The 2014 IRD Awards

Since we can't leave things alone, we here at Infinite Rainy Day decided to have one last look back at 2014 before we really start to get 2015 in swing. To do so, we have twelve honors and one dishonor to give out to the shows of most merit from the now dead 2014. Well, I say "shows," but ...well, you'll see.

Everyone in the seasonal review staff chipped in, with some votes also from the other staff, and decided on the best of the best among categories such as direction, sound, and animation. These are the collective results, and we hope you enjoy!

Best Direction: Ping Pong The Animation
Jonathan Kaharl

Despite the return of the man who brought us Cowboy Bebop in two shows within the same year, this category was pretty much a predictable lock. Masaaki Yuasa is simply a director its hard to compete with. He has this strange, fluid, colorful style to his work, and it just instantly grabs your attention the moment you see it. He captures the beauty in ugly and creates these truly wonderful dreamscapes that can completely disorient you. If Watanabe has a mastery over the traditional, then Yuasa has a mastery over the experimental, no matter if he's trying for fantastical events or grounded moments.

Ping Pong gets the best of Yuasa's style in both versions, using dream sequences and abstract symbolism along side otherwise real world settings. Game sets are played out with film techniques and manga style panels, while occasionally diving into the strange as characters sudden;y shift into dragons made of lightning or move so fast that the camera can't keep up and has to shift to a new angle instantaneously. Sets and dialog sequences are shown in odd ways you don't instantly notice, like slanting things strangely, using heavy amounts of negative space, or weaving in flashbacks in strangely natural ways. The entire show flows together near perfectly, trying not to overpower the viewer with style, but to use the style to move the story. That is an incredibly difficult thing to do, but Yuasa and his staff accomplish it so easily.

Something this well built took an incredible director to ignite the creativity of the staff, and Yuasa was just the right man for it. Ping Pong was the most constantly well directed show of 2014, no question, and all because it mixed together two completely different directorial styles under one brilliant directorial style.

Honorable Mention(s): Space Dandy

Best Writing: Ping Pong The Animation
Joe Straatmann

The biggest praise for this year's winner in writing is how many people who don't like sports absolutely love this series. It's even more surprising considering the base of Ping Pong the Animation isn't that far off from a general sports story. In fact, the four main characters at their most rudimentary  are archetypes in the genre: The person who would be amazingly talented if he just believed in himself, the child prodigy who hits a wall, the fallen champion looking for redemption, and the unstoppable monster who spends his life obsessing over the sport. But like how Rocky Balboa is the basis for most sports movie protagonists yet is an unforgettable and singular character, just leaving Smile, Peco, Kong Wenge, and Ryuichi Kazama to be described by their basics does a great disservice.

I haven't read much of the manga, so whether most of the credit belongs to the anime or the adaptation simply didn't screw up what was on the page, I can't say. What I can say is that within these tournaments, training montages, and showdowns exists characters who are among the most original and realistic to be put to a sports title.  Smile is so introverted, he literally locks himself away from the world and his approach to ping pong is becoming a robot and analyzing and destroying every opponent. His best friend Peco is on the opposite end in such constant search of joy that such bothers as practice have no meaning for him, but he must fight of a confused existence when he sees how much ahead the greatest in the country are from him. They cross paths with Kong, a player kicked off China's national team playing for a flight back to his home country that seems to get farther and farther away from him, and Ryuichi, a seemingly unstoppable "dragon" whose family fortunes seem to be more and more supported by his shoulders. What they learn from each other and their eccentric mentors is unexpected, occasionally touching, and always feels like it has the wisdom of real life experience thrown in.

As an amateur competitive fencer, it's interesting to note how much this series "gets" 1-on-1 sports competitions. Blowouts happen constantly, and no matter how good you are, there's always that matchup that can pop up which can punch an unsuspecting contender in the gut, which happens often in this series and it's perfectly integrated into the character arcs. Also of note is the atmosphere of the final tournament where instead of building excitement, the montage in-between the final matches involves people leaving, texting each other wondering what they want for dinner, and other mundane things that happen around tournaments, no matter how exciting. Ping Pong the Animation understands the importance of the game, but it also understand life exists around it, and most importantly, life goes on after it, for better, worse, and in-between. So many sports stories lead up to and stop at the big tournament as if it's the one defining moment, but here, it's just a piece of the bigger picture, and the series completely captures the total picture of these weirdos without making statues out of them. Well, one of them has a statue, but you probably couldn't guess who.

