General Media Top Tens! (Animation, Movies, Books, Etc.)

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Re: General Media Top Tens! (Animation, Movies, Books, Etc.) 

Postby gotMLK7 » Wed Sep 16, 2015 1:05 am

So a good chunk of this topic is my seasonal anime lists, where I post the order of my favorite anime from a certain timeframe (usually a season but sometimes I'm bad at that). While the Summer 2015 list is coming up (I'm waiting to the end of the anime season so I can include current anime and to catch up due to a slow summer anime-wise) I decided to roughly reorder the entries from my last lists into something like an "Upon Reflection" list. Just reflecting changes and overall standing in general (maybe not exact but eh it works) into what more accurately reflects how I would rank them all nowadays after thinking about some, rewatching others, etc. So here's that to tide you over until the upcoming Top ___ Anime I watched Summer 2015!
Spoiler : Top 43 Anime I Watched Last Year :
43. Sword Art Online
42. Princess Jellyfish
41. Kino's Journey
40. Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit
39. Last Exile
38. Watamote
37. FLCL
36. Kotoura-san
35. Ga-Rei Zero
34. Samurai Flamenco
33. Blue Exorcist
32. Paranoia Agent
31. Tamako Market
30. Beyond the Boundary
29. Kids on the Slope
28. Yatterman Night
27. Serial Experiments Lain
26. Lucky Star
25. Usagi Drop
24. Robotics;Notes
23. Spice and Wolf
22. Hyouka
21. DuRaRaRa!!
20. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
19. Psycho-Pass
18. Black Rock Shooter
17. Baccano!
16. Little Witch Academia
15. Death Parade
14. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
13. Kill La Kill
12. Yuki Yuna is a Hero
11. Gatchaman Crowds
10. Cowboy Bebop
9. The Devil is a Part-Timer
8. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
7. K-On!
6. Fate/Zero
5. Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day
4. Katanagatari
3. Steins;Gate
2. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
1. Toradora!
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Re: General Media Top Tens! (Animation, Movies, Books, Etc.) 

Postby Spyromed » Wed Sep 16, 2015 8:29 am

gotMLK7 wrote:
Spoiler : Top 43 Anime I Watched Last Year :
43. Sword Art Online


Ouch. It's pretty bad but... all the way at the bottom of the list?
(Didn't you say you watched Vampire Holmes at some point? Or was that after "Summer...")
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Re: General Media Top Tens! (Animation, Movies, Books, Etc.) 

Postby kwando1313 » Wed Sep 16, 2015 8:37 am

Vampire Holmes is part of his summer.
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Re: General Media Top Tens! (Animation, Movies, Books, Etc.) 

Postby Lind » Wed Sep 16, 2015 7:53 pm

Spyromed wrote:
gotMLK7 wrote:
Spoiler : Top 43 Anime I Watched Last Year :
43. Sword Art Online


Ouch. It's pretty bad but... all the way at the bottom of the list?
(Didn't you say you watched Vampire Holmes at some point? Or was that after "Summer...")

I've seen almost all of those and I'd agree with him.

The only placings that lose me are Kino's Journey and K-ON!.
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Re: General Media Top Tens! (Animation, Movies, Books, Etc.) 

Postby gotMLK7 » Wed Sep 16, 2015 9:54 pm

Lind wrote:
Spyromed wrote:
gotMLK7 wrote:
Spoiler : Top 43 Anime I Watched Last Year :
43. Sword Art Online


Ouch. It's pretty bad but... all the way at the bottom of the list?
(Didn't you say you watched Vampire Holmes at some point? Or was that after "Summer...")

I've seen almost all of those and I'd agree with him.

The only placings that lose me are Kino's Journey and K-ON!.

The list is veeeery subjective. I've expressed pretty often in like xat or such that for as good as I think Kino's Journey largely is I find myself rather apathetic to it on a whole; it's down there entirely because of my personal detachment to it rather than its quality. I just like...could not care for it. It's like a poem to me. Beautifully constructed and meaningful but nothing that does anything for me personally and I forget it largely after watching it. Shows with that kind of tone are like that a lot for me; similar reasons for why Moribito, Last Exile, and to some degree even FLCL are up there with them. SAO's the only one on the list I've stated I've actively disliked, so those are more ones I'm apathetic to more than anything.

K-On! meanwhile is a guilty pleasure buuut it's my favorite slice of life (like straight slice of life and not mixed with romance like Toradora) and I've grown more appreciation for its tone, direction, etc. over time. I'm well aware it's not exactly a finer crafted story than Bebop or Kino but I'll be damned if I don't admit that I adore it and would even rewatch it.

Also this makes the second time I've been called out for specifically liking K-On! more than Kino's Journey, haha, I guess that's the ultimate test of my tastes then.
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Re: General Media Top Tens! (Animation, Movies, Books, Etc.) 

Postby kwando1313 » Wed Sep 23, 2015 7:05 am

...

Eh, why not? I'll rank all the anime I've completed.

Spoiler : Kwando's Anime List - A Ranking :
17. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-Chan
16. Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViViD
15. Birdy The Mighty: Decode
14. Pretty Cure Fresh
13. Steins;Gate
12. Pretty Cure Splash Star
11. Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works
10. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
9. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
8. Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha
7. Sound! Euphonium
6. Yuna Yuki is a Hero
5. Baccano!
4. Toradora
3. School-Live
2. Nichijou
1. Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's


Not sure if I've forgotten anything, but eh.
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Re: General Media Top Tens! (Animation, Movies, Books, Etc.) 

Postby gotMLK7 » Fri Oct 02, 2015 5:59 am

It is that time again, folks! Time for me to count down all the anime I watched this past season of anime! This is...

The Top 15 Anime I Watched Summer 2015


Every season (give or take some...months) I sum up my thoughts on the recent anime I've watched and arrange the one I liked the least to the one I liked the most. If you're wondering why this list is a month late, fear not, I didn't forget. I decided to shift my schedule to fit with the seasons of anime rather than the months so I could include anime from said seasons, so I added an extra month onto this one as I transitioned into my new schedule. So there's some awkwardness here with 4 months of coverage and anime from both the Spring and Summer release seasons listed. Anyway, rules for the list! As usual, this is all subjective and meant to start a discussion more than anything; the order they come in is purely based on my personal stance rather than based on purely objective qualities of the shows listed. Next, anime I have not finished are excluded from the list. For the first time I AM including shows I only finished a season of that received another season later, as I've at least reached some sort of stopping point and could discuss them to some degree. But shows I did not finish a season of but started, including Seraph of the End, Rolling Girls, Plastic Memories, Higurashi, Log Horizon, and School-Live, are excluded from the list. I will be listing pros and cons in terms of what I personally liked and disliked about each series, and will supply a few things to give you a short idea of what the show is. Note: I'm linking OPs for each show, but some are subject to heavy copyright rules and therefore may be in lower quality, be viewed in boxes, or be suddenly removed from YouTube, so take note; also Michiko and Hatchin's OP has been replaced by its Toonami trailer due to questionable material in the OP itself, but I recommend checking that out on your own time if you don't mind some nonexplicit but still excessive nudity, it is a rather good OP otherwise. This season was categorized by me mostly by new series, middle-of-the-row shows, hard decisions on how to place higher up entries, and the worst anime I've ever seen in my life. So it was a fun season overall, and I hope you enjoy my thoughts on the shows I watched.

With that rambling out of the way...!

Spoiler : Number 15 :


Vampire Holmes is an anime from the Spring 2015 season tied into a mobile app game of the same name with episodes at 3 minutes a piece. It is the worst anime I've seen in my life. It is a level of bad that is basically hilarious, and one that almost needs to be seen to be believed. I only stuck with it to see how insane it would get. Oh but don't get me wrong it's still awful. Let's see why!

Summary: Holmes is a detective that doesn't really do much detective-ing, too lazy to really bother solving cases. His new assistant Hudson is shocked by his eccentric nature, but sticks by the bumbling detective as he dodges his landlady, sits around, and every now and then maybe take a case on.

Pros: You know the phrase "so bad it's good? It's a phrase often used to describe The Room, Birdemic, SyFy original movies. This is one of those moments. It's a great thing to show friends, like "dude you wanna see something awful check this out, it's called Vampire Holmes", because if they know actual anime they will be shocked at what they see and it will be hilarious. In terms of actually good things, though, the Japanese voice acting is usually rather competent (Holmes himself being voiced by the app's creator but surprisingly decent at voicing the character, an Hudson being known for the voice of Haru in Free!). And the opening by Nami Tamaki (known for OPs for Kiba, D. Gray Man, and Gundam SEED), "Everlasting Love", is actually a decent song, though it always gets a chuckle to start a show like this with the screaming of the Engrish "EVUHLASTIN LOOOOVE". The chibis for comedic scenes also are okay, and Episode 9 is kind of a shining point of the "WTF" this show has to offer. So there's some occasional decency in this, and it's certainly worth a watch for the laugh.

Cons: But yeah no this is literally awful in just about every other way. The animation in particular is an immediate fatal wound. The characters appear to possibly be 3D-modelled, but very poorly, and rendered in 2D in near barren environments that not once look professional enough to be aired on television. Sometimes the art is just poorly drawn in an almost scribbly style that looks less stylistic and more just incompetently drawn. Characters and set pieces sliding on screen at times and rigid animations don't help, and the whole thing looks like a really bad deviantart project. Which may be harsh to deviantart. This is seriously some of the worst televised animation I've seen, and that's including some particularly bad western Flash cartoons. The characters are bland and lack character, the writing gets a chuckle at most if you actually pay attention to it past the gasp-worthy animation (considering I understood all but the ending with Spanish subtitles first watch through, the writing isn't exactly much special) but is painfully unfunny in its lack of irony and nothing ever flows coherently. The ending episodes are so boring they actually are disappointing in how unamusingly bad they are. It only runs for 3 minutes yet the OP and ED take up a full minute of that, and they're both the same song. It isn't even a good advertisement for its app, which for one I've never seen ANYONE talk about, and it never shows anything about what the app actually is about, or gives any reason to want to play it. There's not even a single vampire in the series (werewolves are mentioned and that's as close as it gets) and there's BARELY any actual Holmesing. Heck, the OP contains mostly imagery that never shows up in the series, including the fire, the woman on the cross, the necklace, the silver-haired Holmes...oh but the poorly drawn cat is there. I don't know why, either. Animation bits are recycled, nothing ever happens of even comedic substance (and you're talking to the guy who watches SoLs here, mind you), the soundtrack is unmemorable if there even was one, and good god just LOOK at it, just look at a single episode of this and ask yourself if you really think this was ready for broadcast. This is from THIS YEAR, for lord's sake, this is MODERN BROADCASTED ANIMATION. Some people might argue this isn't even an actual anime, but hey, it was listed on all the Spring 2015 release lists, it was broadcasted on television in Japan, and some people even planned to watch it until the first episode came out and all at once the amount of views dropped all at once. It's a bad commercial for an app of who-knows-what quality, but it's considered an anime, so I'll include it as an anime, and I didn't follow it week to week to not talk about it here. I mean...freaking LOOK at it. You can literally do better in Flash if you tried hard enough, jeeze.

High Point: EVUHLASTIN LOOOOOOOVE
Low Point: LOOK AT IT.

Final Thoughts: I'm sad to say Vampire Holmes was the first anime I finished after following consistently on a week-to-week basis. I never missed a single episode on its release because I was always curious how much worse the animation would get. Episode 9 was the peak of its WTFery and from that point on the show just got boring, puttering out without so much as a grand finale of awful and going on to be forgotten and never to be mentioned again by anyone except for me. But I will not forget Vampire Holmes. It is a truly beautiful brand of terrible, a sight one really needs to see to believe. But I am a firm believer that "so bad it's good" does not for an actually "good" show make. As often as I laughed at this show's sheer existence, it also shames me to know this is the amount of low effort you can get on TV, which honestly kind of pisses me off. So no, even if you can laugh at this show ironically, it is unironically the absolute worst anime I've sat through, by far, no contest. And I genuinely hope it stays that way.


Spoiler : Number 14 :
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"Damn my rotten luck!"
A Certain Magical Index


Season 1 only, I have not seen season 2. Index is a show that largely confuses me, both emotionally and mentally. I don't want to say I hate it, as there were aspects of it I did rather like and it never pushed itself so far that I despised it, but it exhausted me and I found much of it dull and distracted as a narrative. I can certainly see its appeal but I found myself unable to ever invest myself in the story and found that the writer seemed largely more interested in developing the setting that the actual plot and characters.

Summary: Academy City is a town of technology famous for its schools and research institutions. In this city are beings known as Espers, who use special scientific tools and techniques to gain near supernatural abilities, such as natural railguns or teleportation. However, there also exists the Magicians, beings capable of using magic powers that are believed by most to not even exist. Touma Kamijou is a bottom-level Esper and poor student in Academy City with a power in his right hand known as Imagine Breaker, capable of nullifying any power whether it be scientific or magical with a single touch. His life is average until the arrival of a nun named Index on the run from a mysterious branch of the Church of England, who contains knowledge of all of the magical Grimoires within her mind. As Touma decides to protect this girl, he runs into both Espers and Magicians, whether they be friends or foes, and continually damns his own lifelong bad luck as he feels sucked into the middle of a crazy situation he had no right to get involved in.

Pros: The appeal of the show comes largely in the fantasy versus sci-fi aspect. The Espers are generally the highlight, as their powers require a lot of complicated scientific explanation put into them, which results in some very cool powers, such as Misaka's railgun or Accelerator's vector control. The show's setting is deeply thought out in particular, with the structure of the societies both magical and scientific obviously having a lot of time put into their development, and Academy City feels more interesting thanks to all the effort put into its rules and ideas. The characters usually have at least one good moment in them; the antagonist Accelerator gets some development down the line, and there are several moments with Misaka and Touma that I enjoy, particularly Touma's fight with Aureolus Izzard in which he actually shows a lot of resolve and strength that he rarely shows elsewhere. The soundtrack is also great, with a lot of high-energy electric-sounding songs fitting the show's scientific themes, the song "Time Limit" being my personal favorite. Visuals and dub are both passable (though not especially impressive past that, in all honesty). There's definitely a good amount of occasional enjoyment I got out of the series, and there was enough fun for me to be hesitant to say I really hated the show.

Cons: The show's biggest problem is its presentation of information. It paces itself poorly, and rather important information becomes the subject of exposition rather than the highlights of the show; several plot twists were thrown out casually in episodes that largely had the same feeling as filler content, and I felt like nothing happened as a result despite getting crucial information thrown about casually. And while I appreciate the desire to use scientific reason to explain attacks, the tendency to stop in a fight to describe in detail the science behind an attack made the fight scenes drag, particularly in Accelerator's case; I don't mind the explanations themselves but the means to which they were incorporated made them bog down entire scenes. The tendency to exposit was a recurring issue for me, thus is the issue with being a shonen light novel adaptation, and it's what made the series hardest to get through. I also found the arcs to be rather poorly strung together and in at least the first season formed a rather poorly paced overarching story, mostly with the tendency to introduce characters and then not do anything with them for any other arcs. This is seen most clearly in Index herself, who has barely any relevancy past the first arc or two in the series that is named after herself, becoming mostly comic relief and staying outside of the plot entirely for most arcs. Touma himself bugs me often as well, with an ability that takes out much of the tension in fights since he generally just finishes them off by punching the foe in the face once or twice and almost ALWAYS lands the finishing blow, taking away much of the other characters' agency in an already excessive cast. I enjoy his sarcasm, but he does come across as a typical light novel protagonist intended for viewers/readers to feel cool rather than a fully developed character. Occasional fanservice and the like didn't help me much in regards to investment. I felt that the show enjoyed its own rules and setting so much that it often forgot to spend time telling a full story and developing its characters, leading to a lot of characters that don't do much and have little growth (with few exceptions within-season, such as Accelerator) and a plot largely gotten out through exposition rather than natural flow and interaction. I wanted to enjoy the show due to its fascinating concepts, but it just didn't seem engaged in actually telling a story, and it lost me rather quickly.

High Point: Touma's fight with Aureolus Izzard
Low Point: Pacing

Final Thoughts: I did want to like Index, I really did. But as is, I have no plans of returning to the franchise or its sequel, movie, or spinoff any time soon. I'm sure there are improvements past the first season at some point or another, but I doubt it would drastically change my opinion on the franchise. Index was a tiring series for me that I struggled to get the motivation to finish to the end. However, I was if nothing else invested enough to want to reach a finishing point to talk about it, so I guess if nothing else I can say I liked the show enough to refuse to ignore it, and I don't regret doing so. But as a whole, Index just does not interest me any further.


Spoiler : Number 13 :


Well it ain't exactly one of my lists if Kyoto Animation doesn't rear its head at one point, huh? Though instead of a slice of life, we have a fantasy comedy series, so hey, that's sort of different! Having picked this up on a whim on suggestion of a friend and blazing through it in a single day, Amagi Brilliant Park marks the first show that I actually kinda like on this list, but find myself unable to put much higher than near the bottom due to excessive issues regardless. It's a very strange show in more ways than one, so let's talk why!

Summary: Seiya Kanie is a perfectionist and arrogant high schooler who is one day threatenedat gunpoint by a girl asking him out on a date to an amusement park. This girl, Isuzu Sento, is actually the acting manager of the amusement park known as Amagi Brilliant Park, which actually acts as a source of energy and a gate between worlds for the group of real, magical fairies from the realm known as Maple Land that are working at the facility. The park keeps the cursed princess and owner of the park, Princess Latifah, alive, but the park is in terrible shape and is in danger of being shut down should it not attract 250,000 visitors in three months. Kanie, chosen by an oracle to become the new manager and convinced by the terrible state of the park to do something about it, takes the lead as he uses his arrogance and intelligence as means to whipping the park back into shape and expanding it into something capable of running properly and bringing in the guests it needs to keep Latifah alive.

Pros: Although the plot is cliche, the concept is really rather good, with the idea of fairies using an amusement park to maintain energy being a very fresh idea that lends itself to a lot of fun in an anime like this. There's a lot of fun quirks to this show, such as one character's appearance being a direct reference to another KyoAni show Full Metal Panic Fumoffu, or most of the characters having names derived from, believe it or not, famous rappers (Seiya Kanie=Kanye West, Isuzu Sento=50 Cent, Princess Latifah=Queen Latifah, etc.), so there's always something fun to expect out of it. Several of the characters are rather fun, such as Kanie in his arrogant yet intelligent demeanor, or Sento in her cold militaristic ways, or even eventually a DRAGON. The show is rather funny, too, with a lot of good jokes and memorable scenes that show if nothing else the show's worth watching for a laugh. And of course it's not KyoAni if the animation isn't good, though perhaps less so than other ones I've discussed such as K-On!, Beyond the Boundary, or Hyouka. The show prides itself on being a ton of fun in a cool setting, and with some good presentation all around it carries itself rather well as a relatively easy watch. It's a consistently fun ride, so to speak, and while it's rather simple at its core I enjoy what it tried to do and think it pulled things off rather well.

