The Anime Pulse #26 – A Look Back at Anime in 2015

Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of The Anime Pulse. The end of days is upon us and all who inhabit this miserable little seedling!

Well… either that or 2015 is coming to a close so it’s time to reflect back on some of the best and worst anime I have seen. Now, one may argue that this column is a bit premature because there are a few weeks left of the fall anime season, but I’ve seen enough of those shows to already formulate an opinion on them that won’t change much unless the endings to these shows are just complete and utter garbage. As always, I will be reviewing those shows individually once they have concluded.

But enough about that… let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the column which is going to be my second annual look back at this year’s anime season. If you want to see the column I did last year for 2014, you can simply click here.

If you’ve read that column, then you’ll see that I kind of just named some shows at random and gave some thoughts on it. This time I want to kind of categorize them a little more so that more shows are included. So I’m going to break it down season by season and then give my overall picks for best and worst shows.

 

Winter 2015

2015 started off with a major bang! I ended up picking up Tokyo Ghoul √A, Death Parade, Assassination Classroom, Durarara!!x2 Shou, Absolute Duo, and Shinmai Maou no Testament.

Picking a winner here is going to be pretty difficult because there are some pretty heavy hitters for series in this list, but for me, the winner of the Winter season was…

Tokyo Ghoul √A

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A lot of people may disagree with me here because this show deviated from the manga, but it’s because it took that chance that I believe that it shined just a little bit brighter than the others. That’s not to say that Death Parade, Assassination Classroom, and Durarara were bad because they weren’t, but they all lacked that little something extra that could take them the distance.

For instance, Durarara is an adaptation of the light novel/manga series and they are being pretty faithful to it. While the story in and of itself is amazing, it’s predictable if you’ve read the source material.

Assassination Classroom was a fine example of comedy mixed with drama mixed with a bit of slice of life. It had a lot of elements going on for it, but the series didn’t have that “I HAVE to watch the next episode” vibe. In fact, I skipped watching some of the episodes for a month or so and then just marathoned them to get caught up. While watching them back to back to back was an enjoyable experience, it just didn’t make me want to watch it weekly.

Death Parade was pretty amazing as well, but by the end of the series I felt that it became a bit muddled. It shifted the focus on individual stories of the people who visited Quin Decim and, instead, tried to balance that along with an overarching story with our main characters. In the end, it was a bit heartwarming, but it just felt a little flat. I can’t really put my finger on it, but it definitely lost a bit of its punch. It was still a great series that I would recommend anyone to go and watch, but compared to the others, it just didn’t do enough to take the top spot for me.

Tokyo Ghoul √A took an alternate route only to end up at the same place at the end of the manga, except the manga kind of, sort of finished things and the anime kind of, sort, didn’t. In the manga, you see what happens between Kaneki and Arima, but in the anime you’re left with a big middle finger in the form of a black screen. They did tease a third season with Tokyo Ghoul:re and even FUNimation may have accidentally spilled the beans on that third season as well, but we’ll have to wait and see if something actually comes about.

The ending to episode one of √A was what blew me away. It’s very rare that a moment in anime moves me to an absolutely chilled state, but when Kaneki announced he was going to Aogiri Tree, that was one of those moments. The last time an anime did that was the ending to episode nine of Steins;Gate when Okarin realized he changed the world with one text message. Just, hands down, an amazing show so it is the first of the four contenders of best anime of the year for me.

So what was the worst? Well, it’s narrowed down to Absolute Duo or Shinmai Maou no Testament and the loser is…

Shinmai Maou no Testament

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Just think about this for a second. Shinmai Maou no Testament beat a show that I dropped after three episodes. Yes… I dropped Absolute Duo after the third episode when it was nothing more than a show with a roster filled with cookie-cutter characters, a boring and typical shonen battle plot line, and more tropes than you could choke a critic with. Yes, an anime as mundane as Absolute Duo lost this award to Shinmai Maou no Testament because despite the interesting beginning, Shinmai Maou no Testament was pretty much the Skinemax of early nighttime anime and nothing more.

