How did 2015 treat you, anime fans? To assist with your reflection on that, I’m here to dish out my “best of” in all manner of categories to celebrate and honor the anime that made the most of their time and effort. The anime that boldly demonstrated just what this industry is capable of, and perhaps more specifically, what it has never been able to do before. With our usual four seasons, each with dozens of anime on air making up the selection pool, just selecting the nominees was a difficult process, but that laborious task is finished and it’s finally time to reward 2015’s very best anime.
Let me explain how this whole award thing works. I’m not omniscient, therefore, I haven’t seen every anime that aired this year. I tried to watch every anime that I feel like would make a difference in the awards but there may be a couple that I just haven’t gotten around to watching yet. That being said, I have watched the breadth of what was both popular and critically acclaimed this year so that should hardly be an issue. I debated a lot between doing this impartially like I did last year, meaning I try to take out my own bias and logically think what anime were the best. Then I realized, you know what, this entire blog is to represent me, not to show me trying to represent everyone else, therefore I decided, laughing at my last year’s self, to make this strictly what I liked about anime in 2015. So…I have a few types of awards:
Medals – These are jokes, or just things I appreciate. There is no nomination or “winner. ” Only special things I want to shout out.
Special Awards – These are targeted to smaller things that don’t necessarily reflect the anime themselves, but do play an important part in what I love about anime.
Production Awards – These are targeted toward the staff behind each anime and the skills they use to bring the anime to life, culminating in the Best Director and Best Studio awards.
Overall Awards – These consider the anime themselves as a final product and the things they offer to their audience, concluding with the anime of the year.
~~ Medals ~~
Not Having Fan Service When We All Thought You Would
Maria the Virgin Witch (Winner) – With a title like that, and with the inescapable amount of fan service permeating almost every popular anime today, and not having it, you can have this medal.
Most Spoiled Character
Bell – Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? (Winner) – You get saved twice by a legendary woman warrior. You have a gifted ability to level up really fast. You get a weapon created by one of the most skilled blacksmiths in the pantheon. You gain an ability that literally makes you win when you’re about to lose. You have every single woman giving you attention, assistance, and even food. You might as well have this medal too, you preposterously pampered prince piece of poop.
Mentioning a Dragon in Episode 1 Then Never Showing One
The Heroic Legend of Arslan (Winner) – Dragons are pretty cool. If you’re going to talk about one, then don’t ever think you can get away with not showing one. This medal is more of a warning to never do it again.
Best Cosplay Bait
Rokka no Yuusha (Winner) – The character designs inspired the formation of group cosplays around the world and allowed every man to have an elaborate red pony tail and every girl to wear almost nothing but a flower as a gun combat suit.
~~ Special Awards ~~
Best Anime Opening
An anime opening is a very important piece of animation. It repeats before every episode making it serve a role as a mood-setter or ignite the excitement of its audience consistently every week. Because of this, animation studios pay extra attention to what goes into an opening. It needs to represent the anime, yet stand as a work of art on its own. Some openings outlast even the popularity of the anime themselves becoming memorable pieces of animation that weather the tides of time. At any rate, not every opening is a winner, but here are the ones are as far as 2015 goes for me.
One Punch Man (Nominee) – One Punch Man’s opening is one of the most fun and over-the-top openings of the year. A crucial part of this is the hair-metal song that pierces the air like none have heard since the 80’s. The opening cycles through Saitama battling a gauntlet of foes, including a poor little star that gets punched to smithereens, which successfully summons the adrenaline of every viewer out there. The image of bald heads getting struck by lightning is very tough to forget, and that’s what makes this opening unforgettable. Watch it!
Noragami Aragoto (Nominee) – Noragami Aragoto brings a more reserved, stylized opening that lets the song evoke more than it normally gets a chance to do. The song is personally my favorite one used in an opening this year, but upon examining the rest of the opening, it didn’t quite take the prize. While the black and white background offers a great visual motif, the animation and overall construction of the opening was a bit archetypal. Watch it!
Gangsta (Nominee) – This will be the last opening Manglobe ever brings us, so I’m glad it at least presents itself well enough to become one of the nominees. Visual effects and deft use of colors are the highlight of this opening as animation takes a back seat. The song and the overall visual flare reminds me more of a video editor flexing their muscles. While the constant stimulation was nice, it wasn’t enough to take the prize this year. Watch it!
