2014 oversaw the most good new anime ever, 16 separate new ideas that all worked out brilliantly. But 2014 wasn't the best year in anime because of them. After all, even the best of them only ended up ranked 81st on my list. The real reason 2014 was the best year in anime is due to sequels or continuing series that got additional content. There were tons of them, and the most important of these should be listed below:
#3 Sword Art Online: The second season of SAO was a long anticipated event. When it finally happened, the whole world fell into ebullient cheer. There can be nothing more significant than additional SAO, because SAO, ep for ep, delivers the most value of any anime ever made. Gun Gale Online is a great foray into new characters (Laughing Coffin and Sinon), new settings (guns instead of swords, steam punk instead of fantasy), and a new plot (detective/police story instead of an MMO made real). It was a refreshing new adventure that widened our horizons about how much SAO could be and could be about. The right to kill in self defense is emphatically defended here, which is probably my favorite portion of the story. (Especially after Ferguson.)
However, GGO pales in comparison to Mother's Rosario, which may just be the best story ever told. I won't get into spoilers here because the story is still airing as we speak, but it will be done by the time 2014 ends. Suffice to say the entire purpose of SAO was to reach this point in the story. (Though, if they got to Alicization, it can make some claim to be the real 'heart' of SAO as well.)
#8 Fate/Etc: The addition of both Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works and Fate/Kaleid Liner 2wei in one year has been a real treat. They both deliver blistering action sequences and great heroes. However, Kaleid/Liner has more humor, is more beautiful artistically, and has more heartfelt drama than Stay Night. It's just the all around better story. Fate was great this year because of Kaleid Liner, Stay Night just gave it a helpful assist. Fate will also be great next year, with 2wei Herz and Stay Night both airing next year as well. Keep the Fate rolling. There's basically never enough Fate.
#9 X-monogatari: Monogatari 2nd season ran throughout this year, and will start a 3rd season on New Year's Eve. This has hands down been the best season of Monogatari by far. Especially the two segments concerning Nadeko, Otorimonogatari and Koimonogatari. The others were good too, but Nadeko segments are always on a different scale. Monogatari branched out a lot this season. Araragi getting beat up is no longer the solution to everything. Instead, the girls generally have to solve their problems themselves, and Araragi just provides a few helpful pushes along the way. We get to learn a lot more about our favorite girls than when the whole show came just from Araragi's viewpoint, and Kaiki Deishuu was supremely awesome, mainly because of the crazy voice acting by Shinichiro Miki. (Kana Hanazawa's Nadeko Sengoku was even more amazing, but I've come to expect that from Kana Hanazawa. Shinichiro Miki was a pleasant surprise in just how great he was.)
I'm going to miss my quick witted snail girl (Mayoi Hachikuji). Her death scene was sad but satisfying.
#7 Fairy Tail: It's hard to remember how big a contribution Fairy Tail has been to this year, because it's been stuck in filler this whole fall season. However, during the spring and summer seasons, it managed to complete an arc that had been left hanging for over a year of intolerable silence. This long awaited and vital conclusion to the Dragon Festival arc, quite possibly the best arc in Fairy Tail, gives us a lot of closure and satisfaction from all the built up tension. Fairy Tail is now much better than it was when it was stuck on hiatus in the smack middle of its story. The Tartoros arc is ending soon in the manga, so I expect Fairy Tail to pick up steam again next year, but the Dragon Festival arc was better than the Tartaros arc, so this year's Fairy Tail contribution, even though it was just half of an arc, may be better than next year's entire animated arc. Who knows, there's no reason not to treasure both as they arrive.
#2 Naruto: Naruto's always a long and hard slog, because every year is full of filler and recap as well as actual progress episodes. Nevertheless, a lot has happened this year in Naruto. We got a lot of flashbacks to the distant past and learned a lot more about the world's history and most important personages. Itachi and Sasuke finally saw eye to eye with each other. Obito's tragic past with Rin was a high point of the entire series, and Naruto convincing this erstwhile hero to rejoin the fold was a really happy moment. I sympathize so much for Obito, who simply lost too much to live on. Naruto getting through to him and convincing him to switch sides is perhaps the best deed he's ever done in his long history of heroic exploits.
