The final season of 2015 fared well for anime enthusiasts and distant onlookers alike with anime breaking new ground in popularity and mainstream appeal. This season’s selection seemed to be carried by a mighty few. I say that because normally there are a lot of anime that are hovering on greatness but jump in and out of that tier throughout the season. This time, however, all the anime were easily identifiable as terrific or mediocre right from the start with hardly any change in their quality.
I dropped a lot of anime later in this season, which is unlike me. There felt like such a lack of potential in so many of them that my inner-completionist didn’t even have the patience to see them through to the end. That’s rather foreboding, but there’s still fantastic stuff to talk about because what started good, stayed good, and that’s very rare these days. Save for this first entry in this season review…
Dragon Ball Super
Dragon Ball is borderline beating a dead horse these days. I’ve never painstakingly witnessed such a redundantly repetitive story format in a very long time.
Goku takes a while to arrive.
Goku is really strong, but he’s just playing around.
The enemy is also really strong, but he too is just playing around.
They finally say they aren’t going to play around anymore.
They are still playing around.
This needs to stop.
But I KEEP watching it! Why? The nostalgia factor is still very strong and constantly egging me on to reach the end of the episode. The child in me wants to see other characters return, or see new interactions between old favorites. It never pays off, but it still keeps me going because the anime at least retains the spirit of the old series. And these new forms of Super Saiyan with colored hair was something I always wanted to see happen as a kid. Now, as an adult, maybe it’s not what I wanted to see at all.
It’s not a hard watch. It saves itself from boredom only because I can laugh incredulously at all the horrible banter and cringe-worthy writing going on. It makes me look forward to the next episode, but not for any reason I can commend it for. It’s still bad and is doing nothing to improve my overall rating. The only thing it has going for it is the bright, appealing character designs and the quirky world that the Dragonball universe takes place in. These are just things that are nice to see animated and in motion, but that basic comfort only does so much.
Asterisk War ended right where it started, with distracting fan service, a few moments of triumph and beauty, and many more moments of mediocrity. Asterisk War is an anime I really wanted to be excellent because we could use a good tournament style battle anime on air, but this just doesn’t quite make the cut. Someday we’ll get an anime that tackles the school battle scenario with much gusto. And on that day, I can finally use an asterisk next to this anime’s title and say “Not this anime, though.”
And it’s not like Asterisk War was the only school battle anime this season. In fact, there were two other anime airing alongside this one with peculiarly similar premises. I ended up only following Asterisk War because of Saya Sasamiya, the blue-haired moe bad ass that single-handedly made all the time invested worthwhile. I almost don’t care if she’s one dimensional. I nearly feign ignorance to the fact that she’s a shell of an archetype. Her design, voice actress, and dialogue are all just very appealing to me. Aside from her, most of the side character back stories fell just a little flat. There’s enough substance here that kept me from being bored, but a semi-erotic, vampiric sister relationship definitely didn’t seal the deal for this finale.
By the end of this season, they started opening up the plot to a continuation in Spring 2016. This definitely makes the first half feel inconclusive in every way because each climax was switchbaited for an ominous tease at something “bigger” in the shadows. Because of that, Asterisk War doesn’t feel like it’s done what it came to do yet. In the mean time, I can only recommend that you just enjoy the above average animation, the hectic school battles, and Saya Sasamiya, the MVP of the anime.
Beautiful Bones throws mystery and murder to the forefront and delves into the world of solving crimes through the eyes of a rather interesting character. That is our titular character, Sakurako, a woman who is obsessed with, and studies, bones. This is already an easy setup to digest, but Sakurako isn’t the main character. It establishes our main character as a keen, but naive young boy who hangs out with this intellectual woman, instead. The meat of this story is the single or double episode-length short stories that introduce some sort of deadly mystery. They then solve it through Sakurako’s logical deduction. The mysteries themselves range from hollow to entertaining, but none of them are anything I would consider brilliant. This is a thoughtful anime, but not quite the intelligent tour de force I had hoped for.
