The Best of Winter 2015
Winter season is over, Spring is in full swing, I’m woefully behind already and I’ve spent the day studiously ignoring my own birthday. All is right with the world! So here I am with my favourites of the rather excellent winter season, before I start having lots of opinions about the new offerings of spring.
10. Tokyo Ghoul: Root A
So Root A was a bit of a mess. It introduced anime original elements, but mixed in lots of stuff that happened in the manga, yet kind of ignored how not spending much time with the main characters would really reduce the impact when bad things started to happen to them towards the end. Very scatterdash and rather underwhelming over all – I was very glad I read the manga version of events first to be honest. Still that final episode was excellent – which seems to be a pattern with Tokyo Ghoul – finale of S1 was pretty spectacular too.
At the end of the day Tokyo Ghoul had plenty of good points and interesting elements, but wasn’t great at pulling story threads together in a meaningful way. Don’t think I’ll be actively recommending it to anyone, but I still enjoyed it for the most part.
9. Aldnoah.Zero 2
Ah Aldnoah.zero – absolute trainwreck of a show! I had a ball watching it. There are plenty of things about Aldnoah.zero that showed it had the making of a very good show, but it just didn’t have a notion how to take these building blocks and put them together to make a compelling series. Instead we got a load of random rubbish as Slaine tried to become some sort of grandstanding anti-hero, but utterly failed, and Inaho continued to one-man-army his way through everything with zero emotion. And then that spectacularly awful ending! Hahahahaha~! What even was that!? Slaine x Eternal Suffering – the only ship that sailed.
Yeap Aldnoah.Zero sure was a show that happened – let us all point and laugh in its general direction and hope it doesn’t come back for a 3rd season. Even I with my weirdly high tolerance for this kind of ridiculous shite couldn’t handle that.
8. Maria The Virgin Witch
I dropped Maria about 4 episodes in because it wasn’t really clicking with me, and then picked it back up about episode 10 because it kept appearing on APR. It still didn’t click with me, but it did get a bit more dark & compelling before it kind of ran out of episodes and decided to wrap everything up quickly with a super happy ending. I kind of don’t like how everything was tied up so conveniently in the end, but do respect that the staff wanted to end the series on their own terms – far too many shows faff about with non-endings that are nothing if not frustrating.
As a show Maria has a pretty bleak view on religion, which is one of the things I did find very interesting – that, its very matter-of-fact treatment of sex and the interesting setting of the 100 Years War. The thing I didn’t like so much were the characters, which is kind of why the show didn’t really turn out to be my kind of thing. Still a pretty interesting show that wasn’t afraid to do its own thing – hope more shows show thing kind of backbone in the future.
7. Yurikuma Arashi
Despite my best attempts Yurikuma Arashi just never managed to be a show I got excited about, which is kind of weird because it definitely has a much more solid central storyline and mission statement than Ikuhara’s other shows (although it does still have lots of random layers with no clear point). Maybe it was the fact that a lot of the visual metaphors and repeated motifs were so obvious that it didn’t really spark that desire to pick apart the show for hidden meanings the way Utena and Penguindrum did with ease. Or maybe it was the fact I just didn’t give a flying fuck about any of the characters (although I did enjoy Lulu and her obsession with punting her little brother off a cliff) – that’s actually probably the real reason.
As a piece of art and a statement about alienation and acceptance Yurikuma Arashi is a very interesting show and definitely worth watching. It also manages to wrap up its story in a beautiful manner – that final episode was just wonderful on every level – it just doesn’t have the emotional resonance with me that would have made it a favourite.
6. Shounen Hollywood -Holly Stage for 50-
Shounen Hollywood is a really great idol show. It strips back all the glitter and sparkle the idol genre is generally saturated with, and presents the real day-to-day struggle and grind of an idol unit trying to make it big. It gives us a remarkable insight into the problems a bunch of teenage boys have when attempting to make a mark on the unforgiving entertainment industry – from unglamorous jobs, to managing a growing fanbase via inter-group politics for the role of Centre and the reality that their management can pull the plug on everything on a whim.
