As 2015 draws to a close, I have come to a terrifying conclusion:
I’ve watched significantly less new anime this year.
Does this mean I’ve lost interest in anime? Quite the opposite since I think about it a lot more. It does mean that I’m starting to be choosy with what I watch. Mainstream’s just not cutting it for me anymore, especially this season. One Punchman was quite literally a one-hit wonder with its premiere. Rakudai no Cavalry lost me shortly after the infamous confession-kiss scene in episode 4. K: Return of Kings simultaneously wows and repulses me with its dizzying (again, both literally and figuratively) cinematography tricks and its twitching corpse of a plot.
What’s a fan to do when a season fails to deliver?
Obviously, the answer is to watch a ton of anime and finally chip away at that gargantuan backlog.
Some were favorites; others were new rewatches. Others still were completely new. Regardless all of these were more awesome than most of the stuff that actually aired in 2015, which just goes to show you that you don’t need to watch the new and flashy stuff when the old classics will do you just fine.
Ranging from incredibly trashy (because we all need a little bit of fanservice in our lives) to surprisingly nuanced (because good anime should be deep), here are ten anime that I watched in 2015 that didn’t actually air in 2015, sequenced in order of “quality” (based on the following metrics:
- Is this objectively a “good” anime?
- Would this stand up to a rewatch and retain favorable opinion?
- If anything else, is this entertaining to watch?
10. Dance in the Vampire Bund (Shaft: 2010)
You’ll see some of those characteristically Shaftian (Shaftish? Shafty?) animation quirks like minimalist, surreal backgrounds and those ridiculous head tilts but other than that, this anime resembles nothing like Shaft’s Monogatari iterations. It’s an intriguing tale of vampire and human politics, with disturbing character dynamics (an amnesiac teenage werewolf-boy falls for a prepubescent vampire queen decked up in blond pigtails…and this is the tamest of the pairings that abound in this gothic-urban fantasy thriller.) The story runs at a madcap pace and the finale is pretty much an imploding disaster of vaguely nonsensical imagery and random plot twists. A fun watch if you’re craving that Vampire Knight itch and want something a little more disturbing in the relationship department but an exasperating watch if you think too deeply about it.
9. Yu Yu Hakusho (Studio Pierrot: 1992-95)
As a shonen connoisseur, I felt somewhat duty bound to give this shonen classic a shot earlier this year when I had a bit of downtime. I’m not gonna lie–the age of the animation really shows…in fact, I think Sailor Moon’s animation is actually a lot better and they aired roughly around the same time. Quality aside, I did like the old school feel of the plot. Koenma should be punched in the face unapologetically every episode as he contributes almost nothing to the plot and has one of the most annoying voices I have ever heard. I wished Kurama and Hiei had gotten more screen-time since I found them more compelling than Yusuke.
8. Yu-Gi-Oh! GX (Studio Gallop: 2004-08)
Well, I had to watch it for my Top 10 GX Duels list, didn’t I? Having originally started off the series with the horrendous 4Kids dub, it was nice to actually give the series a second chance by starting things off right with the original Japanese dub. And it actually wasn’t so bad! The puns and comedic moments are actually, dare I say it, kind of funny in the original. And man oh man, did I miss all of that gratuitous Engrish dueling speak they’ve got going on. “DU-EL! Ore wa TURN! DUR-RAW! REVERSE CARD-O, OPEN! TURN END-DO! CYBER EN-DO DORAGON-EVOLUTION BURSSSTO!!!”
Ok, I’ll just stop.
7. Inuyasha: The Final Act (Sunrise: 2009-10)
Inuyasha was the first anime I ever watched in the original Japanese dub with subtitles, so I consider it more of my “gateway” into anime since it was the show that really made me aware that anime was Japanese animation rather than American. I was probably one of the few fans that was okay with the open-ended, half-assed ending of the main series because to be perfectly honest, I was getting a little tired of the filler arcs they kept padding out the series so the manga would have a chance to catch up. It’s great to see that our merry band of heroes with issues get their happy endings in the end, though.
Except for Kikyou, who kind of just died. Again. Wow, that’s a downer.