The overall premise of the show dwindled down to nothing more than a typical shonen battle anime on the same level as Absolute Duo with even more cookie cutter characters, but they threw in MASSIVE amounts of senseless sexual tension and softcore hentai… in some cases, seemingly for the sake of having it and for no other reason! It’s like… welp.. Mio decided to grab a soda from the fridge.. I guess it’s time for a sex scene!

I don’t think I’ve seen a worst anime in recent memory and I’m including Pupa in this argument. Oh wait.. I have.. and it’s coming up later in this column.

Spring 2015

I still had some shows spilling over from last season such as Assassination Classroom and what is now known as the trifecta of Fairy Tail, Naruto Shippuuden, and World Trigger. To that list I added the second part of Fate/stay night Unlimited Blade Works, Plastic Memories, and Arslan Senki.

Yes, despite spawning the “Shiny Teeth and Me” meme video, I didn’t watch Is it Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon nor did I pick up Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Alternative Architecture. I’ve actually tried watching the first season of Ghost in the Shell, but believe or not, I was actually bored with the show and ended up dropping it so I didn’t have any reason to pick up its sequels. (incoming the SJW and how not finishing Ghost in the Shell offends them!)

So, out of the shows I picked up, which one ended up being the best of the Spring season? Well… when you see my choices, the answer is obvious!

Arslan Senki

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This series had everything I was looking for an in anime. It had a medieval setting, a story about war and reclaiming a kingdom, awesome characters, great battles, some pretty good humor, a kickass soundtrack, and the caveat of having the characters created by Silver Spoon’s / Fullmetal Alchemist’s Hiromu Arakawa.

This was the kind of show that made me come back for more each and every week and it was the first anime of the year that I shared with friends and family. It also featured, who I thought, was the strongest and most well-developed character in 2015 so far, Daryun. If you haven’t seen this series yet, then I urge you to put this one at the top of your “To Watch” list. You would be doing yourself a great injustice for not doing so.

I also had to pick Arslan Senki because the other two were actually tied for worst of the Spring season in my opinion. Maybe it was the sour grapes with Unlimited Blade Works and how it was adapted that just left a bad taste in my mouth.  Characters from the original adaptation from Studio Deen were just ignored or downplayed, or in one case, just used to show the animation budget during a battle scene (Lancer anyone?).  I know this was the adaptation of the second of three routes from the visual novel, but I think it just fell really short when it came to treating the characters the way they should have been treated.  I’m fixing to do a review of both the original and Fate/stay night Unlimited Blade Works to compare them so I will go more in-depth with it then. However, before people come at me with pitchforks and torches, you’ll be happy to know that the soundtrack and insane battles did actually save this show so the loser of the spring season is..

Plastic Memories

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This show had so much potential to be a tear-jerking drama. Going around and retrieving androids that were at the end of their programming’s life cycle and tearing apart the hearts of the people they lived with because some of them we’re like family, could have served up one of the biggest spikes in Kleenex’s stock since the invention of Porn Hub. Plastic Memories, however, decided not to do that and just go ahead with one of the most forced “feel trips” I’ve seen.

We all knew that Isla was going to expire. It was hinted and even flat out stated early on in the anime. So we knew for ¾ of the show that the inevitable was coming. Even if it were predictable, you could have waited until the last possible moment to spring the news on us and it would have had a more emotional impact than what it did.

I also didn’t like the way how they handled the whole Isla x Tsukasa love story. As I said in my review of the show, I don’t know any workplace that would stop doing their jobs collectively in order to promote an inter-office relationship. The amount of attention they focused on the relationship was unnatural and just overbearingly sickening. A show that I thought was going to be a sleeper hit decided to just close the eyes and fall back to sleep. If you want to cry, don’t watch Plastic Memories.. go watch Clannad After Story.

Summer 2015

Total.

Anime.

Overload.

