Lifesong’s 2015 Anime Guide

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2015 was a good year for anime. It was a year of tragedy and sexually charged antics, or at least that is what I found myself drawn to watch. That said, I think 2015 had something for everyone. My list is shorter than last year and there are many more anime I wanted to include that I simply didn’t have time for. I think I’ll do some sort of backlog list next year. That will be good motivation to keep me watching 2015 anime.

My categories are the same as last year. My ratings are based off what I get out of a show versus what an anime led me to expect. An unambitious show that delivers gets a higher category than an ambitious show that fails to deliver. Otherwise the lists within each category are simply my favorites listed in order based off what I enjoyed the most. Enjoy! Let me know your favorites in the comments below.

Time Killers

These are the shows that you probably shouldn’t bother with unless you love their genre and have already seen everything better that it has to offer. I didn’t come away from any of these satisfied, but I managed to like them enough to include them anyway.

Solid Entertainment

These are the shows that managed to be highly enjoyable, quality examples of their genre. They didn’t blow my mind, but they did keep me coming back for more and managed to end in a satisfying enough way.

Standouts

These are the shows I couldn’t stop talking about even when no one knew exactly what it was I was so excited for. They are the shows that standout to me when I think about 2015 anime and the first things I am likely to recommend to someone else.

Time Killers

32. My Wife Is the Student Council President!

Escape was never an option.

Escape was never an option.

“This show is legit!” Or so a friend told me. It’s a twelve episode show with eight minute episodes. It left me without much of an impression. It’s an occasionally cute, occasionally heartwarming tale of a dude in high school who starts living with his arranged marriage partner. The protagonist spends most of the show dumbfounded by his situation. You can expect plenty of sexual antics from this romantic comedy and not much else.

31. Anti-Magic Academy: The 35th Test Platoon

It's not a good sign when the sudden appearance of a crying imouto is the best your anime has to offer.

It’s not a good sign when the sudden appearance of a crying imouto is the best your anime has to offer.

Anti-Magic Academy is a confused mess of character stories and cliches. Character arcs are initially interesting only to be resolved in anticlimactic way. The things revealed in each arc are often left forgotten as the story progresses. It kept me thinking something interesting was around the corner, but it never was. The ending is the worst offender, it has no sense of consequence. Still, it made me want to believe. That has to count for something.

30. Durarara!!x2

At least Shizou is just as awesome as ever.

At least Shizou is just as awesome as ever.

I count Durarara!!x2 as my disappointment of the year. The story goes in circles and lacks that larger than life feeling it had before this part of the story. I think I know why. In the past the events that go down are beyond the control of the cast. It was as if the city had a mind of its own and the characters were simply along for the ride. The crazy city that was so full of life has become mundane and the three most boring characters have taken the wheel. Despite my extreme disappoint I intent to keep watching and hoping for the best.

29. Log Horizon 2

The boss fights never disappoint.

The boss fights never disappoint.

The war promised at the end of season one goes on hiatus and the story instead focuses on more of the same world building I have come to expect. It’s interesting to watch as the game world of Log Horizon continues to become more and more like the real world. We do get some of that out of season two and I enjoyed it. My complaints are with the focus of the story.

The story takes a turn toward looking at how to return home and it bored me to tears. This anime has some good moments, but they are held back by infuriatingly slow pacing. The political intrigue of season one is traded for boss mechanics. The boss fights themselves are fun, but it’s not the same. I think Log Horizon still has life left in it should it continue, this just isn’t it.

28. Rokka no Yuusha

The smile of the strongest man in the world.

The smile of the strongest man in the world.

Rokka no Yuusha suffers from an identity crisis. It promises an epic adventure and instead spends time playing clue in a swamp. The who done it mind games are fun to watch and the twists and turns of the story often had me on the edge of my seat. If it gets a second season I’ll be sure to watch it. The problem with this anime is that it’s nothing more than an introduction to the story. The grand promises of adventure go no where. Thematically it falls into place in a nice way, but the story has only just begun.

27. Maria the Virgin Witch

These two do make a cute couple.

These two do make a cute couple.

