The Anime Pulse #6: A Look Back at Anime in 2014

Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of The Anime Pulse… the FINAL Anime Pulse of 2014! Since this is the final column of the year, I thought it would be nice to reflect on what 2014 brought us in the world of anime and what I thought really stood out among the crop of shows that came our way.

Let’s Jam!

Just like any anime season would, you had a myriad of shows that ranged from really interesting to downright disturbing. Japan has always had a knack for such a wide range of shows in that regards, but I figured that instead of just talking about shows randomly, I’ll talk about the ones I found disappointing first, then I’ll talk about the ones I really enjoyed.

D-Frag
This one is up first and this was the first show of 2014 that I dropped almost immediately. Now, some may argue against my reasoning of watching ½ an episode and dropping it, but hey, that’s the beauty of forming an opinion. Not everyone’s will be the same.

My reasoning for dropping this stems from the fact that I’m a big fan of Genshiken..

Genshiken is an anime about a club called the “Study of the Modern Visual Arts”. The anime centers around the club and how they need to recruit members because they are threatened with being shut down not only due to lack of said members, but also because they don’t participate in activities. They just sit around and play video games and read manga all day, so they hold a booth on the first day of school and recruit a few people

D-Frag is an anime about a club called the “Game Creation Club.” The anime centers around the club and how they need to recruit members because they are threatened with being shut down not only due to lack of said members, but also because they don’t participate in activities. They just sit around and play video games and read manga all day, so they kidnap three wannabe gang members who are bumbling morons and end up helping people in need instead of causing mischief. Oh yeah, the four girls from the club also captured them by pretending that they have the power of the elements.

I typed those two paragraphs (yes, no copy and paste to take a shortcut, I put in the effort) very alike.. near mirrors of each other to show how the two shows are exactly the same.. with the one exception mentioned in the final portion of the second paragraph. Now, after reading that, you’ll think one of two things

1) It sounds like you didn’t give it a chance because it could be an awesome comedic version of Genshiken.

-or-

2) Wow, that sounds pretty horrible on the surface.

If you thought 2.. you were right.. if you thought 1, all you’d have to do is watch the first episode and see that while it sounds funny, none of it came across that way. It all felt like lame attempts at humor that had me wondering if anything really interesting would actually happen. Instead, the wannabe gang leader just ends up getting kidnapped and gets beat by four women. If you’re into that kind of stuff, then have at this show. No one will fault you for watching it. I, personally, wasn’t impressed, but I know a lot of people who love shows I hate and vice versa.

Bottom line: watch what you enjoy, screw everyone else. I know that contradicts my statements above, but I laid out what I saw then gave you my opinion. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to give it a chance.

Pupa
Nothing says “WTF Japan” than a show about a brother and sister who turn into regenerative cannibals thanks to a virus. The show is 12 episodes long and runs around 4 minutes each episode, so you could polish this one off in under an hour… that is… if you can make it through to the end. The Blu-ray is out for this show which means you can watch it in all its uncensored glory.. including one episode where it was just 4 minutes of Yume (the sister) eating Utsutsu (the brother). Yep…. just 4 solid minutes of Yume chowing down on her brother… munching sounds, groans, and everything! I happened to watch that episode censored so all I saw for four minutes was a giant black faded area over the screen with nothing but sound effects caressing my ears through my Plantronics 7.1 surround sound headset.

Fun Fun Fun.

Under all this is a story. Yume sees a red butterfly… turns into a flesh-eating monster.. and her brother searches for a way to restore her only to get captured by the government where they kill everyone, escape, and they all live happily ever after.

Yeah… I just explained everything that happened in the show in one long run on sentence. This is a bad show people. Unless you are morbidly curious, skip this one. You can find something better to do with 48 minutes of your time.

Sailor Moon Crystal
2014 also saw the return of Sailor Moon! I know this was one of the very first animes I watched when I was younger so I wanted to see how the remake was going to fare. Sadly, this is a show that I ended up dropping for a couple of reasons. The first is that the episodes came out once every two weeks. Because it wasn’t weekly, I didn’t go out of my way to search for it and I, often times, missed picking up an episode. Second… that animation.. What!?