Cons: The show's plot is...well, it's there. The plot elements are thrown about rather haphazardly and while they do come together, there's a lot of deus ex machina and open ends, and it feels as though much of the overarching plot could have been largely cut altogether. It resolves itself well, mostly, though for some reason has an episode AFTER the best ending point for the show that feels significantly less conclusive and more made for filler after a rather satisfying end. It also suffers from a lot of fanservice, mostly on the large-chested Sento's part, which, while not as bad as a lot of other shows, does take away from my favorite character in the show and gets rather distracting when it pops up and just makes parts of the show obnoxious. It's at its worst with the perverted mascot Tirami, though, who rather consistently serves as the source of all my least favorite scenes and is just generally unpleasant. Kanie also suffers from being just a bit too perfect while having just a bit too little personality for my taste; he doesn't feel like a TOTAL perfect high school boy protagonist, but he certainly gets close pretty often. The romance is also kinda...eh, and only kiiiinda there. And with the bombastic nature of the show in general, a lot of the mellow emotion that KyoAni is best at is lost in this show in exchange for their rather weak grasp of constant activity. They may be criticized for making too many shows of characters doing too little, but shows like this really do show it's what they're best at; it just gets overcomplicated otherwise, moreso than it needs to be.

High Point: Isuzu Sento, the enjoyably strict and awkward female lead
Low Point: Tirami, the significantly less enjoyable perverted mascot

Final Thoughts: I quite liked Amagi Brilliant Park for what it was, but I'm glad it's an exception to KyoAni's typical style in the long run. It's fun to have just fun ventures into more comedy and over-the-top setting, but it gets a bit too cluttered and tries a bit too hard to maintain interest in absence of much of KyoAni's "moe" factor that it gets bogged down by how hard it tries to impress when it would do better just being itself. The show is rather low-tier for KyoAni for me, but I can't help but find some enjoyability in it, even if it's far from perfect.


Spoiler : Number 12 :


Noragami was a hit from 2014, and it really feels that way to me. Everything about it just feels "popular 2014 anime" to me and I don't know why, just something about the look and the sound and the feel of it all feels incredibly modern to me. I only say this now because I don't have an idea for what else to say in this section, as I have a largely neutral view on Noragami and just didn't have anywhere else to say that vague description of it since I don't know how to elaborate on it. So without regards to segue, Noragami!

Summary: Hiyori Iki was a rather normal girl, but when she pushed away a boy from being hit by a bus, she instead found herself half-dead, and even stranger, a half-phantom capable of jumping out of her own body. It turned out the boy she saved was Yato, an obscure war god trying to get his own shrine by servicing whoever he can however he can so he may one day be recognized by the people as a powerful god himself. Hiyori, unhappy with this development, sticks with Yato until he can figure out how to fix her body-jumping problem, involving herself in his battles with phantoms and occasionally other gods. New allies are made, such as the "shinki" Yukine, a lost spirit that now serves as Yato's weapon and isn't entirely pleased to do so, and new enemies, such as the mysterious Nora or the aggressive Bishamon, both of whom have pasts with Yato they plan to settle.

Pros: Noragami's presentation is top-notch. Coming from some of the best of Studio Bones, the anime's art is top of the line and slick with a lot of memorable designs, and the music comes straight from my favorite composer, Taku Iwasaki. The Funimation dub is also one of its best in recent memory, with great performances from Bryn Apprill, Jason Liebrecht, and Micah Solusod. A memorable OP helps, too. The story lends itself to a lot of cool ideas, particularly in regards to how the gods work and their interpretations from their actual counterparts. There's a lot of interesting lore that could be dug up here, and it's rather fun to anticipate. The action scenes are also all rather impressive, as well, with interesting concepts foor means of fighting in the form of the shinki (spirits that act as assistants, maidens, servers, etc. to the gods and transform into their weapons). And I did like Yato and Hiyori quite a lot. Really, it's just a generally high quality show, lots of high effort put into things, consistently decent writing, and very clearly made with a lot of competence put into it. It's hard to really point out specific good things, it's just fairly high quality in general.

Cons: The show feels very...ongoing-manga-adaptiony. A lot of setup and a lot of stuff yet to be addressed, a fight to wrap up the season but not a lot of long-term stakes a cliffhanger, and just a general sense that it'd be more a taste of what's to come than a full story. It does its best with what it has, and this complaint may become a moot point with the second season coming out literally the week I write this, but that's sort of the overarching sense the series gives off, that it's not really going to hit a full stride for a while due to its nature. The entire first season just sorta fills like setting pieces in place for the future. I'm also not amazingly fond of Yukine; he's a decent character but his arc in the first season feels stretched out despite it being rather simple, and the point kinda hammers itself in after a couple episodes of making the same point in regards to him. But outside of pacing, I don't think I have too much issues with the show; it just feels by nature incomplete and suffers in standing alone as a result without backup from future seasons.

High Point: Presentation
Low Point: Yukine's character arc

Final Thoughts: If you noticed I don't have a ton to say on Noragami, well...that about sums it up. I don't have a ton I have wrong with it but I don't have a ton I love about it. It very much...exists. It exists and I watched it. I liked it, obviously, but not enough to put it much higher. Like...I really don't have much to say about it and this is after straining to think of stuff to say. It exists, it's pretty good, I might check out the second season, but for now it's just sort of in a purgatory of being pretty decent for me.

Spoiler : Number 11 :
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"I am the strongest man in the world!"
Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers


Here we have a series that actually just aired in the summer season! Otherwise called Rokka no Yuusha, this show was the one that caught my attention most in the new season, and it largely did not disappoint. This is where the list starts to shift out of "eeh" to "actively like" so things will shift a bit more positively from now on, though there are major flaws in this one that prevented it from being the instant classic I believe it had the potential to be.

Summary: For years, the Demon King has been periodically prevented from a cataclysmic revival by six "Braves", heroes chosen by the Goddess of Fate to save the world by stopping the Demon King and his kyoma minions whenever he prepares to return. Adlet Meyer, the self-proclaimed "strongest man in the world", is chosen as one of these Braves after training for his whole life to be one, but things are not as they seem this time. For the first time, seven Braves arrive at the meeting point, and the activation of a magical barrier trap them all together, meaning that one of the heroes is an imposter working as an agent of the Demon King to conspire against the others. With six of the most powerful warriors in the world gathered around him and finding himself the main suspect of being the imposter, Adlet has to place his deceptions and his trust carefully in order to not only convince the others not to kill him, but to find the real imposter before it's too late.

Pros: The concept here is incredibly strong. Mixing shonen action with mystery and placing it in a Mesopotamian-inspired setting, Rokka has a style like no other show, giving it a strong sense of identity it desperately needs in the modern era. The Braves are mostly very fun, with Adlet being a very clever protagonist a la Joseph Joestar, fighting largely with trickery, but with a strong sense of trust that makes his moves both strategic and heart-felt; he's a rather good hero. And with other characters with interesting powers such as the fan-favorite sharpshooter Flamie Speeddraw (who's admittedly a bit waifu-y at times but is an engaging and standout character regardless), the cat-ssassin Hans Humpty, the never-all-quite-there bladesmaster Nachetanya Loei Piena Augustra, and the frankly terrifying Chamot Rosso, the cast has a lot to like in it. The animation at its best is amazing, with a ton of motion and fluidity in it, the best of which is right in the first episode in Adlet's first battle, and a lot of clever direction helps the animation stay memorable whenever possible. And the mystery itself is investing, even becoming a bit of a Mesopotamian locked room mystery for a while. With a strong sense of design and some of the best and most refreshing ideas I've seen in anime for a while, Rokka feels like it's always trying its best to make the most of what it's got, and I really enjoyed it as a result. Also its OP changes depending on the tone of the show at the time and I adoooore shows that do that.

Cons: I have plenty of minor nitpicks; the blandness of Maura and Goldov in comparison to the other Braves, the mystery being a bit less fair in the howdunnit than in the whodunnit aspects, etc. But the issues come down to two things: the nature of the source material and the animation. The latter I praised for its high points, but its low points are a struggle to stay on model and awkward distance and motion shots, and some teeeerrible CGI on the kyoma. For as gorgeous as the show is at its best, it really struggles to maintain a pretty face whenever it gets just a bit too ambitious, and it's very noticeable, at least in the broadcast version. The former point is...well, this is an adaptation of an unfinished light novel series. Of only the first volume, no less. You do get an answer to who the imposter is, don't worry, but...you know it won't actually end. I called the ending almost exactly from the beginning, straight down to the cliffhanger it would end on. It holds an overarching dread of incompletion that you know will bite it in the butt if you're aware of it, and while it doesn't RUIN the series, it does put a huge damper on things when you know that, until season 2 is announced which it very likely may not be, this is a drastically incomplete series that closes on door and kicks open about five others before ending abruptly. For all it has going for it, its source material really starts to mess with it in a way that doesn't kill the quality of the show itself, but does make getting attached to it much harder than had it actually had a foreseeable conclusion.

High Point: The Braves
Low Point: The ending, or at least the inevitability of it

Final Thoughts: I really liked this series for something as new as it is. It had a lot of fantastic ideas and visuals and kept me invested from start to end. But I can't ignore how its source material really made it impossible to be fully satisfying without continuation we may never get. Either it continues and deals with these issues anew (or hopefully adapts a finished product) or it ends here and just becomes an advertisement to read the LN that was somewhat above average. I do really want to see it continued, as I'm very invested in the cast at this point and despite knowing spoilers from the LN thanks to internet, I want to see them in action again. But as it stands on its own, Rokka is a classic that's desperately trying to get forward despite its own limitations keeping it held back. Hopefully it'll get to break free and show the world what it's really made of some day.


Spoiler : Number 10 :


But wait, you exclaim! Did you not already cover Gatchaman Crowds back in Fall? I did, and I quite liked it, even doing a full review of it. But now it's had a second season (the most recent anime on this list, in fact, having ended the weekend before I write this), Gatchaman Crowds Insight. You may need to briefly look at my previous review or countdown for this, as I won't go over the plot of the first a third time. Things have been expanded upon and we have more Gatchaman, and it's even weirder than the first season somehow.

Summary: The Gatchaman are back a year after the defeat of the alien Berg Katze. The CROWDS system developed by Rui Ninomiya has become widely spread over Japan, but an organization called VAPE has been committing terrorist attacks using CROWDS of their own in an attempt to discredit Rui's work completely. The Gatchaman make it their new mission to fight against them, now with a new member, the enthusiastic Tsubasa Misudachi from a fireworks-making family, as well as overlooking an alien come to Earth in hopes of helping the planet gain peace named Gelsadra. As the people of Japan overlook the Gatchaman and their fights, it soon becomes clear the new enemy is not just VAPE, but human nature itself.

Pros: Gatchaman Crowds is still the expectation-denying show that it was in season 1. I described the plot as it's presented initially but that's not even taking into account the direction it all goes, which becomes a bizarrely political show becoming more involved in a prime minister election than superhero battles. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing. The few fights in the series are fantastic, with the visuals being as entertaining as ever with a great sense of character design and some of the best CGI in televised anime, in great contrast to the last entry. And it's ramped up even further in the final battle, which pushes the CGI and combat to its best and has some of the strongest emotion and visuals in the entire series. Tsubasa and Gelsadra are strong additions to the series, both getting more than enough screentime to develop them (Tsubasa just as much if not even more a protagonist this season as Hajime Ichinose), and most of the old characters get at least a little character growth, Hajime in particular benefitting greatly from the season come its finale. Even Berg Katze, while not a main antagonist, is a presence in the series, and while he's not as fun in Japanese as he is when portrayed by David Wald, he definitely brings back his level of charisma to the show in his short scenes. Most shocking this season is its overarching message regarding the power of the atmosphere of society and the consequences of simply blindly following a crowd. While it can be a little preachy, this season takes the optimistic themes of the first season and shows their negative impacts as well, and it results in some surprisingly thought-provoking ideas that show that this show, despite its eccentricities, understands more about society than it may seem. Also the ending was satisfying enough to be either be the ultimate end or be continued in a future season, which is nice. Also best OP of the summer 2015 season and I won't be convinced otherwise.

Cons: The focus on the moral often distracts from telling the story. Most notably, while most characters DO get some growth, a lot still seem rather stagnant without further developed arcs; Utsutsu and OD in particular only developed in the subtlest of ways, Katze's present but doesn't do a ton, and J.J. is somehow even less of a presence than before. The show keeps moving forward, but in doing so leaves behind already established characters and ideas without expanding on them as much as I had hoped when I finished the original. The political focus drags on a bit much and hammers the themes in, making it feel as though it simply spent so much time on one aspect that other aspects suffer for it, spending disproportional amounts of time on Millio Toriyama's show, Gelsadra and Tsubasa's arc, and on the entire prime minister election compared to the actual Gatchaman, who feel like they aren't even the main characters a good portion of time. It felt largely like it was a season with a lot of fantastic ideas and fairly good execution, but didn't develop already exsting ideas enough. I liked it as a second season to my favorite work from Tatsunoko, but it did feel almost like it didn't even need to happen fairly often and did a poor job expanding the actual titular team.

High Point: The final battle
Low Point: Treatment of half the Gatchaman

Final Thoughts: I was very pleased with the second season of Gatchaman Crowds, but I'd be lying if I called it all that I'd hoped for. It was good for sure, and its political themes are very prevalent in society, but it's hard to deny that the actual Gatchaman rarely felt like the actual focus here. They were just along for the ride, which was disappointing as I had hoped for a lot more development for them come the second season. But hey, still a good addition to a series I already enjoyed, and it certainly didn't hurt the franchise in the end, so I'm very glad it happened even if it could have been even more.


Spoiler : Number 9 :
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"Fest it up!"
Hanasaku Iroha


I think I'm pretty famous for my slice of life shows at this point, but while I tend to most often follow Kyoto Animation on that front, this was my first venture into P.A. Works, a studio with a similar talent for beautiful yet simple shows that I hope to include on future lists as well. Hanasaku Iroha or was a show that I can't say I fell in love with, but was filled with so much care and quality that I couldn't help but admire it and look back on it very fondly.

Summary: Ohana Matsumae is a high schooler in Tokyo that is forced to go live out in the countryside thanks to her mother's sudden elopement, just after her best friend confessed her love to her without an answer. Ohana is brought to live and work at the Kissuiso hot spring inn owned by her harsh grandmother, becoming a waitress and maid for the hotel to earn her stay there. As she meets the staff, learns the job, and makes many, many mistakes, she slowly grows a respect for the workplace and her family, and perhaps developing some newfound maturity in her new home.

Pros: Hanasaku Iroha's the first show I think of when hear the phrase "coming-of-age story" (as it should be given the translation of the title "The ABCs of Flower Blooming"), and I believe for good reason. The show is largely the tale of Ohana, a rather directionless girl with more energy than she knows what to do with, and how hew new environment helps her grow as a person. She's probably one of my favorite slice of life protagonists, as she does come with a good amount of sass and stubbornness that makes her stand out from a typical ditzy main character in these kinds of shows. The main appeal of the show for me, though, is the amount of realism the show carries; it's easy to write off as moe, but it does a good job of feeling like an actual workplace with actual employees despite its obviously cartoonish additions such as the occasional bizarre guest or worker. It's a simple but effective story with a ton of simple but effective characters, and its decision to never overcomplicate itself helps it maintain an actually rather decent cast despite its large size. And the show is gorgeous to boot, standing up to even KyoAni's shows in how gorgeous its animation and set pieces are; the inn feels like a real place and it's all beautifully drawn. I'm also fond of a lot of moments in the writing, Ohana's relationships with her fellow coworkers and grandma in particular. It's the same kind of mellow feeling I get from shows like K-On! without much of the often-hated "moe" factor, and it does an excellent job at just feeling like a semi-realistic story of a girl and her co-workers running an inn.

Cons: As a slice of life this show has likely immediately put off at least half my readers, for one; it's an incredibly niche genre, after all, so I don't blame you if your initial reaction to this was "uuuugh". And there's a few questionable aspects of it, too. Some characters arcs aren't as good as others, some characters only vaguely develop, many characters take a while before they start becoming likable, and some characters just aren't particularly entertaining in the first place. The dirty novelist Taro Jiromaru introduced early on is the worst case, somehow not getting kicked out of the inn after kidnapping Ohana in desperation and providing weak comic relief throughout the series (he becomes slightly more tolerable later on but his introduction is fairly awful). And of course the setting being an inn occasionally brings in the dreaded fanservice bathing scenes that plague so many anime, and while it could be much worse, the show definitely doesn't stray away from putting girls in a bath when it feels like it. The main romance is also rather underdeveloped despite resolving well, so the male in the situation is...well, barely a character, in all honesty. Other than that it's mostly bogged down by the occasional weak episode plot and tropes expected of a series like this, which don't exactly ruin it for people like me but can easily be a deal breaker for those with low tolerance towards this kind of slow show.

High Point: Ohana and her development
Low Point: The novelist Taro Jiromaru's introduction

Final Thoughts: As I said, Hanasaku Iroha basically embodies the coming-of-age slice-of-life anime, which depending on how you look at it could be a good thing or a bad thing. For me it was a good thing, and I immensely enjoyed the setting, characters, and themes this show presented, even if it didn't always hit its mark properly, but hey, if it's not your kind of thing, I don't blame you. But personally, it's a stand-out of the SoL genre and a great introduction for me to a studio that, spoilers, will show its face here again soon.


Spoiler : Number 8 :


JoJo's has cemented itself as on of my favorite shonen series this past year, and the second-third seasons of the anime adaptation (split at the Egypt segment of the arc) that covers the third and most famous arc of the manga, Stardust Crusaders, didn't hurt that idea at all. While I prefer other arcs of the series to this one, it was full of a ton of fun and memorable moments and ideas that definitely put the "bizarre" in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.

