Welcome to a multi-part series of all the anime in the 2015 lineup that I have watched! In this series, I pen my thoughts of a range of 2015 anime on a comparative basis, and give them certain ‘titles’ and/or ‘awards’ that I feel that they deserve.
To be honest, I never thought I would be able to finish watching all the notable series in year 2015 in just a little more than a month, but I did it! *whew* Do bear in mind that this is my first time consolidating and writing something like this, so I would appreciate any the support that’s given! 😀
Before we start, just a few pieces of background information and disclaimers:
- This series will be contain minor spoilers. Definitely not enough to affect your enjoyment of the show if you haven’t seen it 😉
- This list takes into account all series that END in 2015. Thus, this includes certain Fall 2014 anime that have aired for more than one cour, and excludes Fall 2015 which have not finished airing as of 31 December 2015.
- Out of the 196 known anime series (including shorts) that have aired in 2015, I have only completed 37 of them . All of them are titles that should be familiar if you have been following somewhat about what has been airing throughout the year.
- Unfortunately, there are series I wanted to include in this list but wasn’t able to complete in time, including, amongst others, titles like The Perfect Insider, Gakkou Gurashi, K: Return of Kings, The Seven Deadly Sins, Log Horizon (Season 2), Nisekoi (Season 2), My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (Season 2)
- There are also DNF titles which may or may not be mentioned somewhere throughout this series.
- Please note that this series contains some of my personal opinions. Certain awards/titles are evaluated more objectively (Best Animation for example) while some are definitely looked at in a more subjective manner (Most Personally Relatable for example). I do try to substantiate ALL my opinions however. 🙂
- I PUT A LOT OF WORK IN THIS SO PLEASE ENJOY *wide grin* no seriously, I did. Throughout the process I also did realise that deliberately confining yourself to certain choices of anime just because you need to finish them within a certain time can make anime-watching a chore at times. Nevertheless, it was fun writing all these 😀
Without further ado, let’s proceed! Today’s segment mainly deals with the orthodox titles relating to genres or production. Enjoy! 🙂
A mood-setting tool that is moulded by artistic sense, what constitutes best animation often ends up a more of a matter of subjective preference of style. Fate Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (TV series) showcased more of that Fate Zero ufotable goodness with crazily fluid action scenes. Even being more of a calculated package with effective use of light, slow-mo effects in between character movements, and clean backgrounds, and me knowing this, it successfully sends ripples down my spine. Your Lie in April stayed true to its colours of spring, blending its scenes of Kaori Miyazono with those falling cherry blossom petals especially at the start of the first cour. Hibike! Euphonium’s attention to detail and focus on realism in its movements in it’s most emotionally climactic scenes, however, took the cake for me as due to its incremental role in conveying Kumiko Oumae’s perspective and desires. That heart-stopping moment as Kousaka Reina flipped her hair and smiled in Episode 5 or Episode 12’s heart-pumping when Kumiko was running on the road, screaming “I want to improve!” would not have evoked the same feelings otherwise.
Winner: Hibike! Euphonium
Honourable Mentions: Fate Stay Night (Unlimited Blade Works) (TV series), Your Lie in April
Whether a series has good action or not has never impacted me greatly on the overall enjoyment of a series. More often than not, my pretty low standards have enabled me to enjoy most action scenes, and I usually don’t zero in on this aspect of a series unless its (a) so terribly bad that it becomes hard to not notice; or when (b) it is so well-suited to a series that it greatly enhances my enjoyment.
As animation techniques get better these years, it has thankfully become much harder to chance upon series that fall into category (a). However, because action sequences become more intricately animated, it becomes harder to tell when the action is merely good , or it is really excellent. The 2015 lineup, fortunately, has a strong batch of candidates with not only stunningly animated, but heart-pumping battle choreography scenes that add to the allure and charisma of the characters executing those slick moves.
