Kurosaki Maon has handled the vocals for all of the Index OPs, and the new song “ROAR” unveiled for the Russia arc is one of the best yet, combined with visuals that kick up the urgency and gravity, thus hyping up the episode to come. There’s Accelerator fighting Worst (which hey, actually happens in the show!); there’s Misaka jumping from jet to jet; and there’s Touma running towards the next battle, this time with a game Lessar in tow.
We watched over forty shows this year – not a record by any means, but definitely a product of our commitment only to watch the best shows available (with some notable exceptions in cases where we’re too far behind with certain franchises). As a result, a quick glance at our Big Board will show a lot of blue, indicating a lot of 8’s and 9’s with a handful 0f 10’s mixed in.
It’s not that we just like everything; it’s that we (usually) set a high standard for what we watch. If something is consistently scoring below 8 or 7, we’ll probably drop it, since there’s just not enough time to waste on subpar show. That being said, even among these forty shows (out of the 100+ that aired) there are a select few we would recommend over the rest; the Cream of the Crop…The Best of The Best of The Best (with honors).
Ok, enough cliches…let’s get down to it, shall we? Say you were incredibly strapped for time this year, and couldn’t watch any anime. To binge forty shows now, with just a couple weeks left in the year, would not be good for your health. So we’re making it easy for you: watch the ten shows below, and you’re sure to be satisfied!
Our tastes may differ a tad from the masses here at RABUJOI so we’ve included weighted scores from both MyAnimeList and Anime News Network, and then very unscientifically averaged them with our own scores for the final ranking.
10. Darling in the FranXX
7.82 | RAB: 8.92 | MAL: 7.61 | ANN: 6.93
The adolescent male-female pilot pairs of the titular FranXX live to fight the mysterious yet deadly enemy, and nothing else; they weren’t given a choice in the matter. This is a story of the bonds they share, the joys and trials of living together, falling in love, stumbling into adulthood, and finally coming to question the roles assigned to them by the adults. It features Trigger’s signature visual flair and compelling performances from Tomatsu Haruka and breakout newcomer Ichinose Kana. It wasn’t perfect by any means but it was thoroughly exhilarating more often than not.
9. Koi wa Ameagari no You ni (After the Rain)
7.92 | RAB 8.58 | MAL 7.61 | ANN 7.56
A high school student falling for the 45-year-old single parent manager of the restaurant where she works could have been a landmine, but their story is handled with a deftness, sensitivity, realism and beauty, matched by achingly gorgeous animation and character design and some powerful voice work from the HanaKana-channeling Watabe Sayumi.
8. Yagate Kimi ni Naru (Bloom into You)
8.28 | RAB: 8.80 | MAL: 7.76 | ANN: n/a
Perhaps the best pure romance of the year despite not being over yet and one half of the couple quite adamant she doesn’t have feelings for the other. Yet she seems to be gradually coming to like her senpai—wonderfully voiced by Kotobuki Minako—more and more, which is exactly how my love for this series has progressed: like a blooming flower.
7. Shokugeki no Souma: San no Sara – Toutsuki Ressha-hen (Food Wars! The Third Plate: Totsuki Train Arc)
8.35 | RAB: 8.75 | MAL 8.37 | ANN: 7.93
Food Wars is definitely one of those shows you’re either all-in from the beginning or hopelessly lost, but this second arc of the third season was one of the strongest due in no small part to watching how Souma and his numerous allies closed ranks and started to fight Azami’s oppressive new culinary regime. Best of all, it means Erina and Souma finally on the same side. Not to mention there are few shows that so seamlessly integrate the art and science of cooking, not to mention leave their audience hungry both for the next episode and for the food that had been presented.
6. Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan) Season 3
8.39 | RAB: 8.75 | MAL: 8.52 | ANN: 7.91
Like Food Wars, those who sign up for Titan are well aware they’re in it for the long haul. Indeed, the mysteries that have unfolded in the manga may never be put to the screen, with the show’s apparent primary goals to simply entice its audience into consuming the source material. But while we only got twelve episodes this time, not a single one was wasted. A lot of secrets were revealed, and the girl formerly known as Krista Lenz took her rightful place beside Eren as one of the chief protagonists of the series with a bizarre (this is Titan) and utterly righteous arc.
