Anime Monographia’s Top 5 Anime of 2014

Picking up right where we left off, I conclude 2014 Anime Awards with the Top 5 List. This year, I sampled over 50 anime titles, consistently following at least 7-8 titles per season, and finished 30. While many have commented that 2014 was a weaker year than 2013, I would say that 2014 had a lot more variety and there were many pleasant surprises among expected unpleasant ones.

Every year has its stinkers, but it was no problem to find five titles I enjoyed this year. Not to say that these titles are objectively the best of the best, but they shine at what they set out to do and are well worth a try!

Honorable Mention: Garo: The Carved Seal of Flames (Garo: Honoo no Kokuin)

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Studio: MAPPA          Air Date: October 3rd 2014 – ongoing

Accolades: Best Fantasy/Tolkien Award, Most Underrated (Runner-Up), German Luis for Best Guy

Before I start on the Top 5 list, I wanted to give a shout-out to Garo, which would have easily made this year’s list if it weren’t for the fact that it’s still currently airing. An epic fantasy title overshadowed by its swashbuckling counterpart Shingeki no Bahamut, Garo is a quieter, more nuanced take on the hero’s journey, where the greatest obstacles the hero has to overcome are not so much the physical monsters he fights, but the darkness he harbors in his own heart.

5. Gonna be the Twintail!! (Ore, Twintail ni Narimasu!!)

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Studio: Production IMS          Air Date: October 9th – December 25th, 2014

Accolades: Best Use of Fanservice

The premise–a guy, with a love for twintail hair, transforms into a twintailed girl to fight alien invaders with various girl fetishes–seemed absurd enough to try but didn’t seem particularly impressive. Easily the most “watchable” out of this year’s Top 5, Ore Twintail was perhaps, the hugest surprise for me. A marvelously inane parody of tokusatsu tropes, Ore Twintail‘s strength lies in its delight in its use of fanservice and superhero tropes while not ever taking itself too seriously. It knows it’s silly and doesn’t care a damn about how it might be received. We could all use a little of Soji’s undying passion for twintails, because really, I think we secretly envy the people who are able to freely enjoy what they like rather than hide our hobbies and pretend to be well adjusted, normal folk. What’s wrong with liking twintails? They’re pretty darn cute.

4. Tokyo Ghoul

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Studio: Pierrot          Air Date: July 3rd – September 18th, 2014

Accolades: Best Horror

An anime that needs little introduction, Tokyo Ghoul is a must-watch for fans who prefer a meatier horror flick. Following in the footsteps of ShikiTokyo Ghoul deftly maps out the treacherous line between human and monster, all through the eyes of Kaneki Ken, a university student who is unfortunate enough to become the result of an unscrupulous doctor’s surgical experiment (seriously, where were those patient consent forms?) and develops an appetite for human flesh. Occasionally melancholic, sporadically hysterical, and often campy, Tokyo Ghoul is quite the emotional watch, and its heart-stopping finale especially difficult to stomach. I’d recommend watching the uncensored version (even as someone who’s not big on gore, the censored version was quite hilarious to watch). At the very least, you’ll never look at your food the same way again.

3. Nobunaga Concerto

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Studio: unknown          Air Date: July 12th – September 20th, 2014

Accolades: Most Underrated, Best Historical Drama

Undoubtedly the most unwatched anime of the year (aside from Shounen Hollywood), Nobunaga Concerto is not your typical Nobunaga anime. It is the Nobunaga anime, one that manages to capture the feel of history rather than just pay lip service to it. Although the animation style may put off most viewers, Nobunaga Concerto is surprisingly intelligent, with a superstar seiyu cast (you’d be hard pressed to find Miyano Mamoru, Kaji Yuki, Mizuki Nana, and Yuki Aoi in the same anime) and excellent dialogue. More importantly, it manages to make history interesting. Expect to leave this series with a slightly fuller brain–Nobunaga Concerto might teach you a thing or two.

2. Magi: The Kingdom of Magic

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Studio: A-1 Pictures          Air Date: October 6th 2013 – March 30th 2014

Accolades: Best Sequel

With the aniblogosphere in full HunterxHunter mania this year, I’d imagine Magi: The Kingdom of Magic flew slightly under the radar this year. Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic was already a fine shonen in its own right–Kingdom of Magic, its sequel, made it even better. As the story of Aladdin, Alibaba and Morgiana moves to the global stage, we’re treated to more cultures, including the Hogwarts-esque Magnostadt, the “Roman” empire of Reim and the fearsome Kou empire in its full imperial Chinese grandeur. While the new emphasis on international politics continues Magi‘s world-building on a grander, epic scale, Magi never forgets its strong roots in characterization, and its dedication to the people and their struggles to live.

