Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The 2014 Year End Round UP and State of the Blog

Well this is going to be long so let's get to it!

This year I had to finally scale back my reviews from four a week to three and I plan to continue with that format for 2015 as well. As people have seen, sometimes even three reviews a week can be almost more than I can write (especially since I will be writing on another site next year too, keep scrolling for more on that) but I can just swing reading/watching enough material to keep the blog rolling along on a thrice-weekly schedule. The only change to my schedule will be that I'm not going to devote March to reviewing as many webcomics as I can the way I have in the past, check the webcomic section down below for how I'm going to handle those reviews in the future.

This was a bit of a weaker year for me again, last year I was able to come up with four top shows easily but this time around I had a lot of good shows but very few "top" ones, basically Nozaki-kun is my first choice, Silver Spoon is a close second and everything else sort of ties. And as a quick reminder, I only list completed shows here so anything that's still on-going or split cour and returns in 2015 is out of luck, I've been burned too many times with shows that have a weaker second half! Also in case people missed it, here's a link to all of my 12(ish) Days of Anime posts from this year, next year the plan is to do all 12 days!

  • Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun: It's a show that plays with shojo tropes, going so far as to mock plenty of them, but it never feels mean-spirited about it, I think it's clear that Izumi Tsubaki loves shojo just as much as the rest of us (she actually has another series that's currently running called Oresama Teacher which I'm dying to read now, Viz licenses it!). I want more of these wonderful dorky characters, my copy of the American DVDs, and for the manga to be licensed over here as well, just give me all of it!
  • Silver Spoon: Out of all the series I saw this year, this was the one that resonated the most with me even though the characters and their situations are pretty different from my own. But the insecurities and doubts the characters went through, along with the reminder that life is about hard work and luck, not just one or the other, just really connected with me. 
  • Noragami: Initially I had no expectations for this series since I read the first chapter of the manga and it just didn't click with me. Clearly the anime staff felt the same since they breezed through that first chapter in a matter of minutes before firmly establishing Hiyori as the series viewpoint character instead and her personality really helped draw me into the series. It's funny, in the grand scheme of things she's the most minor of characters, almost completely unable to help the story except through sheer determination but that's what makes her so likable and, given that Yato is rather unlikable she's an essential foil. I never looked at the sales numbers for the series but, since for once Bones managed to create an original ending which also left room for a continuation I hope it did well enough that we'll get one someday!
  • Inari Kon Kon: Well that was rather adorable, I had tried some of the manga and then decided to wait for the anime, so I wouldn't spoil myself, so I had forgotten that despite all of it's shojo trappings this isn't actually a shojo manga! Not that it really matters, it has an adorable middle schooler with magical girl-esque powers and a really strong focus on her relationship with friends and cute designs (and scenery!) to boot. I keep meaning to check out the manga to see how it progressed (it's clear that the anime created it's own ending, which I wasn't super fond of but understood why they wanted to wrap it up instead of leaving it open) and hope that Funimation puts out the OVA episode on their release of the series. 
  • Knights of Sidonia: Like many other titles on this list, I checked out a few chapters of the manga before the show aired and it didn't quite click with me, the pacing was just too strange for my taste. But for some reason the anime just worked for me, I thought that the CGI would be a major turnoff but I did get used to it by and large (like Subdued Fangirling, I also wondered if the CGI was an intentional choice to highlight just how alien humanity has become, just like how rotoscoping was done to make Flowers of Evil more uncanny and then I too looked at Ronja: The Robber's Daughter and realized that Polygon Pictures really just has a lot of trouble with CGI). 
  • Haikyuu!!: Going into the spring season there wasn't really a lot I was excited for so this show actually ended up being my top pick going in. I wasn't familiar with it but I trusted that all of tumblr wasn't wrong in saying it was a really good sports show and they were right, that was tons of fun! Not only did it look great (there was just so much attention and detail in even the little character movements) but the characters were fun, the matches had the right amount of tension, and the show was able to characterize not only the main characters from Karasuno but also all of their major opponents in a pretty short time. I do enjoy sports shows and this would be close to the top of my list if someone was brand new to the genre and wanted recommendations.
  • Gundam Build Fighters: So what you're saying is, it's Angelic Layer (which isn't my favorite Clamp series) mixed with Gundam (which I know nothing about) and it's goddamn awesome? Basically! This is one of the most fun series I watched last year, I get practically none of the references but the show has such a fun sense of humor that all of the gags work without it. It's filled to the brim with tropes and like, much like Nozaki-kun, it has fun playing around with these ideas and stereotypes and it always feels like the staff are laughing with the show and not at it. The second season has a couple more problems than the first but it's still ridiculously fun, RightStuf please convince Sunrise to bump it up the Gundam release schedule!
  • Log Horizon: Ah so it was the anime version of Maoyu that was bad, not _____'s writing since I enjoyed this show as much as I've enjoyed the Kotowaru manga version of Maoyu's story. Unlike Sword Art Online this show never forgets that it's set in an MMORPG and draws both fun and conflict from it, I really enjoy the politicking in it which manages to feel clever without being impossibly so. The side characters do have a tendency to act as a chorus whenever gathered together but if you get them one-on-one with a main character then everyone feels like a reasonably fleshed out character. Well, except the villains so far, I know quite a few spoilers about the series but I don't know if the villains for the second season have a decent motivation behind their actions beyond "for the lulz", although the show has been strong enough that that won't make or break the show (unlike SAO's sibling series Accel World.....)
  • Mushi-shi Season 2: The review for this one is coming (meant to have it up Monday but the DDoS Crunchyroll attacks prevented me from finishing it) but in the meantime, this second season was as consistently great as the first season and stands out as unique, even considering just how many supernatural anime there are. The tone and characters are always perfectly combined and the backgrounds for the show were just plain lovely, they made some for some of my favorite anime-related art of the year.
Honorable mention to Ashita no Nadja for being a really great shoujo with adventure, complicated relationships between friends and family, and a really wonderful character who was sweet, determined as all get out, and had some very human anger when she was wronged. Kill la Kill and Captain Earth also almost made this list since I enjoyed both of them but in the end they both didn't have as strong writing as I wish they had so I decided to leave them off. And there were a few shows that I didn't have a chance to try this year that I plan on getting to soon, it sounds like YuYuYu was a fairly decent "dark" magical girl show so I want to try that out, even though I've never found "city slicker adjusts to country life" funny the internet has convinced me to give Barakamon a shot, and the internet has also convinced me to try the on-going shows Shirobako (although that "following your dreams is hard" part might be too real considering my current job hunt) and Shonen Hollywood (which is apparently what Wake Up Girls! tried to do earlier in the year and failed at).

