Winter 2014 Anime – Final Review

Winter, as well as sickness and annoying allergies, have come and gone, concluding the first season of anime this year. Some of you may have been just as attentive to this season as I was, and this post will serve to reflect on what was so great, or not so great. Others reading this may have missed the entire season and are scouring through the settling dust to see what ultimately became worth watching. While I wish I had the time, and fortitude to watch every anime, I ended up choosing the ones that interested me the most. Some I dropped very early, while others hovered in and out of my interest throughout these last 13 weeks. I can say that while this season didn’t bring a mass of brilliant “new” anime, the ones that continued on from last season were all stellar. As always I’m counting down to my favorite of the season. Let’s get on with it then!

Witchcraft Works (6/10)

Synopsis: A guy with a mundane life discovers that he’s being secretly protected by the most popular girl in school, and that she’s also a formidable fire mage. Apparently mecha-rabbits are after him.

An anime that I literally only tried because my room mate recommended it ended up pleasantly surprising me. I think that’s what happened for most viewers because it just doesn’t seem that eye-catching at first glance. So then what was up with the first episode when the action heated up to a boiling point and gave us one of the most thrilling fights of the season? It’s readily apparent that this studio knows how to do action. So what else was there for substance? We have a rather flip-flopped version of the typical hero/damsel scenario with the guy being the one protected by the blazing bad-ass of a witch. The story ended up being a bit smaller in scale, with it unraveling prominently in the city that the main character lives in. It started off interesting, but unfortunately everything it “hooked” me with ended up never playing out to something impactful.

By the time the anime ended, I had a bit of a forgettable taste in my mouth. It’s not one I’ll remember, nor show much excitement to recommend. It was a good one to follow as it was airing throughout the season, but I wouldn’t think you’re missing much if you were thinking of going back to watch it. It’s best parts are in it’s action and comedy. The fights are spectacular and the show has a deliberate sense of comedy underlying most of the show. It’s rather light hearted, and all good fun, but I’m always looking for something a bit deeper, so that’s the only reason I didn’t care too much for it in the end. Also, the use of weird teddy bear and rabbit giant monstrosities was easily my least favorite thing of the entire anime.

Hamatora (6/10)

Synopsis: Hamatora is a small-team of pay-to-hire investigators in this world where some humans have powers called “minimums.” Nice is the leader, and has a power that interacts with sound. Awesome rainbow things take over the screen when someone uses a minimum.

If I was a betting man, this would have been the one I lost money on. I expected it to be the standout anime of the season. I yearned for it to become the best anime about humans with powers in the industry. In the end, it fell pretty short of those lofty expectations. I’m not disappointed. It still sports a distinct art style that I’m still a fan of, and they definitely tried to be creative with the powers the humans had. I didn’t expect the anime to go down the route of a mystery/thriller, nor did I expect the rapid changes of pace from action, comedy, and dark drama. It was a bit messy going from an episode with a guy doing sit ups for thirty seconds straight to another where people’s heads are getting blown off. I appreciate edginess, but not when if feels like a visual representation of someone with highly unstable mood swings.

The villain was probably why I couldn’t get into the conflict that much, aside from some episode rarely acknowledging the conflict anyways. He was a bit too much of a drama-queen and felt like the evil that kids think of in school, and not really an intelligible evil. I have to say that the studio did in fact deliver a pretty great ending. It renewed some of my faith in the anime. As I’m a big fan of teleporting, so much so that it’s my at-the-ready answer to the often asked question of “what’s your favorite superpower,” the final fight was a duel between two of them, and I was incredibly satisfied with that.  I’m not quite to the point where I’m on board for season 2, but I will definitely keep an open ear to possibly jump back in!

World Conquest Zvezda Plot (6/10)

Synopsis:  A young boy runs away from home and encounters a small girl who wants to take over the world. Amazingly, she already has a base and a group of super-powered henchmen already in her employ. Also keep in mind, it’s a comedy before you expect an action-epic .

Zvezda plot is one that I built a lot of anticipation for. There were two things I initially hoped for, and one of those were actually fulfilled. One hope was that this was going to be an awesome dark action series because it’s the same director responsible for Blue Excorcist and Darker than Black. This was obviously the wrong thing to expect. The other hope was that this anime would have one of the greatest casts introduced this season, and this I’m actually pretty satisfied with. I noticed after a few episodes that this anime isn’t here to tell a serious story about conquering the world. It’s hear to set up a unique scenario that offers a chance to explore certain situations that could only happen in this setting, and tell interesting character stories at the same time. The earlier you give up on seeing when she’ll actually conquer the world, the better.

While the lack of a singular direction, or more like story progression, definitely disappointed me, I can’t deny that the writing was still enjoyable. It was witty, funny, and often-times insightful. I just wish that all of that had more context with the main storyline. In the end, I didn’t feel like I saw anything change from episode one all the way to the finale. Things happened. Delightful, enjoyable things. But nothing to charge the viewer with a sense of accomplishment, at least for me. In the end, I merely enjoyed the characters, and while that’s important, it wasn’t enough on their own.

