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.
I’ve never been so sad to see the end of winter.
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.
Looking back over the Tokyo Ghoul anime, its protagonist’s journey, and that gut-punch of a finale.
I’m forgoing my usual review format for a messier, off-the-cuff analysis/reaction, because damn, that finale got to me and my brain is full of cluttered thoughts. Needless to say the following contains major spoilers for the entirety of Tokyo Ghoul, including the Season Two (Tokyo Ghoul √A) finale. Hit the jump at your own risk.
And here I thought winter was supposed to be the quiet anime season.
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.
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!
This season defied all kinds of initial expectations, for better and for worse.
Despite a lack of subtlety and some truly absurd story arcs, a well-developed core cast, a central question with no easy answer, and a riveting final episode make Tokyo Ghoul’s first season a worthwhile (albeit bumpy) ride.
Very mild spoilers throughout. I can’t review without discussing overarching themes and touching on some character arcs and plot points, but I’ll avoid any specifics.