6. Code Geass: Akito the Exiled (Sunrise: 2012-16)
Well, okay, the fourth episode technically aired in 2015 but the first three episodes certainly didn’t! While the character development could use a little more work (Leila’s cute, Akito has Suzaku and Lelouch’s levels of masochism but lacking any ambitious fire) we can see that they’ve squirreled away all dat budget for the fantastic mecha battle and fight choreography. And of course, Akito’s gypsy dance moves. You even get some Spinzaku and Lelouch/Kingsley douchbaggery thrown in there, free of charge. Eagerly awaiting the last episode next year for what will be most certainly a smashing finale.
5. Cardcaptor Sakura (Madhouse: 1998-2000)
A really good CCS character study fic got me wandering into this fandom again. A reliable rewatch and unlike other shojo titles, one I actually find cute and just sweet enough not to be tooth-decay inducing. The highlight here is definitely the relationships between all of the characters. You get love in all shades–childhood crushes, kawaii brotherly-sister ties, good ol’ Mom and Dad vibes and of course, the sweet pangs of first love.
Oh yeah, there’s that “Gotta catch ’em all” Clow Card subplot that’s actually relevant.
4. Shiki (Daume: 2010)
I watched this last year and raved about it on Twitter because it was just that good. Bobduh’s critique on the generational gap and the village community’s dysfunctional nature made it even better. But this year’s rewatch let me enjoy the story without being scared out of my wits. Sotoba’s tale is the kind that makes for a good story which means you would never ever want to live there. If you’re lucky, you get to escape from a raging forest fire on the back of a pick up truck, surrounded by refugees with their arms (yours too!) soaked to the elbows in the blood and guts of the undead friends and family you just slaughtered.
3. Future Diary (Asread: 2010)
Since Guy‘s Anime Secret Santa bailed out and gave him a cold coal response, I thought I’d help him out and pick up Future Diary (Mirai Nikki), which he recommended. Incidentally, this has been something in my backlog for quite some time. Amazing I didn’t get to it sooner because it’s like a slower-paced Battle Royale on steroids. Fewer people die in Future Diary compared to Battle Royale but while the violence in Battle Royale is more sudden and absurd, we get up close and personal with our Diary Holders and actually find out what makes ’em tick. Of course, by the time you figure out their motivations, Yuno will probably have killed you a least a dozen times over.
2. Digimon Adventure (Toei: 1999-2000)
Partly out of nostalgia but also as preparation for Digimon Adventure Tri this November, I ended up marathoning Digimon Adventure 01. I grew up, like most Western Digimon fans, on the Saban/Fox Kids dub so I was fairly unfamiliar with the original Japanese version. While I haven’t grown tired of the cheese and corn in the English dub, as an older and presumably more mature fan, I get a lot more out of the original Japanese, as the characters’ dialogues are a bit more complex. Take Jou’s character arc from episode 7 (“Roar! Ikkakumon!”) for example. In the English version, there’s a greater focus on him being too serious and not fun and “crazy” like the other Digidestined because he’s stuck on being practical. In the Japanese version, his seriousness is mentioned but his emotional strain of having to be the responsible one, because he’s the eldest child in the group, is the main issue he grapples with. Instead of the line “I’m not crazy” (English dub), Jou says “I’m not tired!” (Japanese dub), which points to the exhaustion he’s feeling in his efforts to protect everyone.
Tl;dr. You should (re)watch Digimon Adventure. Both versions are have their merits but the original should ease you right into tri.
1. Twelve Kingdoms (Studio Pierrot: 2002-03)
Possibly one of the most underwatched titles on MAL, Twelve Kingdoms (Juuni Kokki) is one of those cases where the most difficult part of watching it is getting past the first five episodes until you hit gold. If it weren’t such a long running series, I would have given up as per the three-episode rule. We’re so used to having our hypercompetent protagonists overcome obstacles in a snap (or in a twenty-second training montage) that it’s infuriating when we start off with a protagonist who’s perfectly ordinary and as whiny as any reasonable teenager who’s been dumped in a strange and dangerous land where babies growing on trees, monsters eat you for breakfast, and giant talking rats are way more civilized and genteel than you. But Twelve Kingdoms, despite its underwhelming animation, takes its characterization very seriously. Prepare to be amazed as the story takes the most unfortunate and ordinary of characters, subjects them all to unreasonably high levels of suffering and misfortune, and polishes them into incredibly strong and resilient people.
Aaaand, there are unicorns. So you should watch it anyway.
What are some of your favorite non-2015 anime you’ve watched or rewatched this year?