Honorable Mention(s): Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun

Best Lead Character: Yutaka "Peco" Hoshino (Ping Pong the Animation)
Danni Wilmoth

As you've likely noticed by now, us seasonal reviewers here at Infinite Rainy Day really enjoyed Ping Pong the Animation. It won more than half of the categories it was eligible for, and took home honorable mentions in half of the categories it lost. To put it simply: it was a really great series - a masterpiece, in my opinion. For a show to become a masterpiece, it requires a plethora of elements to all work near flawlessly in sync. One of these important elements is the show's lead. When you get right down to it, Ping Pong technically had two leads: Peco and Smile. While both were very strong characters, we chose Peco alone for his (quite literal) heroic position in the show.

I'll admit, when Ping Pong first began airing, I did not have high hopes for Peco. To me, he read as the archetypal annoying prodigy. To be fair, he was exactly that. He was so talented that he regularly skipped practice and didn't seem to care much for trying. He only wanted to show off and have fun. At the time, the show was mainly focusing on Smile, who was a bit more sympathetic. It wasn't clear quite yet that in addition to Smile, the show would neatly flesh out the characterizations of Kong, Dragon, Nekota, and Peco to the point of them all being sympathetic characters you want to root for. They all journeyed far in the show's eleven-episode run, but Peco's journey was easily the most fun to watch. Special note should be given to the fact that much of this is attributed to a stellar performance by Fukujurou Katayama in what is amazingly his very first credited acting performance. However, the show's spectacular writing carried much of the load as well. We witness Peco as he goes through a whole spectrum of emotions from arrogance to shame, shame to anger, anger to humility, humility to resolve, and resolve to happiness. Peco's situation becomes instantly relatable to anyone who was once considered a "prodigy" as a child before encountering other such prodigies far better than them. It's an emotional journey to follow, but the payoff at the end is well worth it.

Honorable Mention(s): Honoka Takiyama & Ayaka Kagari (Witch Craft Works)

Best Supporting Character: Kong Wenge (Ping Pong The Animation)
Danni O'Neil

One of my favorite things about 2014's Ping Pong The Animation was easily the characters. Despite the show's fairly large case of characters, the show managed to distribute the attention directed towards those characters perfectly, allowing for nearly every character to get the depth and development they deserved. The characters have so much going on in their heads that you could make ten separate shows focusing on each character alone, but somehow the series managed to skillfully tackle every one of them without sacrificing the pacing or central theme. Even with all these great supporting characters though, one stood out the most: Kong Wenge.

At first glance Kong Wenge seems like no more than a future boss battle for the protagonists to work towards defeating. A chinese exchange student desperate for redemption after being kicked off the national team, he emanated arrogance with every step he took. He considering himself far superior to any of the Japanese players he encountered by default, and absolutely crushed the confidence of the story's "hero", Peco. But as the show went on, the layers of his character continuously started peeling back and Kong transformed as a character. His development is some of the most extensive I saw from any character last year, as on the other side of that arrogance and sense of superiority is a tragic, sympathetic character. His arc covers everything from, friendship, to family, to one of the most prominent themes of the series: one's sense of belonging. His scenes often have a common visual cue in the form of planes. Kong is an outsider, he only wants to get back home. So he strives to get better, he plays and plays hoping to achieve that, and starts to wonder what exactly he's really striving for.

Ping Pong The Animation is a show full of great, interesting characters, but no supporting character stuck with me quite as much as Kong Wenge. He's a deep well of flaws and conflicts, all coming together to make a fantastic character. In episode six, Kong takes time away from ping pong to celebrate christmas and sing karaoke with his teammates, in one of the series's most memorable moments. As he sings "Midnight Flight", surrounded by his peers, I found it hard to believe I could have ever seen him as "the bad guy".

