Top Ten Anime of 2015

And so, another year of anime winds to its end. There have been surprises and disappointments this year, and my ultimate list doesn’t really look much like what I’d expected to find, but in the end, anime is anime. At the beginning of this year, I was looking forward to crowning two of 2014’s better series – Your Lie in April and Parasyte. Unfortunately, both of those shows kinda lost their way in their second halves, which was sad for everyone. Later on, at the year’s halfway point, I was again excited about my end-of-year list – I already had a good seven or eight shows I felt were top ten-worthy, and was beginning to think this would be a year to rival 2013. Unfortunately, the year’s second half only really gave me the last couple shows I needed, and so here I am, recognizing just enough shows to fill out a full list. This year didn’t end out quite as strong as I’d hoped, but ultimately I probably shouldn’t complain about any year that featured enough shows to fill a list plus honorable mentions.

And I actually do have an honorable mention, one I honestly feel a little bad not including on my list proper. Although not all its sequences were equally strong, Studio Khara’s Animator Expo definitely deserves a mention – you might have heard of it just because of Me! Me! Me!, but the whole thing is full of wonderful, creative little vignettes. If you’re interested in the visual potential of anime, or just want to see some cool short-form pieces, Animator Expo is a can’t-miss experience. The third season is still available online (here’s a particularly good one), so I’d definitely check that out. I should also probably mention One Punch Man, since I get the feeling not mentioning it means it will dominate the comments. Yes, I watched it, and no, I didn’t think it was that great. Strong animation, but everything outside of that felt pretty mediocre, and so you won’t see it here.

But that’s all preamble. You guys are here for the top shows, and top shows you will have – shows from a wide span of genres and creators, shows to thrill and shock and make you cry. Every year in anime brings new treasures, so let’s buckle in and run down the best in one more year of Japanese cartoons!

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Blood Blockade Battlefront – Review

Aw dang I reviewed the Nightow-Matsumoto monster mash. My ultimate feelings on the show are kinda negative, but that’s mainly the result of potentially overly high expectations. Matsumoto’s a genius, basically, and so I expect her works to be masterpieces. Instead we got a very aesthetically compelling series of adventure vignettes with some crappy humor that somewhat falls apart in its second half. Certainly not a bad thing, better than most shows you see, but basically nothing I’d place next to Kyousogiga. But it’s unfair to judge every show next to its creator’s first masterpiece, and so I’m hoping that going forward, I’ll be able to temper my expectations a bit and just accept that even the best directors don’t always make the best works.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, which is definitely more positive than this little blurb. Or you can check out my brief notes for the finale below!

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Fall 2015 – Week 4 in Review

It’s that time again! We had a reasonable crop of episodes this week, with four out of my six active series offering solid episodes, and one of the last two never promising to offer a single solid episode in the first place. I think at this point it’s safe to say Iron-Blooded Orphans is the breakout star of the season – it’s not the flashiest show, but it’s just absolutely solid in everything it does, full of strong characters and well-chosen dramatic turns and plenty of threads I’m excited to see through. Other shows are more tentative, but still enjoyable so far – in particular, I feel like it’d be easy for either The Perfect Insider or Utawarerumono to fall apart, but I’m still having a fine time with them so far. And One Punch Man is starting to wear out its single joke, but I’ve heard the original series picks up from here out, so I’m hopeful this is just a temporary lull. Overall, this isn’t the flashiest season, and certainly can’t compare to the year’s stellar first half, but I’ve got enough that I’m enjoying that I can’t really complain. But that’s enough news in brief, let’s get to it and RUN ‘EM DOWN!

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Spring 2015 – Week 12 in Review

Spring season is nearly ending, bringing with it that seasonal terror of aging and a whole bunch of finales. Spring’s shows seem to be ending reasonably well on average, though this week had its stronger and weaker episodes. The big hit this time was Blood Blockade Battlefront, which rallied back from a weaker episode and a recap with likely its best episode so far. Sound! Euphonium had a stellar episode as well, though it’s hard to pick a favorite in that one. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure also had a fine ending, and Nagato Yuki-chan maintained its streak, though the staying power of its current trick seems like it may be running out. Other episodes were less strong, but nothing seems to be actually falling apart at this point – I’ve dropped too aggressively for that. Anyway, let’s get to ’em!