Everything just looked SO BAD. I know artwork isn’t what’s supposed to make a show, but from the typical anime style to the VERY OBVIOUS CG transformations… I just couldn’t get behind it. I know this was the show that set the standard for magical girl anime, but I think this one will fare better in my memories than having to rewatch it. Apparently they are doing a Sailor Moon Crystal R after the first series is over and if it’s going to give the show the same treatment as Crystal… I’ll definitely pass on it as well!

Tokyo Ghoul
Another disappointment that came out in 2014 was Tokyo Ghoul. I know the second season starts in a week, but the first season had me extremely hyped until I made the mistake of getting so involved in the show that I wanted to read the manga. Once I read the manga and saw how much they butchered the adaptation, I wanted to cry.

First off, they completely reversed the Dove and Gourmet arcs so those faithful to the manga were pretty upset thinking that the studio completely skipped over an arc. Secondly, what they did adapt, they rushed, leaving out some scenes from the manga that may have looked like filler, but actually helped pace the story along and even explained some things that went unexplained in the anime. Including those would have paced the show a bit better and also helped understand why some of the things were happening.

Lastly: the censorship. You had Akame ga Kill beginning right when Tokyo Ghoul was ending and Akame ga Kill didn’t censor anything. There was blood, there was slicing and dicing, there was violence. Tokyo Ghoul, on the other hand… a black faded area here… inverted colors there… it was really annoying. The Blu-rays, obviously, fixed that, but when you have two shows airing at almost the same time and one can pull it off and the other can’t… well… that’s a bit disheartening. Then again, I guess we all have Higurashi no Naku Koro ni to thank for censorship anyway…

I have a bad feeling that the second season will end up as butchered as the first. Perhaps if I didn’t read the manga, I would have enjoyed it and looked forward to the second season more. It worked that way with me for Akame ga Kill (by the way, you can read my review of it by clicking here) and I did end up enjoying that show far more without reading the source material so I guess it’s all based on perspective. So if you haven’t read the manga… watch Tokyo Ghoul, watch season two and formulate your own opinion on it. I think you’ll enjoy it. Then go back and read the manga and compare. The manga is finished with 144 chapters so it shouldn’t take you too long to plow through it all.

To Aru Hikuushi e no Koi Uta
I thought this one was decently done and I’m kind of at a crossroads where if I wanted to list this under the good or disappointing category, but there were some nuances that pushed this away from the good zone and into the disappointing zone.

The title literally translates to “Love Song of a Certain Pilot”, but many just call it “The Pilot’s Love Song.” Whatever you call the show, it definitely suffered from the 13 episode format as a lot of it felt rushed. But nevertheless, this is the story of Karl La Hire, a prince whose parents were murdered during the Wind Rebellion lead by Nina Viento.. a vestal who can call the wind. Karl La Hire was said to have died, but instead, he is now known as Kal-el Albus thanks to being adopted into the Albus family. He and his adopted sister Ari take part in the Isla Project… where they will live on a floating island in order to journey across the world as pilots to discover the End of the Sky.

The secondary characters tried to get some backstory going, but they only ended up being cannon fodder with even one episode’s title blatantly stating that someone was going to die. (RIP Mitsuo). There’s a hidden love between Ari and Karl that develops, but that’s about as much character development you get that occurs throughout the show. Karl does fall in love with a noblewoman named Claire Cruz and you get to see their love blossom until Karl finds out she’s actually Nina Viento. Then their relationship goes into a tailspin.. much like a lot of the plots in this show.

Eventually, Nina and Karl repair their relationship, only for Nina to offer herself over to the Sky Clan so that Isla can journey on to the End of the Sky.. which it does and then disintegrates upon touching the rainbow wall protecting the end of said sky. But everyone who was alive at the end of this journey were brought back to their kingdom thanks to the alliance formed with the Levamme Empire and the show ends with Karl, Kal, Kal-el.. whatever they decide to translate his name as, flying back to the Sky Empire to rescue Claire/Nina Viento and they left it at that.. wide open. If you are thinking about heading to the light novel to see how it really should have ended, don’t waste your time because the light novel ends the same exact way… with NO… F’N… CLOSURE.

