Glancing Upstream: Fall 2015 Retrospective and Review

The autumn colors were certainly on display, I’ll give Fall that, at least.

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This was a slim season for me in terms of overall series completed, and would have been a pretty disappointing one if not for a couple happy surprises and a pair of standout shows from the ever-reliable Studio BONES. Still, there’s good variety here, with a strong focus on action/adventure titles, so there’s a pretty good chance something out there will speak to everyone’s tastes.

One thing Fall did have in droves was plenty of style. From the jaw-droppingly dynamic animation of One Punch Man, to the ’60s comic book-inspired design of Concrete Revolutio, to the painted landscapes of Seraph, the glowing monsters of Noragami, and even the washed-out color scheme and bursts of acid-trip weirdness in Perfect Insider, a lot of creative teams threw themselves into making the shows this season visually striking, and they by-and-large succeeded.

While ultimately I’m the kind of viewer who needs a developed set of characters and a meaningful (or at least entertaining) narrative to keep me invested in a story, that should by no means take away from the sheer amount of hard work and talent on display this Fall. Animation is art, and (narrative content notwithstanding), these creators have made that abundantly clear.

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Season Review: Concrete Revolutio, Part 1

Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t.

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“Those who do the right thing, not for themselves or their country, but for a single…”

“A single what? Justice? Peace? Freedom? Defending my freedom disturbs the peace! Pursuing your justice violates my freedom! There is no single answer!”

—Jiro and Jin; Concrete Revolutio

Concrete Revolutio is an alternate reality, a blending of pop art and fiction with historical events to create a sensationalized truth. It’s an attempt to make sense of history through fantasy, to find causality in the real world the way we would in a fantastical one. And, in so doing, it reminds us that history itself is written like a fiction, and that (much like fiction) the same general narratives and tropes continue to play out in multiple times and places, despite our best (or perhaps worst) efforts.

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Panning the Stream: Fall 2015 Midseason Review

The trees outside are looking almost as sparse as my watch list.

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It’s a fairly quiet season on my end, as I’m only keeping up with eight full-length shows and one short(ish), as compared to last season’s whopping thirteen. While that’s partly out of necessity (there’s nothing like a packed month of travel and writing projects to make you shed shows), it also speaks to the kinds of series airing this season. I wouldn’t even call it a bad season, just one with a lot of mid-range shows that don’t appeal to me personally. Sometimes that happens.

A packed month of travel and writing projects can also tell you a lot about your own preferences, turns out, and mine are pretty solidly turned towards character-driven writing and/or offbeat or ambitious narrative structures. The general craziness of my schedule as of late has also led me to seek out lighter, sillier shows, which is likely why this list is so heavy on the comedies and over-the-top “dramas.” Never let it be said that personal tastes and circumstances don’t affect judgment, because oh man, do they ever.

Hit the jump to see what’s stuck, what’s slipping, and what has the chance to be truly special.

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Rule of Three Review: The Perfect Insider

In murder as well as mystery, execution is key.

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In keeping with this season’s trends, I’m going to start another post by saying that X genre can be a hard sell for me. The genre this time is mystery. I love a good mystery integrated into my stories, mind you—who’s this strange person, what’s the relationship between these two characters, why’s all this weird stuff happening in town, and so on—but your straight “whodunit” stories? Not so much. The question “who committed this crime?” simply isn’t enough of a draw.

So, if you want to hook me with a mystery, you need to accomplish at least one of two things: Compelling character drama, or an atmosphere so thick you can cut it with a knife. Fortunately for the rather sparse fall season, The Perfect Insider is two for two in that regard.

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Rule of Three Review, Dark Horse Digest: Mr. Osomatsu, Dance with Devils

Give me something to sing about~ ♪

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I knew nothing about either of these series and was expecting even less than that, but both have managed to hook me with a hefty dose of the ridiculous. Although, arguably, that’s only intentional for one of them. Read on to learn about fall’s surprise guests, and to hear why both have managed to sink their silly hooks right into my heart.

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Rule of Three Review, Superhero Digest: Concrete Revolutio, One Punch Man

Can these do-gooders power their way onto the watchlist?

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If mecha is a taste I’ve never quite acquired, then superhero is one that I find myself enjoying more with each year. Give the MCU ample credit for that, as well as new western lady-led comics like Ms. Marvel or The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, for sure, but magical girls and powered rangers have had a place in my heart for a while now, too, and that place grows a little warmer all the time. So it’s no wonder that both of these shows received glowing premiere reviews not too long ago. As for whether or not that glow has worn off… well, that requires a few more paragraphs than this one.

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Rule of Three Review, Giant Robot Digest: Comet Lucifer, Iron-Blooded Orphans

Time to mech it or break it.

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Some day I’ll do some serious soul-searching and figure out exactly what it is about the mecha genre that generally doesn’t appeal to me. Something about the way they handle militarization and aggression, maybe? I’ll keep thinking about it. Whatever it is, it means both of these series were going to be something of a hard sell for me regardless of general quality. I needed characters I could latch on to or a plot I could sink my teeth in. So, did either of these make the cut, or at least do well enough that I’d recommend them to people who do generally enjoy mecha series? The thrilling answers below!

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