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Mike’s Summer Season 2015 Review

PRISON!

This season was great. The openings were great. The endings were great. Anime is great, but you knew that already. This was probably the best season of the year with shows that could’ve held their own in the top spot had they aired in other seasons. It was just strong. Really, really strong. Let me tell you why.

Top 5 Shows

Honorable Mentions: Durarara!!x2 Ten, Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace

5. Charlotte

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Charlotte is one of the more interesting shows P.A. Works has done in recent years. It somehow found a way to blend magic and the supernatural in a way that actually feels grounded, which is rare in anime. It delves into dark emotions, as P.A. Works are wont to do, and it had the writing and characters to support this endeavor in a satisfying fashion. However, like most anime that involves magic, they figure out a way to use their supernatural leanings to not only retcon a gruesomely satisfying story beat because it made its viewers sad (Oh No) but also rushed towards a conclusion that made me feel like I was robbed of what could’ve been one hell of a second season. P.A. Works seemed to get to Episode 12, clapped their hands and said “Right then, we’re done with this sh*t. Wrap it up, we have Hanasaku Iroha Season 2 to not make.” I found myself with something akin to Charlotte blue balls. It’s a quality show, there is no doubt about that, but its final episode condensed what could’ve been a transcendent second season into a sloppy twenty minute finale. It’s massively disappointing for a show that really grew on me.

4. Gangsta

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For a time, Gangsta was my top show of the season.i Its opening was fantastic, its characters were extremely vivid, and its setting and plot were more than a little intriguing. It had all of the tools and it showcased a great many of them. Its action scenes were well done and intense and the intrigue behind the nature of the town really kept me going for the long haul. And then it kept intriguing, and intriguing…and intriguing, and never really got the heart of the matter of “What the hell is all of this sh*t”? It gave a glimpse into the background and motivations of its main characters which, while a bit of a drip feed, was more than welcome, but I still really don’t know what hell is going on or why any of it matters. Between the last episode ending on a cliffhanger and Manglobe subsequently filing for bankruptcyii soon after, I may never find out. That’s sad. I’m sad now. But I’ll always have those twelve weeks. And while it never told much a story during that time, it told whatever was trying to in a really exciting way and I can’t help but appreciate that.

3. SHIMONETA

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SHIMONETA is brilliant. There is no other way to describe it, it is just absolutely brilliant. Set in a world where Japan has banned all sexual media content including even innuendo and references, one girl sets out to change that and show the country the error of their ways by releasing sexual media and knowledge to the public using underground guerrilla tactics. And I loved. that. sh*t. At times the show felt like an allegory for different topics like: (the lack of) sexual education in schools, society’s aversion to sexual content in media, and even something as scary as Groupthink. It stressed that an interest in sexual content is perfectly healthy and natural while the government sought to ban it in a misguided attempt to make Japan “the most morally pure country in the world”, which led to a faceoff that give me fleeting feelings akin to the first time I read 1984. It was absolutely fascinating and for a time was my top show of the season. Unfortunately, around the back half it went off the rails a little when it transitioned from the acceptance of sexual thoughts and emotions to fetishes that features a man wrapped head to toe in women’s underwear while drinking wine with women’s underwear in it damn near foaming at the mouth of how much he likes the smell of used women’s underwear. Suffice to say, it lost it’s way.iii SHIMONETA got away from what made it great and while it was still a good show, it left that greatness in the rear-view mirror in a  disappointing way. I mean, god damn, the end of one episode taught you step-by-step how to make your own sex toy for christ’s sake. How many anime do that? I think just one. And that one has a special place in my heart from now on.

2. Prison School

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Prison School was really a show that had to grow on me. It had a great look, it had fantastic style, there was probably nothing like it, but I didn’t see why everyone was losing their minds over it. It was a quality show, and it was reeeeaaaaal dumb (In a good way), but it all seemed remarkably shallow. And it was. And it stayed that way. But it somehow found a way to transcend that. Its characters, all of them, every single one of them, are incredible and definitely the barrier that keeps this show from falling into the depths of garbage. Trust me, if those characters didn’t bring it like they did, there’d be nothing stopping it from being so. There’s just not that much to it. Guys get sent to a prison within the school for peeping into the girls changing room and now they have to do their time and also the underground student council president has a hatred of men because her father, the principal, is an ass-loving per–……you know, maybe there’s more to this than I thought. Either way, the character interactions are what drive Prison School, more so than any other show this season, and the way they all play off of each other and flow together is what gives this show its glory. It’s raw, it’s gory, it’s violent, it’s sexy, and it’s (when it wants to be) phenomenally uncomfortable. It’s such a strange show when you take a step back and examine all of the parts but you cannot deny its quality and craft. Prison School really kind of defies description.

1. Shokukegi no Soma

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Remember everything I said about Soma last season? All of that still applies and then some. Lazy? A little bit. Inaccurate? Not at all. It took everything and it did right: Its love of cooking, its worship of food, its craft in art and animation, its loving touch in characterization; it maintained all of that and in cases, raised its game to another level. This is an anime with an attention-grabby, pandering, entertaining first episode that molded itself into a Top-of-the-Food-Chain piece of Japanese Animation. It’s outstanding, fantastic, incredible, and all of those other gushing words I love to use so muchiv. After it finished I was confident it would run unopposed as the Best Anime of the Year. Do I still feel that way? Well…I’ll get to that later.