8.45 | RAB: 8.83 | MAL: 8.34 | ANN: 8.18
Perhaps the best pure comedy of the year, Hinamatsuri is full of interesting, colorful, and imminently rootable characters, from the yakuza with a heart of gold and a love of antiques, to the young woman with telekinetic powers who suddenly enter and complicate his life, to that girl’s ridiculously hardworking classmate who ends up tending bar (and being pretty damn good at it). But while the comedy is almost omnipresent, there’s still some pockets of meaty character drama within the dozen episodes.
4. Steins;Gate 0
8.50 | RAB: 8.96 | MAL: 8.65 | ANN: 7.89
Seven years is a long time to wait between an anime and its sequel, though I only had to wait three since I got into the first series late. I’m glad I did, though; it’s one of my favorite (if not favorite, full stop) shows, animated or otherwise, whose emotionally dizzying heights were matched only by its emotionally hellish lows. 0 spends much of its time in the depths, with Okabe never not mourning the loss of his beloved Kristina, even if it meant saving his beloved Mayuri. But thanks to a little help from friends old and new, including a virtual version of Kurisu called Amadeus, Okabe gets his groove back and foils the plans of a scientist even madder than he.
3. Violet Evergarden
8.68 | RAB: 9.15 | MAL: 8.59 | ANN: 8.30
VE has the distinct air of the anime equivalent of “Oscar Bait,” as goes to almost obsessive lengths to demonstrate its peerless quality of animation, music, and melodrama. I don’t usually go for Oscar Bait movies, myself, but doggone it, Violet Evergarden, despite being a bit pretentious, is nevertheless a gorgeous, marvelously-crafted, and exceedingly enjoyable piece of entertainment. Watching its deeply wounded inside-and-out titular heroine gradually gain the humanity that had been repressed in her bloody past is never not spellbinding.
2. Sora yori mo Tooi Basho (A Place Further than the Universe)
8.75 | RAB: 9.15 | MAL: 8.61 | ANN: 8.50
Ordinary girls seek an extraordinary adventure, and end up forming bonds that will last and memories they’ll cherish for a lifetime. That those ordinary girls are in Japan and the adventure they seek is all the way in Antarctica makes heir goal feel unattainable at first, even naive. But Shirase, Mari, Hinata, and Yuzuki gradually make believer of us. And that they manage to actually achieve the feat of going to the literal end of the earth is just the beginning. Overflowing with charm, love, and camaraderie, Yorimoi is a Must-Not-Miss.
1. 3-gatsu no Lion 2 (March Comes In Like a Lion 2), Second Cour
8.92 | RAB: 9.18 | MAL: 9.05 | ANN: 8.54
We don’t consider it cheating that a show that first aired in 2017 gets the top billing here. First of all, the eleven episodes of the sequel all aired in 2018, and secondly, it was just that damn good. Indeed some of the best episode sof the entire series took place this year, as examination of Rei’s depression gave way to those of his fellow shogi players like the ethereal (and profoundly lonely) Souya, as well as his young friend Hinata, who despite being quite simply one of the kindest souls alive became the target of horrendously cruel school bullying. Since Hina was one of the people instrumental in saving him, Rei considers it his duty to return the favor, with overwhelmingly gratifying, life-affirming results. No anime this year exuded love as powerfully or consistently as Lion. For that and many other merits to its name, it was the best of 2018.
The end of the year is nigh, so we here at RABUJOI thought we’d give you some “Best of” lists, starting with the 10 best anime we watched in 2017. Mind you, these aren’t simply the ten shows that gained the highest scores, though that is part of the equation. Rather, these are the ten shows we enjoyed the most and would/will likely watch again, and highly recommend to all.
10. Sagrada Reset
Despite its conventional, non-flashy visuals and the uneven strength of its arcs, Sagrada Reset earns a place on this list for being so damned ambitious, memorable, and weird. It starred a couple of characters who always hid their emotions behind wooden exteriors, and yet it worked. The idea of an entire town of ability users, full of mysteries as to how a peaceful balance was struck, the attempts by some parties to destroy the magical place, and an increasingly fascinating web of world rules and creative use of ability combos kept be tuning in.
