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 spring 2015 . . .
Best of the Best
Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works 2nd Season from ufotable It seems like if you checked certain parts of the Internet then Unlimited Blade Works can’t win for losing. Die hard Type-Moon fans seems to be upset that everything they wanted was not crammed into the adaptation and disliked the new material added to the series. Outside observers were upset the series is not more like Fate/Zero and wished the series moved father away from its visual novel roots. It seemed like it was getting it from both ends with no one really being happy.
I have to say I for one enjoyed the experience. Ufotable did a good job of cutting out a lot of the material that worked in the visual novel but did not translate well into anime while adding in some strong new material with Nasu’s help. I thought all of the Atram Galiast story-line really added to Caster’s character who traditionally one of the more under developed Servants. Ufotable also did a great job off adding visual flair and dynamism to a lot of the more exciting scenes in the story.
I acknowledge that the pace did slow down in the second half of the series but I never felt the series utterly dragged. It just probably could have cut the two hour-long episodes to even out the material in the two halves. But such is 20/20 hindsight. I just have a greater tolerance for hiccups in pacing as long as the overall piece works well.
In the end I think people just did not want Shiro to be anything other than Rin’s sidekick. When that turned out not to be the case they seemed as if they were genuinely betrayed. My only advice is to go back in time and convince Nasu not to listen to Takeuchi and keep Ayaka Sajyou as the main character. Other than that scenario you just have to accept that Shiro is the main character and the story follows his journey at its core.
Ufotable made Unlimited Blade Works their own while keeping true to the spirit of the original. I don’t think you can ask for much more in an adaptation. I know I will be recommending this version for years to come.
The last season of Kuroko’s Basketball gives us both an outlook for the future of the players as well as a flashback to the middle school years of the Generation of Miracles. Prior to this, we had only been told about how the Generation developed into the cream of the crop but ultimately fell apart as a group. Once the enigmatic Akashi appears, it was a perfect time to fill in the gaps.
Akashi’s central role as the Generation’s captain and final boss was set up with perfect tension. His abilities and what made him the leader were kept as closely guarded secrets. Admittedly, this get to crazy shonen fighting power levels here near the end but the series is able to bring it a little closer to earth by the end.
Now I need the sequel manga to get an anime. I NEED IT.
Sakura Mamiya from Rin-ne Sakura Mamiya is an odd duck. Supernatural events are constantly happening around her. She is one of the few humans who can see ghost, spirits, and demons but no matter what happens in front of her she keeps a stiff upper lip in a way that would make British brigadier general harrumph in approval. It often makes her seem more out there than the crazy characters that surround her. That might make her seem like a boring character but I think it gives her a unique charm.
Plus if you know anything about Rumiko Takahashi’s previous works then you will realize what an amazing subversion of expectations. When the stereotypical Rumiko Takahashi heroine would be blowing up because of jealousy or a perceived slight Sakura instead just observes the proceedings with a level-headed and logical manner. It is really only a joke that works with over three decades of build up.
But I’m the type of person who loves a joke that takes that long to execute.
Iggy from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders The final member of the group provides much-needed back-up throughout the season, from the desert battle against N’Doul to Vanilla Ice in Dio’s mansion. But none more awesome than his one-on-one battle against Dio’s guard bird Petshop.
Iggy isn’t lovable dog, but despite his attempts to stay aloof from the rest of the group, he becomes a member anyway. This created a stunning, and beautiful, emotional finale. I guess I really can’t resist any dog.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders – Battle in Egypt from David Production The defeat of Dio Brando may have taken six generations of the Joestar family (from George Joestar I to Jotaro Kujo) but it all comes to a climax in Egypt. It was a fight filled with sacrifices, quick thinking, hard fighting, and a bit of the requisite Hirohiko Araki bizarre humor. If you had not seen a previous version of the story I think which characters live and which don’t make it home could be very shocking. The series could have very easily pulled it punches but overall it does not hesitate to show how serious the stakes are in this fight. The final confrontation in the series wraps up both the decades long tragedy that began with the Stone Mask and well as the deadly road trip of the Stardust Crusaders. If this had been the ending of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure I think it would have felt very apropos.
