Wulfy’s Year in Anime 2015 – The Best and The Most Disappointing
With 2015 being my first year of properly following anime, both in the capacity of a regular viewer, and as a critic, I figured it might be fun to look back on the year as a whole.
My initial plan was to just have my favourites, but I realised I had had some very big disappointments this year, some so bad it actually made me feel crestfallen.
I’ve also made a decision on what I thought was the best, and the worst, character of the year. It amuses me somewhat that neither of the shows they come from actually appear on the list.
Let’s just get the bad stuff out of the way first, and then move on to more positive things!
I wasn’t really able to rate my disappointments in a numerical order, so I’ll just be doing those alphabetically. There will be some spoilers here, especially for shows I want you to stay away from.
Biggest Disappointments of 2015:
Gatchaman Crowds Insight
I enjoyed the first series of Gatchaman Crowds quite a lot. Interesting concept, some very neat characters, including the non-binary Rui who got treated like a person and not a stereotype. Maybe not the strongest story or plot, but I thought it worked well enough.
But then a bunch of killjoys had to complain that the ending was “too optimistic and idealistic”, and in what seems to be an attempt to address that, we ended up with this mess. I hope you’re all happy.
We retread the same plot point from the first series of “are CROWDS bad?!?!”, the villain is laughably bad and can’t be taken seriously, the anti-crowds people were really just massive dicks who wanted to ruin things for everyone, Rui acts like an absolute idiot for the sake of the plot ( having to take that piss-poor villain seriously would have a bad effect on anyone ), there’s an alien who seems to want to create a dystopia where everyone is forced to smile and be happy, and on the whole the thing felt like the creators had just phoned it in.
AND TO TOP IT OFF, whatever fucker Cruncyroll had doing the subtitles kept using male pronouns for Rui, which just aggravated me even further.
Would have been better if they’d just left it alone, if I’m honest.
Jitsu wa Watashi wa
Aka Actually I Am
Considering how well last year’s Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun adapted the manga into an anime, I had hoped that the same would apply to JWWW.
Unfortunately it did not. They lost most of the subtlety of the manga, oversold the jokes, and even changed some of the jokes for the worse.
Not the biggest disappointment or anything, but enough that I felt it. I had quite enjoyed the manga for a while. But only for a while… it eventually got lost up its own haremy arse, but there was enough good stuff in there that a good adaptation could have gotten one season’s worth out of it.
Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu
Aka The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan
It started out so promising. I loved the first few episodes so much. But then it began a gradual decline that just accelerated towards the end.
It’s not like it’s the first anime that started out good then got bad, but this one was extra heart-breaking for me.
I’m a big fan of cuteness, and this was SO cute to begin with, and it seemed like they were setting up a clear arc for Yuki to aim for.
Personally I feel like it started going downhill as soon as Haruhi was brought into the show. She clashed so much with the tone the show had set up until then, but it wasn’t necessarily doomed at that point. After a couple of episodes, she seemed to settle into things, becoming a sort of opposing yet parallel force to Asakura, both of them spurring Yuki on in various ( sometimes conflicting ) ways. It looked like it could be an important component to Yuki’s character growth.
Unfortunately, the show also had to include Koizumi, Asahina, and Tsuruya. I assume that’s simply because they were in the old Haruhi show, but the problem is the creators couldn’t come up with anything for them to do. They were just there. Basically holding the show back, and dragging it down like a lead weight. With maybe one or two exceptions, every scene they were in they contributed nothing, or made it worse, or even made the whole scene pointless.
What finally killed the show though, was when other-Yuki showed up. That turned into an arc that spanned several episodes, and turned out be absolutely pointless, because normal-Yuki remembered nothing about it when she “came back” afterwards. Dedicating a third of the show to an arc that made itself irrelevant… what were they thinking?
I’ve been told it follows the manga closely, meaning that’s also a bloody mess not worth bothering with.
I can’t even claim this started out good, but there was such potential here. A good idea, a good set-up, something that might have become fresh and interesting.
But it was so clear that the creators weren’t up to the task. They didn’t have the writing skills, or the directing skills, or a good sense of timing, nor did they have any understanding of appropriate tone.