Summary: The third arc of the long-running series and follow-up to 2012's adaptation of the first two arcs, this series sees the return of DIO, Johnathan Joestar's foe from Phantom Blood, as he awakens 100 years after his defeat to eliminate the rest of the Joestar bloodline using his and his assassins' new power over "Stands", spirits that are controlled by users that grant them incredibly powers. Part 2's Joseph Joestar comes to Japan, now an old man, to recruit his delinquent grandson, Jotaro Kujo, in order to find and defeat DIO for good. However, the awakening of the Joestars' Stands that DIO's return enacts puts Jotaro's mother into fatal condition when she cannot handle the power of her own growing Stand, putting a time limit on their quest to defeat DIO. Having to travel from Japan to Egypt, Jotaro (and his stand Star Platinum), alongside his grandpa Joseph, his comrade Mohammad Avdol, the ex-DIO-slave Noriaki Kakyoin, and the man out for vengeance Jean Pierre Polnareff must take down all of the stand-wielding assassins that come their way as they make their way to defeat DIO and uncover the secret of his powerful Stand.

Pros: The creation of Stands, beings similar to Personas but with incredibly specific yet versatile powers, is possibly the greatest decision this series could make, as they changed the entire series for the better when they replaced the vague martial art Hamon as the main means of fighting in the series. The show focuses largely on the battles against enemy Stand users, which isn't exactly a bad thing, as the Stands are the coolest part of the show, with abilities as simple as fire manipulation, super speed, and magnetism for some, but then more complex powers such as travelling through mirrors, dream infiltration, manipulation of bullet trajectory, and stopping time making for some incredibly memorable battle. And with JoJo's particular means of strategic logic in fights, there's almost a guarantee that at least one fight will be of interest in the arc. It's also the most quotable show I know, with about a million different quotes that I love to endlessly annoy my friends with, emphasized by just how over the top the entire series is. The ridiculousness of the characters and powers, the macho tone, the fun soundtrack (the battle theme "Stardust Crusaders" is one of my all-time favorite fight themes in anime, always making a scene instantly better when it shows up), and just all the memorable moments just help to emphasize how fun this show is to watch. And while most of the characters are passable, DIO's return for the climax steals the show, as he's as hammy a villain as ever and one of the most fun characters to just watch do what he does, and his now famous screams of "ZA WARUDO!" and "MUDAMUDAMUDAMUDAMUDAMUDA" are just as great as one would expect. With a lot of standout battles (Hanged Man, Death 13, Osiris, Cream, and The World in particular) and the greatest beatdowns in anime I've ever seen (the finisher to the fight with Steely Dan in particular), the show made for a fantastically fun action series and a fun "Around the World in 80 Days" type story with an incredibly enjoyable climax. Also both openings are amazing, and the last episode's version of its OP is the stuff of legend.

Cons: Being a largely faithful adaptation of a long shonen series from the early 90s really shows in a 2-season show from 2014-2015. It has a ton of low points in it, many of which are caused by obvious issues in writing from way back during the manga's release, including the retconning of one character's death in response to fan outcry and another character being sidelined for almost the entirety of the second season. Jotaro's nowhere near as fun a protagonist as his grandfather and, while cool, is largely bland (though Polnareff is almost involved in just as many fights as he is, oddly). There's very awkward moments in it, such as Polnareff's fight with Set's Stand Alessi, which features a naked child Polnareff drooling over an attractive woman...yeah. The animation's notably less interesting than the previous seasons, opting for bolder lines that, while more fitting for the arc, can be unpleasant to look at and often trip up with some rushed art, seen most in parts of the otherwise impressive battle with DIO at the end of the series. Being the longest arc of the manga, the series feels incredibly stretched out with fights against largely dull Stand Users that are hit and miss depending on the quality of their battle, and the second season in particular stretches fights' lengths out longer than necessary to fit the 24 episode count. Stuff like this really drains on the series, often making the arc a bit more of a fight to get through compared to Battle Tendency before it, as it has a lot of BS involved in it that hampers it a bit despite all the fun involved.

High Point: The ending battle, DIO's World
Low Point: A certain character's death retcon

Final Thoughts: While I find it significantly weaker than JoJo's best arcs like Battle Tendency or the hopefully-going-to-be-animated-some-day Diamond is Unbreakable, Stardust Crusaders is a ton of fun to watch. The powers and battles mixed with the strange personality that really can't come from anything but JoJo's makes it worrth sitting through some annoying stuff just to see what crazy Stand comes next. While I suggest starting from the top or at least watching part 2 first, Stardust Crusaders' impact on media is very visible, and if nothing else I assure you you'll be in for a bizarre adventure yourself if you decide to pick it up.

Spoiler : Number 7 :


Michiko and Hatchin is something that you would not ever expect out of the anime industry, especially in the late 2000s. This bizarre show from the (now unfortunately bankrupted) Studio Manglobe is a very western show, currently getting exposure on Toonami as of writing this, and is just about nothing you'd expect an anime to actually have, including a largely pseudo Japanese-Hispanic setting and a surprisingly realistic (mostly) style. It's all its own thing, and I rather enjoyed it as a result.

Summary: Michiko Malandro is a criminal that's escaped from jail to seek out her former lover, Hiroshi Morenos, and live happily with him. However, she decides to take his abandoned daughter, Hana "Hatchin" Morenos, with her on her journey to find her, literally crashing into the young girl's life and taking her away from her abusive foster home to go find a man they know barely anything about. On their journey, they encounter cops out for Michiko's head, punks who won't leave Hatchin alone, the terrifying Satoshi Batista and his crime syndicate, and more, putting their resolves and their emotional bond to the test.

Pros:This show has a distinctly western feel to it that makes it feel like nothing else, and it really makes the show shine as something memorable. The titular characters are both great, Michiko being fun in her ultra-violent ways and wavering competency and Hatchin proving to be one of the stronger child characters in anime as the voice of reason during her emotional growth throughout their adventure. The dub is spot-on, including great performances from Jad Saxton as Hatchin, Akron Watson a Satoshi Batista, and, in an almost mind-boggling twist, the queen of high-pitched schoolgirl characters Monica Rial as the rough, mature, slightly accented Michiko, and she nails it so well I refused to believe it was actually her. Given Rial's famously shrill voice (see Stocking in Panty and Stocking, Renge in Ouran High School Host Club, Index in Certain Magical Index, and many more) Michiko is playing completely out of typecast, and she completely gets the character down perfectly, making her sound natural and real in a way that really makes you realize just how experienced Rial is; I only emphasize this point so much because it's THAT shocking a casting choice, it's staggering how well she plays this. The constant banter between the titular characters is a ton of fun and they both have plenty of enjoyable scenes both together and apart, and each develops to some degree over the series. Other characters, particularly Satoshi and his partner Shinsuke, are also incredibly memorable in just how realistic yet still bombastic they're portrayed. The unique setting also lends to some interesting set pieces and social commentary, creating a show you just really cant find elsewhere. It's like a 22 episode chase scene, always on the move and constantly exciting, and it all manages to wrap itself up mostly well. Also, Cowboy Bebop's Shinichiro Watanabe is involved in musical production, so take from that what you will.

Cons: The series does take its breathers, but it never feels like it slows itself down enough to really develop the relationship between the protagonists as well as it could have. They're great together, but the buildup could have been INCREDIBLY improved had the show spent less time on Hatchin getting pissed at Michiko and trying to run away as often as it does. The two's strong bond feels a lot weaker when it isn't quite as built up as it could have been. Some plot threads are less interesting than others, notably Michiko's cop rival Atsuko that sets herself up constantly for an interesting character arc but just ends up going in circles to a frustrating degree. The partially episodic nature of the show, while creating more interesting stories overall, also lends itself to some big misses, stagnating the show with less entertaining episodes that could have been spent developing more relationships or plot, and leads to a lot of pointless moments and almost excessive action. The first half of the final episode suffers from letting itself have too much action when it could have spent its time more wisely to fully involve itself in the emotion of its final outcome, instead taking an actually fairly fitting ending and rushing it to make way for a last, only mildly above average chase scene. Essentially the biggest flaw is that the show wastes too much of its precious time.

High Point: The protagonists
Low Point: Atsuko's arc

Final Thoughts: Michiko and Hatchin is a crazy journey that sorta needs to be seen to be believed. If you're ever in the mood for something different and more western in nature with some great protagonists and a ton of fun put into it, I'd definitely give it a shot. It's a bit awkward at times and definitely don't watch it if you hate swearing because wow that's a lot of F bombs but it's a great show to watch when you just want to mix it up. I'm very glad it's succeeding on Toonami and very sad to see Manglobe tanking financially, and while it's only halfway through this list, I think this is the point where I really start to like the shows listed, and where we start crossing the border from good to great.


Spoiler : Number 6 :


I mentioned P.A. Works would make a return, and here it is, the 2014 series Shirobako. And while, like Hanasaku Iroha, this has elements of slice-of-life and coming-of-age stories within it, what brought people to this show was what the show decides to focus on: a depiction of the anime-production industry itself. This an anime...ABOUT anime. While it's only number 6 on the list, I cannot emphasize enough before going in: if there's one show you should DEFINITELY watch if you're interested in what goes into making an anime reality, it's Shirobako.

Summary: Five high school friends created a short anime project as a club together, and decided they each wanted to get into the industry in their own different way; cut to a few years later with Aoi Miyamori, one of the girls who now works as a production assistant of all things at the studio Musashino Animation. The studio is creating an original anime called Exodus! as the first directorial outing of Seiichi Kinoshita since his apparently massive critical flop years before with Jiggly Jiggly Heaven, and between his incredibly stubborn and childish nature, staff being incompetent or lacking, production mistakes, inner disputes, and just about everything that could imaginably go wrong in anime production happening, it's up to Aoi and the rest of the staff to keep things under control enough to not only keep their show from flopping, but to keep its integrity and make it something for people to remember.

Pros: This show knows what it's talking about. When I say it's about anime production, I'm not kidding, it's practically the textbook to what goes into making anime. It goes over key animation, CGI, backgrounds, storyboards, writing, staff meetings, edits, sound design, voice acting, and just about everything under the sun in a good amount of detail; it's almost overwhelming at times how much info about the industry is described, but the direction of the show is so smoothly done that it actually shows it all to you naturally without feeling too hampered down by exposition. It basically goes about describing as many aspects of an industry in a two-cour span without ever making it boring, which is amazing. And heck, it's legit educational, I picked up a lot of info and terms (heck it's the only reason I know the term "cour") from this show and have been unable to look at anime the same because of Shirobako giving a peak behind the scenes, and deciding to focus primarily on a new production assistant offers a great perspective for the story to follow to get as much out of the concept as possible. And the characters, despite having one of the biggest casts I've seen in anime, each feel individual while still being largely grounded in reality, and you can pick up a little something from almost all of them regarding their personalities and how they work. Many characters are directly inspired by real people in the industry, so even when they're over the top and cartoonish, they have a strong sense of realism, and the natural voice acting makes that even better (though with a SentaiFilmworks license I admit I'm hesitant should it ever receive a dub). This is a show that can really get you interested in both the process and the people behind creating anime, and the excellent direction and characterization helps a lot. And heck, the anime they make (both Exodus! and the manga adaptation they work on in the second half, Third Aerial Girls Squad) actually look kinda cool, if intentionally cliche, thanks to the focus on passion for the medium the show pushes, which is a good message in general. This show taught me more about anime than I could ever imagine an actual anime teaching me and kept me invested in the cast enough to want to see them prosper at what they were doing and see more of them, and that's just downright impressive.

Cons: The main five girls are kinda...bland, really. I like Aoi a lot, she's fun, but her friends (Ema the key animator, Shizuka the voice actress, Misa the CGI designer, and Midori the scriptwriter), while not exactly boring or unlikable, are a bit too jarringly anime and simple in comparison to the diverse and realistic cast otherwise. I don't hate them but I feel they could be superfluous at times. And for as realistic as the show largely is, it does tend to lean into the cartoonish rather often, with a bit too much optimism and over-the-top means to solving problems that prooobably wouldn't actually happen in the actual industry, which takes away from the nice sense of realism a bit even if it can be amusing. Also, given the show is largely devoted to issues cropping up constantly, it makes for a good amount of cringey moments and time after time you'll want to punch someone in the face. Daisuke Hiraoka from season 2 was this in particular for me (though Taro Takanashi undoubtedly will annoy at least some viewers), and most scenes with him were when I started to groan a bit since he lacked more of the redeeming qualities other characters tended to have. Most of the issues are kinda nitpicks though, and it's largely not much higher on the list mostly because I just enjoy the plots or characters of other shows more, and I rarely felt so annoyed by something that I actively became annoyed at the show.

High Point: The representation and teaching of aspects of the anime industry
Low Point: Daisuke Hiraoka, whom I personally found obnoxious for how much screentime in season 2 he got

Final Thoughts: People often seem to think that anime that comes out recently has nothing new to offer, is stuck in a rut, or can never match up to classics we know nowadays. While I can see where that comes from, shows like Shirobako show me otherwise, as I'm not hesitant to call this not only an instant classic, but a potential must-watch of the 2010s. It's a show that, while not too deep in plot, gives you a new perspective on anime as a whole that just makes you more keen to what you watch in general. It's a show that teaches you things, and teaches them well. If you're really interested in anime and want to know more, I say definitely seek this out and watch it. Even if you're not a fan of its style, I assure you that, if nothing else, you'll find out something new.


Spoiler : Number 5 :
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"It was only a small wish..."
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's


...So uh. Bare with me here.

I admit I was skeptical on the Nanoha franchise; so skeptical I skipped the first season that I had heard was rather weak and dated and went straight to season 2 (with knowledge of the events of the first mind you), Nanoha A's. An old magical girl series I've only seen one out of like 4 seasons of is kind of a weird thing to place above the ultra-manly JoJo's or what I just stated was an instant classic Shirobako, but what I found in Nanoha A's was shocking: an actually pretty freaking good show. I was surprised that what looks to largely be just another magical girl show could be as good as this was, but whether you choose to believe me or not, this show defied all my expectations.

Summary: Following the events of the first season of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Nanoha Takamichi and her best friend Fate Testarossa work for the Time-Space Administration Bureau as magical girls, which brings them to fight a group of powerful opponents known as the Wolkenritter (Signum, Vita, Zafira, and Shamal), who have made it their goal to absorb the magic of defeated opponents to fill up the pages of a mysterious tome known as the Book of Darkness for their master. However, their master Hayate Yagami is not exactly the evil mastermind one might expect, and the battle becomes one of two opposing ideals rather than good vs evil as the Bureau fights for the safety of the people and the Wolkenritter fight for the safety of their master and friend. With new abilities and a determination to keep as many people safe as she can, Nanoha makes it her duty to try not only fight back, but to strive for peace.

Pros: Before I say anything I'll just say, this season does rely heavily on knowledge of the first, so if you want to go into it but don't want to watch the first season, I suggest either watching the movie that sums up the plot of the original with new animation and a shorter run time, or researching the events of season 1; I went in mostly with knowledge from the first part of Digibro's analytical Retrospective on the Nanoha franchise, so I recommend that. ANYWAY. This series has a shocking amount of care put into it. There's a lot of little details in the show that add to it, whether it be the relationships and interactions of the cast or the details in how the magic and tech of the world work. A lot of the characters are fun, especially the Wolkenritter, who stand as fantastic antagonists and supply many of the best scenes in the show thanks to their actually sympathetic and human nature that makes them more than just cookie-cutter bad guys. The fight scenes are fantastic, mixing technology with magic for weapons like Fate's Bardiche, which is a halberd and laser scythe with a revolver chamber, or Vita's hammer, Graf Eisen, which can grow in size and has ROCKETS in it. While it does often involve firing huge lasers at each other, the fights just get spectacular at their best. Really the biggest strength of Nanoha A's is just how well things work together. It's not the most complex plot once you move past the whole space bureau thing, but all the characters have subtleties to them that make them stand out and feel human, the magical girl aspect lends to some great aspects of the show without ever venturing too far away from or too close to the tropes of the genre, the universe is strong, the villains are fantastic, and there's a lot of heart and thought put into scenes that make it feel more than just a pandery magical girl show that one might expect. I know it's hard to buy that a series like Nanoha can actually give a really solid, concise story with some emotional intrigue, but...yeah, that's what I'm saying! It's not ground-breaking like Madoka but it flows really well and has a lot of great aspects to it that made me fall more in love with a show like Nanoha than I'd ever expect to.

Cons: But pfffftahahahahaha that dub. Cristina Vee as Nanoha is fine, there's a couple passable ones in there, but yeah I had to switch to subs after three episodes, it just got kinda grating with how outdated the voice acting and mixing quality was, making it my second time (only after Kids on the Slope) that I disliked a dub enough to switch to subs. There's some grievances, too, like Nanoha herself being relatively bland compared to the rest of the cast and not really having a ton of characterization; the same going for Hayate, who is a likable person but doesn't have a ton there as a character. The series is famous for beating friendship themes into the ground and yeah, I won't deny there's a good chunk of that here. And it's certainly not immune from trappings of the magical girl or shonen genres like the sudden power-ups or such, so while it is a largely well-made magical girl story, if you don't care for the magical girl tropes in the first place I doubt Nanoha will change your mind on them. I don't have much else specific to bring up, just general trope grievances that occasionally bog things down a bit.

High Point: The Wolkenritter
Low Point: The dub

Final Thoughts: It's kinda hard to explain what works so well in Nanoha A's, but it just kinda...works. I really liked it, more than I expected, and I'm interested in checking out more of the franchise as a result. The best I could really tell you is to give it a shot, maybe research the first season if you don't feel like watching it, and just see if it's the kind of thing you might like. I mean it's hard to convince people that this magical girl show's a lot better than it probably looks, but I don't place it at number 5 lightly, and I even considered placing it further several times. It's a fun adventure with a surprisingly tight story, and if you give it a shot it may shock even you.


Spoiler : Number 4 :


Did you think there'd be only one Kyoto Animation show on this list? Ha, think again! Here we have their newest entry into anime, Sound! Euphonium, an anime about a group of girls that play in a band together! No, it's not K-On! again, though I don't blame you for that initial thought. But while many would groan at the high placement of yet another KyoAni show, I will argue that this latest entry is one of the company's greatest, most thoughtful, relatable, and well-made shows they've ever made, and so far is next to Death Parade as my favorite anime to be released this year.

Summary: Kumiko Oumae begins her time at Kitauji High School unsure of what she wants to do, and especially if she wants to join the concert band or not, after a rocky end to her last experience in band and seeing the poor state of the school's current one. However, although still somewhat reluctant, she and her new friends join the band now being conducted by a kind but strict teacher as a euphonium player. As they all fight to improve enough to potentially make it to Nationals, the concert band faces arguments, irritation towards the new teacher, students deciding to quit completely, auditions, and more that make them really have to fight if they want to pull this off well. Between the drama of the band and the awkward rift between her and her classmate Reina Kousaka, Kumiko's new life at high school is more than she may have bargained for.