Owarimonogatari (Runner Up) – Very rarely do anime openings try to explore a completely different art style from the anime it’s representing, but that’s what happened with Owarimonogatari’s third opening. Monogatari openings tend to be rather forgettable which is strange considering Shaft’s dominant presence in the animation industry. Luckily, this final opening for the season offers a highly evocative vignette of art resembling stained glass mixed with abstract background designs. The one thing that makes this opening’s impression fall short is that it comes with the caveat of having a short run time. Just when the opening starts really selling its mood, it ends, and just a little too briefly. Watch it!
Death Parade (Winner) – I really had to watch this opening several times before the thought finally clunked into my skull, “This is a really good opening.” I was worried that I was being a bit of a sensationalist and only choosing this opening because of its surprising contrast to the serious and grim tone of the anime. There’s a lot more to this anime than simply “putting your hands up.” Underneath the dance-pop surface, this opening brings with it a decent amount of animation that really causes the characters to come to life as well as stunning visual design with the backdrops on display that you almost fail to notice because you’re too distracted by the dancing. It’s a work of art that manages to spice itself up with a dance theme without losing its artistic integrity. Watch it!
Best Anime Music Video
An anime music video is a video that takes clips of one or more anime and edits them to one or more songs. That’s the loose definition, at any rate. The AMV scene is a bustling subculture of anime that has some truly talented video editors showcasing the best of their ability and time. Many who don’t know the craft dismiss it because it’s using existing animation and music without bringing anything new, but it only takes one look at any of these nominees to prove that there is an art form here, and I absolutely think it should be represented.
Beat o Clock (Nominee) – The author describes this as a trip through his mind whenever he hears the song that he used in the video. A fitting description as the entire AMV feels like a nonstop sense of free-falling in different directions. Featuring an extremely high-rate of transitions and visual effects, this is an editing tour de force that might make some of your heads spin. Regardless, it’s a brilliant use of a video editing program to communicate a lucid, fast-paced dream state. Watch it!
Liar (Nominee) – Liar makes use of amazing atmosphere and color strengths to nail its dark, intense vibe. In addition, the visual effects and subtle typography makes this AMV stand out amongst others going for the same tone. It’s great use of eyes and facial expressions and clear communication of its somber story makes this more than just a demonstration of editing techniques, yet those same editing techniques carry the AMV all the way to the end. Watch it!
Forsaken (Nominee) – This is a creator who knows how to make their AMV flow. Forsaken takes it’s viewers on a haunting journey of several tragic characters by using constant, dynamic transitions that make the entire AMV feel like one smooth escalation of severe and gripping animation. While the editing doesn’t quite match the previous two nominees, the creator’s sense of motion and guiding the viewer is not to be laughed at. Watch it!
Beauty and a Glitch (Runner Up) – There’s a lot to think about when making an AMV. You almost want to shove as much technical prowess into each frame as possible just to distinguish your AMV from others, but the creator of Beauty and a Glitch understands the finer aspects to this. He knows when to amp up the effects and when to let them rest. AMV’s shouldn’t be one constant sense of speed and this AMV showcases that perfectly. The creator almost becomes one with the song by breathing when the song relaxes, and erupting when the song hits its loudest moments. While most other great AMV makers use a song to enhance the anime, Beauty and a Glitch also uses the anime to enhance the song. It’s a beautiful synchronization that uses the animation and music perfectly. In most other years, this AMV would have been a surefire winner. Watch it!
Within (Winner) – “Within” is the extremely rare example of when an AMV becomes more than the sum of its parts, and presents itself as a true work of masterful production. Using one eye-catching editing trick, this creator unleashed one unique, majestic scene after another. And while the individual clips were already the true innovation, they were used to weave a slow-paced, but powerful AMV that absolutely squeezes every bit of emotion out of each clip. That’s not to say that there were several other technically difficult things purring under the hood. There are numerous visually arresting moments that only exist in this video, and the fact that Within creates actual artwork with the anime scenes it’s using means that this AMV did what no other did this year, and gets the crowning achievement of Best AMV of 2015. Watch it!
