The Top Ten Series – The Best of 2015 (OVAs/Movies/Specials/Shorts)
Okay! This is part two of my Best of 2015 posts. This past year I watched 13 short form shows and 41 OVAs/Movies/Specials – that’s quite a bit more than last year, and yet I still only had a few truly memorable things to put on this list (with one spectacular piece of cheating). Again I have some things listed that some may have had the opportunity to see in 2014, but I had to wait for digital releases which only became available in 2015.
On to the list!
10. Ninja Slayer From Animation
I was looking forward to this short from Studio Trigger since it seemed like more mayhem in the same vein as Inferno Cop. Unfortunately Ninja Slayer didn’t really come anywhere close to the unfiltered genius/weirdness that is Inferno Cop, but it definitely contained some moments of greatness.
I think it is because Ninja Slayer attempted to have an actual story at one point instead of the odd stream of fever dream oddness that made up Inferno Cop. The charm of the shitty animation sort of wore off after a while too and in general I think Ninja Slayer just went on for too long. Still I’m glad I watched it and it was fun to see the folks at Trigger indulge their inner kids.
9. Little Witch Academia 2 – The Enchanted Parade
Much as I enjoyed the first Little Witch Academia, this sequel didn’t truly do a lot for me – it didn’t really have the same heart. The animation was still wonderful and I love the whimsy world that the series has crafted. The characters continue to be endearing.
But still, The Enchanted Parade felt like it was missing something crucial and came across as being rather flat and forgettable as a result. There was no real character progression, nothing of lasting significance happens and the central story line was rather unexciting. Little Witch Academia is a charming little series, but The Enchanted Parade is definitely the weaker of the two OVAs.
Okay! Kagewani ended up being my favourite short series this year – it wasn’t really a spectacular year for the format for me being mostly all about the gag comedy sequels. However I really liked Kagewani – coming from the the Yamishibai team, it is a rather decent little horror series. Especial mention has to be given to the creature design – some of them were truly unnerving, particularly the titular kagewani.
The animation isn’t going to set the world aflame with its quality, but there is enough imaginative direction, good voice acting and atmospheric music to make this a serviceable horror series. Definitely worth checking out if you liked Yamishibai’s style.
7. Attack on Titan – No Regrets: The Birth of Levi
I know lots of people are reluctant to openly talk about how entertaining Attack on Titan is these days, simply because it has become such a massive mainstream hit and hugely over-hyped as a result, but I still love the show (I have mainstream tastes after all).
This prequel OVA focused on how Levi ended up joining the Survey Corps and all the associated angst his backstory involves. I had a lot of fun watching it, for many of the same reasons I enjoy the main show – style, fluid action animation, interesting characters, carnage. The story may be pretty thin, but it was still worth watching.
6. Tiger & Bunny: The Rising
This movie formed a sequel epilogue for the main Tiger & Bunny TV show and it made for a pretty solid movie in that respect. Nothing overly memorable in the long run, but definitely made for entertaining viewing at the time thanks to some great action sequences and the return of all the fun personalities from the TV series.
The film isn’t required viewing, but if you liked the show, enjoyed watching the characters bounce off each other and want to watch something light, you should definitely check out The Rising film – it was very enjoyable.
5. Code Geass: Akito the Exiled 3 & 4
I watched two installments of the Akito the Exiled movies this year, and it is proving to be a very enjoyable series. I really love the way it mixes serious war stories with the dumbest shite (hello gypsy randomness) – its what made Code Geass so much fun for me in the first place.
Of course Akito manages to get Lelouch and Suzaku into the mix, so it gets bonus points for that (love me some smirking Lelouch & Suzaku taking on multiple mechs practically unarmed). But Akito also gets points for its interesting mecha designs, great OST and truly gripping action scenes. Really looking forward to watching the conclusion of this series!
4. K: Missing Kings
So K’s second season was a disappointment, but at least the movie was fantastically entertaining! Missing Kings really embraced that style over substance thing K is so good at, and Go Hands went all out with making this film as pretty as possible and filled it with so many colours, twirling cameras and gorgeous backgrounds that it perfectly distracts you from the fact the story is wafer-thin.
The plot only really exists to string together action set-pieces and character moments – Missing Kings is basically high quality fanservice for those that enjoyed the first season of K. A really fun visual experience, I’ll happily rewatch it.
3. Psycho-Pass The Movie
After the absolute disaster that was Psycho-Pass 2, I wasn’t sure if the movie could pull me back into the Psycho-Pass world, but it did. Thankfully the movie does what the sequel should have – expand the world Psycho-Pass is set in and show it in a new light. With the Sybil system looking outside Japan and trying to bring other countries under its sway, the colonial themes are clear and make for an incredibly interesting movie. Having the focus be only on the best characters helps too – Akane and Kogami are fantastic to watch.
The movie also looks glorious, the new setting allows for some creative design and interesting contrasts and a lot of effort has been put into the action. If you’re new to Psycho-Pass I’d recommend only watching season one and this movie, the second season doesn’t have the same quality of writing.
2. When Marnie Was There
When Marnie Was There may not be the best of Studio Ghibli’s movies but there is a lot to appreciate about this coming of age tale. The story may progress in a fairly predictable manner, and the ending felt a bit rushed, but this is still a very immersive watch, thanks to the wonderful atmosphere the visuals and sound work build.
As a story about a young girl growing up and coming to terms with her place in the world, it is a beautifully realised narrative. Anna starts off with a massive chip on her shoulder and basically being the personification of misunderstood teenage rebellion. She has a lot of pent up frustration that she can’t quite vent, and it is only upon meeting the mysterious Marnie that Anna starts to let go of all her anger. It’s a lovely movie, not quite as whimsical as some of Ghibli’s previous films, but definitely worth checking out.
1. Japan Animator’s Exhibition
So here’s my massive piece of cheating. The Japan Animator’s Exhibition was 35 ONA’s all of varying lengths, topics and animation styles – it was great! From music videos like Me! Me! Me! through to short films like Three Fallen Witnesses via extended promos like Until You Come To Me – there was something for everyone in these shorts. Definitely check some of them out if you’ve got a few minutes spare.
My ten favourites would have to be (in no particular order):
- Bureau of Proto Society
- Endless Night
- On a Gloomy Night
- Rapid Rouge
- Iconic Field
- The Dragon Dentist
- Three Fallen Witnesses
- Cassette Girl
So that’s my picks of the year! Honourable mentions to Wakako-zake, Tsukimonogatari, Digimon Adventure tri and Tokyo Ghoul Pinto.
So an okay year on this side – think the fact we got the Tokyo Animator’s Exhibition makes things seem a bit less spotty.
Thanks for sticking it out with me – lets hope 2016 has better things in store for us!