Refreshing as it was to see an anime that handles mature themes in a mature way, Maria the Virgin Witch fell flat. It’s an anime that asks interesting questions about god, religion, human nature and sexuality only to give thematically distant grade school answers. Despite my complaints I feel like Maria still has something to offer if you ignore its pretentious side. It’s not every day we get an anime based on a historical period of medieval Europe. Pretty art and animation are sure to keep your eyes entertained if nothing else.

Solid Entertainment

26. The Testament of Sister New Devil

Let this image serve as a warning of what you are getting into.

Let this image serve as a warning of what you are getting into.

I’ve been dreading writing about this anime since I finished season one. What I am about to do now is probably the equivalent of defending 50 Shades of Grey in anime form. It must be done.

The Testament of Sister New Devil as a whole is constantly pushing the boundaries of what its characters can accept. It’s an anime where family and harem take on the same practical application. New harem members are new family members, succubus everywhere rejoice! Or at least the resident succubus imouto Maria does. Power ups in this universe are literally tied to the master servant pack she creates between Basara and his harem members.

The story follows Basara and Mio as they attempt to safeguard their daily life. Mio is the daughter of the last demon lord and all sorts of demons want to take the power she inherited. Basara’s father adopts Mio and they become an awkward family. It’s a simple premise, one with a formula that we have seen a dozen times before. Both Basara and Mio are ridiculously powerful characters kept in check only by their own inability to wield their power properly. Thing is? It worked in Bleach and Naruto, It works here too.

The appeal of this anime is part power fantasy, part titillation and part political intrigue. All three of those things take on a very basic form, but I found them enjoyable none the less. What can I say, somewhere between biology and all the flashy fighting I found something I like. If you are curious to check it out for yourself be warned. This is the type of anime to trade out the stereotypical training arc for a plot relevant orgy. Know what you are getting into.

Lars is the best character.

25. I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying Thread 2

Here we have a father with some serious faith in his son's marriage.

Here we have a father with some serious faith in his son’s marriage.

The every day life of a woman who marries an otaku told in three minute shorts. It’s cute and heartwarming. If you are looking for a quick pick me up this anime has what you need. My only regret with including it on my list is that I don’t really have much else to say about it. Expect more of the same from last season. This is my friendly reminder that I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying is an enjoyable little thing that exists.

24. Chivalry of the Failed Knight

Sometimes a comfortable fantasy is just so much more inviting than the real thing.

Sometimes a comfortable fantasy is just so much more inviting than the real thing.

Every now and then I find an anime where all my critical senses fire off and tell me I’m watching something terrible and somehow I still manage to fall in love despite myself. Chivalry of the Failed Knight was like that for me.

Ikki is our protagonist and his story is a quest for acceptance. He wants to become a knight. He has the martial ability, but lacks the magical capacity. Ikki is given a single opportunity to graduate from the knight’s academy. He has to win a dueling tournament for his school. If he loses he will be sent packing and can kiss any chance of becoming a knight goodbye.

As I watched Ikki’s story unfold I found myself wanting to root for him and his friends. It’s not a particularly thought-provoking story, but Ikki is such a likable character that I found myself invested in his fight. The duels themselves are interesting to watch play out. They stick to the established rules of this universe in a way that makes thinking things through as they play out an enjoyable experience.

Ikki’s personality and his companions are what sealed the deal for me. They include Stella, the love sick princess, a trans-gendered woman and an obsessive imouto. The sexual antics are sometimes over the top, but even at her sexiest Stella acts believably human. Ikki and his friends manage to sell the appeal of striving to be good people in an unfair world. At the end of the day Chivalry of the Failed Knight is a comforting fantasy, one I’m happy I spent time on.

23. Re-Kan!

Who says you can't be friends with dead folks?

Who says you can’t be friends with dead folks?

Slice of life with an undead twist. Hibiki Amami is a girl with an innate knack for the supernatural. Specifically she can see and interact with ghosts.

Don’t be mistaken, this tale of ghosts at school is no horror movie. Anami befriends the ghosts and they adore her for it. Her friends at school simply accept it. They can see the ghosts on their cellphones so there is no reason to doubt their existence. Of course, that won’t stop Amami from spooking folks who aren’t in the know when the ghosts open a door for her or answer her roll call in class when she is sleeping or daydreaming.