Holy HELL what a season. I hit a personal high for most number of animes watched in a single season. Arslan Senki, World Trigger, Naruto Shippuuden, and Fairy Tail were all continuing and to that I added Charlotte, Gangsta, Rokka no Yuusha, GATE, God Eater, Durarara!!x2 Ten, Chaos Dragon, Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace, Working!!!, and Non Non Biyori Repeat for a total of FOURTEEN shows I was actively watching.

While there were an abundance of amazing shows, this was also the season of non-ending endings. I don’t think I’ve seen more “to be continued”-esque endings in one season.

I’ll touch upon them as briefly as I can, but the winner of the summer season for me was…

Gangsta.

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This show as different. It had that Black Lagoon / Jormungand feel to it and it did something very few animes can accomplish… and that was actually develop their characters within the span of twelve episodes. A lot of the smaller supporting characters didn’t really get as much screen time as they should have, but the ones that did got all the attention they deserved and then some. The story itself, for the most part, was well-paced. There were some parts that felt rushed, but it could be forgiven due to how much attention they paid to the story before the parts that were rushed. They made an honest effort to deliver the maximum amount of story in a minimal time frame.

The biggest regret was that this show was set up perfectly for a second season and it is HIGHLY unlikely that we’ll get it as the studio who produced the show, Manglobe, went out of business and had to file for bankruptcy. Unless another studio acquires the license and continues the franchise, this anime will fall into the abyss of shows that should have gotten a second season, but just never did. Despite this unfortunately flaw, Gangsta did a marvelous job of snatching my attention and is well deserving of the best anime of the summer title.

As for the rest…

Working!!! was pretty good as usual. The humor was amazing, but the non-ending ending really hurt the series. All total, you had 36 episodes to wrap this up and you didn’t even bother. That left a very sour taste in my mouth and had this show been given a proper ending, I would have actually picked it over Gangsta because I believe it had better character development than Gangsta and it was a show that you could thoroughly enjoy in any fashion. It was the most well-rounded anime of the season, but that ending just killed it. Maybe it’s because I’ve weighted the show based on the first two seasons, but when you’ve had 36 total episodes and your studio is still alive and well, you better make sure you finish the damn show properly!

It’s still an amazing show. Ignore my nerd rage and go watch it.

Rokka no Yuusha wasn’t good, but it wasn’t bad either. It was rather average, but the fantasy/RPG setting gave it a couple of extra points in my book. Still a solid show even though the main storyline was never advanced in favor of 95% of the episodes playing a game of Clue.

Durarara was Durarara… enough said.

Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace had the best opening and ending of the season and I still believe, even here in the fall season, that the ending is the best of the year. So even though this show is not in contention for anime of the year, I award this best ending of the year, hands down. No song that I’ve heard has topped this and, yes, that is including the ending to K: Return of Kings which is pretty damn amazing. As for the story, I’ve seen much better detective stories and the constant subtle yaoi hints were just too bothersome for my tastes.

GATE was a sleeper hit in my opinion, but like a lot of the other shows, came in with that no-ending ending. Now, out of all the shows, this is getting a second season come January and you can bet sure as hell that I’ll be watching it. Reality meets RPG-like fantasy…. Military meets medieval. It’s all here and it’s pretty awesome. Some of the characters seem a bit flat, but they also bring a little something special to help act as supports to the story. It just didn’t really do enough to make me call this anime of the summer. Had it given us both seasons back to back instead of taking a season off, I might have changed my mind on this one.

Non Non Biyori Repeat is a good show, but it’s not the kind of show that’s going to win any awards. This show is just a feel good slice-of-life anime. There’s humorous moments, heartwarming moments, and moments of sadness all rolled into one. The best way to describe this show is when you’re tired of aliens, shonen battles, trope after trope after trope and just want something you and sit down, relax, and watch to have a feel good moment… maybe a show to take some of the stress of daily life away, then this show is the best show you will find for that. It’s just good, wholesome anime at its best. In fact, I’m going to give this the consolation prize of feel good anime of the year. It won’t really win any awards stacked up against some of the juggernauts of 2015, but for what it accomplishes, it deserves at least this much recognition.

God Eater

….

