The first day of 2015 means it’s the first day we can turn, look back, and reflect upon 2014 as a whole. Today, I aim to present the results of my own introspection and analysis on all the anime I watched in 2014. I will present my final thoughts on the most remarkable, memorable and outstanding anime that aired in 2014 by revealing lists for both my favorite characters of the year and the top anime of 2014. So, how exactly will I remember 2014, and which of the anime that aired is simply the best to me?
A quick note before beginning: the lists for 2014 will have 14 characters and 14 anime because it’s the least I could do to honor 2014. Additionally, these lists are just on the television anime of the year and will not include movies or OVAs. Furthermore, it includes any anime that aired in 2014 regardless of when it began or when it ends, so some of the anime and characters from previous years will be making appearances again.
Top 14 Characters of 2014:
Honorable Mentions: Naoto Shirogane (Persona 4 the Golden Animation), Dio Brando (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders), and Akane Tsunemori (Psycho-Pass 2)
All three characters appeared in this favorite character list for previous years when their original anime aired. However, the reason they failed to make the list for 2014, despite retaining most of their strong characterizations and commanding influences in their franchises, is either due to their reduced roles in anime this year (Dio) or a significantly substandard sequel or spin-off of the original anime (Naoto and Akane) that affected my perception of them this year. For example, Naoto didn’t really change as a character for Persona 4 the Golden Animation, but she never shined like when she had her character arc or when she helped solve the murder mysteries like in Persona 4 the Animation. I want to take a moment to still acknowledge their place as some of my favorite characters of all-time, as I still have high praise for each. However, given their lack of screentime or disagreeable sequel/spin-off, I feel that they don’t meet the same criteria as the candidates for Top 14 Characters of 2014.
14. Inari Fushimi (Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha)
Inari’s selflessness and unyielding resolve to help her friends through Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha made this special lass one of my favorites. Combine that with her frequent comical situations and her bright cheery smile, and it’d be impossible to dislike this sweetheart protagonist.
13. Aoi Miyamori (Shirobako)
Aoi Miyamori is our perspective to the modern anime industry, were we view our five heroines maturing as young professionals while also learning the inherent hardships with anime. What makes Aoi such a remarkable character is how well she relates to everyone around her and how easy it is for us to relate to her. Due to her characterization, it is easy for us to understand her trials and triumphs as well as her passion for anime. Aoi is also extremely expressive, thanks to the wild array of reactions and expressions she has. She is a fun, optimistic character and an outstanding lead for Shirobako.
12. Saber (Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works)
What makes Saber so notable is the contrast between her serious and sensitive sides. In battle, her gallant and altruistic personality is incredible as she does whatever she can to protect her master, Shirou. But outside of battle, Saber is a thoughtful, compassionate girl who works to make her allies better people. However, in making everyone better around her, she makes herself the best character in FSN: UBW.
11. Aki Mikage (Silver Spoon S2)
Aki is a gentle and amiable farm girl who always wears a smile on her face. Aki might be a little dimwitted, but she is continues to diligently work on improving herself, her farm and those around her. Aki manages to make everything around her better, and her character improved in this second season by revealing some complexity to her character and her situation with the family farm.
10. Tokaku Azuma (Akuma no Riddle)
What I find impressive about Tokaku’s character is how she evolved throughout Akuma no Riddle. Her story is one of how ignored her duty as an assassin and fought to protect Haru’s life, becoming the exact opposite of what she was. We watched Tokaku develop from an emotionless, cold-blooded assassin to a thoughtful, benevolent person. And though she never really expressed her emotions, she you could tell she was happy with her new life. Moreover, this process was due to her choice, under her own willpower, and she labored to make herself a better person which is why I think so highly of her character.
