The Best of Autumn 2014
Right oh – Autumn season is over and Winter season is within sight (after the usual end of year round-up), so it is time to pick the best of the season! Somehow I managed to pick up 21 shows this season and 11 of those are being carried into the Winter season (probably just as well Winter looks sparse then), so there was plenty to choose from for this top 10. Still there are shows that stood apart from the rest so I didn’t have too much bother ranking them. Anyway, onto the list.
10. Akatsuki no Yona
Akatsuki no Yona while it seems to be building a reverse harem and is off to a pretty slow start, is a pretty solid show. Historical shoujo shows were once pretty popular, but it has been a while since one has come along and I’ve been enjoying the breath of fresh air Yona provides. There is lots of scope for political machinations as Yona and her cousin vie for the throne, but there is no real getting away from the fact Yona is the sole female in a sea of multi-coloured bishies. I can only hope that the second half the show introduces some more female cast members to try and get away from that reverse harem vibe the show is currently giving off.
9. Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works
This latest iteration of the F/SN visual novels is only on this list because of the beautiful animation Ufotable have graced the show with. Seriously those fight scenes are absolutely fantastic! Unfortunately the fights are brief and all too rare and most episodes of Fate/Stay Night are snorefests of Unlimited Boring Words. So many long conversations!! There is no need for this much talking when you have a fully animated TV show! It is painfully obvious that this series has been made for the Fate fanboys who would be seriously butthurt if any of Nasu’s ridiculously lengthy writing was cut. Still, when F/SN is on form it is wonderful to behold. Pity it is split cour, I can’t say I’m too fussed on the idea of waiting till April to finish the series.
8. Yowamushi Pedal: Grande Road
There is no denying that this 2nd season is a bit on the slow side as we’re dropped back into the Inter-High race, but what makes YowaPeda so much fun to watch is the characters. There is just something about the series that gets you really invested in what the characters in the show are going through – I’ve been on the edge of my seat a few times as our boys go through some tough battles for cycling supremacy! I never would have thought road racing would be so engrossing, but YowaPeda makes you care because the characters care so much. Great series, looking forward to more in the New Year.
7. Amagi Brilliant Park
KyoAni’s latest offering was a bit of a mixed bag. I really liked the episodes that went full on mental and followed the crazy cast of mascot characters as they had really wacky adventures. I was less than keen on the serious drama that revolved around the boring princess though, and can’t say I cared about the fairy quartet either. But the episodes that delivered on the comedy really were gold and more than made up for the boring “plot” orientated episodes. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of the adventures of Japanese Kanye West, 50 Cent and Queen Latifah in a rundown theme park!
6. Gundam Build Fighters Try
I was initially wary of this second season of Gundam Build Fighters since it introduced an entirely new cast of main characters, but I need not have worried – this sequel is also magical. While it is off to a fairly slow start, Build Fighters Try has the same boundless love of Gundam and just has fun with the concept. Our new characters are all fantastic kids who are a lot of fun to watch, and the cameos from the original series are just priceless. I am hoping the show kicks up a gear in its second half, but I have no real concerns that it won’t deliver the goods. It is great to have a does of feel good entertainment every week.
5. Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis
Even though the second half of the season failed to really live up to the absolutely amazing opening this series had, Bahamut still ended up being a really fun show. Packed full of quirky characters who were a joy to watch interact thanks to brilliant voice acting and fun scripts, if Bahamut had managed to keep the stellar quality of its initial episodes going to the end, this series would easily have made it into my top 20 thanks to its fantastic production values. However the plot seemed to lose its way midway as focus switched from the swash-buckling antics of our main characters to the larger war of Angels Vs Demons Vs Bahamut. Still, Bahamut is well worth catching if you haven’t seen it yet – this fantasy series is worth watching for the eyecandy alone, the brilliant characters are a very welcome bonus.
Easily the biggest surprise of the season – I went into Shirobako expecting PA Works usual tripe of overly shiny cute girls doing cute things. What I got was something very different and very informative about the animation industry – Shirobako is an absolute gem of a show! Following actual adults as they struggle with real life issues of balancing making a living wage with living your creative dreams, Shirobako turns a very grounded number that resonates with a lot of people. The writing is exceptional – witty while still being educational about anime production, the series is almost like a workplace documentary. It is a shame the character designs for the girls aren’t more varied like their male counterparts, but we can’t have everything. As it stands this is the first PA Works show since Eccentric Family I can say I legitimately love. Looking forward to seeing where the series goes in its second half.
3. Parasyte -the maxim-
Parasyte is a very interesting series. I love the coming of age themes coupled with the body horror and deeper questions of what it is to be human that the series raises – it is a show that rarely has a boring episode. The evolving dynamic between Shinichi and Migi is fascinating to watch unfold as they forge an unlikely partnership. The way Shinichi has changed over the course of the series is so interesting to watch and the fact that new types of Parasytes with unique goals keep emerging keeps the intrigue going and continues to challenge Shinichi’s world view. Parasyte is an intelligent series, but it doesn’t skimp on the body horror and action either, all of which make it one of the very best shows to start this year. Definitely super interested in watching more in the New Year.
2. Garo: Honoo no Kakuin
Garo is awesome. It is a very theatrical show that really knows how to build up some stellar dramatic tension, while still keeping more comedic touches about to make sure nothing gets too grim. I love the way Leon’s journey is contrasted with his cousin Alfonso’s, there are some very neat little touches in the way the narrative unfolds in Garo. I love stories that have a grand feeling to them, and Garo certainly has that in spades thanks to it’s medieval setting filled with knights, demons and magic. Garo didn’t have the most bombastic of starts, but it has been patiently building up its story and characters over the course of the season, all leading to an absolutely brilliant mid-series finale. Garo may not be to everyone’s taste thanks to it’s rather janky animation, but in terms of writing there are few shows that are as solid.
1. Mushishi: Zoku Shou 2
The second part of Mushishi’s long awaited second series takes the crown for the season with ease. These 10 episodes were just sublime and I think they contained the stronger episodes of the Mushishi sequel – which is high praise considering how good the first part was! Mushishi is extremely episodic and has a very particular atmosphere to it – there really isn’t another show out there that is quite like it. The brilliant direction, fantastic music, beautiful background art and understated acting, all make Mushishi one of the very finest anime series out there. It was worth waiting 9 years for this sequel. Absolutely sublime, Mushishi is easily the best of the season.
So that’s that! Honourable mentions to Gundam G no Reconguista for being pure distilled Tomino randomness and Nanatsu no Taizai which is starting to hit its stride now. Dishonourable mentions to Psycho-Pass 2 for being the biggest disappointment of the year and Cross Ange for just being the trashiest show I’ve seen in a while.
Over all the Autumn season ended up being pretty damn good and there are a lot of carry-overs into the New Year to look forward to. Winter First Impressions will start going up next week, and expect end of year best of lists to go up in the next few days.