[Welcome to “A Very GLORIO 2014”, our look back at the best of the past year. We’ll be featuring a different post from each of our authors everyday leading up to our top 10 shows of the year. For today’s installment, Marlin brings back his Love Shack Emporium from last year including the much coveted Ero Kawaii Award.]
2014 had a lot of good shows. My love of romance stories was rewarded few and far between, but what this year lacked in quantity it far outweighed it in quality. The two great romance stories encapsulated both the dramatic and comedic ends of the spectrum. Here I give a look at some of the key moments out of the last year in romance, as well as a few random achievements to round things out.
Seo and Wakamatsu – Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun
While Chiyo will always hold a special place in my heart with her adorable antics, the best duo in Nozaki-kun will always be crazy Seo and her kouhai. Seo’s initial introduction is a strange affair. You’re definitely not filled with much of a desire to like the girl. She brazenly insults people’s taste and takes advantage of them while apparently not even realizing what she’s doing. It’s the introduction of Wakamatsu that starts to humanize the oblivious caricature we’re initially given. In a 180 of her behavior, it’s instead Wakamatsu that seems oblivious to his own feelings while Seo’s intentions are clear. She actively brings him on date-like situations, and even discusses her interest in him with Chiyo. She has no qualms laying on his lap and doing other things that, if it were done to any normal guy, would seem obviously flirtatious. Unfortunately, it seems Seo’s manic exterior makes it hard for Wakamatsu to take her seriously. Initially, it just seems like he’s Seo’s unwilling accomplice, but the more we learn about how he deals with her, the more it seems like he just doesn’t understand what he wants. In trying to. When he confronts her about her behavior on the roof, he ends up giving her a pair of cute mittens. I don’t care if he actually meant to use those to mimic a duel, their design seemed way too much like a gift for that to be sheer coincidence. Later on, we see him actively pursue Seo whenever he misunderstands what she’s doing. He tries to justify it in so many ways, but to anyone outside it would seem he’s just pursing the girl he likes. Combined, the two have a great rapport that is absolutely adorable to watch.
Most Disappointing Romance
Yuki and Kaori – One Week Friends
One Week Friends was probably the most promising show to come out of the Spring season’s First Looks. Its combination of adorable, empathetic characters and gorgeous pastel art style made it a quick favorite for me. For the first few weeks, the show’s convenient plot device kept things at a status quo, but later developments allowed for feelings between the main pair to open up as the series went on. Then, things just stopped going anywhere. On Yuki’s end, his initial devotion to becoming friends with Kaori led to a natural progression of him being more and more infatuated with her. Unfortunately this ended up making Yuki get jealous really easily for no particular reason. Even though it’s clear he has these feelings for her, he wastes time being totally noncommittal about wanting to pursue those emotions. Later on, when Kaori would need him most, he makes the most baffling decisions as he pushes Kaori away because “he doesn’t want to hurt her”, despite that basically being the opposite of what she wants. On Kaori’s end, her anime disease was originally tolerable, as we saw that with repeated exposure, she actually did start to remember her friends more and more as the weeks went on. Having the plot just give her magic PTSD when her childhood friend character got introduced ground any kind of good plot progression to such a halt it made it a drag to even finish the series. By the end, things were actually getting better again, but at that point it was too little, too late.
Most Bittersweet Moment
Scarlet and the Fake Boyfriend – Space Dandy
Space Dandy and subtlety were usually not bedmates in the show’s long run. The character of Space Dandy himself didn’t lend to the kind of gentleness that could carry a romantic episode. That all changed with the story of Scarlet and her desire to get rid of her old flame. Initially a comedic space spin on the archetypal fake boyfriend plot, we got to see a kinder side of Dandy that is usually overrun by his selfish desires. We always got to see Scarlet as the no funny-business self made woman and as the kung-fu badass, but finally here we get to see a bit more of her actual personality. Through hanging out with Dandy we get more out of her in one episode than some shows deign to give their female characters in an entire show. That’s what made the end of the episode so gripping. Dandy’s interactions with her finally get her to soften up, and she does change, but the pair miss each other at the end, and miss out on any further development in their relationship. For an episodic show like Space Dandy, this was obviously the expected result, but the way we got to that ending was a hallmark of why Space Dandy was so special itself.
Still the Most Dysfunctional Relationship
Tada Banri and Kaga Koko – Golden Time
Tada Banri was already the King of Bad Decisions back when I had first crowned this couple the rulers of dysfunction. Now, with the series done with, I can confirm that these two love birds are just as cuckoo by the end of it as they were in the beginning. What changes is how entertaining watching them figure out each others craziness got. Kaga Koko is the queen of paranoia. After getting together, she constantly sought Tada Banri’s approval, and would berate him for things he did in her dreams. That is high level crazy. Then we find out that half the time she’s actually pretty justified in her fears. Tada Banri’s ongoing struggles with #1 shitter of the year Amnesia Ghost constantly had him between insanity and poor life choices in a way I don’t think I’ve ever seen a romance protagonist develop. In the end, you understand that these two are meant for each other maybe not because they’re the most compatible, but because they’re both so insane that it all balances itself out in the end.
