The best N anime that I saw in 2015

February 26, 2016

This is much like last year's best N, namely what I consider to be the best or most enjoyable things that I saw in calendar 2015 (regardless of when they were made or released). As is now standard, my general rule is that only shows that have actually ended count because you never know what eye-rolling things a show may finish up with. This specifically affects Concrete Revolutio, which would otherwise rate quite highly. Overall I feel that 2015 has been quite uneven; to put it one way, it has some superstars but its bench is not very deep.

(See also the winter, spring, summer, and fall retrospectives, and for that matter my year end APR vote.)

In order:

  • Shirobako: This stands clearly above almost everything that finished in 2015. I've already written plenty in my winter retrospective and I really don't have more to add. I'm really glad both that we got a show like this and that it was about anime, because through it I both enjoyed and learned, and I think the passion of everyone involved in its creation shone through.

    (As odd as it sounds, I don't think we need a sequel although I sure wouldn't turn one down.)

  • Sound! Euphonium: The only real competitor for Shirobako, this show is ultimately a tight observation of characters going through stresses and being themselves. It is grounded by KyoAni's grasp of small moments and small gestures and given flight by some excellent writing. I wrote more in my spring retrospective.

    (As a character drama where cruel things happen to some people, it will not be to everyone's tastes.)

  • Gatchaman Crowds Insight: This took the easy answers that the original series gave us and turned them back on themselves to show us the flaws and weak points. This time around there was no clear evil, just good intentions going in various ways, and that made it all worse. Which was the show's point, really.

  • Symphogear as a whole: I'll be honest; I'm cheating here. While I liked Symphogear GX, I'm not sure it was good enough on its own to rate this high in my list. As a collective whole (which is how I watched them), the three series do definitely qualify. I enjoyed them quite a lot, goofy cheese and all, and they were one of the best things I watched all year.

Things that I consider good but not necessarily memorable over the long term:

  • Mushishi Zoku Shou - Suzu no Shizuku: This final bit of Mushishi was in many ways a classical story for the show, great but bittersweet, and it was executed with the show's typical excellence. There is no more to look forward to, but Mushishi went out on a high note. I meandered more on Twitter.

    (I rank this as 'not memorable over the long term' because in the large scale of things it is not the kind of Mushishi story that sticks in my mind. The really affecting stories involve something important about Ginko, and in this one he played his usual observer role.)

  • Psycho-Pass: The Movie: This was an excellent distillation of the show at its best, simultaneously cynical and optimistic. Akane got to be awesome, Sybil got to be sleazy, and so on. Fortunately you don't need to know very much about the terrible second season in order to watch this. I suspect that some people feel that it has some plot holes by the end, although I disagree with them.

  • One-Punch Man: This landed the comedy (for me) and the spectacular animated fights (although they sometimes lacked weight and impact). It mostly missed being any deeper than that, which is a pity because it did manage to have moments where it managed more. Still, what I watched was a fair amount of fun and wow, a lot of it was spectacular.

  • Little Witch Academia The Enchanted Parade: Much like the original, this was straightforward fun. We don't get a lot of that, so I'm giving it recognition just as I did the original back in 2013.

Honorable mentions:

  • Yurikuma Arashi: It was very Ikuhara. This matters, as does its various messages and sub-messages, but I cannot say that the show made its way into my heart. I am glad that it got made and got watched, so it earns a place here.

  • Punchline: This had its goofy and less than successful parts, but on the whole I find myself looking back on it with increasing fondness. In retrospect it aimed fairly high and achieved a surprisingly large amount of what it aimed for, with some genuine twists and surprises. If you're not moved by the song from the end of the last episode (spoilers), you have a heart stonier than mine.

  • Yozakura Quartet - Tsuki ni Naku: This little OVA delivered the whole Yozakura Quartet experience in a compact bundle of animation firepower. My overall fondness for Yozakura Quartet has only grown since Hana no Uta, so I'm giving this installment a place here for being plain solid fun.