Nobody ever expected or even thought much of Inuyashiki Ichirou. But when he and Shishigami Hiro are crushed by aliens and given new robotic bodies capable of flight, miraculous healing, and terrifying destruction, Ichirou not only becomes a hero, but the only hero who can save his family, Japan, and the world Hiro’s adolescense-fueled rampages. Often dark, brutal, and cruel, Inuyashiki is balanced by some welcome moments of comedy as Ichirou discovers and tries out his numerous powers, as well as the emotional impact of Hiro’s tortured, conflicted soul, as well as Ichirou’s restored bond with his daughter Mari.
Two girls in a ruined world. It doesn’t get much simpler than that, and the audience is along for the ride as those girls trundle through a seemingly endless three-dimensional labyrinth of roads, tracks, ramps, stairs, underground passages, platforms, elevators, and structures, each time discovering something new. Chito and Yuuri couldn’t be more different in personality, but there’s no doubt they’re both glad the other is by their side for their adventures. Moments of friendship, comfort, and life cut through the gloom.
Like Sagrada Reset, ACCA marched to the beat of its own drum, and was unlike nothing else that aired this year. Focusing on a mid-level bureaucrat with a pretty cushy life who has a mysterious past that plunges him and his sister into the heart of a royal coup attempt, ACCA had both a compelling narrative, likable, rootable characters, a wonderfully-realized world composed of countries with very specific themes, plenty of intrigue, and a surprisingly understated yet effective finale. And the food…the loving depiction of food and drink gave even Food Wars a run for its money.
I didn’t know I wanted to return to the world of Spring Comes In Like a Lion until I found myself there. Rei is a little older and lot more confident and less self-hating in the second season, and it’s a good thing too, because the person enduring the most conflict this time is Hina, enduring a bullying campaign simply for doing what was right defending her friend. Hina saved Rei last season, now it’s his turn, and it’s never not a delight to behold.
Continuing the theme of “Weird but Good”, Land of the Lustrous may be the best example of the year. Androgynous anthropomorphic gems fighting aliens from the moon with designs drawn heavily from Hindu iconography seeking to use them for “decoration”? Weird. But more than the awesome 3DCGI execution of those battles and their shimmering participants is the character development of the show’s protagonist Phos, who has grown into one of my favorite characters of the year.
I haven’t seen a school romance as good as Tsuki ga Kirei in a good long time. When it came along and told the slow-burn story of Akane and Kotarou became an item, it was a crisp breath of fresh air. It keeps things simple, keeps things real, and doesn’t skimp on all the resonant little non-verbal gestures and expressions that really bring the characters to life. The show also makes good use of the LINE app that’s apparently become the go-to communication tool for kids of this age.
The first season of SGRS was truly great anime, but as it took place mostly in the past, we can almost look at it as a prologue for the second season, which is outstanding. Put together, it’s a sprawling, epic tale of several generations of storytellers fighting against a world increasingly indifferent to their craft, while wrestling with their own various personal demons. It’s about women’s empowerment in what had been an all-men’s world for centuries. It’s about brotherhood, familial love, romantic love, lust, and one spellbinding rakugo performance after another, usually accompanied by a top-notch jazzy soundtrack.
“Endstory” is pretty self-explanatory; in another epic chronicle that started with Araragi Koyomi’s eventful Spring Break in late March of 2006 (covered in the excellent film trilogy Kizumonogatari), it’s hard to believe Owarimonogatari wraps the whole thing up just a year later, in March of 2007 (the Kanbaru Suruga-centric Hanamonogatari takes place a month later). But enough about the timeline; Owari 2 is a fantastic conclusion to the mega-arc that takes Araragi literally to Hell and back, ascends Hachikuji Mayoi to godlike status, filling a longtime hole in the city’s spiritual tapestry, and finally reveals the mystery of who/what the Loki-like “Oshino Ougi” is. Araragi and Hitagi even get to spend time together as lovers. It has pretty much anything a Monogatari junkie like myself could ask for, and leads me to hope this isn’t really the end, since there’s a lot more Nisio Isin material to work with.