Honorable Mention(s): Inugami (Gugure! Kokkuri-san), Mattis (Ronia the Bandit's Daughter), Mayumi Bokura (Kawai Complex), Ryuichi Kazama (Ping Pong the Animation), Twelve (Terror in Resonance)

Best Performance (Male): Ian Sinclair as Dandy (Space Dandy)
Stephanie Getchell

This year has been full of amazing performances from male voice actors such as Fukujurou Katayama as Peco from Ping Pong: The Animation and Mamoru Miyano as Tokyo Ghoul's Sho Tsukiyama. However, there's one performance that the Rainy Day staff loved above all else, and, oddly enough, it wasn't from a Japanese voice actor. Prior to the start of 2014, and the winter anime season, FUNimation announced that Space Dandy (a series that was licensed months prior) was going to broadcast simultaneously with the Japanese broadcast; with Toonami as the platform to do so. For those in the states, this meant that an English dub was on the horizon along with much speculation as to who would voice the title character for more reasons than one. Not only was Dandy helmed by Cowboy Bebop director Shinachiro Watanabe, but, as the first series to try a simultaneous release, there was bound to be a lot of pressure involved. With guess after guess being thrown into the pool, it came as a surprise to many of us that Ian Sinclair was chosen as our lovable alien bounty hunter.

Sinclair is, in my opinion, one of the major rising stars to come out of FUNimation in recent years. Although he started out in smaller roles, he did land a break when he became the voice of the title character in Toriko, however he wasn't quite there yet. Once Space Dandy came into the picture, those who were already familiar with his work felt that this was going to be a walk in the park. And, to be completely honest, it was! Sinclair not only took the role head on, keeping the pressure off, but he brought one of the most memorable and defining performances of his overall career! Sinclair brings in so much energy and matches Dandy's charisma with ease, helping make this odd little experiment an overwhelming success! Countless people praise Sinclair as one of, if not, the best performances in the English dub of Space Dandy, and now FUNimation has kept the experiment going with their new Broadcast Dub initiative with Laughing Under the Clouds and Psycho-Pass 2 from the Fall 2014 season as the test subjects. And what about Sinclair? Well, he's going to be rather busy for a good long while as this past year it was announced that he would take on the roles of Sousuke from Free! Enternal Summer, and the much anticipated Brook from One Piece. I think it's safe to say that Ian Sinclair, thanks to this spectacular performance, has finally arrived and is gaining all the much needed support that I, and many others, think he deserves.

Honorable Mention(s): Fukujurou Katayama as Peco (Ping Pong the Animation), Mamoru Miyano as Sho Tsukiyama (Tokyo Ghoul)

Best Performance (Female): Juri Kimura as Miyamori Aoi (Shirobako)
David O'Neil

I know to a lot of anime fans, voice actors actors and actresses are a big deal. Unlike in western animation where the voices behind characters are more like unsung heroes, in anime their more like celebrities. There are people who will watch a show just for a voice actor/actress they like in an anime, but it's never been like that for me. Maybe it's just the language barrier, but it's very rarely I really notice a performance standing out from the crowd in my mind. One of those performances, was Juri Kimura as Miyamori Aoi in the anime series Shirobako.

Aoi was somewhat of an unconventional anime protagonist in the first place, a young adult woman working a stressful job in the real world, who's personality is a quirky mix of an unshakable drive to move forward, hindered by the creeping uncertainty of where exactly she's headed in life. It'd be hard to nail the energetic and wacky side of Aoi, while also capturing the more real, human side of the character. But Juri Kimura does so near perfectly. She manages to play the cute, fun character while also being able to inject that emotion and even maturity in that often comes into play throughout the show. It really was all about creating that balance, having a character that's over the top while simultaneously very down to earth, and that's not an easy feat to pull off. It takes exceptional voice work and fully understanding the character, all of which Kimura clearly achieved with her handling of the character.

As I said before, I've always found it hard to notice a japanese voice performance, I can get a little bit in terms of its quality, but when it comes down to it I can't always catch the little differences when I don't know the ins and outs of the language. It takes a truly special performance to grab my attention, and Juri Kimura did just that. Miyamori Aoi was an absolute blast to watch and listen to, overflowing with quirks and great moments, and at the same time she was a very relatable character as well. She was very human, and it really showed through Kimura's performance, making one of the most exceptional voice performances of 2014.

