Monday, January 4, 2016

The Top 5 Anime of 2015

2015 has come and gone, so let's look back at the best the year had to offer.

2015 will go down as being one of the most successful years for pretty much all entertainment mediums. Several major games launched, the PS4 cemented its dominance over the video game industry, several billion dollar movies launched, some of the most respected movies of the decade were released this year, and of course, 2015 was a stellar year for anime as well. Nearly every season had at least one fantastic title that lit up the entire community, almost always for better. Usually I regret that I didn't see as much anime as I could have, but that isn't really the case here. I was ecstatic with the titles I was able to see, cause most of them were fantastic!

Picking only five titles this year to be on the best list was incredibly hard, and there was even a time where I had three honorable mentions! I was tempted just to make it a Top 10 List and be done with it, but that would be taking the easy way out. My premise behind doing a Top 5 list is showing what is clearly the best of the best, the titles that were so good that they had to be mentioned and had to be on this list.

I made a few little adjustments from last year in what qualifies as a viable title. If a show is a split cour, where on half aired in 2015 while the other airs in 2016, whatever aired in 2015 is being judged. Shows that are still ongoing are also viable, since last year I didn't put Parasyte on because it was "incomplete". I'm not going to cover anime feature films here, like Digimon tri, When Marnie Was There, Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F, or Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade. They had to be an anime SERIES (though if you want to see some anime features receive due justice, keep an eye out for my best list).

Just to make this clear, these are not the end all, be all best titles of the year, but my personal favorite titles that I enjoyed the most. These are what I think are really the best, what are important for the industry, and just the titles I had the most fun watching week after week. With all of that said, let's kick this list off with...

HM: Death Parade
At first glance, I thought that Death Parade was just a darker Mushi-shi, and while I was kind of right, it's so much more than that. Death Parade was a title that snuck up out of nowhere for most anime fans and blasted them with its episodic moral dilemmas and deep psychological evaluation. Every time Decim, or any other Arbiter, played a game with a visitor, you could expect it to get dark, sentimental, chaotic, depressing, then back to dark again all in one episode. Sometimes it ended well for visitors, but those were few and far between, but every time it always ended in sadness. Death Parade had some of the best individual episodes out of any show this year, and it made it by far one of the most polished and focuses shows of the year.

So why is it the honorable mention? Well, I've mentioned how great the individual episodes were, but there's a catch. The overarching plot of Death Parade isn't exactly as great as it's vignettes. The subplot revolving around the Nameless Girl's identity and trying to discover if Arbiters, particularly Decim, have the capacity to feel runs out of steam pretty quickly. Adding on to that was that because of the setup of the show where it was either going to be a plot episode or a game episode made the show very imbalanced. Death Parade was SO GOOD when it was trying hard to be its own thing and not focus on the actual main cast.

Still, I had a blast with Death Parade, and I had to give it at least some mention on this list. Definitely more compelling than Comet Lucifer.

#5: Gourmet Girl Graffiti 
A friend of mine always have arguments over the validity of this show versus the other major cooking food show this year, Shokugeki no Souma. We have a good laugh, and it's pretty much a running joke that I hate Souma (I don't, I just find it middling at best)  whole he absolutely adores it. It's not that it's bad, it just isn't my taste (puns!). Also, when it was proceeded by such a fantastic show like Gourmet Girl Graffiti, my standards were probably set a bit too high for me.

This was probably the most underrated show of the year because absolutely no one talks about this show. I can understand why, and it's definitely a niche show if I've ever seen it, but whenever I watch it, it just makes me feel warm and happy. There's absolutely no logical reason for why I love this show so much, but when I see Ryo cook a variety of food with her friends and family, it just makes me feel happy on the inside. Add onto it some fantastic animation and some of the most delicious food I've ever seen in an anime, and you have a delicious title that I just want to keep watching.

True story; when I first heard about this show, I was sitting in a log cabin in Vermont with no internet and I waited for a whole week just to get back to watch the first episode. When I did, it was nothing but a joy for me to sit through. Maybe that colored my expectations a little bit, but titles like this just make me feel so pleased. It doesn't try to be ambitious and it's the definition of slice-of-life, but hot damn does it do it at such  fantastic level and gives it an extra layer of polish. Even better, only one scene of fan-service in the whole series! The rest is just food porn.

Delicious, delicious food porn.

#4: One Punch Man
There was always the fear that One Punch Man would not live up to its astronomical expectations. Going into the first episode, the internet was on fire with how good it was (hopefully) going to be, but the hopes seemed to be a bit too high for them to have been accurately met.

I'm so happy that I was proven wrong.

One Punch Man is the most over-the-top and insane action anime of the year and easily ranks of this list just from its sheer beautiful animation. You need to see this series in action just to understand how sensational it looks in motion. If you have even the slightest interest in anime, then you've probably been clips of Saitama being awesome and owning ever scene he's in. This was the one series where you were guaranteed at least one awesome thing happening each episode, whether it was the sheer adrenaline rush of action, or insightful drama from characters like Mumen Rider or Silver Fang.

