are just far enough over the top to be entertaining. As fun as it is to follow a long sports show from season to season, many of them could learn a thing or two from Ping Pong.
Making a good slice of life show is tough. When the story plods along at its own pace, the characters and visuals need to carry an extra share of the weight. Get it wrong and you risk boring the audience to death. Get right and you end up with something like Barakamon. This series somehow manages to be relaxing, witty, and thoughtful at the same time. It has a lot to say about creativity and community for anyone who's interested, and offers a pleasant escape from the daily grind for everyone else. For a fine example of the genre, look no further.
2: Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun
Most of the shows on this list do multiple things well, but Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun is a bit different. Its writing isn't especially deep, and the animation is nothing special. On the other hand, it's an absolute riot to watch. Whether it's poking fun at more serious titles or simply delivering goofy character humor, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is an unrelenting barrage of comedy. It's been a long time since an anime series made me laugh so hard, and that feat alone is worth praising. Sometimes getting one thing right is more than enough.
1: Space Dandy
With a landslide of new anime available every season, it's all too easy to get burnt out. Mediocre titles start to melt into one another, congealing into an unpleasant blob of monotony. You start to feel like you've seen everything there is to see, which is what makes shows like Space Dandy so important. It's the kind of series that takes viewers’ expectations and casually tosses them out the window. Each episode goes in its own crazy direction, common sense and genre conventions be damned. Sometimes it falls flat on its face, but the mistakes are far outweighed by raw creativity and a palpable sense of enthusiasm. Space Dandy is stubbornly unpredictable, completely bonkers, and not at all what I expected it to be. Simply put, it's a reminder of what makes anime so much fun to watch.
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