Of course I was going to first mention Fate Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (TV series). This is ufotable of Kara no Kyoukai and Fate Zero quality, which of course means impeccable battle fantasy effects, amazingly detailed battle fore- and backgrounds, and flexible camera movements that increase tension of the fights. All of that made good animation of action, though the largest factor against it lies in its simple action choreography. There weren’t a ton of excellent fighting moves, though there was great battle atmosphere created by animation that suited its dark fantasy vibes. Next, we have Kuroko no Basket Season 3 where the bar of how fast the characters moved was raised yet again to greater heights in the climax of basketball battles. It was all in all exciting and heart-pumping. Noragami Aragoto mostly had the Yukine-yielding Yato and multi-shinki-using Bishamon, but being a fan of sword battles and Bones’ animation it made great satisfaction watching it, though there wasn’t much of epicness as it was cleanliness as expected of Bones’ trademark style. One Punch Man meanwhile blew all of its rivals out of the water for its incredible manga-like flip-page animation (despite being argued by those to be not as good as those manga gifs). Deceptively following its namesake of One-Punch did not make those battles any less entertaining, even when most of them did end in one punch. The emboldened multiple lines of Saitama’s movements were incredibly mesmerizing to watch, and the most epic boss battle left its viewers, including me, desperately wanting MOAR. There’s no doubt who’s the winner in 2015.
Winner: One Punch Man
Honourable Mentions: Fate Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (TV series), Kuroko no Basket Season 3, Noragami Aragoto
Now, there aren’t any particular outstanding convention-breaking comedy types in 2015, as compared to, say, Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun or Barakamon of 2014, but there are a fair couple of works that put us in an unbelievably tickled mood. Kekkai Sensen excelled in showcasing Zapp Renfro and Leonardo Watch’s partnership through Zapp’s at-times assholeness as a foil against the perfectly ‘normal’ Leonardo. Its other dopey and goofy characters and their interactions with each other as comrades of the eclectic Libra battlefront team, made up for its lack of character development (other than Leonardo Watch) with a good dose of slapstick comedy. Assassination Classroom pitted Koro-sensei, a quirky all-powerful octopus alien with ridiculous human-like habits against a bunch of kids which respond as teenagers do, in equal parts of respect and mockery. It gave all of us viewers fun and laughs as everyday life in AssClass means rapidly transitioning from studying to everybody rapidly whipping out their guns and shooting him while his tentacles move at Mach speed to hit away bullets, while writing Math formulas on the blackboard.
Cute! High School Defense Club Love was a great parody of the over-utilised magical girls formula, swapping out the girls for cute guys instead, making fun of its inherent stereotypes while inserting random engagements of everyday slice-of-life humour that showed how different a ‘mahou shounen’ can potentially be from its female counterpart. One Punch Man delivered top-class satirical humour in the form of Saitama’s attitude towards everyday happenings, his mix-up of priorities, and in his reactions and interactions with other characters like his self-proclaimed disciple, Genos.
However, what stood out the most this year was none other than Prison School which managed to combine faux-seriousness, characters with their priorities mixed up, together with ecchi and a whole lot of sex jokes in a way that was never demeaning or tasteless. Never failing to induce a stitch and always making me end up ROFL-ing, the characters’ desperate struggle for survival resulted in ridiculous plans which were met with equal force from the opposing side’s even more facepalm tactics. Through all that humour the characters become extra-lovable, and that is always one winning formula for me when it comes to comedy.
Winner: Prison School
Honourable Mentions: Kekkai Sensen, Assassination Classroom, Cute! High School Defense Club Love, One Punch Man
The elements of a good drama not only enable one to empathise and cry with characters, but it also keeps one both emotionally and mentally invested in a story. Drama is often created by plot twists, the ability to build suspense and tension, plot and character revelations, and basically enabling the viewer to care about what happens to the characters and so forth. Good drama also more often than not makes a series addictive because we just need to know what happens next.
Hence, in this sense, its contenders are largely similar to those for Most Emotional (a part coming up in the next installment), except that because it is drama, it also means more than just an emotional connection to the series.
Naturally, sports series like Yowamushi Pedal: Grande Road, Kuroko no Basket Season 3 and Diamond no Ace contain their fair share of drama. The former two provided conclusive ends to their respective stories. YowaPeda‘s slightly more successful attempt at developing its main rival team made it harder to decide who to root for and heightened tensions through its 2-cour run, especially when viewers knew it was not the end of the story (the manga still continues). Kuroko no Basket‘s long-awaited final installment ventured more into the supernatural realm which displeased some viewers and further reduced the amount of realism in its battles. While still providing top-notch entertainment, it’s already precarious balance between reality and fantasy was – arguably – tipped, and hence compromising the believability of its narrative and leaving its viewers less attached to its outcome. Diamond no Ace with its long first season run threw up more surprises in plot progression. Having a rougher diamond in the mud as the main protagonist where more time is spent trying to polish him, viewers’ emotional attachment scores though not unaccompanied by frustration of those who are more used to talent taking a larger role in nudging the plot on its intended direction.