Pros: Say it with me now, "This show is absolutely GORGEOUS". Yeah yeah I'm a broken record with KyoAni shows at this point, sue me, but I'm not kidding around here when I say this is the most gorgeously animated show not only from KyoAni but perhaps from the entire slice of life genre. There tons of detail in everything, there's excellent lighting and direction consistently, and the motion flows like a river; the instrument-playing scenes have some of the best motions I know of, to the point where you can see them take breaths between notes at times (seen best in the final concert scene), it's stunning. But you don't want to read me blab about animation forever, so moving onto the writing, it's got a shocking amount of depth. With another ensemble cast a lot of the characters feel very distinct and real thanks to the consistency of the background characters in the band, and some of them even have their own miniature arcs happening in the background. From the eccentric Asuka to the off-putting Reina, or the passively strict Taki-sensei, there's a very fun cast here, and even Kumiko manages to be a bit more interesting than one may expect thanks to how the show explores her passive nature; she's very natural and not overly "moe", she's one of the most naturally written characters I've seen from this company. There's a lot of thought put into the themes and ideas the show explores, including ideas about how honest people really are when they say they want to reach for the top, and that it's okay to not have the same passion as others; and heck, some tropes you'd expect to play out are avoided entirely, and main characters aren't as immune to things as one may expect, throwing out several curveballs to keep you on your toes. There's a certain melancholy atmosphere the show has, and while it doesn't stray from being funny or optimistic, there's a certain maturity to it a lot of other KyoAni shows lack. And it's incredibly relatable for band members; I may have only played minor percussion like cymbals and triangle, but the scene of the group practicing the marching band walk brought back a lot of middle school flashbacks for me.

Cons: The biggest problem the show has is what has been called "yuri-baiting" by a lot of people. It ships Kumiko and Reina a LOT, with some of the show's most beautiful scenes being filled with tons of sexual tension between the two, buuuut they're both straight. At least, the light novels suggest as such, to avoid spoilers, and while they never get with guys in what currently exists of the show...yeah it's kinda bullcrap for them to tease a genuine lesbian relationship and then not really go through with it, that'd have been really interesting to see for a rather poorly represented group in anime. Aside from that rather questionable tactic at views, issues stem from things like the character of Sapphire, despite being one of the four main girls alongside Kumiko, Reina, and the tuba player Hazuki, has little to no character development or arc over the series. And there's that good ol' KyoAni kinda-ending, where things end at a good point but with obviously a lot still left to do; it wouldn't be awful if it ended there but a second season would be delightful. There's still plenty of story to tell. And while more happens here than say K-On! and has a very different overall tone, if you don't like SoL, this could easily be a miss for you.

High Point: The final concert scene, for its emotional height and top-notch animation
Low Point: "Yuri-baiting" tactics that likely will never amount to anything

Final Thoughts: Kyoto Animation hit it out of the park with this one, and even people who have aversions to their type of shows I've seen praise this one. It's definitely the best show I've seen from Spring of this year, debatably of the year overall, and is up there with shows amongst the studio's greatest works. I'll try not to abuse the term "instant classic", but yeah, this one resonated pretty quickly with me. If you feel like maybe checking out the studio's work but are hesitant to check out its more "moe" driven shows, I won't promise you you'll like Sound! Euphonium, but I implore you to at least give it a shot. You might just like what you find.


Spoiler : Number 3 :


Now this is a shocker, eh? As we hit the top 3 we leave the slice of life genre behind and move on to, of all things, a shonen. I wanted to start binging longer shows this season, so I tackled the Magi franchise, sitting at around 50 episodes thus far (season one being Labyrinth, season 2 being Kingdom) with an ongoing manga and very much a shonen, a genre I typically avoid. And while it falls into maaaany shonen trappings...I can't deny the fun I had with this show.

Summary: In a setting similar to the tales of the Arabian Nights, magic Dungeons housing powerful Djinns are scattered, waiting for potential future kings to traverse their traps and claim the power within. These kings candidates are chosen by the Magi, magicians that are able to harness magical energy ("Magoi") from the surrounding life energy ("Rukh") destined to lead future kings to claim their Djinns. A young Magi, Aladdin, befriends a young man named Alibaba Saluja, and the two find themselves traversing a dungeon themselves. Aladdin and Alibaba, along with other allies such as the super-strong slave Morgianna, the friendly Djinn Ugo, the powerful adventurer Sinbad, and more face the world together as they encounter mysterious organizations, enemy nations, and a whole world of adventure.

Pros: The setting is great, and while there's plenty of anachronism involved, the Arabian influence helps the show out a lot to make this a very memorable world. The design and animation's also great for a shonen, with a lot of colorful characters and fluent scenes; bits like the dance from the start of season 2 shows off just how great this show looks when it wants to. The cast is a ton of fun and memorable, Morgiana being one of my favorite main female characters in the shonen genre (getting a lot of development and being the strongest character in the entire main cast I mean come on she kicks giant tigers to death), Alibaba being a great and flawed hero, and a lot of cool side characters like Sinbad, Jubar, Jafar, and many more. The action, as it should be for a shonen, is a ton of fun, with a good sense of intensity and choreography and a lot of interesting powers and weapons. What shocked me is that the show actually works hard at developing characters and being more than just action. While its pacing causes a lot of whiplash at times, it shows interest in making sure a lot of its characters grow steadily over the series and grow as people. The Balbadd arc is my personal favorite, as it involves not only great fights from the main characters, but a lot of politics and thinking to try and make sure that what they're doing will actually WORK. It's smarter than a typical shonen and has a bit more care for its characters most of the time, which I really enjoy. There's a lot of intense moments in there, too, and it does a good job of taking conventional scenes and then reversing your expectations so suddenly you may actually let out a gasp; I know I did on multiple occasions. The soundtrack also adds to the atmosphere a lot, usually with the Arabian style sound you'd expect and occasionally kicking in with the heavy orchestra or choir for the "epic" feeling. The dub, while not perfect and featuring a lot of small talents that are still clearly getting into the industry, features a lot of talented voice actors and is very solid overall, and contains just about all of my favorite VAs in one place or another. What works in Magi is less that it reverses your expectations of shonen entirely and more that it just pulls off most of the tropes really well and with a lot of heart. This isn't a show that I feel is written for just the paycheck at the end of the day, it feels alive and full of care from the creators, and it's easy for me to get really into it when it's at its best.

Cons: The low points can get fairly low, though. Aladdin is actually comparatively dull to most of the cast, and he doesn't have much in terms of personality and is even a pervert every now and again; I don't hate him but he's far less interesting than his comrades. And it does feel very restricted by its shonen tropes often, mostly in the sudden powerups or deus ex machinas or information that get quickly revealed that tend to make things a bit complicated, especially by the time the show features a huge cast by the end of the show, all of whom it's attempting to give at least some characterization and to varying degrees of success. The second season's Magnostadt arc in particular ventures way too far away from the point of the show, leaving Alibaba and Morgianna out of the scene until practically the end and, while delivering in plenty of good smaller scenes and ideas and culminating into a cool if rushed and hectic finale, lacks a lot of the show's charm as it introduces a Harry Potter-esque academy and just gets generally distracted for a while. And of course it's an ongoing manga so it ends on a big ol' cliffhanger. It really has to fight against its own tropes at times, and while it usually succeeds, it trips up from time to time, especially near the end. Also the dub does take a while to get going for good; the script can be rather awkward and it's rather noticeable until you adjust. Also I don't like any of the OPs except for the first but that's just me.

High Point: The Balbadd Arc
Low Point: The Magnotadt Arc

Final Thoughts: Magi is very shonen, especially near the end, and personally that's not the greatest thing to be. But the lovable characters and the amazing concepts and just the amount of heart put into it made me unable to resist this show's charm. It's not always the best but its high points were high enough for me to really, REALLY enjoy it. If you want a great setting with some fun characters and don't mind the tropes, I advise you to check Magi out, as it's a truly magical adventure.

Good luck not thinking of Disney's Aladdin, though.


Spoiler : Number 2 :


And now a classic. Often put somewhere alongside Cowboy Bebop as one of the old western favorites in anime, Trigun played a big role in anime's popularity over here, being one of the early names to air on Toonami. It almost seems superfluous to talk about it, as I could easily say "It's Trigun" and end it there and people will probably get the gist of it, but that's the lazy way to do things. So let's see why Trigun deserves a little love and peace even nearly 20 years after its release.

Summary: On the planet Gunsmoke, ravaged by drought and energy shortage and with eerie similarities to that of the old wild west, there exists a man named Vash the Stampede, also known as the Humanoid Typhoon, said to cause destruction wherever he goes...yet no fatalities. With a bounty of sixty billion double dollars on his head, two women, Meryl Strife and Milly Thompson, from the Bernardelli Insurance Agency are tasked with locating and watching over Vash to maintain the amount of damage he causes to a minimum. Vash, who turns out to be a very skilled idiot with a no-kill rule and a lot of bad luck, journeys with the two girls to save lives wherever his travels take him, along the way facing obstacles like the violent priest Nicholas D. Wolfwood, bounty hunters out for his head, sinister villains with an agenda against him, and the dark truths of his own mysterious past.

Pros: First off, let's just read some of the names from this series. Vash the Stampede, Nicholas D. Wolfwood, Millions Knives, Midvalley the Hornfreak, Brilliant Dynamites Neon. Yes, there is an actual character named Brillian Dynamites Neon, and it's amazing. Ridiculously cool names aside, Trigun is a mix of wild west cowboy series and cyberpunk sci-fi series, and the mix works very well to create some incredibly unique characters, settings, weapons, fights, etc. The main characters are all great, such as the excessively cool Wolfwood, the high-strung but caring Meryl, the naive but constantly fun Milly, and of course Vash himself, who makes for one of the most interesting protagonists I've seen in anime for a long time, his pacifist morals and violent lifestyle clashing for him constantly. The show does a great job at making him fun and over-the-top but also tragic and emotionally flawed; he's a fantastic hero, and being the breakout role of Johnny Young Bosch doesn't hurt. There's an overarching depth and maturity to this series that may not be apparent given its joy for occasional slapstick and focus on gunfights. It has a lot of interesting themes in it, especially when Vash's moral code is brought into question (especially when the perfectly sinister Legato Bluesummers comes into the picture), and the fight scenes, while largely consisting of shooting, have a certain strategic element to them when Vash attempts to both save the lives of others, keep himself alive, and try not to kill his opponent. And the show's brave enough to actually go through with things you might expect it not to, so the tension of when something could go terribly wrong is omnipresent across the show. Its animation's a bit dusty at times but the show's direction is splendid, with a good sense of shot composition and dramatic pacing that keeps things interesting and helps it feel timeless whenever it can. The soundtrack is also great, both in its harsh rock songs for the action and its somber pieces for the drama; I'm a big fan of the action theme "Yellow Alert". As the series goes on, Vash morals are challenged each episode, and the eccentric villains the Gung-Ho Guns are introduced, the show just gets better and better, resulting in some incredibly memorable scenes that I dare not spoil but suggest you watch yourself to know what I mean.

Cons: You may notice a running trend on this list of problems arising from the nature of the shows' adaptations. Even Trigun is a victim of this, as its manga had not concluded when it was made, and it had to make some stuff up itself. Therefore a lot is left vague and unexplained, such as the full nature of Vash's identity or Legato's powers, so while it does conclude itself within the show, there's still some questions that just never really get answers. The ending feels rather abrupt and unsatisfactory as a result, even if the climax is rather good, and instead of entirely wrapping up it feels like there's a final battle and then it just...stops. The animation and dub are a tad outdated, neither of which are terrible but tend to waver and show its age at times, with some awkward line deliveries and a lot of still shots. And backgrounds look very samey with the rather repetitive town designs (and you could ironically make a drinking game for the amount of bars and taverns that show up). Being largely episodic for most of the series of course means some episodes aren't as memorable as others, too. And while they're both cool characters in their own right, Milly and especially Meryl tend to be a bit too damsel-in-distress-y at times. Its slapstick comedy is also very hit-or-miss. The problems with the show are minor and largely a result of poor aging, but they can add up at times to be if nothing else distracting.

High Point: The final encounter with Legato Bluesummers
Low Point: The very ending

Final Thoughts: Trigun is a classic for a good reason. It's aged a bit, but it still manages to be a strong series with not only some great action but some shockingly deep themes, intriguing setting and lore, excellent characters, and just an overall great experience packed with both fun and meaning. I adored Trigun and for a while I thought it might make it to number 1, as it certainly deserves it as a classic must-watch (landing on popular review GRArkada's 5 anime to watch before you die alongside Cowboy Bebop, Fullmetal Alchemist, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Akira). But alas, I watched one last anime before my deadline for this list, and it was the one that stuck with me the most in the end. And that anime is...


Spoiler : Number 1 :


The most recent anime I've seen on the list, yes, but also the most poignant for me. An adaptation of the visual novel Ef: A Fairy Tale of Two split into two seasons covering different aspects of the story, this show, directed by Shin Onuma (Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, Negima!?, Paniponi Dash) and animated at Studio Shaft, this bizarre romance story grabbed me immediately and wouldn't let me go. It's one of the most uniquely stylized series I've ever seen, and while I fully admit it's flawed and not for everyone, it kept my attention enough to make it to number 1 on my list of shows I watched this summer.

Summary: Ef is a tale of many intertwining romances. One is that of Chihiro Shindo, the girl who can only maintain 13 hours of energy at a time, and Renji Aso, the boy that wants to protect her and assist her through her struggles. Another is that of Hiro Hirono, a high school mangaka, and the struggle between his childhood friend Kei Shindo and new free-spirited acquaintance Miyako Miyamura for his attention. There's that of the violinist Shuichi Kuze and the dreaded fate he's preparing for and the girl Mizuki Hayama that grows swiftly attached to him and his music. And there's Yu Himura, Chihiro's mysterious caretaker, and his tragic past with the mysterious Yuko Amamiya that he's unable to move forward from. These tales intertwine with one another across two identical towns of Otowa, but will they end in miracles, or in tragedy?

Pros: You may be wondering why I listed the director in the intro. That's because the directing in the show, believe it or not, is what sold me on it. I go on and on about animation and beauty pretty often, but rarely do I discuss the power of good directing, and this is one show that definitely benefits from having great direction. Shin Onuma's style here is incredibly artistic and nonconventional, focusing on capturing the emotion of a scene rather than the reality of it. This results in bizarre shots and cuts, stylish scenes of limited color, shots that last any length that works for the atmosphere, surreal elements, new art styles, dramatic timing, and scenes more symbolic than literal. With an eye for great shot composition to add to this(I remember many shots of little happening that were made incredibly impactful from camerawork alone), the art, while not as amazingly drawn as other shows I praise, becomes one of the most memorable, potent, and yes I will use the word again GORGEOUS pieces of animation I've ever seen. Without spoiling I'll tell you that one of the best scenes is in episode 7 season 1, in which there's nothing but a small watercolor image, narration, music, and text across the screen, and it just stays like that for a while, and it is one of the most haunting and vivid pieces of directing I've ever seen. This even extends to the two gorgeous OPs, Euphoric Field and Ebullient Future, which are not only timed perfectly when they show up in the episodes (the first appearance of the OP actually made me jump it was so well timed), but they adapt to the story itself, symbolically mirroring the tone to both uplifting and foreboding results. And as for the actual animation, it's largely fluid and features some breath-taking shots of the sky. Yes, I'm complimenting the show's sky. And that's not even talking about the content of the show, just the ways it's put together! The writing, while far from realistic, puts a ton of focus on the emotion of scenes and delivers in spades with some deep themes and dramatic scenes, with a cast of mostly enjoyable characters to boot. Things all flow together, the ending is incredibly satisfying in both seasons leaving no plot threads left particularly unsatisfying, and it tells several complete and investing stories all within the two seasons it's given, without needing to be any longer than it is. The musical score works brilliantly with the show and is rarely left wasted. The dub, while mixed, is decent for SentaiFilmworks and generally nails the emotional scenes well, with special mention going to Monica Rial and Clint Bickham for consistently enjoyable performances and Carli Mosier and Luci Christian for some particularly well-delivered scenes. Everything just flows together, making for a unique experience that I don't think could ever be replicated by any other show. Had the series been given to anyone aside from Shin Onuma and Studio Shaft (known for bizarre series like Madoka Magica or Monogatari) I doubt it would have landed a spot here. I'd probably still like it, as the story is mostly solid, but it's a true example of why good direction matters. The right person behind a project can not only improve it but make it an experience like no other. By the end of this series I was choked up, and I don't know if it was because it was the ending being emotional or just knowing the series was coming to an end, but it was at that point that I knew no other show could land number 1 on this list.

Cons: Of course...this isn't for everyone. If you look past the direction you might find something melodramatic, where mountains are made out of molehills and nobody reacts properly to situations in the name of drama. You might find some weak romance elements that move at odd paces and feature some often unlikable characters (notably Kyosuke Tsutsumi who rarely isn't a d-bag, and potentially Hiro or Kei). The dub is strong for Sentai but still features a lot of weak casual conversation, especally regarding Luci Christian (Miyako), Illich Guardiola (Kuze), and Carli Mosier (Yuko), and wow who let David Matranga do a kids voice for flashbacks because he is awful at it. There's also scenes where sex was heavily implied (due to the source VN was an eroge), though it's luckily toned down by season 2, but the awkwardness is still there and it has some gross implications as a result in regards to "fall in love, have sex ASAP". It definitely has that "visual novel" feeling that pushes a lot of people out of shows like Clannad or the like, so it's hard to imagine being for everybody. Going into it requires a tolerance to melodrama if you want to fully enjoy it.

High Point: The directing, especially in the last scene of episode 7
Low Point: Implied sex scenes and their unfortunate implications

Final Thoughts: I don't think I can properly sell what makes me love this series so much with words. It's something you kinda just have to...see. To experience. As I've stated, it is not a show for everyone, and I wouldn't be shocked to receive at least a little bitterness for placing it above something like Trigun, at number 1 no less. But the direction in this show, the sheer amount of thought put into it to make even seemingly unimportant shots stick in your head, is what made this a one of a kind experience. You can't replicate a show like ef and expect to get just as good results. It require the passion to try something new and the courage to stick with it. It would have been easy to play this safe as an average VN romance adaptation, to make it just another love story. But it does something new and different, and almost ironically, it makes sure to stay in your memory. Ef is not a perfect show. No show is. But it takes a show like ef to leave me with that feeling that I'll never find anything like this again. That is why I find ef to be as beautiful and unforgettable show as it is, and why it is at number 1 on this countdown. I'm glad to have experienced this true tale of memories.

