Oh how things can change so quickly. Last year I was blessed with some great romance shows that made up for just how few had been released, but this year I have to strain to string together more than two or three shows together where romance was the most appealing factor. Still, there were a few really good things to talk about. Snow White remained captivating and adorable all the way to the break, and Yamada-kun’s heartfelt romance almost made up for it’s runaway train of a final stretch. With all that, I’ll try to stick to my niche as much as I can before going off the deep end once the Ero-Kawaii-tier Awards start flying around.
Yamada and Shiraishi-Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches
Yamada-kun’s strength from day one was having a main duo that respected each other as individuals. While that may not sound revolutionary, it really is a struggle sometimes to see shoujo shows, or even normal romance stories, where one isn’t chasing after the other or vying for their attention. Here, Yamada and Shiraishi’s relationship grows naturally, body swap shenanigans aside. It helps that Shiraishi is very self-confident, and her level head makes a good foil for Yamada’s emotional personality. By the time we finally get our confession, it’s not even the cementing of a relationship, as their natural attitude towards each other had already spelled it out far ahead of that final scene.
Most Disappointing Romance
Takeo and Yamada-Oremonogatari
Oremonogatari was not the most promising romance to come out this year. With its utterly bland title and milquetoast female lead, most of us were ready to call it off right away. However, there was something to the simple tale of a romance told as it’s happening instead of before it even starts, and seeing Oremonogatari have its leads actually dating by episode 4 was decidedly fresh. This was certainly helped by a stellar supporting performance from ultimate bro Sunakawa(More on him later.), as his voice of reason brought some grounding to Takeo’s manic, overreacting personality. Unfortunately, the good times were not to last, and the show started to fall into quite a rutt. This culminated with a completely disappointing final stretch that made it seem like the pair learned almost nothing from their time together. When it comes to Oremono, come for the reaction faces, but theres not much else of value.
The Taiga Aisaka Award for Most Melodramatic Bullshit
Your Lie In April
Your Lie In April had some initial promise, but the sheer levels of ridiculous melodrama quickly overran the show and became a train wreck I just couldn’t take my eyes off. While the bullshit would be piled high for much of the show, nothing beat the absolutely cringeworthy finale. Kaori, getting sicker every episode of the show from some generic anime wasting disease, is headed off into a life or death surgery. As her starcrossed lover Kousei plays in the final round of a piano competition, he has a vision of her soul bursting out of her like a bad CG effect. If this wasn’t enough, the epilogue treats us to the real eponymous lie in April: That she liked him the whole time. Despite the fact that everyone would have been a whole lot happier if she just up and said it at the beginning, it’s portrayed as some beautifully tragic nonsense. He didn’t suffer from her loss any less not knowing she was into him because hey, he was still obviously into her. It was seriously the most poorly written schlock I had ever seen in my life, and truly the capstone of the most embarrassingly juvenile train wreck I ever had the unfortunate honor of finishing.
The Golden Sawako for Excellence in Not Making Out Already
Snow White and Zen-Snow White With The Red Hair
Another show that came hot out of the gate, Snow White With The Red Hair was a darling show that proved shoujo could have all its trappings and still create an engaging, respectable romance. Our two leads were certainly very comfortable with each other. Neither made any allusions that they weren’t attracted to each other, and they are both very successful in their own lives, not being defined by the other’s affection, but strengthened by it all the same. It was seeing such a natural relationship that made Iro and me tear our hair out every week that they wouldn’t just up and make out already. When our wish was finally granted, it actually came off a very stereotypical surprise kiss by the male lead. However, what would be treated as the right thing immediately was given the proper gravity, with Zen giving Shirayuki the time and space to confirm her own feelings. And make out again. We appreciated both parts.
The Most Dysfunctional Relationship
Everyone from Working!!!. And I mean Everyone.–Working!!!
While Working!!! brought us by far its most down-to-earth season possible, that is like going from the moon to the International space station. The fact is you are still way too uncomfortably high. Amid the actual resolution and genuine character development, Working!!! never quite lost the wrongness that made it such an irresistibly trashy show to watch in the first place. For starters, most of em are still pretty terrible people, and the surprisingly good character development many of them got couldn’t ever change that. We also had the Takanashi/Inami relationship stall at the end for no other reason than what appeared to be an attempt by the show to subjugate their audience to a bunch of bad Alice in Wonderland references. In the surprisingly sage words of Yamada(man, there were way too many Yamadas this year) “Everybody’s flirting, but nobody’s dating.”
