Winter 2015 Anime – Final Review

Stunning flowers awaken across the landscape, spreading their god-awful pollen, resulting in a severe case of allergies. Yeah I have a love/hate relationship with Spring. Winter is over and this means another selection of anime are coming to an end and it’s time to put these ducks in a row. How was Death Parade after making a splash with it’s original premise? Was Parasyte able to keep up it’s stellar writing all the way through? Is Kuroko’s Basketball still the hype-fest that it used to be? Read on to find out my final thoughts on each of the anime I was following this season!

*Note: I will be adding Assassination Classroom to this blog after the 12th episode airs, since it was delayed a week due to a hiatus in Japan.

Aldnoah Zero

Well this was very much like watching a fuse burn away, only to result in a dud firecracker. The finale pretty much solidified everything I was already saying about it this season. Slaine is perfect. Inaho couldn’t be worse. Put the two together and you have an agonizingly painful, yet brilliant story that couldn’t shake itself of this mismatch all the way through the finale. Inaho won…and goddammit, the audience lost.

Slaine’s side of the finale was amazing. A villain that you could sympathize with so well that it almost felt like a heroic moment when his underlings wouldn’t let him die as a lonely martyr. Slaine’s actions reverberated stronger than anything else in this anime. I felt like his attempted suicide was noble, but as a villain, it would almost mean he won, and we can’t quite have that. Slaine’s fate is one full of melancholy, yet it was very comforting to see. Kept alive against his deathly will, he realizes that it’s through the princess’ will that he’s being allowed to live. And with that one notion, Slaine is happy. He’s happy to be a prisoner, fated for a mediocre life since he has the adoration of the love of his life. Slaine is just a misguided, caring, human soul, and I love him.

Inaho. What the hell? You just won dude, so how about some emotion, just once? No? Well then your side of the story still sucks, because I can’t even care about your victory since you seemingly won it effortlessly, with the help of a completely pointless bionic eye, I’ve never felt so disconnected from a hero in an anime that was otherwise, pretty damn good. He puzzled me throughout the entire series, and I was hoping their would be some sense of gratification as to why this is the guy I should be rooting for. Is it a bad joke to say that my feelings towards this anime are roughly the same as Inaho’s feelings towards…well. EVERYTHING.

Season Review: This second season was about as enjoyable as the first. It seemed like it was heading in an even better direction, but always fell back onto it’s weaknesses. It was a mixed bag the entire way. Slaine could almost carry the anime alone, but one of the crucial parts to his development was his rival, our hero, the emotionless wooden board, Inaho. The “good guys” felt jarring to watch. Their motivation was shrouded and unfocused, and it devolved into a “robot of the week” sort of format. The “bad guys,” on the other hand, had sophistication, and drama. Loyalty being tested, deceived, and reapplied. It was enthralling just to see how the enemy evolved throughout the series. Encompassing all of this is the mech aesthetic which didn’t harm, nor improve the anime to me. It used CG robots, so that’s a minus, but the action was well-directed, often clever, and epically scored. Thus it all balances out. In the end, you have a polarizing mix of every aspect of this anime making this one powerful, yet awkward anime.

7/10


Death Parade

There was A LOT that Death Parade had to do in this one episode. Introducing the “villain” so close to the end of the series was a wildcard that made me uncertain that this episode could do it all. The wrong way to do this would be to TRY to fit it all, thus ruining every aspect of the anime by forcing it. Death Parade doesn’t do that. So in the finale, we instead got a very clean, and emotional conclusion to Chiyuki’s character arc while letting the other plot thread flow unresolved. And it was beautiful. The type of beauty that was always present in Death Parade, but surprised me with it’s elegance, nonetheless.

I instantly drew comparisons to “A Christmas Carol” with a ghost, Decim, showing the main character their life after they die. I liked that, but I was hoping for something unique to Death Parade, and luckily, the on the nose resemblance to A Christmas Carol faded away once we learned that this too was another judgment. The intensity became palpable and as Chiyuki wept in her noble sorrow, Decim’s being was shattered. A notion illustrated quite literally as the precious landscape started cracking, and shattering before them.  Decim’s first official expression of emotion was a tragic one, indeed, and amounted to one of the most moving scenes of the whole series.

