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: Death Parade, The Rolling Girls, Gourmet Girl Graffiti, Fafnir Unlimited

Now that’s more like it!

This season is shaping up to have very little in the middle-of-the-pack range, as it seems that I either like a premiere a whole lot or pretty much hate it, with very little middle ground. Not that this is a bad thing, mind you: It makes it easier to know what to keep and what to drop, without having to give a bunch of series 2-3 episode trials run beforehand.

The good news is that this batch has a pair of premieres I really enjoyed, which is about the only thing they share – well, that and their own unique sense of style, I suppose. They’re a breath of fresh air from all the cookie-cutter series out there, and I can’t wait to tell you all about ‘em.

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