9. Aoi Yukimura (Yama no Susume Second Season)
Aoi Yukimura was always timid, fearful, and nervous when trying new things, and throughout Yama no Susume, she retained these characteristics. Still, that did not prevent Aoi from attempting something new, and we saw her grow through each challenge. Her character development was rich throughout, and we always were around to witness her anxiety and share in her achievements. She even became more knowledgeable and outgoing and ambitious, and even made a friend in Honoka before the season ended. Aoi’s development as a character climbed to new heights in this second season, yet she still felt like the same character in the beginning given her chemistry with Hinata.
8. Hiyori Iki (Noragami)
Hiyori continues along with this theme of generous and kindhearted characters, as her role was memorable in Noragami for working hard to support both Yato and Yukine rather than solving her own problem of leaving her body for long periods of time. What puts Hiyori high on my list is her comedy and curiosity, how she was frequently in a humorous situation and how she explored the world of the gods and tried to improve it despite being merely a human. Also, that cat tail that linked her soul to her body was both innovative and very cute.
7. Najenda (Akame ga Kill!)
Strong and resilient, Najenda was a lone beacon of that stood for justice and integrity in a world drunk on brutality, sadism, corruption. She deviated from the norm, from her comfortable home in the Empire, and reinvented herself, making her life a mission to return peace and safety to humanity. Najenda is also intelligent, smooth and actually quite friendly, and works to act as a mentor for the young assassins she trains. In an anime thronging with characters you’re supposed to disagree with or dislike, Najenda was there for you to admire, respect and agree with. Because of how well she contrasts everyone else in Akame ga Kill!, I adore her as a character that much more.
6. Yaya Sasame (Hanayamata)
For me to enjoy a tsundere, there needs to be a balance between the two halves and more than just that one-dimension to their character. Thankfully, Yaya embodies these qualities and much, much more in Hanayamata. Despite her calm and cool personality, Yaya struggled with jealousy and dishonesty, was unsure how to express herself, took it out on her best friend and nearly lost her for it. As her story arc resolved, Yaya displayed outstanding character development and evolved into a compassionate friend that reflected how Naru treated her. Moreover, she continued to keep that happy and suave personality and continues to work hard to support Naru and the Yosakoi Dance Club.
5. Naru Sekiya (Hanayamata)
Remember that tidbit of Yaya almost losing her best friend? That’d be Naru. Like Yaya, Naru faced her own challenges in Hanayamata, which was that she lacked self-confidence, was always nervous, and easily frustrated. Yet, she was the friendliest, gentlest girl and loved everyone around her. Naru would always strive to make everyone around her better, even if she was afraid or didn’t know what to do. Throughout the series, she supported every character through their difficulties and she matured as a result. Naru’s story in Hanayamata is easily one of the best of the year.
4. Mako Mankanshoku (KILL la KILL)
Although Mako’s role in KILL la KILL was primarily comic relief, Mako was the only one to support Ryuuko throughout the series. From start to finish, Mako was almost always there for Ryuuko to fall back on. Her blissful, optimistic personality was always the right ingredient to push Ryuuko in the right direction, and her encouragement was integral to the success of the anime. Additionally, Mako had some significant roles later in the anime, which is a reflection of her admiration for Ryuuko. This is what a supporting character should be like in an anime, both in terms of their role as backing, as friends and as comic relief.
3. Joseph Joestar (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders)
They took the best JoJo and made him even better in Part III. Even though Joseph Joestar was spectacular as the protagonist in Battle Tendency, his supporting role in Stardust Crusaders made him even more enjoyable. Joseph still retains some of his childish charm from the first anime, but he now is the rock for Jotaro and the others. Joseph is now wiser, more sensible and even more cunning than he was before. Additionally, his humor has evolved greatly, especially with his trademark exclamations in English. Joseph was always a beloved character, but now he is so much more. I am eager to see what happens to him in Egypt, especially since it will do more to his character in relation to his role in the story.