And then, we zoom outward to find our other unresolved conflict between Nona and Oculus. In the space of this single episode, this arc was sadly unable to be resolved, but I still love everything that transpired between them. Oculus, quite fitting of his name, didn’t intervene in Nona’s plans, but rather let her observe how meaningless her attempts were. A villain that tries to win by letting the powers that be simply prove his dominance. I really dig that. However, Nona, did prove him wrong, and her experiment was a success. What does this mean for her, and for Oculus? Well, the end of the episode teased a fourth rule that I don’t remember ever hearing mentioned before. It kind of felt like a teaser for a second season, but it was more like an open ended answer. The finale was conclusive enough to feel satisfying, but should a second season happen, it will likely explore Nona’s continued attempts at changing this wrongful world.

Season Review: Fresh, dramatic, and dark. This anime started with a premise worthy of mentioning for years to come, but the true mystery was what kind of anime Death Parade would become. All signs pointed toward a gore-fest where we would just watch victims traipse in every episode and witness them become savage monsters to each other in a “death game of the week” format. Death Parade earns heaps of my praise by rising above that. Death Parade is an emotional drama that uses the death games to spin up much more than “gore with thought.” There’s a whole systematic structure to this world that the anime explores by following Nona as she manages, and attempts to change this place. And then the emotional core hits with Decim’s continued attempts at trying to understand humans, and Chiyuki’s memories finally coming to light.

My complaints are very small, pretty much amounting to only two. One, the main characters were a bit too stagnant, especially compared to the characters that came and went in the space of one episode. I still liked them, but Chiyuki could have been more energetic, or expressive. Second, the anime needs more episodes. This is only me wanting to see Nona’s struggle reach it’s end, and simply keeps the anime from feeling 100% complete. Those are minor detriments to a remarkable anime full of surprising grace and heart that opens with one hell of a hook. What a way to prove yourself Death Parade. You seemed like an emotionless monster, just like your shrewd arbiters, but then you lead us around on this evocative journey through a hauntingly beautiful supernatural wonder.

9.5/10


Durarara X2 Shou

The mini-finale wasn’t one to wrap up every character’s story in a neat little bow. Instead, we just zeroed in on Shizuo and Ryuugamine. Shizuo was downright spectacular to watch. His super strength hit an all-time high with me staring literally dumbfounded as he kicked a car down the street. His awkward march into a big scuffle holding a motorcycle on his shoulder was so baffling and funny. His bit ended with him saving the little girl who was trying to kill him, thus gaining her affection making them one of the most adorable father/daughter pairs in the anime. I’m glad Shizuo finally, hopefully, maybe has a sidekick now.

On the other end of this wacky spectrum was Ryuugamine, coming face to face with his own identity crisis, and we finally have his first character change in the entire anime. He has always been a cool character for what he is, but not necessarily how he acts, but this time, that changed. BOOM goes the pen right into Aoba’s hand, and I was just floored by this drastic transformation of character. Ryuugamine, for the second time in the whole series, was a bad-ass, and this time it was of his own fortitude. Of course, being completely ruthless would be a character-breaking change, so he still had his timid, apologetic demeanor right after his bad-assery, but now we know he is capable of dangerous action. This is an exciting proposition going into the next season.

Season Review: Durarara X2: Shou is just the first of a trilogy of 12 episode cours, so it’s appropriate that things are still falling into place, and introductions are still being made. What matters now is if the characters are still interesting, and if any of their stories were fulfilling in any way thus far. By and large, they are all excellent, though the one thing that always pecked at the back of my head just a little is the strange focus on gangs. It’s still a primary focus, and I just don’t really care about what happens to any of the gangs. Underneath all of that are the wildly distinctive cast of characters that grew ever-larger, and even better. The art style makes nearly every character look cool or impressive. The story is chaotic, and that makes it tough for me until seeing the conclusion, but it’s still completely enjoyable in it’s present form. Durarara’s return is what any fan would have wanted, including me, just that it still includes my old qualms about the series as well.

8.5/10


Kuroko’s Basketball

This finale was such a tease! Not a bad one, though. Actually, the finale was fine, but my own impatience, and I’m sure of many others fans out there, made sure that I felt burned when the episode ended. The prospect of finally hearing the origin story of the Generation of Miracles had me begging that it wouldn’t be left for the next episode. So to my surprise, the flashback started in this episode, but just as I was thanking the heavens, the flashback left us in an agonizing cliffhanger. See ya next time folks!

