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 fall 2015 . . .
Best of the Best
One-Punch Man by MADHOUSE I think it could be subjectively argued that several other shows do individual aspects of what One-Punch Man does better than One-Punch Man. You might feel that Magical Somera-chan does comedy better or that Iron-Blooded Orphans has better action. The thing is that One-Punch Man does EVERYTHING really well. One-Punch Man has comedy and action in spades with a little bit of solid bit of drama and commentary on the side. That alone is why it gets the top spot from me this season. The Perfect Insider might be a smarter show and Go! Princess PreCure might have better female characters but every One-Punch Man episode feels like a complete meal. You get a complete severing of anime goodness with every episode.
Also it might just be the perfect time for a humorous but critical look at super heroes. With superheroes being all over movies, TV, and Internet series at the point where they are nearly unavoidable a show that is both reverent and studious of the genre is probably the show being at the exact right place and the optimal time. A bit of super heroes fatigue has set in so a little mockery is welcome but there are still enough popular titles that people are not utterly burnt out on the adventures of capes as long as they are done well.
But just because you’re in the spotlight does not mean you will do well. The thing is One-Punch Man hits it out of the park when it needs to. Saitama and Genos have a wonderful chemistry. Genos is archetypal shonen hero so the fact he is merely Saitama’s sidekick is always amusing. Saitama’s lackadaisical attitude stands in a delightful contrast to his unbeatable power. At the same time heroes like License-less Rider and Tanktop Black Hole shake up the formula so the show is not just a single long one punch joke.
This is one of those shows that everyone on anitwitter seems to be watching and it has heartily earned that position of popularity.
The Perfect Insider by A-1 Pictures Child genius Shiki Magata murdered her parents and was declared not mentally culpable for her actions. She then locked herself away at a remote island research laboratory. Fifteen years later, two murders occur at the lab as professor Saikawa and his assistant Nishinosono are visiting the facility hoping to get a meeting with Dr. Magata. They become invested in the closed loop mystery and unravel what happened both now and fifteen years in the past.
While the series brings technology and philosophy into the mix, there is a logical conclusion to the story both in terms of how it was done and why it happened. The pieces fit together quite nicely by story’s end which I find to be crucial for a complex mystery. The mystery is also solvable despite the aloof nature of Saikawa.
Orga Itsuka from Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-blooded Orphans Gundam has always been an interesting series as tries to straddle itself between being ostensibly a children’s action series and an adult take on war with robots. It has wandered the spectrum in that regard with the various iterations of the franchise going everywhere from fun action show to gritty war drama with almost every iteration having a bit of each in them. This sometimes means that overblown parts can sometimes sabotage the power of the serious moments. It also means that sometimes series like Gundam 00 might begin as serious looks into modern politics but end up wrapping up feeling more like Mazinger by the end. Even more than the Federation VS. Zeon it is the biggest conflict in Gundam.
So it was easy to see how fans might have been worried about Iron-blooded Orphans dealing with issues like child soldiers, colonialism, and resource scarcity. While they are all topics that would integrate well with Gundam they are also topic that could easily be very silly if handled poorly. If nothing else Orga indicates that Iron-blooded Orphans might be able to handle these topics with some degree of delicacy.
Orga really feels like the Roy Focker styled big brother. He is both a mentor, leader, a best friend for Mikazuki and the rest of the soldiers of the CGS in the classic senpai formula. He genuinely cares for his fellow mercenaries as comrades and not just as cannon fodder. That said he has shown a bit of Machiavellian maneuvering and straight up sociopathy. His use of fleeing troops as a shield and the execution of prisoners show that he is distinctly in the category of gray hero. But if your going to tackle topics like child soldiers you are going to trade in flexible ethics and dirty decisions. Orga is a prime example of that. So far he is not anything close to a Heisenberg styled antihero but he is also clearly has a good deal of blood on his hands and much of it is not from people who can easily be called “bad guys.”
He is an interesting shift in the Gundam universe that I think is positive influence of the types of characters they can play with in the franchise. It is one thing to have a sympathetic villain or dangerous side character to be like this but when one of the dual protagonists goes this route it shakes up the series’ formula.
Saitama from One-Punch Man I don’t know which is worse for Saitama, him desperate to find a foe that actually challenges him or him being accused of snatching away fame from the real heroes because he makes taking down bad guys look so easy. He would probably say the former. For me it is the later which really makes me feel for the guy and makes it all the more heartening when he does get a little appreciation from time to time. I like that Saitama isn’t wholly noble in his pursuit of heroism, but he still believes in beating the bad guy and saving the town.
Magical Somera-chan by Seven Magical Somera-chan ended the only way it could have: A giant meteor wipes out the Earth because Somera forgets that she has her magical martial arts until the last second and then trips and falls before she can use it. I’m sure everyone in the show will be fine if and when then make Magical Somera-chan: Ragnarok because that is how they roll in Choboraunyopomi manga.