Re-Kan! is what you might call iyashikei and creates a soothing sort of atmosphere that makes it’s audience feel warm and fuzzy. It also means plenty of people will find this show utterly boring. You have been warned.

To give you one example of what to expect from this anime, Amami makes chocolate for a grumpy old man who shouts at couples in the park for getting too friendly. She makes him chocolate using his deceased wife’s recipe and gives it to him on valentines day for no better reason than because his wife can’t do it herself. That is the kind of anime this is.

22. Charlotte.

Iwasawa? Where did you come from?

Iwasawa? Where did you come from?

Some people need to lose everything before they realize what they have. Charlotte follows the story of a narcissistic teen who cares for no one aside from himself and his younger sister. He has the ability to posses someone for a short time and uses his power to cheat on tests and impress girls. Before long he is caught and forced to work other young people who have their own special powers.

I’ve enjoyed many of Jun Maeda’s works in the past so when I saw his name attached to this project it was instant hype. The first half of the story is solid, but it starts to unravel after a major twist involving his family. The drama is good, the character growth is good, the science fiction? It’s not very interesting.

The plot convenience involved in the way magical powers work gives the story a forced aftertaste. The later bits of the story fly by at an incredible pace. The last episode could have been it’s own twelve episode anime. The way events escalate at end is disappointing and the weight behind the story feels random and underdeveloped.

Despite the boring science fiction, Charlotte manages to paint a picture of growth and redemption. It wasn’t all I hoped it would be, but it was a good anime none the less. Watching a narcissist save the world despite himself hit the right emotional notes. Maybe Jun Maeda should stay away from more detail oriented storytelling. It clearly isn’t his strong suit.

21. Heavy Object

This may not be index, but it still packs a punch.

This may not be index, but it still packs a punch.

Light novels adaptations have a bad habit of dumping tons of info on the viewer in an uninteresting way. Heavy Object spends its first few episodes doing exactly that. I dropped this anime after episode two with no intention to come back for it, but curiosity got the best of me and I’m glad it did.

By the time episode three rolls around Heavy Object takes off and never looks back. It’s an action pack story of two bros taking down tanks, or “objects” as they are called in universe, of almost magical proportions. They do it with little more than willpower and wits. It’s a joy to watch.

When I first started the show I had a hard time with some of the details. I still do, for one, the objects themselves are kind of silly. The military forces of the world are lax and largely useless. At first that was hard to swallow, but in the bigger scheme of things that is what the world has become thanks to objects and the way they revolutionized warfare.

Heavy Object reinvents the world in a fun way. Nobels rule a world they keep guarded with objects. Qwenthur and Havia are a fun duo and watching them stick it to the nobility one destroyed object at a time has been a blast. I can’t wait to see what this story has in store for us next.

20. Overlord

This is how you give a hug.

This is how you give a hug.

Being evil can be so much fun. Overlord takes the trapped in an MMO genre in a new direction. When Momonga finds himself trapped in the body of his Lich avatar he decides to play the role. He takes the army of NPCs left to him by his friends and begins planning to take over the world.

Overlord spends a lot of screen time simply convincing its audience how cool it is. The story itself is lacking in consequence. No one in this game world can compete with Momonga The Supreme Being. Despite how powerful he is the storytelling manages to remain compelling. Momonga isn’t out to destroy the world, he’s out to make it his and use that to search for his old buddies by spreading the name of his guild across the lands.

The story progresses at a snails pace, but the climax of each arc makes it worth the wait. Seeing this fantasy unfold from inside the head of an seemingly all powerful lich god is a refreshing change of perspective. I found it interesting to note that as a human hes actually a fairly normal guy. One of the rules for his guild was that everyone who joins is an adult with a job.

The biggest disappointment with Overlord is how little it explores and progresses before ending. I’m under the impression the anime was popular so hopefully we will see another season before long.

19. Beautiful Bones -Sakurako’s Investigation

Love at first sight.

Love at first sight.

I have a mixed track record with anime mysteries, more like I usually hate them. They always prove too easy to solve or inconsistently portrayed. Beautiful Bones is consistent, but most of the mysteries are fairly simple. They do become more interesting as the story progresses, but I have to admit it was the character drama that sold me on this anime.