The story would have been AMAZING if they took the time to flesh this out. 25, maybe 26 episodes and this would have been perfect.. but rapid character development, treating secondaries like cannon fodder, and a wide open inconclusive ending leaves a sour taste in my mouth that was once sweetened by the potential of this show. It’s still a good anime.. don’t get me wrong, but if/when you watch it, you will see its flaws. Get past them, and it’s a nice story

Those were the shows that disappointed me… now let’s talk about the ones that were good to OH MY GOD.

Samurai Flamenco
Remember when I said Japan makes WTF shows? Here’s one!

So this one is about a boy named Masayoshi Hazama.. a model who wants to lead a secret life as a superhero. His grandfather passed and left him a box of memorabilia all related to superheroes.. including a Samurai Flamenco costume. So he dresses up in it and begins to fight crime.

Except he sucks at it.

In fact, he gets his ass kicked all the time. He was discovered in a back alley after a beating by a cop named Goto. The two of them become friends as Goto tries to be the voice of reason for Masayoshi, but despite everything Goto does and says, he pushes forward with his dream to the point where Goto will even start to watch over him on his own and step in to help him because he starts to genuinely care about this kid. So far, this is a pretty good slice of life anime!

Then one day, the city recognizes SamuMenco as a hero and they even ask him to come along on a police raid.. then a gorilla with a guillotine in his stomach shows up

It’s still a good slice lif… wait.. WHAT!?

The gorilla explodes upon defeat while yelling “VIVA TORTURE!” Then an enemy by the name of King Torture shows up. This attracts the attention of an office supply company which turns things like staplers and measuring tapes into weapons for Masayoshi to use. He then fights and defeats King Torture until he meets his Doppleganger, who gets defeated and fades away. Then an alien force called From Beyond invades the Earth and it leads to the assembly of the Flamengers.. a rip off of the Power Rangers.. they even get their own Megazord.

After From Beyond gets destroyed, we find out the Prime Minister turns on the Flamengers and brands them as terrorists, so we have to stop him.. but then we find out that the Prime Minister was defeating all of the heroes to power up his own battle armor to stop another superior alien race from invading Earth. When the Minister fails, it’s up to Masayoshi to finish the fight… which he does, then talks to God who grants him peace on Earth.

Then Sawada Haiji, a random boy from episode one, shows up and becomes a terrorist to try and breathe new life in to Samurai Flamenco.. except he died a long time ago, but we find out he faked his death. On top of this, we discover that Goto’s girlfriend went missing and is probably dead and it messed him up in the head to the point where he pretended to be her and would hold cell phone conversations with himself as her.

You get all of that? Because I’m not quite sure I still do and I watched this from beginning to end, but damn, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the hell out of this show. If you don’t take this show seriously, you’re going to have an awesome ride from beginning to end. It’s just one of those shows that you have to sit back and laugh at. There are so many tropes in here that they make fun of, it’s hard to cover them all in one review. Just watch this one.. if you’re into really out there comedy.. this is one for you.

Kill la Kill
Do you recall when I said Japan makes WTF shows? Here’s another one!

This is one of those animes that’s going to be either loved or hated. I’m one of the ones who loved it. If you’ve seen FLCL or Guerren Lagann, then you know what to expect here in Kill la Kill. The story centers around Ryuuko Matoi. Her dad dies and left her one half of a sword which is, in reality, one half of a pair of scissors. She goes on a journey to find the person who is holding the other half of the pair of scissors, which will be the murderer of her father.

This leads her to Honnoujou Academy and a master swordswoman who heads the academy, Kiriyuin Satsuki. Ryuuko pegs her as the murderer, but getting to her is a challenge as all the students wear Goku Uniforms.. which have anywhere between 1-3 stars on them. The higher the stars, the stronger your powers are. The club presidents (such as the tennis club, boxing club, etc), have 2-star uniforms and the Elite Four (or Four Devas) have 3-star uniforms

After getting beaten, she retreats to her home where she discovers a sailor uniform that can talk to her. Its name is Senketsu. He’s made of life fibers, just like the Goku uniforms and was created by her father in order to destroy them. She dons Senketsu and goes back, mows through everyone, including the elite four and is about to battle Satsuki when we are introduced to Nui.. a moe little girl who is evil as evil can be and it makes you want to just kick her in the face and watch her die a slow and horrible death.

