Top Picks – The Top 10 Anime of 2014 (Bryan’s Picks)

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Following the curtain call of my college career this past year, I had been expecting a relatively paltry lineup for my top 10 anime series of 2014. However, once I started compiling all of the series that I finished last year and comparing them to each other, I found that I actually had a quite respectable selection of anime to choose from. Before I knew it, I was having a hard to picking favorites because there were so many good series I wanted to include on the list.

On paper, 2014 didn’t feel as good as 2013 was in terms of anime, but I’m certainly impressed and pleased with the list you see below. Hopefully some of these picks coincide with yours, and if not, let me know in the comments what your top anime of 2014 is!

As always, to qualify for the list, the series had to have ended in 2014. Therefore, things like Kiseijuu and Log Horizon 2 don’t count.

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10 – Barakamon (Kinema Citrus)

So this series actually snuck its way onto the list at the very last second, beating out Tokyo Ghoul which was initially sitting in the number 10 slot. When I first read the synopsis for Barakamon, I thought how interesting could some calligrapher guy living on an island with some kid be interesting? Well, it turns out that it’s not so much the plot that makes Barakamon great, but rather the hilarious interactions between the large cast of lively characters. Unlike the relatively idyllic calm that I loved in the similarly-setted Non Non Biyori, the calm in Barakamon is scattered with lots of screaming and overreacting, which makes for great comedic pacing. I can never get enough of Daisuke Ono screaming in terror.

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09 – Noragami (Bones)

Whenever Jun Fukuyama, Hiroshi Kamiya, and Daisuke Ono are main characters in the same series, I always have to make the comparison with Durarara!! In Working!!, it was cooking with Durarara!! and this time it’s hunting spirits with Durarara!! in Noragami. It’s a great series that has ample humor (usually supplied by the tracksuit-sporting delivery god Yato), but it can also take itself serious when it needs to. While I don’t really like Yukine that much as a character, his story about his lost adolescence is pretty heavy subject material. I also have to make sure to bring your attention to the music in Noragami because it is absolutely rockin’.

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08 – Isshuukan Friends. (Brains Base)

At first, I wasn’t entirely sure if I wanted to watch Isshuukan Friends. or not because I’ve never been the biggest fan of romance or anything with teenage drama. Well in the end, I’m glad I gave it a chance because it turned out to be a romance story that even I could get behind and then cry in a corner at the end of each episode, agonizing for when the next episode would come out. Okay, I wasn’t THAT weak, but Isshuukan Friends. did prove to be emotionally stirring and not in a overly cheap saccharine or brutally unfair way either. It sweetly ties together four friends in an innocent, sometimes understandably awkward, high school love story. There are also a lot of great moments that don’t have anything to do with love too, like when Saki makes her first friends.

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07 – Sword Art Online II (A-1 Pictures)

Yes, I know what you’re thinking: “SAO is entry-level bilge.” Sure, if you wanted to bind anime series into some sort of subjective hierarchy, then sure, you could say that Sword Art Online is “entry-level,” but does that automatically make it a bad thing? I concede that the series has its problems (I personally can’t stand Kirito as a main character; he almost ruins the show for me). In fact, one of the reasons why I liked the 2nd season much more is because he appears less. The second reason would be because Sinon is just that cool. The third reason is because of the 3rd arc about Yuuki Konno. What I think SAO has always done well is make you think about the virtual and real worlds and whether one is “more valid” than the other. I’ll just say that SAO II finds some admittedly thought-provoking ways to incorporate and utilize the concept of virtual reality.

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06 – Nisekoi (Shaft)

When I picked up the Nisekoi manga back in 2013, under the behest of our very own Will, I never imagined that it would end up being animated by Shaft. With a little Shaft magic, we get a product that is stylistically very different from the source material but still very enjoyable, with great justice done for the superb characters of Nisekoi. Let’s be honest, the story of Nisekoi, centering around a harem of childhood friends, isn’t exactly the most compelling when stacked up against a plethora of other school love comedies. However, the energetic rhythm drummed up by the character interactions as well as Shaft’s unique cinematography are what make Nisekoi a much-watch. It’s also incredibly important to note that Tsugumi is best girl.

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05 – Log Horizon (Satelight)

Take the virtual reality gaming genre of anime, epitomized by Sword Art Online, give it a more cerebral approach, and you’ll get Log Horizon. As with any other series in the same genre, players find themselves trapped in an MMO but with a twist. Here, players respawn when they die, and there’s no known way to escape the game. This, in turn, leads to a different sort of survival situation, one that involves politics and economics rather than a literal fight to the death. Log Horizon captures the art of micro-management, required both when organizing a raid with your party as well as handling foreign affairs, and pairs it with an enormous cast trapped in a world as vast as it is mysterious.

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04 – Fate/stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (ufotable)

I honestly don’t remember much about the original Fate/stay Night, since it’s been about 7 years since I first watched it, but I just remember not liking it too much namely for the horrendous plot pacing. Unlimited Blade Works rectifies this issue by spreading out the story over multiple season, allowing for some actual sense of development while retaining the excitement that inherently exists within the source material. These events take place after Fate/zero and adapts a route from the game that focuses on Rin Tohsaka (Archer and zettai ryouiki fans may rejoice). Watching this series has actually been pretty nostalgic for me, making me think about where I was when I was 16. It’s nice to see that, much like I, Unlimited Blade Works looks much better now than it did back then.

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03 – Amagi Brilliant Park (Kyoto Animation)

Why would an anime series about an amusement park be anything but, well, amusing? There’s nothing really normal about Amagi Brilliant Park, and that’s why it’s such an entertaining series to watch. You’re never sure what to expect, and with the help of the fantastic animation by Kyoto Animation, literally anything is possible. As real world evidence, the light novels sold over 100,000 copies within 2 weeks of the anime’s premiere. Like Disneyland itself, Amaburi’s strength lies in its cast members which range from a shark with a speech impediment to an otaku weasel thing. Quanity is king here, as there’s never a shortage of character personality, problems in the park, or people getting shot by magic muskets. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the rapper-inspired names.

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02 – Zankyou no Terror (MAPPA)

Those of you who have watched both Mawaru Penguindrum and Zankyou no Terror probably immediately noticed parallels between the two. Both series center around 4 teenagers with broken pasts, fighting to change the world in their own way. There’s a good deal of terrorism in both series, too, as well as resolution in the wake, or perhaps in this case resonance, of disaster and tragedy. In Zankyou no Terror, Nine and Twelve risk their lives to reveal the unspoken atrocities that Japan has been concealing from the world, and it’s a wild ride from beginning to end, driven by a cat and mouse game between our teenage terrorists and the Japanese law enforcement.

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01 – Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun (Dogakobo)

What else can I say about Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun other than that it’s complete gold? Rarely is there a comedy series that has consistently good moments and hilarious characters, but Nozaki-kun manages to have it all. There’s never a dull moment, and the premise of being a shoujo manga parody makes for the perfect set-up for silly moments. Whether it’s a rooftop confession gone wrong or an outing to the mall gone wrong, you can be assured that something will go wrong, Chiyo Sakura will start yelling, and you will laugh because of it. Let’s also not forget that Chiyo is the best Paras gijinka.

Honorable Mentions:

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Aldnoah.Zero (A-1 Pictures)

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Witch Craft Works (J.C. Staff)

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Tokyo Ghoul (Studio Pierrot)

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