The Wrap-Up: Winter 2014

Don't lose your way.

If you go about doing a season preview, it is only obvious you also close off on a season review. In The Wrap-Up, all of our contributors get to shine a spotlight on the show they thought to be the very best of the past few weeks, as well as reflect back on the preview to see which shows let us down the most. When you watch currently airing anime, eventually the question will rise which of these shows can rank amongst the medium’s true classics. Regardless of who covered what, this is where we single out the cream of the crop, and decide which shows from the past season deserve to stand the test of time. Also, where Lifesong shows how crazy his taste in anime is.

Evidently, a show can only be called “the best” when it has been watched in full, so only shows that ended this season will be covered. That means Kill la Kill and Log Horizon can apply, yet Nisekoi will have to sit this one out. Not that anyone of us would want to nominate Nisekoi as best show of the season. Space Dandy does, however, apply, since it counts as two separate seasons, and has no real storyline to speak of anyways. Also, no toku. Sorry, Kamen Rider Gaim. So without further ado, here are our top picks for the Winter season of 2014. Hint: Most of them will probably rhyme with “filler drill”.

jel

What was your favourite show of the season?

Golden Time

This was basically a coin flip with Kill la Kill, but while that series’ emotional bombast punched me in the gut, Golden Time stole my heart. As noted in my Final Impressions, it lives up to its heritage as the successor of romance classic Toradora, bringing fresh characters and an unusual setting to a genre dragged down by years of snowballing clichés. More than just a love story, it’s a celebration of both the highs and lows of the best years of your life, and a must watch for any anime fan.

Honorable Mentions: Kill la Kill, as noted. The lean and wiry style of Noragami would have won in lesser seasons. Nobunagun surprised us all by appealing to our inner 14-year-olds without insulting our intelligence. Definitely a solid season overall!

Which show let you down the most?

Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions – Heart Throb –

I loved the first season of Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions, but I’ve said a million times there was no reason for a second season to exist. Heart Throb does nothing to sway my opinion, as its attempt at a story falls flat on its face. Abandoning the fairly sharp focus of the first season, season 2 leaps and dances around with subplot after subplot, never giving the main story of Yuuta and Rikka’s blossoming relationship the development it needs. The addition of new chuni Shichimiya adds nothing, as she’s put on the shelf until the very end when we’re suddenly expected to care about her. The only bright spot is Dekomori and Nibutani getting more action than the main couple, but that only makes me wish I was watching them star in a spin-off instead of wasting more time with this show.

Dishonorable Mentions: Nothing else! Like I said, it was a good season.

zigg

What was your favourite show of the season?

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Kill la Kill

It’s not the transcendent masterpiece that many of its more vocal fans claim that it is, but this supercharged slice of action-adventure was the most energetic, manic thing to come out of Japan in years. Crucially however, it remembered to forge a heart and soul beneath the bombast and bluster, resulting in a sharply written epic full of memorable characters and powerful moments. Perhaps a little broad to reach masterpiece level, it’s nevertheless fresh, funny and packed full of wonderful touches and spellbinding visual flair. A show which remembered that anime should be silly, should be cartoonish, and should be fun.

Honorable Mentions: Space Dandy‘s wry wit and boundless invention came very close to securing it the #1 spot. Clever, imaginative, and very knowing, its inconsistency was the big weakness that prevented it from topping this list.

Which show let you down the most?

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Magi: The Kingdom of Magic

For a perfect example of a show which sabotaged the basis of its own success, you need look no further. Instead of relying on the much-loved trio who carried the first season, they were instead split up into three meandering plotlines of their own, none of which were much good. Instead of streamlining the already dense mythology of the universe, we instead had to deal with a torrent of new characters, new allegiances and an ever deepening political murk. Throw in an increasingly shaky visual effort and some sledgehammer morality and you have a sequel that’s remarkably inferior to its predecessor. What a shame.

Dishonorable Mentions: Can I nominate Magi again?

iro

What was your favorite show of the season?

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Kill la Kill

Yes, I bought into the hype. Kill la Kill was some of the most fun I’ve had watching anime in recent memory. It managed to surprise me every episode, but I never quite felt that said surprises were illogical, which kept the show in a perpetual state of enjoyable absurdity. I watch anime because of the weird stuff like this that would never happen anywhere else.