Honorable Mention(s): Aya Hirano as Migi (Parasyte -the maxim-)

Best Art Design: Ping Pong The Animation
Joe Straatmann

In 2013, it would've been a lot tougher to pick the winner of this category. Whether you wanted to go bold and brash with Kill la Kill, straight iconic with Attack on Titan, or take the path less traveled with Flowers of Evil, there was a decent bundle of titles to choose from. This year, most of the favorites managed to do plenty of things well, but kept modern Japan as mostly modern Japan. Ping Pong the Animation took the world of competitive high school ping pong and turned it into a blast of perpetual energy surging into the action, flashbacks, mental games, and more in a single breath. Adapting Taiyo Matsumoto's manga is a tall order since the art is a bit of an acquired taste. However, even though Tatsunoko's vision looks like an accident between MTV's Liquid Television and a misfiring Gatorade ad at first blush, the design not only allows the manga to come alive, but elevates it into a visual form of free running,  joyfully making astounding leaps and bounds through the minds and hearts of the competitors, their coaches, the guy who doesn't know what his purpose in life is, and the team that's trying to figure out where some shoes are before the bus leaves.

Aside from the constant use of split-screen (sometimes to the point where a scene becomes a collage), a more abstract and offbeat style is used. Brash colors underline the eccentric cast, and the designs for everything and everyone are malleable, essentially making them a part of the storytelling. Opponents become monsters. Ping pong tables become portals into the childhoods of the players. An overhand strike morphs into the same character reaching for a metaphorical bird representing becoming the greatest player in the world, and the bird changes into an airplane the person he's neglected is using to fly far away from him to try and accomplish their dream. It's that ability to be so freewheeling with the visuals that a slicker, more realistic style would've been less able to do. It's a far more ingenious work than any video still would ever suggest.

Honorable Mention(s): The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior

Best Animation: Space Dandy
Jonathan Kaharl

I could have sworn that Ping Pong would have another easy win for animation, but there's a lot to be said for Space Dandy. It was one of the most experimental shows of the entire year (if not of the past decade), and every episode had a common connection; they all looked incredible. Every episode had different directors on them, resulting in a grab bag of crazy sci-fi inspired sights, and some fantasy because why not? I mean, this was the show that had the entire universe turned into zombies, a High School Musical riff, Yuasa guest directing a story about a planet of corrupt fish aliens, and an existential galaxy side war nobody remembers started by living books and videos. Somewhere in there, you're gonna see some crazy things.

The animation always matched along with the story being told, usually with fantastical, almost unimaginable sequences capping off episodes. Highlights include Dandy and Johnny's big concert, Dandy space surfing (on two different occasions), the galactic gay sex/time warp (I have no idea how else to describe that scene), the entirety of the bizarre plant episode, the sketchy reality fallout from the book war episode, Dandy and the gang exploring a constantly folding 2D universe, and so, so much more. Things just flow so perfectly in these sequences, portraying almost movie quality animation to keep the audiences' jaws on the floor.

The episode that best portrays the series stellar animation is the second cour's premier, where Dandy and the crew end up traveling across an endless number of parallel universes. It's a mash of different designs and styles, but the animation never drops in quality, even when the depressed Dandy appears with his two terrifying crew members that make him wanna die. The episode before even has a huge giant robot battle with smashing cities, complex battle damage, and one fighter made up of thousands of smaller robots. The sheer flow of that scene is film climax good, lovingly crafted like few anime could ever hope to be. The show doesn't always move as constantly strong as other works, but the number of standout moments is near endless.

Honorable Mention(s): Ping Pong The Animation

Best Sound & Score: Ping Pong The Animation
David O'Neil

I've always had an interest in unconventional, experimental anime soundtracks, especially ones heavy on more electronic-esque music. Going down this path is a risky one, as it can either hugely pay off (see: basically any Taku Iwasaki soundtrack) or crash and burn (see: Parasyte: The Maxim soundtrack). In the case of Ping Pong The Animation's soundtrack, it was very much the former rather than the latter.

The soundtrack of Ping Pong The Animation is a hodgepodge of different styles. Some tracks are heavy, fluctuating electronic beats to properly portray the fast paced ping pong scenes, while other tracks are slower tracks making use of stringed instruments or piano. But whatever direction the music goes in, it almost always does two things: sounds fantastic, and compliments what's happening on screen perfectly. It's impressive that a soundtrack that does so many different things works as well as it does, but boy does it work. Despite the diversity of the tracks, it keeps a very consistent overall tone that lines up with the show's, one that can be both energetic and intense, while also being laid back and contemplative at times.