So yeah, they failed this time. They really did, and it’s such a shame. But I got this feeling that maybe with the next show, or the one after that, or maybe the one after that, they might have gotten experienced enough to create something great. Just not yet.
Tantei Opera Milky Holmes
No, this didn’t actually come out this year, so yes, I’m cheating by putting it on this list.
But I really wanted to state again how extremely disappointed I was in the ending of S1, and how it’s probably the worst thing to ever happen to anyone or anything ever! Okay, not really, but I am very crestfallen and salty about it.
Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid
I had genuine hopes for this one. I really did. Sure, it was porn, but initially it seemed to be about consensual relationships. It even seemed to be displaying different relationship types in a non-creepy way.
Sure, a few episodes in it started getting a little uncomfortable in places, but I was willing to put up with that to an extent, assuming it didn’t get too bad, because otherwise it was still quite solid, and also quite sexy.
Then I heard episode 4 ended on a straight-up rape scene. My heart felt so crushed I couldn’t even make myself watch it to see for myself. You could have had something special here, but you just had to fuck it up.
Yamada-kun to Nananin no Majo
Aka Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches
This started out so good. It was so good for several episodes. At least the first five episodes, maybe six. I don’t remember fully. I was completely on board up to and including both telepathy witch, and future-sight witch.
Especially the episodes that were heavy into the body-switching were really great.
But then… but then…
The show just seemed to lose its way. It went away from what made it good and fun, and instead felt it was necessary to introduce a much worse plot about the secret of the witches, and dear gods it was really bad at the end there. I do feel like the ending redeemed it slightly, and it capped things off decently, but it wasn’t enough to weigh up for all the bad it had done.
Yoru no Yatterman
This was never the greatest show, but I was still interested because of how it seemed to be taking a different spin on an old formula.
The premise was as such: What if the good guys won, the bad guys were vanquished, and the heroes took up the mantle of rulers? What if they over time became villains because they couldn’t handle the power of leadership they’d been given? What if the descendants of the bad guys had to set out to stop them and free the land? What if we did an interesting role-reversal?
It really seemed to be doing a decent job of dealing with the difficulties of seeing everything as black and white, and not being able to deal with how actual life tends to involve a lot of grey. How the best of intentions can give really bad results.
Then we get to the end, and it’s revealed that it’s actually just the old leader of the bad guys who has been masquerading as the good guys all along. The twist was that there wasn’t actually any twist at all, and that good guys can definitely never do bad things. What a let-down.
From: Kyoukai no Rinne aka RIN-NE
Just thinking about this piece of scum is making me angry all over again. I can’t think of the last time I’ve found a character so utterly loathsome and infuriating. He might be the most disgusting character I’ve encountered in anime. I might even rank him in the top 3 of any media ever, and he definitely wins the award for worst dad ever.
He steals his son’s money. He’s been doing it ever since Rinne was a child, when Sabato kept smashing/stealing Rinne’s piggy banks while he lived with his grandmother. He illegally copied Rinne’s debit card and uses it to withdraw anything Rinne earns, so he can spend the money on gifts for his harem of women. He signs up for credit cards and loans in Rinne’s name, saddling Rinne with all the debt. Rinne actually makes a decent living, except all his money goes to paying off his father’s debts. And then the fucker blames Rinne for being poor!
He was never there when Rinne was young, unless it could somehow get him money, and fuck knows what he did to Rinne’s mother. Maybe that’s revealed later in the show. And now he only shows up to fuck up his son’s life. Partially because he runs a company that illegally harvests souls before their time. They’re reapers/shinigami, you see, but that’s not so important. He keeps trying to recruit Rinne to work for him for whatever reason, while making Rinne’s life a living hell.
He showed up when Rinne was ill and first tried to poison him to… kill him, maybe? Trap him in the afterlife so he’d have no choice but to work for him? And when that failed he stole Rinne’s bed-mat. This forced Rinne to follow him back to where Sabato had his headquarters, where he tricked Rinne into thinking he was finally going to see his mother, only to reveal that he was actually holding a contest for which girl he would marry, and he wanted Rinne to be the one to pick his new mother!