From there the story takes some pretty wild twists and turns and even in a past edition of The Anime Pulse, I referred to this show as a magical girl anime, and really, it is in the most warped way possible. I really thought that this show brought a breath of fresh air back into the world of anime and a lot of people felt the same way. I’ve seen numerous postings on forums exclaiming that “anime is back” after watching this show. Sadly, it kind of disappeared again when Kill la Kill stopped airing, but it’s just a testament at how much this show stood out and how good it really was.

I can’t recommend this series enough… so much that I didn’t go into full spoilers because if you haven’t seen it you need to do it unspoiled. So what are you waiting for? Go watch it!

Hajime no Ippo Rising
It would just be wrong if I didn’t mention the third season of Hajime no Ippo. This continued on where New Challenger left off and it brings you more great Ippo action. They covered some great fights including Takamura’s second world championship win and even the flashback arc of the beginnings of the Kamogawa boxing gym and how the end of World War II introduced American-style boxing to Japan.

There really isn’t much to say about this show except that if you’ve watched the first two seasons, this is a must-see season that continues the awesomeness that is Ippo. I know a lot of people would be turned off on this series because it’s about boxing and not many people are into that in this day and age, but trust me when I say… I’m not into boxing either and I could watch this show all day! The manga has over 1080 chapters and still continuing to this day and George Morikawa has done an absolutely phenomenal job at keeping this series alive and interesting. This show should be on anyone’s bucket list.

If you’re wondering, the first run of the show has 76 episodes, New Challenger has 26 and Rising has 25. There are also two movies that take place between the first run and New Challenger. Set aside a weekend and plow through this.. I guarantee you.. you won’t be disappointed!

Black Bullet
First off.. that ending song! “Tokohana” by Nagi Yanagi is completely awesome and I play it in my car every day when I drive to and from work! You’d do yourself a great service to go listen to it. <br><br>

That being said… Tokyo is threatened by giant bug like creatures called Gastrea. They spread a virus and some people, mostly children, benefit from it by gaining superhuman abilities… however… it’s a double edged sword as if it’s left unchecked, the virus will turn them into Gastrea themselves. Enter our main protagonist, Rentarou Satomi and his partner Enju. Rentarou is part of the Civil Officers… people who are licensed to use weapons made from a special metal that the Gastrea hate. In fact, giant monoliths are raised on the outskirts of the city to protect them. Enju is one of the “Cursed Children” and are seen as partners of the Civil Officers. Together they fight the Gastrea under the instruction of Kisara who heads up the agency that Rentarou belongs to. She also has a thing for him, too, but she’s your typical cold-hearted sword-wielding tsundere character. Not like we’ve seen that type before.

As we move through the story, we discover the other officers and their cursed children and eventually they have to team up to stop a level four Gastrea from destroying the city as it has a corrosive acid that can eat away and destroy the monoliths.

This show reminded me a lot of Unbreakable Machine Doll, without the annoying Yaya character although Enju does exhibit some of those overbearing qualifications.. such as her professed and exaggerated love for Rentarou. Rentarou himself is a ripoff of Edward Elric, minus the alchemy stuff. His right arm and left leg have been replaced with varium and he can use them to fight the Gastrea as well. You’ll meet more characters along the way, but sadly, most of them are forgettable… except for Tina Sprout because they kind of force her to stick around. That was probably the biggest problem with this show was the character development. Unless they were meant to take a role in the main story, they are shoved aside and quickly forgotten about or made to seem completely worthless. There are some moments which try to draw you in, but it feels like forced emotion. I feel that this could have been much better had it had 25 episodes to play with, but it’s a decent action anime if you don’t want to read too much into the plot.

Outside of that, the show was interesting enough to hold my attention and it got a little touchy feeling towards the end which was nice. It wasn’t AMAZING, but it wasn’t all that bad either.

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About The Author

Josh Piedra

Josh (or J.J. as some have come to call him), is a long-time geek culture enthusiast with a deep passion for anime, manga and Japanese culture. Josh also has a Bachelor of Arts in Game Design and is a creative writer who has created original content for over 20 years! He is also the author of the original English light novel Final Hope.