As is traditional, we should ring in the new year by looking back on the one that came before it.
This year we invited our readers to answer the yearly questions we ask ourselves: What was the best anime of the year? Who were the stand-out characters? Who was TEH HOT? And various other questions. Some of their answers match our own and sometimes they are wildly different. Thank you to those who joined us in this merry exercise! We hope to bring it back again in 2016.
Anime of the Year
Yuri Kuma Arashi by Silver Link Fantastic art direction, a fairytale structure, and social commentary? There really wasn’t any other choice for me as far as AOTY 2015 goes. Death Parade came close in terms of story, style, atmosphere, and characters, but something created to actually make a difference for those suffering themselves in an oppressive atmosphere was too great to forsake. Score another win for Ikuhara!
Ushio and Tora by MAPPA Honestly I had no idea that I would end up loving this show as much as I have but it has really been great. The weird throwback nature of the show coupled with the sense of humor and great action has made it a delight every week. It’s still going but it has definitely brought me the most joy this year.
Death Parade by MADHOUSE I enjoyed a lot of anime this year, but find that the ones I end up remembering are the ones that truly moved me. Death Parade took me through the highest highs and the lowest lows of mankind, presented vividly and viscerally every week. The stunning presentation and solid narrative drew me into the world and kept me invested in the fates of the characters, both main cast and plenty of the one-off ones. It was one of the most original experiences of this year, and I can’t think of a single title more deserving of my praise.
Anime Woman of the Year
Wakako Murasaki from Wakako-zake A character as round as her head despite her 5-minute stage time, Wakako’s a 26-year-old woman doin’ it for herself! She’s simultaneously a monument to living for the moment of sensory experiences as wrought by food and drink and a stand-in for every put-upon salaryman/loner/introvert. Every pshuuu that escapes her lips is a sweet nothing whispered in the audience’s ears. There was no female character I looked forward to seeing more on a weekly basis than Wakako.
Emma Guzman from GARO: The Animation Something my Man and Woman of the Year share is that they are supporting characters who frequently ended up stealing the limelight through their commendable actions. Ema proved herself as a remarkably capable woman, often on par with the armored Makai Knights and Horrors doing battle throughout the series. Quick with both her wit and her weapons, and providing an endlessly entertaining rapport with Leon and Germain, she had no trouble winning me over. I feel like it’s still a little too easy to throw a rock at anime and hit a weak-willed or otherwise ineffective female character (be it for plot purposes or not), so it’s nice to see another one trying to upset that ratio.
Anime Man of the Year
Takeo Goda from My LOVE Story!! A Superman whose kryptonite is thinking himself worthy or romantic adoration? There’s no bigger fantasy trip for geeks like me who share the kryptonite but none of the prowess. And even though he’s clueless when it comes to relationships, it’s nice to see a male rom-com lead who’s thoughtful instead of a dick and full of action instead of inaction.
Makoto Sunakawa from My LOVE Story!! Make no mistake, Takeo showed incredible heart and passion in everything he did in the series, and I really respect him. However, what impressed me just a bit more was Sunakawa’s unwavering loyalty to his friends, and his selfless efforts to help them succeed. He bailed Takeo and Yamato out of more crises than I can even recall, including many of the most potentially frustrating misunderstandings and dilemmas that could plague this genre. I’m a sucker for True Best Friends™, and Sunakawa has joined the ranks this year.
Best Mascot Character
Chiranosuke from Punch Line I like assholes, and what bigger one could you get than a spirit cat who’s so bored with the repetition of eternity that he spends all his time drinking, watching porn, and messing around with the world’s only savior just for the hell of it? Truly a cat, which I loathe. But since I love to loathe, what better to love than a cat?
Petshop from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Do you want the most TERRIFYING guard bird ever to safeguard the entrance to your secret vampire lair? Well then look no further. I’d known about Petshop prior to Part 3, but nothing could prepare me for that incredible fight. Poor Iggy held on by the skin of his teeth in this extreme Pokemon battle, and I couldn’t help but be blown away by this hawk’s sheer ferocity and imposing presence.
Runner Up in a COMPLETELY different vein: Ms. Shamour (Go! Princess Precure), princess trainer extraordinaire and friend to neighborhood cats everywhere.
Best Ensemble Cast
Working!!! by A-1 Pictures Two seasons of growing with these characters only left me wanting more, which I got in full (and then some) with this third season. Only stock-character ensemble cast I know of capable of evoking laughter as easily as tears based on ties of jokes and drama.
Kuroko’s Basketball S3 by Production I.G. It might come off as an underhanded pitch at first, giving my ensemble cast vote to team sports cast. Unlike the other sports series I’ve seen in recent times that tend to linger on single characters for a little too long or don’t provide enough interaction between everyone, I really got a good feel for everyone by the end of this series. On and off the court, these characters were full of energy and personality, and I came to empathize with almost all of them through their rivalries and comraderies. Barring, of course, the jackasses on some other teams who got what was coming to them.