Tonari No Seki-kun (7/10)

Synopsis: Seki-kun plays in class instead of paying attention. THAT’S IT!

I am actually very happy that this anime is continuing to next season. I should mention for those that haven’t seen it, that it’s a short anime. Each episode lasts only seven minutes. So what goes on in this easy to summarize collection of stories? Basically Seki is a wildly imaginative kid who comes up with some really interesting or funny things to do in class. What I really like about this anime is that it’s from the point of view of another classmate named Rumi who watches him from the neighboring desk. The best moments are a result of the fact that Rumi also has a hyper-active imagination which results into her getting just as absorbed into his peculiar antics as Seki himself does.

Each episode is pretty much disconnected from the next. Every once in a great while the anime will reference a previous episode. What you’re treated to each time is a short burst of guilty enjoyment that speaks to the inner-child that wants to keep playing regardless of how important school is. The show gets even greater when Seki’s plans hit a level of complexity that actually shows that he’s not only used to doing things like this, he’s almost a prodigy. It’s a funny skill to portray in an anime, and at only seven minutes, even the most disappointing episodes didn’t amount to a lot of wasted time. It’s definitely one I plan on continuing next season!

The Pilot’s Love Song (8/10)

Synopsis: A boy with a dream of flight joins a military training group on a floating island in the sky that is heading on a voyage to discover the end of the world. But forget all of that…HE MEETS A GIRL!

Okay, this anime isn’t as romantic as it sounds. Actually, the show took a pretty serious approach to this adventure. Instead of wildly fantastical elements and heart-soaring relationships, we’re actually introduced to a cruel fate of the main character that almost turn this into a revenge story. It’s hard to say what really defines this anime. Is it the friendships developed amongst all the young trainees as they taste their first war? Maybe it’s the relationship between the main character and his love interest. Perhaps it’s the mythology of the world and this supposed “end of the sky.” This anime is multi-faceted and has a lot you can think about. It’s not an intelligent anime, unfortunately, but it’s doing more with it’s story than others this season and I commend them for that.

The romance is what I had the most expectations for, and it was probably one of my favorite parts of the anime. Not just how it was portrayed, but the little plot twists they threw in that kept the relationship on tenterhooks. What I also enjoyed was the comradery that was warmly felt amongst all the young pilots. The earnestness of youth contrasted with the dark setting of a war was pretty effective, and emotionaly, this anime did have some high points. Overall though, I didn’t get as engrossed as I initially hoped. I attribute this to the lack of world-building that leaves me a bit lost in where I am exactly in this world. There’s not really a mystery to the “end of the sky” when I don’t even know where we are when we’re halfway there. Despite this, the anime has remained moderately enjoyable and they know how to keep the plot alive, so I will keep following this anime until it ends.

Noragami (9/10)

Synopsis: Hiyori is a school girl who get’s thrown into a situation where she meets Yato. Yato is a god, but a very poor one at the bottom of the totem pole. He does jobs for whoever can discover his very meager existence. He’s an asshole, and seems to deserve his lowly status. But there’s a lot more to Yato than meets the eye

There’s a bit of a gap between this anime and the last in terms of how much I enjoyed it. So far, none of the previous anime had a moment of awe for me. These are moments that I watch anime for. Scenes that will completely enrapture me and deliver the unique thrill of experiencing something truly great. Noragami is the only new anime that hit this scale for me and is easily my favorite “new” anime this season. Unfortunately, due to a slightly disappointing ending that I’ll touch on later, my euphoric journey aboard the Noragami train came to an abrupt halt. And as I’ve said all season, the opening song and accompanied video is my favorite.

Noragami has a brilliant setting. Not in terms of world design, as it’s simply taking place in a normal city, but in terms of characters and their meaning of existence. This rather innovative take on the Japanese Kami introduces some incredible moral ambiguity on whether these god characters are truly good or evil. On top of that, the mystery behind Yato was handled superbly and made him one of the most interesting characters of the season. It’s more than just examining Yato. It’s seeing how he works. How can a god like Yato be in such a pathetic situation? Even though a lot of this anime is a comedy, it also had some of the most emotionally powerful moments among the anime I’ve seen this season. It handles the change of pace with ease and can soften your heart with some somber storytelling, or brighten it with the adorable trio that is the main cast. The only change in tone I didn’t like, was the shift from character drama to shounen action in the final episodes. I’m not saying action is always worse than drama, but I am saying that this anime put aside it’s greatest strength to try to deliver a more action-packed finale, which hindered it more than helping it.

Magi: Kingdom Of Magic (9/10)

Synopsis: Aladdin, the young magi journeys to a magic kingdom and learns new magic as well as getting caught up in the city’s ruler’s hair-brained scheme to change the world. Also, serious props to anyone who knows the name of every character in this anime.