Special mention also goes to the final episode of the season (I'm not saying series because I am demanding that this will get a second season), where Saitama fights an evil alien dictator named Boros for half of the episode. It is by far the most impeccably animated sequence of the year and had my jaw on the floor for the entirety of the sequence. Again, that feeling is present in nearly every episode, but the final episode just destroyed all expectations one last time for good measure.

I just wanted to make sure we were clear at how much OPM delivers. Because it does. It delivers in spades.

#3: Yuri Kuma Arashi
Out of all of the shows that came out this year, Yuri Kuma Arashi was probably the best show that no one saw. Airing in the winter of 2015, it had one hell of a debut that messed with not only people's expectations, but was outright bizarre to watch. The title literally translates to "Lesbian Bear Storm", so of course it would turn a few heads. If you stick with it for a while, then you would have gotten one of the most artistic and provocative stories about love and societal expectations.

I wish that more people could have seen this show, and if we're talking about what makes this anime great, I could on and on about it forever. The animation is top notch. The music is masterful. The imagery is unlike anything outside of Revolutionary Girl Utena symbolism. Most importantly though, it's easy to follow. This is a show with complex themes and messages, but anyone can tune in and get something out of it. It's so rare for any show, anime or otherwise, to have that as a selling point.

Yuri Kuma Arashi is a show that may be very quick to turn people off because of its imagery (just look at what I chose for the header here), but that's kind of the point. It's meant to be an extremely sexy show, but it's not titillation or objectification. It's sex positivity, LGBT positivity, and most importantly, bear positivity. I don't know what else you could want from an anime about lesbian bears in the Invisible Storm of life.

#2: Monster Musume: Everyday Life With Monster Girls
If I had to chose a single show that was my guilty pleasure of the year, it would have to be Monster Musume. Sure on the surface it's just another crazy harem show with an insane premise... and it is, but it's much more than that. It's a crazy harem show with an insane premise ON STEROIDS. I don't find many anime to be consistently funny, but hot damn is Monster Musume hilarious. Nearly every episode had me in stitches with a whole slew of jokes. Wanna see a lamia nearly choke her lover while cuddling? Bam! Wanna see a slime grow to godzilla size and fight and Ent by jacking it off? Well here it is! Suck it censorship!

I don't think I can recall any comedy that decided to play fast and loose with its type of humor and just not give a damn about the repercussions. Watamote was an incredibly dark comedy that didn't care if someone was offended or hurt by the humor, but it was never as unrestrained as this show is. In fact, I would say that Monster Musume is the anti Yuri Kuma Arashi. If YKA was artistic with slow setpieces and flashbacks that reflected on the character's psychology to explain sex, love, and belonging in society, MM uses harem tropes and looooooooots of fan service to accomplish the same goal, but in a different light. Monster Musume isn't trying to be a classic anime that anyone can watch, but for the people who can bear it or like it's insane comedy or over-the-top humor, it's a special little treat.

#1: Kekkai Sensen (Blood Blockade Battlefront)
Kekkai Sensen is a marvel. It's a show that I never thought would work or could ever work, and not only is it my favorite anime of the year, it's now sitting fairly high up on my favorite anime of all time list. Never before has a show gripped me as much as Kekkai Sensen from it's opening to the final episode. This is a show that does everything right.

The animation is some of the most expressive and polished I've seen in a show this year. Yeah it may not be great all of the time, but it manages to scrape together a budget and amazing sequences when the series calls for it. Moments have impact and the entire series starts out as a simple episodic series, but then becomes something that few people have ever seen" an anime original ending that was good.

The wait between the finale and episode 11 was a long one, but it paid off in spades. Nearly every episode took an eternity to come out after a while, but it just made the show that much more enjoyable. Each episode felt fresh an unlike anything else that was airing at the time. Kekkai Sensen threw ideas at the audience at a ferocious pace, but most of them stuck and made the show that much more enjoyable. Every episode had a different premise and theme to it, but it all felt distinctly cohesive. Yes you could have an episode about Zapp's mentor returning and kicking the shit out of him, or you could have a quiet episode where Klaud plays a game with a being so smart that it nearly drains his entire spirit out of him, or have an episode where the characters just walk around trying to get lunch. All of them might be from different genres and are presented in different styles, but they all manage to maintain the feeling of Yasuhiro Nightow's vision.

I don't know what I can say about the finale other than when I first saw it, I knew that I was watching my favorite anime of the year. For that entire hour, I was riveted like no other anime before me. It simply worked on every conceivable level and felt like it rewarded me for my patience with a climactic battle, a deep philosophical look at the nature of the devil and mankind, and the culmination of Leo's character arc.

With a second season all but confirmed at this point, do yourselves a favor and give this incredible show a watch. Not only is it a great show, not only is is a master class of animation, but it's also my personal favorite anime of 2015.

No comments:

Post a Comment