Anime I Unexpectedly Liked
Tokyo Ghoul by Studio Pierrot I’m not usually one into gore, violence I can take, but not gore. But after many recommendations from my friends, both in real life and online, I finally delved into Tokyo Ghoul and I can say I loved every moment of it. The music, the setting, the themes and the characters were all awesome down to the very core.
Aquarion Logos by Satelite I actually have Alain to thank for this one. This show was insanely silly and flamboyant in all the right ways and had a perfectly applied air of self-mockery, and I would have totally passed it by because I thought it was just another mecha show. Oh, god, it’s so much more.
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches by LIDEN FILMS I’d been introduced to this series’ premise long before its anime adaption, and to be honest, I wasn’t ready to get on board with it despite the positive word of mouth. Now, there’s plenty one can say about what went wrong with said adaption, and it still took a few episodes for me to warm up to it, but by the end of its run I had been familiarized with the characters’ wide variety of major tribulations and really felt for them. Given what I’ve heard about the story past what was covered in the adaption I likely won’t be rushing to continue the story in the manga, but I think I owe it to the series to at least read that first arc in its entirety.
Fate/Stay Night S2 “Brave Shine” by Aimer Part of the reason I get excited for a new anime is not because I get new story, but because often it will include an awesome opening the likes which I have never seen. For this it needs 1. Music which is cool even without an anime for it. 2. An awesome opening sequence. which should give some idea to the plot. The opening of Fate/Stay Night Season 2 does this, and it does it brilliantly. Brave Shine by Aimer is the perfect song for the opening, and the opening sequence if awesome. Perfectly set me up for an awesome anime.
The Rolling Girls “Hito ni Yasashiku” by The Rolling Girls This was a tough choice. Other openings might have been more technically or even artistically impressive, but the sleek design and high energy got me pumped and ready for every episode.
Death Parade “Flyers” by BRADIO by and Perfect Insider “talking” by KANA-BOON by I don’t know what it is with me and dance numbers, but both picks for best OP use them. There’s a great story behind why Death Parade’s OP came to be (listen to my interview over at Ani-Gamers with animator Aya Suzuki to hear it), but the contrast it sets to the show’s atmosphere by having the cast let their collective hair down to music by J-Disco band BRADIO is dead-on perfect. The Perfect Insider uses sketchy line art and melodramatic posing/dancing to explore relationships between the three main characters, and the backing groove of “Talking” by KANA-BOON is also fantabulous.
Fate/Stay Night S2 “Brave Shine” by Aimer Apologies but it’s about to get repetitive for these next three. There were a lot—a LOT—of phenomenal opening songs this year, but I didn’t feel that all of them had the visuals to back them up. It’s that perfect combination that gets me pumped and in the mood for the show I’m about to watch. Aimer caught my attention back in her Pscyho-Pass ending theme, and has shown she can rock an opening theme just as well if not better. The melancholy but hopeful themes strewn about the opening video (and presented in top ufotable quality) never failed to fill me with anticipation for each episode.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans “Orphans Tears” by MISIA Admittedly both opening and ending are amazing for this show, but I love how the ending has all this sublime weight to it. It reminds me of some of my favorite ending themes ever.
Concrete Revolutio “Katararezu Tomo” by ZAQ Kaleidoscopic collage work, surreal/absurd imagery, and short character profiles backed by a screechy, dystopic metal/hard rock anthem is the only ED I’ve watched to completion every single episode out of all the shows this year.
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works “Ring Your Bell” by Kalafina Full disclosure: I’m an unabashed Kalafina fan and freak out whenever they drop a new single for an anime series. That said, this was still a tough competition as many of this year’s endings maintained a consistent quality. For the purposes of ending sequences, there typically isn’t as much bombast to separate one from the other, so all the contenders prominently feature still shots. This ending isn’t my pick simply for having more motion in addition to the stills, but because of the quality of the images, showcasing the stakes and the emotions in the story (much like the second ending theme of Fate/Zero). And of course, topped off with another beautiful song by Kalafina, it clinched my vote.
Favorite Sequel or Ongoing Anime
Gatchaman Crowds Insight by Tatsunoko Productions Gatchaman Crowds was a bold show that dared to re-imagine the classic Gatchaman into something directly political and experimental. Insight took this one step further without going too far into nebulous philosophizing.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans by Sunrise I couldn’t decide whether or not to give Gundam anime of the year. I opted not to just because I feel like it is still developing and I am not sure how I will feel about it in the end. That said the Gusion is cool.