I would have probably given the award properly to Aquarion Logos but since I was giving it the Best Continuing Shown award I decided to give another anime the chance to shine.
Best Couple (Real or Imagined)
Shoyo Hinata and Hitoka Yachi from Haikyu!! I guess I am picking these two more for their potential than because there is any major progress in their romantic situation. Then again that is why this category is listed as Best Couple (Real or Imagined).
Overall they are probably the closest thing that the show has to heterosexual ship in the line up (homosexual ships are a COMPLETELY different matter entirely). So far Hinata and Yachi are mostly just friends. Yachi is drawn to Hinata’s boundless energy and optimism and in turn Hinata welcomes a skittish but enthusiastic new member of the team.
So far neither of them are pining after the other one but they have shared several more intimate moments and are slowly opening up to each other. Also they complement each other nicely. Hinata is vibrantly passionate but unfocused and inefficient. Yachi is high competent but can be a very negative and passive when push comes to shove. Over the course of the season they have helped each other overcome moments they would have stumbled because of their weakness while brining out the best parts of each other in the process.
I’m fairly certain that nothing will come of any relationship in this series and if it does it will probably be in the last chapter of the series. Shonen Jump sports series love to tease relationships but never really cares about pulling the trigger. When push comes to shove I don’t really expect anything to come of this but it is still fun to imagine what this would be like if this was Mitsuru Adachi manga series instead.
Best Continuing Show
Aquarion Logos by Satelight Since Kate was going to pick Go! Princess PreCure this season I went with my back up choice of Aquarion Logos. That is not a knock against Aquarion Logos. It is just that Go! Princess PreCure is that amazing.
Aquarion is a unique mecha franchise in virtue of how different every iteration of the series is. Macross, Mazinger, and Gundam all have a very defined set of conventions as well as an overall vibe in each entry. There are always some outliers that stand out but they protrude so much from the series because so much of the rest of the franchise conforms to an over all gestalt. Each version of Aquarion feels like its own show even though they all are pieces of the same multiverse.
I’m actually quite sad to say we are nearly to the end. This later part of the season has been stellar as it delves deep into the minds of our PreCure and their dreams for the future.
Best (Other) Hero in One-Punch Man
Genos I think the funniest joke about Genos is that by all accounts he would almost always be the main protagonist of One Punch Man. He has the tragic back story that pushes him froward, the earnest attitude, the high-minded ideals, and upgradeable powers. He just cuts the image of a main character. So the fact that he is just a sidekick and a jobber most of the time is a bit of a surprise. When push comes to shove Saitama is the one who does the heavy lifting in the show.
But despite the fact that Genos is not the star he often shines very brightly. You need a Genos for Saitama to really be the hero he needs to be in many episodes as well as making sure episodes are not the length of something like Ai Mai Mi. But beyond adding run time Genos adds a much-needed heart and humanity to the series (which is ironic considering how much of his body is mechanical).
License-less (Mumen) Rider He is the true hero because he has no superhuman abilities at all. He approaches his job with an earnestness that can’t be denied and makes you believe in good people again.
Runner-up: Metal Bat
One-Punch Man “The Hero!! Set Fire to the Furious Fist” by JAM Project I love JAM Project as they make some of the most high energy songs in the anime business but they are hardly highly discriminating when it comes to what they compose for. They are just as likely to make an opening for an amazing robot show as they are for a disposable card game anime so when they do an opening for something I like it is highly gratifying.
The opening really sells the show in a minute and a half. You see a whole slew of villains getting taking out in nothing more than one punch as if it was a loop of Batman VS. Guy Gardner. It shows the ridiculous overblown comedy and action in a way that even a thousand words would not properly encapsulate. It simultaneously sells and summarizes the show without saying a word.
Also you can’t help but smile when Saitama punches that smiling star in the face.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans “Orphans’ Tears” by MISIA It was a bit of a hard choice with this one but I figured that if Kate was going to pick the The Perfect Insider opening than it felt a little redundant to pick the ending as well when I could spread the love around. It is not that Orphans’ Tears was weaker. It was just a really good method for a tie breaker. Also I might be a little guilty I did not pick Raise Your Flag.
The biggest strength of the ending it that it balances the optimism and melancholy of the show fairly succinctly. The pain, sorrow, and hardships of the characters comes through while not forgetting their determination, hope, and battlefield brotherhood. The opening is primarily concerned with pumping up the audience more than anything else. The ending has time to spread out and explore all the aspects of the show more succinctly. The fact that the ending song usually starts with the last scene of the regularly animation helps transition the episode to a proper conclusion until the end story beat.
Young Black Jack “All Categorize” by Takuto It is a lot of fun seeing the comparison shots of original Tezuka drawings to their roles in the new series. Although there is a distinct lack of shirtlessness in this ending, I still like it.