Beautiful Bones starts each episode with a dedication. “A Story Dedicated to Those Trapped by the Past.” That theme plays out throughout the show and seems to follow Sakurako herself in everything she does. Even her obsession with bones is linked to a desire to understand the past. Many of the more moving parts of this story come from finding closure in understanding the details of a tragedy.

The relationship between Sakurako and her assistant Shoutarou is not exactly a romance, but it has an eerie charm to it, much like everything involving Sakurako. Just the fact that she is an an adult heroine is much appreciated. I’d like to see this story continued if only to see more development between these two characters. It may never turn into a romance, but I think that is okay. Just watching the way these characters push each other to grow is enough to keep their dynamic interesting.

Most of the mysteries in Beautiful Bones stand alone, but there are hints of bigger things going on behind the scenes. By the end of the anime it’s clear that Sakurako is investigating a larger mystery. The story is by no means finished, but it finds a good closing spot. If you are up for a compelling character piece with an analytical beauty you can’t go wrong in giving Beautiful Bones a shot.

18. Gate

Imagine this as your first experience with modern technology.

Imagine this as your first experience with modern technology.

Gate takes a unique approach to storytelling by sending a modern military expedition into a land of high fantasy and creating a bridge back to Japan. That two way relationship is something I’ve only seen once before in Outbreak Company and that story focused on something very different. It’s also a rare story with an adult protagonist for whatever that is worth.

I’ve always loved what if tales of sending someone with modern technology into the past. Gate takes that idea and brings it to a whole new level. Tanks, helicopters and guns. They bring it all. They even bring fantasy people back to visit Japan. I know the whole isn’t Japan awesome trope annoys some anime fans, but I think taking fantasy folk to any modern city would be amusing.

There is a bit of Japanese nationalism in Gate and I know that rubs some people the wrong way. And of course America and Russia are the evil bad guys out to exploit fantasy land. Personally I felt like any sense of nationalism was balanced out by how terrifying the JDF appear to their enemies inside the fantasy world.

Gate proved a favorite fantasy in 2015 and I can’t wait to see it come back in 2016. The only reason I didn’t place it in a higher category is because the story felt unfinished. With any luck season two will change that. I think it’s about time to go dragon hunting with a tank.

Standouts

17. Aldnoah Zero

It all looks so peaceful from up here.

It all looks so peaceful from up here.

I almost didn’t bother with finishing Aldnoah Zero. I was super busy when it aired and I read the reviews. It seems like most fans of the first half were deeply disappointed with the second half. I figured I would be disappointed as well. I admit I wasn’t completely satisfied with it, but I thought it was a fantastic anime none the less.

At the core of this space opera are Inaho and Slaine. Logical stoicism versus irrational sentiment. It’s a theme that plays out throughout the anime in a way that I found to be consistent. Slaine is slowly destroyed by his own ambition and Inaho is forced to play by his own rules.

I think I understand the complaints aimed at this show and even agree with some of them. That said, Aldnoah Zero is a clear standout in my mind from 2015. The music is fantastic, the fights are fantastic. The thematic ending was predictable from a mile away and all the more powerful for it. The emotions as events build to a climax left me on the edge of my seat.

I’ll be the first to admit that the ending of Aldnoah Zero was uncomfortable, but I think it’s a mistake to call it a bad ending for that reason. I can’t imagine a more appropriate ending for this story. Aldnoah Zero might not go down in anime history for it’s positive reception, but it will be remembered.

16. Prison School

She was assaulting him. No, really.

She was assaulting him. No, really.

The women of the underground student council are repulsive. I feel like I need to get that out of the way before I write about how much I loved this anime. I expected a crazy masochistic fantasy and that is certainly a part of what Prison School is all about, but I also found the villains make great villains and that the true selling point is the friendship between five guys.

I wonder if the manga’s author thinks the women in his manga are hot, terrifying or both. I noticed that the girlfriend type characters have a significantly different appearance from the underground student council members. Either way the USC members stand out as particularly terrifying. The vice president takes gross to a whole new level. I think she manages to sweat her entire body weight once per episode.

