I’m going to be honest. I skipped out on a lot of anime last year. However, for the anime that I did manage to watch, I found myself enjoying them quite thoroughly. There does seem to be a general consensus among many anibloggers over which titles seem best bet for top picks so if they’re not on here, it’s probably for one of these three reasons:
- I didn’t watch it.
- It’s just not my kind of show/genre. Slice of life/harems/shoujo/romcoms…I’m looking at you guys.
- I have terrible taste in anime (I mean, you’re talking to a guy who thinks a children’s card game is the best anime in the world.)
Without further ado, here’s my top 5 for 2015!
Honorable Mention #2: Shirobako
Studio: P.A. Works Air Date: October 9th – March 26th
Accolades: Best Girl (Miyamori Aoi); Best Comedy
The only reason why this anime is an honorable mention rather than a spot on the actual Top 5 list is because I haven’t actually finished it. But you’ll find it virtually every other aniblogger’s 2015 list. And for good reason. Shirobako isn’t just interesting in content–whoever knew the folks who make your favorite anime were such overworked peons in the industry machine? Shirobako is a must-watch for every struggling young working professional–there’s a bit of Miyamori Aoi in all of us.
Honorable Mention #1: Parasyte- the maxim (Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu)
Studio: Madhouse Air Date: October 8th – March 25th
Accolades: Best Horror; Worst Original Soundtrack
What does it mean to be human? It’s a question that Parasyte asks again and again as we follow the adventures of Izumi Shinichi, our unfortunate protagonist who’s been infected by a carnivorous alien parasite in his right hand. The chemistry between our two protagonists as they try to coexist and reconcile their fundamentally different outlooks in life is a compelling one that’ll definitely make you think. Though the story struggles to maintain its balance between heavy philosophical dumping and the gritty grim horror of living among monsters (trust me when I say that Shinichi was very lucky in how he ended up with Migi; other folks weren’t so fortunate), Parasyte will thrill, induce tears, exasperate and entertain.
5. Death Parade
Studio: Madhouse Air Date: January 9th – March 27th
Accolades: Best Setting
It’s a good year for Madhouse, isn’t it? It’s easy to forget a Winter anime but Death Parade sticks in the back of my mind, thanks to its unique setting of the afterlife as a swanky bar where people play games to figure out who’s going on up (reincarnation) and who’s vile enough to get sent down to the void. There’s a raw, visceral beauty to the games, which are, unbeknownst to the game participants, are never chosen without intent and reveal far more than they want to know. Though the outcome of the games might say otherwise, Death Parade is far from a grimdark show–it also shows humanity at its very best, and that death, just like life, is only the beginning of the journey.
4. The Heroic Legend of Arslan (Arslan Senki)
Studio: Liden Films Air Date: April 5th – September 27th
Accolades: Best Epic Fantasy
Anime rarely does epic fantasy well, but it’s always a good feeling when it takes the time to get it right. You know you’ve got a good story in your hands when all you can complain about is how you wish the productive values were as epic as the tale you’re telling. Part war drama, part epic fantasy (surprisingly magic-free!), Arslan is, at its heart, a tale of a young and virtuous prince and his journey to become a king. But it is so much more. The sheer scale of the world depicted is vast and what is a straightforward plan to retake the Parsian kingdom, which has been overrun by the zealous, Bible-toting Lusitanians, becomes a far more complicated succession plot. Perfect for LOTR fans or folks who want fantasy more legitimate than high schoolers throwing magic around in school tournaments.
3. Snow White with the Red Hair (Akagami no Shirayuki-hime)
Studio: A-1 Pictures Air Date: July 6th – September 21st
Accolades: Best Shoujo; Runner-up for Best Female Protagonist (Shirayuki); Best Character Design
Out of all of the Disney princesses, Snow White has got to be my least favorite. Why? Because she’s hardly a character. She’s pretty, does good housework and is stupid enough to eat a poisoned apple just because a strange old woman told her to. Well, not our Shirayuki. Besides her good looks, Shirayuki is far from Disney’s Snow White. She’s tough as nails, incredibly smart, knows her drugs and is incredibly assertive. It doesn’t matter if you’re the freaking prince with the awesome voice of Jun Fukuyama–if she doesn’t want to be your concubine, you bet your bottom dollar she’ll hightail it out of your country, befriend the neighboring prince and get a restraining order slapped on you before you can say, “I do.” Gorgeously animated, Shirayuki-hime isn’t just easy on the eyes–the characters are pretty great too.
2. Garo: The Carved Seal of Flames (Garo: Honoo no Kokuin)
Studio: MAPPA Air Date: October 3rd – March 27th
Accolades: Best Dark Fantasy
Having landed an honorable mention on last year’s list, I’m pleased to see that Garo, which I liked so much last year, had an equally impressive second half. In startling contrast to other fantasy worlds this year, Garo’s world remains bleak and dark. More often than not, good characters either fall into evil or die, their light forever snuffed out. And the world just goes on without a care, and mourning is a luxurious moment of grief and loss boiled down to a single sob before you pick yourself back up again and keep on walking. Being a Makai Knight means a commitment to a life of suffering. No one wants to be that poor sap who has to keep on fighting long after their loved ones are dead, but someone’s got to do the job.
1. Noragami Aragoto
Studio: Bones Air Date: October 2nd – December 25th
Accolades: Best Sequel; Runner-Up in Best Fantasy; Best Shonen; Most Improved Supporting Character (Yukine); Honorable Mention for Best Bro (Kazuma); Best OP (Hey Kids!!)
It is a rare and remarkable thing when a sequel outstrips the original story. And Noragami Aragoto is an excellent example of how a sequel should be done. What made Noragami good, Aragoto made it better. Tightly plotted, Aragoto presents a fascinating and heartfelt story of the struggles that gods and humans face. With an expanded colorful cast, amazing action sequences, and more world-building, Aragoto’s heart and center lies with our lovable protagonist trio, who all experience tremendous character growth. Yukine learns what it means to be a moral compass; Hiyori becomes humbled when she realizes that despite her out-of-body experiences, she’s prone to the same limitations of human memory as her peers; and Yato, our former god of calamity, learns the valuable lesson of what a true family is, and how living freely in the present involves facing the past, and how some ties, no matter how much we want to, can’t be severed so easily.
And that’s it for 2015! Which was actually a pretty good year. Who’s excited for 2016? (D. Gray-man’s coming back!!)