Shounen Hollywood is very grounded and a touch jaded as it never sugarcoats the struggle, but it somehow never gets grim and still retains an optimistic edge. The show makes you care about these boys and all their idiosyncrasies, and I would certainly be super excited for another season. It isn’t a pretty show to look at, but it has more than enough heart and great writing to make up for the lack of animation budget. Great show, more people need to watch it.
5. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders – Egypt Chapter
It took me a while, but I am now fully back on-board the Jojo hype-train. It probably wouldn’t be correct to say I was finding Stardust Crusaders a bit boring, because it is hard to get bored when there are so many bonkers Stand powers on display, but the solution always seemed to be to have Star Platinum Ora-ora-ora whatever the problem was into oblivion….and that was getting old. However the latest episodes seem to have realised that and so we have some exceptionally creative episodes to have fun with. There is also a lot more crazy Grandpa Joseph going on and that is always a winner in my book – Joseph is still the best Jojo.
Hopefully things continue in this vein and the much hyped Dio encounter will be amazing.
4. Cute High Earth Defence Club Love! (Bouei-bu!)
I enjoyed the hell out of this show. Stupid and with the depth of a teaspoon, Bouei-bu! can hardly be called high concept, but damn was it a lot of stupid fun. Sure the middle section was a bit flabby and repetitive (probably could have been a shorter show) but the start and end were both glorious examples of insanity and I fecking loved that! What is not to love about such irreverent parodies of the mahou-shoujo and bishounen genres? Shows that make me properly laugh out loud are always gold, I’d actually really enjoy more Love Making~! in the future.
3. Kuroko’s Basketball 3
Yes, a long running shounen sports show – shut up, I know what I like! Kurobas is back in full swing with more magical BL basketball as we continue to follow the spectacle of the Winter Cup. I bloody love this show and now that Akashi has been properly introduced and we’ve started a flashback into the Teiko days, I’m definitely fully invested in watching as much Kurobas as Production IG deem fit to throw at me.
2. Durarara!! x2 Shou
The animation quality was a bit all over the place but having Durarara!! back was still a joy. I sort of gave up blogging it because of life and also because my memory decided that it wasn’t as crap as I had initially thought (writing about the show when I already know what is going to happen just wasn’t fun), but there is a lot of entertainment to be had. Drrr’s strength has always been its insane characters – just fire a few of them together and you have instant entertainment as the sparks fly.
Some elements are stronger than others and unfortunately the weakest element is the Dollars gang wars, which is what Drrrr!! likes to try to centre its story on. This is unfortunate because the teenagers in that plot-thread have always been the least interesting bunch (although I do love Aoba – he’s like a mini Izaya wannabe). Still the rest of the cast more than make up for that and Durarara!! continues to be a riot. Looking forward to more in the Summer.
1. Death Parade
Death Parade has a lot of issues with its storytelling, but it was still the Winter show I enjoyed most. The biggest issue was probably the way it felt the need to add some sort of ridiculous twist to a lot of the stories it was telling – it pushed things just a bit too much and sometimes ended up undoing all the hard work it had put into building up the characters into something relatable.
Still despite this I really loved a lot of the things Death Parade did – I loved the whole setting, the production, voice acting and a lot of the stories it told. Not prefect, but what is – definitely worth a watch.
So that’s my picks of the Winter season. Honourable mention to Assassination Classroom which just missed out.
Of course the real reason why Winter 2015 is so highly thought of is because of the Autumn 2014 leftovers – some damn good shows had brilliant 2nd halves (Shirobako, Garo, Gundam Build Fighters Try, YowaPeda, Nanatsu no Taizai), Spring is going to have its work cut out to replace these series! Anyway, 1st impressions when I actually have time to watch all the bloody shows and get a chance to write them up!