I’m not even sure where to start with the antics of Prison School. This anime is HILARIOUS. The jokes are crude, but if you don’t mind crude humor you are doing yourself a disservice by missing this show. This is the type of anime that asks you why asses are better than boobs in a life or death situation and expects you to have a damn good answer. I knew it immediately. I have better pervy friends than these guys… That is a scary thought.

Prison School is certainly not for everyone, but I thought it wouldn’t be for me either and I loved it. I’m not one to shy away from sexual antics, but I didn’t find this show hot and I still thought it was a fantastic anime. Take that for whatever it’s worth.

15. Senki Zesshou Symphogear GX

Gun cans have special melee moves too!

Gun cans have special melee moves too!

The number one anime to get me nasty looks from my friends, Symphogear continues to be one of my favorites. This is the type of show to take something dumb and get 110% behind it.

Symphogear GX won’t be winning any awards for it’s story, but I can’t bring myself to care. The way the storytelling constantly outdoes itself is a pure joy to watch. It’s not unusual to see multiple power ups per character in the same episode. The ridiculous logic of this anime makes sense in fantastical way. I love it.

One of my favorite parts of this particular season is how it brings back old characters. Doctor Ver just wanted to transcend good and evil for the better part of season 2 and become a hero at all costs. He shows up and lectures the villain of season 3 about dreaming big. It’s perfect. I have no other words.

I know it’s unlikely I’ll be able to share my passion for this anime with anyone new, but so long as they keep making it I will keep trying.

14. One-Punch Man

One Puuuuuuuunch!

One Puuuuuuuunch!

Superman is boring. Without his kryptonite there is nothing to hold Superman back. Saitama is a Superman without kryptonite. The twist is that he’s just a normal guy who works hard. Somehow he is more interesting than Superman ever was in the process.

Saitama’s biggest weakness is that there is no one strong enough to challenge him. That might not sound like a weakness, but in a world where superheroes have to make a weekly quota or risk getting expelled from the hero association it’s a serious problem.

One Punch Man manages something special with the way it portrays Saitama. In a world full of superheroes few are even aware that Saitama even exists. He wins all of his fights so easily that no one ever takes note of his battles. They never appear to be challenging. It’s believable to me in a way that Superman never was.

The passion on display makes One Punch Man what it is. The fights are fantastic, the art and animation are gorgeous. The atmosphere of the story expertly captures the melancholy of Saitama. I hope we get more.

13. Monster Musume

This my friends is a mermaid with a fetish for Grimm's original telling of The Little Mermaid.

This my friends is a mermaid with a fetish for Grimm’s original telling of The Little Mermaid.

Monster Musume is the most unexpectedly brilliant anime I watched in 2015. I like logical things. I love dumb things arranged in an obviously stupid, but logically flawless way. This anime is full of moments that do that.

I think the magic that makes this show so funny is found in the way it takes the monster girls and their dilemmas with integrating into human society seriously. Stuff like where does an ogre go to buy cute clothing, or why is a slime afraid of large bodies of water. Someone clearly gave this universe a lot of thought and analysis.

The passion for monster girls in this anime is unreal. It should probably creep me out, but I find myself fascinated by how well planned out it all is instead. The protagonist takes it all in stride and his reactions are probably the funniest part of the show. There is one scene where a zombie girl loosens her stitching and the protagonist helps her sow her breast back on. He’s just like, sure, why not, you know this would be pretty gross if you were a real corpse.

My personal favorite character is Meroune Lorelei, a mermaid who wants to experience tragic love. She quickly takes herself off the marriage candidates list because she doesn’t want to risk a happily ever after. I thought I’d seen it all and Monster Musume proved me wrong. There is a lot weird stuff I’ve never even considered.

12. Noragami Aragoto

Bishamon's hatred runs deep.

Bishamon’s hatred runs deep.

The biggest failing of season one was that it ends before exploring it’s own world building in a satisfying way. It didn’t address the history between Bishamon and Yato and it didn’t give any insights into Yato’s past and origin. Season two is split into two arcs that take on both of those topics.

Bishamon’s arc was awesome. I might have something of a crush on Miyuki Sawashiro’s voice… Okay, more like I absolutely do. Her performance was incredible. The story was good too and made good use of the world building from the first season.