Best Romantic Fake-Out of All Time
Usually, fake outs leave me madder than anything else in romance. All too often they come off as cheap or exploitative. I think what made this scene work so well in Nozaki-kun was the execution. Even before the moment, we’re given a solid two minutes after Sakura confesses to stew and watch some adorable scenes with the rest of the cast as the fireworks show goes on. The tension is built in the best way, not over-relying on slow pans of each characters face. At its core, Nozaki-kun is a comedy show with romance elements, but this moment is great example of how it can mesh the two so perfectly. Nozaki’s heartstopping lean in starts making you think he might actually go for it, and Sakura’s blushing face encapsulates that hope so perfectly. After he reveals the fake-out, the pan back to her face, now with a whole different set of emotions flowing, is hilarious if bittersweet.
The 2nd Annual Dusk Maiden Award for Excellence in Being Simultaneously Cute and Smutty.
A.K.A. THE ERO-KAWAII AWARD
Now I know what you’re thinking, “Mako is more cute than sexy.” For the most part I would have to agree with you, but that is only in the context of the Kill la Kill show itself. From an outside perspective, Kill la Kill is a crazily sexual show, and even Mako gets some sexy scenes of her own. Not that I’ve measured it myself, but I’d wager Mako is the character that gets close to naked more often than any other throughout the whole series other than the main duo. While her head and facial animations are meant to be adorable and comedic, there are definitely scenes where the artists are definitely paying attention drawing her from the neck down. Even if this wasn’t the case, Mako is still the most adorable character to come out of anime in a long time. Her energy and voice were always the highlight of any episode for me. Any time you heard the choir praise “Alleluia”, you knew the episode was just about to get good. Add that to the fact that she even has even only a couple smutty scenes qualifies her for this award. Heck, I’d say she finally classes up the thing.
Best Screamo in an OP
Respect for the Dead Man – Nobunagun
What more needs to be said? Pay Money To My Pain made the winter season’s sleeper hit even more surprising with an entertaining death metal opening. It has some impressively enunciated english for a Japanese song, and keeps an engrossing level energy up the whole way through. All this combined with its outright hamminess made the entire show that much more enjoyable. Unfortunately actual footage of the OP seems to be heavily guarded by anime censors. I always find this ironic considering the high proliferation of the actual song, but trust me when I say the music is really the key component that makes everything work so well.
Tadahitori – Ping Pong
This was a harder pick than it would be in a normal year. OP/EDs were pretty great every season, with even the weak Fall having some diamonds in the rough. In the end, I have to go with Ping Pong. I think an OP excels most when its lyrics mesh well with the message of the show. With Tadahitori, we have a song about the future and existentialism as a whole. While on the surface Ping Pong is, well a show about ping pong, underneath there is a robust character drama that matches these lyrics perfectly. Many of the young men in this show are aimless in life, and ping pong is the only thing that validates their existence. It is through their struggles with the sport that they come to understand themselves. In the case of Smile and Peco, it comes in the form of pushing each other, and reclaiming the bonds that had become worn with time. While devoid of color, it makes up for that in spades with the sheer dynamism of its imagery, going back and forth between competitors and styles all while focusing on the main duo. Where Respect for the Dead Man stood on the strength of its music, its the combination of the song with Ping Pong‘s signature visuals that lift Tadahitori above the rest.
Bro of the Year A.K.A. The Iskandar
2D-kun – Golden Time
Every once in a while, there comes a bro who isn’t great for his outward persona, but for his behind the scenes support throughout the entire series. In Golden Time, 2D-kun was that bro. He may seem like your run of the mill comic relief, but he is a main who always has his friend’s well-being foremost in his mind. If I had to name a source, I would trace his bro-tier behavior to how he got his original nickname. Scorned by women, he declares his love for 2D, and thus doesn’t do much to develop romance in his life. Instead, he finds fulfillment in his friends. When they needed a ride, 2D-kun came from an hour away to pick them up. When two of his best friends were in a rocky patch in their relationship, he didn’t sit back quietly, he got involved so that he could better understand. His planning as he helped get Tada Banri and Kaga Koko back together at the end was masterful, and really showed how he came to know his friends even better than they knew themselves. If anyone deserves to be talked about in the same breath as King of Bros Iskandar, it’s 2D-kun.
The Moment of 2014
I Thought You Were The Hero – Ping Pong
Ping Pong is the best character drama to come out of this decade, bar none. Forget Heisenberg. Forget Westeros. The story of Peco and Smile is what will stick with me for a long time to come. Nowhere was this emotional peak higher than in the epic battle between Peco and the ping pong monster Ryuichi the Dragon. At this point in the story, Peco had come back from a long fall. Once a ping pong prodigy, he let his skills grow weak and became aimless. With some soul searching, he came to realize his love for the sport, and how that love helped his best friend Smile with his own struggles. As the tournament comes to a head, Peco’s rise back into the sport brings back a wellspring of feelings between the two friends, as they remember their love for the sport and its connection to their deep friendship. It’s at this moment, when the chips were down and failure seemed apparent, that Peco gets his second wind. This whole time, both Smile and Ryuichi were searching for a Hero. For Ryuichi, he needed a player that could finally bring the pressure of constant victory away from him, and remind him of the love he once had for the sport. Watching Peco go through the stereotypical comeback worked because we knew he had the training and talent to pull it off, and its link to the narrative between these characters made the whole journey worth it. If there’s anything I hope I can convince you of before the end of this year its this: if you haven’t already seen Ping Pong, there’s nothing better you could do with your time than give it a shot.