Every year has a lot of great titles but 2014 felt like it was extra special to me when it came to new releases from Sentai Filmworks. One of the top series of the decade got a beautiful Blu-ray release with From The New World and we saw the arrival of Nadia on Blu-ray as well. With that series going back to my early days in the mid-90s with a couple of VHS episodes, and the following it with a lot of other releases, getting it in on package like this was huge.
But the year also delivered on the show I craved with the relationship works that took place out of the high school element. Real worldbuilding works within the virtual world hit a sweet spot here as well as they began to become more popular.
Check out our rankings for 2014!
From The New World – Based on the novel of the same name, this two-cour series was one that I watched in simulcast form and became fascinated with as it told the tale of a future where mankind and the world had changed drastically, reverting in a lot of ways but with layers of control in order to avoid global catastrophe. The series was one that was very distinctive in its approach and look thanks to A-1 Picture and having a single complete novel to work from as opposed to simpler light novels gave it an air of gravitas. This is the kind of show where the weekly appointment viewing was huge but it plays just as strong in binge form as you see more of the connections form.
Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water – While the tales of King’s nads will follow me to my grave, if not be on my gravestone, the series as a whole is one that as the decades go on still has a huge attraction. An early Gainax work that resurfaced in 2014 with a Blu-ray edition in a complete package, binging the hell out of this many episodes over a few days – including the island arc – is its own special thing and still leaves me of fond memories and prior showings. It’s a traditional classic adventure that works in all the right ways and still holds up very well.
Pet Girl of Sakurasou – With its first releases in this year before getting a first-time dub recently, this show worked some familiar terrible concepts for its leading lady, the pet, but revealed far more interesting material just below the surface that it explores with the high school set attached to a college where they’re discovering how to truly pursue what they’re interested in life, to grow up and connect with each other and forge bonds that will help them. It’s gorgeously animated in so many sequences throughout it and the cast has a lot of really neat background pieces to them that influence the present-day events. So many shows that focus on this age bracket rarely show what feels like meaningful growth but we get it here.
Golden Time – When a series focuses on the college-age set I’m far more interested than a high school show. Golden Age played with one of the areas I dislike, a main character with amnesia, but the twist was that it was the guy. There’s a complex storyline involved here with a mysterious past, couples that form in the present, and the difficulties of forming adult romantic relationships. It’s the kind of show that gets me in that we see our cast with actual different clothes regularly that highlights their personality, seeing them focusing on classwork as they have futures they’re trying to get to, and dealing with trauma. It’s not a perfect series by any means but it delivers something that was really special and beautiful.
Maoyu – Sometimes a property just connects with you in a way that’s hard to explain. This series, based on the light novels Demon King and Hero, is essentially a giant world-building exercise as the demon king who is really a demon queen sets about working through the functional mechanics of it. It’s like SimCity in that sense. It’s heavy on dialogue, concepts, and the interplay between characters that’s just fascinating to watch. It’s all very top-level big picture stuff with excursions into the smaller areas and it tells a solidly enough complete tale for most. It’s rich in its visual and just gave me something that some series attempt but get caught up in more of the role-playing aspects instead of the build.
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU – The opening season of this series has been the best for me so far as we’re introduced to a romantic triangle of sorts with characters that are very much damaged in their own way. And take a lot of time to work through their issues since they keep colliding and impacting each other thanks to others. Based on the light novel series, it engages in some sharp humor, the perfect comedic sidekick, and a core trio that are fascinating to dig into because each new layer explored makes them fall all the more fully realized. These are not simple kids with simple problems and navigating it all with the pressures of school is genuinely exciting to watch it unfold.
Watamote – With so much time spent playing otome games, Tomoko figured high school would be a breeze but she’s practically invisible and unsociable. There’s a manic energy to this series as she tries to figure out ways to have her idealized dream high school life that never truly exists to begin with. There’s a really great style to how this is pulled off and with a great director and strong voice casts for both languages, this series was a highlight of the year and always worth returning for a visit, even if just for a random episode to watch her deal with reality intruding on life.
To Love Ru – One of the shows that was considered out of reach for the longest time, Sentai’s dip into the To Love Ru realm brought out almost all of the anime over time and really hit that sweet spot for fanservice fans. The shows practically lean into softcore at times which keeps a lot of people away but for those that enjoy silly alien stories with a whole lot of goofy sexuality to it, it delivers really well. With games, manga, and spinoffs over the years, it’s a property that has faded a bit but there’ still the strange allure with this project that just makes me grin.
Cuticle Detective Inaba – When your protagonist is a talking goat that leads a crime family, I’m in. This series isn’t the easiest one to get into because it has an odd view of things. But as it gets into its groove it runs with such a sense of humor that’s wildly askew and hits up so many different gags and ideas that it’s over the top in a way that’s hard to really formulate. It embraces doing anything for a laugh and has so many sequences that made me laugh out loud that I get excited every rare time it gets a re-release as that’s an opportunity to watch it again and just dig into something bizarrely wonderful.
Log Horizon – Coming a bit early in the deluge of trapped in a video game projects, Log Horizon is one that stands out for me as it works some pretty good arcs and invests in its worldbuilding as its key. There are the usual shortcuts and familiar characters, but it doesn’t overplay its hand in my mind and gets into the nitty-gritty of what it means to actually create a world in which one must survive and all that it requires. There are bigger sprawling things going on here to be sure but it keeps it small and personal for a lot of it and spends the time to elevate a lot of its cast even while expanding it. The fact that we’re getting a third season in 2020 is a surprise but there’s a lot to enjoy with this work.
Chris has been writing about anime, manga, movies and comics for well on twenty years now. He began AnimeOnDVD.com back in 1998 and has covered nearly every anime release that’s come out in the US ever since.