In considering drama, one must not leave out the ridiculously entertaining Valvrave-like Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo where Sunrise being Sunrise managed to outdo itself yet again. With its out-of-the-world plot twists that are now a trademark of the Sunrise brand, they border on ludicrity but not quite, and they definitely retain that quality of keeping one on the edge of their seats. Charlotte is another contender for this very same quality though its plot twists may seem more of a questionable experiment of trying to strike many goalposts at once. Your Lie in April mostly had tons of character drama under its bubbly, cherry blossom surface, and opinions are mostly split on whether Shirobako should be considered drama or slice-of-life (I am more inclined towards the latter.)
Let’s also not forget our Spring 2015 contenders where the shounen cooking battles of Food Wars were done with exaggerated fanfare, flair and fanservice that delivered equal proportions of comedy and serious tension. Also, Hibike! Euphonium whose ability to induce empathy with its doses of moe and spellbinding animation had the force of invisible punches to a weary heart.
So, how on earth do I choose a winner? Drama has never been an easy choice and it certainly hasn’t been made easier for Year 2015. Being a sucker for plot twists, I am probably biased towards the likes of Cross Ange and Charlotte, but somehow the magic of Hibike! Euphonium remains as clear as day in its ability to make me care more for its characters, and its certainly not just because I have more personal experience in its chosen arena.
Winner: Hibike! Euphonium
Honourable Mentions: Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo, Charlotte, Diamond no Ace
Despite encouraging trends in the messages that the era of neo-shoujo brings for its viewers, romance is inexplicably still mostly tied into the shoujo genre, except for the ‘shoujos’ which are really features of bishounen-style cast of male characters with shounen-ai vibes. It has always been puzzling why shoujo cannot be done with prominent themes of friendship of both single-gender and mixed-gender, or even if the slice-of-life angle featuring themes of ‘making good memories with my friends’ or even a psychological angle bringing youth social problems like bullying and abuse to light. There are a few shoujo series that have done the latter, but it does not change the predominant conception of what a shoujo series is.
But I digress. It is perhaps through a bad coincidence that the only romance series I have watched from the 2015 lineup came purely from the shoujo genre, with the exception of Plastic Memories which I did not finish because only the romance held something for me, and even that was not enough to motivate me through its second half. Hence, I will only be comparing the merits of the three aforementioned shoujo series, of which the quality of the romance aspect of the three plays a substantial role in my judgment.
Akagami no Shirayuki-hime is an attractive series in a rare fantasy climate with no battles or wars. Its focus is very character-oriented, where certain plot developments are used to showcase the main characters’ abilities to deal with them with an open mind. If anything, the majority of the series builds up Shirayuki and Zen’s relationship to the point where they are literally, the perfect couple as they support each other to achieve what the other wants in kindness, solidarity, and love. Ore Monogatari showcases sweet, puppy love between an unlikely couple with the majority of cliched shoujo misunderstandings and drama hooks shoved aside in what must been one of the fastest speeds in conventional shoujo history. A large part of the series is also on developing the bromance between Sunakawa and Takeo, and romantic scenes are evenly divided into two-people and three-people moments. Out of all the three, though, Akatsuki no Yona is arguably the most all-rounded in its narrative. It may not focus as much on developing the convergence of the goals, stream of thoughts and improving mutual understanding between the two main love interests as Akagami no Shirayuki-hime, nor does it angle itself on defying conventional shoujo elements like Ore Monogatari does. However, it seeks to actually tell a proper story in an environment undoubtedly full of good art and unbalanced gender ratios in favour of males. While not neglecting character development, it manages to squeeze in an intriguing fantasy world of adventure, a story-rich goal of Yona, the importance of friendship and teamwork, and even some occasional heart-pumping action. It is probably the most conventional shoujo out of the three, but its balance between all these elements makes it, in my opinion, the most holistic of them all.
Winner of Best Shoujo: Akatsuki no Yona
Honourable Mentions: Akagami no Shirayukihime
That’s all for today. Stay tuned to the next segment of this series for some more of those titles, and some not-so-conventional awards/titles, and where its content gears more towards subjectivity or controversy!
Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I liked writing this, and feel free to like or leave a comment! (Or about whether you like the new design and layout!) 🙂