Top Three (times three!) Thursday 12/24/15: Nine favorite anime series of 2015

Well, I have been writing quite a lot about anime lately, but since fall 2015 has pretty much ended and it’s almost Christmas, I will have to do something special and talk about nine (as opposed to the usual three) anime that I enjoyed this year.

Note: This is a personal list (and therefore excludes anime that I have not watched), and it excludes second seasons of anime that started in earlier years (e.g., Hello!! Kiniro Mosaic, Non Non Biyori Repeat).

9. Sore ga Seiyuu! (summer)

This slice of life involves three aspiring voice actresses and how they go through life in the industry. Futaba Ichinose (the left one on the cover) starts out lacking the raw talent required to become a voice actress and therefore needs experience. Ichigo Moesaki (right) pretends to be the princess of the strawberry kingdom or something or other and is usually the most energetic of the three. Rin Kohana (middle) is the youngest but most experienced, having made her debut at age five, and holds a dual responsibility as a junior high student. The three not only become separate voice actresses who happen to be friends but also form an idol group known as Earphones and host a radio show as well. The anime is a sort of cutesy way of showing what it’s like to start out in the industry, and I found it to be pretty interesting.

8. Monster Musume no Iru Nichijou (summer)

Ever wonder what it’s like for mythological monsters to live alongside human beings? Lamia, harpy, centaur, slime, mermaid, arachnid…all of these species end up becoming a part of the host family of Kimihito Kurusu, a seemingly normal human being with a surprisingly high tolerance for pain. These monsters are told that they are capable of marrying humans (although interspecies breeding is a no-no), so there is definitely some romance involved. It’s not all peaceful, though, as there is some conflict within the household about who should get to be with Kurusu, as well as conflict caused by impure humans and monsters alike who abuse the “Cultural Exchange Between Species Act” (which sums up to “monsters cannot deliberately harm humans or vice versa”) for their own benefit. I have written about the characters once before, and I have to say, it is surprisingly interesting to see how they live alongside human beings, although this particular anime depicts it in a rather perverted way…not that I’m complaining; just a warning in case it wasn’t obvious.

7. Gakusen Toshi Asterisk (fall)

This sci-fi harem story is centered around Ayato Amagiri and his search to find out the truth about his elder sister. In the process, he ends up enrolled in Seidoukan Academy, partnered with Julis-Alexia von Riessfelt for the Phoenix Festa, wherein competition among the six schools forming the city of Asterisk takes place. It has some cool characters (especially Saya Sasamiya) and is pretty decent as a whole. However, I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: I dislike the idea of a harem being carried all the way to the end of the story (although I guess MonMusu is an exception to that rule), so I’m hoping Ayato and Julis will get more serious about each other by the end of the second season (which is scheduled to air spring 2016).

6. Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry (fall)

As you may or may not know, I reviewed this and Gakusen Toshi Asterisk simultaneously in a review series known as “Cavalry vs. Asterisk” (parts: 1 2 3), and I made it clear that I preferred this anime. It starts off about the same as Asterisk (guy sees girl changing and is forced to duel, girl warms up to guy after the duel, both participate in a tournament), but there are key differences that separate the two, mainly that the romance in Cavalry is completely one-to-one, pretty much eliminating the harem aspect, and that the protagonist and deuteragonist fight their own battles (at least for now). The former difference is the main reason why I like Cavalry better, not to mention the anime has what I find to be the best opening theme song of 2015: Identity by Mikio Sakai.

5. Juuou Mujin no Fafnir (winter)

To those who have not seen my winter 2015 anime analysis, it may seem odd that I put an anime like this so high on the list. I mean, what could possibly be so great about a generic fantasy harem that starts off with the protagonist enrolled in a chiefly female academy and seeing a naked girl at the very beginning, right? Well, the primary part of the anime that grabbed my attention was the debut appearance of the antagonist: Kili Surtr Muspelheim, a black-haired beauty with the ability to create explosions by snapping her fingers. (She’s not on the cover, by the way.) From then on, various other aspects stood out to me: the coolness of the protagonist, the relationships between the characters, and how the characters struggle to take out a threat that could have destroyed the world, even with Kili’s meddling. So, I suppose the reason why I like this anime is because I came into it with low expectations and had those expectations completely blown away by the antagonist.

4. Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo (spring)

This is another anime that I delved into with low expectations; in fact, I didn’t even consider it until episode 5 had aired. It follows the supernatural high school experience of Ryuu Yamada, a delinquent who meets some girls known as “witches” with magical powers that are triggered through mouth-to-mouth kissing, starting with honor student Urara Shiraishi, who, as Yamada learns the hard way, can swap bodies with whomever she kisses. Basically, it’s a supernatural rom-com that I liked mostly due to its supernatural elements, comedic moments, and satisfying conclusion. (I wrote a full review as part of my spring 2015 anime analysis, which goes more in-depth about the plot and touches upon the characters I liked.)

3. Overlord (summer)

I decided to binge-watch this anime before writing this top nine list, and I’m glad I did. While not for the faint of heart (especially episode 10, which I’ll admit really freaked me out, especially when Shalltear Bloodfallen took on her more monstrous form), it is a pretty swell anime. It’s about some MMORPG player with an undead avatar who, in his stubbornness to stay in the game even during its scheduled shutdown time, becomes his avatar and is forced to live in a world that is noticeably (but not completely) different from the MMO and that he plans on conquering since he has become an overlord (hence the title). Even though this protagonist, Momonga, starts off unfamiliar with the new aspects of the modified game world, he finds the ability to adapt increasingly as the story progresses. Let’s just say it’s like Log Horizon but with faster pacing and significantly more cruel protagonists. That’s why I like it. The protagonist is quite the brainiac, so, even if the odds are against him, he has a way out of pretty much every situation, no matter how smug his adversary may be. The question is how, and the “how” is generally answered in an elegant manner, one that does not disappoint.

2. Hibike! Euphonium (spring)

Nothing really convinced me to watch this anime as it was airing, but based on how others evaluated it after it finished airing, I decided to give it a try, and it certainly did not disappoint. The story is centered around Kumiko Oumae, who starts high school not wanting to return to playing in a band, let alone on the euphonium, due to an incident at her prior school involving her childhood friend, Reina Kousaka. However, through the red thread of fate, Kumiko is led by her new classmates, Hazuki Katou and Sapphire Kawashima, to return to her former glory as a musician (made to return to the euphonium by one Asuka Tanaka) and mend relations with Reina. However, the new club advisor and conductor, Noboru Taki, gives the band members a hard time by telling them bluntly that they have a long ways to go before making it to nationals, where Reina and eventually the others aspire to be. Because the band members are initially inexperienced and/or uncoordinated, I can never help feeling nervous when they are about to put on a show, and that is the primary reason why I like the anime so much, the secondary being the emotionally gripping moments between Kumiko and Reina. In summary, it’s like K-On but with more prominent characters and stronger feels.

1. One Punch Man (fall)

When all is said and done, it’s no question that One Punch Man is the anime of 2015. It’s action-packed, comedic, and has a kick-awesome opening theme (second to that of Cavalry, I say). The best aspect, though, is the selection of characters that the anime has to offer. Obviously, we have the protagonist, Saitama, a seemingly bland hero with super strength, and Genos, a cyborg who accompanies Saitama and calls him “master.” What’s really cool, though, is what the anime has to offer in terms of minor characters. Mumen Rider is a particularly notable one, showing the most spirit even when the odds are clearly stacked against him and he has literally no chance of winning. In fact, thanks to Saitama being so obviously overpowered, pretty much every character with screentime is given a chance to shine. (There is a fight at the end that takes Saitama more effort than just one punch, but I won’t spoil anything more about it.) Words alone don’t do justice to this anime; all I’m saying is that it, if nothing else, is worth a watch.

 

In the end, I have to say: 2015 is the best year of anime that I have come to witness, and it is the first (and probably the last) that I have had the pleasure to write about in such a manner as this. I hope this writing was enjoyable and/or informative and, if not, apologies.

Nowi Wins À la prochaine! (Until next time!)

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