Once again the Japanese anime industry has been busy in presenting us a slew of new titles to enjoy alongside the hardy perennials and a few more recent franchises getting the sequel treatment. 2015 might not have been a vintage for new anime with the scope of truly fresh ideas seemingly narrowing even further as the years pass, and the reliance on tired old formats sadly increasing.
While one couldn’t move for harem comedies, high school hijinks and more magical girl mayhem, there were a few beacons of hope which appeared on the horizon, many of which I hope are presented in my year end choices below. I must confess to once again finding it hard to compile this list but nothing included I feel is too much of a compromise compared to previous years.
So, here are my personal Top Ten shows which aired on Japanese TV in 2015 and as usual agree or disagree as is your wont.
10. Durarara!! x2
Split into three single cour instalments (Shou and Ten – the third Ketsu due in early 2016), this irreverent and esoteric show about teen gangs, battling bartenders and psychotic schoolkids and headless bikers, made it’s triumphant return in 2015 and, for this writer at least, continues to make no sense whatsoever! This is because it flits between stories and timelines without a single care for continuity, but with snappy writing and characters that are so great, especially Celty, this is an oddly irresistible show regardless of its density.
This interesting sci-fi-cum-slice-of-life drama comes from P.A. Works. At an academy for kids with supernatural powers, the student body council work together to prevent fellow teens across the country from abusing their powers for fear of exposing them to evil organisations which would exploit their abilities. A good looking show with plenty of action, the fertile concept also explores the painful and lonely side of being gifted but deserves more than the rushed 13 episode treatment it got.
8. Kyoukai no Rinne (Rinne Of The Boundary)
From the creator of Ranma ½ and InuYasha comes this supernatural comedy concerning schoolgirl Sakura Mamiya who has the ability to see spirits. This means she alone sees classmate Rinne Rokudo for what he really is – a half human-half shinigami! Tasked with freeing regretful spirits of their burden, Rinne and his demon cat Rokumon team up with Sakura and other supernatural characters for a series of fun adventures with some occasionally caustic messages imparted about greedy family members.
The latest spiritual successor to the legendary Black Lagoon introduces us to two “Handymen” in former gigolo Worick Arcangelo and his mute bodyguard Nicolas Brown, a “Twilight” – someone with drug created superhuman abilities. Along with prostitute-cum-receptionist Alex, they ply their trade in the seedy town of Ergastulum, encountering drug dealers, pimps, mafia and other scum with violent results. The jaunty narrative and single season run meant its potential was never fully explored.
6. Owari no Seraph (Seraph Of The End)
Unfairly called “Attack On Titan with vampires” this often gory but sparingly played out shonen action tale is set in a world where a virus has wiped out everyone except pre-teen children; vampires have taken over the land, keeping the children as livestock. Yuichiro loses all his friends during an escape from an orphanage, his best friend Mikaela sacrificing himself so Yu could run to freedom. Years later both are now fighting on opposites side of the vampire/human war. A bit talky but the action and shocking twists compensate for this.
5. Noragami Aragato
With the first series arriving on UK shores in late 2015, the timely arrival of this sequel offers some of us a chance to jump straight back into the further adventures of the poverty god Yato, his regalia Yukine and their schoolgirl friend Hiyori. This sequel focuses on exploring the Heavens and the backgrounds of the Gods as a brutal uprising threatens to shake their society to its very foundations. A much darker and dramatic series with plenty of huge action sequences and some gentle humour.
4. Shingeki! Kyojin Chuugakkou (Attack on Titan: Junior High)
While we wait patiently for the second series of this colossal hit show to arrive, we are provided this delightfully silly and hilarious reimagining of the AOT diegesis set in a high school. At 15 minutes an episode these bit sized outings see all the cast presented as large headed chibi figures, some with a slightly different personality traits but still keeping the same premise of mankind versus the bullying Titans of the school next door! An utterly brilliant piece of meta-comedy.
3. One Punch Man
Anime’s attempts at satirising the superhero concept have yielded various results but One Punch Man might have finally got it right. Ordinary salaryman, Saitama, has no superpowers whatsoever yet simply trains so excessively hard that his hair falls out but his speed, agility and strength becomes unnaturally beyond superhuman. As the title suggests, Saitama can obliterate any opponent or obstruction with just one punch, yet he still can’t climb the ranks of the Hero Association for being so ordinary. Sublimely silly yet incisive satire from start to finish.
2. Ansatsu Kyoushitsu (Assassination Classroom)
Definitely from the file marked “Only in Japan” this sci-fi comedy revolves around an almost indestructible alien which has destroyed 70% of the moon and now sets its sights on Earth. However it decides to give mankind a year to try and kill him, offering to tutor the social misfit pupils of class 3-E at Kunugigaoka Junior High School, who in turn will earn 10 billion yen if they can kill the now rechristened Koro Sensei. Absurd, humorous, warm hearted and above all fun, this was a great way to kick of the year.
No1. Ore Monogatari
(My Love Story)
Yup, ol’ MIB is going soft again. This simple, plainly drawn and barely animated series brought out the gentle side of your truly with its general sweetness and prevailing positivity whilst being adorably funny. It is that rare show of a romance going right for a change to give hope to the least of us. Hulking man mountain schoolboy Takeo Goda protects tiny waiflike Rinko Yamato from a molester on a train, and Rinko immediately fall in love with the big lug. Since girls usually prefer his best friend, pretty boy Makoto Sunakawa instead, Takeo assumes Rinko wants Makoto. Short of banging their head together Makoto finally makes them realise the love truly lies and thus begins one of the unlikeliest yet touching and enchanting relationships in anime, and a joyous watch to boot!
And that concludes the countdown of my 2015 Top Ten anime shows from Japan. It may not be a definitive list of superlative shows or future classics but many I believe will live on as successful enough “bread and butter” titles for licensers and distributors.
Other titles I enjoyed which didn’t make the final cut include Re-Kan!, Osomatsu-san, Sore ga Seiyuu!, GATE, Plastic Memories, Hibike! Euphonium and Gakkou Gurashi!.
I’m sure you all have your own personal favourites which may or may not have appeared here, or you’d have a different ranking, so rant away if you feel so inclined.
Thanks for reading and until next time, this is the Man in Black saying Sayonara!