The Top Ten Series – The Best of 2014 (OVAs/Movies/Specials/Shorts)
Okay part two of my best of 2014 posts – I watched 58 OVAs/Movies/Specials/Shorts this year, but there are only a handful that really stand out. This is a bit of a change from last year where I could rhyme off a ton of excellent short series & OVAs. Also with the way licensing works these days some of the things I have listed here may be counted as 2013 shows by some people, but I had to go by when DVD-rips became widely available since anime movies never make it into theatres near me. Anway, here’s the top 10 of what I watched this year.
The only Anime Mirai short this year that stuck in my mind mainly for the beautiful dreamscape visuals. Yasuhiro Yoshiura’s ideas work well in a short form format, and Harmonie is no exception. It tells of a romance born from boundless imagination, but is a very quiet, subdued short. The visuals, use of music and direction are all wonderful, but the actual story isn’t really all that compelling. It feels like Harmonie is the trailer for a much bigger story, but we’ll likely never see it told. An interesting short and worth seeing but will likely be forgotten soon.
9. Code Geass: Akito the Exiled 2
Well this came out right at the very end of 2013 but I watched it in January 2014 so it totally counts for this year! This instalment of Akito is what sold me on this new entry into the Code Geass franchise. And how it did that is through the absolutely fecking amazing mecha action! Seriously the fight scenes in this show show what CGI animation is capable of and make me incredibly excited for the future. Also, golden centuar mecha & eyepatch Lelouch. Aaah I can’t wait for the next instalment of Akito the Exiled, it reinforces why I am such a massive fan of Code Geass’s brand of fabulous.
8. Patema Inverted
Patema Inverted has a fantastic premise and some breathtakingly beautiful animation and direction, but on the whole it felt a bit over-long and overly simplistic in its narrative. I wanted to be transported into Patema’s fantastical upside-down world, but something just didn’t click and the movie ended up being beautiful, but not one that will stand the test of time. I wanted Yoshiura’s first movie length offering to be a masterpiece, but can’t help but wonder if Patema wouldn’t have been better as a short. Still well worth watching, but not the classic I was hoping for.
7. Tamako Love Story
Only being mildly interested in the Tamako Market TV series I didn’t expect to get anything out of the movie, but I was mistaken. By switching the focus entirely to the endearing relationship between Tamako & Mochizou, Tamako Love Story managed to warm my cold heart just by being adorable. It isn’t a grandiose drama, it is a quiet tale of how two lifelong friends gradually come to terms with falling in love with each other – and it is such a lovely film. KyoAni’s animation prowess is used to full effect as every frame is gorgeous – this is a quiet, romantic little film that really surprised me.
Hanamonogatari is one of the very best arcs the Monogatari series has produced to date. It is amazing how almost entirely removing Araragi elevates it to an entirely different level. The focus on Kanbaru as she matures as a person is wonderfully done in the typical Monogatari style. The biting wit in the script and the stylised visuals all the display the very finest that this series can do. At this point I’m just happy to see that Monogatari can still pull off a truly compelling story since its visual tricks are no longer the main draw of the show. Although I suppose my main reason for particularly liking this arc is because Kanbaru and Kaiki are two of my favourite characters in the franchise!
5. Gundam Unicorn
It was four year journey, but the seventh and final instalment of Gundam Unicorn finally made it to our screens this year and it was a fitting end to what has been an real treat for UC Gundam fans. Unicorn is a love letter to the franchise drawing upon its deep running UC roots in its desire to showcase the best of Gundam while still bringing things up to date. Gundam Unicorn is a simple story well told and with some astonishingly beautiful animation – it is more than clear that this project was made by fans for fans.
4. The Wind Rises
Hayao Miyazaki’s directorial swan song at Studio Ghibli is a very personal tale of one young man’s infatuation with flying and aeronautical design. The Wind Rises is a beautiful film, following Jiro from childhood to adulthood through set-backs and triumphs, and love and heartbreak, and it made for a very satisfying watch. The movie is a bit too long and touch too indulgent though – like Miyazaki couldn’t bare to make any more cuts to this film. It may not reach the heights of the Ghibli classics, but The Wind Rises is a very solid entry into the studio’s archives and a fitting goodbye for its most talented director.
3. Puella Magi Madoka Magica – Rebellion
Yes a lot of people probably got to see the final Madoka Magica movie in 2013, but I had to wait for it to come out on DVD this year, so here it is at number three! Rebellion is mainly here for the visual spectacle it provides and the way it allowed me to revisit the world and characters of Madoka Magica again. Picking up after the TV series ends and focused on Homura, it gives us an epilogue that we didn’t actually need, but was still interesting to watch. Homura is a complicated character who makes for a more interesting main character than Madoka did, so having Rebellion tell her story made for an intriguing movie as we try to puzzle out what is going on and why she’s making these choices. If you were happy with how the TV show ended, there is no need to watch Rebellion, but it well worth seeing just for the creativity of the visuals and the exceptional music. One of the better examples of a franchise film.
2. The Tale of Princess Kaguya
I only watched this last week and immediately fell in love with the story book visuals and bitter-sweet plot. Isao Takahata’s directorial pieces are always very introspective and understated, and such is the case with Princess Kaguya. The visuals are quite different to the usual Ghibli movie being much more fluid and sketchy with muted watercolours and minimalistic backgrounds. This style lends itself very well to the classic tale of the moon princess who came to earth via a bamboo stalk. Capturing the idealised nature of Kaguya’s free-spirited childhood in rural Japan and the smothering, ritualised order of her new life in the capital among the aristocracy perfectly, this movie is fantastically atmospheric and easy to get caught up in. A beautiful, contemplative film, Princess Kaguya is a favourite from recent years.
1. Tonari no Seki-kun
Short, clever and a lot of fun – this is how to do short format anime. Seki-kun was a lot of fun to watch each week as even though it is extremely simplistic and pretty cheaply put together, it was well written, acted and made the best of its small budget. Seki-kun shows how you can take the very simple idea of an expert in procrastination and an easily distracted classmate and make the very best out of it through excellent voice acting and increasingly elaborate set-ups. Seki-kun is one of the very best short form series I’ve ever seen – more shorts should learn from its example.
And that’s the list. Honourable mentions to Chronus, Majokko Shimai no Yoyo to Nene and Orenchi no Furo Jijou.
So 2014 wasn’t exactly stellar on this front either – I’m really hoping 2015 ups its game!