If nothing else there is a certain delicious irony that Dio’s continual hunger for more power is actually what was ultimate undoing. It is a nice thematic ending to the series.
Thankfully the series continues after this point so I think we are all looking forward to seeing an anime version of Diamond Is Unbreakable.
Kuroko’s Basketball S3 from Production I.G In many sports series, I am okay whether they win or lose but I had a very definite outcome I wanted for Kuroko’s Basketball and I was deeply satisfied. As far as the bit of epilogue after the tournament, I was surprised that certain characters had a bit more of a happy ending.
Best LOL JoJo’s Moment
Oingo and Boingo (and Hol Horse) Not Being Able to Win for Losing It is a testament to what idiots Oingo and Boingo are that despite the fact that Tohth should guarantee that they defeat the Stardust Crusaders they are somehow able to wrestle defeat from the jaws of victory. You know that it is not going to be Oingo and Boingo that kill anyone in the group so most of the comedy is discovering how the duo spectacularly fail.
Then when you add in Hol Horse who is the King of Defeat and Boingo is clearly going to lose. The only question at that point is how.
Also the endings for both episodes is remarkable.
Joseph and Avdol VS. Mariah Carey I can’t even say “Joseph and Avdol VS. Mariah Carey” without cracking up. Granted most things with Joseph in Part 3 are fantastically funny, but this kind of took the cake. The magnetism is used to its maximum hilarious potential. And it ends rather cleverly.
Best Couple (Real or Imagined)
Rin and Saber from Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works 2nd Season Did anyone expect anything else? I always thought these two work together well and would actually complement each other romantically. Rin needs someone who can stand beside her with straightforward support while Saber needs someone to ease the burdens she puts on herself. Sadly we did not get the visual novels good ending where this is pretty much the canonical ending (with Rin also being able to have a Shiro on the side.)
Que sera, sera.
Urara Shiraishi and Ryu Yamada from Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches Despite my disappointment in this adaptation, nothing could bring down the great interactions between Yamada and Shiraishi. Fun, funny, and sweet. Plus, they are actually able to get their feelings across to one another.
Best Continuing Show
Go! Princess PreCure from Toei Animation Other than a small pocket of fandom most anime fans tend to ignore the PreCure series. Being the Gundam of magical girl shows it has its distinct ups and downs but when it hits it out of the park it can be amazingly good. The 12th iteration of the Pretty Cure series is shaping up to be one of the best.
Go! Princess PreCure’s DNA is made up of previous magical girl series as well as the total shojo catalog. It borrow from everything including Dear Brother, Maria-sama ga Miteru, and most importantly Revolutionary Girl Utena. It is not as dark as those series but it is also targeted at a younger audience.
But beyond some shutouts to old shojo the series is just solid. It has engaging characters, great fights, and good laughs. It is really what Sailor Moon Crystal should have been. If you’re looking for a magical girl show to watch then you don’t have to look any father than Go! Princess PreCure.
My Love Story!! from Madhouse Every time I get to watch this, it becomes the best part of that day. The tale of first love portrayed here is optimistic and true and not so serious. But even better than that is the deeply felt friendship between Takeo and Suna. It is one of those great romance series that says you don’t choose your significant other over your friends, they are equals.
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches “Kuchiduke Diamond” by WEAVER Despite any problems me may have with the anime of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches the opening is not among them. It does an excellent job capturing the various moods of the series while having a very distinct visual style of its own. It embodies the sexy nature of the series alongside the comedy and romance without selling any of the aspects short with its story book motif. The song does well to bring that all together with a catchy little tune.
I wish the series itself had more time to express all of that as well.
Sound! Euphonium “Dream Solister” by True Once it gets past the obligatory “hey these are cute girls” bit it dives into a more moody look then brightens as the music elevates. The full ensemble parts are glorious in a way that screams YAY MUSIC ANIME!
Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works 2nd Season “ring your bell (in the silence)” by Kalafina Sometimes less is more. The ending of episode 15 is just a slow version of the standard opening with a melancholy visual of a solitary walk through a wintry forest. But all of that is the only appropriate ending after the cruel and grisly execution of Illya. The ending knows that a quite moment of reflection is needed after such an event and gives it the appropriate gravitas.