What really makes the anime click, and gain its own identity, is the partnership and dynamic of Sakurako and the main character. Sakurako is a devious, dark-minded woman who endearingly loves her hobby more than anything. She is comfortable and blunt with matters of life and death making her a very forward-moving character. Shoutarou, our hero, is a very competent and smart character as well, much to my relief. I was worried that this anime would do as all the other mystery anime do and partner the “genius” with the “fool” so that when the genius explains everything to the fool, the audience is filled in as well without making the character’s explanation seem out of place.
Shoutarou is a breath of fresh air for a main character, though he’s not explored near as much as I had hoped. The best interactions are when he has to play the adult because Sakurako can get very childish about her hobby, wanting to keep bones that are required for evidence, and what not. Those moments are quite funny, mind you. While it was definitely a pleasant surprise that the duo were able to think on their own two feet, tons of other side characters ended up getting the low roll on their IQ dividends at birth. The recurring cop character in particular was unbelievably stupid. He hardly represents a legitimate member of the police force, and is coupled with annoying mannerisms that just made him a complete eyesore and earache.
Visually, however, I have nothing but positives to shower this anime with. From the opening episode to the final sweeping cut, this anime was gorgeous. It didn’t do too much in the way of animation rather than having extremely crisp art and a beautiful small town setting. Every once in a while this anime would be very poignant, as most of the mysteries have an emotional undertone that resonates to varying degrees. They were a little too far, few, and in between to be consistent, and the ending simply turned into a glimpse of what’s to come, so this anime just didn’t have quite as much impact as I wanted. But it still manages to fully encapsulate a mystery anime. Since it’s kind of a niche genre, I would recommend this anime only if you have exhausted all of the “greats” and need something to keep your brain on a guessing-spree.
The team spirit just never wavers with this incredibly uplifting story about the bonds of teammates. Haikyuu has become a dominant name in the sports anime genre rivaling Kuroko’s Basketball in popularity and critical acclaim, yet offering something different from it at the same time. I say it all the time, but Haikyuu isn’t as focused on the theatrics and dramatics as Kuroko’s Basketball is, and is instead zeroing in almost entirely on the team becoming better. The idea of a “villain,” prominent in Kuroko’s Basketball, is almost entirely absent here.
Because of this, I do feel like there’s a minor, noticeable lack of antagonization in feel-good-volleyball-land, but man, it feels DAMN good. The interplay between all the athletes and the natural, believable way you see them grow is character development at its finest. The entire anime is like a perfect training arc of the most standout battle anime. But that aforementioned lack of a true opposing force is really going to hurt Haikyuu in the long run. The tone is very consistent, but it definitely feels like the games and even entire seasons are telling the same story. Haikyuu isn’t one to really create arcs of drama and plot development. Instead, it focuses on what it does do without a degree of shame. This unabashedly stubborn approach will make you feel the same way; that there is no shame in having love for this unfaltering force of inspiration and high spirit.
I can’t shy away any credit to Hinata, the golden boy of Haikyuu. He’s a delightful main character, full of ever-rampant energy. And he has a hilarious, and cute way of nearing lunacy when it comes to his passion for volleyball. He’s a main character that represents the underdog in a literal and metaphorical sense. He has a small stature, giving him a very “real” handicap. But the true problem he deals with is adapting from his stubborn and mindless playstyle, to one that is much more calculated and team-focused. Seeing him make those small leaps towards becoming a better player is another sense of satisfaction that this anime basically spikes at you with an infinite supply of character-growth-volleyballs.
Haikyuu in season 2 was essentially the same as season 1, so there’s not much I feel like I’m passing on as far as new information goes. The animation is still godly at times, the team members are as lovable as ever You don’t have to remotely like volleyball to enjoy this anime as it tells a story that should ring true to anybody who has felt the ferocity of competition in any form. If you just like watching characters grow and work together in strenuous, entertaining situations, then this anime is for you. I find very little fault with it, and season 2 is going just as strong and shows no sign of stopping as it’s continuing right into the next season of Winter 2016.
