(This is Part 2 of my 2015 anime review series. See Part 1 for more awards on genres & production as well as for certain background information and disclaimers with regards to this series of posts.)
Best Genre Combination
Perhaps the possibilities within genres have long been exhausted, hence creators are venturing across genres, mixing and matching until they create a product that satisfies the crowd. There have been a couple of failed instances until 2015, as they proved to be unwelcome amongst viewers. But such series seem to be better received in 2015, and it is worth giving a shout out to these names.
2015 saw a couple of series that successfully mixed fanservice with other genres to produce stories that are more intelligent than they first appear to be. Cross Ange which is still highly misunderstood as a series which first started out with buckets of yuri fanservice with hoards of girls in skintight suits boarding mechas. While not successfully in luring the majority of viewers to stick through it, it still showcases how potentially diverse anime can be. Food Wars on the other hand received much more attention as the shock of combining ecchi fanservice and food has perhaps already been tempered by Kofuku Graffiti. Moreover, there were some well-placed hints at the start of its potential development into a shounen-focused battle infused story. Prison School managed to differentiate itself from whole lot of ecchi + comedy stories by creating an interesting cast of characters and comedic interaction in a unique setting.
However, what epitomises seamless transition would be none other than Rokka no Yuusha, which has not made an appearance thus far in any award pick of mine. But the turn from fantasy-adventure to mystery did not disappoint even those looking for just the former, as the colourfully animated fights still managed to bait its prior audience. The masterful execution of the mystery also packed enough intellectualism to keep the attention of mystery-lovers. There is no doubt that Rokka no Yuusha stands above the lot.
Winner: Rokka no Yuusha
Honourable Mentions: Food Wars
Best Genre Overall
If there is anything 2015 should probably be known for, it should be its lineup of convention-breaking shoujo series for the year. Akatsuki no Yona carried on from Fall 2014, delivering a tale about a young spoiled princess who is quickly thrown into devastation as everything she had known about her sheltered life had turned upside down by a coup de’tat. Falling initially into a long bout of depression, she is aided by her friends and grows quickly, zeroing in on her goals with a fiery motivation and light, positive zest. Gone are the days of weak female leads in animated shoujo series, with Akatsuki no Yona securing its place as the first series to start this long-awaited revolution. We then had Ore Monogatari* in Spring where for the possibly first time in anime history, shoujo featured a male lead that was not sparkly bishounen-like good-looking, thus managing to turn artistic conventions on their heels. Then came Akagami no Shirayukihime which featured realistic romantic development and a very emotionally strong, almost perfect pair – Shirayuki and Zen – a tale of a girl who saves herself and knows what she wants in life, and a guy who does not always play the role of Prince Charming. Featuring a heroine who is very sure about her goals and aspirations in life, and sticks to them at all times with a positive disposition, it continues from the first step taken by Yona in Akastsuki no Yona, bringing independent-minded girls to the forefront whose lives, thankfully, never for one bit revolved around just one guy.
Perhaps the type of shoujo manga that is chosen for anime adaptation may reflects a larger change in social preferences, as decisions like these are usually made due to predictions of how well-received it will be in its domestic demographic and to promote its base material, the original manga itself. One sure thing about these adaptations is that it has successfully attracted viewers from other demographics as it’s no longer as girly or filled with unicorns and rainbows, though it certainly does not lose its overly sweet moments. Ore Monogatari is probably one of the most successful ones in luring male viewers in, though there are arguments on whether it is merely faux shoujo in the first place. (More on this to come.)
Looking from a macro-societal perspective, perhaps this can also be taken to spell a promising future for gender equality in Japan. Albeit this is but a small step for a country that is still mired in traditional gender stereotypes and where the concept of gender equality in the workplace are still a ways to go, it nevertheless is an laudable and encouraging trend as it is an indication that these perceptions are about to change. This is especially when the anime and manga feature prominently in the formative years of the majority of its younger generations. Hence, the potential influence that these forms of entertainment can hold over shaping values and moulding perspectives cannot be ignored, especially in its home country.
Special Mention: Slice of Life
I am usually more drawn to darker, more complex, and emotional stories, hence the SOL genre has number been any near the top priorities of my list. In fact, most of the time, I fall into the misconception that Slice of Life seems more of a replication of daily life which is already boring enough, though admittedly with more interesting and lovable characters, and hence there is nothing new to gain from it. But every now and then when I try the odd slice-of-life series, I am usually pleased to find that I am wrong. And for 2015, that very anime is – of course – Shirobako.
Shirobako is one of those anime choices that are highly recommended even by those who have not actually watched it. Being the anime-counterpart to Bakuman, Shirobako did not disappoint, and succeeded in captivating me with the intricacies of the anime production process, and the challenges involved. It certainly makes me appreciate my anime a lot more, but its biggest takeaway lies in its ability to even make the cynic and easily bored me cheer and feel for its characters. Through the little struggles involved in being a production assistant like Aoi Miyamori, episodes of tension in meeting deadlines and the obstacles faced along the way in resolving conflicts between people, it also captures a large part of office life which makes it very relatable. Though to some, it belongs more in the ‘drama’ category, for people who are more used to working in offices, Shirobako sits squarely in office ‘slice-of-life’ genre. The fact that it is in anime production is more of a bonus than anything, and its the characters who go about their daily lives and the spirit that keeps them going, that ultimately constitutes its marked differentiation from the rest of its peers.
That’s all for the more ‘objective’ awards. Next up I would be delving into the more subjective & controversial ones proper. More exciting things to come 😉 As usual, thanks for reading, and feel free to like, comment or discuss about anything!