 

Best Female Character

“Ayame Kajou” of SHIMONETA

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She is filthy. 75% of what comes out of her mouth is sh*t I would’ve said when I was 14v and there’s part of me that says “Wow, I mean, they’re pretty much bleeping half of this sh*t so it’s hard to get the flow of what she’s saying but whatever it is, is kinda horrific.” And I love her all the more for it. Ayame is the leading force in trying to show Japan that sexual content and innuendo is natural and her sheer childish glee as she goes around dressed in nothing but a bed sheet throwing naked pictures into the air is nothing if not infectious. She sets the right tone for the show from the word “go” and she does not let up. She’s definitely a star.

Honorable Mentions: Anna Nishikomiya (SHIMONETA)vi, Hana Midorikawa (Prison School), Meiko Shiraki (Prison School)

 

Best Male Character

“Worick Arcaneglo” of Gangsta

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Worick is the calm, steadying presence of Gangsta and it’s hard to feel like the show would be even half as good without him. Coming from a privileged, though abusive, family, watching his family get killed, having to turn to male prostituion and then eventually getting into the “fixer” business has given him and hard, cold outlook on life yet did not rob him of a wry, and sometimes even immature sense of humor. Worick feels like a rock in a world where sh*t is constantly popping off, on the verge of all-out warfare, and having him as a base makes me feel almost relaxed when watching a show as raw as Gangsta. I don’t think it could’ve made a better choice for a main character.

Honorable Mentions: Yuu Otosaka (Charlotte), Nicholas Brown (Gangsta), Takehito Morokuzu (Prison School)

 

Surprise Hit

School-Live

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I have my reservations about School-Live but I have to admit, it’s good. It’s manipulative as any show I’ve ever seen, sometimes it tries to be too moe for its own good, and clashes with itself much more than I would like but it’s good. Episode 1 felt like 19 minutes of garbage then one minute of an interesting twist that did what it was supposed to do, command my attention. And to its credit, it did a wonderful of job of expanding on it. I was confident that the mix of “cute girls doing cute things” and “f*ck me, do you see all of those f*cking zombies out there?!” was going to clash too much…and it did, but it didn’t turn into the trainwreck I expected. It treated the zombie outbreak with the appropriate amount of desperation and gloom that made me feel like the show respected the setting it was in rather than just as a means to grab eyes on the product. Its use of the cute classroom scenes (and hallucinations) were supposed to be a means to provide dichotomy in the show but I usually found that they got in the way of the show’s more interesting apocalyptic backdrop. Either way though, its execution was much better than I could’ve possibly hoped.

Honorable Mentions: SHIMONETA, Monster Musume

 

Biggest Disappointment

God Eater

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You can’t win ’em all can you, Ufotable? Yes, you made Fate/zero and I will love you forever for it vii and taken on its own merits, Fate/stay night is an outstanding show. But God Eater, though fine, should’ve been fantastic. I loved, loved, loved the look of this seriesviii which gave off the impression that it was made with water colors.ix This together with Ufotable’s best-in-industry animation gave its great action scenes an extra punch that no other show could duplicate. But where it got into trouble (again) was in its writingx. I didn’t understand the point of the show. Government experiments went horrible wrong produced underground hermit monsters and warriors keeping them in check with their “God Eaters” so they can build a floating island utopia? I mean, what’s to keep the monsters from just running ruckshot on that too? It didn’t help that the main characters, when one of them is not cooped up in the corner in the fetal position, don’t do a good job of explaining what the plan is or how obtaining these monster hearts (?) will help power their new floating Mass Effect citadel. It’s just a lot of philosophizing and fighting, though really good fighting, mind you…suspiciously like Fate/stay night…to a worrying degree. It’s possible the game goes more in-depth into what the actual hell is going on but it sure didn’t help that the show took weird breaks throughout the season that killed the moment the short series. I’m told it’s supposed to pick back up next year, which will be nice, but it sure as sh*t has a lot of (ANY) explaining to do. It’s a strange show rife with pacing issues and spotty writing featuring occasionally scintillating action scenes that don’t get their just due…kind of like Fate/sta–look, let me stop now before I keep making myself sad.

Dishonorable Mentions: Charlotte, Classroom Crisis

 

Top 5 Openings

Honorable Mentions: “Feed A” by OLDCODEX (God Eater), “GATE ~Sore wa Akatsuki no Yō ni” by Kishida Kyōdan & the Akeboshi Rockets (GATE)

5.  “B-District Squadron SOX” by SOX (SHIMONETA)

4. “Bravely You” by Lia (Charlotte)

3. “Insight” by WHITE ASH (Gatchaman Crowds Insight)

2. “Renegade” by STEREO DIVE FOUNDATION (Gangsta)

1.  “Speed and Friction” by amazarashi (Ranpo Kitan: Game of LaPlace)xi

 

Top 5 Endings

Honorable Mentions: “Country of the Night” by Annabel (Gangsta), “Wishing Diary” by Yumeha Kōda (Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei Herz!)

5. “Hey! Smith!!” by Smith with MON (Monster Musume)

4. “6 Billion Wings” by ANGRY FROG REBIRTH (Gatchaman Crowds Insight)

3. “Hallelujah” by la la larks (Sky Wizards Academy)

2. “Step by Step!” by Miss Monochrome (Miss Monochrome: Season 2)

1.  “Mikazuki” by Sayuri (Ranpo Kitan: Game of LaPlace) xii

 

Final Thoughts

Remember how I thought Souma was going to be the best anime of the year? That was before the behemoths that are Owarimonogatari and One Punch Man came to the fore. Monogatari is operating on another level from everything else right now and is really showing why it is, in my opinion, the best anime series of all time. One Punch Man is simply breathtaking, a tour-de-force of animation and cinematography that is making me feel things that Kill la Kill once did. Right now, they’re right on track to finish one and two as the best anime of the year. In some particular order. Everything else is not important. Until then…

Your Time Is Up, My Time Is Now.

Watch Anime.

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