In which dreams are shattered.
1. Shirobako (Episode 12)
Who would have thought the world of Exodus would be saved by a thinly veiled Hideaki Anno parody and an old timer who thought the industry had passed him by? But that’s the way the world of Shirobako seems to work. Still, despite the happy conclusion, the show doesn’t take place in some idyllic fantasy world and this episode still had plenty of scenes that showed the harsh realities underneath all of this. I love the way Shirobako manages to take a realist point of view without being cynical. The show doesn’t pull punches but it still maintains a positive outlook on adult life in general and life in the anime industry in particular. I’m certainly looking forward to the second half of this one.
2. Sora no Method (Episodes 12 and 13 [END])
The dream is finally over. After 11 episodes at number one, Sora no Method’s conclusion couldn’t hold off the furious charge of Shirobako. In the end it really felt like this was an 11.5 episode anime that was stretched into 13. I’ll have more thoughts on the finale later this week but the short version is, it wasn’t a great ending but it managed to avoid ruining the excellent episodes that preceded it for the most part. Overall, it was a pleasant, sentimental little show that told a moving story of a small group of friends and that’s pretty much what I wanted out of it.
Final Verdict: 7/10
3. Yama no Susume Second Season (Episode 24 [END])
This was pretty much a perfect final episode for Yama no Susume. It offered us a look back at everything that Hinata and Aoi had been through this season but it did that by reflecting on their friendship and what that means to each of them rather than just making a clip show. This served the dual purpose of reminding the viewer of all the happy times we enjoyed as well. In the end, Yama no Susume’s second season expanded and improved on the first season in numerous ways. When it was on, the show was simultaneously, beautiful, poignant and funny as it told us the story of an endearing group of friends growing closer through a shared love of mountains. I’m going to miss Yama no Susume and I can only hope there’s more coming someday.
Final Verdict: 7/10
4. Parasyte (Episode 12)
To be honest, I found Kana’s demise to be less compelling than I expected. It seems I was more enamored with her earmuffs and Sawashiro Miyuki’s voice than her actual character. Her chuuni love delusions were amusing as far as that went but I didn’t find her to actually be the interesting in terms of how she affected the plot. Her impending doom did provide us with some interesting conversations between Migi and Shinichi. Migi’s pride in her lack of sympathy was particularly interesting to me and really sums up what her character represents very well. Hopefully the second half of the show can provide more intrigue outside of the main two characters.
5. Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru (Episode 12 [END])
And so it seems that despite all the sinister undertones and foreshadowing, Yuuki Yuuna was never meant to be that dark of a show. I have a hard time seeing this ending as anything but a cop out, especially given they got their bodies back. A huge part of the traditional hero is heroic sacrifice and there was no sacrifice here. Heroes aren’t just people who fight against evil, they’re the ones who give something of their own up in order for others to continue to live happier lives. These characters gave nothing up and in fact Tougou got the use of her legs given back to her leaving them better off than they were at the start of the show. I’m not opposed to happy endings in the right context like if there’s some lesson learned through the process of earning that happy ending but the only less here seems to be “if you want something enough you’ll just get it handed to you” which isn’t particularly true or compelling. The only reason the previous three episodes worked was because the writers finally got us to believe that the prior battles where it seemed like nothing bad was allowed to happen were actually showing us the workings of a terrifying system that dehumanizes the heroes at its core. When this hand waved all of that away I was really underwhelmed. The show was still nice but it’s hard to not see a ton of wasted potential given how it ended.
Final Verdict: 7/10
6. Girlfriend Beta (Episodes 11 and 12)
Episode 11 of Girlfriend was a really strange episode for me. It started with the introduction of drama into a show that didn’t need it at all. I was ready to write this episode off but then Kokomi’s conversation with Chloe was actually one of the most reasonable looks at the “my parents want me to move away from my friends” plot I’ve ever seen. Usually the parents are painted as evil overlords who don’t care about their children but Kokomi acknowledged that Chloe’s parents obviously have their reasons for doing what they do. Then Chloe’s dad shows up and he has a French accent even more terrible than her own. Finally, it’s revealed that Chloe’s dad’s reasoning to bring her home was due to a hilarious misunderstanding on Chloe’s part. The episode was alternately troubling, heartwarming, enlightening, hilarious and downright narmy and was one of the strangest anime experiences I had this year. Episode 12 was back to standard Girlfriend fare which is mostly a good thing. Revisiting all the girls we had encountered during the show’s run was nice and the finale was above all a pleasant experience which is what I’ve come to expect from Girlfriend. Overall, the show was unambitious but a surprisingly enjoyable experience that I’d have a hard time recommending to anyone.
Final Verdict: 6/10
7. Fate/stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (Episode 12)
This episode was pretty much FSN in a nutshell. It had some awkward harem-y moments at the start that generally involved Shirou being oblivious and Rin being adorable. I did enjoy most of that, especially seeing Rin trying on glasses and blushing but it also felt a bit out of place for FSN. In another show that would have made for an outstanding episode but I don’t totally buy these characters in that context so it ended up feeling a bit off. The rest of the episode was devoted to beautiful but mostly empty-feeling action sequences. Caster’s spells and Archers arrows are incredibly pretty but the battle itself didn’t carry much weight. I don’t know if it’s because I know what’s going to happen or because I don’t really care for Saber but her fate didn’t really get much reaction out of me. Either way, at the halfway point we’ve gotten basically what I expected from UBW although it might be slightly better than I thought it would be.