Made in Abyss came out of nowhere to become one of the best animes of this century. That sounds like hyperbole, the century ain’t that old, and it really is that damn good. Imagine a Ghibli movie spread over nearly five hours with unique character designs that, while cutesy, avoid being annoyingly so; a intricately-detailed and truly awesome setting, ominous mysteries, terrifying monsters, ample mortal peril, tremendous music and sound design, and some really top-notch performances from the two leads. Abyss will pull you in, grab your heartstrings, kick your adrenaline gland, and blow your mind. And it’s not over yet; though a date has not been set, a second season is on the way. Even if it had ended at one, however, the twelve episodes we got unquestionably comprised the very best of 2017.
If you’ve been watching ACCA, you’ve probably thought to yourself: “Goddamn, they’re almost always stuffing their faces or drinking on this show!” And, well, you’d be right; they are indeed! In fact, so much of each episode is given over to eating, drinking, purchasing, or talking about food and where to get it, you could take out all the scenes without food and drink and still have a pretty sizable episode left…as I shall demonstrate:
Episode 01 – We start with Jean and Lotta’s usual breakfast of toast with jam. Then we move on to his co-worker’s ten-o’clock snack of roll cake from Hachikuma. Once in Famasu, Jean chows down on what looks like a Reuben while Eidar orders a cheeseburger. The Five Chief Officers have tea and biscuits. The next ten-o’clock snack at Jean’s office is a five-pack of flan. Jean buys more bread at a bakery with Knot while Rail and his colleague eat donuts. Jean joins the Five at a cafe for coffee. Jean has beers with Niino.
Episode 02 – Jean and Lotta have a breakfast of what looks like eggs on toast with cucumbers and mayonnaise. Lotta asks Jean to buy tomato bread from Mugimaki, where he runs into Mauve. Lotta enjoys some chocolate cake al fresco at Picidae. Niino tucks into a sundae. Once in Jumoku, Jean samples the giant burgers, fries, and fruit at Basswood. Jean buys local produce to bring home. Lotta and Owl sample a nut cake at Honig. Niino and Jean have a huge dinner of meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, and bread, and wash it down with beer and wine. Later, Jean takes Niino on a drunken trip to the supermarket.
Episode 03 – Jean gives his co-workers a 10-pack of cream puffs from Hachikuma for their ten-o’clock snack, and a package of fancy cookies for Lotta. Lotta and Niino have a dinner of meat, potatoes, and salads. Lotta receives a parcel of potatoes in the mail, with which she plans to make gratin. Jean has dinner with Mauve at Veil, consisting of fine wine, rare steaks with black truffles. Prince Schwan samples some fine pastries. After dinner Jean has more wine with Niino, along with grapes, pretzels, and a selection of cheeses. Prior to Schwan’s celebration, Jean, Nino and Lotta attend a catered affair at the palace with pastries, breads, and various jams, jellies, and sweets. That night, after the King’s address, they enjoy various desserts like Dowan nut cake and strawberries.
Episode 04 – In the episode with the least food and drink, Niino and Lotta have tea and chocolate layer cake, as she packs chocolate, nuts, wine, and other gifts for the building owner. At Chez Pierre in Suitsu, Jean has a bowl of rustic stew. Warbler buys some loaves of bread. Lotta polishes off a bowl of something, as one of Magie’s underlings eats an elaborate sundae. Pastis drinks some brown liquor. Jean’s captives give him some bread.
Episode 05 – Schwan has tea and cookies. Lotta has blueberry pancakes at Kakesu. Rail introduces Magie to toast made from sandwich bread. Jean’s co-workers plan to make microwave potato chips. Lotta has a snack of some kind of pink confection with an orange soda. Later at Mugimaki she orders two-centimeter slices of walnut, cheese, and chocolate bread. Birra district’s branch chief presents a spread of local foods to Jean for dinner, including rye bread (to go with the wheat bread not made there), the local grog, meat and potatoes. Magie introduces the joy of buttered toast to Schwan. Niino takes Jean and Lotta for a dinner of steamed mussels served with bread and french fries. While Jean is in Rokkusu, Niino takes Lotta out for vegetable, meat, and cheese fondue.
