So the new year is upon us, and we’re smack dab in the middle of Golden Week, and the transition period between Fall 2015 and Winter 2016. Since I’m still working on some series reviews, and since the 2015 Anime Awards are still work in progress, I thought I’d jump on the top 10 Anime post before the week was over, at least.
So lets run through what I’d call the biggest wins of 2015, the series/franchises that really made 2015 a special year for anime. Here are the ground rules:
- The series has to have had either the enterity of its run or have ended in 2015 (Split Cour part ones don’t count as a result)
- These are series that I personally loved, and don’t have to be perfect, popular or complete, although given how my tastes are are, its very possible those series could be all those things.
- I’m ranking these series, but any series in this list is more than recommended. I’ve also provided a few paragraphs of reasoning, so hopefully for those of you who’ve seen this all, it’ll be a fun read.
Honorable Mentions & Series I missed:
So before moving on to the actual list, I thought I’d mention a few that didn’t quite make the cut, but were still pretty darn awesome and deserve a shout out.
Sakurako-san no Ashimoto: Sakurako-san is a series I covered this past Fall season, and its a series that quickly grew to be my personal favorite throughout the season. If it weren’t for that painful ending, with no season 2 in sight, this would’ve probably made it into the top 10 list. Hopefully some day we’ll get a continuation, because this series’ unique and very human storytelling is something that I’ll always fondly remember, and definitely miss!
Akutsuki no Yona: This is a series I haven’t seen yet, but given how much everyone I know has loved this series and continues to suggest I watch it, well… I’ll give this a shoutout, if only because I really do believe that if I had gotten around to watching it this year, it would be in the top 10. You can’t watch em all though, so I guess this was just a series I missed.
Yowamushi Pedal: Such an amazing sports series, and such a nice bridge between the anime otaku fandom genre, and the shounen sports genre. This is getting a third season, so it’ll be great to see this series continue and reach new heights. If there were any more room in the top 10, this show would be on it.
Kekkai Sensen: I admit, I didn’t like this series at first, but it really did win me over in a few episodes. The unique visual style, the emotional story beats, the great and unique characters, and the truly imaginative world, Kekkai Sensen is something truly special. If it weren’t for that lackluster final episode, that came out a good season later, well… It might’ve made it onto the list for sure.
Fairy Tail & Gintama: These two are ongoing series, but these are series that continue to just deliver, every week, consistently. They deserve a shout out, even if they don’t quite qualify for “Anime of the year” or anything like that.
Number 10 – Noragami Aragoto:
Noragami was a franchise that I didn’t expect to continue. Two years ago, when I reviewed the first season, I called it a sleeper hit. Now.. That was because it very much felt like one at the time. It was a solid show, with lovable characters, a very unique world constructed on buddhist and shinto Japanese religion but It also didn’t look like a show that was ever going to get a second season.
Call it a change in the industry or whatever, but we got a sequel to the unlikely candidate (in a growing trend of more sequels), and man did it deliver. Noragami Aragoto built on everything that made the first season great, and then it just went to town. It adapted two of what were the source material’s strongest arcs. The Bishamon stuff was nicely resolved, but even more interesting was how the story began to slowly peel back the layers behind its main protagonist, Yato.
While I never got to cover it beyond an episode (Dee did a much better job than I ever could have anyway) I loved it to death none the less. In a year that had so many solid series, Norgami is one of two sequels to make it to my top ten list. If you haven’t seen Noragami yet, then man, I’m jealous, because you get to bulk watch both seasons!
Now the question remains on whether we’ll get a third season sometime, and while I’m not holding my breath, I’d definitely say its more possible than a season 2 was. In any case, with two seasons of stellar content, and a source manga to jump into once that’s done, I’d say Noragami is definitely worth the investment, and its the strength of the second season that makes it so worth it.
Number 9 – Shokugeki no Soma:
I’ll be honest, Shokugeki no Soma might not have made this list if it had only been this one season. This is a series that I loved so much, that I was crestfallen when it ended without a season 2 announcement. Thankfully that came a few months later and all is well with the world but…. Shokugeki no Soma is also on this list because it did something really remarkable.
Shokugeki started as a pretty standard series, one laced with lots of ecchi fanservice, a decent plot and some likable characters at first. Then, after a few episodes, the series just took off, and got better and better with each episode. By the end, the series had really just grabbed me in a way that few series could. I’ve written countless lengthy episode blog posts on how amazing the series is at getting you excited and engrossed in its “cooking battles”, so I won’t rehash that too much.
I’ll just say that Shokugeki no Soma was the tale of the series that started small and rose up to become something really special, and with the sort of staying power that DEMANDED a season 2.
Number 8 – Ore Monogatari:
It might not look it, but stories aimed at the shoujo demographic, especially romance stories, are really my thing. I mean seriously, I’m such a fan of nice romantic stories, that every year one of the highlights of my year will always be a love story.