The 3rd Annual Dusk Maiden Award for Excellence in Being Simultaneously Cute and Smutty.
A.K.A. THE ERO-KAWAII AWARD
Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches
Yamada-kun started out about the same way any body-swap show does, with plenty of gawking and tons of embarassed faces. This time though, it’s the boy who’s a bit gunshy and the girl who is totally cool with it. Thus starts a. Unfortunately the breakneck pacing near the end really spoiled Yamada-kun from becoming a breakout hit, but it was an undeniably endearing show that also did not hold back on letting us see its guys or gals in very compromising positions. The kissing magic also ensured equal opportunity fanservice across the board. Pretty much the best I can ask for from an award that I have increasingly regretted creating by the year.
Bro of the Year A.K.A. The Iskandar
It’s hard to think after last year and the absolute domination of the field by 2d-kun that I could find another bro so clearly a cut above any of his contemporaries. Sunakawa quickly managed to endear himself to us by taking what would normally twenty episodes of hemming and hawing and getting two people who like each other to realize it in three episodes flat. His gentle form of caring for his friends did not go unnoticed by everyone in the Glorio Crew, clinching his victory almost as quickly has he arrived on the scene. What you have to understand about the ultimate bro is that they make sacrifices for their bros. Sunakawa knocks that requirement out of the park with the way he is constantly nudging the extraordinarily oblivious Takeo through his love life. He knows exactly how to use his depth of advice like a surgeon, quietly nudging when he knows they really need to figure it out for themselves and outright calling people out on their nonsense when they get hysterical. The only shame is that, like 2d-kun before him, his mission to help Takeo’s fairytale relationship has kept him an incredibly eligible bachelor. If there is to ever be a new season, I will leave this award on one last note, SunaXSaijou for life.
Yes, I may not have picked BRADIO’s masterpiece in our season end OP/ED, but after almost a full year it’s hard to deny the infectious power of Death Parade‘s dissonant opening. I’d say the biggest reason it’s remained a Glorio favorite is undoubtedly BRADIO’S killer funk. BRADIO’s entire catalog has now gained a cult following among a few of us, to the extent that Iro and I were all raring to go to the band’s first American concert… but that’s a story for another time. Obviously BRADIO is amazing, but that alone wouldn’t have brought so many Glorio crew members into the show. Despite being a show about the brutality of man, the opening chose to fly in the face of all those dark emotions to turn the afterlife into a party. There’s such an absolute joy in every scene that pumps you up, even if the actual episode’s contents brings you crashing to the ground. Flyers also exceeds at that best trait of good mystery anime, putting complete spoilers in plain sight. Going back now and seeing all the little clues they added to the OP makes me give that much more respect to the whole operation. If there’s any earworm to lose an hour to, you’d be hard pressed to find one better.
The Moment of 2015
Memories of the Great War-Gatchaman Crowds insight
Gatchaman Crowds insight was a great show by any standards, but what really made me remember it was a scene that only took up maybe a minute or two of screen time. In the midst of great unrest, with everything she stood for being turned on its head, the new Gatchaman Tsubasa heads home to her Great Grandfather’s house. Watching news of the hateful reaction to her poor misguided Alien Hitler, he remembers another event that swept up his country in the same way. In a time where many believe Japan is trying to glorify its militaristic past, her Great Grandfather speaks of the horrors of the atmosphere people can build. In his time, it was ultra nationalism, whipping his friends and family up into a war where none of them truly understood why they were fighting. Instead of becoming enraged in grief, the death of his brother brings him to the realization that there was never any reason for him to fight. It was the people, letting pressure and opinion sway their minds, which brought them to this point. It’s a powerful message on the disastrous effects of losing ones personal responsibility, something that was multiplied in insight by the proliferation of social media. In the end, the only thing that calmed the storm was forcing every person to look into their own hearts and make up their mind.
I suppose going through this whole rigmarole without mentioning Euphonium once would be a crime. It certainly was one of my favorite shows of the year, and combined one of my early loves of band with an engaging story of identity and what it takes to succeed. I could talk for days about what made this year special. While 2014 was just inundated with good content, 2015’s highs were still pretty darn high. Here’s to ignoring whatever LN trash that comes out way and continuing to hope for a diamond in the rough. At the very least we’ll get Diamond is Unbreakable.