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.
Talk about never judging a book by its cover.
Expectations are funny things. I saw the cover art for this one and figured I’d make it ten minutes into the pilot; had my curiosity piqued just enough by the end-of-premiere twist to give it another week or two; continued to watch half-intrigued and half-cynical, convinced that it was always five minutes from shooting itself in the foot and leaping off a cliff… and now here I am at the end of it, writing a full review and feeling pleasantly surprised by the experience.
As I’ve said before, there’s no way to discuss this show in-depth without mentioning The Reveal that happens at the end of the first episode. If you have no clue what I’m talking about and don’t want to have it spoiled for you, then go sit through the first episode (available on Crunchyroll) and come back. Otherwise hit the jump for the happiest surprise of the season.
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.
Surviving high school just got a whole lot messier.
Normally I try to keep these posts free of major spoilers, but there’s no real way to discuss this show without mentioning The Reveal that happens at the end of the first episode. If you have no clue what I’m talking about and don’t want to have it spoiled for you, then go sit through the first episode (available on Crunchyroll) and come back. Otherwise hit the jump for a story I sure didn’t see coming.