....God I'm cheesy.
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Hersh/Fiendy has credit for the amazing GiGi pics and enigma has credit for the adorable Kenshin Mega Man sprite!

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Re: General Media Top Tens! (Animation, Movies, Books, Etc.) 

Postby Holhol » Thu Dec 10, 2015 3:35 am

Copying from Lind from last year.

Top 25 Favorite JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Characters


Kind of an excessive amount. I just like lists.

I'm nearly finished with Part 7 so I thought it would be as good of time as any to do this. Possible spoilers due to the high death toll in the series.

Spoiler : 25 :
Weather Report
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Part 6: Stone Ocean

Spoiler : 24 :
Foo Fighters
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Part 6: Stone Ocean

Spoiler : 23 :
Funny Valentine
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Part 7: Steel Ball Run

Spoiler : 22 :
Kars
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Part 2: Battle Tendency

Spoiler : 21 :
Esidisi
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Part 2: Battle Tendency

Spoiler : 20 :
Yukako Yamagishi
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Part 4: Diamond is Unbreakable

Spoiler : 19 :
Noriaki Kakyoin
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Part 3: Stardust Crusaders

Spoiler : 18 :
Jotaro Kujo
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Part 3: Stardust Crusaders --- Part 4: Diamond is Unbreakable --- Part 5: Vento Aureo --- Part 6: Stone Ocean

Spoiler : 17 :
Dio Brando (DIO)
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Part 1: Phantom Blood --- Part 3: Stardust Crusaders --- Part 6: Stone Ocean

Spoiler : 16 :
Hol Horse
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Part 3: Stardust Crusaders

Spoiler : 15 :
Gyro Zeppeli
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Part 7: Steel Ball Run

Spoiler : 14 :
Lucy Steel
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Part 7: Steel Ball Run

Spoiler : 13 :
Hot Pants
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Part 7: Steel Ball Run

Spoiler : 12 :
Guido Mista
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Part 5: Vento Aureo

Spoiler : 11 :
Jean Pierre Polnareff
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Part 3: Stardust Crusaders --- Part 5: Vento Aureo

Spoiler : 10 :
Joseph Joestar
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Part 2: Battle Tendency --- Part 3: Stardust Crusaders --- Part 4: Diamond is Unbreakable

Spoiler : 9 :
Jolyne Kujo
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Part 6: Stone Ocean

Spoiler : 8 :
Diego Brando
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Part 7: Steel Ball Run

Spoiler : 7 :
Johnny Joestar
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Part 7: Steel Ball Run --- Part 8: JoJolion

Spoiler : 6 :
Lisa Lisa
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Part 2: Battle Tendency

Spoiler : 5 :
Giorno Giovanna
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Part 5: Vento Aureo

Spoiler : 4 :
Enrico Pucci
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Part 6: Stone Ocean

Spoiler : 3 :
Josuke Higashikata
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Part 4: Diamond is Unbreakable

Spoiler : 2 :
Yoshikage Kira
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Part 4: Diamond is Unbreakable

Spoiler : 1 :
Rohan Kishibe
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Part 4: Diamond is Unbreakable
~Danielinhoni is the bestest friend anybody could ask for~

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Re: General Media Top Tens! (Animation, Movies, Books, Etc.) 

Postby Lind » Mon Apr 18, 2016 3:18 am

Ranking every single episode of Welcome to Night Vale, with the exceptions of the Thrilling Adventure Hour Crossover, their currently-touring Ghost Stories which I haven't yet had a chance to see, and the novel.

Spoiler : :
BAD

92. Rumbling
91. A Carnival Comes to Town
90. The Woman from Italy
89. The Librarian
88. Valentine


MEH

87. The Traveller
86. The Phone Call
85. WE MUST GIVE PRAISE
84. The Deft Bowman
83. Cooking Stuff: Thanksgiving Special
82. The University of What It Is
81. Capital Campaign
80. Faceless Old Woman


DECENT

79. Homecoming
78. PTA Meeting
77. Monolith
76. The Lights in Radon Canyon
75. Station Management
74. Hatchets
73. A Beautiful Dream
72. A Blinking Light up on the Mountain
71. The Registry of Middle School Crushes
70. Summer Reading Program
69. A Stranger
68. Lazy Day
67. History Week
66. Orange Grove
65. Antiques
64. Faceless Old Women
63. Cookies
62. Taking Off
61. First Date
60. The Auction
59. The Candidate
58. Condos
57. The Sandstorm (A)
56. Glow Cloud
55. Missing
54. Street Cleaning Day
53. The Man in the Tan Jacket

GOOD

52. Civic Changes
51. An Epilogue
50. The Sandstorm (B)
49. Water Failure
48. Poetry Week
47. Pilot
46. Fashion Week
45. The Mayor
44. Dana
43. The List
42. Voicemail
41. worms...
40. Standing and Breathing
39. PYRAMID
38. Visitor
37. Lost in the Mail
36. The Retirement of Pamela Winchell
35. One Year Later
34. BRINY DEPTHS
33. One Normal Town
32. Skating Rink
31. The Shape in Grove Park
30. After 3327
29. Well of Night
28. The Old Oak Doors
27. Cassette
26. WALK
25. Review
24. Wheat and Wheat By-Products
23. A Story About Them


GREAT

22. There Is No Part 1: Part 2
21. Numbers
20. Subway
19. The September Monologues
18. Feral Dogs
17. The Investigators (Not actually released yet but I got to see this one live and it was utterly spectacular)
16. A Memory of Europe
15. The Drawbridge
14. Parade Day
13. Triptych
12. A New Sheriff in Town
11. The Whispering Forest
10. Through the Narrow Place
9. Renovations
8. Eternal Scouts
7. The April Monologues
6. Company Picnic
5. [...Best Of?]
4. Past Time
3. Yellow Helicopters
2. The Debate
1. A Story About You
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Re: General Media Top Tens! (Animation, Movies, Books, Etc.) 

Postby gotMLK7 » Tue Jun 14, 2016 5:40 am

And at last...it's that time again. Well, it was that time again like 2 months ago...heck, 5 months ago. Welp, gg me.

Welcome, freaks and geeks of the internet. This is...

The Top 13 Anime I Watched Fall 2015-Winter 2016


For the second time I didn't have enough Fall material to make a list and fused it with the Winter one, whoops! But if you don't know, every anime season (more or less), I sum up my thoughts on the recent anime I've watched and arrange them from the one I liked the least to the one I liked the most, relatively speaking. This list covers the last 6 months of anime I've watched and FINISHED during that time. Shows that I have not seen in entirety do not count, so shows like Osomatsu-san, Hellsing Ultimate, Log Horizon, Sekkou Boys, Honey and Clover, Tsuritama, and Bokurano will not appear on this list. With much deliberation, mostly because of how long this list took to make, I have decided not to include Assassination Classroom on the list, since I did finish the first season but it would be easier to wait for the second to finish before discussing it at this point. This list is purely subjective and not based on popular opinion or even entirely what I find best constructed, just my own personal feelings towards the shows in question. I will be giving a brief description of the show and listing pros and cons for each show, as well as what my high point and my low point were. I will be linking OPs for each show, though some may be removed from YouTube and either deleted or replaced with trailers. Now last season was probably my anime low-point, so to speak, with the worst anime I've ever seen and a lot of middle-of-the-row shows, with even first place being rather low in my top anime compared to previous winners. This season was the complete opposite. Almost every single show on this list potentially could have hit top 5 in the previous list. Even the bottom of my list this time around is a show I overall liked and would even recommend, and the top may be the most overall well-constructed anime I've ever seen. This was the hardest list to arrange yet and perhaps the listing isn't seven too necessary, I really liked basically all of these shows. But it's a tradition I shall follow, and I hope you enjoy my thoughts on the shows!

And without further ado...

Spoiler : Number 13 :


I really didn't want to put ERASED on the bottom of this list. The hit thriller of the Winter 2016 season, this show is by A1 Pictures and directed by SAO's Tomohiko Ito, and for weeks was looking to be the best show of the year right out the gates. Sadly, it didn't quite live up to that promise, though my putting it so low isn't exactly me calling it a bad show. There's a ton in this show to love! Sadly, I'd say that it's what the show did well that ultimately made it disappointing in the end.

Summary: Satoru Fujinuma is a failing 29 year old manga artist who possesses a mysterious power. This power, dubbed "Revival", will randomly turn back time for him in order to prevent disasters. One day, Satoru's mother is found murdered in his apartment, and he's the lead suspect. When Satoru's "Revival" activates to save his mother, however, his adult mind is instead thrust back in time to 1988, into his 10 year old body. Satoru discovers he was sent back to just before a string of serial kidnappings and murders his mother was investigating regarding young girls at his school. Satoru decides that the best way to change the future is to blend in to the past and change the fates of these girls, particularly one Kayo Hinazuki, in order to change the chain of events to the future and save everyone.

Pros: The show shines its brightest at the start of the series. Satoru's attempts to save Kayo are both tense and heartwarming and were by far the most enjoyable aspect of it, with the threat of Kayo's death constantly overlooming the sweet scenes of Satoru befriending her. The animation is, for the most part, among the best we've seen from A1 Pictures (which typically outsources animation work to varying degrees of success), and the soundtrack is a more subtle score by the legendary Yuki Kajiura. The characters are all mostly interesting, particularly Satoru's mother, his co-worker Airi, and Kayo herself. The thriller aspects are good at whipping you around from a feeling of comfort to a feeling if despair, and the directing is one of the show's strongest points. If you ran away at the mention of the Sword Art Online director, fear not, as he shows off a lot of interesting shots and editing tricks with this show that help make up for even some of the weaker scenes. Even the second half of the show wasn't what I would call terrible, and still has interesting shots and ideas in it, and the last episode is a fairly decent send-off to the series. And the opening, "Re:Re" by Asian Kung-Fu Generation, is by far my favorite of 2016 thus far, with a great song and incredibly fitting and unique visuals. Even the voice acting, which I don't typically note in subs, is very interesting, with rookie seiyuu Shinnosuke Mitsushima stealing the show as Satoru with a voice and delivery you never really hear in anime. Like I said, this show has a ton of good stuff in it, and the fact it was the most popular show of the winter 2016 season is not a surprise at all.

Cons: Sadly, this show hits the bottom spot mostly for probably having more blatant flaws than anything else on the list. The show lost steam once Kayo's subplot ended, and the handling of the story after she's mostly dealt with is awkwardly paced, often blatant, and generally weak compared to the setup before it. It's a terrible mystery series, though it can be argued the mystery isn't the focus. However, when a show relies on tension as much as ERASED does, having only a single suspect that makes sense for the killer in the cast and not a single red herring makes it rather swiftly obvious whodunnit. If you find yourself asking "I wonder if that person did it!" the answer is almost definitely "yes". Their reveal isn't particularly great, too, and they become rather cartoonish in nature after their reveal despite their immense potential as an interesting villain. The "Revival" power also isn't explained in-universe at all (despite neat theories), and is essentially a plot device for the show to use only like three times in the entire series. Satoru drops the idiot ball a lot, taking rather obtuse methods rather than the more obvious ones. The show can be massively unsubtle, including red eyes and obvious tells and just a lot of weak aspects in general. Once Kayo's gone, the show also pretty blatantly rushes to adapt whatever's left of the manga. Characters like Aya, Kenya, the killer, and ESPECIALLY Airi have pretty blatantly had context to their characters cut for time and were more developed in the manga. I think you're starting to see the issue I have with ERASED. I said that the parts that were good were almost its own downfall, and I say that because the aspects with Kayo and the great directing makes me sad that the rest of it wasn't as well-executed when in hindsight it could have been pretty okay on its own. The good parts took up so much time that there just sorta...wasn't time to put into the rest of it. I feel that if the show gave more potential suspects and was twice its length to flesh out more of the subplots, it could have been a massive improvement to the series as a whole.

High Point: Kayo and Satoru's interactions
Low Point: The reveal of the killer

Final Thoughts: I really don't like putting ERASED at the bottom. I still think it's a pretty good show and between all the bottom shows I've put on these lists, it's the one I probably enjoyed the most. But when looking at all the shows on this list that I really liked, I can't bring myself to deny that ERASED was riddled with problems. For everything it did well, it did something poorly, and those poor aspects were just too numerous to really justify putting it above something else. I recommend it if you're interested, but it's definitely the most flawed show I watched these past several months.

UPDATE: There's a dub planned. So. That's cool.


Spoiler : Number 12 :


Dennou Coil is a rather obscure series from 2007 written and directed by Mitsuo Iso and animated by Studio Madhouse. It's like a cult classic but without much of the cult behind it. The series brings an interesting spin on the science-fiction genre with a unique world and some fantastic presentation, and has a lot of great names working on it, but it has remained incredibly overlooked despite its high praise. Do I believe this deserves cult classic status, or is it as low as it is for a good reason? Let's see!

Summary: In the year 2026, internet-connected augmented reality glasses have been developed and spread into everyday objects, and the digital world has become closer than ever to the real world. Yuko Okonogi (nicknamed Yasako) arrives in the tech center of the world, Daikoku, and joins her grandmother's so-called investigation agency at the pushing of her new friend Fumie to search for virtual currency called "metabugs". However, a second girl named Yuko, the mysterious hacker Yuko Amasawa (nicknamed Isako), shows up as she seems to be on the hunt for something. The kids of the investigation agency and the two Yukos intertwine in a conspiracy involving urban legends, mysterious digital entities, missing children, and the thin boundary between the physical and digital realities.

Pros: When I was watching an episode of this show, my sister looked up my shoulder and told me she thought it was a movie. The animation in this is consistently impressive, with less of a focus on flashiness and more on impressive and unique character animation. Their movements are fantastic and have a sort of western vibe to them, and the character designs, while simple, are incredibly effective and memorable. I can't recall a single time in its 26 episodes that the animation took a dip, and that's not something I generally see in non-KyoAni shows. The show is drenched in themes and ideas, and the setting is what really sells it. The concept of augmented reality glasses that blend the line between reality and the internet is interesting, and it's handled well here. It's like a modern Lain, almost, though with a tone more akin to a mellow mystery. That is until the last quarter or so, when every episode is filled with such tension that each one feels like the next could be the finale, and when I got most sucked into the story of the show. The show also has some fun one-off episodes that explore the ideas the augmented reality allow, including one of the most bizarre episodes of an anime I've seen that involves beards going to war with one another. The series thrives on ideas and concepts, and when it knows how to use them, it becomes both an interesting think-piece and a mostly entertaining story. The music, by Tsuneyoshi Saito, is incredibly effective and atmospheric, with particular note to an action track I sadly cannot find that seems to involve clapping as a major instrument. As a whole, I highly recommend Dennou Coil to people specifically looking for something with an interesting and somewhat realistic sci-fi setting, and for people looking for something not quite like anything else in its style and tone.

Cons: Metabugs, metatags, Searchmaton, Dennou, 4423, Coil Domain, Megamass, obsolete space, kirabugs, encoder, illegals, Nulls, THERE ARE WAY TOO MANY TERMS IN THIS SHOW. For as good a setting as this is, it takes way too long to actually understand half of what happens in it. It's one of those shows that gives names to so many things that you just lose track of what they all are and what they all do. And some things are super vague with how digital or physical they are, and I constantly had no idea what the show would look like to someone not wearing glasses. You'll need to practically take notes on this series, and you'll need to suspend disbelief at times. The characters are sadly pretty average across the board, with only the two Yukos particularly sticking out to me; I pegged the loud-mouthed Fumie as my favorite from the start, but she basically did nothing in the series and completely lacked a character arc. And I dont tend to hate child characters, but Yasako's sister Kyoko got really tiring really fast. And the show in general is a slow burn, taking at least half the series to really pick up into constantly entertaining; it had moments like Isako's hacker battle with Daikichi in the first half, but a lot of it was a slog of trying to slowly introduce the world to viewers, and it was a bit too slow for my taste. The ending was also somewhat disappointing, as while it hit the right emotional beats, the source of the trouble was pretty anticlimactic and not particularly interesting, kind of pattering out on an otherwise interesting mystery. The show has a ton of interesting ideas, but it gets a bit too caught up in them, throwing out a lot of confusing ideas and not handling its cast as well as it could as a result.

High Point: The setting
Low Point: Kyoko Okonagi, the little sister character who spends most appearances calling things "poop"

Final Thoughts: I put Dennou Coil as low as I do largely because I just cannot remember a lot of it. Recapping this was incredibly difficult just because it only left a vague impression in my mind as to what actually HAPPENED in the show. That being said, I do think this show definitely deserves a lot more attention, if only for its fantastic aesthetics and intriguing concepts. The show is planned for a dub this year, believe it or not, from an obscure studio, so I'm very interested in seeing how that turns out and may revisit it to see if the language change might get me more invested in some aspects I wasn't so much in to the first viewing. I still highly recommend this as a sci-fi show, and while it doesn't quite hit all the points I personally like in a show, it definitely deserves a look.

UPDATE: I took so long to write this the dub came out. Dropped the ball there. It's kind of awkward ad Hillary Haag isn't the best as Yasako, but there's some good performances from Brittney Karbowski as Fumie and Monica Rial as Isako. Doesn't seem amazing but could be worse.


Spoiler : Number 11 :


Hey. Y'know how I said this was a super tough list to organize cuz everything was super good?

Yupppppp.

One Punch Man, if you somehow have not heard of it, is based on a questionably drawn webcomic turned amazingly drawn manga by the writer ONE. It was adapted into a 12 episode anime by Studio Madhouse and directed by Shingo Natsume. Natsume had recently directed Space Dandy, 2014's surprisingly artsy hit, and had about a dozen fantastic animators just sorta on stand-by when he started this show. This combination is what led to by far 2015's most popular anime, which has already taken the world by storm. And while it obviously wasn't my favorite of 2015, I think it's pretty undeniable that this show at least deserves some of the immense amount of praise it has received.

Summary: In a world where monsters of varying oddity and power can attack at any moment, the "hero for fun" Saitama can defeat any of them with a single punch. After training so hard his hair fell out, Saitama has become the world's strongest hero, and literally any foe or challenge he comes across can be taken down with just one punch. As monsters attack, as assassins swear vengeance, as aliens invade, as meteors strike, all it takes is one punch to win, much to the chagrin of our hero on his quest for a fun opponent...or at least a bargain deal at the store. As Saitama punches his way through foes, he encounters a very serious cyborg named Genos who forces himself under Saitama's wing, as well as an entire association for heroes that get all the glory in the media...and Saitama just doesn't seem to get a break with his public image. It's not a question of "Will Saitama win", but it will be a question of "Will anybody notice it when he does?"