Yato’s backstory and history with his nora take the focus of the second story arc. I walked away feeling like the story ended in a satisfying way. The loose ends are tied up and Yato is ready to move on to better things. I don’t know if he can actually become the type of god he wishes to be or not, but it seems an admirable goal and a decent ending spot for the story.

If we do get a season three there is one remaining question to answer. Who is Yato’s father? I hope Bones is up for the task.

11. Punch Line

Best romantic moment of 2015.

Best romantic moment of 2015.

Punch Line is a mixed bag. It comes on strong in episode one, but a few episodes in and the humor starts to feel like a bad 4-koma adaptation. Around the mid point of the show this anime explodes into something awesome and never looks back.

I’m not sure what to write because everything interesting that comes to mind is a major spoiler. Punchline snowballs to a climax. By the time it reaches the end of its run it’s grown from something simplistic into something huge. The storytelling at work impressed me with several interesting twists.

Anime is rarely afforded the time to create convincing misdirections. Punchline kept me guessing until the very end. It’s probably the only anime of the year to manage that. Some of the early parts of the story are boring, but there is little in the way of wasted time. I found Punchline to be surprisingly intentional about everything it does.

Punchline is a display of hotblooded action and skilled storytelling that is not to be missed. I’m rarely as impressed by the technical aspects of a story as I was with this show. I can’t think of anything else that is even comparable from the last several years. Nothing anime at least. If you have seen it all and want a surprise this is one you need to watch.

10. Your lie in April

Goodbye.

Goodbye.

Tragedy in anime has taken on a new form. It’s no longer trying to trick us into sadness. Your Lie In April broadcasts its sorrow so loudly you can hear it from a mile away.

Your Lie In April feels more like a sports anime than what I typical expect from an anime drama. Most of the story revolves around competitions and series protagonist Arima even has a mystical handicap that turns into a super power when he learns how to unlock its secret. Get in the damn robo… Err Get on the damn piano Arima. Your life lesson on love and endurance is about to begin.

There are plenty of happy moments, but make no mistake, this story is designed to pack a punch. It provides a valuable example of enduring hardships and the reward for those who can.

Your Lie In April is a beautiful anime. Creepy CGI fingers continue to haunt my dreams. My one complaint is that I can’t really tell when the music is impressive versus when it’s not. Putting the gimmick of playing underwater aside, it all sounds good to my ears.

9. Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works

Wiping the smug off Gilgamesh's face like it's 2004.

Wiping the smug off Gilgamesh’s face like it’s 2004.

Damn it feels weird to be writing about Fate/stay night for 2015. This series is over ten years old now and it finally has the anime adaptation it deserves.

I have some mixed feelings about Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works. I think it’s a fantastic anime, but I occasionally found myself watching more out of obligation than genuine passion. The pacing feels slower than necessary, in part because I already knew the story.

Despite any minor complaints I have with the pace, it felt good to finally watch favorite moments from the visual novel in anime form. The final fight with Gilgamesh easily took first place. Archer versus Lancer was a close second.

Rin is still the best girl.

8. Plastic Memories

This is how I will remember Plastic Memories.

This is how I will remember Plastic Memories.

Expectations are worth a lot. I think people expected a science fiction thriller of sorts, I know I did. That’s not what Plastic Memories is at all. It’s something far more human.

Plastic Memories shares something in common with Your Lie In April. They both telegraph their message early on. The later is a story of finding something by enduring sorrow and the former is a tale of enduring sorrow in order to cherish the time you have left. It proved the hardest hit I’ve taken since Air. Air leads the viewer along and strikes unexpectedly. Plastic Memories tells you what is coming and asks you to enjoy life and be happy anyway.

Plastic Memories presents a very honest what if. What if you knew exactly when you were going to die? Could you make the best of the time you have? That is what the characters in this anime do and because of that I will remember Plastic Memories fondly. It hurts precisely because it asks you to smile and enjoy yourself right up until the last moment. If you can do that it has something special for you.

If you have a low tolerance for feels you will want to steer clear of Plastic Memories. It made me cry. Hell, it left me unable to sleep the night after I watched it and even Air didn’t do that. I found it to be a beautiful pure love story unique in its honesty.

7. Sound! Euphonium

That moment when the apathy is gone.