Episode 06 – Jean’s co-workers have apple cake for their snack. Jean invites them to his and Lotta’s apartment building party where they have drinks, and a buffet. Both Rail and Owl give Lotta cakes as New Years presents. The Five have tea and coffee in their common area. While in Hare, Jean is treated to an elaborate, sumptuous feast consisting of grilled meat and shrimp skewers, whole fish, red and green curry, beef stew, pork belly, salad, and more, washed down with quite a lot of beer, to the point Jean refuses to share a bottle of booze with Niino later. Jean and Lotta have toast with jam for breakfast when he’s back.
Episode 07 – Magie puruses a catalog listing all of the flavors of bread Mugimaki makes. Jean passes by fancy cakes at Patisserie Fuchs in Dowa, searching for famous flavored snowball (“Yukinotama”) pastries Lotta wants him to bring home. Niino takes him to Cafe Berg, where Jean orders the snowballs and tries one for himself, then joins King Falke over a spread of fruit and nut tarts, pies, and rolls. Jean and Niino have wine with a platter of sausages, meats, pate, cheeses, and other snacks. Jean samples Mugimaki’s new walnut mugwort bread. Niino eats squares from a chocolate bar. While in Korore, Jean inspects all of the chocolatiers the district is known for.
Please, dear readers, I implore you: Don’t watch ACCA on an empty stomach. Have some food and drink nearby. I’m going to go eat some bread now.
As we enter the first week of September, I’m going to officially drop both Handa-kun and Mob Psycho 100. We’re more than half way through the season and both shows have hit their stride… but that stride has rarely earned more than a watchable 7.
On the surface, Handa-kun is a less fundamentally flawed show. Sure, it is generic and shares no meaningful connection with the series it prequels, but Handa’s brand of safe silly high school humor is relatively harmless. However, Handa himself lacks what the protagonists of similar shows have: likable traits and/or narrative stakes. In short, since we know what Handa will become, there is no drama to be had with his classmates… none of them will be in his life later so nothing they do will matter.
Mob is a similarly challenged protagonist. He is likable, but his objective (a love interest) isn’t what the show is about. Rather, he’s pulled randomly into other characters’ worlds and, rarely, has an emotional freakout about it that results in crudely drawn over-the-top explosions. In this, he shares too much spotlight with other, often unlikable characters — too many characters overall for any of their stories to feel fleshed out.
If you’re still following either of these shows, what’s kept you hooked? Let me know in the comments below.
The gist: a charming, high budget mini-sode format as commercial where Char jumps from his Zaku to a Toyota, which he finds comfortably supportive to sit in. Then he drives it down a colony highway until Lalah Sune warns him an enemy is near …from the Zaku he just left… and he drives into a hanger where they trade rides.
It’s very well animated, if a very simple concept, and the Toyota is almost cool looking in red with Zeon details. Oddly, the car model’s saturation is much higher than the Gundam in the background, which separates them in a slightly awkward way. It’s odd because the car’s style is closer to OG UC gundam than the mech, which feels more nuanced. More modern.
I’m not sure why a Zeon theme was chosen, since they are pretty definitively the bad guys in OG UC Gundam? Also, I’m not sure why Char would be a good endorsement for the brand either, since he’s a devious lie-to-your-face kind of guy bent on revenge?
Maybe if he were driving a Subaru WRX I could take it more seriously…
This season has been lousy with bishounen/prettyboy side characters, who we at RABUJOI have found to be underdeveloped, dull, one-note, and generally irritating, as well as comically evil. Here are the pros and cons of nine guys (in alphabetical order) we really wouldn’t miss if they were shot into the sun and never heard from again, regardless of the genres of the shows they inhabit:
1. Amatori Biba, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
Pros: “The Liberator”, leader of the Hunters. Eldest son of the Shogun. Tall, handsome, and adored by the masses (those that are still alive, that is) as a hero. Great hair.
Cons: Not really a hero. Disowned by the Shogun. Uses people (including Mumei) like tools in his crusade to become stronger. Keeps Kabane around like rats aboard his ghoulish train-lab. It was never really in doubt that he was a bad guy, since the first time Ikoma saw him he basically said “This is not a good guy.”
2. Aoyama Yuuga, My Hero Academia
Pros: Can fire a laser beam out of his navel. Good personal hygeine.
