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Archive for the ‘Winter 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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Kamisama Hajimemashita was very good! I enjoyed it a great deal back when it aired, uneven as it was, and was very pleasantly surprised when a sequel was announced. It was probably the show that sold me on shoujo romance as a genre, and Nanami has endured as one of my favourite heroines amongst them. To cut to the chase, Kamisama Hajimemashita◎ (yes that is the official title, and no I have no idea how it’s pronounced) is basically more of the same, introducing a couple of new elements but for the most part just picking up from where the first season left off without missing a beat.

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Shirobako

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After enough time spent watching anime, it’s to be expected that you’ll be curious as to how it’s actually made – and not just the art of animation, but also the production aspects of it and more besides. It’s unfortunate then that there aren’t really a lot of resources to learn about it. Or at least, not in English. My limited understanding more or less comes from a few Answerman posts on ANN, the occasional bit of info the sakuga nerds retweet onto my timeline, and baseless intuition.

And I have to admit, I was not expecting Shirobako to fill in that educational gap. After all, the premise given before it aired was more or less “a group of high school girls made an anime in school, and now aim to make one together as professionals!” which, y’know, still sounds like a cute-girls-doing-cute-things show just transposed into a working environment. A nice bit of fluff that captures some of the fundamentals but is only really a shallow take on it, because it’s just context for the character-driven meat of the show. Kinda like Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, but anime instead of manga and moe instead of romantic-comedy.

Christ was I wrong.

Very wrong

Very wrong

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A question I’ve seen pop up quite a few times is “why are there no magical boy series?”. Ignoring that the male equivalent to mahou shoujo is superhero tokusatsu à la Kamen Rider or Super Sentai, I guess it’s because there’s no real way to do it without it coming across as self-parody? Especially if you try to stick to standard mahou shoujo conventions – I mean, could you imagine a male Precure? Ok, scratch that, I just remembered the episode of DokiDoki Precure! where Sebastian becomes a Precure. Could you imagine a male Precure done seriously??

Given that, the obvious solution to doing “mahou shoujo but with boys” is to go full-on parody. Enter Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE!, which I’ll just be shortening to Bouei-bu from here on out. While it wasn’t clear before airing – I picked it up for the absurd novelty of the premise – Bouei-bu is a straight up deconstruction parody of the mahou shoujo genre, with a heaping dose of bishounen anime thrown in for good measure. As a budding fan of mahou shoujo, this was right up my alley! What’s more, it’s directed by Shinji Takamatsu, director of Gintama and Daily Lives of High School Boys, noted funny shows with parodic elements. Can’t complain about that.

"Love is over!"

“Love is over!”

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For those of us who have watched Nodame Cantabile there’s a shared sense of despair that there will never be more, despite the existence of as-yet unadapted manga content. We fell in love with Noda and Chiaki as their unconventional, classical-music backed relationship grew over the years, so it’s understandable that Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso would draw our attention come the autumn 2014 season.

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – or Your Lie in April – positions itself similarly to Nodame Cantabile, being broadly about romance between classical musicians, with key differences. The characters are substantially younger – middle-school aged, as opposed to being university freshmen – and tragedy and drama play a central role in the narrative. Indeed, the initial premise is that Arima Kousei – a young piano prodigy – had a mental breakdown during a recital after his mother passed away that left him unable to hear his own playing. By the time the series begins, he hasn’t played for two years. He’s depressed and numb – albeit comfortable, in a quiet sort of way with his friends – and this threatened to remain the case had he not met Miyazono Kaori, a free-spirited violinist who takes it upon herself to pull him back into music.

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Happy New Year! Did you have a good one? That’s nice. Mine was alright.

So how about that autumn season, eh? There was some alright anime in there. Parasyte has been excellent. Mushishi Zoku Shou was predictably breathtaking. Happiness Charge Precure! had some great episodes. Shirobako has been equal parts informative and surprisingly engaging/fuck Tarou. Garo has been unexpectedly great. Shingeki no Bahamut is pretty good – I’ve fallen behind on it though, and hear the ending is insane. Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso keeps being powerful. All in all – pretty solid. Some disappointments, some utter crap, but I’ve avoided the worst of it.

Red, orange, green, I'm sure you know what they mean

Red, orange, green, I’m sure you know what they mean

I’ve seen some people pegging the upcoming winter season as “the season of sequels”, because holy crap there are a ton. Some people knew were coming. Some that people wanted to happen. Some no-one ever thought would happen. Some that no-one knows why they’re coming. But: a lot. Helps make deciding what to pick up a lot simpler.

Without further ado, here’s what I’ll be picking up for the first season of 2015!

  • Ansatsu Kyoushitsu
  • Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love!
  • Death Parade
  • Durarara!!x2 Shou
  • Go! Princess Precure
  • JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders 2nd Season
  • Junketsu no Maria
  • Kamisama Hajimemashita◎
  • Koufuku Graffiti
  • Rolling☆Girls
  • Yuri Kuma Arashi

And as ever, some thoughts on them going in:

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