Thing is, Ore Monogatari is a love story that is so unique, so different, and so out of left field, that it stands as something that transcends the simple idea of a “shoujo romance”. Its a shoujo story that’s actually from the perspective of a guy, and its a guy that would hardly fit into the standard “bishounen” character archetype.
Gouda Takeo is the anti-thesis of the typical tortured pretty boy. And then there’s the female lead, Yamato, who is just so adorable and sweet, and quite the odd match for Takeo. Sweetening the pot is perhaps the greatest supporting character of all time, Suna. Nothing I say can do the series justice in a few paragraphs (especially because again, Dee covered it extensively in episode blog format) but…
I think the one thing that really sets Ore Monogatari apart is the fact that its such a nuanced and mature look at relationships and maintaining and growing them. Its not your standard love story about the guy getting the girl, or the girl getting the guy, but rather, what happens after that monumental moment, and the challenge that a high school couple can face.
And what’s perhaps most awesome about Ore Monogatari is that it takes a calming, reserved and peaceful approach to its storytelling, with only a bit of drama hitting us in the last two episodes.
For anyone interest in a nice, relaxing and likable romance story, watch Ore Monogatari, it’ll make you feel better and hopeful for the world.
Number 7 – Baby Steps 2:
Baby Steps 2 is another tough sell to even recommend. The problem with Baby Steps is the same as the other sequel on the list, Shokugeki no Soma. Its a story that’s so good, so heartfelt, so darn engrossing and so likable that it just begs a continuation. Unlike Shokugeki no Soma, however, Baby Steps isn’t likely to get a continuation, and the best we have is 50 episodes of this wonderful story in animated form.
Does Baby Steps end on a satisfying note? No not really. It ends right before what I’d call a major moment in the story, and its quite a stop that leaves you wanting and yearning for more. If there ever were a solid case of “We got to the first phase of the good stuff”, then I’d say Baby Steps 2 feels like it.
But the reason it feels like that is because is that Baby Steps takes a cue from its name, and slowly but surely continues to build up to something amazing. The story follows main man Marou Eichirou pickup tennis, and its his slow, rigorous journey toward making something of his new found passion, and of the girl he meets through the sport, Natsu.
Baby Steps, is the embodiment of everything that makes Sports Anime great, but I’d say it does it so well, that it goes a step beyond. Its so engrossing, and so methodical and careful about its pacing and balance of sport with slice of life elements, that its easily accessible to non-sports fans. In fact, I’d wager that you’d actually enjoy it more if you’re not an expert in the sport starting out.
Unlike say, Prince of Tennis, Baby Steps is also pretty much rooted in reality, with a relatable main character who has real struggles and starts off as a novice coming into such a deep and interesting sport.
Simply put, Baby Steps is a show that’s for everyone, and its an excellent entry point into the genre of sports anime itself. If you’ve never seen a sports anime show, and are looking to get into them, then starting with Baby Steps may actually be a bad idea, because of how excellent and different it is. Even with the painful conclusion, its hard to suggest anyone denying themselves this experience.
And Check out FlareKnight’s Franchise Review for more details if you’re curious!
Number 6 – Arslan Senki:
Full disclosure, I haven’t finished Arslan Senki. I’ve yet to watch the last four episodes of the show, but I can easily close my eyes and shout out praises for the show. The only reason I’ve held off on watching the final four episodes is because there’s a second season coming next year, and I’d rather just go through the story seamlessly once its back, rather than be interrupted.
Its unforunate, but Arslan Senki is the one series that always fell to the backburner and was a series I didn’t give its due as far as coverage goes. That’s mostly because Arslan was the series that I just wanted to enjoy and watch without worrying about discussing it, or even trying to. Its that good, its a show I just wanted for myself, selfishly and greedily.
Why should you watch Arslan? Well how about the fact that its based on the manga adaption of the novels that was made by Hiromou Arakawa. You know, the genius that did both Full Metal Alchemist and Gin no Saji. And Man, is Arslan great, full ingrained in a unique, middle eastern/eastern asian fantasy world that’s so far removed from Anime, that I think only Magi comes even remotely close. And Arslan Senki is better, oh so better, because the characters, the story, everything is so involving and screams the word “epic”.
Mark my words, Arslan Senki is going to be another classic, one that stands toe to toe with the extremely popular Full Metal Alchemist. If it weren’t getting a second season, I’d probably rate it even higher, but since there’s so much we haven’t seen, I’m willing to wait before I give my final verdict on this fantastic franchise.
Number 5 – Death Parade:
Deep, intelligent, emotional and engrossing. Death Parade exemplifies those four qualities to such a stunning degree that it just stands out as one of the best series ever created. What’s so striking about Death Parade is how it just stands out as something that you can’t get, in any kind of medium. Its so out there, so original in how it tackles the idea of death, of life, of one’s purpose in life, that it can’t be quantified in terms of just being a “classic”.