Final (first cour) Verdict: 6/10
8. Amagi Brilliant Park (Episode 13)
This episode was a return to the Amagi Brilliant Park that mostly works for me. We got to see a very silly cast of character being, well, silly. It felt like more of an OVA than an actual episode of the show but that’s kind of what I want from Amagi. If we got an OVA like this from Amagi every few months that would actually be pretty nice. As an actual show with a story to tell it was pretty mediocre though. KyoAni still clearly has the technical and directorial talent to put together something really good but the source material they pick keeps leaving a lot to be desired. That doesn’t show any signs of changing with their next production unfortunately. Still, I’m happy that Amagi showed us that the “good” KyoAni is still lurking in there somewhere ready to put out a quality anime once they have the right story to work with.
Final Verdict: 5/10
9. Ore Twintail ni Narimasu (Episode 12)
This was actually a pretty nice finale for OreTwi. The production values were back up to the (admittedly low) standard set by the early episodes and the story was funny enough to be entertaining. It’s exactly the kind of goofy episode I expect from this show, I only wish it had come earlier rather than after several pretty bad episodes. Overall, OreTwi was an occasionally entertaining comedy romp but not really anything that special.
Final Verdict: 4/10
10. Grisaia no Kajitsu (Episode 12 and 13)
Grisaia ends as it always was, with everybody pissing themselves. I don’t get this shows fixation with urination but then again I don’t get a lot of what Grisaia does. It’s the kind of show that peddles shock value simply for the sake of shock value, as if it wanted to plaster a big “NOT FOR KIDS” sign on the show to make its viewers feel more mature. Unfortunately the underlying story was about as childish power fantasy as you can get. Tonally the show was a miss shifting between goofy fanservice moments and dead serious moments that did not earn their gravitas at all, sometimes within the same scene. The characters were wooden caricatures of real people that never felt human at all but rather like amalgamations of viewer fetishes and tragic backstories. The show was a mess but it was kind of an endearing mess as it repeatedly tried and failed to prove that the story carried any weight. I’m sure fans of the original would tell me to read the visual novel but I really can’t see it fixing the fundamental flaws of the writing and character settings in Grisaia. The end of the finale teased another season but I probably won’t be watching.
Final Verdict: 2/10
And, as usual, here are some bonus seasonal awards for fall 2014:
Most Surprising (Positive) Show
I had written this show off before the season started as being another pointless, low-budget harem show but I failed to adjust that after finding out that the show was going to eliminate the male player-character. The result was surprisingly good. The show wasn’t ambitious but it was occasionally funny and heartwarming and almost always pleasant. It isn’t much more that unassuming fluff but compared to what I expected that’s a huge improvement.
Honorable Mention: Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru
What started out looking like an unremarkable slice of life anime turned into so much more by the end of its run.
Most Disappointing Show
Selector Spread WIXOSS
A show that ended its first cour on a really promising note ended up devolving into nonsense by the time it ended. I was actually rather looking forward to this show but it ended up falling well short of my expectations.
Honorable Mention: Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru
Yuuki Yuuna somehow managed to be both surprising and disappointing this season. It built an extremely interesting world and characters and then concluded with probably the most boring ending possible.
Best Male Character
Izumi Shinichi and Migi (Parasyte)
This seems like cheating but what makes each of them great is the way they play off of each other more so than either one of them being incredibly interesting on their own. The conversations between Shinichi and Migi get at fundamental ideas of human nature that we take for granted but appear completely illogical to an outsider like Migi. Seeing the two of them discuss these issues is my favorite part of the show which makes the pair an easy pick for best male character(s).
Best Female Character
Komiya Nonoka (Sora no Method)
My opinion of Sora no Method may have diminished in the last couple weeks but I still think that Nonoka is great for pretty much the same reasons I outlined a couple weeks back. Her mental and emotional fortitude and her ability to bring people together made her a wonderful character and one of my favorites of the year.
Best Opening Song
Hikaru Nara (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso)
I talked about this song in my 2014 OP/ED rankings and nothing about my opinion has changed since. It’s a great song and Goose House is awesome.
Best Ending Song
Hoshikuzu no Interlude (Sora no Method)
This was just a really fun song accompanied by a really nice ending animation. I don’t love Fhana but she’s pretty good and this was a relatively weak season for EDs.
And once again:
The Kousaka Kirino Memorial “Otherwise Good Show Completely Ruined by a Single Character” Award
Miyazono Kaori (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso)
I predicted before the season started that Kaori would be a problem and that turned out to be accurate. I just don’t like anything the show does with her and most of the scenes she’s involved in fall flat for me. I don’t think she’s a good person or a good influence on Kousei but the show is clearly in love with her and it severely diminishes what is a mostly good show outside of that.
So that’s it for 2014 in weekly power rankings. I’ll have my full year top 10 coming later this week but I don’t plan to do a weekly ranking next week since almost everything is off this week. See you in 2015.