#15 Dragon Ball: Dragon Ball Buu Kai came out starting this year, and boy was it needed. The last third of DBZ was full of nonsense. Not only did it drag and add in filler portions that unnecessarily extended every fight scene, but it had this stupid bass roar that sounded up whenever a SSJ tried to say or do anything. In Kai, the bass, almost subsonic roar is gone, and the voice actors are allowed to act their roles freely and without any interference, carrying the emotion and drama themselves, as is proper. Thank God that roar is gone. The show is almost unwatchable with it included -- it went on to ruin DB GT as well if I recall correctly, which is equally unwatchable. Now Dragon Ball is HD and widescreen, looking and sounding better than ever. There's almost a thirty year gap between the original DBZ and what we're watching now, and those 30 years have made anime a lot better looking and sounding than when we started. The data compression of images no longer uglifies the original picture, it can be seen at 'retina' quality now wit no distortions. The original art was never bad, so all we needed was the 1080p blu-ray disks and hd tv's to watch it on. With the interface corrected, we're learning just how good Dragon Ball was from the start.
#1 One Piece: Dressrosa's story is taking forever. The manga is slow, and the anime is even slower. But that's okay, because the Dressrosa arc is actually really good. Trafalgar Law is a great new character to include, as is Cavendish, as is Rebecca and her father Kyros. Dressrosa is a fascinating new setting, Don Flamingo a really exciting and challenging opponent. Basically this story is just hitting on all cylinders right now, way better than the Punk Hazard arc went. If it weren't so slow, it would be given even more credit, but that's just how One Piece is these days.
#30 Saki: Saki Nationals is a great sequel season to the original Saki. Picking up where we left off, they navigate their way through the quarterfinals and reach the semifinals, where the story stops again for lack of manga authored material. Hopefully the manga-ka will write the rest of the semifinal arc in 2015 and we can get a new anime season by 2016. A quarterfinal shouldn't really be that interesting, but the fact is all the teams they faced in this quarterfinal were brutal. Eisui was a seeded opponent, and Himematsu got 3rd place in the previous tournament. Even Miyamori ended up being extremely tough because of their ace Toyone participating for the first time. Things were looking really dicey for our heroes by the end. It wasn't just the drama and suspense of the mahjong though. The catharsis you felt when you watched a team crumble into tears when it lost is sharp and sweet. Even though no one dies, it actually feels worse than that when so many people lose their dreams all at once. A tournament is a place where people meet and steal each other's dreams like a horrid carnivorous pit. Saki's determination to meet her sister at the top has left a lot of victims behind, which makes it all the more important that they do reconcile once they do meet. I hope everything goes well for them and we get the happy ending we deserve after all this sadness.
#50 Sailor Moon: Throwing out the entirely filler original series of Sailor Moon, Sailor Moon Crystal did the whole thing over again, this time following the manga. I much prefer this version of Sailor Moon to the old one. It has better art, better voice acting, and a better plot. However, the plot is rather thin and weak compared to more recent magical girl shows like Yuuki Yuuna or Madoka Magica. Sailor Moon is really feeling its age. The girls weep and moan too much. The fights are too poorly thought out, mechanically speaking. Everything seems to happen according to the author's will, not much is believable on the face of it. I think the roughness of Sailor Moon's story will even out in future arcs, but unfortunately we won't even get those arcs animated, as only the first two arcs are slated for adaption as of now. The best of Sailor Moon is in the later half, which neither the first series nor the second series will correctly cover. A rather cosmic joke is being played on us all.
#39 Love Live: Season 2 of Love Live was good. It had lots of beautiful girls, great songs and dances, and humor. It just never lived up to season 1, which had more heartfelt moments of bonding and overcoming adversity. Maybe one of the characters should have drowned in a tragic boating accident or something. In any case, there was just something missing from this season. I'd practically forgotten it even happened. Even so, there's nothing wrong with appreciating its aesthetic beauty, much like one would for Hanayamata or No Game No Life.
A shout out should also go to Hunter x Hunter, which ended this year, and Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, which doubled its length from before while not actually achieving much. Little Busters EX also came out this year. For the most part, Saya's route was the only valuable addition, but it was a damned good addition for just four episodes. Though the show came out long ago, Miyuki's translation in 2014 was also a great contribution to the world. Adachi is simply amazing. Niji Iro Togarashi is equally brilliant and sadly has no anime adaption at all. *Sigh*