The Five Best Anime of Spring 2014

By Richard Eisenbeis on at

There are 60 new anime on the air this spring season and so it can be understandably more than a little difficult to know which ones to watch. Luckily, we at Kotaku East are here to help with our recommendations.

As we hit the half-way point of the season, it is finally time for me to shave off my bushy beard and rest my bloodshot eyes. I have spent the last month getting fully caught up on all the most well-recommended new anime from this season (thanks to the readers of TAY and Ani-TAY)—as well as a few other ones that just happened to catch my eye.

But before we get to the list, keep in mind as you read that these are simply the new anime that should not be missed this season. There are many more airing currently that are perfectly watchable. But that said, these listed here are the cream of the crop.

The Five Anime of Spring 2014 You Should Be Watching

No Game No Life

Currently at: Episode 5 (of 12)

Genre: Fantasy, Comedy

Non-Spoiler Plot Summary: Brother and sister combo Sora and Shiro are a pair of shut-ins who do nothing but play games all day. Online they form the legendary guild “blank” that goes from game to game, mastering it before moving on to another. Be the game an MMO or online chess, the pair has never lost a match. Then, one day the two find themselves transported to a fantasy world where everything from robbery to world politics is decided not through violence or diplomacy but through games.

Why You Should Watch It: No Game No Life is a comedy about smart gamers. It's equally about how to best play games and how to best cheat at them. This concept is personified in the two main leads.

Shiro, the little sister, is a genius who can “read” the game before her—and thus calculate odds and see many moves ahead. Sora, on the other hand, can read the players and is able to see how they think—often enabling him to cheat or at least exploit loopholes to his own advantage. Together they make a perfect team. But in a fantasy world where their enemies have magic and cheat with reckless abandon, it’s an entertaining adventure to watch them outthink their rivals week after week and secure victory against overwhelming odds.

Watch It If You Like: Smart characters and gamer humour.

Where You Can Watch It: Crunchyroll

The Five Anime of Spring 2014 You Should Be Watching

Brynhildr in the Darkness

Currently at: Episode 6 (of 13)

Genre: Sci-Fi, Ultraviolence

Non-Spoiler Plot Summary: Ryouta is the only member of his high school astronomy club. When he was a kid, he was best friends with a girl that believed she had seen extraterrestrial life. Sadly, she died in an accident. Now, in her memory, Ryouta is driven to become an astronomer and find aliens himself. But then one day, a mysterious transfer student appears who looks exactly like an older version of his friend. Yet while this girl, Kuroha, claims not to know him, she indeed has a strange aura about her. However, that is not because she is an alien—as you might expect—but rather because she is a witch on the run from a secret government research lab that has tagged her for extermination.

Why You Should Watch It: Brynhildr in the Darkness is set in a world where danger is very real and people can (and do) die in horribly gruesome ways. However, because of the cliché “long lost love” setup, the characters continually treat their world and story more like that of a romantic comedy. Of course, the inherent darkness of the world keeps getting in the way of the light-hearted story, often bringing it crashing back to reality—thus making the violence and life-and-death stakes all the more thrilling.

The other great aspect of the series is Ryouta himself. He is an intelligent protagonist who thinks things through and understands the implications of his actions. In a world of magic and constant life-threatening dangers, it is his quick thinking that saves the day far more often than brute force or magical hijinks.

Watch It If You Like: Elfen Lied, Blood-C, Madoka Magica.

Where You Can Watch It: Crunchyroll

The Five Anime of Spring 2014 You Should Be Watching

Blade & Soul

Currently at: Episode 6 (of 13)

Genre: Action, Eastern Fantasy

Non-Spoiler Plot Summary: After her master is killed by chaos-powered mage Jin Varel, Alka, the last remaining assassin from the Clan of the Sword, hunts the murderer and her allies across a fantasy world—while being hunted herself. Along the way, she sells her deadly skills to anyone willing to give her a roof for the night, to part with a few coins, or to get her closer to completing her mission of bloody vengeance.

Why You Should Watch It: Blade & Soul is a non-stop action anime that feels torn straight out of the 90s. There are gloriously choreographed fights every episode (more than one in most cases), and the anime doesn't shy away from adult levels of violence. But as amazing as she is in battle, the anime is careful to play it straight. Aluka is only one woman and while she is able to defeat seemingly anyone one-on-one, she can only be at one place at any given time.

But perhaps the best aspect of this anime is that it is blessedly free of most modern anime clichés. There are no high schools, angsty teens, tsundere girls, ignorant audience proxies, or stereotypically “moé” characters. And while the overall “hunting my master's killer” series plot and the numerous samurai/western episodic plots are far from original themselves, they not only provide for situations rife with action but also allow the strong and silent Aluka to develop as a character through what she learns as a guest in other people's stories.

Watch It If You Like: Ninja Scroll.

Where You Can Watch It: Crunchyroll

The Five Anime of Spring 2014 You Should Be Watching

One Week Friends

Currently at: Episode 6 (of 12)

Genre: Romance, School Life

Non-Spoiler Plot Summary: Hase has always wanted to befriend Fujimiya, the silent, hard working girl in his class with no friends. But when he finally works up the courage and makes the attempt, he learns her secret: Every Monday morning, when she wakes up, she loses all memory of her friends.

Why You Should Watch It: One Week Friends is an anime that uses its amnesia plot device as a tool to explore love, jealousy, and friendship. Each episode focuses on a week or two in the lives of Hase and Fujimiya and is thematically centred around one aspect of their growing relationship—be that their first fight or getting to know friends of friends. All in all, it is a touching story that will tug at your heartstrings every week as the two develop and grow despite the memory reset at the end of each week.

Watch It If You Like: Golden Time, Sakura Trick.

Where You Can Watch It: Crunchyroll

The Five Anime of Spring 2014 You Should Be Watching

Ping Pong: The Animation

Currently at: Episode 5 (of 12)

Genre: Sports, Coming of Age

Non-Spoiler Plot Summary: Ping Pong is the story of two best friends, Paco and Smile. Ever since they were little, the two have played ping pong on a competitive level, with Paco the stronger of the two and Smile happy to stand in his friend's shadow. However, upon entering high school, they learn that natural ability can only get you so far.

Why You Should Watch It: When it comes down to it, Ping Pong isn't really about ping pong (nor is it your typical sports anime with nearly supernatural special techniques and matches that take up multiple episodes just to stretch out the drama). Rather it's an anime about the relationship between talent and hard work—and how that relationship affects the main characters.

Paco has always been so talented that he's never had any real challenge before and has thus never had to deal with losing. Smile, on the other hand, is even more talented but has never wanted to stand out and cares little if he wins or loses. Moreover, the two have never had to work hard and react to the prospect of it in two totally different ways. Watching them grow as people from this starting point—as they begin to deal with the sport on a much more competitive level—is the heart and soul of the anime.

Watch It If You Like: The idea of a series free from all the typical shonen anime clichés that's as much about coming of age as it is about sports.

Where You Can Watch It: Crunchyroll

Oh, and if you feel the need for even more anime to watch, be sure to check out the five anime of the winter season you should have watched and our picks for the top five anime of 2013.