Friday, December 25, 2015

TWELVE DAYS OF ANIME 2015: My favorites of 2015

Technically I should've done this yesterday but I've had a hard time figuring out my top of 2015 list. I never have a set number of top titles and I never purport that this list is supposed to be a best of the year, some critics say they can separate out favorites from bests but I would rather make a favorites list and just call it that. As per usual however, split cour series ending in 2016 or multi-cour series ending in 2016 are not eligible for this list after having some series really burn me that way in the past (if I was up to date on Precure I would make an exception for that since it only has four episodes in 2016 but I'm not).

So, onto the list!

  • Shirobako - I really need to stop talking about Shirobako, I was only partially joking when I mentioned in my other post that whenever I do my own professional life goes not so well and this time my contract ended a week earlier than expected so I'm sorta unemployed over Christmas again, eek! So, for a final time, Shirobako is a great story about growing up and your first few jobs, even if your job isn't in tv. It talks about how the world can seem cruel and hard, often unintentionally, and yet how everyone around you isn't out to get you, a lot of times your coworkers and friends want to help you for altruistic reasons. It's a show where your enjoyment is partially dependent on how invested you feel about one or more of the characters but honestly with such a large cast you're sure to have lived through at least some of these paths.
  • Sound! Euphonium - Like Shirobako, Sound! Eupho is a show that's about the people you know. As a non-band player, I have still known so many of those people, the people who only need a bit of coaxing to shine, the more "average" folks who can do great things once they figure out how to get moving, the newbies who think differently enough from you that you really can't teach them even when you try, the folks who feel like they've already put in enough so really they shouldn't have to do more, those teachers etc. I'm thrilled we're getting another season and a movie so that we can spend more time watching this ensemble class grow even more and, having reflected a bit more on the series, I still think there was something special about Kumiko and Reina's relationship. I believe I read in an interview (I can't remember where but it was likely in this collection of translated interviews) that if Kumiko hadn't met Reina then Shuichi may have been a very important relationship for her but after this it could never quite be the same. It feels like a bit of a cop-out to say that they had an intense, non-romantic relationship (given the dearth of queer characters in anime) but heck, as an asexual I am an expert on deep platonic relationships and can make this call!
  • Gatchaman Crowds Insight - I am slightly terrified this show is predicting American politics so well but that's just a sign of how topical the show is! I still maintain that the first season ended fine, the ending fit the tone of the show which was always a bit more optimistic about how humanity would handle great power, so it is a bit weird to see that idea reverse a bit here but I still thought the show brought up a lot of good ideas, really captured popular political opinions (from extremism to apathy), and did it without appearing to work too hard. Fingers crossed that Sentai is able to get episode 0 with the set (since I know they had trouble with the director's cut last time) but since Crunchyroll has it I'm optimistic!
  • Death Parade - One hard thing about this year's list is that almost all of these titles aired in the winter or the spring, no matter how carefully I note down which ones I think will end up on this list it's hard to simply remember what I was feeling when the end of the year rolls around except in a few cases. DP was not one of those cases but seeing it on enough people's end of year lists has reminded me that yes, that was a good show. It's certainly one that I want to buy and rewatch, which is always a good sign it should be on this list and one that I would have mixed, but somewhat happy, feelings if it got a sequel which is another good sign. So yeah, that was a good one.
  • Noragami Aragoto - I literally just saw the finale and Bones that is mean sequel baiting, I hope you're going to follow up on it! While the first season was good this season was spectacular, it stumbled in one or two places but only a couple and I'm glad Kodansha sped up the release of the manga so I can keep reading up on the story soon.
  • Knights of Sidonia: Battle for Planet Nine - It feels odd to also include this series on my list since I haven't seen many people talking about it but you know what, I remember being hooked while I was watching it. The characters are still uneven and the CGI clumsy but it had a great sense of tension and pacing and the backgrounds/composition were all around lovely. So, as I've said with a few series now, I want one more sequel please!
  • Maria the Virgin Witch - This is the opposite of DP where I've found myself thinking more and more about the series after it ended and even though I do still have serious problems with the strawman nature of the entire Catholic Church/Heavens (no series on this list is free of flaws but this has some of the bigger ones) I still really liked Maria's story. It felt like a hero's story, someone figuring out not only what to do and how to do it but why and I rather liked a number of the characters other than Maria. I am a little curious about the manga, since as I said in my review the anime actually added in some critical characters, but it's not a pressing need, I'd much rather rewatch the series first so please Funimation, don't let the dub go to waste!
  • Yuri Kuma Arashi - Of Ikuhara's three series, I think this is my least favorite but I'm also odd since Penguindrum, not Utena, is my favorite of his works. I do agree with many other folks that more episodes would have helped but I also think that this shorter series helped make the symbolism more understandable from the start which is nice. I don't have the intense love for this series that most of it's fans seem to but I still really, really want to rewatch it (come to think of it, I've never had the time to rewatch Utena or Penguindrum either) and see what comes through more clearly on a second watch.
  • Yona of the Dawn - My really indulgent pick, especially since I've said this is good Yona but not top-form Yona! But I still adored this, I was cautious for the first few episodes but it's a really great adaptation that really understands its source material and adds to it. Out of all of the series of this list, I want a sequel for this more than almost anything else and hey Studio Pierrot, there's more than enough material~

I feel like I haven't talked about enough shows so in my formal end of year round-up I'll be sure to mention all the runner ups that are still great, many others that I both want to buy and want sequels for, but just didn't feel right for this list. And now, an end to my 12 days of anime posts and oh what's this, I'm back to regular reviews on Sunday? This doesn't feel liek a break at all....