When that didn’t work, he 1) threatened to kill Rinne’s friends, and 2) tried to arrange a marriage for Rinne without his consent, and I just…
At the point when it became clear that Sabato would be a recurring character, I just couldn’t keep watching the show any longer. Kyoukai no Rinne had up until then been a fairly chill show with a nice deadpan sense of humour, so I really didn’t expect to get so riled up at a character from this show.
Sabato takes no responsibility, has no consideration for others, fucks over his family, Rinne in particular, in so many ways, has absolutely no scruples, and not a single redeeming feature. Only seeing him burn would satisfy me.
Let’s move on to better things! Before I get to my top 10, I’d like to give a brief round of honourable mentions to a handful of shows.
PS! As these are shows I would actually like people to check out, I will try to avoid spoilers as much as possible.
Death Parade: Very interesting show. In a way it’s about the intricacies of human nature, and while not every episode is as poignant, when it hits, it hits hard. Worth looking into, but I would recommend at least watching three episodes to actually get a good feel of what the show is like. Slight spoiler: Episodes 1 and 2 are basically alternate views of the same events.
Gakkou Gurashi! aka School-Live!: Very clever show. Very clever. And really soul-crushing at times. Just watch the first episode. All of it. That should give you a good enough idea.
Hibike! Euphonium aka Sound! Euphonium: One of three shows that were in really close competition for the tenth spot. Very pretty and cute show about being in a brass band, and figuring how feelings work as a teenager.
Kantai Collection aka KanColle: Second show in the running for tenth place. I really love all the gay fight-boat girls, I still have a huge crush on Yamato, and I’m looking forward to a second series.
Log Horizon 2: The second series of Log Horizon was probably better than the first, though that does depend on how reliable my memory of the first is. I liked it a lot, and feel sad there won’t be a third series for a long time, until the light novel author gets more books done. I often think of Log Horizon as “what if Sword Art Online was good?”
Right, let’s get this “party” started!
Best of 2015:
#10: Himouto! Umaru-chan
Aka My Two-Faced Little Sister.
After going back and forth on the issue for several days, I finally decided to award tenth place to Umarun.
The base premise is a girl named Umaru who lives with her elder brother. She’s still in high school, but he’s old enough to have a job now. He’s quite the responsible person.
When Umaru is at school, she seems like the perfect girl. She is really pretty, really polite and humble, excellent in all her studies, excellent at sports, and she always seems to be helpful and kind towards everyone.
When Umaru is at home, she is essentially a little brat. She loves snacks, cola, manga, anime, videogames, etc., and hates tidying up, studying, or doing any chores or anything resembling work. She prefers to just pull on a hamster hoodie, become a chibi, and laze around to her heart’s content.
I’m sure it sounds like a weird premise, and one that would get old quickly, but somehow they manage to turn it into something amazing.
#9: Ore Monogatari!!
Aka My Love Story!!
This is such a sweet show, and very different. It acts openly defiant against typical tropes from these types of shows, even sometimes bringing them up just to shoot them down.
I guess I would describe it as really human. Grounded, in its own exaggerated way. Takeo is the kind of character who would typically just be a sidekick. A comedy character. But here he’s the main character, with his more typical protagonist-material friend Suna as the sidekick and bestest friend ever.
Takeo ends up saving a girl from a pervert groper on a subway train. This girl is Yamato Rinko, and for the both of them it’s love at first sight. She is tiny and cute, but fierce.
There are a couple of episodes of them bumbling around, not really managing to tell eachother how they feel, having some misunderstandings, but slight spoiler: they figure it out. And from there on it’s just a really cute and very good show about their relationship, and how Suna is the best friend ever. Very heart-felt and warm.
#8: The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls:
Yes, that is how they spell it. I looked it up. It’s silly.
We actually got two series this year! Or both halves of the same series, however you want to look at it. Anime does this sometimes. Air S1 during one season, take a break for the next season, and come back with S2 in the season afterwards. I assume that in the disc version they’ll be bundled.
Anyway! Cinderella Girls is about 14 girls who get selected/scouted to be part of the Cinderella Project, which aims to make them all idols. I know what you’re thinking: “14 main characters is a lot”. Yes, it is. So the show ends up focusing on some more than others, but over the course of S1 you do get a decent feel for all of them. At first they seem like pretty clear stereotypes, but it’s gradually revealed that there’s some actual depth to them.