Kuroko isn’t really taking a break. This was just a midseason finale, and it’s coming back next week. So the only thing to really talk about was the ending of the game between the basketball super saiyan, Kise, and our favorite ninja on the court, Kuroko. I got into this game a lot, however, the conclusion wasn’t quite as graceful as the previous game, which was Midorima’s defeat. This game felt like the mere appetizer for the game to come, and man, that game has an entire 12-13 episode span to just breathe. Kise vs Kuroko lasted maybe an episode too long. The only other game that endured this long was Aomine versus Kuroko with Kagami entering the zone, but each episode had a lot more suspense back then. This paled in comparison and it was really stretched thin. It was still mostly what I love about Kuroko’s, however. The animation is superb, literally being one of the best looking anime this season, and the game ended in an amped up psychological chess fight involving characters thinking several steps ahead of themselves to outdo each other. That’s what Kuroko does best.

Season Review: This whole series of episodes has just been the prologue to the origin story of the Generation of Miracles and Akashi’s final encounter. We got to see him play, and his game with Midorima was easily one of my favorites of the season, reaching the heights of the game that introduced the Zone from season 2. The season started off rocky with my literal least favorite game of the series, but it should be smooth sailing from here. The quality hasn’t really dropped at all, but the consistency of the games have been tarnished. We’ll see if the finale between Kuroko and Akashi can make up for what little shortcomings have happened so far.

9/10


Log Horizon

The final episode of Log Horizon had a big responsibility: make me love this anime again. After a disappointing change of pace, at least for me, this whole season felt like an aimless adventure with little narrative weight. The arc with the youngsters journeying for the first time was so “about the journey” that I literally gave up on caring about the destination. There were still very relevant, and important episodes, but they were surrounded by numerous bits of storytelling that felt almost like “filler.” So did this finale at least set the anime back on track? Well, in a way it did, but not entirely.

This finale was one lengthy, reinvigorating action scene that echoed that massive raid from earlier in the season. However, since this is a finale, a mere rinse and repeat wouldn’t be quite enough, and unfortunately, that’s kind of what this was. Actually, no, this raid was a bit worse than the multi-boss raid from before. The villain? Shit. The raid setting? Boring. For all the cries of triumph, and blaring music, this sure was a hollow climax. As a story conclusion, this finale did little to make me appreciate it. However, there are still a few things that made it feel like classic Log Horizon, such as the constantly satisfying tactical focus that the combat has.

Biggest of the Log Horizon tropes is the hurrah for having a new goal, and goals in Log Horizon are noticeably more substantial than most fantasy anime. This goal, which is a culmination of the two butting ideals present throughout this season, was both a satisfying glimpse of the future for the series, and a logical bridge between the opposing factions. These factions being the people who are going insane, trying to get home, and people who clearly love this world, and have no need to go back. Shiroe, rather than forcing one side to fall victim to the other’s reward, decided he needed to find a way to have people come and go as they please. It’s not quite the earth-breaker that I was hoping it’d be, but Shiroe is back in action, and that’s enough for now.

Season Review: If season 1 was about building the world and introducing a surprisingly sophisticated level of detail behind this fiction, then season 2 was about our once back-seated characters taking the forefront and coming to terms with their own self-beliefs and carving their own destiny and ideals in this world. I definitely didn’t prefer this, although it didn’t get much worse when I look at it objectively. As far as aligning with my personal interests, the second season just had much less of what I liked the most about Log Horizon in the first place.

7/10


Parasyte

And here we have one of the favorites of the season, and definitely one of mine as well. It’s finale was quite powerful, and very insightful, as I expected it to be. Maybe not as good as I dreamed, or even hoped, but it lived up to all of my expectations. First up was Migi’s surprisingly depressing departure. It left me feeling a little empty inside. More empty than the usual anime character death tends to make me feel. Migi was the best thing about parasite, and having him leave before the audience was ready definitely turned things somber, and only in the best way.

And then we had…another conflict? Okay, honestly, this conflict was kind of…out of place. It was like the bows were tied, and the director untied them messily and shoved one last confrontation into the mix. However, it was between a character I enjoy, purely because of his well-written wickedness, and a Shinichi who doesn’t have Migi anymore. It’s a dynamic I actually was interested in seeing, so I’m glad the anime explored that. However, it wasn’t warranted, so that still made it feel weird. But that wasn’t enough to keep this finale from feeling like a fitting end to a great series. Finally, we had the poetic summation of all of the themes this anime covered narrated to us in spades. Notions of understanding animals, or more like our complicated judgment of other species blinding us from how we really need to view them. This anime preached, and I normally don’t like preachy anime, but this one used the whole anime to explore it’s subject before shoving them down our throat, so I’ll accept it in kind.