1. Black Butler: Book of Circus (Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus)

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Studio: A-1 Pictures          Air Date: July 10th – September 12th, 2014

Accolades: Best Adaptation, Best Sequel (Runner-Up)

Who doesn’t love the circus? While Kuroshitsuji may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I’d highly recommend Book of Circus a try. Most studios struggle to fit a cohesive story into your standard one-cour length of 12-13 episodes. Book of Circus shows that this can be done in ten episodes. Perfect as either a stand-online series or as the true spiritual successor to the popular first season of KuroshitsujiBook of Circus is guaranteed to enthrall and provoke. Despite having a large cast of characters, Book of Circus balances character development with plot movement against the perfectly colorful and sinister Noah’s Ark Circus backdrop. Not all stories have happy endings, and it’s often the tragic ones that stay with us. And mark my words, Book of Circus’s ending will stay with you.

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6 thoughts on “Anime Monographia’s Top 5 Anime of 2014

  1. Yeah, Magi seems to have flown under people’s radars this year. I enjoyed it, though. I didn’t find it as charming as the first season, though, and the war was kind of a slog to get through.

    Speaking of which, you never finished your Magi essays, did you? I was really enjoying those…

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    1. Haha, guilty as charged. I’ll be finishing up the two remaining Magi essays sometime in the early half of this year. (Scheherazade’s essay should be fun to write). I meant to finish those last year but fall season and real life caught me off guard. With 12 Days out of the way though, I’ll have some more time to write some longer pieces.

      I can see why you would prefer the first season–it’s a lot more character focused, but I kind of dig how epic Magi’s getting (and if you’re following the manga, it’s pretty darn epic). To be sure, it’s a tougher act to balance politics, war and characterization but Magi’s done that okay so far. The Magnostadt arc was one of my favorites and Mogamett was a very complex, empathisable antagonist.

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  2. Keep on spreading the Magi love. You’ve picked a nice screenshot here; Magi had a talent for looking quite dynamic, if not for consistency.

    I love the show. In hindsight, though, I find myself forgetting details about it, though never the spine of the story or any of the characters. And that, I suppose, is the unfortunate thing about Magi: its got remarkable bones, and that makes you wish that it was remarkable all the time.

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    1. That’s a really good way of describing Magi! As long as Magi sticks to its characters, rather than forget itself in trying to do too much, the story will stay fresh. Yep, Magi offers lots of opportunities for good screenshots–even with the action scenes, we get very crisp images, which is something I can’t say for other titles.

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  3. I haven’t seen Nobunaga Concerto, although I heard of a live-action Japanese drama of the same name. Supposedly some events and characterisation was altered.

    Side note : Nobunaga the Fool wasn’t bad, but you really needed to know tarot card meanings and how they related to that week’s episode’s events and/or characterisation. Sometimes I felt they were forcing the story to match the weekly tarot theme.

    Garo: I watched a bit of the source tokusatsu series. Most times the main leads are surly, silent types, who always wear trenchcoats; something like Leon. It’s more violent than normal tokusatsu, although still just as campy looking.

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    1. For Nobunaga Concerto, I haven’t seen the live-action either (I suppose I will at some point), but I’ve heard that it wasn’t as good as the anime.

      I liked the premise for Nobunaga the Fool well enough (a historical story crossed with some alternate universe sci-fi and mechas? Sign me up) but the execution of the narrative left me disappointed. It was still better than Nobunagun, which was absolutely pointless.

      For Garo, haha, you must have seen the first two series, featuring Saeijma Kouga. Yeah, he’s as surly as they get but the newer Garo series break away from this mold (if you haven’t yet, check out Yami o Terasu Mono and/or Makai no Hana). I like Ryuga and Raiga because they’re much friendly and quirkier than Kouga, who Leon seems to be modeled after. Will be interested to see how they develop Leon’s character now that he’s lost Garo to another (which is something that’s never happened to any of the Garo protagonists). I rather enjoy the blend of violence and camp, though I imagine it might be an acquired taste.

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