Seriously? At least the shows which didn’t have endings MADE IT TO THE FREAKIN’ END! Ufotable couldn’t even finish this series. They had three episodes to go… THREE.. and they delayed them until WINTER!

… I just don’t know what to say to that.. I really don’t…

So if you were crossing off the names from the list then you know that we’re left with two contenders for worst anime of the summer. Actually, you know what? I’m throwing God Eater in there just because they couldn’t pull their sorry ass across the finish line… and with that being said.. the winner of worst anime of the summer is…

Charlotte

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Yes… despite God Eater’s inability to finish, the battles are intense, the soundtrack is amazing, and they have some pretty decent character development going on for them. Chaos Dragon was a pretty bad show, but at least you knew what you were getting into when you saw Gen Urobuchi’s name attatched to it. Chaos Dragon wasn’t his best work… I felt Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Suisei no Gargantia, and Fate/Zero blow this show out of the water, wait for it to land, and then blow it out of the water again in a never-ending cycle of pure ownage, but there was some resemblance of a story that follows its poorly devised plot to the end.

Charlotte… not so much.

Charlotte is the prime example of using Deus Ex Machina mechanics and just failing miserably at them. It started off on a very cool concept. We got the typical-looking shonen male lead character with a non-so-typical shonen male lead attitude. The guy was an asshole pure and simple and only after two episodes, he fell pretty hard from being a character that was a breath of fresh air to your typical shonen male lead. Like Plastic Memories, this show had so much potential and just wasted it… and this is coming from Jun Maeda who brought us Clannad, Angel Beats, Little Busters!, Air, and Kanon. To produce something like this? Come on, Maeda-san… you’re better than this.

I actually find it ironic that both Gen Urobuchi and Jun Maeda made it into the bottom three… in the same season. I guess you just can’t have a hit all the time.

Fall 2015

And we are here at the current anime season. I guess this will serve as a mini preview of all the reviews to come, but in addition the standard fare of Naruto, World Trigger, and Fairy Tail, I’ve added One Punch Man, K: Return of Kings, Shinmai Maou no Testament BURST, Utawarerumono: The False Faces, Attack on Titan: Junior High, and Young Black Jack

There are some pretty damn good shows in here and one living abortion. I actually thought about this one through and through and even though I told some people my pick for the fall season, I decided to change my answer after really dwelling on it. My choice for anime of the fall season is…

Young Black Jack

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Yes… I said Young Black Jack over One Punch Man, my first pick. I bet you’d love my explanation, wouldn’t you?

One Punch Man is amazing.

It truly is.

BUT… One Punch Man has a serious flaw… it’s humor is just repetitive. I get it.. Saitama is the king of zero fucks. I bet a super computer could compound numbers for a thousand years and still not approach the number of negative fucks Saitama gives, but it’s this facet about him that makes him extremely one dimensional. It’s the same formula every single episode. Walk to a place… mutter “oh”.. then punch something and it dies.

Yes, it’s mindless entertainment on the same lines as Kill la Kill, FLCL, and Guerren Lagann, but when you strip away the amazing budget, awesome soundtrack, and intense battles… all you’re left with is the same running gag over and over and if these other things weren’t there to distract you from this, then One Punch Man would be just a terrible show after its fourth episode because people would get sick of seeing the same crap over and over again.

Young Black Jack on the other hand is the anime equivalent of House with an attitude. It’s a medical drama inspired by one of the greatest legends in the world of manga and anime: Osamu Tezuka. While some of the plot points are a bit far-fetched, this show draws you in, hooks you, and makes you want to see more. The Vietnam Arc and the Civil Rights arcs were just very well-done. Not only is this the sleeper hit of the fall season, but I would be willing to bet that this ends up being the sleeper hit of the entire year. It is worth your time to check this series out either now to get caught up, or in a couple of weeks when it wraps up so you can marathon it.

K: Return of Kings has also been amazing as well, although the pacing has been a little bit off in the back half of the series. I don’t know why they reused footage from episode one to fill half an episode, especially when you only have 12 episodes to work with, but it is what it is. If you’ve been following the K series, then this season is delivering for the most part, but it has quite the number of flaws which make me say that this is the best show this season.