  • Garo - The Crimson Moon: As time has passed since the show ended, it's become easier to remember just the high parts (which could be very good) and gloss over the less successful parts. Call this a special merit award for aiming high, trying hard, and doing surprisingly well.

  • Ghost in the Shell The New Movie: I would like to love this more than I do, but in the end I can't. We got more of all of the various things ARISE has been giving us through its run, it was reasonably spectacular, and it did end up giving us a reasonable amount of overall answers. But it did not cohere in the way it really needed to in order to have real impact.

  • Rakuen Tsuihou - Expelled from Paradise: This is a perfectly solid action movie that wears its themes on its sleeve. It gains extra notability for having entirely 3D CG that I felt worked fairly well; consider it a glimpse of part of the future of anime.

  • Strike the Blood: I watched this during one of my periods of boredom with currently airing shows. It was reasonably entertaining and decent for its genre, but it gets a special merit honorable mention for having that rarity in shows like this, namely a collection of strong and effective female characters.

    (StB is not as objectively good as some of the things that did not make even this section, but it was more enjoyable overall.)

Specifically excluded because they are continuing shows are Concrete Revolutio, Akagami no Shirayukihime, and Gakusen Toshi Asterisk. Evaluated only on what has aired so far, CR would be a top show (ahead of at least Symphogear), AnS a good show, and Asterisk at least an honorable mention (yes, really).

(I'm also not going to try to put forward opinions on the Animator Expo series of shorts. Some of them were very impressive, but they don't really fit on the same scale as actual shows; being so short, their merits and drawbacks are completely different. Anyways, I don't think they're watchable any more.)

Notable things that don't make my list for various reasons:

  • Perfect Insider: This had some great aspects (ie, Moe), but in the end it's dragged down by how it ended and by how it took various annoying bits of character philosophy seriously. If I end the show rolling my eyes, it does not make the list.

  • Blood Blockade Battlefront: On an episode to episode level this was well directed and often compelling. Where it fell down is on anything beyond that; it was essentially a series of stories from an ongoing manga, and so there was no overall story and nothing went anywhere. The attempt to add an overall original storyline unfortunately went down in flames in the end in a long-delayed last episode, ultimately for structural reasons.

  • Maria the Virgin Witch: The show aimed high and was periodically great, but in the end I can't overlook its flaws (including its ending). For me, the root cause of the problems is that the show wanted to have its cake and eat it too; it wanted a setting where God was real without really thinking about the implications of this. The resulting rough edges rubbed me the wrong way all through the show. See also.

  • Knights of Sidonia S2 - The Ninth Planet Crusade: I wish I could love this wholeheartedly, because the high points were just as good as the first season. Unfortunately as a whole it's dragged down by turning into an interminable harem show for the middle of the season. It started well, finished quite well, and was periodically good in the middle, but the harem hijinks just give the whole thing a sour taste that I can't get past.

I did get around to seeing Madoka: Rebellion this year but it does not otherwise make this entry for reasons covered here. The short version is that it in no way strikes me as an important thing to see either in terms of Madoka or simple overall quality.

My notes say that I finished 42 series, OVAs, and movies in 2015, which is way up from previous years. I have no idea how I managed it. I did watch a number of movies and short OVA series, which is a quick way to increase the count, but even with that I watched more than I thought. However, as you can tell from how short my lists here are, many of them were not that memorable, not that impressive, or simply not that good. I watched a lot of stuff out of inertia and because it was just good enough to keep me tuned in on a week to week basis.

Compared to last year, the highs from this year are amazing (I'm pretty convinced that Shirobako is a show for the ages), but there's not very much in the solid middle of the road. A number of things stumbled, some of them fairly badly. This was a very divided year.

(It's interesting how well this entry lines up with my year end APR votes (bearing in mind that APR is restricted to TV shows), even though I wrote them separately. Last year I flip-flopped, but not this time around. I have some theories about that, but they're for another entry.)

Written on 26 February 2016.
« My views on Madoka: Rebellion
Checking in on the Winter 2016 anime season part way through »

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Last modified: Fri Feb 26 22:02:31 2016
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