Cons: Annoying. Self-involved. Preening. Has a permanent V-shaped smirk on his face.
3. Elliot Forster, Gakusen Toshi Asterisk
Pros: Young, handsome, talented, chivalrous.
Cons: Arrogant. Unable to last half an episode against Ayato and Julis. Barely a character.
4. Ijika Yuuto, Sousei no Onmyouji
Pros: Extremely powerful exorcist. Can easily get under Rokuro’s skin. Great at pretending to be a nice, kind human being and brother to Benio.
Cons: Comically evil, power-hungry, and arrogant. Only really exists to provide a nemesis for Rokuro to duel. Made Benio cry. Not much else to him.
5. Judar Harvey, Hundred
Pros: Tall, handsome, confident, successful. Runs a huge city/academy ship. Has a gorgeous sister in Claire.
Cons: Like Biba, clearly not a good guy and not really trying to pretend otherwise. Uses his other sister Liza as a power source for the ship, and might have designs on Karen too.
6. Roswaal L. Mathers, Re:Zero
Pros: Rich, influential, a skilled wizard. Seems to want Emilia to be Queen. Welcomes Subaru into his fly palace and gives him a job. Same hilarious voice actor as Soul Eater’s Excalibur.
Cons: Looks like a goofy clown. Has a kinda Dracula vibe to him as well. Believes Subie could be a spy. Kinda annoying speech patterns. Uncertain motives. Possibly sleeping with Ram. Could be evil.
7. Tsuchimikado Arima, Sousei no Onmyouji
Pros: Young, tall, handsome, uninhibited, full of joie de vivre. Powerful exorcist. Committed Rokuro x Benio shipper (like Preston).
Cons: Isn’t interested in Rokuro or Benio’s opinions on the matter of joining together to conceive the Miko. A shameless exhibitionist and voyeur who the cops should probably keep an eye on. All that conviviality could just be an act to conceal inner evil.
8. Keith Aero Windermere, Macross Delta
Pros: Young (way under 30), rich, handsome, (de?)cultured. Ace pilot. Ordained aerial knight. Puts his country first. Cool name.
Cons: Bulky, overwrought wardrobe. Derivative cockpit banter. Driving his frail younger brother Heinz to an early grave. Really only interested in dogfights with Messer. Probably killed Messer.
9. Ohta, Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge
Pros: Young, tall, and blonde. A slight air of delinquency. Devoted best friend to Tanaka, and makes sure he’s on time for classes and doesn’t end up in ditches. Neither irritating nor evil.
Cons: None. Ohta’s the best. Doesn’t belong on this list. Just messing with you!
If you want to play pretend, could you do it elsewhere?
You’ve been saying all kinds of things that have no meaning.
Is it so much fun for you to pretend you’re working by using words you just learned and mimicking a debate?
You use vague terms to feel like you spoke up, to feel like you understand, but you take no action whatsoever.
You’ll never move forward that way. You won’t create anything. You won’t gain anything. You won’t give anyone anything. You’re just a pretender.
Could you refrain from wasting any more of our time?
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
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Zankyou no Terror – This 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.
Special Mention: Aldnoah.Zero – 12 – ‘Killing off’ people who are most likely going to be back in the second season was kind of deflating.
Episodes are listed alphabetically by show title.
UPDATE: We’ve added a couple more couples from Fall 2013 shows that carried over into Winter 2014, bringing the total to 24, not 22.
1. Mine x Tatsumi
Akame ga Kill! – At first it seemed like Tatsumi’s love interest would be the titular Akame, while Mine was someone he merely constantly bickered with. Yet their chemistry only got better in time, and after both saved each others’ lives multiple times, they finally clicked, and got to say what needed to be said before Mine tragically succumbed to her battle injuries.
2. Esdeath x Tatsumi
Akame ga Kill! – Another romance involving Tatsumi that started out as a joke but grew more serious as time and circumstances with the war progressed. Esdeath proved that while she was a monster, she was also still a human being, which meant sought someone to give her heart to and share her life of death and destruction with, and Tatsumi literally checked all of her boxes. I only hesitated to list these two because Tatsumi never really seemed interested in Esdeath beyond superficial titillation, but Tatsumi did basically offer himself to her if she came over to the rebellion.
