Ringing in the new year with a loving look back at the old.
This was my kinda year, both in terms of the types of shows and the way they were executed. Lots of bleeding cool action, entertaining fantasy, charming shoujo, and some ambitious projects from both up-and-coming and seasoned directors/writers made the year not just a fun one, but at times downright stunning.
While there were still plenty of bad or just forgettable titles floating around this year, the industry as a whole seems a lot more financially comfortable than it used to be (thanks in part to international simulcasts), which has led to studios not only releasing more titles, but taking greater risks with some of them, too. Not to say that niche passion projects like Maria the Virgin Witch or animation-fests like One Punch Man would never have seen the light of day in past seasons, but with greater economic stability, big-name studios like Production I.G. and Madhouse (and my darling BONES, who would have positively dominated this list if I’d allowed split-cours) can produce these titles with a little less reticence than they might have in the past. And that’s always a good thing.
Beyond that, two things really stand out after putting this list together: First, that the year was front-loaded like nobody’s business, as half these titles aired during the winter; and two, that it featured a lot of smart, character-driven series, and some particularly well-written female protagonists, which is a huge bonus for me. All-in-all I had me a very good 2015, and am excited to talk about some of its standouts.
Having some good old-fashioned fun in the sun.
Summer might not have had the most groundbreaking or ambitious of series, but what it lacked in artistry it made up for in pure enjoyment. This season was just plain entertaining, chock full a variety of genres from high fantasy to crime drama to horror to comedy. Well-executed (or awesomely bad) pop fiction was the name of the game, and I was genuinely excited for the next episode of even the lowest-rated series on this list.
That isn’t to say there weren’t some excellent ideas and characters to be found among the batch, mind you. While “entertainment” was the primary focus, many of the top series featured strong character writing, showrunners who knew how to develop unique atmospheres through art and music, and an understated but insightful exploration of social issues such as power imbalances and bigotry.
School-Live and Gangsta dealt with trauma in nuanced ways, and Snow White and My Love Story depicted some of the healthiest relationships in shoujo memory, promoting communication and quietly but consistently challenging traditional gender roles and genre stereotypes. Part of the reason I had so much fun this season was because I wasn’t having to constantly roll my eyes at some trite or harmful characterization, but could just get swept along in a bunch of great (or hilaribad) stories. And that makes this a pretty strong season in my book.
SUKI DA indeed, Takeo.
My Love Story took last week off presumably because they needed extra time to animate all the sparkles, but we’re back with not only the finale to our two-parter, but to the show itself. Confessions will be made! Desserts will be baked! Audiences will be adorabludgeoned! And anime’s most charming high school rom-com will come to a predictably heartwarming conclusion.
I’ve shuffled the order of my original Anime Evo post around a bit, so the first half of this one provides a spoiler-free review for any newcomers interested in checking out this series. I’ll let you know when we switch from the review to the episode recap. Hit the jump and prepare your heart accordingly!
If you ever wanted to see me fly into a murderous rage about a fictional character, boy howdy, have I got a post for you!
I usually put a few hours between watching a show and writing about it because I like to have time to think over what happened, but I’m doing this one immediately because this is a post that needs to be written while my blood is still hot and my eyes still seeing faint shades of red. That isn’t to say I thought it was a bad episode, by the way. I’m not mad at the writing, or at least I’m going to wait until next week’s conclusion to decide how I feel about the story itself. No, my fingers are hammering into these keys because of a new character. His name is Ichinose. And he. Is. The. Worst.
I’m gonna need a minute to gather my thoughts on this one…
Sometimes a story finds a way to hit every possible button for you at essentially the same time, creating a conflicted ball of feelings that’s equal measures of warmth and ache. It strikes not just one emotional note, but all of the emotional notes, encapsulating the complicated nature of humanity—the sadness present in joy, the gains received out of loss, or vice versa, too—through its characters and their lives. It overwhelms. It leaves you struggling to find the proper words to explain all these competing reactions. You write overwrought opening paragraphs attempting to explain it and you freaking know it sounds overwrought, but don’t know how else to explain it so you type it up and throw it onto the Internet anyway, hoping it doesn’t sound as hokey as you know it does.
So. Um. Yeah. “The Letter to Me” was one of those stories.
That “my” in the title is shifting again.
A new character joins the cast, possibly permanently (or as “permanent” as we can get with four episodes left, anyway), and she is… not boring, that’s for damn sure. As with most of OreMono’s story arcs, this one sets us up with a seemingly familiar character and story—the shy student watching their crush from afar—with a few key twists and acknowledgments along the way. I learned my lesson during the Mariya arc, so I’ll withhold any major judgments until we see more of this story play out. For now, though, let’s meet the new kid in town, and see how she interacts with and affects our (love) story.
I’m not sure which of us is going to die of sugar overdose first: Me, or Takeo.
It’s Valentine’s Day, which means love and loneliness are out in full force this week. As with Christmas, Japan imported this holiday from the west and then put their own spin on it, so I’ve included a super-sized Sensei Next Door at the end of this post to give everyone some cultural context. For now, though, let’s just focus on the main event: CHOCOLATE. Sweet, delicious chocolate.
ICYMI: Takeo’s mom is a BAMF.
Fortunately her son can be pretty darn cool sometimes, too. And those friends of his? Those friends are really something else.
Things’re really heating up, and I ain’t just talking about these August temperatures.
The summer season is halfway(-ish) over but it feels like many of its shows are just getting started. Some shaky premieres nevertheless rife with potential have taken off in recent weeks, building momentum through character and plot development alike. My watch list isn’t quite as deep as it was in, say, the winter season, nor are the shows quite as across-the-board ambitious, but there’s a lot of variety, and the pure entertainment level is maybe higher than it’s been all year. I’m genuinely excited for the next episode of just about everything, and that’s a very good sign.
As for what I’m most excited about, you’ll just have to hit the jump to find out.
Sweet sixteen and never been kissed?
I considered doing this entire post in nothing but reaction gifs, partly just to see if I could (writing exercise, y’all!) and partly because a series of squeeing, laughing, and blushing faces is a perfect summary of what “My Birthday” did to me.
I’ve said before that OreMono is more than “just” a cute rom-com—it has worthwhile things to say and it generally says them very well. But lest we forget, episodes like this are around to remind us that, at the end of the day, OreMono is still very much a cute rom-com, which means that outside of all its thoughtful gender role commentary and genre-defying story lines, it is, first and foremost, a show that wants to make you feel things. It wants to make you root for its couple, and it wants to make you laugh. And speaking purely in terms of those goals, this is one of OreMono’s best episodes to date.