Last year was awesome when it comes to Anime...I guess noone can deny that reality. Between Psycho Pass, Attack on Titan, Kill la Kill, Silver Spoon, Arpeggio of Blue Steel and the likes, everyone could easily find a favorite.
But now we're already halfway through 2014 (already? sigh...) and it's time to look at the Anime of this year. There are about 60 new shows on and nope, I haven't seen them all yet. However, I think I've seen enough so far to say: It's sadly not as strong a class as last year. Even my favorites have some drawbacks but all in all, everyone should find something to watch.
Alas, here my three favorites so far (no particular order).
The title is rather clunky and guess what? As with many Anime, it has nothing to do with the show itself.
When I read the basic story premise, I was reminded of "Elfen Lied" but luckily, it strays enough from the formula to not be considered a blatant rip-off. So what is it about?
Murakami-kun is a japanese high-schooler (and already I hear you yawning but stay with me) who is the leader (and only member) of the school's astronomy club. Aside from being a passion of his, he does it for more than pure interest.
One day, a new transfer-student arrives who looks just like his childhood-friend whom he enjoyed stargazing with...and who seemingly died about 10 years earlier. Soon, he discovers, that the girl has some mysterious powers and once the military takes a real interest in the girl, Murakami wants to help her.
What I liked: The general Sci-Fi setting is nice and while some girls act a bit cringeworthy (more on that later), the cast of the series is genuinely interesting with varying backgrounds and stories to tell. It's a lot more light-hearted than Elfen Lied but mostly maintains a good balance between goofy humour and dramatic tension. Also: dat opening theme.
What I disliked: Tons of fanservice. Especially one girl drives this up, but I guess we'll be given a good reason for that...later. As it stands now, this sometimes fucks with the general tone of the show. I don't mind fanservice in general that much, but in this case it's just quirky and doesn't fit the tone. Also, some of the powers of the girls seem a tad too convenient. Especially in the first three episodes it seems, as if the creators wrote the story first and then gave them the powers to pull it off. It feels weirdly off and I facepalmed myself more than once. However, this gets way better as the season progresses. Oh and their nearly consequence-less depiction of time-manipulation is a personal pet-peeve of mine but don't let that bother you ;)
It's Armageddon-time again. Mankind is on the retreat from the "Gastrea" Virus. What does it do? It mutates in your body and when the Threshold reaches 50% it transforms you into a giant-monster-version of an animal. A very hungry animal that is. Oh, to make things more complicated, normal bullets won't work on them, since the Gastrea have superior self-healing capabilities. So what do? Cower behind great walls made of the only element, that can stop the Gastrea of course. This element is a metal called Varanium and is used in special ammunition (I now give you exactly ONE guess what color this stuff has) but more importantly in the building of giant blocks that keep cities safe.
Enter our two main protagonists: Civil officer Satomi Rentaro, a 21 year old special officer, and his Activator Enju Aihara, a ten-year old school girl. Those civil officers are the only ones capable of fighting the Gastrea (the few that make it into the city every once in a while) because of two reasons: a) they get Varanium bullets and b) they are all accompanied by an "Activator", usually a small pre-high-school-girl. While this might sound strange, there is a very good reason for that which I'm not gonna spoil here.
And of course, shit goes south from there on...
What I liked: The general story is nothing new but presented competently enough. The characters are well written and share some bonds that are well explained throughout the series so far. The action is well choreographed and finds a good middle ground between authenticity and some gore-shots. What I really loved was the chemistry between the two main characters, especially Enju's side of it all. Don't mistake it: the anime itself is "colourful" but it deals with some serious stuff and several VERY dark themes.
Also the Gastrea design is really cool.
What I disliked: There is not much to dislike. In the first episodes it seemed, as if Enju was only there for the satisfaction of some weird loli-fetish but luckily, that's not the case. Also, some exposition is so blatantly obvious, that it actually made me laugh at how shoe-horned in it was.
Knights of Sidonia
Episodes out: 7 of 13 (?)
Episodes seen: 7
Coming to Netflix this summer...yes, corporate greed dictates: No Crunchyroll
Hands up everyone who thought of the great Muse-song when they read the title. However, they didn't include it in the Anime (...yet). So what is it about? In the far future, Earth has been destroyed by an Alien race known as the Gauna. Mankind managed to flee on giant colonyships and the Sidonia is one of them. Ruled in secret by a council of seemingly dead people (think of those guys in Chronicles of Riddick), the Sidonia managed to survive for several centuries. Gauna, however, are an ever-present danger, having only one weak spot that's vulnerable to a certain type of spear...of which there are only 28 left. In the depth of this ship, a young man searches for food, gets caught, put in the military and suddenly finds himself amidst combat, love triangles and all the political landmines that one could ask for.
What I liked: It's an Anime with giant Mechs...what's not to like? Joking aside, this anime basically proves, that you can make a mostly 3D-animated Anime, without cutting out the charme. The atmosphere is amazingly created by great artwork (with a colour palette that's more Gears of War and less pastelle-power) and a fitting soundtrack. The characters are well and fittingly voiced. What I really like is that the world itself seems believable. The characters are not over the top and everyone has his problems that are, in context of the world, believable. This creates a real bond between you and what's happening on screen. They are just so authentic, it's marvelous. It's also a rather serious Anime with far less comic-relief than your "normal" anime provides. The mecha design is cool and the Gauna design is the right mix between cool and disgusting.
What I disliked: The series is not always well-paced but overall, that's the only critisizm so far.
So these are my favorites so far. I've also been following "No Game, No Life" but the jury is still out on this one. There are also still Animes I have to watch, most importantly the new Episode 7 of Gundam Unicorn.
So what's your take on 2014 in case of Anime so far? Got any special recommendations? Is "Blade & Soul" worth it and is "Daimidaler: Prince vs Penguin Empire" as gloriously stupid fun as it sounds (boy discovers, that his hentai-fetish can save the world by powering a mecha)?