Glancing Upstream: Winter 2015 Retrospective and Review

I’ve never been so sad to see the end of winter.

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Real talk, dear readers: This was the best anime season I’ve experienced since I started regularly watching simulcasts a few years ago, positively jam-packed with not only quality adaptations but also tremendous original works (a relative rarity these days). As a result, creating this list was torture, because there were simply too many great or good series, full of tightly woven plots, provocative themes, and captivating characters. So take the numbers with a grain of salt and, if you’re looking for a new show to watch, pay closer attention to the grades and premises.

I like to talk season trends in these retrospectives, and Winter saw a couple fascinating ones: Well-written female characters, and an exploration of binaries (male/female, life/death, Madonna/whore, geeky/sporty, etc.) and seemingly irreconcilable cultures and social groups. The top seven shows all feature diverse, layered lady protagonists; in five of those shows said protagonists are the main character; and two of them (Yurikuma Arashi and Maria the Virgin Witch) are overtly feminist works, portraying and challenging society’s expectations/treatment of women in both reality and fiction.

There’s a mess of complicated, morally gray, thought-provoking stuff here, but more impressive still, these ideas are generally paired with complex characters and compelling stories, leading to a gripping cocktail of the intellectual and the emotional, a winning combo of Dem Thinks and Dem Feels. In short, Winter was a damn good season, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. Hit the jump for some spoiler-free mini-reviews, final grades, and Totally Arbitrary Rankings.

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Panning the Stream: Winter 2015 Midseason Review

And here I thought winter was supposed to be the quiet anime season.

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A solid mix of carryovers, sequels, and newcomers has (so far) made this the best winter anime season in recent memory, filled to the brim with engaging shows of varying styles and genres. The fall trend of arealism continues as almost every series on this list has at least some fantastical element to it, but perhaps most happily, there’s a sense of people taking risks – or, at the very least, having fun – this season, both in the art/animation and in the storytelling.

There are a surprising number of original series on the list (a relative rarity these days), and while it’s often messy and unpolished, it’s not the same ol’ blend of tropes and story lines churned out without imagination or even enjoyment. Energy and enthusiasm can make up for a lot of imperfections, and this season has me thoroughly engaged because of the amount of sheer excitement splashed across these frames. Here’s hoping that continues through the second half of winter, too.

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Panning the Stream: Sequels and Carryovers Edition (Winter 2015)

Hello Ikebukuro, my old friend.

There’s a flipping mountain of sequels and carryovers this season, so I won’t spend a ton of time on them all, but I did want to touch base with the shows that came back, and let everyone know what I will and won’t be watching (at least for the time being – if the new winter shows prove disappointing, it’s not impossible that I’ll finally get around to trying out Log Horizon or Fafner, but I wouldn’t put any bets on it).

Familiar faces below the jump!

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Glancing Upstream: Summer 2014 Retrospective and Review

This season defied all kinds of initial expectations, for better and for worse.

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Panning the Stream: Summer 2014 Midseason Review

If I had to pick a single word to describe this season, it would have to be “eclectic.”

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While this past Spring was dominated by very good sports series, and this past Winter was dominated by, uh… kami, I guess? (it was a pretty weak season), this Summer seems to have taken a cookie out of every genre jar. Action flicks, thrillers, rom-coms, satires, school dramas, period pieces, mysteries, Gothic horrors… you want it, this season has got it. And while none of them have been quite as jaw-droppingly perfect as Spring’s Ping Pong or Mushishi, on the whole I’d say there are a lot of solid, B-range shows on the schedule. It’s made it very hard to trim titles off my watchlist, that’s for sure.

And now that we’re six (or five, in Nobunaga Concerto’s case) episodes into the season, I figured I’d pop back in with some quickie reviews to talk about what’s still working, what reeeally isn’t, and everything in between.

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