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works by Ufotable The first half of UBW brought me no end of satisfaction in its adaption, and I expected nothing less from the second half. It was my most anticipated follow-up coming into the year, and it was well worth the wait. Ufotable wore its heart on its sleeve while animating this story, and no scene was left unpolished, from the most desperate struggles to its most tender moments. I didn’t think I could love this series any more than I already did, but it looks like there was just a little bit more love to give.
Favorite Sequel or Ongoing Manga
Best PreCure (From Go! Princess PreCure)
Cure Twinkle While all of the characters in Go! Princess PreCure are great, including the mascots and support characters, there really isn’t a character in all of Precure that’s quite like Cure Twinkle. Her confident yet aloof attitude, wry smile, work ethic, and ability to brighten up a room make her the best of the Princesses.
Cure Scarlet Once again, PreCure is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the last pick I talked about. I’ve only watched the previous three PreCure series before this one, so taking that into consideration I’ve felt this one has had the strongest team out of all of those. That made it particularly difficult to choose a favorite here. Cure Twinkle, Mermaid and Flora all greatly shine, but in lineups like these I tend to find myself gravitating toward the stoic of the group, and that would be Cure Scarlet here. Things were a little shaky for her after making that initial transition as part of the team, and admittedly I didn’t find her outfit as good as her Cure Twilight dress at first. However, once she found her resolve she evolved into a stalwart cornerstone of the team, with utmost devotion to her goals and her friends. I came around to her new costume too, and I certainly never tire of her transformation sequence which bathes her in flames in a spectacular fashion as it unfolds. Her bond with Cure Twinkle in particular (honestly it would be a tie between these two for me) is wonderful, and finally, playing a violin only ever improves a character’s standing with me.
Best U.S. Anime Release
Black Lagoon Complete Series & OVA Premium Edition Blu-ray from Funimation While I still prefer my Suano Katabuchi-signed metal cases for the DVDs of Seasons 1 and 2, those don’t contain BDs . . . or the Roberta’s Blood Trail OVAs . . . or come in an AMMO BRICK with a working replica lighter and field manual with series art. Can you say anime bubble box set 10 times fast?
Love, Chunibyo, and other Delusions from Sentai Filmworks Whoa, hold the phone there Sentai, since when have you been capable of providing physical releases of this caliber? For a publisher with such a spotty record of barebones releases and frequent disc issues(mono disc sound in Kids on the Slope, sloppy dubtitles on Penguindrum, initial dub-only Persona 4 blu-rays), I wasn’t expecting much out of this set. It didn’t help that it was actually delisted before its original release date, and pushed back almost a year. When it finally came out though . . . Boy, did they pack this baby full of extra materials. This boxed set harkened back to the glory days of Bandai, showing a real appreciation for the series and making for a true collector’s item. With the amount of money one has to plunk down for anime in the current market, I expect more products of this high quality to soften the blow. With the second series being similarly delayed for a BRD release, I wonder if I can raise my expectations for Sentai Films just a little bit now.
Runner Up: Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works Box Sets 1 and 2 from Aniplex USA
Best U.S. Manga Release
A Silent Voice from Kodansha USA From here we go from flash into substance. I’m not an avid manga reader at all, and the few titles I look at are either through the graces of my roommate’s library finds or from intriguing anime series that didn’t follow through with their adaptation of the original work. So this series ended up being a rare instance of me taking interest in verbal promotion and checking out manga online, and I was NOT disappointed. I powered through the entire series in the span of a day, and my very first thought upon its completion was, “I NEED to own this.” A Silent Voice was almost like my manga equivalent to Death Parade; a touching story with some emotionally powerful moments throughout. I’ll be all too happy to re-read it as the physical volumes are released.
Runner Up: Gundam The Origin, for continuing to make physical manga releases look like SERIOUS BUSINESS.
Favorite Past Anime I Finally Watched
Cowboy Bebop by Sunrise Never has an anime left me with such a punch in the teeth before. Its pretty freaking awesome. The style, music and setting are amazing. If I ever become an English teacher, I am making my students study this.
Dragon Half by Victor Entertainment I’d seen clips of this title before and remember thinking it would be fun to watch but couldn’t find anywhere to see it. As soon as Crunchyroll licensed it, I gave the 2-episode affair a shot and laughed my arse off. (The dub is wonderful.)
Legend of the Galactic Heroes by Artland, Magic Bus, and MADHOUSE Legend of the Galactic Heroes was something that I had been meaning to watch for years but I never got around to it. That changed earlier this year when I started my podcast Space Opera Satellite with my friends Casey and Tom. Structuring a podcast specifically around all three of us watching the show for the first time has made the experience really special. We’re just about to wrap up the second season of LOGH and it’s been a great time.
