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Archive for the ‘2015’ Category

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Who remembers Utawarerumono? It was a series that came out in 2006 (adapting an earlier visual novel) that was kinda dull and best remembered for getting real freaking weird out of nowhere at the end and being called “Underater Ray Romano” because nobody knew how to pronounce the name. Well, fast forward nearly a decade and this rather forgettable series got a sequel!

Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen (TL: The False Faces), or at least the anime I’m reviewing here, doesn’t make any explicit reference to events from the first series so you don’t have to have watched it to follow this, but it does assume some knowledge about the world. Nothing vitally important, but there are things that will seriously come out of left field if you’re coming in blind (don’t worry; they’re as inexplicable in the first series too).

Much like the first season, Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen is about a man (‘Haku’) who wakes up with amnesia and finds himself in a mysterious and hostile world where the people have animal ears and tails, before befriending and essentially being taken in by the woman who found him. The story beats are much the same – Haku gains an ever-expanding group of friends before the story turns towards war – but the direction it takes is wildly different.

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Did you have a good year? I hope so. My 2015 was alright. Pretty unremarkable, a couple of new experiences, but mostly just been working. But for anime though, it’s been interesting I guess. I wouldn’t call 2015 a bad year for anime by any stretch, but thinking back on what I watched while writing this top 10 I was struck by how few series really left a major impact in the fandom, and more importantly how few left much of an impression on me. I think I’d overall characterise it as a solid, if unassuming, year for anime. Still, there’ve been at least a few that I’ll be remembering for a while, and enough that I wasn’t struggling for things to include!

Now, the definition I’m working with for ‘2015 anime’ is pretty broad, but a lot of other people are using it too so it’s nothing too radical or unexpected. It’s what I’ve been using for previous years: a series counts if it finished in 2015, and a film counts if it was first available for me to watch this year. I feel this is pretty sensible – you can’t exactly consider a show “best of the year” if it hasn’t even finished yet, shows that started last year wouldn’t get a chance otherwise, and expecting me to consider a film that I could’ve only watched in a cinema in Japan is just silly.

Before we get to the top 10, I want to talk about some anime that didn’t quite make the cut, but definitely deserve a shoutout.

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In keeping with tradition, my last 12 days post is a somewhat personal, serious one.

I watched When Marnie Was There this year, Studio Ghibli’s latest (and possibly last) effort. It was a good film, remarkably psychological for a Ghibli film, let down somewhat by an info-dump ending that aims to tie up all the loose ends. Still, certainly worth watching, and a film that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

What stood out to me is that Anna, the main character, is a young girl quite clearly struggling with depression to begin with. She has few friends, is very withdrawn, expresses a lot of self-hatred, and can’t really communicate with her parents. It was certainly an interesting way to introduce the character, and I found myself sympathizing with her a lot.

There was one brief scene though that took it from simple sympathy to deeply personal resonance: (more…)

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It’s a tragedy that no child may keep their innocence and wonder forever. The harsh realities of the world will find them one way or another, and it’s unfortunately only a matter of when. This is a topic that Non Non Biyori Repeat explored in episode 4, and did so beautifully.

In this episode, Ren-chon has been tasked with taking care of the class pets – an aquarium full of tadpole shrimp. She feeds them and records their growth, and has taken to them so much that she can even differentiate them and recall their own little quirks. She has also named them ‘Flatty-san’. All of them. She’s grown to really care for them, in the way you only can when you have responsibility for another living creature.

One morning, after she comes in to school, Ren-chon immediately and eagerly checks the fish tank to see how they’re doing.

But Flatty-san isn’t moving.

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One Punch Man

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So. One Punch Man. You’ve probably heard of it. Given how crazy popular it’s been, you’ve likely already watched it. It’s a fun series.

For those few of you who don’t know anything about it, One Punch Man revolves around a man named Saitama who is a hero for fun. He is decidedly unremarkable, except for the fact that he defeats all of his opponents with one punch. And as a result, he is bored. Profoundly, overwhelmingly bored. He still saves the day without question but knowing how each fight is going to play out has left him cynical and demotivated.

You can probably already tell that this is a parody of superhero fiction. When a seemingly normal guy who has incredible, overwhelmingly powerful abilities and saves everyone on a regular basis? Of course he’s gonna get bored. That’s the crux of the parody, but there’s a lot of other things going on in it too.

It’s weird though that a seemingly simple parody would garner the immense levels of hype that One Punch Man has, so we have to ask: does it live up to it?

asd

I WANNA BE A SAIKYOU HEROOO

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Shirobako’s plot revolved around two threads running in parallel: the longterm goals of Miyamori and her friends to all work together in the anime industry, eventually realising their school project onto the big screen; and the day-to-day struggle to create anime while having to deal with the realities of business and other people. Episode 23 brought both of these to resounding, unforgettable climaxes, vindicating the efforts of everyone involved and putting a definite conclusion on series-long character arcs before happily wrapping everything up comfortably in the finale.

I’m cheating a little bit here – these are technically two moments, almost wholly separated from each other (although one couldn’t have happened without the other), but asking me to pick and choose just the one is unfair. How are you supposed to discuss this episode without discussing both of these moments! They represent Shirobako’s peaks in workplace comedy and character-driven emotional catharsis, both of which were integral to Shirobako’s success.

Spoilers ahead, obviously

Spoilers ahead, obviously

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It’s not 12 Days of Anime without a reference to some KyoAni work, and this year we have Hibike! Euphonium to talk about. It quite quickly drew attention for being a lot more grounded and naturalistic than the usual KyoAni fare, as well as for having some stunning and highly detailed animation and visual direction. The instruments in particular were widely praised, being all hand-animated. Very, very technically impressive.

Unfortunately, Hibike! Euphonium didn’t do much to grab me early on. Sure, it was enjoyable – the characters were fun, and the very low-key, reduced-scope, relatable story was refreshing – but it just lacked a certain something to make it really stand out, to really leave a mark and be remembered for greatness.

It wasn’t until episode 8 before it had a moment that gave it that, but oh man what a moment!

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Spoiler alert: she doesn’t ask Kumiko out :(

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