S1 is the set-up, as it were. It’s the arc where they start from nothing, and slowly work themselves up to being something. Getting to grips with what being an idol means, and how to best establish their identity as such. I thought it was very touching how they worked themselves up to having a large performance together at the end, while working on different things along the way.
S2 changes the tone somewhat. Since S1 did all the work establishing the girls and who they are, S2 shifts the focus towards seeing how they handle facing hardships. Testing them. It’s really tough on them, honestly. On some more than others. It even gets a bit hard to watch at times, as your heart aches for them. I think I ended up crying a bit for almost every episode in S2. In the way where I wanted to keep watching, naturally. The payoff felt really rewarding for all the struggle it took to get there.
#7: Tantei Kageki Milky Holmes TD
There was no way I wouldn’t include this. Milky Holmes was so entertainingly bizarre, and it set a new standard for detective shows for me. Even though it wasn’t actually that much about detectiving. Yes, I know that’s not a real word. I don’t think I can watch any other detective show without comparing it to this.
It somehow managed to be both about a single long-running plot, yet also being a “thing of the week” show. They ended up in strange places doing strange things, sometimes with no real rhyme or reason, and I ended up loving it so much. I really hope they make more.
#6: Akagami no Shirayukihime
Aka Snow White with the Red Hair.
This was the one that seemed to come out of nowhere and end up loved by a lot of people.
And it’s not hard to see why. It’s really good. The art is amazing, it clearly borrows inspiration from fairytales ( or perhaps more accurately the Disney versions of fairytales ), the characters are great, especially Shirayuki, and it manages to be a bit different and very interesting.
Basically: Shirayuki is a girl with stunning red hair that makes her the talk of the town. She is a skilled herbalist and makes her living as such, when suddenly one day one of the aides of the nation’s prince shows up and says she’s been selected to be the prince’s concubine. She has one day to pack and get ready. So she does the sensible thing and flees the country during the night, which results in meeting the prince of the neighbouring country, and striking up a friendship with him.
I suppose she’s a bit of a prince magnet. But yeah! Very fun, sweet, adventurous, and just very, very good.
S2 is starting this Winter season, and I’m really looking forward to it.
#5: Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso
Aka Your Lie in April.
This is a very important show to me emotionally. I was so invested in it. I still think it was just really, really well done. A strange story of love, life, and music. And the little lies we tell.
The story follows a boy named Kousei. He was a child prodigy at playing the piano, entering many contests and winning, but since his mother’s death he hasn’t been able to play. He meets a girl called Kaori, who is a very talent violinist. Her music style, her very way of performing, is very different from how he was taught to play. His style was to be as perfect as possible. Playing with unerring precision. Her style is much more wild, and her aim is to have an impact on people. To touch their hearts, and make them remember her and her playing.
They end up in a strange, almost antagonistic friendship, as Kaori seems dead-set on pulling Kousei back into the world of music. To help him rediscover that which he lost. And that’s basically what it’s about. People struggling to figure out how to move forward after having lost their way. While that is most evident in Kousei himself, you see that to an extent in almost everyone else too. Broken people working out how to put themselves back together.
This show reached into my chest and squeezed my heart. While I don’t play any instruments, music has been an important part of my recovery too. The themes and characters just resonated really strongly with me. I have no way of being the least bit objective when it comes to this show. Even thinking back on it now reignites those feelings. Bringing back the tears. Sometimes you need to have a good cry.
What is there to say about Shirobako except that it’s very, very good?
It’s an anime about making anime. While the show starts with five girls; Aoi, Ema, Midori, Misa, and Shizuka; who were in an animation club together in high school, and talking about how they want to work together on an anime in the future, the show is basically about the animation studio where Aoi and Ema ended up working.
There are lots of really great characters here, and the insight into how anime is made was quite enlightening. There are essentially two big arcs in the show. The first arc is about them making an original show, entirely based on their own concept. The second arc is about them doing an adaptation of a manga. I loved both of them, really. I loved all of it.