Some big things are happening in the Monogatari universe, and for a world as abstract and detailed as this one, that’s definitely saying something. This season was far more climactic than the last two. (Tsukimonogatari and Hanamonogatari.) However, it still feels like the most riveting things are in a story yet to be told. That doesn’t stop Monogatari from feeling like it always does, with it’s extremely introspective viewpoints and visually stunning art style. It’s al old news to a long-time Monogatari fan, but to the veiled eyelids who have yet to see a Monogatari series, the visual execution of this anime is nothing short of masterful.
For those who don’t know Monogatari, and are wondering if this particular season makes a good entry point, I will have to be blunt and say no. As much as an easy-in to the Monogatari series would be convenient and awesome to have, this story must be heard from the beginning, even if there are tangents and self-contained plots all over the timeline. The story isn’t in chronological order, but there’s a certain finesse to the way the story is handled in the order it was released that would soil the effort if you came on at a random arc.
On a creative front, Monogatari is consistently artistic, with exhausting amounts of witty, intellectual dialogue. Kudos to the subtitle encoders and translators for taking on the monumental task of subtitling this doozy of an anime. Spurts of tangents and philosophical quips are as common as daily greetings in Monogatari world. The dialogue is also split between an amazing cast of characters. Monogatari has always offered a bizarre mix of supernatural beings and uber-cute high school girls. It truly is like nothing else out there, and this season chose to introduce some new characters to the eclectic bunch.
So about Owarimonogatari specifically, there are two distinct halves. The first half was easily some of the best this series had to offer, and was also a rather isolated story arc. I thought Owari was on it’s way to be the definitive Monogatari chapter, but just by an extremely tiny amount, the second half underwhelmed. It promised details on a huge aspect of the Monogatari world, yet upon knowing it and having a big standoff revolving around this reveltaion, the world still feels roughly the same.
I was ready for the Monogatari story to elevate, change, or do something bold, but it kind of ended on the same artistic, symbolic send off that I’m used to. I guess that shouldn’t disappoint me, but the storyline is rapidly approaching the end and I do hope for something even more crazy to come from that. Because of that, Owarimonogatari still feels like it played it safe. But for an anime as strange and out-of-the-box as this. I think it’s safe to say that Monogatari playing it safe is still a whole lot more fresh than most anime trying to tread new ground.
One Punch Man
ONE PUUUUUUUUUNCH. I wish I could just scream that, and bang my head with alarming ferocity to communicate my feelings for this anime, but instead I’ll try to communicate this in a calm and calcula-ONE PUUUUUUUUUUNCH!
So we have a new breakthrough anime folks. We have every reason to celebrate because it is VERY rare for an anime to get so popular that it eclipses whatever animated series are airing on western broadcasts as well. Generally popular anime will only be talked about within the anime circles, but this time it was different. One Punch Man hit the anime community as hard as Saitama’s godly straight punch, and because of that, word leaked out to the general nerd community at large. One Punch Man became a known entity to people who hadn’t even considered anime before. This is an action comedy anime of epic proportions, and it was handled perfectly by the veteran studio Madhouse.
This anime has a simple premise that opens up room for all sorts of little events and battles of the week. Saitama wanted to be a hero so badly that he trained until he went bald. Upon doing so, he became so strong that nothing challenges him anymore and he walks around town looking like a meek doofus with nothing better to do. It’s this contrast of the bold superhero and bored citizen that makes the comedy hit right at home almost every time. The complete lack of effort on Saitama’s part isn’t boring, it’s hilarious. The comedy echoes across all the characters because you just can’t have normal interactions with Saitama, because he’s not normal; he’s extraordinary.
The quirkiness of this anime is part of the reason it attracted such a large audience. It makes you laugh in a way that a lot of anime just can’t seem to do. It’s comedy is much more universal in that respect. People always talk about British humor, japanese humor, and so on and so forth. It’s a shame that we create these lines that divide the way we laugh, when smiles are often symbolic of the one universal language. But here comes One Punch Man, making comedy anyone can laugh at.