The soundtrack of Ping Pong The Animation decided to forgo conventional tracks and do something totally one of a kind, even at the risk of blowing up in the show's face. Luckily, the composer managed to create something high quality and totally unique, while still fitting the show itself incredibly well. It's a remarkable soundtrack that's as interesting to listen to by itself as it is along with in conjunction with the visuals provided by the show, making it stand out from the other soundtracks of 2014.

Honorable Mention(s): Terror in Resonance

Best Studio: BONES
Danni Wilmoth

Most anime studios lucky enough to come out with one or two big hits are likely to have a few underwhelming shows lurking in their yearly closet. This can make it rather tough to figure out which had the overall best year. In the end, though, studio BONES stood out with the best track record for 2014. It led off the year with Noragami, a shounen action anime about a homeless god who takes on any odd job he can find. This show did moderately well, and found a place among many best-of-the-season lists. In the spring season, it premiered three anime. First, it released Captain Earth, a shounen mech series a young boy and his team working to try and stop a group of aliens from devouring all of humanity's, well, libidos. While this show ultimately failed to live up to its full potential, it nevertheless remained interesting throughout its two-course run. Next, it premiered an adaptation of Soul Eater NOT!, a spin-off to the fan-favorite show Soul Eater that BONES made back in 2008. Soul Eater NOT! was, well, definitely not Soul Eater, but it found its place among fans of the series regardless. BONES finished out the spring season by airing Chaika: the Coffin Princess, which was followed by a second season that aired in the fall. It didn't receive wide acclaim, and I've yet to watch it myself, but I hear great things about it from those who did.

All these shows considered, what really cements BONES as the best studio of 2014 is its original creation Space Dandy. Arguably the most anticipated anime of 2014, Space Dandy was widely advertised, understandable considering it was helmed by acclaimed anime directed Shinichiro Watanabe. Western anime fans were given a rare treat when it was announced that Funimation would be dubbing and airing the episodes on Toonami before they even aired in Japan. It seemed all but guaranteed to be a smash hit (and it was), but as soon as the first episode ended it was clear that Space Dandy was actually more of an experiment. Each episode is self-contained and loosely relevant to any other episode. This freed Watanabe up to take a more hands-off approach to directing the show. Instead, BONES brought in a plethora of different people to handle each episode, some famous, and some not. Astoundingly, a few of the people brought in to write or direct episodes were people who didn't even work in the anime industry. This experiment succeeded greatly, and each week we were given something new and exciting that we hadn't seen in the show before. Not every episode delivered well, but when it did deliver, it delivered big time. During its winter and summer season run, Space Dandy ended up being one of the most entertaining and creative shows to come out of the industry in 2014. If BONES comes through with a season three, they may very well end up on our best-of list yet again.

Honorable Mention(s): Studio Madhouse

Best Spinoff/Sequel: Hanamonogatari
Danni Wilmoth

I've already discussed my love-hate relationship with the Monogatari series on a separate review (which likely hasn't been published yet), so I won't get into it here. Rather, I'll focus on what made Hanamonogatari better than any other spin-off or sequel that aired last year. Not even a full season, Hanamonogatari was the first of two OVA arcs to air for the Monogatari series in 2014. For the first time in the series, the role of narrator-protagonist is given to Araragi's eccentric junior Suguru Kanbaru. Following the departure of Araragi and Senjougahara to college, Kanbaru takes it upon herself to investigate rumors of a mysterious "devil" who solves peoples problems.

Coming off of a terrific 2013 with Monogatari Second Season, many wondered if Itamura and his team at SHAFT could keep the quality going. After delaying the OVA for a season longer than originally planned, they released Hanamonogatari in August and were met with high praise. Among dedicated fans of the series, it is considered ones of the best arcs to be animated, if not the best. Nisio Isin's fantastic writing is well-preserved in this adaptation, and the avant-garde visual style the series has become known for is at top form. We're introduced to a wave of new environments in this arc, from a basketball gym turned artificial lake to an archway of construction machinery to a useless staircase in the middle of nowhere. Each environment presented to us carries with it an essence of emptiness and purposelessness. This correlates well with the feelings of both Kanbaru and the arc's antagonist, both former star athletes who can no longer play due to their anomalies.