The show did a really great job of making everyone just feel like real people. And it was really interesting to see all the troubles they ran into, and how they worked to get around them. It all seemed strangely believable. Though I am of course not an expert. Still, I feel comfortable saying this is both educational, and just a really good watch.
#3: One Punch Man
I’ve followed the manga for a while, and the anime was basically everything I could hope for. I feel they made the right decision by not really changing anything, and instead just focusing on bringing it all to life.
The idea here is a seemingly average guy named Saitama trained himself up to become the strongest man in the world. It’s not just that he thinks he’s the strongest, he really is. He ends every fight he’s in with just one punch, hence the title. And he realises that being all-powerful is actually kinda boring. Nothing poses a challenge any more, so it’s hard to find the drive to do anything.
He keeps doing what spurred him on to train: be a hero. He’s a bit half-hearted about it though, so no one actually knows who he is, because he doesn’t really realise that sticking around and taking credit is part of actually building a reputation. He’s really not a people person. But with the arrival of the cyborg Genos, Saitama’s life gets a little more interesting.
I probably made it sound really lame. Just watch it. Madhouse did a great job on the animation, especially the fight scenes. It’s fast and hectic, yet it still keeps it clear what is happening, and I’ve seen more than one anime fail at that.
#2: Yuru Yuri San☆Hai!
Aka Yuru Yuri S3.
I really, really love Yuru Yuri, and all the gay girls in it. It’s a bit of a silly show, I admit. I think it’s deliberately poking fun at slice of life anime. One of my friends called it a parody. I can see that. That doesn’t change that it has a lot of very good characters, and it’s quite well-written, and there’s so much lesbians, and Chitose is totally me, and please be nicer to sweet, pure Akari.
I’ve come to really appreciate these anime worlds where men just don’t seem to exist. Getting a break from that is very nice at times.
It’s also just been such a joy watching the show grow over the three series, and I’ve gotten a lot of screenshots and gifs out of it. So please give me more Yuru Yuri.
If you’ve been following my writing throughout the year, you might have seen this one coming.
Even though Sword Art Online was a poor introduction to the genre, I still developed a fondness for the idea of “people get stuck in MMO, what now?” Thankfully Log Horizon did it much better than SAO, and then Overlord came along and became my absolute favourite.
The idea here is basically a reversal on tradition. As far as we know, only one person got trapped, and he’s not really a hero. He’s rather the villain. That shift in premise, plus the menagerie of strange minions, was enough to get me hooked already in episode 1. I want to see them take over the world.
I will readily admit that it has several flaws. Some of them kinda big. And it did enter a bit of a lull for a few episodes after Ains decides to go undercover as an adventurer. I did genuinely wonder if the show was just running out of juice. It was a Kadokawa show, and they seem to have a track record of dulling down after a strong start.
And then episode 8 happened, and I started to get intrigued again. And then episode 9 happened, and I’ve not felt so excited in ages. It made me feel like I was 12 again, in the way you get super-excited about stuff at that age to the point where you practically can’t think about anything else.
After that I was giddily waiting for each new episode, desperate to see more, to see what would happen next. The final episode was amazing, and I really hope they do another series. There is so much left unexplored, and only one of the guardians had a full episode dedicated to showcasing her. They need to do one for each guardian! They don’t have to do each battle maid though, that’s okay. Just give me more!
From: Owari no Seraph aka Seraph of The End.
Owari no Seraph is a show that is pretty good at best, and really awful at worst. “At worst” being anything that involves Mika.
But even though the show as a whole wasn’t that good, it still gave me Shinoa. I love her. I am close to worshipping her. From her cute looks, to her strength, to her snark, to her confidence, to her mischief, and to her vicious sense of humour. She is perfect. Absolutely and completely. She’d probably kick my arse if I called her my waifu, but I really wouldn’t mind being hers.
Just a shame she’s stuck in that show. Slaved to that plot. She really, truly, honestly deserves better. At least she has a place in my heart, for what that’s worth.
And with that I finally set a punctuation mark on 2015. What a ride, in many ways. It was quite an interesting year, both in personal terms, and in entertainment terms.
And now it’s time to look forward to 2016! Though maybe not this week. I’m very busy playing Xenoblade Chronicles X, so I think I’ll postpone getting started with stuff until next week.