Most Personally Relatable
There’s probably no sense of objectivity in this one, hence there should not be any ‘judgment’ involved. It all depends on what personal experiences one has, though the chances are that school-themes and emotional driven stories would emerge as clear winners for most. 2015 produced two series on classical music that hit home for me. Having been an ensemble player for 5 years and a solo player for more, I have suffered through the trials and tribulations of trying to improve myself as a performer, the despair when hard work faced with raw talent is never nearly enough, and yet not unfamiliar with the stress bogging down when expectations of you are nearly too high. Your Lie in April managed to portray the multifarious perspectives of the talented and the untalented, the traumatised and the fearful, the courageous and the self-deceiving, through its ensemble of characters that were not limited to Arima Kousei or Kaori Miyazono. The ensemble politicking shenanigans, the joys, anger and tears and meanwhile personified in Hibike! Euphonium bring back bittersweet memories of being in an ensemble full of angsty, prideful, spiteful and emotionally vulnerable teenagers who only realised years thereafter that what was most important in making music together are the memories that were created, and not leadership positions or being better at one’s instrument than another.
Even while music-focused anime stand in a slightly stronger position here, however, anime’s ability to create that ‘I’ve been here before’ feeling has never been limited to what we have personally experienced. Death Parade brought to the screen episodic meetings with strangers from all walks of life, only to find similarity in human emotion and nature as underpinnings of these characters’ actions only show how much we human beings, in all our selfishness and self-preservation, are often softened by solidarity, love for fellow human beings, and our inherently social nature. Special mentions go to Diamond no Ace where Eijun Sawamura broke conventional feel-good moulds of raring-to-go shounen protagonists by repeatedly trying and failing (which I suspect Baby Steps 2 did as well) and Food Wars with its now infamous mini-arc of Tadokoro Megumi’s character development that prompted my indulgent sharing of a similar personal story.
Out of all, though, as much as I hate to repeatedly look like I really just favour one anime out of all, Hibike! Euphonium rises above the rest for not only depicting the darker competitive sides of high school music ensembles, but also managing to capture the transition of callousness and jadedness to genuinity in the form of Kumiko Oumae.
(No division of Winner and Honourable Mentions for this because it is more of a personal preference.)
To be honest, either recent anime has lost the ability to get around the walls of my heart, or that my walls have thickened and solidified. If anything, I’d prefer the latter because it would only be my problem, whereas if the former is reality, the alarm bells on the future of anime should be clanging for all of us anime fans because it would mean that anime is losing one of its most important aspects of differentiation from other forms of media. It is perhaps not an exaggeration to say that 2015 has reached a new low in this compartment. Are Clannad: After Story, Angel Beats! and Ano Hana: The Flower We Saw That Day merely the bygone products of yester-years, whose ability to turn on our tear ducts can no longer be surpassed?
Alas, we can only hope. Nonetheless, 2015 brought a fair share of its heart-wrenching moments. Charlotte comes to mind with Jun Maeda’s drawn-out process of an entire episode focusing on Otosaka Yuu losing himself upon death of a loved one. While seemingly pointless, it managed to achieve its purpose through its build-up, seeing that only a slight trigger of memories at the end was enough to make the emotions rush through its viewers like the surge of a tsunami wave. Death Parade‘s various episodic scenarios contained different emotional triggers which culminated in the focus on the adjudicators’ past in a beautifully rounded end. Your Lie in April had heart-aching quotes and monologues that truly brought its characters right next to us, making them a part of us. Hibike! Euphonium managed to infuse colours into the little nuances of teenage emotions that would otherwise seem melodramatic, no doubt helped in part by its animation style. However, the emotions triggered by Diamond no Ace are the most long-lasting, as it truly exemplifies ‘passing the torch’. That, and I still bawl whenever I watch the OP or the ED. Perhaps its length of 5 cours gave it an undue advantage over all these other 1-cour shows in this respect, but its undeniable effects are present and that is all that’s really needed.
Winner: Diamond no Ace
Honourable Mentions: Your Lie in April, Death Parade, Hibike! Euphonium, Charlotte
Most Lovable Cast
Characters are perhaps the single make-it-or-break-it factor as to how much we love a series, though not necessarily how good a series is. Emotional connections to characters, especially when it involves both main and supporting characters are therefore always crucial. Often, this is done by holistic portrayals of good and bad traits in all characters, believable character development, and displays of solidarity and common goals.
Thankfully, the best contenders were evenly spread throughout the year. Shirobako which continued from Fall 2014 had such a large cast of characters that were so rapidly introduced together with their confusing titles that it grew hard to remember individuals’ names except for its five main female characters. However, their different working styles and personalities that produced fair amounts of friction throughout the series crumbled before their united passion for anime and their fervent common desire to make good anime. Even slightly annoying characters became likeable as foils to their otherwise too-idealistic counterparts. In Spring we saw the wacky, dorky, comedic cast of Kekkai Sensen in Jerusalem’s Lot, a not-so-optimistic environment to be in. Though 1 cour was not sufficient to develop all of them, the slapstick humour worked, making Kekkai Sensen a hell lot more fun. Then came the ‘bad guys with soft hearts’ in Gangsta, where a gritty, dangerous, mafia-owned city told showcased the effect of tragic pasts on shaping characters while retaining certain laudable humane values like helping those in need, repaying one’s debts, and the concept of protecting one’s own. Every character had softer sides and well-meaning intentions to their worn-out, hardened appearances.
Meanwhile, Noragami Aragoto built on the stories of its supporting characters in this second season, indirectly strengthening the bonds of the makeshift family that its protagonists, Yato, Hiyori, and Yukine had formed especially in the Bishamon arc. Diamond no Ace, which finished its run in Spring 2015, had built so many bonds between protagonist teammates that it was impossible not to like every single one of them. Though no doubt the Daiya boys hit home for me, the winner goes to Gangsta which managed to develop the heartbreaking pasts of Worick and Nicolas within one cour while fleshing out the at-times sympathetic motivations of their counterparts within its dangerous city-space.
Honourable Mentions: Diamond no Ace, Noragami Aragoto, Kekkai Sensen, Shirobako
That’s all for today, hope you enjoyed this post yet again! The next post will contain subjective rants, and the most controversial ‘titles’ of the lot. Thanks for reading, and feel free to like or comment! 🙂