That moment when the apathy is gone.

Music is magic, or at least that is what I found in Sound! Euphonium. The story follows Kumiko as she discovers how much she loves to play her euphonium.

Sound! Euphonium won me over with its music first and foremost. Even my untrained ears can hear the music without being told which is better. Your Lie In April creates an interesting contrast. In that anime the characters need to tell you when the music is amazing. That is completely unnecessary here. Sound! Euphonium is an example of show don’t tell at it’s finest.

One of the selling points of this anime are the more romantic scenes. Kumiko’s fascination with her classmate Reina is portrayed as more than just friendship. The more I examine it the more of an impossibility it seems, but that doesn’t take away from better character moments of the anime. It’s probably for the best if you go into Sound! Euphonium expecting everyone to be bisexual.

Sound! Euphonium is an impressively serious band drama tied to a story of growing up and finding yourself. It nails both.

6. School-Live!

Don't let appearances fool you. This is a zombie apocalypse.

Don’t let appearances fool you. This is a zombie apocalypse.

Do you like juxtapositions? I hope you do because School-Live! is a cute slice of life anime set in the aftermath of a zombie outbreak.

The story follows Yuki, a young girl who loses her sense of reality in the midst of tragedy. It’s a story of both living life and coming to terms with tragedy. Because of her cheerful insanity Yuki becomes a beacon of hope to her friends. The message is clear. Don’t just survive, live!

School-Live! alternates between happy slice of life moments and serious survival drama in a brilliant way. It’s a refreshing perspective on life after an apocalypse that ignores the expected tropes and cliches.

If you like anime and have ever enjoyed a zombie story you owe it yourself to watch this show.

5. Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?

Please remember to adventure in moderation.

Please remember to adventure in moderation.

Bell Cranel wants to be a hero. To him that means going on an adventure and getting the girls, just like his grandfather.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? is structured like an RPG dungeon grind game. It follows all the same rules you would expect from a JRPG. It’s not a trapped in a game story, but it’s functionally similar. Beat up monsters in the dungeon, get loot you can sell for money and level up!

Bell Cranel’s tale makes low level adventuring into something special. Never before has a level one firebolt spell seemed so impressive. His fight with the minotaur was easily the best action scene of 2015. This is a harem story, but Bell only has eyes for one of the heroines. Bell himself is possibly the most feminine character in his universe. It makes his struggle to become strong all the more real.

If you have even a basic level of interest in dungeon grinds or fantasy this is one adventure you will want to take for yourself.

4. Gatchaman Crowds Insight

What is a hero?

What is a hero?

Gatchaman Crowds Insight takes a look inside crowd mentalities and weaves a tale that proves to be both insightful and heroic.

What if everything could be decided by a smartphone vote? What would the world look like if everyone shared one heart and mind? Can we trust stupid people with dangerous things? Those are a few of the questions asked by this anime. I found the answers to be surprisingly well thought out.

Tsubasa, the newest member of the Gatchman team, brings something to the table that resembles a stereotypical hero far more so than the other members. Save everyone, unify everyone. Be the hero and don’t worry about the details. In one of her early scenes she asks another member if it’s fun to look down on people. Gatchaman Crowds Insight tears her mentality apart in a brutal way.

Tsubasa’s grandfather talks about how he had to lose his brother to war before he realized he had been taken in by Japanese nationalism. It’s a telling moment for the show. Gatchaman Crowds Insight makes many insights about human nature and the cost of progress. I won’t write them all up here, but it does leave one particularly strong point for us to take away. Think.

3. SHIMONETA: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist

Innocence on the right, lewd on the left... ?

Innocence on the right, lewd on the left… ?

Ayame Kajou has one goal in life. She wants to become a dirty joke. This story takes place in a world where basic sexual education is illegal. Anything naughty is immediately deposed of and lewd minds are locked away.

Shimoneta spins a surprisingly insightful tale of innocence and sexuality. Special props need to be given to Miyu Matsuki for her convincingly terrifying role as Anna. This anime is not only hilarious, but also surprisingly intelligent about the way it portrays both innocence and lewd material.

