To commemorate our fifth anniversary, we’re reliving our favorite part of forcing ourselves to watch every anime that ever comes out: the surprises. Just about every season a show or two pops up out of nowhere and turns out to be pretty good, and we wanted to give a shout out to a few you might of missed. In today’s post, we’re taking a look at 2014 and 2015. Did we miss anything? Let us know.
Manga Adaptation by Bridge
Director: Nobouhiro Kondo
Air Dates: January 5 – March 30, 2014
A young military nerd is infused with the genetics of Oda Nobunaga and joins a super team of similarly powered historical based heroes.
Jel: There have been a lot of anime about reviving historical figures to fight in the present day but few, if any, have hit that sweet spot of solid world building and dumb 13-year old glee the way Nobunagun does. The show that gave us Florence Nightingale and the Steampunk Death Lantern has some of the most ridiculous interpretations of famous people as anime warriors you could imagine, and yet I never felt like my intelligence was being insulted. If you want to feel like a giddy teenager just discovering anime again, this is a good show to watch.
Tonari no Seki-kun
Manga Adaptation by Shin-Ei Animation
Director: Yuuji Mutoh
Air Dates: January 5 – May 25, 2014
A bored kid comes up with elaborate distractions during class while the girl sitting next to him watches in shock.
Jel: At some point I got the brilliant idea to start covering anime shorts only to discover that 99% of them are terrible. That said, there have been a few gems and Tonari no Seki-kun has the honor of being the best of them all. The shorter episode length actually works in the shows favor by never letting the simple premise overstay its welcome. The result is a short and sweet dose of comedy and an adorable, complicit friendship between two bored classmates. There’s also an old school mecha anime OP as an insert song, what more do you want?
Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers
Anime Original by Toei Animation
Director: Toshiaki Komura
Air Dates: April 2, 2014 – March 25, 2015
Loki traps the dumbass heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe into
delicious merchandise special digital prisons known as DISKs, forcing them to team up with a bunch of snotty kids.
Zigg: Disk Wars is perhaps the shining example of how a piece of media doesn’t actually have to be good to be a tremendous amount of fun. It’s largely the exact type of merchandise-shilling children’s romp that you’d expect it to be, but the bizarre clash between western superheroes and anime aesthetics is so weird it makes for surprisingly compelling viewing. There’s just the right mix of complete insanity (T.M. Revolution as Silver Samurai! Bad guys called ‘the Celebrity Five!’), loving Marvel Universe deep cuts (The Wrecking Crew, Baron Zemo, Surge), and occasionally awesome animation and fight scenes, that the net result is a trashy but exceptionally amusing romp through a new take on some much loved characters.
The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior
Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou
Manga Adaptation by Brain’s Base
Director: Shigeyuki Miya
Air Dates: April 3 – June 19, 2014
Usa moves into a run down dormitory full of weirdos, but one of the residents is also his quiet and mysterious crush from school.
Jel: I guess we did have some level of expectation for Kawaisou seeing as it shares the same author with GLORIO favorite Love Lab, but the big surprise was how very different the two shows turned out to be. With an older cast and a more bawdy sense of humor, Kawaisou is more of an acquired taste. I found some of the characters particularly annoying at times, but over time it develops into a fun, sweet story about a bunch of oddball housemates bonding into a family. The true heart of the series though is the awkward friendship and potential romance between the two main characters, and watching them grow together makes some of the bad parts worth putting up with.
Manga Adaptation by Pierrot+
Director: Masahiko Ohta
Air Dates: July 6 – September 21, 2014
Transfer student Momoka is tricked into joining the airsoft club, but they get more than they bargained for when they see how cutthroat and ruthless she can be.
Jel: At some point anime about girls doing airsoft became enough of a thing where we already pretty jaded when Sabagebu! came around. Offensively colorful trailers full of bad animation did not help build the hype, and but that changed quickly watching the first episode. As far as sheer quantity of laughs, Sabagebu! might be the funniest anime I’ve ever seen. Rather than a cute girls’ club series, it turns out to be a master class in the “horrible people doing horrible things” type of comedy that I personally love. If you’re sick of anime about sweet, shy transfer students finding their purpose in their new school club, this is the bullet in the head you’ve been looking for.
