2015 Anime Year in Review

2016 was not a blockbuster year for anime but it was still a potentially good year for anyone willing to look for small gems. I noticed two interesting and generally positive trends:

  1. “Retro” shows that looked back in some way to great anime or manga series from the 20th century.
  2. “Super-sequels” that followed up a decent enough first season with something on a higher level, significantly enhancing the entire series.

Outstanding Anime of 2015

Mayu Tenjin and YatoNoragami Aragoto (Hulu) is a super-sequel that adds a good deal of depth to 2014’s Noragami.

Sakura Rinne and 2 ghostsRin-ne (Crunchyroll) is a farce with an old-fashioned feel, but still hilarious. (Retro point: this is from Rumiko Takahashi, the grande dame of manga, proving that she still has what it takes.
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Noragami Aragoto Ends

5 Stars
Noragami Aragoto
I didn’t bother to do an “Early Impressions” post for the second season of Noragami (Hulu) because I didn’t feel that I had much to add. I had already praised the first season. It seemed obvious that anyone who liked the first season would want to watch the second, and anyone who hadn’t seen the first season would find the second season incomprehensible.

Now, in retrospect, I find that I do have something to say. Although I liked the first season, the second season is a lot better and raises the whole series to a higher level.
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2014: The Anime Year in Review

It seems that it’s more or less a requirement for experienced anime bloggers to complain that the current season and the current year are the worst ever, a far cry from the glory days of the past. I’m pretty sure that 5 years from now bloggers will be bemoaning the dreadfulness of the 2019 season, as compared to the glory days of, say, 2014. Each year brings us a mountain of crap that is quickly forgotten, plus a few shows that people will remember fondly and even rewatch in future years.

So as usual in my annual review I will mostly ignore the shows that failed (and especially those that didn’t even try) and focus on shows that provided solid entertainment and may have some chance of being remembered fondly in future years.

Outstanding Anime of 2014

Mushishi familySeason 2 of Mushi-shi (Crunchyroll) is a rare example of an anime that aims to be high art. There is no middle ground here: such a show always seems to end up either great or unwatchable. Fortunately this one continues to hit the “great” mark.

Manaka from EDNagi no Asukara (Crunchyroll) (started Fall 2013) had some slow moments but looking back I can’t think of any other show in the past year that affected me as strongly. What starts out looking like a whimsical fairy tale turns into a powerful work of high fantasy.

After workAmagi Brilliant Park is just silly, but it is inspired silliness, perfectly executed and hilarious from beginning to end.
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Noragami Ends

This is probably my favorite anime of the Winter 2014 season. (I say “probably” because there are some other good shows that are about to end and one of them still might surprise me.)
A Tail
This is, of course, a shounen action-adventure series with all that implies, but it is an outstanding example of the genre: well-written and well-thought-out, with fascinating characters.

It’s a bit dark, with elements of horror; certainly not a show for small children. But it’s solidly entertaining and basically upbeat.
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Noragami–Anime Early Impressions

Noragami poster So far Noragami (Funimation) is one of the bright spots in a rather weak season. It’s another fantasy based on Shinto traditions, but the tone is quite different from last season’s Gingitsune. This is a shounen action series, more whimsical but also more violent.

It may not appeal to exactly the same audience as Gingitsune but it’s quite well done. I find the mixture of humor and action very entertaining.
Yato is a god, but not a very successful one. He used to work as a minor war god, but there’s not much demand for that in modern Japan. Now he’s unemployed and homeless, without a single shrine to his name. He’s reduced to sleeping on street-corners, scrounging in dumpsters for food, and doing odd jobs that range from getting rid of evil ayakashi to cleaning people’s bathrooms.
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