The rest are all up for grabs for the worst anime this season… and the loser is..

Any surprise?

Shinmai Maou no Testament: BURST

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It did NOTHING to change or redeem itself from the first season…

Actually wait. It did

It only gave itself 10 episodes to work with instead of 12, getting off my tv two to three weeks early! That’s the only redeeming quality about this show.

Utwarerumono is being tossed in here because I remember the first season just being much more epic. There is this vibe about the sequel that is just.. well.. missing. I know this is a 25 episode series, but we’re almost to the end of the first half and it’s just SLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW. I mean, seriously, how many episodes did they spend in that onsen? I really hope the second half picks up because after seeing the first season (and owning it on DVD), I’m really disappointed so far with this one.

Attack on Titan Junior High started off in a cute way. Little chibi versions of the AoT cast running around and poking fun at themselves and the series was nice, but this was something better suited to be an OVA special bundled with the upcoming second season’s Blu-ray release. This show has done nothing to deserve an actual tv slot… I mean.. at all.

The jokes are just old and worn out now to the point where I don’t even care to watch them anymore. I absolutely love the light-hearted rendition of Crimson Bow and Arrow by Linked Horizon, but that’s the only good part about this show. I mean, watch the first three or four episodes for some laughs if you want, but beyond that, you’re just watching too much. Next time, stick it in an OVA and be done with it.

The Best and Worst of the Year

So now we’ve reached the end. We have our contenders for best anime of the year and worst anime of the year. To review, here are your contenders!

Best Anime of the Year: Tokyo Ghoul √A, Arslan Senki, Gangsta, and Young Black Jack

Worst Anime of the Year: Shinmai Maou no Testament, Plastic Memories, Charlotte, and Shinmai Maou no Testament BURST

So let’s start with the worst…

Because let’s face it… you already know who wins…

The combined garbage of Shinmai Maou no Testament and its second season BURST. I don’t really need to explain why I hate this show anymore. In fact, I don’t even want to spend the time to review this show even though it has ended at the time of this writing. Dull and predictable plot and the second season didn’t really do much better. Oh yay.. Basara wins, we get some ecchi, and there’s peace between the heroes and the demons.

I told you all that I wouldn’t drop the show in order to save you people the trouble of watching it. I kept my promise. The only cool thing was the transformation at the end, despite the final battle being rushed to all hell. This season gets a 3/10… overall combined.. 3/10 as well. Just stay the hell away from this show.

With that being said and swept under the rug which was later rolled up, beaten with a brush then set on fire using the most flammable chemicals known to mankind… we have the drum roll for best anime of 2015…

And the winner is…..

(Here’s where you imagine a drum roll in your head.)

(I bet you’re actually doing it!)

ARSLAN SENKI!

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This was actually a tougher decision than I thought. Young Black Jack and Gangsta bring something different to the table and Tokyo Ghoul √A brought the same of what we saw in season one while being different, but Arslan Senki, to me, gave me the most excitement out of those four anime shows. I know that a second season is on the horizon and I am waiting with baited breath to see it. When I have family members, who don’t watch anime at all, not only sit and watch with me, but on their own volition, actually ask me when the second season is coming because they enjoyed it so much, you know that you have something special on your hands.

Welp, I’ve been typing for nearly nine pages now and before I succumb to carpal tunnel syndrome, I’m going to end it here. I hope you enjoyed the column and if you agree, disagree, want to offer your own thoughts and picks for anime of the year, then I want to hear about it! Send a message to joshpiedra@theouterhaven.net and I’ll be sure to include your thoughts in a future column. Also, if you feel inclined, follow me on Twitter @PulseIn

Until next time,

Ja ne!

About The Author

Josh Piedra

Josh (or J.J. as some have come to call him), is a long-time geek culture enthusiast with a deep passion for anime, manga and Japanese culture. Josh also has a Bachelor of Arts in Game Design and is a creative writer who has created original content for over 20 years! He is also the author of the original English light novel Final Hope.