Garo: The Animation
Garo: Honoo no Kokuin
Anime Original by MAPPA
Director: Yuichiro Hayashi
Air Dates: October 3, 2014 – March 27, 2015
The story of the Makai Knights is transposed to medieval Europe, where the teenage wielder of the Golden Armour, Leon, battles alongside his lecherous father against the evil vizier Mendoza.
Zigg: Nobody expected too much from an animated adaptation of the pulpy boobs ‘n’ gore live action toku series, but GARO confounded those basic expectations at every turn. Veteran toku scribe Yasuko Kabayashi chose to throw away almost all the established fiction, opting instead for a magnificently moody and politically dense medieval thriller. The anime version of GARO successfully melded dark, violent, demonic imagery with swashbuckling swordsmanship, and a surprisingly touching and personal coming of age story. Bolstered by bravura visual work from MAPPA, and terrific music from JAM Project among others, GARO stands not just as one of the best surprises in GLORIO history but as one of the finest shows period.
Rage of Bahamut: Genesis
Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis
Mobile Game Adaptation by MAPPA
Director: Keiichi Sato
Air Dates: October 6 – December 29, 2014
The God and Devil Keys sealing away Bahamut – a primordial dragon of destruction – have been stolen, and it’s up to a ragtag bunch of misfits to somehow resolve the situation before the world is destroyed by… the Rage of Bahamut.
Iro: A mobile game adaptation? Ugh, okay, strap in for something we can drop after one episode… hey wait, this is actually pretty rad! The best fantasy anime of 2014 (GARO, above, was #2) was a bolt from the blue, surprising everyone with its fun cast, swashbuckling action, and plain ol’ fun. MAPPA ignored basically everything about the mobile card game to make the anime version of a wild Dungeons & Dragons campaign, and it’s something we all keep quoting to each other to this day. Highly recommended.
Anime Original by Madhouse
Director: Yuzuru Tachikawa
Air Dates: January 9 – March 27, 2015
A swanky bar in the afterlife invites guests to play parlor games for the fate of their soul.
Jel: We did get a hint of what Death Parade might be like with the one off prototype episode, Death Billiards, that had aired nearly two years earlier. I don’t know if anyone was really prepared for the wide range of human emotions the show would cover though. The mood changes from week to week, from deadly serious and dramatic, to quiet and thoughtful, and even occasionally getting a bit silly. Despite the premise, it’s a celebration of life best summed up in the amazing opening song, a fantastically catchy number that seems wildly inappropriate at first but makes perfect sense by the end of the journey. It’s one of my personal favorite shows from the past few years and definitely worth checking out.
Yoru no Yatterman
Anime Original by Tatsunoko Production
Director: Tatsuya Yoshihara
Air Dates: January 13 – March 31, 2015
The once-heroic Yattermen have turned the world into a dystopic police state, causing the descendants of their old enemies – the Doronbow Gang – to take up arms and fight back.
Iro: All we knew going into this one was that Yatterman has a long and storied history of being a goofy show with a bunch of strange robots and childish humor. And… it’s still that, but with all of that goof placed side-by-side with a bleak post-apocalyptic setting, the show playing them both and making it work without ever quite getting into “darker and edgier” territory. Did you ever root for Team Rocket while watching Pokemon, when their new robot exploded and they blasted off again week after week? They’re the heroes here, fighting a corrupt world for the mere chance of a new dawn, never giving up no matter what it takes.
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches
Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majou
Manga Adaptation by Liden Films
Director: Tomoki Takuno
Air Dates: April 12 – June 28, 2015
Yamada and Shiraishi accidentally kiss and discover they’ve swapped bodies! It’s a good show, I promise!
Jel: Yamada-kun feels like it was made way back when a premise this stupid would have felt fresh and interesting. Sure it’s a bit trashy, but the characters are so strong and honest about the situation that it never feels too exploitative. The two main characters are particularly well written, the rare anime love interests that actually have natural chemistry that grows over time. I’ll admit the anime adaptation feels a bit rushed to the point where many people have suggested skipping straight to the manga, but I still think seeing Yamada and Shiraishi’s relationship animated is worth the watch.