Pros: If "animators from Space Dandy working with Madhouse" didn't clue you in, the animation in this show is kind of freaking amazing. Maybe not so much in normal scenes, but the battles are almost consistently some of the most impressively animated, giving even the ufotable Fate adaptations a run for their money. The manga is famous for its amazing artwork and panels that can actually turn into animated gifs, and the show definitely did not let down the expectations of those expecting animation just as good. The fight with Genos midway through the series and the fight with Boros at the end are quite frankly two of the most visually impressive battles to ever be animated, and the latter was even worked on by the almighty lord of battle scenes Yutaka Nakamura (if youve scene the swordfight in Sword of the Stranger, thank this guy for that). The music certainly helps, with an intense rock OST by Makoto Miyazaki and an opening by my favorite Japanese band JAM Project. The shows basically made a name for itself on being badass, but it's actually mostly a comedy, and a mostly funny one. The jokes are well-timed, Saitama and Genos are likable and work as good foils to one another, and the plethora of side characters with ridiculous powers and backstories are endlessly amusing. The show's somewhere between a love letter to and a satire of the typical superhero story, and does a good job of reversing a lot of cliches and expectations of the genre. And there's bound to be at least one side character you really like, whether it be the powerless but super determined Mumen Rider, the in-your-face Tatsumaki, or just some rando that was just really amusing in his five minutes of screen time. It can even be tense at times, shown especially well in the Sea King arc. If nothing else, this show is constant fun. Things are over the top and intense and funny and it's just sheer FUN.

Cons: But there really isn't a ton of depth here, is there? You can certainly find themes in the show but for the most part it's not exactly hard to dissect. It's a pretty simple story, for better or worse. Though I have less a problem with that and more a problem with the army of characters the show introduces. They all have fun powers and quirky personalities, but there's a lot that have potential to be interesting, and maybe a very small fraction of them will get any kind of attention devoted to their characters. From what I can tell, some get more development in the yet-to-be adapted manga, but right now there's just a billion characters without much development or screen time. And the show typically always has Saitama finish a monster off, which yeah, it's the joke, he's the strongest of them all and all his fights end in an anticlimax. But it's kind of sad that so many characters are introduced and barely any of them actually do much of note. A lot of the show is just sort of padding of characters failing to fight off a monster or struggling with an opponent for a while until Saitama inevitably comes to win. Some characters can be pretty unpleasant, especially Puri Puri Prisonder, but since almost all his screen-time was in the fun battles, even he didn't leave too big an impact on me enough for me to hate him despite his pretty bad stereotypes. The show doesn't do a terrible job at making the titular gimmick last, but some curveballs would be fun every now and again. I'm also not amazingly fond of the final arc with Boros, as it's very high stakes for something that just sorta comes out of nowhere. It leads to an amazing fight, yes, but it definitely feels like the fight exists only to give the show a hype-worthy finish, even if the previous villain, Deep Sea King, had much better build-up. None of this makes the show outright bad or anything, but they hamper it in a way that just makes it a bit hard for me to jump on the bandwagon of adoration as quickly as most. I like the show a lot, but it just didn't live up to some of my hopes for it, so just being sheer fun is basically what's driving the whole thing for me.

High Point: The Genos and Boros fights
Low Point: Lack of cast development

Final Thoughts: Does One Punch Man deserve praise? Totally, it's a marvel in animation and is so easy to get excited over. But is it my automatic best show of 2015? Yeeeeaah, no, not really. It's super fun and is an easy recommendation to anyone looking for an action-comedy, but its simple cast and gimmick definitely makes it hard for me personally to really get into it too much. I love stories driven largely by its cast, and One Punch Man didn't really give me that as much as I'd have liked it to. That all being said? This show was super fun from start to finish, and if you like high action and breath-taking animation, check it out as soon as you possibly can.


Spoiler : Number 10 :


Or Shin Sekai Yori. First, finding something to link for this show was annoying because it has no OP, its ED is copyrighted, and it doesn't have good official trailers. That aside, From the New World was an interesting show for me. I went into it with much hesitance, expecting to dislike it or at least not care for it, but I was surprised that I actually ended up invested in the show. It's not perfect, but this show puts forth a lot of interesting ideas and images that can make you think and made the show really worth the watch.

Summary: 1000 years after the discovery of psychic powers, society has rebuilt itself in the "Kamisu Era", where all humans are expected to develop their own psychic abilities during their adolescence. The story follows Saki Watanabe and her friends Satoru Asahina, Shun Aonuma, Maria Akizuki, Mamoru Ito, and Reiko Amano as they begin to unravel a conspiracy during a detour on a class trip. Eventually coming across the society of the Monster Rats, odd mole-rat mutants that live in tribes and sometimes see the humans as gods, they assist in a battle alongside the monster rat that saved them, Squealer. This is the catalyst for the difficulties in their lives for the next several years of their lives, as Saki and her friends are caught in an increasingly deeper conspiracy between the powerful psychic humans and the origins of the society they have come to live in.

Pros: The selling point of From the New World is definitely its setting. This is a society that has had tons of time poured into developing it and conceptualizing it. Reminiscent of ancient Japan more than the typical idea of the future, the setting takes an interesting spin on how psychics would affect the world and creates a lot of interesting ideas, props, setpieces, concepts, etc. based on that idea. Unlike Dennou Coil, the setting here is very fleshed out and not too difficult to keep track of the terminology and rules. It feels like a real society that makes sense and, while it has more than a little gray morality involved, it doesn't feel as big a stretch as many other dystopian societies go thanks to some very genuine performances from the characters. The characters are all at least effective and feel as though they have set characterization, Saki feeling particularly developed for a protagonist as simple as she is, though it's the character of Squealer that really steals the show in getting across the themes and in general delivering an outstanding performance. The presentation has moments that make it amazing, with some interesting special effects in use and an unshaded style and muted color scheme that makes it look like no other show I've seen and feature some stand-out moments of sheer beauty. There is no opening, but the highlights of the soundtrack that make up for it are haunting and memorable, with heavy use of a slow electric guitar and child choir that, while a bit overused, adds just what some scenes need to make them stand out. The first ED, Wareta Ringo, is also among my favorites. The dub is mixed, as per SentaiFilmworks standards, but I don't think there were any show-breakingly bad performances and the good ones, like Emily Neves as Saki and ESPECIALLY John Kaiser as Squealer, make the dub worth a watch. An interesting thing about the show is that the society seems to approve of and even expect bisexuality, especially around the teenage years, which was incredibly interesting; basically every main character gets into both homosexual and heterosexual relationships at one point or another. The show moves at a slow pace, but I rarely felt as though my time was being wasted; most episodes served some purpose in the grand scheme of things and, by the end of the show, everything felt as though it concluded well and was tied up. It's a fairly solid show throughout with interesting themes and a setting that really feels alive.

Cons: The show was being worked on by A1 Pictures at the same time as a show you may have heard of called Sword Art Online. It's pretty obvious at times that the studio's resources are pointed to that project and not to here, as it suffers from some drops in quality in the background art in particular; the CGI boulders being flung about at one point are absolutely hideous. A lot of the characters are simple and at several points rather unlikable; Mamoru and Shun in particular were not particularly interesting to me and at times got on my nerves, and Maria I liked but felt like she could have been much more developed. The aforementioned bisexuality aspect of the story does feel a bit like baiting, as it's sexual in nature and none of the characters actually end up in homosexual relationships by the end of it, which was very disappointing. There's a couple scenes that feel oddly like things are getting a bit too intensely sexual for characters as young as these, actually, which can get pretty uncomfortable (on that note, avoid the later manga adaptation, which apparently takes "a bit oversexual" to "literally pornographic" for some bizarre reason). The dub does have its low points, again with Shun and Mamoru as stand-out weak performances for Clint Bickham and Blake Shepard respectively. The slow pacing can also be pretty obnoxious at times, as while most episodes do build up on things, it at times feels like the show has too many slow and quiet scenes, and some things take too long. The trip into the hospital near the end in particular felt largely pointless, as it didn't reveal much we hadn't already figured out and was filled with characters that were obviously going to die; it served in building up one of the main antagonists, but it felt like it went on forever and hardly mattered by the end of it.

High Point: Squealer
Low Point: Hospital bits

Final Thoughts: This is a really hard show to talk about, honestly. I went in with a negative outlook based on how I heard homosexuality was handled in it but I ended up liking it a lot more than expected. I don't think I feel too attached to it as a show and it had its weak points for sure, but I was surprised to find myself interested from beginning to end and ended up liking it far more than I anticipated despite not thinking it would be my kind of show. It's not a show I'd expect to find myself rambling for long periods of time and recommending constantly or anything, but I think it's worth a watch and found it a lot more interesting than I had ever expected to.


Spoiler : Number 9 :
Image
"Nyanpasu!"
Non Non Biyori


Also its second season, Non Non Biyori Repeat.

Okay, this'll be...difficult. Because I'm pretty sure half of you just immediately disregarded this on sight because it's got cute girls. But like...hear me out here, Non Non Biyori is pretty freaking good. This is the cut-off show, where I legitimately had no idea how to arrange these shows. I knew ERASED, Dennou Coil, and One Punch Man would appear in the bottom in some arrangement, and struggled between this and From the New World, but past that was a mystery to me, and the next several I all actually like a LOT, but have arranged thusly based sort of on a ratio of how often it had things I liked. I have my reasons for putting Non Non Biyori this low, but all I ask of you is to give me the benefit of the doubt on this one, because it's something quite special.

Summary: Hotaru Ichijo is an abnormally tall and mature-looking fifth grader from Tokyo, who transfers to the rural Japanese village of Asahigaoka due to her father's work. She attends the Asahigaoka Branch School, an incredibly small school consisting of a single class of various grades consisting of a small handful of local family's kids (even the teacher is one student's older sister). The show follows a year in the lives of Hotaru and her new friends in Asahigaoka: Natsumi Koshigaya, a carefree and lazy first-year middle schooler; Komari Koshigaya, Natsumi's older yet smaller sister whom Hotaru has a crush on; and Renge Miyauchi, a rather eccentric first grader who's perceptive for her age but still rather naïve.

Pros: If there's one thing I can say this show gets down amazingly above all else, it's atmosphere. The entire show has an air of nostalgia to it, and the show's finale is not even a year old as of my writing this. Everything just sorta comes together well to capture the feeling of an innocent childhood, and of the little things in that childhood that help you grow as a person. It's not something directly obvious in the writing, but it's an overall presence the show has thanks to how it presents itself. The animation is slow but mostly fluid and character-detailed, and characters tend to move very naturally. The expressions are all gold, too, especially courtesy of Renge. Renge actually brings most of the show's charm in general; she embodies that sense of childishness the series has overall despite being ridiculously serious about things. Her Japanese voice actress is really good at voicing her and her awkward childish speech, and I actually thought a real child was the voice actress, but it turns out it's Kotori Koiwai, who's in her mid-20s, which is ridiculously impressive. Renge's a source of most of the best comedy, and her reactions and one-liners are gold, but she's also a source of a lot of its heart, especially a season 2 episode involving her taking care of some tadpoles. The other characters are mostly fun, too, and there's some great interactions and relationships all around. The musical score by Hiromi Mizutani's fantastic at capturing that nostalgic tone, especially with songs that actually heavily use the recorder. And this show has some of the msot breath-taking background art I've ever seen, with beautiful images of farmland and nature everywhere. Even the opening songs by nano.RIPE have that tone to them, and I especially love Repeat's OP and its display of the kids marching through the seasons. The directing is fantastic for the kind of show this is, too; the last episode has an utterly fantastic long take shot, and that bit there just encompasses everything I loved in this show. There's a lot of general aesthetic and writing choices Non Non Biyori does well, but it's that recurring nostalgic atmosphere and the themes of relishing childhood that really put this show above the top as perhaps the ultimate in relaxing, peaceful, and overall pleasant shows.

Cons: I wanted to put Non Non Biyori higher on this list for the execution of its tone alone, but I cannot deny its weakness in certain departments. A lot of the comedy is extremely...Japanese. It's an "amusing situation" kind of comedy rather than a "punchline" kind of comedy and a lot of the humor falls pretty flat on its face. There's also not a lot of character development in the series. Renge and Hotaru and various side-characters, especially MVP of the side-cast Kaede "Candy Store" Kagayama, go through some clear growth, but a lot of the cast is fairly static, especially Komari and Natsumi. The entire cast has a lot of potential for this to be one big coming-of-age story, but only small parts of the cast feel as though they grow at all and it's in very tiny ways. Season 2 doesn't remedy this, as it in fact literally "repeats" time and starts at the arrival of Hotaru once again, and just follows different events over the same year. It's still a good season, better than the first even, but it wastes the potential to really grow its cast. There's occasional questionable content, too, mostly regarding Hotaru being particularly well endowed for a fifth grader and her cute but kind of creepy crush on Komari that involves her having an enormous stash of handmade plush dolls of the girl. While the show handles its atmosphere and most of its writing rather well, it's not a particularly strong comedy series and it's too simple to really develop its cast all that much.

High Point: Renge Miyauchi
Low Point: Treating Hotaru as older than she is (her swimsuit for example)

Final Thoughts: Non Non Biyori is cute, I will not deny that. If you don't like cute girl anime you may not want to aim for this one. However, this show is perhaps the best anime I know for relaxation and for nostalgic feelings. It's hard to put into words what I like about this show, but it's one that's handled just right between presentation, delivery, and themes that makes it always put a smile on my face. It's a bit too simple and awkward to get much higher on the list, but if you're looking for something like, say, Lucky Star that's generall calm and mellow to feel happy watching (replacing otaku talk with the countryside), I definitely recommend you check this series out and just feel good.


Spoiler : Number 8 :
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"EXPLOSION!!!"
Konosuba: God's Blessing on this Wonderful World!


So as the Winter 2016 season of anime rolled in, I spent the initial weeks looking up the OPs to each new show, as I do every season, to judge them for what I thought was the best. When a show called Konosuba premiered late into the season, I waited for the OP to go up on YouTube, but got impatient as nobody seemed to bother uploading it for a while. So I watched the first episode myself to find the OP and judge it from there. I expected to just look at the OP and leave, as I saw no reason to watch that season's second of two "trapped in an RPG-like setting with cute girls" anime. But as the OP was at the end of the episode rather than the start, I found myself watching the whole episode. And I returned next week. And after that. And after that initial disregarding of the show completely and an OP that wasn't even particularly noteworthy, I found myself following the funniest show of the season and what quickly grew to be a surprise fan favorite.

Summary: Kazuma Sato is a Japanese NEET who dies saving a girl from being run over. Or, he thinks that; he actually threw himself in front of a slow-moving tractor and died of the shock of THINKING he was run over, and is ruthlessly tormented by the goddes named Aqua that greets him in the afterlife. However, Aqua gives Kazuma a choice: reincarnate as a baby or be transported to a parallel world run by MMORPG logic to fight against the Devil King, to which he can take a single item to. As vengeance for her rude behavior, Kazuma decides to take Aqua, and so their journey begins. Their party eventually consists of Aqua, the powerless goddess turned arch-priestess with huge magical potential that she spends on parlor tricks and spends most time whining and wasting money; Darkness, the crusader that acts as the group's tank because she's a masochist that gets aroused by punishment and has accuracy so low she couldn't hit the broad side of a barn; Megumin, the chuunibyo arch-wizard who knows the strongest magic attack, Explosion, and refuses to learn literally anything else despite being incapacitated for a day whenever she uses the attack; and Kazuma, the only semi-sane person surrounded by obnoxious person whose only notable skill is his high luck stats and his Steal ability that only ever seems to grab him girls' underwear. And so this is our party of heroes in their journey to defeat the Devil King...or at least eat for the night.

Pros: If you haven't caught on, Konosuba is a comedy, largely parodying many of the typical "trapped in an MMO" anime tropes shows like SAO are known for. Instead of an OP badass surrounded by cute girls who love him, we get an asshole loser surrounded by morons that only looks good in contrast. The show is absolutely hilarious, with that main cast of characters each having ingenious plays on their respective types, especially Megumin, who steals the show with every appearance. The comedic timing is hilarious, and the Japanese voice acting by largely newbie actors breathes a lot of life into both the characters and the jokes. I could attempt to analyze why Konosuba's jokes work, but it'd be easier to tell you to just see for yourself. A lot of these scenes feel like clockwork in how the jokes appear, and each one just feels like it arrived just when it needed to. The parody is great, too; episode 5 in particular stands out as a hysterical episode, especially with the one-off character of Kyouya Mitsurugi. Kyouya is essentially the stereotypical Kirito-type pretty boy surrounded by a harem of women with an overpowered sword in the same position as Kazuma that would typically be the protagonist, and the main cast just treats him like a creep that gets too involved in their business. It's a funny episode on its own but knowing the tropes of the genre makes it all the funnier. The animation is derpy a la Studio Deen but at times actually works in the show's favor, and at times bumps up and even impresses, particularly with Megumin's chuunibyo rants and explosion attacks. The show's only 10 episodes long over the course of two LN volumes, but it wraps up rather well as far as comedies go, and there's already promise of a second season on the horizon. It's hard to pinpoint what exactly makes this show so good, but it comes down to the fact that it got me laughing consistently more than even some of my favorite comedies. It's just a flat-out hilarious show and I can't recommend it as a comedy enough.

Cons: Konosuba tries to be raunchy sometimes and it rarely really works. As genius as the idea of a tank that's actually a masochist is, Darkness is by far the weakest of the main cast as she tends to take up too much time with her predictable sexual fantasies, and can be rather obnoxious as a result (though reactions to her are fairly hilarious). The "using Steal to grab girls' underwear" gag is used multiple times and isn't particularly funny. Breasts flop around a lot in the show, and it can get pretty uncomfortable at times. This definitely reaches a head in episode 9, which features almost entirely sexual humor between a strip club of mostly-naked succubi and a misunderstanding leading to Kazuma being and Darkness naked and increasingly awkward. I would honestly not blame anyone for skipping that episode alone. As a comedy, not all jokes hit, and if you don't find it funny in general, it's probably not your kind of show given that comedy is basically the entire focus. The animation is, as mentioned before, Studio Deen levels of derp, and expressions look like they're crooked or melting at times. And there's only 10 episodes, so there's not really a whole lot there, and there's some obvious unshown scenes from the LN skipped over for time (particularly the apparent first meeting with the lich Wiz). The show definitely has its struggles, so if you find yourself unable to get into the writing, I definitely understand dropping it rather soon.