Honorable Mentions: Space Dandy, Log Horizon and Nobunagun

Which show let you down the most?

magi2-20-scheherazade

Magi: The Kingdom of Magic

Look, I’m usually not one of Those Guys who thinks the manga is always the better version, but in Magi‘s case, the anime was profoundly disappointing. The budget seemed to peak around the third episode and things only went steadily further downhill as the show progressed. Moments that were originally exciting or dramatic instead became dull, slow, and boring. Watching each episode became a chore, and I found myself wishing it would hurry up not because it would reach the fun bits faster, but because it would mean the show would be over faster. What a let down.

Dishonorable Mentions: Recently, My Sister Is Unusual. I knew this would be shit and the first episode still managed to disgust me.

marlin

What was your favourite show of the season?

mako

Kill la Kill

Kill la Kill was some of the most fun I’ve had watching anime in all the years I’ve been enjoying the medium. Every week I’d be waiting on the edge of my seat to see Ryuko pull off another amazing finisher or laugh hysterically whenever Mako steals the scene. It’s unfortunate that the costumes had to be so racy, as that will make it hard to introduce to first-timers. Still, in the end it does actually manage to make good thematic sense, something similar shows often fail at. With a cast of unforgettable characters, an absurd plot, and a ton of style, Kill la Kill did a lot of things right to get me watching from the very beginning to the bittersweet end.

Honorable Mentions: Golden Time and Noragami

Which show let you down the most?

Literally worse than dead air.

Engaged to the Unidentified

By a wide margin, Engaged to the Unidentified was the most disappointing show of this season. That is not even saying it was the worst show. It simply had so much potential, and then decided to squander it all for the sake of cheap jokes and the dreaded status quo. What could have been a great romance was instead a big let down. Benio can go straight to the hell she came from and if I never her one of her stupid pedo jokes ever again, I will be a happy man.

Dishonorable Mentions: Love, Chunibyou and Other Delusions – Heart Throb -. I never thought coming up with silly sequel names à la “Chuu2: Electric Chuugaloo” would be the only good thing to come out of this production. Unfortunately, the snail’s pace plot and cringe-worthy romantic development seemed to forget everything that made the original work in the first place.

aqua

What was your favourite show of the season?

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Space Dandy

It’s long been a toss-up between Space Dandy, Samurai Flamenco and Kill la Kill for my show of the season, but after a highly entertaining final few episode, Dandy has to take the cake. While it may not match Kill la Kill in epic scale or Samurai Flamenco in complete unpredictability, Space Dandy shimmers with creativity and imagination. It’s a product of passion and talent backed up by the budget it deserves, and while certainly not every episode is a hit, it’s been by far the most consistently entertaining show of the last season. The strong, reference-laden script and superlative voice work make the Adult Swim dub the definitive version of this hilarious romp. I can’t wait to see these guys back in July.

Honorable Mentions: Kill la Kill, despite its glaring shortcomings; Samurai Flamenco, the most glorious train to have ever wrecked and Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha. Surprising lot of decent shows this season!

Which show let you down the most?

ihbiro

Engaged to the Unidentified

Remember how I, back when Engaged to the Unidentified first went on the air, said that Love Lab had led us to have certain expectations for Dogakobo? Only a few weeks later, it seems as if the studio has lost that privilege already and tumbled back into the pit of oblivion from whence it emerged back when it treated us to the aforementioned surprise hit. Engaged to the Unidentified is a romantic comedy without a fat lot of comedy, but at least I have to give it credit for making its romance a bit meatier than the anime standard of a bland guy falling on top of a perfectly inoffensive girl a lot. Then again, most other anime romances don’t waste half of their time and efforts on the latter’s vexatious elder sister. In Benio, Engaged to the Unidentified has created one of the single most annoying creatures to ever walk the two-dimensional plain. Obnoxious, egocentric and relentlessly creepy, the elder Yonomori sister is the absolute worst of incest-obsessed, borderline pedophilic anime nerds and image board dwellers brought to life. She’s not funny at all. Neither is anything else in the series, but as George Orwell taught us, even in equal horribleness there is still hierarchy.

Dishonorable Mentions: Love, Chunibyou and Other Delusions – Heart Throb – and Sakura Trick. Not that I had any sort of faith in these two in the first place, but they managed to disappoint me even then. Also, I’m sorry, but I feel like I have to mention Kill la Kill here as well, simply because its gross fanservice and regressive gender politics will forever remain a disappointing blemish on its legacy. Both honorable and dishonorable mention? What a very Trigger thing to do.

timmy

What was your favourite show of the season?