Speaking of which, the characters in Hanamonogatari are all intriguing. The spotlight is pointed towards the previously underutilized Kanbaru to tremendous effect, making her arguably the most interesting protagonist the series has yet had. The series antagonist is equally as interesting, leading to an ending that left many such as myself teary-eyed. Ougi is also given more screen-time than before, resulting in them becoming even more enigmatic than before. The only weak character in the entire arc is Araragi sporting a haircut that makes him look like a character out of a terrible shounen action anime. As far as I'm concerned, the weakest parts of Hanamonogatari are the parts he shows up in. They're few and far between, but they're there nevertheless. Regardless, Hanamonogatari comes together perfectly in a way that made it an easy pick for our favorite spin-off/sequel anime of 2014.

Honorable Mention(s): Free! Eternal Summer, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, Log Horizon S2, Love Live! School Idol Project S2, Mushi-Shi S2

Worst Series (We saw more than three episodes of): Tokyo ESP
Stephanie Getchell

There are often series that we all fall in love with, and there are more often series that we think of as complete and utter s**t and wish to see die in a fire. Much of the staff here at Rainy Day were rather torn as to which series we thought was the worst of the worst. But, somehow, we managed to find a winner in Tokyo ESP. As the staff member who did cover this series during the Summer 2014 season, what really this all comes down to is one word: disappointing. There was a lot of potential this series had with an interesting premise making it the Japanese equivalent to X-Men. You have the whole mutant powers and the fight over politics and policing those same super powered individuals as the major similarity here. And, to be honest, it didn't start off too badly. It wasn't my favorite start of the season since Tokyo Ghoul and Terror in Resonance were also in there, but there was a chance for it to improve over time... Sadly, it never did.

What the problem comes down to is some rather lackluster writing. It tried to squeeze in as much as humanly possible, story wise, into those twelve episodes with the end result as a bit of a train wreak. The pace of the story was either rushed or completely missing the point of itself, the characters became way too underdeveloped, and the relationships between characters was never explored to their fullest potential. The more and more someone would watch a show like this, especially one who was looking forward to it like I know Jonathan was, the more and more you slowly realize how upsetting it is that this was all there was to it. It could have done so much better as a two cour series rather than a one cour, which would have, possibly, fixed a lot of the writing problems. With Tokyo ESP, people may have fallen for the hype this series brought in only to either be frustrated or disappointed in the end. As someone who went in with moderate expectations, even I was a little bit upset as to where it ended up going. If this anime is going to exist, then it should have been done right instead of what we ended up receiving.

Honorable Mention(s): Bladedance of the Elementars, Glasslip, Nobunagun, pupa, Terror in Resonance (lol tom), Wolf Girl & Black Prince

Best Series of 2014: Ping Pong The Animation
Jonathan Kaharl

If you couldn't tell from the other results, we here at Infinite Rainy Day are completely in love with Ping Pong. I will admit, I'm surprised by how much. This was the year of Witch Craft Works, Shirobako, Terror in Resonance, Space Dandy, and Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, all more than worthy of best of the year for many a reason (especially Space Dandy and Shirobako). However, it was Ping Pong we almost all completely agreed should be at the top, and not for just any one reason. The weird thing is, at least for me, is that I fully expected this show to be one of the best (Yuasa, man), but I was still amazed by how great it actually was. When you can come into a show with the highest expectations, and then have them surpassed, you have watched something truly special.

Ping Pong's most brilliant element is how wise it is. Unlike most sport shows (and as Joe pointed out), Ping Pong is less about the actual sport and more about the people affected by it. It follows the lives of the people who have played in the game, and we see how it has changed all of them in some way, both positive and negative. The ending of the series is particularly strange for these types of shows, outright skipping the big triumphant moments because they're not really important. Ping Pong's goal is showing the long term change and growth of its characters and how they learn from one another, both through good times and bad. Everyone is sparking with hidden depth, no matter how simplistic they appear to be initially. Hell, even Akuma, who's introduced as Peco's jerk rival, ends up being one of the most sympathetic and memorable characters in the entire show.

The source material shows life as it is, and Yuasa and team brilliantly brought it to life through their strange talents. So many beautiful sequences, so many relatable characters, so many mesmerizing scenes of quiet contemplation, and so many emotional, gut-punching moments. It's a masterwork in every possible level, and its few flaws (seriously, what was that beach scene anyways) can't even come close to taking power away from everything it gets so damn perfect.

There are few shows that can truly be called masterpieces. Ping Pong is one of those rare few.

Honorable Mention(s): Shirobako


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