Best Surprise Anime
Plastic Memories (Nominee) – When Plastic Memories aired its first episode, anime viewers were caught off-guard by the surprisingly emotional subject matter. What seemed like a cutesy, upbeat robot story quickly turned into one of the most significant looks into the sadness that can occur when robots reach the end of their operating span. While the anime pulled out a couple more gut-punching moments, it eventually turned into a more typical romance anime, but it’s touching look into the relationships between robots and people was definitely a delightful thing for anime.
Food Wars (Runner Up) – First, it was a shockingly sexual portrayal of women and the way they consume food. Then it became a detailed, and exciting look into the competitive cooking scene with a bit of anime flair. I was surprised twice, then, with Food Wars and I’m glad the second revelation was that this anime was actually pretty good.
Yona of the Dawn (Winner) – Yona of the Dawn seemed like any other shoujo (young girl) adventure. It’s first couple episodes had very little positive reception among all types of viewers, and I was one of the vocal ones in their ranks thinking they ruined a perfectly good story. The real treat was for those who stuck with it into the more developed part of the story because its second season which aired early in 2015 was enough to jump its average score back into the realm of the critically acclaimed and it became one of my favorite anime to discuss with others, only none of my other friends were watching it. Yona of the Dawn is a perfect representative for anime that get much better than they let on.
Worst Surprise Anime
Dragon Ball Super (Nominee) – Was it really happening? Was Dragon Ball finally coming back with a story being written by the original creator? The legitimacy of the return of Dragon Ball was palpable and it seemed like the era of Super Saiyans was going to hit the anime world like a Kamehameha. Then we watched it and realized… it kind of sucks. Perhaps it’s the lack of the English dub or Bruce Faulconer’s music, but the new Dragon Ball has yet to hit the same quality as any of the good moments from Dragon Ball or Dragon Ball Z. In fact, the worst part is that, even though the story is penned by the creator, it’s the most basic plot he’s ever written.
Tokyo Ghoul Root A (Runner Up) – Tokyo Ghoul became a sensation. It’s attractive and cool character design had cosplayers and gothic appreciators positively drooling with praise. Most eyes were on Kaneki who just went through one of the coolest transformations in anime. Root A was where all the pay off was supposed to happen, but it never came. Root A turned into a story that deviated from the original manga in all the wrong ways culminating in an ending that, despite being very well-directed, almost lost as many fans as the original series gained, including myself.
God Eater (Winner) – When Ufotable makes an anime, certain things are expected. None of those things involve a “bad anime.” Ufotable are considered the frontrunners of the animation industry and elevate the quality of what anime can do repeatedly with each of their new works. So when it was announced that they were adapting God Eater, many assumed it would be an action series that the eyes would never, ever forget. What hurt the most, was not that the anime was actually bad, but that this anime also looked worse than their last anime, Fate/Stay Night. On top of that, production issues plagued the once untouchable studio making their godly position seem all the more human. It wasn’t God Eater that was the unpleasant surprise as much as how much ufotable screwed up with this anime. A studio that is not known for messing up on anything.
Best Male Character
When looking for the Best Character, there are a few things that get factored. Most importantly is how well the character is explored and the breadth of their development. This often means that if they simply have more screen time, they naturally have more room to grow. This doesn’t necessarily mean that time is handled well, however. Things like their personality, design, and unique traits also come into play as they round off what really constructs a definitive, memorable character. Heroes, villains, and side characters alike were all put under this lens to see who were the best characters of 2015.
Saitama – One Punch Man (Nominee) – One punch from this guy will make quite the impact, but it’s not a guaranteed victory when it comes to Best Character. Saitama still had more to say than his fists thanks to his endearingly simpleton lifestyle that makes him more relatable to the average commoner. His purely intrinsic way of thinking both baffles and inspires all the other characters which makes him shine brighter than you’d expect. That, or is bald head.
Yato – Noragami (Nominee) – Yato, you delightful, yet detestable god, you always know how to win me over no matter what type of character you are. He has a wide range of defining moments that continue to paint him as a morally ambiguous, decency-imbalanced fool who acts like an immature child and a wise elder at the same time. He’s tough to put your finger on because he is revealed in layers and he also has a boorish facade that makes him seem less genuine than he’s letting on. But the fact of the matter is that Yato is always thinking with a resoundingly good heart, and it’s the muddled emotional exterior that causes his indecipherable persona to be such a rewarding thing to delve into.