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Kill la Kill

In the effort of not repeating what everyone else has already said, I will try to keep this as concise as possible. Kill la Kill was not perfection, but it was easily the best thing I watched this season. While Trigger did everything they could with the budget they had, I can’t help but wonder what they would have churned out with full coffers. Nevertheless, this show was a blast and I look forward to seeing what Trigger comes up with next.

Honorable Mentions: Super Sonico: The Animation is the other show I finished that I really enjoyed. Sure it had some dumb parts but overall it was a really fun, cheerful slice of life that I looked forward to every week. Log Horzion was fun too, I guess.

Which show let you down the most?

sameface

Wake Up, Girls!

Despite my overall experience with Wake Up, Girls! being a positive one, I felt there were a lot of things that held it back. The show got off to a pretty bad start by not stressing that the movie was clearly the actual first episode, and throwing the panty exposing performance from the movie into the first episode while removing the context of it was likewise also a poor decision. Episode 2 did a great job of generating discomfort for the viewer by having the girls parading around in bikinis, much to their dismay, but this was broken by obvious fanservice shots and some painful dialogue choices seemingly meant to make absolutely sure we aren’t oblivious to the situation. This continued thoughout the season, and for every compliment I could give Wake Up, Girls!, there was always a criticism not far behind. The show’s animation looked pretty terrible far too often as well. As I said though, in the end, I still liked Wake Up, Girls! but I couldn’t help feeling it had a lot of wasted potential.

Dishonorable Mentions: Love, Chunibyou and Other Delusions – Heart Throb – was nowhere near as good as the first season, nor was this second season of Magi.

gee

What was your favourite show of the season?

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Kill la Kill

Between five people and 4.300 words, I think our final impressions post already did a pretty in-depth job of explaining what made Kill la Kill so great, so I’ll try to keep it short. A memorable cast, excellent pacing, and a real heart beating underneath the insanity make it the highlight of the season for me. It never forgot to keep things exciting, and it worked wonders for the show. Even if the twists were predictable and the budget was limited, it was the rock solid execution that made it all work from start to finish. If nothing else, Kill la Kill speaks volumes for Trigger as a studio. Things can only go up from here, and I can’t wait to see where Trigger takes us.

Honorable Mentions: Log Horizon, Space Dandy, and Nobunagun all deserve a shout out for being such fun shows in their own unique ways. All said and done, it was a pretty great season.

Which show let you down the most?

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World Conquest: Zvezda Plot

I can’t even say Zvezda let me down, I went in with zero expectations. That said, the show boasted some excellent character design, even if it was hampered by its questionably dressed loli. That alone isn’t enough to sink a show though. It takes a confusing plot, tonal inconsistency, and a generally uninteresting cast to push it that far. It’s a shame, because behind the poor execution is a show with decent art direction and a premise that could have gone somewhere in better hands.

Dishonorable Mentions: I drop most shows I don’t like within one or two episodes, so I’m just gonna copy Iro and say Recently, My Sister Is Unusual. Sure I knew it was gonna be bad, but wow, now that’s an anime that deserves to be called “worst fucking thing ever.”

life

What was your favourite show of the season?

engaged_12_2

Engaged to the Unidentified

Engaged to the Unidentified started out small and built into a wonderful love story. I loved the pacing and humor of the series. I could tell this show had ambition from episode one and it rewarded me for placing my faith in it. In the end Engaged delivered one of my favorite romantic comedies in years. It also rejuvenated my interest in slice of life anime. This show was a breath of fresh air in an often stagnant genre. I am going to miss it.

Honorable Mentions: Super Sonico: The Animation, Sakura Trick, Log Horizon; Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha; Witch Craft Works, World Conquest Zvezda Plot, Golden Time, Noragami, Nobunagun, Strike the Blood and Tonari no Seki-kun: The Master of Killing Time.

Which show let you down the most?

