The Best, Most Surprisingly Good, and Most Disappointing Shows of 2014

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2014 was a big year full of tons of shows, and tons of shows we reviewed. We went from several semi-silent reviewers with one voice to three reviewers to four, officially running their own schedules, arguing for the best and worst of each week. Looking back, here were our picks for highlights of 2014:

The Best Shows

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Sidonia no Kishi – We all agree that this was one of the best all-round shows, if not the best. It almost makes the Most Surprising list as well, because if it weren’t for Franklin accidentally stumbling across it early in the season, none of us were planning to watch it!

SnK’s storytelling is solid, dark, weird, and unique but that’s not even it’s most notable feature! For us, this was the first, fully CGI show that is both fun to look at and well-produced!

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Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – Frankly, this show looked like it was going to be great from the get-go, recalling shades of the Ghibli “real world” masterpiece Whisper of the Heart, as well as the more contemporary works of Shinkai Makoto and KyoAni. One 11-ep cour in and it has been great. No other show this year has delivered so many spellbinding moments, or so expertly blended abysses of despair with dizzying heights of triumph.

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Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – No other show we weren’t watching (or had no previous exposure to) was more highly recommended by you, our treasured readers. And, for that, we thank you. Even if it has an eye-rollingly silly title, and we probably missed dozens of references to and easter eggs from other Fate media, it was still a confident, impeccably-crafted show we had no trouble immersing ourselves into.

The Most Surprisingly Good Shows

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Amagi Brilliant Park  A massive (yet massively fun and memorable) cast inhabiting a sprawling (yet specific) setting with lots of room to breathe convinced us to give this show constant praise. What made ABP surprising is how little attention its PR items got and how everyone here but Franklin dismissed it before it even came out.

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One Week Friends – This quiet, unassuming show packed a lot of powerful, even nosy emotion. We also didn’t catch on to this until after the season started, but we’re glad we did.

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – Zane watched this with his nose pinched, worried it was another case of ‘guy treats girl like crap; girl keeps coming back.’ It turned out to be a lot more complicated, and satisfying, than that.

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Sabagebu! – Princess Ugly herself, even Franklin almost dropped this absurd show at first glance, assuming it was going to be a knockoff of Gainax’s mostly dull Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 (which only had one or two great episodes). It turned out to be much funnier; so much so that we could forgive it’s subpar (if we’re being charitable) production values.

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WTF?! Special Mention: Love Stage – 03 – A guy essentially sexually assaulting another with “Sailor Moon costume change”-style effects was not what Franklin was expecting at that point in the show!

The Most Disappointing Shows

These weren’t the worst shows, per se. Just shows that were surprisingly disappointing to us, especially because we liked them to begin with.

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InoBato – Put concisely: It simply never knew what it wanted to be. It was a good show, but that indecisiveness kept it from being great.

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – It had its moments, and those were times when the show most closely hewed to its 2012 predecessor. Hannah was in the fairly unique position of having finished PP’s first season right before starting the second, with no time in between. PP2 too often traded the old show’s intellectual/philosophical battles for shootouts, explosions, and credulity-straining plot twists. Its ending also felt immensely rushed.

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Zankyou no TerrorThis pissed off Franklin most of all, but even Hannah can’t deny that the introduction of the highly cliched Five character really dragged the show down, especially when she attempted to speak English for no good reason.

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Special Mention: Aldnoah.Zero – 12 – ‘Killing off’ people who are most likely going to be back in the second season was kind of deflating.

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9 thoughts on “The Best, Most Surprisingly Good, and Most Disappointing Shows of 2014”

  1. Good choices all around. I would’ve added Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun and Barakamon to top shows, though. I’m not usually one for an anime without fantasy/horror elements in it but these two kicked my feet out from under me and made me feel so incredibly good. It speaks volumes when simply watching an anime can make you feel young again.

    1. Both Franklin (Oigakkosan) and I watched this, and can both agree that it had that consistent feel good factor to it, along with being extremely hilarious on more than a few occasions.

      One of the reasons we left it off the list was its ending, which Frank thought lacked enthusiasm and gave the Sei-Haru pair a short shrift.

      GSN-K was also a brilliantly funny, energetic piece, but Frank judged it a bit too static for a show that teased so much character and romantic development.

      I also tend prefer rom-coms with clear confessions, and when a show uses tropes like someone being unable to hear, I’m always a little disappointed. Say it again, Chiyo! Pin him down!

      1. GSN-K wound up being my favorite show of the year. I didn’t find it static at all. For a comedy, there was plenty of motion while leaving the comedic structure intact. The two confessions that bookend the series show a drastic change in Sakura’s attitude.

        Barakamon is probably my number 2. I didn’t mind the ending. I saw that last story as being about the absence and, thus, the impression Haru left on Sensei. Having the two go on some final journey would probably led to a tonal disconnect.

        Then again, I haven’t gotten to Mushishi’s second season yet. I’ve seen a number of blogs put it up with the first. Not many seem to have reviewed it, though.

      2. I think for me they were both very safe, very good shows that didn’t make my top pick. As I mentioned above, I’m not sure I’d even have put Fate / Stay Night on the list either, but it’s hard to argue with that one earnestly

      3. I’ve never gotten the “safe” criticism. Personally, I’m not sure I would use that term for either show. Even if I did, as a script consultant, I’ve seen ambition and a desire to not play it safe lead to bad entertainment far too often. Not enough creators prioritize quality control. GSN-K kept me laughing. Barakamon kept me smiling. I can’t really imagine a better version of either.

        But I can tell this is one of those agree to disagree things.

        One thing we can agree on is that I wouldn’t put Fate on my top list. It was fun at first, but I’ve really lost my patience with it. They just don’t have 24 episodes of content. I’m not going to give them a pass because they have a budget of seven trillion dollars. I know the second half will be much, much better, at least.

        After re-watching Steins;Gate for Braverade’s reviews, I’ve gained a new appreciation for how that story worked both as a game and a series.

      4. No worries — it is telling that we all like both shows, and rated both in the 8s on a regular basis.

        F/sn… I think it has a fairly typical problem: that it has more content than 12 episodes but not a full 24. So they have to spin their wheels to finish a first season and then (from what I’ve been told) Jam on the gas for a second, packed season. Alternatively, it may just be a show that has fantastic high points. I mean, not just the visuals but the story telling during the opening 2 hours was fearless and intelligent. The criticism comes later, between the grande moments, when the protagonist(s) aren’t really doing anything or make stupid decisions.

    2. Indeed! We debated both of those shows but came to agree that they are ‘really good shows’ but didn’t quite make our ‘best’ of the year slots. Also, both were well advertised, good from the start, and in the main stream enough to miss out on ‘surprisingly awesome’

  2. actually, the only entry I’m on the fence about is Fate/stay. Don’t get me wrong, I greatly enjoy the show and there’s no comparison for its production values and delivery. But it too has some down moments and, as we roll into the second season, I wonder how much more of it could have been trimmed away to streamline and up the punchiness?

    1. I’m sure you’ll find that not a second of season 2 will be wasted. ;)

      On that note oigakkosan, what did you think of the finale? Ya have yet to comment on it. (if it’s alright for me to ask)

      (I provided list of other same universe stuff as asked)

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