3. Haru x Tokaku
Akuma no Riddle – While this list is mostly boy-girl pairings, that doesn’t preclude other combinations as long as they were interesting, and Haru and Tokaku’s certainly was, with both girls in turn taking up the “protector” role as conditions warranted, and even Haru’s dark secrets not swaying Tokaku from her side.
4. Kisara x Rentarou
Black Bullet – Rentarou was adopted into Kisara’s family, but while that technically makes them siblings and thus not couple material, that turns out to be the least of their worries. Let’s get one thing out of the way: Rentarou and Kisara love each other, and it goes beyond standard familial love; they’re devoted to one another, with a bond forged in the hellish fires of the past. What dooms them, in the shows somewhat curtailed ending, is Kisara’s descent into darkness, choosing to become an even greater evil to destroy the great evil that infects the world…starting with Kazumitsu, her brother by blood. It’s a road Rentarou can’t follow her down, and she knows that. It’s also quite sad.
5. Rikka x Yuuta
Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren – Well…duh. You didn’t think these two wouldn’t be on this list, did you? I mean look at them…bloody adorable. But that’s not to say they were just a couple of cute faces. They went through some things, including trying to parse out what their relationship is and what its pace should be, as well as overcoming a feisty rival.
6. Hilda x Roselie x Chris
Cross Ange: Tenchi to Ryuu no Rondo – Yes, I know, this is a trio, not a couple, but I’ll allow it. Arzenal is many things, and ‘women’s prison’ is one of them. As such, the ‘weak’ (either physically or emotionally) ally themselves with the ‘strong’, be it in the skies, the mess hall, or boudoir. These three comprised Troop Captain Zola’s harem, and Zola looked after them both on duty and off. When she was killed in action they carried on with Hilda in her place. Then Hilda deserted, and it was just Chris and Roselie. When she’s recaptured, Hilda claims she was just playing around with them…but I wasn’t convinced she was being totally honest with herself.
7. Nagi x Kyoutarou
Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai – Yes, the show wants to give all the girls possibilities with Kyoutarou, and seems to want to nudge him in the direction of Tsugumi in particular, but I’ve always found this pairing to be the most compelling. They have a past, and spend the most time together, often with no pretense or tension. The only problem is they share the same father. Whoops…
8. Rin x Shirou
Fate stay/night: Unlimited Blade Works – Rin and Shirou are far from an official couple, but it can’t be argued that they have a certain romantic tension in their interactions, which have varied from verbal to physical/magical altercations to sharing dinner and spending the night under the same roof (though not in the same room). They’ve been enemies, and they’ve been allies, and there’s the constant indication that the alliance is temporary and they’ll be enemies again before too long…but in the interim, they make a good team.
9. Kazumi x Ryouta
Gokukoku no Brynhildr – This is another case (there were many this year) when I wasn’t as interested in the show’s intended ‘main’ couple of Ryouta and Neko. Kazumi was a way more dynamic character and she and Ryouta have some great dramatic and comedic scenes together.
10. Tomoyo x Jurai
Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – There are cuter and more precocious (Chifuyu), taller and more voluptuous (Sayumi), lovey-dovier (Mirei) and more familiar (Hatoko) women in Jurai’s life, but none ever clicked quite so well as he and the crimson-headed Tomoyo. They bicker a lot, but out of mutual interest in and affection for each other, not loathing.
11. Satomi x Shinichi
Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – File Satomi and Shinichi under 2014’s Most Doomed Couples, despite their mutual affection and brilliant natural chemistry…well, when Shinichi isn’t making scary faces, yelling at her for no reason, or tossing puppy carcasses in the garbage.
12. Rurumo x Kouta
Majimoji Rurumo – You can’t tell a book by it’s cover, and the rather childish-looking MMR had a surprisingly rich and mature romance at its core, which rightly took center stage, rather than the magical milieu. Ruru even shelves her original purpose for contracting with Kouta, because completing that would separate the two (via his death), something neither of them want.
13. Chisaki x Tsumugu
Nagi no Asukara – I loved Miuna to death, but for most of the second core when she’s a main character, her’s was a one-sided love. No, the best couple in this show were the two I thought least likely to pair up, only it happened anyway due to circumstances and time. Their relationship is threatened by Tsumugu’s future and the awakening of their friends, but by the end it endures. They just fit, as the photo above indicates.