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Kill la Kill

First of all, I enjoyed Kill la Kill. It is because I enjoyed Kill la Kill that its shortcomings bother me as much as they do. The pacing of the show is erratic and the animation is often obnoxious in its repetition. Kill la Kill could have been half the length and its action scenes could have been an audio drama without losing any of its strengths. The visuals often degrade into cartoon cut outs with more sound effects than movement. I’ve read visual novels with better action scenes. The show had many great moments and I enjoyed it, but the action sequences managed to disappoint time and time again. Those scenes were a big part of what the show was!

Dishonorable Mentions: Wizard Barristers, Magi: The Kingdom of Magic, Magical Warfare, Nisekoi; Wake Up, Girls!; Love, Chunibyou and Other Delusions – Heart Throb -; The Pilot’s Love Song and Recently, My Sister Is Unusual.

-=-

With the entire crew’s two cents chipped in, we can conclude that if you watch only one show from the past season, Kill la Kill is your way to go. Surprise, surprise! Trigger’s first full series managed to perfectly live up to the expectations may of us had for it, with its off-kilter action, delightful humour and completely ridiculous story that nonetheless, still had a lot of heart and charming characters to back it up. Yet even if its glaring fanservice is not your thing, many of us agreed that this season has a lot more to offer. Space Dandy, Log Horizon, Nobunagun, Noragami and Golden Time all managed to run off with quite a few accolades. While the lot of us unanimously liking — or at least, tolerating — a show is rare, us all being disappointed by the same show is pretty much a unicum. This questionable honour goes to Love, Chunibyou and Other Delusions – Heart Throb –, arguably the biggest loser of the season. Let’s hope Kyoto Animation can redeem themselves after two disappointments in a row.

That wraps up our Wrap-Up for this winter season. The upcoming Spring season looks decidedly tame in comparison to these three surprisingly enjoyable months, if the relatively tepid and occasionally terrified reactions to such anticipated classics in the making as Dragonar Academy or No Game, No Life behind the scenes of the Glorio Blog are any indication. Then again, we do get Masaaki Yuasa’s glorious return to the noitaminA slot and copious amounts of Mari Okada train wreck, if you’re into that kind of stuff. Besides, if all else fails, there’s still more JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and… oh my God… is that… a second season of Mushi-shi? Miracles do exist! For all your predictions on which Spring shows will end up on this feature in a few months — all of them, Lifesong will make sure of that — make sure to check out our two-part season preview.

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6 thoughts on “The Wrap-Up: Winter 2014

  1. From what I’ve read on not only this but many other blogs, Kill la Kill definitely seems to be a huge fan favourite – and rightfully so. I’m a bit sad that the more down-to-earth and gently funny Gin no Saji didn’t get a little more love, though. It wasn’t my favourite anime of the last year, but shows of its ilk are something of a rarity and probably deserve more attention than they usually get.

    • Gin no Sanji and Nagi no Asukara are the two shows from last season that I want to catch up on. I just haven’t had the time for either one yet. I am willing to believe either could have been the best thing of last season. Gin no Sanji might make an appearance on this blog yet. I just have some 20 episodes to watch first.

      • Not that it was the best season of the year, but of all the new winter shows, the second season of Gin no Saji definitely came out on top for me.

      • I have to say Gin no Saji was the best thing of the season for me too on hindsight. And I am a vegan, so that says a lot about a series where much of the focus is about producing non-vegan cuisine.

        Nagi no Asukara is probably only second behind Golden Time in terms of character development if not on par with it. Plus the superatural element is integrated so it doesn’t feel out of place – which is my primary problem with Golden Time.

  2. Wow Lifesong, talk about unpopular opinions XD Still, you’ve succeeded in getting Engaged to the Unidentified onto my “To Watch” list when it wouldn’t have made it otherwise.

    As always these wrap-up posts are interesting and useful, though i’m a little sad Chuunibyou got so much hate. I didn’t think the second season was bad, but then again I didn’t fall in love with the first season either.

    • Yay! I’ve accomplished my goals here then. You will have to let me know what you think of it when you watch it.

      Chuunibyo is something that I think most of us didn’t really hate, we are just united in being disappointed that it didn’t have a tighter narrative. As I see it, the big problem with the second season is that the central story is often so far in the background it becomes completely forgotten. For my own part, I still had fun watching it, but the overall story just didn’t strike the right cords with me. Part of that is because season one did have a tighter narrative and part of it is because of episodes spent on sleeping contests and such. I enjoyed the silliness, but KyoAni were just not very subtle about creating content wholly unrelated to the central story.

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