Slaine Troyard – Aldnoah Zero (Nominee) – As far as pure development goes, Slaine takes it all. He’s a pure vessel of progression as he learns to shoulder the criticism and disapproval of every noble around him and transforms into an intimidating, ruthless pilot who’s mere presence demands reverence. It’s one of the best character transformations of the year and that alone assures Slaine’s spot as a nominee.
Hikigaya – My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU (Runner Up) – We all like good-natured, nice guys, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get tired of them, and that’s where Hikigaya comes in. A massively dark contrast to the good boys of yore, Hiki is an anti social, brooding, and highly intelligent anti-hero who’s journey into romance brings a much more harsh perspective than most would be accustomed to.
Akashi – Kuroko’s Basketball (Winner) – Kuroko’s Basketball has a great cast of fully developed characters, but in 2015, it was Akashi’s turn in the spotlight. Unlike the other characters, Akashi feels more “conceptual” in that he was an amalgamation of cool ideas that could have easily ruined the process of making him feel like a real person to the audience. But luckily, everything from his god complex to his split personality disorder was handled carefully, and believably. He became a truly intimidating character who’s psychological imbalances made him more and more fascinating with each episode. Maybe it’s fitting that someone who finds winning equivocal to breathing to be the number one pick for Best Male Character.
Best Female Character
Nona – Death Parade (Nominee) – Nona was my personal “best girl” of 2015 but the qualifications for that not-as-noble award are hardly as strict as the actual award here. Regardless, Nona still commands a strong presence whenever she’s on screen thanks to her professional and blunt demeanor and her frequent utterances of philosophical advice. Being the manager of one of the most destiny-altering facilities in the universe isn’t an easy job, but Nona shows her ability to handle it in stride. Her little quirk of resting her hands on her overall straps is just undeniably the cutest thing in the universe.
Nao Tomori – Charlotte (Nominee) – I can hardly count the number of times that a lead character in a high-school based anime, whether male or female, was such a shallow impersonation of a human being. It was almost a breath of fresh air when the duo, Nao and Yuu, were given solid introductions in Charlotte. But Nao stuck out even more so because of her no-nonsense attitude as well as the way she played the roles of both a big sister and a romantic interest. She had a fire-tongued vocabulary, yet she had a soft, tragic-ridden side to her that just highlights her tenacity since she doesn’t let her past get the best of her.
Sodachi Oikura – Owarimonogatari (Nominee) – Psychotic characters are insultingly poorly-depicted these days, or perhaps, since always. For the creators who simply think that psychos can be portrayed as hyper-emotional idiots are really dealing a dire blow to the mentally ill. That is why Sodachi’s lengthy and excessively detailed monologue about her own insecurities devoured my attention whole. Here is a true psychotic character being portrayed completely faithfully so that you can witness and attempt to relate to every point that drove her to the point of insanity.
Yona – Yona of the Dawn (Runner Up) – When the entire anime is poised around the eventual maturing of your lead character, you better hope she packs enough depth to keep the audience engaged, and luckily Yona is exactly that. While her initial appearance is almost as form-figured shoujo as it gets, her gradual growth into the headstrong, steel-willed Princess Yona is satisfyingly realistic. Since the season ends before she reaches the pinnacle of her ascension, that does keep her from overtaking the winner of this category.
Bishamon – Noragami Aragoto (Winner) – Noragami is no pushover with its roster having passed roughly a dozen well-executed characters in it’s short 24 episode run thus far, but Bishamon was the epicenter of the recent, harrowing arc that explored her home life, and her past. Bishamon is as tough as they come, commanding a terrifying troupe of Regalia, (living weapons) yet she also shelters any wandering lost soul that she comes across. She’s a motherly figure with a conviction to the greater good so strong that she victimizes herself to it. Her story in Noragami caused her to really value what the true value of “saving” someone is, and makes her swallow a bitter pill of maturity to realize that there is a great responsibility to being a savior.
CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 >>>