High Point: Episode 5, "A Price for This Cursed Sword!"
Low Point: Episode 9, "God's Blessing On This Wonderful Shop!"

Final Thoughts: I did not anticipate to like or even WATCH Konosuba, so I was shocked when I not only watched the first episode but laughed literally out loud watching it and ended up following it weekly. The show ended up being considered one of the season's best, which I completely agree with. If you're sick of tired Stuck-in-a-Game anime and just want to see something twist those tropes, or are just in the mood for a good comedy, I cannot advise you to watch Konosuba enough. It's the funniest anime on this list in my opinion and it deserves attention for the quality of its writing alone.


Spoiler : Number 7 :


Airing in 2015, animated by Studio Bones and based on a manga by the author of Trigun, Yasuhiro Nightow (yes apparently he spells his name like that), this show has quite a bit to live up to. While I wouldn't put it on the same level as the author's most famous work, Blood Blockade Battlefront was fun from beginning to end. Dripping with style and excitement, this is a show with a lot of energy put into it, and while I do wish that it had lasted perhaps twice its length to flesh things out, what I got was incredibly enjoyable.

Summary: When a portal to the "Beyond" opened, paranormal beings began to enter human society and eventually adapt. New York City, now called Hellsalem's Lot, is the melting pot of humanity and monsters, where both walk the streets and interact on a daily basis. Some paranormal beings do not merely settle with mundane life, however, and it's the organization of Libra that handles all cases of supernatural crime and trouble. Leonardo Watch is a boy with the "All-Seeing Eyes of God", granted to him by a mysterious entity in exchange for his sister's sight, who possesses various ocular powers that are considered valuable. Roped into Libra by its rather eccentric members, Leonardo and his allies fight off the various supernatural troubles the city faces, such as the antics of the King of Depravity Femt, monster mob bosses, vampires, the mysterious twins Black and White, and all kinds of abnormalities running amok in Hellsalem's Lot.

Pros: As customary for a Yasuhiro Nightow work, lets begin by reading some character names. Leonoardo Watch, Zapp Renfro, Chain Sumeragi, Steven A. Starphase, Dog Hummer, Sonic Speed Monkey, Zed O'Brien. Perfect. That aside, BBB's strengths lie in its devotion to its energy. The editing is notably quick and snappy, allowing for some great cut gags and a general sense of quick pacing that makes it hard to get bored watching. The cast is large but everyone in it is fun enough to shine at least a little, and while only a small handful get any development, they each have at least a scene or so that helps make them memorable. The powers are used creatively and lend to a lot of fun fight scenes, and the action in general is high quality, being from the masters of fight animation at Studio Bones. This includes Yutaka Nakamura appearing on this list once again to animate a couple cuts, most notably some amazing animation from Zapp Renfro's battle in the first episode. The animation in general is great, with consistently strong animation, some of my favorite city design in anime, and a lot of strong atmospheric lighting and effects. The soundtrack is godly, definitely the best of 2015; it's the only anime work thus far by Taisei Iwasaki as far as I can tell, but with a ton of atmospheric and energetic songs and a lot of actual lyrical music, the soundtrack never disappoints. The OP "Hello, World" and the ED "Sugar Song to Bitter Step are also among the best of the year, the latter being one of my all time favorite EDs. The show was broadcast dubbed by Funimation and I'd say it may be the strongest broadcast dub I've seen, with an amazing cast including Aaron Dismuke, Ian Sinclair, Phil Parsons, Josh Grelle and Micah Solusod at their best, and a lot of newer VAs that deliver some strong performances of their own. The setting feels very alive in this show, and the city of Hellsalem's Lot, while technically a reskinned New York City, feels lively and bustling. The finale is also particularly of note, as it was delayed for months to air but eventually came out as a double-length episode that delivered a very exciting and mostly fulfilling conclusion to the show. If I were to describe BBB with one word, it'd be fun. Everything is just fun, from the editing to the music to the characters. It's a show I constantly found myself just wanting to put on because it never failed to entertain me, and with some fantastic presentation behind it, it was definitely worth coming back.

Cons: BBB feels totally disinterested in its plot. It devotes a good amount of time to the twins Black and White which is nice, but most of the 12 episode run consists of antics and action not too related to the plot. It throws out a million proper pronouns you won't remember and introduces a character every episode or two, and if there's one big obvious issue by the end of it, it's that most of those characters don't do anything. It's like a ton of cool characters were designed and then maybe like 4 of them were actually needed for the plot. The biggest offender is the initial antagonist Femt and his partner Aligula, who consistently steal the show when they appear but hardly actually do anything in the grand scheme of things and just sort of hang around the main villain after being relevant for an episode. The show focuses less on the interesting plot it sets up and more on the antics of its setting, but not all those antics are that great; Episode 6, "Don't Forget to Don't Forget Me", while feeling like something out of a Shinichiro Watanabe show at times, can be pretty annoying and incredibly predictable throughout. The lack of character development and the tight pacing can make it pretty tough to actually connect to the show much; it's a ton of fun, and it's easy to get into its swing, but it's hard to walk away saying it impacted you much emotionally past the occasional great scene. The big issue at the heart of BBB is that it has too many ideas for its own good, and while those ideas are certainly a lot of fun, it doesn't spend any time on fleshing them out and focuses on just doing more, making its rather short run-time take its toll fairly quickly come the finale when the main plot is resolved but so so many loose ends and potential character arcs feel completely ignored.

High Point: The finale, "Hello, World!"
Low Point: The poor use of Femt, King of Depravity

Final Thoughts: If you're in the mood for just some good fun with some great animation I definitely suggest BBB. I like it for a lot of the same reasons I like One Punch Man, with the presentation and the general energy, but feel BBB did a better job at feeling alive and at least a little interesting and capable of being emotionally invested in. It's not as hysterical, but it's funny and energetic and just in general rarely bored me. Check it out if you're in the mood for something fun in a mad, mad world.


Spoiler : Number 6 :
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"I want something genuine."
My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU!


Also season 2, SNAFU Too! Often known as Oregairu. The stereotypical light novel title may be misleading, but this show is surprisingly interesting. It feels...wrong to review as one show, because it's kind of two. Season 1, animated by Brain's Base, is largely a comedy with some dramatic elements, but season 2, animated by Studio Feel, is largely a drama with some comedic elements. It feels like two entirely different shows with a single cast. But luckily both seasons are actually rather good, and I dare say it'd be a shame to write this one off too quickly.

Summary: Hachiman Hikigaya is a total outcast in high school, pushing others away and being treated with disgust by his peers for his overly pessimistic and pragmatic way of dealing with others and being generally creepy. His teacher fears his turning into a social misfit, so she forces him to join the school's Service Club, dedicated to fulfilling the requests of classmates who need help. This club is founded by the cold Yukino Yukinoshita, who shares a mutual dislike with Hachiman, and the two are eventually joined by the contrastingly cheerful and popular Yui Yuigahama. The three solve the problems of their classmates in their own bizarre fashion while dealing with their own increasingly complicated relationships with one another.

Pros: The characters in SNAFU, while mostly based in tropes and stereotypes, all feel very human. Almost every character has more to them than meets the eye, but rarely to ridiculous extents, creating a cast of characters that feels like they could legitimately exist. Characters are multi-faceted, flawed, and clash an interact in interesting ways. At the center of all this is Hachiman, our protagonist and one of the most interesting leading characters I've seen in a while. His perceptive yet cynical nature gives us an intelligent protagonist quick to call out others for the crap they do in every day life and willing to make himself into an asshole when needed, but is often jaded when it comes to genuine social interaction and getting past his shallow ideals. He bounces off the rest of the cast fantastically, and he's a great character to revolve the show around because of this; I think I'd go so far as to call him my favorite protagonist on this list. As previously mentioned, the first season is much more of a comedy while the second is more of a drama, and both do so rather well. The first season is based heavily on snark and poking fun at social trends and the BS people put out frequently, with some of the best banter in anime, while the second explores those themes in a more serious tone and delves into what really makes a relationship genuine. Watching the show got me thinking more about the little things we do to fit in to society, and I respect any show that can really stick its themes that hard in my head without being too over-the-top in presenting them. The first season is all fun and good, but the second is where this show really shines as something special, with huge improvements in animation and direction with Feel at the helm and the characters at their most interesting. The music is generally effective, but the second season's OP song, "Harumodoki" (linked above), is among my favorite OPs in a purely musical sense and the show makes a very good call in using a cover of the OP itself for a dramatic scene or two in the show itself. Some scenes feel way too real, too; I cracked up all the time during season 2's school meeting scenes. It's that feeling of things being real and human that gives this show an edge over a lot of other rom-coms and light novel adaptations, I feel; it's a show that feels truly genuine, and it really stuck with me as a result.

Cons: Season 1's animation is by Brain's Base and I've recently come to realize that's typically not a good thing. They don't really have the best animation and in general seem to be in a constant sense of being slightly off-model, and the first season always feels not all that well animated, especially compared to the second season when character animation almost approaches KyoAni levels at times. Though on the opposite side of the spectrum, I feel character design is less prominent in season 2, particularly on Hachiman. Hachiman also loses a lot of his cynicism and sass and plays good guy a biiit too much in the second season; he's still an interesting character and I still really enjoy him, but he loses a bit of his edge from the first season. The second season is prone to some melodrama, too, if that's not your thing. Also, that ending. It was a good episode but it leaves off at the biggest emotional cliffhanger ever and just absolutely needs a third season at this point. Anime rom-coms are known for unsatisfactory endings (just ask my sister) but this is one of the biggest ambiguous endings I've seen a show like this pull off and maaaaan does it ever need some follow-up. Aside from that, there's some nitpicky things like a couple of characters that feel somewhat unnecessary, and that if you prefer the comedy to the drama season 2 may be a bit more frustrating for you or vice versa.

High Point: Hachiman Hikigaya
Low Point: The very ending

Final Thoughts: Just like many of its characters, SNAFU is more than it may seem. With a rather generic title and a promise of being a rom-com, it's easy to skip over this gem, but it's a snarky, smart, and poignant look at social behavior following a cast of likable and dynamic characters. With some surprisingly complex ideas, a strong sense of humanity, and one of the best protagonists I've seen in a while, I whole-heartedly recommend this to anyone interested in something fresh and interesting, even if it's in a coat of simplicity.


Spoiler : Number 5 :


Otherwise known as my favorite anime of the Winter 2016 season. This is a show that went under a lot of people's radar, not even being licensed past Crunchyroll, but those who watched it agreed that it was something that deserved far more attention than it got. A period piece focused on an obscure performance art, this show did not pick up much attention, but when I saw it on the seasonal anime lists, I pointed to it and said that if there was a single show from the season that would be good, it'd be this one. The show is just pure quality from start to finish.

Summary: In the Shouwa era of Japan, an ex-convict seeks apprenticeship from the admired Yakumo Yurakutei VIII, a famous performer of rakugo, a performance art in which a storyteller remains seated on stage and depicts a comical story using only a paper fan and a cloth as props. The ex-convict is taken somewhat reluctantly under Yakumo's wing and is given the stage name Yotaro. However, as Yotaro struggles to find his own technique in performing rakugo, he meets Yakumo's adopted daughter Konatsu, and learns of his master's dark past with her father. And so Yakumo tells the story of himself (back when his stage name was Kikuhiko) and his friend Sukeroku (Konatsu's father), and the paths they took in rakugo and in life that led to the inevitable tragedy that brought them to their situation today.

Pros: The biggest compliment I can give Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is that it takes 10 minutes out of a 45 minutes pilot episode to show a rakugo performance uninterrupted, in full, and it sells it. Director Shinichi Omata (Sankarea, Rozen Maiden 2013) knows what he's doing here, and the rakugo performances are brought to life through his direction. The camera work is fantastic, capturing subtle movements of the characters such as shifting feet and shifting about as performers act as different characters; it even grows simpler during weaker performances, meaning the quality of the direction relies on the quality of the rakugo itself. It's absolutely brilliant, and every rakugo scene is a joy. The cast is complex and enjoyable, with the main protagonist we follow, Kikuhiko in his youth, being one of the more complex protagonists I've seen in a while, with a great seiyuu in Akira Ishida selling his rakugo both as an old man and as a young adult. The visuals are strong, with typically better animation than one might anticipate from Studio Deen, and the music is all fantastic, with the OP "Usurai Shinjuu" by Megumi Hayashibara standing out as a kind of old-style smooth music one wouldn't expect in an anime. The story tells you from the get-go it's a tragedy, starting at the end, and watching the show becomes a waiting game for everything to go wrong, which works fantastically for it. You see Kikuhiko's rise and his relationship with Sukeroku blossom from his childhood as his feelings towards his friend, his profession, and his life all grow more and more complicated, all while knowing what a strict old man he some day becomes and wondering just how things all come to be. It's an excellently crafted tragedy for the most part, and that constant tension of the inevitability of the downspiral is what really drives the show forward. That being said, the characters' interaction certainly helps, with Kikuhiko and Sukeroku forming an excellent pair with their strict-silly relationship and every scene they share is a joy. Even Yotaro in the flash-forward segments, despite thus far only appearing in 2 episodes (the first and last of the season) demonstrates a ton of personality and potential. Which is good, since the show has already promised a season 2 based around his own ventures into the rakugo world! But the amazing thing is that the show wrapped up so well this season, I wouldn't even mind it simply ending there. With an excellent finale for a show not even truly finished and quite frankly one of the best opening episodes I've ever seen, let alone this year, Rakugo Shinjuu proves to me that just because an anime is new does not necessarily mean it's not as good as the classics.

Cons: If I have one complaint with the series, it's probably the pacing. I understand that showing the life of a man is a long process, but some bits seem to fluctuate in how much time they feel they need. The first episode, while excellent, does feel a bit too quick to make room for the rakugo and the setup. And bits in the middle feel as though they're slowing down too drag out the inevitable tragedy. The tragic moment itself is marred by some of this pacing as well, I feel; it's got great setup and I wouldn't call it bad, but the actual scene just feels very quick for the series worth of tension building to it. I also can't help but feel it cops out a liiiiittle bit, though not too badly; it's all more eyebrow-raising than it is fatal. There's also some oddly sexist bits in there, most notably in Kikuhiko telling Konatsu girls can't be a part of rakugo, but that may be more of an era thing. There's also a very bizarre scene where Kikuhiko licks his girlfriend's tears and it's so confusing and out of place and I still am not sure what was up with that scene. For the most part I can't think of too many damning flaws with the show, it really only comes down to nitpicks and that if you aren't into period dramas or knowing the outcome from the beginning you probably won't like this show. It's a very grounded show, to the point it could have been live action, but if you're more one for some outlandishness it might not be your thing.

High Point: The rakugo performances.
Low Point: Occasional sexist comments.

Final Thoughts: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is the best show to come out of Winter 2016, at least of what I've seen, and that seems to be a common sentiment among the few who bothered to follow it. I knew from the beginning that if one show would be good in the season it would be this one, and I was not disappointed. What Rakugo Shinjuu gave us was a story like a classic and with the execution to hold it up. It was great from beginning to end, and if I had season 2 under my belt here and if I were a bit more into period works, it could have landed even higher. If there's one show from 2016 I could recommend thus far, it'd be this one, and I highly advise you give it some love, because it really did not earn as much as it deserved.


Spoiler : Number 4 :


Speaking of shows that deserve more attention, how the heck is Scrapped Princess not a beloved classic? Released in 2003, this fantasy with sci-fi elements tells an intriguing story with some legitimate moral wonders, some unique concepts, some great characters, and just everything that should make up for a classic anime. Yet this show is borderline unknown, and that is a shame. Bare with me here, as this was the earliest anime in this batch I've seen and it's been over half a year since I watched it as of my writing this, but I shall still proclaim that Scrapped Princess deserves much more attention than it has ever received.

Summary: Prophecy dictates that the royal daughter of the kingdom of Leinwan would be the poison that destroys the world come her sixteenth birthday. She was dropped off a cliff as an infant to prevent this, becoming known as the "scrapped princess". This girl, Pacifica, was secretly saved and adopted by the Casull family. Years later, as her sixteenth birthday nears, Pacifica is protected by her adoptive brother, Shannon the swordsman, and sister, Raquel the wizard, as the kingdom and mysterious beings known as the Peacemakers hunt her down and attempt to kill her to protect the kingdom. The trio travel, hide, fight, and meet new allies and enemies as they try to fight against supposed the supposed destiny the world is forcing them to accept.

Pros: For 2003, this show looks pretty freaking good, animated by the often impressive studio Bones. It's clearly old, but the visuals hold up and even have moments of brilliance. The voice acting in the dub is phenomenal, with an amazing cast of Kari Wahlgren, Bridgett Hoffman, Steve Staley, Yuri Lowenthal, and more giving it their all, with the highlight of course being Crispin effing Freeman as Shannon Cassul. The music is fairly good, with note going to the relaxing OP "Little Wing", sung by Masami Okui and performed by, get this, JAM Project, whom you may know for the epic rock themes for shows like GARO and One Punch Man and for basically not being chill at all, making this a surprising treat. But this show really holds up on the quality of its writing. The plot is engaging, with the ventures of these siblings trying to protect Pacifica being absolutely thrilling and suspenseful, and the show is willing to take enough risks to make you always on the edge of your toes about what may happen next. There's a lot of lore and plot twists to the series, which is a real treat for those who like some backstory and some cool settings. And the characters are what really sell it. Pacifica can be annoying sometimes, but it's made clear that she's definitely trying to cope with the fact the world wants her dead and she actually considers that as the best option at times; she's more complex than she may seem. Shannon and Raquel are great, the antagonists are largely interesting, and the side characters reacting to Pacifica in different ways really sells the show. You can never tell who will accept her or who will wish her dead and it's that tension that really helps drive the show. It's excellent at delivering emotion, and not just the typical over-the-top crying drama kind of emotion that I admit I can be fond of. These characters, despite being in a fantasy setting, all feel very human. They have depth and their reactions are natural and they're just written extremely well. And the moral dilemma at the core of the series is really strong: do you kill one innocent person because they may potentially cause a travesty, or do you not persecute them for crimes they have not committed and may never commit? It's done extremely well with attention brought to each side of the conflict and while it's clear you should want Pacifica to live, the characters aren't afraid to almost consider letting her die if that's what may actually be for the best. The show is complex, full of personality, excellently performed and presented, and in general just has so much going for it that it's a shame that it's so unheard of. I dare say it may be my favorite adaptation of a fantasy light novel I've seen thus far.

