This is something new for 2015. We’ve decided to starting highlighting each anime season with a mini-version of our end of the year awards. We hope this helps cap-off the season with a splash (and helps us remember all of great things by the time the end of the year rolls around). So without further ado, our picks for the best of winter 2015 . . .
Best of the Best
SHIROBAKO from P.A. Works It takes a special show to warm the hearts of the bitter and jaded in the Anitwitter community. Shirobako was the show that actually had a lot of people actually tuning in week after week to watch a show out of legitimate excitement and joy as opposed to spite and obligation. That alone makes it stand out from the pack.
The reason Shirobako was able to do that was because it infectious with it love for the creation of animation. You can’t watch the show and help but appreciate the hard work that goes into making anime. But it is not all sunshine and puppies. They throw in enough real life BS and petty politics so that is not just rose-colored view of industry. At the same time it keeps from falling into the pits of despair so it is not a black comedy. I’m sure there would be an audience for a savage parody of the anime industry (sort of like the Mellow Maromi episode of Paranoia Agent) but I enjoyed this mixture of realism and wish-fulfillment. It has just the right proportions of frustration and triumph to make you empathize with the people making the shows you watch every week.
Any show that enhances all the other shows you watch has to be praised for its accomplishments.
I was a huge fan of the original OVA Death Billiards, but was wary of them taking the concept and expanding if only because I didn’t want the mystique to be lost. Because of my original trepidation, I think I found Death Parade doubly impressive because it never lost what made the original great.
But it did add more layers such as what arbiters are, Decim’s particular quirks, and exactly why Chiyuki is there as an assistant. It added them and then satisfied me with their answers and endings.
Emma Guzman from Garo: The Animation In general anime is medium that is filled with young people. The stereotypical anime cast is made up of teenagers with a few older characters mostly being in the background. So anytime we see a woman who is a bad ass widow as a main character it is something worth praising.
Emma is hyper competent and cool. While she is not a Makai Knights her alchemist abilities are quite powerful and she often holds her own with the male members of the cast. The fact that she is instrumental in every fight she participates in is praiseworthy.She was more of a fighter who had a different style than the rest of the cast as opposed to a mere support character.
She also has a decently well realized sense of sexuality. It is one thing to have a sexy older woman. They are not uncommon. It is another thing to make her sexually active in a way that promotes her in such a firmly empowered way. It is far too easy to make her hyper sexual for titillation but that was not going on here. It is merely a lightly touched upon aspect of her being. It is neither played for laughs or something that overwhelms her characters other traits.
She is definitely a good character to look at if you want an example of how to do older female character correctly.
Fumina Hoshino from Gundam Build Fighters Try The instigator, the captain, the glue which holds team Try Fighters together. I was so pleased to see her evolve over the course of the show alongside her teammates, especially in the building of her Gunpla. In the end, she wa able to see her personal battle through to the end while also making a heroic sacrifice typical of heroes.
I hardly need to write more about her though considering we did a whole post about her fantasticness.
P.S. I definitely endorse Al’s choice of Emma!
Yurikuma Arashi from Silver Link I saw some people complain that the ending to Yurikuma Arashi was pretty much a just standard Kunihiko Ikuhara ending. That is like complaining that your desert is just a big piece of delicious tiramisu. I guess if that is not to your tastes then you as disappointed but I got exactly what I wanted.
I feel like with Revolutionary Girl Utena and Penguindrum I was right on board from the start. Yurikuma Arashi had me a little worried. I saw that there was a good deal of potential in the themes and symbolism he was laying down but the crazy levels of fan service planted some doubts. Did Ikuhara just sell out to the dark side of the force? As the series went on it was clear that he had more meaning hidden beneath the surface just like his previous shows. By the end I can’t say I had deciphered everything but his primary message came through loud and clear.
He ends a little but ambiguous but always satisfyingly strong. When you see the blossoming love between the pigtailed laser operator and her undead cyborg bear you know things are going to be all right.
Yowamushi Pedal: Grande Road from TMS It was a long, arduous race with the 3rd day being so eventful that it lasted an entire season. When that journey came to a close I felt my heart swell with pride and with that bit of melancholy that accompanies the end of a story.
How does one say goodbye? Yowamushi Pedal did it surprisingly well with perhaps the most perfect send off from Onoda that one could have.
Best Surprise of the Season
Yowamushi Pedal: Grande Road Final I think the people who fought it out in the last leg of the Inter High surprised me a great deal. If you asked me at the start of the season who I thought would be still standing in the last mile of the race there were certain characters I was 100% sure to be involved that dropped out for one reason or another. I just assumed they would go the distance. It was clearly foreshadowed that members of all the main teams would not be able to complete the race. That was a given. But how it all went down caught me off guard.
That was a pleasant surprise overall.
Durarara!! Starts Becoming Baccano! Obviously the writer has certain quirks and personalities that he likes to play with, but I didn’t really imagine the residents of Ikebukuro as coming closer to the mob trappings of Baccano! and yet here we are.
Best Couple (Real or Imagined)
Decim and Chiyuki from Death Parade We usually pick characters here for shipping purposes. Who do we think has a great sexual chemistry? The thing is I’m not even sure if sex is something that Decim could personally care about. So in that regard they are a poor choice. But their emotional connection is unparalleled.
At first Decim and Chiyuki are just coworkers at the at Quindecim bar presiding over the judgment of souls. As the series goes on as both of them learn more about what Chiyuki’s role is they forge an intense connection that clearly changes both of them. By the end of the series they have a bond that is clearly more than a friendship.
They are probably one of the more memorable couples I have seen in a while. If you don’t get a little choked up by the last episode I might be a little worried about you.
Best Laugh Out Loud Moment
Yurikuma Arashi “Shaba-da-doo” This was a simple pick:
The Rolling Girls “Hito ni Yasashiku” by The Rolling Girls If Rolling Girls got one piece of near universal praise it was for its visuals. They really stand out with a colorful and energetic panache. The opening to the show highlights that perfectly. The song really captures the upbeat road trip nature of the show with a bit of its rock and roll sensibilities. In many ways it is all that is best and brightest about the show.
SHIROBAKO “Platinum Jet” by Donut◎Quintet It makes sense. The show that is all about making anime should have an ending that is the same exact thing. The credits show how much work goes into even the simplest still frame at the end of an episode. Every week the ending was changed and it showed another of the four girls being added to the picture as she goes from being just some concept art to a fully rendered character. Just another case of something seeming very simple but actually be far more work than most people would ever realize.
Plus I think Kate probably appreciated that those dolls were no longer the focus of the ending. I know I did.