I’ve been pretty regular about announcing to the world the anime that I thought weren’t worth watching, but what about the good stuff? What anime from the two dozen or so shows I watched in 2014 would I recommend to my friends and family? The following are all keepers, shows I plan to order once they come out on DVD in the US. First off, the five new shows:
Young, immature, calligrapher exiled to rural island, where the local farmers and (mostly) their kids teach him what’s important in life. Even though I don’t particularly like shows that highlight kid’s antics, this was a good one. Family show.
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
High school girl falls in love with classmate who is also a manga artist. When she declares her love, he thinks she’s just a manga fan, gives her an autograph, and invites her to be his assistant.
The anime plays off his cluelessness against her fantasies. Large, varied cast, all well developed, and most in gender-bender roles.
The most aggressive, all elbows, basketball player is a girl (Sawashiro Miyuki), Nozaki-kun’s way of researching girl talk is to invite his male friends in for a sleepover and take notes.
Hozuki no Reitetsu
He’s a bureaucrat. In Hell. He hates his boss, and rules with an expressionless face and iron club. He also raises kissing koi … flowers. I’m sure I only got about half the jokes, because it’s deeply involved with Japanese culture of the afterlife.
Slice of life look at the anime industry. Light hearted, but still more serious than Animation Runner Kuromi (and with more cameo visits by industry greats than a Michael Todd film). According to one report, it’s realistic but rose tinted. The director (Mizushima Tsutomu) also did Girls und Panzer, and so brings some real life production cliff-hanger experiences.
One of the side notes was a list of anime worker annual salaries.
Witch Craft Works
Another gender-bender. Fire Witch vows to protect classmate who is her “princess.” Classmate, a boy, spends most of his time being confused. Absolutely zany, with rabbits in shining armor,
aggressively inept villains,
and a little sister who kidnaps her brother on an airplane she made out of their house.
And here are four second seasons of shows that were exceptionally good.
Yama No Susume
Four middle-school girls go mountain climbing. The episodes are only 13 minutes long, and the mountains are all walk-ups (with steps and halfway houses). Well, they also make an attempt on Mt Fuji. Two of them make it. Two turn back. So there’s friendship, fun, and failure, and lessons learned about friendship and failure.
Another cute kids anime, but it’s a good introduction for any tourist who might be thinking of trying it. Gorgeous scenery. Family show
Monogatari Second Series/Hanamonogatari
What can I say? It’s Monogatari. A season and a half’s worth. Black Hanekawa meets her inner tiger and Araragi saves the day.
Hachkuji finds peace at last. Sengoku reveals herself as an insane God, and Senjogahara gets Kaiki to save the day.
Everything you need to know about the only two males in this season of the series is expressed in their choice of shirts.
Finally, in the Hanamonogatari arc — marathoned separately, for marketing purposes — Kanbaru (Sawashiro Miyuki) kills her demon.
Mushi-shi Season 2
In this series, mushi (actually the Japanese word for insect) are submicroscopic near-life forms that are almost as prevalent as bacteria, and which humans interact with at their peril. Enter Ginko, a mushi-shi, or mushi-master. Disconnected stories in the mushi-of-the-week format. Quiet, dark, gorgeous, thoughtful. Season 1 was almost ten years ago, but it might have been last year, the way people talk about it. In this second season, nothing has changed. It’s still superb.
Space Dandy Season 2
Slacker Dandy and his friends continue to wander the universes. Zero continuity from episode to episode because (as the ED lyrics explain) each one takes place in a different version of the multiworlds universe, so it doesn’t matter if everybody gets killed at the end of an episode, because their doubles will continue on elsewhere.
Each episode is the work of a different director, which means the art changes from week to week. One is a high school musical, another has them chasing a giant fish. And so forth.