2. Ginko (Mushishi Zoku Shou)
Ginko is a phenomenal person with such meticulous detail in his character. Everything from his clothes to his tobacco to his hair and one green eye and his life have all been described and detailed somewhere in this series. Additionally, he represented more than just himself, symbolizing the transition of an evolving Japan. Additionally, his philanthropic personality as a mushishi allows him to positively affect the lives of society, diagnosing a person’s ailment and providing them the means to fix their problems. Ginko is truly inspiration as a character and a significant reason why Mushishi is one of the most beloved and celebrated anime of all-time.
1. Ryuuko Matoi (KILL la KILL)
Ryuuko continued to develop as one of my favorite characters of all-time in the latter half of KILL la KILL. With the second half of the anime, we understood more about her character, and how she continued to be lost and contradict herself, even becoming the enemy she was attempting to defeat. However, as she fought through her battles and was supported by those around her, Ryuuko finally found harmony in herself. Ryuuko ultimately became the person she always wanted to become, and we saw her display this new, positive persona in the KILL la KILL OVA. Combine that with everything else I wrote about her yesteryear, and it’s actually quite straightforward as to why Ryuuko is one of my favorite characters of all-time.
Favorite OP and ED of 2014:
OP: Yama no Susume Second Season OP1 (Natsuiro no Present [Summer-Colored Present])
Of all the anime openings this year, Yama no Susume Second Season OP1 has the best combination of song and visuals. While there is more than handful for my favorite OP song of the year, none even compare to the sensational colors, animation and themes present in this OP. The OP does an outstanding job of representing this remarkable anime, and its catchy, upbeat song does well to mirror the enthusiasm of the girls as they set off on their outdoor adventures.
ED: Witch Craft Works ED (Witch Activity)
Were you expecting anything else? After writing about the Witch Craft Works ED for my 12 Days of Anime post, is there any surprise to see it here? While it is true that I never watched any of the TV anime, the ED is so endearing and cute that I can’t help but listen to it over and over again. There were a few other EDs to consider here, but not brought the same level of enjoyment as this one.
Top 14 Anime of 2014:
Honorable Mention: Silver Spoon S2
Silver Spoon S2 is exactly 15th on my list (the only anime that I ranked a 9 to miss this list), so it’s very fitting to see it here as the honorable mention for 2014. The primary reason why I wanted to include it here over some notable movie or OVA is that I found this second season to be a significant improvement from the first, principally in how Hachiken’s character matured, how the events of the episodes was more challenging, and how the content of the stories affected the characters. The leap from S1 to S2 is one of the greatest in all anime for me.
A pleasant blend of rich comedy and charming characters made Noragami a delightful anime for 2014. What made this anime memorable, and one of the most impressive shows of the year, is the dazzling chemistry between the main characters, Hiyori, Yato and Yukine, and how all three brought a different personality and perspective to both amusing and severe situations. The drama and story had some weaknesses, and the romance was nothing special, but they did little to really detract from the overall enjoyment of the series.
Aldnoah.Zero had its faults, sure, but the anime developed and continued a distinctive theme throughout, both for its story and characters. It also impressed with its depiction of real robots fighting against super robots, making it one of the few anime to combine the two. These exceptionally different fields within the mecha genre provided a great contrast between the two armies, and it helped show the resourcefulness of Inaho. However, given that Inaho never changed, that most of the cast was underutilized, and that the action scenes were mediocre, Aldnoah.Zero places low on this list despite some of the best ideas and concepts of the year.
12. Space Dandy
Every episode was a unique adventure, leading the anime to fluctuate wildly between highs and lows. However, the finale did a marvelous job of unifying each individual story and provided an acceptable answer to why every thing was everything in Space Dandy. Furthermore, the artistic creativity and exceptional storytelling for most episodes made this anime one of the most unforgettable of 2014. I wouldn’t mind more projects like or Sengoku Collection this in the near future.
11. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
Although Stardust Crusaders is a step down from Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure continues to impress in all major phases: art, characters, entertainment, setting, story, and sound. Of particular note is how the series managed to stay diverse in how it utilized each Stand despite repeating the same story pattern for a majority of its run across two seasons. The anime depended heavily on each Stand and each story, but the anime was consistently great with only a few episodes dropping to merely ‘good’. Still, I expected more after the success of S1, and I’m curious to see how this anime improves with the Egypt Arc beginning in January 2015.
10. Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha
Easily one of the biggest surprises of the year, Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha was notable thanks to its lead character, Inari Fushimi, and some of the best comedy of the year. Inari’s unyielding dedication to helping her friends and strangers was a bright spot in each episode, especially as she continued to mess things up and make situations even more awkward given her ability to transform into other people. Still, you couldn’t help but cheer for Inari and how much she cared for everyone around her. The setting was enchanting, the stories were thorough, and the characters beautifully detailed and developed, but I think the humor and amusement are what I’ll remember first when thinking back to Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha.
Shirobako is a brilliant anime that embraces realism in its story, characters and setting. And while the anime follows the lives of five friends trying to survive in the difficult animation industry, their struggles and challenges are very relatable to anyone who is beginning a new career. Shirobako allows the audience to laugh, cry, empathize and understand its characters, which is truly a marvel for both its content and characterization. Shirobako is also an outstanding ambassador for the animation industry and provides educational context within its stories. Fortunately for us, this is not the end of Shirobako as the anime will continue into 2015. Still, the 12 episodes we received in 2014 are easily one of the best of the year, and there is a good chance that it will be one of the best in 2015, too.
8. Yama no Susume Second Season
Yama no Susume Second Season turned a pleasant short about mountaineering into a charming, encouraging and satisfying anime about attempting new things, friendship, and growing-up. To me, most of the appeal of Yama no Susume was watching Aoi face her fears, try something new, experience a setback and actually work to overcome her challenges. However, what raised the series to prominence is how the anime handled the climb up Mt. Fuji and the episodes after the descent. The anime always had a high level of entertainment and education, and each story was crafted for the audience to have fun, learn something new, and watch these four girls grow up and grow closer together. With the anime introducing Honoka at the end and with Mt. Fuji still unresolved, I am hoping for another season sometime soon. Yama no Susume is a beautiful and gratifying anime, and I am can’t wait for it to continue.
Hanayamata was spectacular in every category, but its charm, chemistry, and its utilization of its characters made it one of the best anime of 2014. Hanayamata has a fantastically special and exceptional identity thanks to its uplifting characters, heartwarming aesthetics, and Naru continuously striving to improve herself and inspire others around her. The chemistry between the characters was perfect, as each would support another through their hardships, and there was balance with their different personalities. However, my favorite part is that all six characters had their own convincing and distinctive stories intertwine with each other, and each of their conflicts were appropriately resolved throughout the series. And all this without once mentioning its matchless setting on yosakoi dance, its elegant dancing animations, its meticulous dedication to details and motifs, and its delightful comedy with chibi characterizations. Don’t get me wrong, Hanayamata is an anime about cute girls doing cute things, but you’d hardly notice given that the anime is so rich, so powerful, so expressive, and so remarkable.
6. Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta (Pilot’s Love Song)
The setting is the foundation for every anime, and Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta had perhaps the most striking, picturesque, imaginative and comprehensive setting of the year. However, what elevates Pilot’s Love Song to the pinnacle of settings is that it is enriched by its connected with other works, including one of my favorite anime movies of all-time, Toaru Hikuushi e no Tsukioku (The Princess and the Pilot), and two other novels on other pilots in this world. And built from this setting is a very solid anime, about a story of friendship, discovery, betrayal, and romance with a pleasant cast of students going into war. The anime did have a number of setbacks, including some dreadful art/animation, awkward pacing and storytelling clichés, but the anime was innovative with its content and featured countless elements that I adore in an anime. I am very fortunate to have watched this anime in 2014, and I strongly recommend both this and The Princess and the Pilot to any and every fan of anime.
5. Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works
Since I am new to Fate/stay night, I am unspoiled to its characters, the mechanics of this world, its setting and its story. For someone naïve to the franchise, I have been constantly intrigued and engaged with the story which is why FSN: UBW ranks so highly. However, the art is breath-taking and unparalleled this year, especially with its serene backgrounds and elaborate prop design (the best prop design I have ever seen in an anime). The battle animation is unsurpassed too, with each battle feeling overwhelming in terms of significance. The fights are so beautifully choreographed and precise that even the fights alone, with no context to the story or characters, would be among the top anime of the year. It’s also worth mentioning how interesting the Holy Grail War is to me with each master and servant. The only aspect keeping this anime from being higher is that there are lulls in the series when the dialogues and conversations seemingly last forever. Still, without a doubt, FSN: UBW is one of my favorite anime of 2014, and I’m excited to see it continue in 2015.
4. Ping Pong the Animation
Ping Pong the Animation is an incredibly cerebral and visionary anime that marries artistic symbolism with a methodical story. Everything in Ping Pong is clear and calculated, and the characters and story slowly evolve naturally around the five primary characters. The maturity of the characters is truly inspiration. Ping Pong also featured some of the most remarkable animation this season with the matches having unequaled cinematography, utilizing the camera like no other anime this year. The anime was often both exhilarating and mentally-stimulating, making it delightful for people who enjoy artsy anime and those who enjoy entertaining anime. No question, Ping Pong is simply one of the best anime that aired in 2014.
3. Nagi no Asukara
I frequently claim that romance is my least favorite genre in anime, but that’s more a critique about the quality of romance in anime than how I truly feel about the genre. Nagi no Asukara embodies all the correct qualities in a romance anime, which are conflict, emotion, comedy, and an overarching story beyond the romance that its grounded in or related to the romance. In a sense, Nagi no Asukara is one of the few perfect romances for me. The anime successfully narrated a story for each of the 7 primary characters, with each having an influence on each other and having a significant impact on the overall story. The setting, an amalgamation of two passionate, yet conflicting societies, a graceful and violent mythology, and a timeskip that completely altered the dynamic of the story and characters, is absolutely one of the best this year. Oh yes, and the scenic backgrounds throughout were truly a delight for my eyes. Nagi no Asukara is an incredible anime that helped reawaken my attention for romance anime.
2. Mushishi Zoku Shou
Mushishi Zoku Shou is a model of consistency, in that every episode demonstrates an astounding quality in its narrative, storytelling and themes. Mushishi Zoku Shou is masterful with its stories, not only being very eloquent with its characters, but relating their own personal struggles with the supernatural mushi of the week. Every episode is poetic and expressive, and every story is enjoyable to watch as it unfolds. Ginko’s kindheartedness and knowledge are particularly fascinating, since he provides each patient with the method to cure their ailment without doing everything himself (although sometimes, he pretty much does all the hard work). There’s also that level of mysticism and fantasy that makes every episode enchanting, and the setting is a personal favorite with its structureless world and scenic landscapes. What helped bump this sequel above the original for me is that I felt the content of the stories were improved, and the art took a step in the right direction. Thanks to Mushishi Zoku Shou, this franchise has quickly become a favorite of mine and is now one of my top anime of all-time.
1. KILL la KILL
Is there any surprise to see KILL la KILL as the top anime of 2014? KILL la KILL is everything I love about anime. With its unrelenting passion and unquenchable vitality, KILL la KILL was brimming with emotion in every episode, and it was illustrated through its glorious animation. The action was beyond ideal, with so many fights performed with so much energy. Its personality is highly explicit and unique to anime, and every episode exemplified its uncommon style, in terms of its characters, its visuals, its story and comedy. Yes, there are faults with this anime, like with every anime, but it excelled more than anything else in recent memory to me thanks to these points. The experience of watching KILL la KILL is unbelievable and one that I will truly cherish. Yes, without a doubt, KILL la KILL is the top anime of 2014 for me and safely within my top anime of all-time.