Cons: The ending is...not amazing. Or rather, I don't mind the events of the ending, but I'm bothered by the pace at which they happen. Everything before the last episode is great, but the finale rushes through an incredibly important scene and plot twist and just speeds through the conclusion to the epilogue. I don't mind what actually happened but it happens so fast I can't process it in full; it expects you to remember a lot of the story and lore to really make sense of it first viewing. I don't hate how it all came together, but I wish they gave it more time to sink in. Aside from that, character design is noticeably out there, mostly in the outfit design. I have no idea what the shoulders of Pacifica's outfits are supposed to be, they look like they make it difficult to move through doors. There's a lot of proper pronouns thrown about that you certainly won't remember all of, and some plot twists are better than others. There's some arcs that are kinda out of the blue, too, including one about halfway through that I like but think it isn't necessarily required. You'll likely be confused or thrown through a loop at least a couple times as the plot unfolds, though you should be able to comprehend the big picture of it if nothing else.

High Point: The conflict.
Low Point: The ending.

Final Thoughts: Go watch Scrapped Princess. I don't care how, find a way to show some love for this show. It has its weaknesses but it's a solid show that really deserves attention and I hate the fact I'm the only person in my friend groups offline that seem to even recognize the name. It's been a while since I watched it, but looking it up again reminded me of why I loved it so much in the first place. Just...go watch it. Go, go, shoo, shoo, off with you to watch Scrapped Princess! Fly, you fools, fly, fly!


Spoiler : Number 3 :


As well as season 2, subtitled Heart Throb.

Did you REALLY expect Kyoto Animation to not make its appearance on this list? REALLY? I have seen nine Kyoto Animation anime since starting these lists, with only a single list not featuring a KyoAni show, so this should not be a surprise. What may be a surprise, however, is how much I loved this show. My love for KyoAni is no secret, but this marks the only "cutesy slice of life" in my top 5, and I did not expect it to ever be so high. I watched the first 3 episodes over a year ago, when the dub was first released, and let it sit there for months. I finally picked it up and ended up binging the entire rest of the first season in a single night. As unexpected as it was, this ended up as one of my favorite KyoAni shows, landing alongside K-On! and Nichijou as my favorite work the studio's produced I've seen thus far.

Summary: There exists a state of mind dubbed "chuunibyo", or "eighth grader syndrome", in which a person, often in middle school, has grand fantasies about themselves, believing them to be special, with magic powers, gothic clothing, supposed conspiracies, and all sorts of delusions. Yuta Togashi had chuunibyo in middle school, claiming he possessed superpowers while calling himself "DARK FLAME MASTER". Yuta is humiliated by this past and wishes to sweep it under the rug as he enters high school, moving on from that life entirely. This doesn't go as planned as a girl known as Rikka Takanashi descends from the apartment above his from a rope and reveals she knows he is the Dark Flame Master. As it turns out, Rikka carries her chuunibyo into high school, believing she possesses a magical wicked eye and that she is at the center of a grand magical conspiracy. Yuta fails to distance himself from this humiliating reminder of his past, simply dragged into Rikka's schemes as she forms her magic club to find what shes looking for and having to deal with the reputation he and his new friends gather at school. Over time, Yuta slowly grows closer to Rikka, and the two grow more attached as their feelings and the source of Rikka's delusions become more prominent.

Pros: Hey, guess what? It's KyoAni, so this show is GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORGEOOOOOOOOOOOUUS. Though not as good as K-On! or Sound! Euphonium visually, Chuunibyo still shows off KyoAni's fantastic character animation and actually features some fun fight scenes that come about in Rikka's delusions (with excellent contrast between her fantasy of flipping through the air firing energy blasts and swinging about on the floor waving an umbrella, mind you). Character design is strong, too, especially with that of Rikka's chuuni minion Sanae Dekomori and her amazing weighted twintails, which always provide entertainment when she swings them about as a weapon. The dub is...rough, but I like it. It's from Sentai Filmworks, which I'm evidently tsundere for, but it's better mixed than usual and it has some great casting with Brittney Karbowski as Dekomori, Emily Neves as Kumin Tsuyuri, and Maggie Flecknoe as Shinka Nibutani. Most controversial is Margaret McDonald as Rikka, who is less cute sounding than the sub and with a notably lower voice (especially when delusional), but I actually really like her performance, and think she breathes some new life into the character by making her sound legitimately like a socially awkward dork. The dorkiness is some of the best parts of this series, by the way. The characters all being either massive nerds that think they're cool or people who try to forget the fact they were massive nerds who thought they were cool is massively entertaining; something about mentioning DARK FLAME MASTER is consistently hilarious to me. The main cast really sells the show for me, between Yuta being better than the typical romcom protagonist, Rikka being a delight with some hilarious scenes and a surprising amount of emotional depth, Nibutani being a great "jerk with a heart of gold", Kumin just being flat-out pleasant, and Dekomori being amusing and starring in one of my absolute favorite scenes in the show. Season 2 also introduces Satone Shichimaya for a love triangle, and while I expected her to be obnoxious, she was better than anticipated and allowed for some really interesting scenes and conflicts. The show is funny, as I've suggested, but at times surprisingly emotional; it can be written off as melodrama, but I was actually invested in the questions it posed about romance and societal expectations, with KyoAni's excellent character animation helping in some particularly powerful scenes. The second season's great, though the final episodes of the first arc really steal the show, with some of the best of everything featured and actually giving resolution for the second season to expand on rather than beating around the bush forever! Amazing! This is admittedly a super "me" show and others might not appreciate it as much if you aren't as into these kinds of shows, but for me, it hit a ton of my sweet spots and made me fall more in love with it than I anticipated.

Cons: The show frustrates me at times, I admit. It follows the biggest problem I have with KyoAni of not developing side characters as well as they could; Yuta, Rikka, Sanae, and Nibutani all have strong development, and the others have their good moments, but Dekomori and Kumin in particular really lack strong development and it frustrates me to see Dekomori never really getting an arc that changes her in the long run when she had multiple opportunities to. Heck, her most notable episode in season 2 covers one of my least favorite tropes of the stalker lesbian with a crush, and that episode, while great for Nibutani's arc, was a pretty weak point for Dekomori and the show. The very end of the show was fairly anticlimactic, though I suppose it was thematically relevant; I just wish it had more to it after an excellent episode just before it. And some episodes are just sort of funnier than others. Also, I'm really confused why Yuta's friend Isshiki tans so much he actually turns black, that's still confusing to me, he's basically unrecognizable from start to finish and I still don't get that. Also, blah blah blah moe, blah blah blah slice of life, blah blah blah romance, you know the deal, it's probably not on the radar for most people. Aside from some generally weak bits scattered about and a theme among KyoAni shows of "that could have been a bit more satisfying" showing up, that's the majority of my major gripes with the show.

High Point: Episode 11 of season 1, "One-Winged Fallen Angel".
Low Point: Episode 8 of season 1, "The False...Spiritual Virgin (Mori Summer)".

Final Thoughts: I was utterly delighted by this show. It has a strong main cast of fun personalities, which typically makes or breaks a KyoAni show for me, with typically high KyoAni quality and some surprisingly emotional moments that had my eyes glued to the show. It's amazing to me that I nearly just abandoned the show because I felt like watching something else around December of 2014, since this became one of my favorite shows from my favorite company. I don't know if I'd call it a masterpiece or such, but it was enjoyable, probably the most pure "fun" in this top 5 and full of heart. Worth noting is that the anime apparently changed the light novels' ending, and from what I gather this was a very good decision in the end. The show isn't always as satisfying as I wish it to be, but I'm glad at least that was changed for the satisfaction. This show is entirely my kind of show and I admit I put it up here knowing well how biased I am towards these kinds of shows, but dangit, it's my list, so I'll do what I want. And what I want is for YOU TO BE BANISHED FROM THIS REALM AT THE HANDS OF MY EVIL HAND, GIFTED TO ME FROM THE DEVIL OVERLORD OF THE EDGE OF THE 4TH DIMENSION! Or at least to continue reading the countdown.


Spoiler : Number 2 :
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"Bide your time, and hold out hope."
Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo


And as we approach the end of the list, we have, of all things, a sci-fi reimagining of the classic French novel of revenge by Alexandre Dumas. This anime was always on my radar but never in my mind, but I checked it out when on the search for anime with interesting villains. What I got was an amazing reimagining that changes enough to stay fresh with more style than just about anything I've watched. It's always the shows I don't expect to love as much as I do that really hit me hardest, and Gankutsuou impressed me in just about every regard.

Summary: In the 51st century, the Viscount Albert de Morcerf meets a mysterious man claiming to be the Count of Monte Cristo, a nobleman that built his reputation from scratch, and swiftly befriends him, much to his childhood friend Baron Franz d'Epinay's chagrin. Albert is taken in by the Count's charisma and mystique, but he isn't aware that the Count is plotting an elaborate plan for vengeance involving the powerful families of France, the Danglars, Villeforts, and, of course, the Morcerfs. In a story of love, loss, revenge, friendship, and surprisingly a mech or two, the plot of the enigmatic Count of Monte Cristo unfolds.

Pros: Gankutsuou is famous for its art style, and its impossible to overlook. The art utilizes bizarre colors, off CGI, and most notably Photoshop textures to create its imagery. What this gives us is a unique style where characters can have suits made of newspaper or crumpled paper for hair or more. It isn't always perfect, but when everything comes together, it looks absolutely stunning, and the show is considered one of the most visually unique anime of all time. Some great music helps with the presentation, particularly the beautiful OP "We Were Lovers" and one of my favorite EDs of all time "You Won't See Me Coming", both by Jean-Jacques Burnel and both incredibly memorable. They even connect thematically, with the OP being about the past the Count has left behind and the ED about the future of vengeance he has planned; it's actually really clever. And of course the dub is great, with the talents of Johnny Yong Bosch, Michelle Ruff, Ezra Weisz, Stephanie Sheh, Liam O'Brien, Paul St. Peter, and more, but of course all rounded out by the real star of the show himself, Jamieson Price as the Count of Monte Cristo. The Count himself is what really wins this show a spot as high as this. Frankly, he's probably my favorite anime villain of all time. He's charismatic and cool, his motivation's strong, he has an interesting personality, his design is absolutely badass, his voice perfectly fitting, just everything about this character steals the show. The Count is more of an anti-hero in the book, but as the antagonist he is an absolute marvel. There are many characters that are written to steal your breath and marvel in awe at them, and only sometimes does it work, but the Count really owns it. He eats up the atmosphere every time he's on screen without even needing to try, and even I was unsure if he'd actually be a villain for half of the show. I could honest to god spend this entire section just gushing about the Count and how much I like just about everything about him between his plots and his sympathies and his flaws and just everything, I may write a piece on him later even. But aside from the namesake, we have a lot of interesting characters. Everyone seems to get at least a little attention or development, and almost every character has some purpose in the narrative as a whole (save like, one of Albert's friends). Being adapted from a classic novel, it's unsurprising that the plot is rather good. There's some reworking to make Albert the protagonist and change the setting, but the excellent story of revenge is still there, and it still all works out well. The scif-fi elements are really cool, too, with tons of interesting imagery and a unique setting spreading across planets and bringing in politics involving the melting pot that is the moon and it just all adds so much, even introducing actual giant mechs to replace typical sword duels because why not. With great writing, a fantastic antagonist, and more style than a whole season of shows is likely to have, the anime has a ton going for it.

Cons: Albert himself is not a particularly interesting character. He's defined largely by his relationships with his family, his fiancée, his friend Franz, and the Count, but he himself doesn't have much going for him. He also starts wearing the ugliest damn jacket I've ever seen halfway through the show and I wanted to burn it ith fire because it distracted me constantly and I hate it. The ending is good, but admittedly the climax is a bit strange, and it's one that you'll kind of have to justify to yourself to make it not seem like a cop-out. Some characters can be a bit obnoxious, notably Peppo, Lucien, and Eugenie at times, and some plots definitely feel more like they were made for a classic novel than they were an anime, such as with Max and Valentine and the Villeforts. It can also be uncomfortable at times, thanks largely to Marquis Andrea Cavalcanti being awful; warning for an attempted rape scene there. Also, the dub is about as French as Disney's Beauty and the Beast, with nobody using accents and, more disappointingly, the narrations that were spoken in French in the subtitled version just being spoken English as well. The visuals also do get a bit too busy at times. Especially that jacket. I just really hate that jacket.

High Point: The Count of Monte Cristo himself.
Low Point: I mean look at this trash.

Final Thoughts: I never anticipated an anime would make me want to read classic French literature but here we are. Gankutsuou is just too unique an anime to really pass up, I think. Few anime are based on European literature, very little animation even uses these kinds of techniques, there's just nothing that feels like Gankutsuou does. And that's fine, because Gankutsuou is great on its own. I watched the show for the villain and I was not at all disappointed, and though I went in not knowing how to feel, I ended up hooked and loving it. It may be a bit too much for some people, but I highly advise at least giving it a shot. It may look like artsy crap trying to survive on a gimmick from the outside, but I assure you it is so much more.


Spoiler : Number 1 :


One's favorite anime is often not what they would consider the best anime. It's hard to be purely objective, as personal tastes will always come into play when someone considers something a favorite of theirs. Citizen Kane is not everybody's favorite movie, after all, and my slice of life bias has always been prominent. But there are times when one must adhere to what their heart says and recognize that some shows are just really, really well made. Some shows are just so perfectly constructed that you just can't help but love it. Is Planetes my favorite anime? Not necessarily. But Planetes is, in my opinion, the most well-constructed anime I've ever seen in my life, and my number 1 pick for the 13 anime I watched from Fall of 2015 to Winter of 2016.

Summary: Humanity has finally spread to space, colonizing the moon and spreading through the solar system with plans to begin a quest to Jupiter in works. However, an incident resulting in a space shuttle's destruction has resulted in the need for trash and shrapnel sent through space to be collected to keep space safe. This is the job of Technora Corporation's Space Debris Section, to which newbie astronaut Ai Tanabe finds herself assigned. There, she meets Hachirota "Hachimaki" Hoshino, and astronaut that dreams of owning his own spaceship, and the eccentric crew of the DS-12 "Toy Box", and she joins the crew in retrieving the trash humanity leaves behind in the barely respected career as a space janitor. The job takes this crew through the best and worst of humanity, the mysterious cosmos of space, and their own relationships.

Pros: This show is firmly grounded in reality. It's a sci-fi show, but all of its science is logical and, dare I say it, sounds actually pretty likely to happen. Tons of effort is devoted to realism, from the way astronauts move through space to how all their science and politics and processes should work. One of my absolute favorite details is that the only sounds you hear during space scenes, outside of music, is what the astronauts can hear through their headsets, meaning voices of others over the radio or when they thud their helmet against a surface. And that realism carries through the characters and writing, too. The show can certainly be comedically cartoony, but the character motivations are all very natural and human. And pretty much the entire cast has some kind of relevance or arc. Everyone on the crew, most characters outside of the crew, it's insane how much attention is given to this ensemble cast in a mere 26 episodes; nobody feels left behind. And they're very unique in their morals and ideals, too; everyone is flawed, even the "girl scout" archetype of Ai Tanabe. Everyone just has an amazing scene or at least a highlight of some sort, it's a shock to me that longer shows aren't able to develop a cast as much as this 2-cour space janitor show. Very diverse, too, with about a dozen different races and nationalities present. The show is able to be both really fun and really dramatic without feeling like it has too much whiplash. At its lightest, this is an astronaut slice of life of a crew getting into antics in space as they try to get a bigger budget or meet eccentric characters or even fall in love. But at its darkest, the show tackles politics, existentialism, nihilism, death, abandonment, trauma, and more. This is a show that is able to introduce sympathetic characters that are terrorists, and that is a damn impressive feat. The show even mixes up its light and dark themes, with stories involving things like having to frequently write your own will being a casual office activity. It all works really well. Even the romance is largely well done, with only a little melodrama and a lot of fairly realistic tension and interaction. The writing all really makes this series, led by an excellent cast that has a lot of chemistry. Even the one-off plots are fun and engaging and interesting; the anime is from 2003, but the visuals still really hold up. The animation isn't the most complex, but the character and set design is fantastic enough to make it hold up, and the motions and linework all make it really hold up. Music's pretty solid, too, and the show does my favorite thing with its OP, "Dive in the Sky" by Mikio Sakai, where the visuals actually update over the course of the show as new revelations and plot threads come to light. Direction is pretty solid, with some interesting visuals and really selling the more intense moments well. The dub starts rough, but it gets going quickly, with an amazing cast of Julie Ann Taylor, Kirk Thornton, Jamieson Price, Wendee Lee, Doug Stone, Steve Schatzberg, Kate Higgins, and cameoing Crispin Freeman, Johnny Yong Bosch, Steve Blum, Michelle Ruff, Dave Mallow, Paul St. Peter, Lara Jill Miller, IT'S A REALLY GOOD CAST. I can't even say anyone steals the show, it's just all really good. And like...I don't know, do I need to keep going with this? Direction, animation, characters, writing, plot, themes, setting, science, sound design, opening, voice acting...this show just covers everything. Almost every element just comes together so well, it becomes so easy to forgive its shortcomings when everything things it does well it does REALLY well. And hey, it has a good ending, so that's a plus!

Cons: If there's one thing I need to pick apart, it's how punchable characters can be at times. They can get pretty frustrating at times, especially Hachimaki. He gets really obnoxious in the third act, and while it fits his character arc and does lead to some good stuff, you reeeeally want to reach into the screen and give him a good slap across the face. Aside from that, I...don't really have much to complain about in particular. Some characters might be obnoxious sometimes, some characters are less developed than most, some episodes are a little bit too silly (space ninjas notably). But there isn't a ton I can think of that can't be too adapted to, unless you're sensitive to stories involving terrorism and other sensitive material. It approaches a fine line sometimes without ever really crossing it, I feel. So yeah, it gets kind of frustrating and silly at times, and I suppose the dub does take getting used to, but I don't have a ton to complain about here.

High Point: The cast.
Low Point: Hachimaki's behavior in the last third.

Final Thoughts: Watch Planetes. I don't care how, just watch Planetes. It has its fans, but it's so much more obscure than it should be. This show just impressed me from beginning to end. It's humble yet grand, silly yet serious, down to earth yet up in space. I've certainly never seen something with an environmental message of all things do as well as this, and I really do think it's among the most well-made anime I've ever watched, perhaps even of all time. So yeah, Planetes is pretty obviously my favorite anime I watched in Fall of 2015 and Winter of 2016. It was an incredible couple of seasons for me, and this was simply the best of the best.




and now to do it all again in a month
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Hersh/Fiendy has credit for the amazing GiGi pics and enigma has credit for the adorable Kenshin Mega Man sprite!

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