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

♪ Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back~ ♪

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While the fall premieres haven’t been quite as dismal as I’d originally feared, this is one season where most of my excitement was reserved for sequels, and so far they’ve done a solid job of not disappointing. Two 2014 favorites are back and just as fun as ever, campy vampire fiction makes its triumphant return, and we head to a familiar setting after nearly a decade away.

This season’s a little odd in that we have some sequels in the traditional sense (i.e., stories that pick up right where the previous season left off) as well as some “sequels”: stories taking place in the same universe but with different characters, locations, and time lines, making them fairly accessible to newcomers. I’ve divided them up accordingly below, so hit the jump for familiar faces, or locations, or both.

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Glancing Upstream: Spring 2015 Retrospective and Review

Well, that was certainly a season of anime.

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Okay, maybe I’m being too hard here. Winter 2015 was a nigh impossible act to follow in terms of sheer depth and breadth, and it’s not like Spring didn’t have its fair share of light, fun series. Plus there were a few clear standouts along the way as well, particularly if you enjoy more realistic YA-style fiction. Still, I’m finding that, while last season I was recommending just about everything to just about everyone, this season is a lot more about “Well, if you like {Genre}, you’ll probably enjoy {Title}.”

Weaker seasons tend to tell you more about your own tastes than the stronger ones, and now that I’ve officially blogged a full year’s worth of anime seasons, I think it’s safe to say that I have a wide range of genre and story interests and will watch just about anything so long as I can get halfway invested in the characters, whether that’s through humor or emotional drama. There are some definite clumsy and/or questionable shows on this list, but I stuck around largely because I liked hanging out with at least a portion of the cast and wanted to see what became of them. So, really, this season’s list is as much about who I liked as it is about what I liked.

Hit the jump for the best characters of the season (and their corresponding series).

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Rule of Three Review, Fantasy Digest: Seraph of the End, The Heroic Legend of Arslan – Episodes 2-3

Sometimes it’s not just what you say, but how you say it.

Both of these shows are firmly on my bubble, and no one is more surprised than me. I’d expectedArslan to be a season lock and Seraph to lose my interest, but neither’s been the case. More surprising still, if you asked me to rank one ahead of the other, I’d have to admit that thanks to solid some direction, animation, and acting, Seraph is doing a better job of winning me over thanArslan.

I know, you guys. It’s weird. This season is weird.

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Panning the Stream: Seraph of the End, DanMachi, Ultimate Otaku Teacher

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

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All three shows on this list feel a little like something I’ve already seen, whether it’s a Dark Supernatural Dystopia, a Dungeon-Crawling High Fantasy, or An Unorthodox Teacher And His Students. Of course, most stories are influenced by (and will therefore remind you of) others, and there’s nothing wrong with a tried-and-true concept as long as there’s a spark of original wit or style to go with it.

So how did this batch do? Less than stellar, though slightly better than expected. Hit the jump to see what (surprisingly) sparked, and what maybe didn’t so much.

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