Favorite Past Manga I Finally Read
Crows by Hiroshi Takahashi Delinquent Manga is the coolest and Crows is definitely my favorite at this point. I read through it and Worst this year and they are great. Stupid high schoolers crying, farting, making jokes, and beating the shit out of each other! What else can you ask for? Also Bouya is the coolest.
Hottest Anime Woman
Rin Tousuka from Fate/Stay Night Gotta hand this to Rin from Fate/Stay Night. What can I say? She’s attractive, intelligent and I like Tsundere’s. It would be Seras Victoria from Hellsing, but unfortunately Hellsing Ultimate finished last year, so Rin will have to take her place.
Alex Benedetto from Gangsta I like the broken girls, not for fixing but for their tender humanity and sadness. Hot-as-hell curves don’t hurt either. Alex has all of the above and the voice of an angel filling out a white dress that just won’t quit. Runners up were the mini-skirted, whip-wielding Bishamon from Noragami and biwa-playing, battle-corseted onmyouji Seimei from Garo: Crimson Moon. What can I say? Like Spike Spiegel, I guess I also like women who can kick my ass.
Rin Tousuka from Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works There was simply no escaping this. One could make the petty claim that Rin gets by on her base charm points: the twintails, the zettai ryouki, the casual tsundere attitude. Those who have seen her at work know so much more: her playful teasing personality, her admirable air of confidence in all that she does, and her sincere affection for those close to her. Kana Ueda’s performance drives this all home, and ufotable brought out Rin’s radiance in the best possible light.
Some highlights: 1. Her day out in the city with Shiro and Saber where she tries on glasses (oh my god) and wrecks house at the batting cages (technically from part 1 but TOO BAD). 2. Her amazing sparring bout with rival mage and licensed oujosama Luviagelita Edelfelt in the epilogue, likely the closest I’ll ever get to seeing the April Fool’s joke Fate Wrestling Federation become a reality. 3. Everything in the Sunny Day epilogue on the home release pretty much
Hottest Anime Man
Kaneki Ken from Tokyo Ghoul KANEKI KEN! I mean, just look at how sexy he is but his character matures for a respectable purpose, which to me makes him more endearing than just good-looking. Which he is by the way.
Worick Arcangelo from Gangsta A playboy with one eye, a mysterious past, abs of steel, and a low voice that rocks the room. There’s no denying he’s the prettier of the two handymen, but his suave manner makes him all the more delicious.
Life Sexy from Yuri Kuma Arashi So Junichi Suwabe has some kind of incredible track record of voicing some real attractive guys (or at least what I would consider attractive for males)this year and I could probably have gone with any of them. But I figured, hey, why don’t I just go with the one who has Sexy in their damn name. Yuri Kuma had some . . . interesting things to say, and I think some of the more poignant things were overshadowed by the intense fanservice. It could have struck a better balance, but I feel like Life Sexy would say that was part of the plan, that “that’s the sexy way.” Shabadadoo.
Hottest Anime Woman and Man
Oshino Ougi from Owarimonogatari Why have two separate categories when you can kill two birds with one stone? The ever-disturbing Oshino Ougi’s intentionally ambiguous gender plays a role here. Viva eyes so black and deep that they eat your soul.
Favorite Canon Pairing
Shiraiyuki and Zen from Snow White with the Red Hair This is another No Contest for me. I loved watching this romance blossom over the course of this first season, particularly because Shiraiyuki and Zen are such strong characters in their own right and complement one another even better as a result. When I wasn’t busy cheering them on in their own personal endeavors and conflicts, I was celebrating their mutual feelings and concern for one another. The heartfelt confessions exchanged in that secluded clearing was one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve had the pleasure of watching this year. Maybe having two characters have such a strong affinity and bond with one another, who understand and trust each other to such a degree is another fantasy on top of the fantasy setting of this work. Maybe that’s why I love it so much.
Favorite Non-Canon Pairing
Rin Tohsaka and Saber from Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works Look, just one more and you won’t have to hear me talk about Fate for another year or so. The Fate universe has no problem treating Rin’s partner options much like her magical affinity: Yes. If there wasn’t enough fodder to insinuate a relationship with Saber in the series, not to mention Saber’s particular rapport with Irisviel back in Fate/Zero, then it certainly came into play in the Sunny Day epilogue. There WAS enough fodder though, and thus when the time came for Saber to forge a contract with Rin in that moment of peril, as they reached out to one another for that one moment I could swear I saw hearts flourish across the screen. I’m all about the power couples in fiction, and few could be more powerful both figuratively and literally than Rin and Saber. To use Sunny Day anyway, Rin makes a point about her being the only one who will supply Saber with magic to keep her in the world. Those who know the old significance of this act know exactly what that means. Uh . . . Shabadadoo.