Season Review: Parayste was intelligent, dramatic, and well-presented. The perfect anime for people who like their stories classic and smart, and their characters well expressed. However, the pacing and, oddly enough the early music choices, definitely made it teeter back and forth from just solid presentation to near-perfect direction. I think the two cours they used was too long, but one cour would be too short. I understand how hard it is to break out of the season/cour format, but I think Parasyte should have. The story isn’t really inventive, as it is rooted in the origins of superhero lore. In the beginning, it’s like anime’s superman, and it focuses heavily on the character dealing with his superpowered self. Then, as it progresses, it turns into a more thoughtful journey that opens up all sort of debates on human nature. The true star of the show was Migi, the right hand man…yup, that pun works. Awesome. Migi was a constant attention grabber on the screen. Every single line he has is either purposeful, wise, or ponderous. I never got bored of him. Perhaps it was the erratic behavior, or the fact that his animations were oddly cute and strange at the same time, but he’s what made Parasyte feel like an anime.

9/10


The Seven Deadly Sins

This was an anime I wasn’t writing about weekly because I was waiting for my room mate to have time to catch up, so I kind of watched ten episodes leading right up into the finale in the space of two days. Man was that a ride. So the finale, was both the very, very end of the final boss fight, and the very, very beginning of their new journey. We are six of the seven sins in, and I am very excited to meet the last one. I’m curious if there’s a Kuroko-esque member who’s a shadow existence, making a possible eighth, but I’ll save the elaborate theories for another day.

The fight concluded with what I like to call a good shounen tactic. The difference between a good shounen tactic and a bad one is basically the ingenuity of it, and the execution or depiction of it. The idea of a hidden counter move that dished out the damage you received was already awesome, but the fact that it required deceiving the opponent, and the audience, was the type of Shounen stuff I like to see. My only complaint? Well, it’s more of a conflict of preference, but it was Hawk coming back to life. The consequences of that fight felt perfect until the one death that got so much attention was essentially reverted. See, my theory is this. The more you focus on the sorrowful moment of a character’s death, the more damage you do to the story by bringing them back. Hawk’s death was well written. Not Hawk’s nap, or Hawk’s brief disappearance. This was a death, you should keep it as one.

Season Review: Man I love it when anime shut me up. I always liked Deadly Sins, but it was with the pretentious mindset that it wouldn’t become one of the greats. It has since transcended petty shounen, inched past the great shounen, and is now gaining potential of reaching the highest echelon of Shounen. I consider Hunter X Hunter and Fullmetal Alchemist to be the two prime contenders of Shounen done just how I like them, and Nanatsu no Taizai just might be the third, though Magi still edges out in this race so far. It does have my least favorite art style of probably every Shounen I enjoy, but it’s sure as hell doing everything it can, animation fluidity included, to make me a believer. It all started with episode 19, King’s backstory, and from then on, the anime just literally became a better version of itself. The writing was a bit sharper, the character moments had more weight to them, and the mindless battles became heartfelt. It took every weakness I bickered about and improved on them considerably. I am now a pure fan of this anime, rather than a casual follower.

9/10


Tokyo Ghoul

What…happened? Why is it, that when the artistic integrity of this anime reached an all time high, the quality of the story just went to absolute filth? Either the director and I are at a complete disconnect, or this finale was just too weird. It had good elements. Elements….and nothing else. I applaud Tokyo Ghoul for breaking away from the norm and delivering what is basically shounen’s first art-deco finale. I loved everything about the direction it took. The slow, dignified character movements, the minimalistic unfolding of events. I’d want this director to direct anything because of that…but not this. Not this ending of Tokyo Ghoul.

Dying. Death. Everybody dies. That’s fine. I feel like death en masse can be a suitable way to end certain tragedies. But, it’s how the death’s pan out in the grand scheme of things that makes them irrelevant. And they were all wasted because the whole point of this finale is for the villains and heroes to say, “We’ve gone too far. We should have picked peace,” but because neither side did, they ended up killing all of each others’ loved ones. The beginning of Tokyo Ghoul was about Kaneki. It was a psychological study of a character who had his humanity ripped away from him. Root A is not about Kaneki at all. It’s about the world. The moral of the story is about the world. So if Root A is about the world and not Kaneki, then why did the finale focus so much on Kaneki, and not the world? The anime feels like it bit off a piece of philosophy that it couldn’t quite chew. The finale felt like it was desperately trying to be a touching tour de force…but it was merely a nice piece of animation rolling over the rough, battering path of the poorly written episodes lying before it.

