Aniplex USA had a pretty good year of releases when it came to the kinds of shows they brought out as there’s some decent variety to the content and some works that totally won me over. Some shows likely would have made it onto the list if I had seen more of them, such as Nisekoi or Kill la Kill, but with them incomplete or spread out as they are, I went more for full season or full half season shows instead for what won me over this year. I also took the format aspect out of the equation because in the end, what draws us to a show is the content itself. And Aniplex USA continues to grab some interesting shows when it comes to the content side, giving me some solid science fiction material, some really amusing comedy and some beautiful slice of life moments. So, looking back at 2014, our top five releases from Aniplex USA are:
5) Valvrave the Liberator: Season 1 Collection [Review]
I had little idea what to expect going into Valvrave as I hadn’t seen much myself beyond the original promos for the series before it aired. That really wasn’t enough to go on in regards to how the show plays out nor how the show looks. Both of those aspects won me over here from nearly the start of the first episode. It plays with some familiar concepts to be sure, especially for longtime Sunrise fans, but as it progresses and reveals itself, it’s doing some neat things that left me very frustrated by the end of this set because there’s so many questions that I want answered. I like pretty much all of the characters, I’m thrilled by the action aspects in space and the more personal encounters, and I’m hopeful for some neat twists and turns to come from the politics of it all as well. Valvrave the Liberator is a series that the more I think about it, the more I write about it, the more I fall for it. It’s definitely a treat that I’m looking forward to revisiting already.
4) SERVANT x SERVICE: Complete Collection [Review]
The workplace dynamic is one that can be a lot of fun because you can get some really diverse characters, and we saw that with the original creator’s work in Working!!. This one doesn’t go to that extreme that some of those characters were like but you can easily see the two shows crossing over easily. Servant x Service stands fully on its own and the cast over the course of it becomes pretty fun and engaging to watch, making you laugh and smile and definitely grin as the little reveals come about. Definitely one of those shows that takes a certain kind of humor to enjoy, particularly the setting, but when it clicks, it clicks really well.
3) anohana – The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie [Review]
With a decent approach to providing a new look at the TV series, going from a different point of view while also showing where things went afterwards, this movie is definitely an interesting work. This is not a work intended for newcomers, as there is no help provided for the lost. It is definitely best watched after completing the television series. When seen together, it does provide a good coda to the show while at the same time working to revive the viewer’s own memories of seeing it before. That might well be the ulterior motive, to get you to watch the series again. If you enjoyed it once before, that’s not such a bad thing.
2) Silver Spoon: Season 1 & 2 Collection [Review]
Good shows make you happy that you watched them. Great shows make you happy that they were made. Silver Spoon is a candidate for the latter category. While on the surface a largely silly fish-out-of-water comedy about a city slicker who gets a rude awakening when exposed to the realities of farm life, once you get beneath that surface you can see a very mature and humane treatment of vexing issues, such as the ethics of eating meat and the damage that the modern market-driven world is doing to the traditional life of farmers using old-fashioned methods. There are no easy answers given and the show leads you more to think further on the issues yourself.
1) Oreimo 2: Complete Collection [Review]
While I’m not in the hugely enthusiastic camp when it comes to the whole sibling-love subgenre that has been poking around the last few years, I can at least by amused by them since the majority of them cheat along the way with the concept. Oreimo doesn’t cheat and it doesn’t dodge things in the end and I have to admire them for going the distance that they did while still showing some restraint. This season provided us a look at a lot of what could have been for Kyousuke when it comes to the other women in his life and that left me feeling a bit sad that he missed out on a lot of good high school age experiences for what he did get, which could have some really awkward moments later in life. What we do get is real resolution in this area for the now and an open slate going forward, so the show does grow and change across both seasons and we’re not left in the same spot at the end as we were at the start, something a lot of series really can’t say.