Death Parade is an experience. Its a journey, and a look and thorough exploration of everything that makes us human, for good or bad. If you’re someone who enjoys philosophical, clever storytelling, but can’t stand it when it becomes incomprehensible, then I’d say Death parade is for you.
This series is a show that just does it all, its expertly paced, well thought out, exciting, engrossing and its so intellectually deep that it just towers above everything. The best way I can describe Death Parade is that its a show that gave me the same feeling as say Christopher’s Nolan’s Inception, but it also had more substance and an actual point to make beyond just being really entertaining.
This is a show for all those nay sayers who think Anime is “just for kids” and just a “cartoon”. Its got the nuance, substance and a level of thought put into it that make it one of the greatest stories ever told by the Anime Medium. Its not for everyone, but for those few that take the time to dive into it, its a magical experience, and one that I think will be remembered for years and years as an achievement in the anime medium.
I wish I could do the show justice with words, but I’d say Flower did a pretty good job in his review.
Number 4 – Parasyte the Maxim:
Sci-fi is a genre that’s all but receded into the shadows at this point, so leave it to Madhouse to bring back a manga from early 1990s and just bring it to life. Parasite the Maxim is equal parts horror, equal parts thriller, and its a story that completely wraps up its story, something that’s a true rarity in this day and age.
To quote a few lines from my review of the series:
“This is a series that is classic science fiction, something that’s rarely seen in mainstream but ever present in traditional science fiction literature…..”
“As a whole package, Parasyte is a powerful offering, and one that science fiction fans will definitely enjoy. This is a series best enjoyed by those who like dark and thrilling stories. Its definitely in the senin category in terms of audience. It’s the kind of series that exemplifies the power and storytelling potential of the anime medium. “
Simply said, if you’re looking for a great, exciting science-fiction story with a bit of a slight horror edge to it, the Parasite can’t come recommended highly enough.
Number 3 – One Punch Man:
If you’re talking about achievements in the anime medium then well… One Punch Man. Just… One Punch Man. If there were a series I’d recommend to both the casual and hardcore anime fan, then One Punch Man would be it.
Its kind of shocking in a way, how Madhouse has hit a home run, first with storytelling and world building in Death Parade, and then with Action and clever Super hero satire in One Punch Man.
One Punch Man is such a gorgeous show, that it makes most full length theatrical anime look bad, and its a television series. Its a rare event in the anime industry too, as some of the industry’s best animators all joined together to create this masterpiece.
And if the animation weren’t enough, the story itself is so clever, nuanced and interesting that it just completes the package. Japan and the east aren’t all about Superheroes, but I’d almost argue that ONE does a better job of exploring that particular subject matter than most western comic writers and creators.
If there were only one series you could watch, I’d say One Punch Man should be that one series, if only because its just so gorgeous, and with the substance to back the visual feast that it is. This was a series so good, that I had a blast covering it this past season, among a plethora of other series ongoing.
Number 2 – Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso:
The top 2 spots are basically reserved for series that touched me and hit me on a personal level, and while Shigatsu no Usou might not be a series that I can openly recommend to everyone, its a series that just moved me in a way that few series have or probably will.
Again, I wrote a pretty heartfelt review for the series, so I’ll just let that do all the talking. To quote an excerpt from it:
“There are some series that are just hard to put into words. The profound effect they have on you, the way they move you, its just something magical. For me, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Usou (Your Lie In April) is that kind of series, the kind of series that is just “emotionally resonant” and “powerful”. Its what I look for in the best of my entertainment; Something that incites such a personal and powerful emotional response that it drives me to tears.”
Shigatsu wa Kimi no Usou is a tragic love story, and its a story that takes a particular stance on topics such as depression, love and death, and it just whacks you with all of that. If there was a show that I’d call personally memorable, this would be it.
I can’t say whether you’ll love this series or hate it, but I can say that I absolutely adored the experience I had with this series. It was one of those “life altering” story experiences for me, at least.
Number 1 – Working!!!
With a finale like that, could anything else ever come close? Yeah, Working!!! is my Top Anime of the year, and it damn well deserves that praise and more. Working!!! is a series that did something that I don’t think I’ve ever seen another franchise do so well.
It properly ended a series, and it delivered on every promise, every small bit of potential that the franchise ever made. It really did take until the very last moments of 2015 but… Working brought its story, its characters to a wonderful close with a one hour special episode.
And Honestly, in a industry where incomplete stories aren’t just a growing problem, but the norm, Working!!! stood above all of that and just gave its fans the most complete and satisfying ending… ever. And while it did that, it managed a few other big achievements, like proving that comedy can work with constant change for example.
Working!!! is an achievement for an Anime TV series franchise, but more importantly its a genuine labor of love from its creators, both to the source material, but also to the fans that have supported the franchise all these years. And as a fan, I’m proud to have been able to cover the final season, and follow this franchise from when it first started, to when it finally ended.
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