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Spring 2015 – Week 10 in Review

Another very fine week in a very fine season. Oregairu and Euphonium both pulled off characteristically wonderful episodes this week, but the real surprises were JoJo and – I’m serious – Nagato Yuki. On the JoJo side, the Dio-Kakyoin fight managed to not only be exciting and entertaining, but genuinely beautiful. And on the Nagato Yuki side, an abrupt shift in tone resulted in an episode that was almost equally beautiful in its own way, slow-building and melancholy and just brimming with a compelling, deeply felt sense of atmosphere. Color me extremely surprised!

Alright, enough preamble. LET’S RUN ‘EM DOWN.

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Spring 2015 – Week 9 in Review

I should have something piercing and salient to say here, but really I’m just staring at all the stupid faces I chose for the episodes this week and giggling to myself. Goddamnit Takeo. Goddamnit Shinji. Hurray for silly anime faces.

Anyway, some anime came out this week. It wasn’t the best week, outside of Oregairu having one more Holy Shit Good episode, but most of the episodes were reasonable nonetheless. Let’s run ’em down!

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Spring 2015 – Week 8 in Review

Holy crap did this week have some peaks. God damn. Not all the episodes here were great, but the ones that were… I’d be surprised and ecstatic to see Oregairu and Euphonium’s episodes here somehow be challenged for positions in the top 5 episodes of the year. They were both just That Good – that full of everything that makes their respective series great, and that satisfying as a realization of everything that had come before. Those two episodes were stunning, and I feel lucky to be watching two shows that good in the same season.

Anyway, some other episodes came out too, I guess. Let’s run ’em down!

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Spring 2015 – Week 7 in Review

There were some good episodes this week, with JoJo and Oregairu tossing out particular standouts, but overall, I have to say this one was defined by its worst episodes. Nagato Yuki had a second straight episode that was just completely without merit, and Unlimited Blade Works hit what I really, deeply hope has to be rock bottom. Last week I expressed hope that Caster’s absence would help the show regain a sense of momentum – well, apparently Archer had other plans. He’s always been one of the weakest parts of this show, and this episode was his grand performance, where twenty minutes of dialogue conveyed ten lines of information we already knew. I’m too far in to stop now, but UBW is not making the ride easy.

But that’s enough doom and gloom for now. Let’s talk JOJO.

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Spring 2015 – First Half in Review

Time again at last. Episodes have passed, cartoons have risen and fallen, and the moment has arrived for us to once again slot stories into a reductive hierarchy that cheapens the very idea of media consumption. Does ranking shows inherently contribute to a system that commodifies art and undercuts the complexity of emotional engagement? Are we essentially belittling ourselves by implying that our relationship with the stories we choose to consume can be summed up through a simple “eh, at least it’s better than this other one?” Will any of the people whose attitudes I’m critiquing in this opening paragraph possibly not skip to the numbers themselves, rendering this sarcastic thought experiment totally pointless?

Maybe so. But goddamnit, we’re gonna do it anyway.

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Spring 2015 – Week 5 in Review

Things have remained consistent this week – so consistent that I’m almost regretting dropping the wildcards. Not that I don’t have enough to watch, of course – a new review came out this week, and there should be more coming soon, so I’ve certainly been watching plenty of cartoons. But what is there to say about this season? The top three (Oregairu, BBB, Sound! Euphonium) remain incredibly stable, Ore Monogatari!! is as heartwarming as ever, and JoJo, UBW, and Yuki are all doing things you’d probably expect from them. I don’t want any of the great shows to fail, so I guess it’s up to the bottom half to surprise me – time to shape up, action shows and Yuki! Give me at least an opening paragraph’s worth of human interest story, so I don’t need to return to the “I’ve got nothing to talk about” well for two weeks straight.

Alright, filled my word quota. LET’S RUN ‘EM DOWN.

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