The first season of Magi was something I always wanted, but it also left me wanting more. I absolutely love it’s setting and art style. It’s actually one of the most visually appealing anime I’ve had the pleasure of watching. But it spent too much time focusing on side-plots that weren’t that interesting,  and had action that sometimes seemed mindless in the final episodes. But now we’re here at the end of the second season, and my oh my has it gotten better. Pretty much every single aspect has been improved. The stories were more elaborate, and much darker. The emotions were just a touch more powerful. And the powers were by and far the biggest improvement. Unlike last season, the fight at the end of this season didn’t feel mindless, and was a more emotionally charged sequence of action scenes. The comedy is still the only constant, which is perfect because Magi has a prefect amount of comic relief.

I do have small complaints, and the biggest one would be that they introduce too many characters. Yes I didn’t think it could happen, but there are too many characters that the viewers are expected to remember. A lot of character moments are ruined in the awkward pauses where you struggle to even remember if you’ve seen this character before or not. I’m not the best at remembering characters, but it’s not my stupidity that’s doing this, it’s the fact that this anime spends very little time in establishing their characters before they are part of the several plot twists that follow ahead. I also think that whenever characters transform, they go a little overboard with the detail on the character. They actually lose distinction by having so much activity in their character design. These complaints are minor, and I definitely think it’s a good sign when there’s cries of “too much” over “not enough.” I’d rather they over-deliver than underwhelm.

Kuroko’s Basketball (10/10)

Synopsis: The generation of miracles were a team of basketball prodigies that were the best in their league during middle school. Now that they are in high school they have all split up and rumors are that one of them is at the Seirin high school. More rumors are abound of this phantom “sixth” player from the team that people don’t even believe exists.

I started this series only a few months ago, and I definitely feel a void of absence now that the season is over. This anime wowed me. That’s all there is to it. An anime I thought was going to be disappointing is in danger of cracking my top ten open and getting comfortable. But I’m here to talk about the episodes that transpired this season. I can’t even begin to describe how impressed I was with the game between Too and Seiren. If you haven’t seen it, basically consider this on the level of some of the most intense and dramatic combat sequences of your favorite action anime, and transfer those moments onto a basketball court. Chills crept up my spine more times than one whenever a player pulled out a new ability or things were taken to the next level. It was my favorite part of the whole series.

It was really hard to swallow the fact that the final game this season wasn’t as enjoyable as the one that kicked off thirteen episodes ago. This is an anime that has progressively only gotten better, and the final episode of this season was actually the very first episode that I felt was handled poorly. But I’m not too upset because the episode right before that was downright incredible so I’m not angry with one disappointing episode out of 50 of them. It just sucks that that one poor episode is the one that’s going to stick with me until the next season starts in a year or so. As of now, we’ve seen five of the six generation of miracles in action, and the final one is easily one of my most anticipated reveals of all anime.

Hunter X Hunter (10/10)

Synopsis: Gon is a young boy who sets out to be a Hunter which is a professional adventurer who gains access to some of the world’s top commodities. He only does this because he’s never met his dad and he wants to know why, because Gon is such an adorable little bad ass.

This season of Hunter X Hunter could go down as one of the best written sagas in Shounen anime history. It could also go down as the biggest test of patience ever placed upon the poor anime community who just wants to see the end of this thrilling chapter. It’s very, VERY hard to believe that in these last thirteen episodes, the amount of time that has passed in the story amounts to roughly one hour. Wait a minute, you mean after watching over four hours of this show, only one hour has actually passed in the anime timeline? Yes, I say, with an equal amount of sadness and excitement. This entire time, we’ve been watching Gon and his team invade the enemy’s palace. And we haven’t missed a single second or what’s happened to every single character involved. This is truly storytelling at it’s finest. Each episode is a close-up second by second psychological examination of one character, and their role in this siege.

The pace is extremely slow, some episodes being entirely in slow motion, yet the writing is incredible. Two of these episodes have already gone down as my favorite episodes in all of anime. I’m talking about the one that kicked off this entire thing when you see Netero’s amazing training flashback which was absurdly beautiful. The other is the sublime portrayal of Gon’s anger and frustration when he finally arrives at his destination in the palace. Though I am disappointed that the invasion couldn’t conclude by the time the season ended, I’m very happy that the anime isn’t trying to change anything to have a finale the same time as all the other anime. Hunter X Hunter has continued to be tour de force of wonderful adventure, grim tragedy, lighthearted comedy, and thrilling action. It doesn’t matter how long it is, when it’s all great so start it as soon as possible and don’t pay attention to the 100+ episodes you have to go through, because before you know it, you’ll be wishing for more, just like every other impatient Hunter X Hunter fan out there.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Before I knew it, I was saying goodbye to some enjoyable characters that have kept me company these last 13 weeks. Some were final farewells, but most are going to return in due time. It’s the final goodbye to Yato and the gang, but I really hope they get renewed for a second season. Noragami was incredibly popular in Japan too, and voted number one in a lot of local polls. This is a brief farewell to Aladdin and Kuroko whom I will miss dearly. Killua, thank god, is returning next week because Hunter X Hunter is not stopping! The electric assassin shall have his day soon!

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3 thoughts on “Winter 2014 Anime – Final Review

      • I normally focus on anime DVDs that get released in the UK. If I hear something is good I do however seek it out, as was the case with Kill La Kill. I’m thinking of checking out Silver Spoon and Samurai Flamenco.

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