While the comedy is the true reason it puts smiles on its watcher’s faces, the action, and animation of such, is a bar-raising achievement for the animation industry. One Punch Man isn’t making waves for it’s jokes alone. This is one of the finest works of animated motion to grace thine eyes. One Punch Man is a visual spectacle just as much as it is an adrenaline-infused comedy. It’s almost cruel that this anime had only a 12 episode run without any announcement of a continuation. So be warned, the story will not conclude in a way that you can say you had all you want of this world. I can only pray that Madhouse will continue this masterpiece one day.
It’s just a little too soon to say, but we might have our next Fullmetal Alchemist or Hunter X Hunter on our hands right here. This is a beautiful thing, and something that I only dream of happening in my day-to-day anime life. If you haven’t seen Hunter X Hunter of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, then what do I mean by this statement? See, Hunter X Hunter and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood are two anime that I personally feel have taken the action genre to the proverbial promised land and delivered what is essentially an anime so good that I consider them the best of their breed. Noragami feels like it’s becoming one of them. I know I said Nanatsu no Taizai had potential earlier this year, but this is much more than potential. Noragami has already demonstrated what it’s capable of. It’s just a matter of giving us more at the same level of quality, and driving us home to a conclusion.
Noragami hits a strong balance of comedy and action with an articulately developed story and a truly thoughtful setting. More than once, I have sat in pure respect at how well this anime is crafted. A lot of the credit goes to the source, the mangaka, for creating this interesting world, and just as much credit goes to Bones for animating and bringing this anime to life in gorgeous detail. While there have been very small pacing issues in the tail end of this season, what ultimately transpired from beginning to end has been nothing short of breathtaking.
What I love the most about Noragami is what it chooses to focus on with all of this drama, comedy, and action to phase through. Over all of that, it’s all about the character’s motivations and feelings. The climax of this season isn’t the hero’s triumph, it’s the hero’s apology. The most moving moment isn’t our hero saving someone, it’s our hero being saved by getting something he truly cherishes. It’s these softer moments that ring louder than all the bombastic action and heavy-hitting drama that makes Noragami something truly memorable.
I can’t shy away from the actual action. As much as I harp on about the things that compliment an action scene, I do always like to see some truly stellar combat scenes. Noragami is unique here. There isn’t much choreography, but what it lacks for in that, it makes up for with the incredibly cool dynamic of their Regalia, the weapons they wield. Each weapon is a unique character, much like Soul Eater, who have moods and fears. Combat turns into neat intricate opportunities for dialogue. For example, the gods that are fighting are enemies, but the weapons they are using are friends with each other, causing hesitancy to cause lethal damage. It then becomes a race on which god can convince their weapon to steel themselves and deliver a fatal blow. The synergies they discover, and the detail put into these side characters make a on-on-one battle more like a multi-faceted chess match between much more than two combatants.
Noragami has something distinctive to offer that permeates every aspect of its identity. It’s story about gods having a hierarchy much like our own makes them extremely relatable, as it mirrors our own societal standards. Its comedy stays strong at the forefront making sure you have just as much delight as there is despair in its highly evocative drama. And the action has an interesting perspective by having multiple characters associated with each person involved in the fight. It truly is an anime to keep your eye on and did everything it could to blow the anime community away this season. I can only hope that it’s returning very soon and that it can keep up this momentum. After it’s first season, many wondered if Noragami had more to offer, and now, after this second season, we all have our answer. Noragami is here to stay.
What a short list, especially for a fall season. I had a lot of drops, but where the quantity really matters is among the ones I rate highly, and seeing how there was four anime that I gave a 9 or higher to, that’s a pretty damn good season to me. Now it’s on to the Winter 2016 season where there is actually a staggering amount of anime I am interested in seeing. See you there, and thank you reading. I missed a couple anime this season that I wanted to try, such as the new Gundam, so feel free to post your thoughts about whatever aired this season.