14. Kosaki x Raku
Nisekoi – Sorry, Chitoge, but Kosaki was here first! Not only that, Raku liked her and she liked him first. They were on the cusp of connecting when Chitoge arrived, and no matter how much progress she and Raku made towards becoming less of a fake couple and more of a real one, Chitoge still felt like an interloper. Of course, that’s partly on Kosaki and Raku, for not having the guts to come right out and confess to each other. The show itself didn’t seem to want them together, but that doesn’t change the fact that they were the best fit for each other.
15. Kaori x Yuuki
One Week Friends – There were times on this show when you weren’t sure whether Kaori’s was a real brain condition caused by her accident, or if it was a psychosomatic process she went through in order to avoid getting too close to anyone. In any case, it made her a tough nut to crack, but Yuuki put the work in and devised a way for her to remember him even when she forgot, regardless of the reason. It was a bumpy road, but immensely satisfying.
16. Erika x Kyoya
Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – One of the upstart surprise of the year, Ookami’s general premise of ‘guy treating girl like a dog’ naturally had me pre-turned off, worried it would be demeaning towards women. It turned out to be a lot more nuanced and likable, as were Erika and Kyoya, despite their many flaws and missteps. I’m not sure if any other couple had quite so many obstacles to finding happiness, but they navigated them all with grace and humor.
17. Aoi x Naoto
Rail Wars! – Aoi is constantly telling Naoto he’s not tough enough for railway public safety, dubbing him “Stringbean” and such. But the truth is, Naoto was a lot tougher than he looked, and never let her down when they were in a spot. They developed a good working relationship, but the more death-defying adventures they shared, the closer they became, to the point where Aoi is unashamed to be officially in the fight for Naoto’s heart along with the other girls, and Naoto is not opposed to the chase.
18. Tensai x Juugo
Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin – While these two were never an official item, they shared a mutual respect and admiration that would sometimes veer into the realm of romantic affection/attraction. They’re rivals who keep one another on each other’s toes, but when they come together – Tensai’s brains and Juugo’s brawn, they can accomplish great things.
19. Yuu x Haruka
Sakura Trick – This show mostly focused on one thing and one thing only—the budding relationship between two young people in love for the first time—and did it damn well. Perhaps no other show this year captured that unique joy and excitement that comes not just from finding the right one, but knowing that person thinks you’re just as right for them. That, and the thrill of making out in places where one could get caught.
20. Kaori x Kousei
Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – I considered putting Tsubaki and Kousei here, because despite having different callings (athletic versus musical) they seem to be the more natural match due to time and proximity, which are tried-and-true reasons two people come together. Kaori and Kousei, meanwhile, have the look of a more idealistic, star-crossed couple. Kaori is amazing and everything, but she’s also dying, as we the audience know better than the other characters.
But at the end of the day, Kousei is in love with Kaori, not Tsubaki. He’s said as much to Kaori, though he could have been clearer and she has yet to clearly respond. Still, there’s nothing else on TV, animated or not, quite like watching these two make music together. Yes, music music…get your head out of the gutter!
21. Chiharu x Mitsuo
Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta – Pilot’s Love Song had some issues…chief among them, it didn’t really, um…end, so much as stop. But one thing it did well was introduce perhaps the quickest but most compelling and moving romances of the year, between the affable Chi and kind Mitty, both side characters in this meandering tale. Like so many other couples who suddenly find each other in the midst of war, that war ends up tearing them apart prematurely, in one of the most heartrending scenes of the year.
22. Yui x Sou
Ushinawareta Mirai wo Motomete – Aside from her super-romantic (and heartbreaking) confession/kiss/farewell in the street where Sou had just narrowly escaped death-by-bus, a kiss immediately proceeded by her no longer existing in his universe, the time-traveling Yui’s love story was often overshadowed by future Sou’s obsessive quest to save Kaori, but always present, to the point where Yui started as a means to save Kaori, but then a safe Kaori became a means for Sou to one day create Yui anew. Still with us…?
23. Kouko x Banri
24. Mako x Ira