Season Review: Root A made me a bit ashamed to be a die hard Tokyo Ghoul fan, and it is the biggest disappointment of the anime I chose to continue to the end this season. It’s an anime that at times tried to be graceful, but was never able to apply it to the whole anime thanks to it’s mindless gore that kept intervening. The direction led us on an awkward story focusing on too many things to ever really care about any single aspect of this world. It’s finale was a fine piece of direction completely wasted on a piece of cluttered writing that tried to hard, and didn’t try hard enough at the same time. It was a mess. This whole Root A series was. Kaneki became a ghost, with almost no connection to the audience, and all that was left was Touka, who does nothing to take the reins as a main character. I don’t quite understand why it ended this way, nor why it even headed in this direction…but it definitely didn’t turn out well. Tokyo Ghoul was style over substance, but now it’s purely style with absolutely no substance. Style is still a major plus, so thank goodness for that.

6/10


Yona of the Dawn

We got to meet the final dragon with literally no extra time to spare! And in the space of that one episode, I already love him. He’s a goofy, uncaring wanderer with a foreboding sense of serious mystery about him. I was sold on him instantly. The finale had us trek back to the one of the earliest areas making it kind of a reset button to begin a new journey for the next season, whenever that’s announced. It was kind of nice seeing the new characters back in old locales. It’s a good sign of a truly great adventure anime that you enjoy simply watching the characters make their way from destination to destination.

This also led into a final development for Yona, who has undergone a complete transformation since the beginning of the series. She is asked if she’s heading to war with the power of her dragons, and I love that her response wasn’t quite a yes or no, but more of a “I’m only here to fulfill my purpose” sort of thing. It’s also opening all kinds of interesting dynamics in who is truly he villain in this world. Yona evolved, thinking of her father’s killer as the end-all final boss, but to the world, that killer is less of a villain than her own father. Yona’s eyes are being opened to the true nature of the world around her, and as that happen, moral grey areas only increase in number. This episode was a solid finale that felt like a great resting point. I am itching to see more of that yellow dragon though.

Season Review: Yona of the Dawn has done a complete 180. I nearly dropped it for having one of the most abysmal premieres, and now it was one of the most refreshing anime of the season. It’s not a masterpiece. And I said the same thing about the Chaika series before this. It’s a perfectly balanced adventure anime with pleasing aspects in almost every department. However, this is all elevated to a higher level of enjoyment than Chaika. Yona of the Dawn is a true delight, and has potential to become even better. Even if it remains as is, it’s still an adventure anime I’ll gladly return to now that I’m in love with it’s characters, it’s well-timed humor, and authentic, yet fantastical ancient orient setting.

8.5/10


Your Lie in April

This finale absolutely nailed it. The only way for an anime to recover from the poor reception of a slow start is to let it all build up into a finale that makes it all worth it, and that’s just what Your Lie in April has accomplished. I stand, applauding, as if I was one of the audience watching one of it’s masterful concert scenes. The increasingly abstract and artistic quality of the finale duet was one of the most fluid, moving, and dazzling scenes I’ve ever come across. What came after was the explanation. The reason behind everything. Something that links the awkward beginning to the sorrowful ending. The writing, as always with this series, just flowed like poetry, and gave us both triumph and despair in beautiful strokes.

So the love was real after all. I’m not going to claim it was predictable, because it wasn’t supposed to be a surprise as much as how the revelation was going to be delivered to Kousei. It turns out, that delivery was in an extremely bittersweet fashion. It was achingly sad, and I loved that. I also loved that this whole romance, or rather, this “lie,” turned out to be a startlingly realistic take on what those in love are willing to do. I, at first, thought that Kaori and Watari, Kousei’s best friend were both in on the secret, but it turns out Watari was legitimately used. He was treated wrongfully and that 1% of human mistake made Kaori 100% more human. She’s not the angel Kousei makes her out to be, but it made the love that much more real.

Season Review: It just got better and better. A romance that started rather shaky, but culminated into a sweeping finale with more grace than any other anime I’ve seen before it, this is one for the history books. When it comes to the pure aesthetics of communicating the evocative moods romance can bring, Your Lie In April is, with no exaggeration, the best I’ve ever seen. Granted, the anime is being weighed down by it’s shaky foundation. It’s hard to recommend the anime in it’s entirety, but it’s very easy to say it’s worth the ride. If Kids on the Slope is the best music themed drama, then Your Lie in April almost reaches the equivalent of music themed romance.

8.5/10


And Winter is over! What a season. Tons of high ratings for me, though a couple disappointments amongst what I considered my favorites only a season ago. Not bad for a single season, I’d say. And now we look ahead to the Spring anime season which literally kicks off this weekend. Anime never stops, I tell ya. I will have a premiere rundown, which is where I tend to go crazy with screenshots, so be prepared for an infodump!

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