As I did this year, I plan to wait until June and do my best books of 2014 book list then. Why? Because once again, since so many books come out in the fall I just haven't had a chance to read many of them, partially since my libraries haven't had a chance to get them yet. I joined the DC library system this year and it promptly lost THREE different books I returned to it which is amazing since I've never had that happen at any other library I've been a part of and in the past two years I've been an active patron at seven different library systems (although I think my neighboring Maryland library system did also lose a book I returned and frankly I can't even be bothered to double check now because the effort I put in to returning that book on time was considerable). On my list to read is Children of a Hidden Sea, Death Sworn, The Oathbreaker's Shadow, The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim, A Hero at the End of the World, and those are the books where I semi-remember putting them on the list, there are even more on it that are marked at 2014 books that I don't recall so it's going to be an adventure getting to them! I'm honestly not sure which 2014 books will be on the list yet, Blue Lily Lily Blue will be on it,  if not in the top spot, but otherwise I've read a number of solid books this year but few great books.

Honorable mentions, The Golem and the Jinni, Rampart, Earth Girl, The Bonshaker, Hero, Quicksilver, and The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Thanks to my new library systems I was actually able to read a lot of series this year! I got farther along in 20th Century Boys (really wish Viz would put out a boxset for it), finished both Paradise Kiss and Mars and was able to start Gundam: The Origin in addition to many, less memorable series. I also made a concerted effort to try and actively start collecting series again but was once again thwarted by not-completely-steady-income-streams and by my own conflicting feelings about the series I choose, My Little Monster. There's still plenty of manga in both of my library systems I haven't touched yet, new series on Crunchyroll I want to talk about, and I got quite a few Amazon giftcards this year so I should have a steady stream of manga reviews over here for the foreseeable future. And elsewhere, I'm actually going to start reviewing manga every week on Organization of Anti-Social Geniuses and should start next week or the week after! I'll be sure to link to my reviews over here as well in case anyone isn't already following that site.

You know I really feel like I didn't see many things in either of these categories this year. There are only a few movies left that I wish I had already seen (Big Hero 6, The Day of the Dead, and Song of the Sea, plus a few anime ones since GKIDS is doing more theatrical releases every year) but of the ones I saw I would only call Captain America 2 and How to Train Your Dragon 2 real favorites of mine. My American tv watching has also really fallen by the wayside as my life has gotten busier, if I barely have time to watch a 22 minute anime episode you bet I don't have time to watch a 45-60 minute one with commercials! Almost Human really didn't live up to the promise of it's first episode (and got canceled without explaining anything in the end, augh), Agents of SHIELD started getting stronger by the mid-way point and really found itself in the final third, I'm really enjoying the second season and looking forward to the Agent Carter mini-series, and Elementary's second season was also strong (with a bit of an odd ending admittedly) and I hope that I'll have time to watch the third season someday. Although, considering that most American tv sites only post the latest four or five episodes at a time it's really hard to catch up on shows if I fall behind, I never thought I would say that the anime online watching model was sensible but it certainly seems that way by comparison....

With as many comics as I read there's no way this could have been a bad year, especially since I finally got some long overdue kickstarter books (I mean, guys I know I move A LOT but I changed addresses like three times between when I pledged for some of these books and when I got them). And I am going to change up my format for reviewing them, I'm declaring the last Wednesday of every month "Webcomic Wednesday" and I'm going to review an on-going comic since most of my reviews are horribly outdated by this point, even if I reviewed a comic the week before so that is going to shift my schedule around the tiniest bit. This also means that March isn't going to be it's usual, webcomic-only review month, I plan on reviewing a combination of webcomics and manga that I currently follow digitally (such as the Crunchyroll manga), I'll talk more about that once March starts. I also plan to start doing reviews of completed webcomics the way I would review any other comic, now that I've committed myself to that they should be much more timely!

And that's all folks, looking forward to what great and terrible things I'll find in 2015! Um, that's great things and terrible things, still not really a fan of that "so terrible it's great" sort of story that other's like....

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