The contrast between Anna and Ayame makes the story what it is. Tanukichi is initially infatuated with Anna for her innocent nature. Before long it becomes obvious that her innocence is a monster bred of ignorance and poorly understood human instinct. Meanwhile Anna’s love for lewd jokes pure and honest. I found it to be both hilarious and truthful.

I’d never stopped to consider innocence and purity as separate things before. This anime changed the way I look at both. Add that to how incredibly funny it is and that is what it earned it a spot at number three on my list.

2. The Seven Deadly Sins

Unexpected tragedy of the year.

Unexpected tragedy of the year.

Just when I think I’ve seen everything shonen manga has to offer I always seem to find another gem. This time that gem was The Seven Deadly Sins. It’s a tale of seven knights who are branded as traitors for killing their commander and a princess who is desperately looking for them to help save her kingdom.

There is not a bad moment in this anime. All of the characters have a part to play, even the annoying mascot pig redeems himself. Each of the main characters have their own story giving the world an epic feel that is rare in anime. The anime resolves the main story of betrayal in a satisfying way while leaving the story open for future adventures.

Giants, fairies, demons, immortals and princesses. This anime has it all. King and Diane proved my favorite characters and their shared backstory is both heartwarming and tragic.

This anime has something for everyone. It’s the type of show you can share with just about anyone. If you consider yourself an anime fan this is one you need to watch.

1. Death Parade

Empathy looks different when the trigger is in your hand.

Empathy looks different when the trigger is in your hand.

Death Parade is a story of judgement and empathy. The dead are asked to play a game with their life on the line. The game itself is a ruse, something to bring out the darkness hidden in a human heart. Arbiters watch and make a judgement to either reincarnate their soul or send them to the void.

The games played by the dead are fascinating to watch and bring out many questions about how the arbiters work and why exactly they do what they do. There is a sense that the system has been abandoned by its god and the arbiters are puppets who maintain a system beyond their control. It’s the politics between these puppets and how they do their job that makes Death Parade so intriguing.

An understanding of human emotion is something the arbiters lack. We are told they aren’t really living because they can’t die. Questions are raised about the value of a judgement without human emotion and the exchange is compelling. Death Parade takes the trigger and puts it in your hands.

If you are only going to pick one anime to watch from 2015 this is it.

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5 thoughts on “Lifesong’s 2015 Anime Guide

  1. I watched like maybe 3 of these shows, total. But hey, glad Noragami and Death Parade both made it, and both ended up in your Standouts category at that. Death Parade in particular really helped make my year in terms of anime – I think the only title I probably enjoyed more was Kekkai Sensen (which I can totally understand wasn’t everyone’s thing).

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    • Death Parade inspired me to keep better tabs on the more ambitious anime. If I’m still doing this anime blog thing when the decade rolls around it’s likely to be high on that list too.

      I enjoyed the few episodes of Kekkai Sensen that I watched. I had it on my backlog list as a potential show to finish off and add to this guide, but I ran out of time. Maybe when I settle in with this new season I’ll go back and finish it.

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  2. I… fell asleep while watching Log Horizon.

    Glad to see you have quite some positive opinions on Rakudai. Really, it’s a surprise for me, because it seems to go against everything what I believe to be in a fantasy LN like this. Ikki as a character is also surprisingly likable, and I was somehow able to invest in him as the underdog of the story, even if he’s shown to be OP just like most other LN protagonists, lol. But I guess if we’re talking about underdog stories, Bell’s really the top of that list, lol. Danmachi won’t be my favorite anime of 2015 anytime soon, but I do admit it’s fairly enjoyable.

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    • Asterisk had a cool OP too!

      I’ll probably go back for Asterisk. I picked Rakudai and Anti-Magic Academy for last season. I put Asterisk on the back burner simply because of how similar the three of them were. As it turns out I guess I should have bet on Rakudai and Asterisk.

      Rakudai seems to be fairly popular with the people who gave it a fair shot. I always seem to catch the critics who “hate” it saying things that make me think they all like it more than they want to let on. For my part I’d rather just be honest and admit I enjoyed it. 🙂

      I agree with you on Bell. Not the best anime of the year, but it was the underdog story of 2015. I’m not really all the concerned with the ambition of a story. I often find that less ambitious stories deliver a more solid narrative. I think DanMachi is a good example of that.

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