Shadow’s Six: Best Anime of Summer/Fall 2015

Alright, we’re finished our reviews for Fall 2015, and I gotta say… I’m impressed by the variety of great shows that Summer and Fall had to offer. We saw a few great mysteries, some awesome character dramas, hilarious comedies, some harem action, and a few stellar action shows. There were a lot of shows that really played well with expectations, and a plethora of amazing musical arrangements throughout these past two seasons.

But what does this all mean? Well it means that this has been an incredibly difficult list to make. Picking the 6 best anime of the latter half of 2015 has required a tremendous amount of debate and second guessing… but here we are. The list is done, so lets count down the best anime of 2015’s Summer and Fall seasons.

Rory Mercury

6) Monster Musume

Monster Musume is a harem comedy, and you can’t ignore either facet if you’re to talk about this show. It takes a plethora characters and somehow makes these many characters all feel interesting and important. Each character has moments to shine throughout the series, and none of them ever feel like they fade too far into the background – which is a problem many harem shows run into. Much like Trinity Seven, although in a completely different way, Monster Musume embraces what it means to be a harem anime… and is stronger for it.

Cast

5) Asterisk War

I wanted so much to like Blade Dance of Elementalers when it came out but it was just too hard to look past Claire and see anything good there. So when a slightly modified version of the show came out with a much more likeable female lead and better pacing and an art direction reminiscent of Irregular at Magic High… it was exactly what I was hoping for.

The Asterisk War featured relatively good action, stronger characters than you’d expect from its style, and some really cool story arcs and mysteries. Most of these stories are left up in the air as the season ends… but they chose one of them to build to conclusion for the first season. This is important because it gives the show a logical ending point that makes the break feel not so bad.

The other really strong point of Asterisk War was its presentation. The art style, as mentioned above, was very similar to one of my favourite shows from an art perspective: Irregular at Magic High. This sort of tech/magic hybrid is always a favourite of mine, and Asterisk War does a great job of it. The soundtrack was also gorgeous, with the show’s ending theme being one of my favourite songs of the year overall.

Mystery

As I said above… this list was hard to write. But nowhere is that more obvious than in the top 4. I spent hours agonizing over which order to put them in, because they all had such clear strengths and no real weaknesses. Each of the next shows could have been first if I looked at the list from a slightly different perspective… but in the end I had to find some way to order them. After much deliberation, and since all of the shows were equal in so many areas, I settled on how impactful the characters were on an emotional level. How strongly did I resonate with them, both positive and negative?

So with that metric being the deciding factor… here are my top four picks of 2015’s Summer and Fall anime seasons.

4) Gate

I was blown away by Gate. When I saw the trailers, I was expecting a generic ‘war with a fantasy world’ type action anime akin to any number of other shows… and I would’ve been okay with that because those shows are always fun to watch. But what I got was something I never knew I wanted: a semi-realistic take on the ‘war with a fantasy world’ that focuses more on the diplomatic aspect of it. You may not think you want this… but trust me, you do. You really really do.

The visuals of this show were one of its two strongest points. This isn’t one of those shows like Your Lie in April or HaNaYaMaTa where the gorgeous visuals just smack you in the face over and over again though… its visuals are just quietly perfect for what they’re supposed to be. When you think back on it, it’s hard to really find fault with anything about them. There are moments that are gorgeous, sure. However, there are also moments that are kind of bland, and moments that are just… normal. And, really, isn’t that how it should be? You shouldn’t be just overwhelmed by beauty constantly for 12 hours. Contrast is reality.

AnimalGirls

But really, Gate’s strongest assets were two of its characters. Itami is such a relatable character, such a realistic character. He’s a nerd, but he’s not a shutin. He’s a comic enthusiast, but he’s not a creepy pervert. His hobbies come first in his life, but he still does a damn good job at work.  The other character I wanted to focus on is Rory. She’s a demigoddess for the goddess of death who is almost 1000 years old but looks like a teenage girl in a Gothic Lolita dress. And she’s hilarious.

3) Beautiful Bones

Beautiful Bones is a strange character drama focusing almost entirely on two characters: Sakurako and Shotaro. With that being the case, it is only natural that the main characters should be extremely well developed. Sakurako is definitely one of the most interesting characters I’ve seen, and the platonic relationship between her and Shotaro is a nice breath of fresh air in a genre so filled with sexual tension it’s hard to avoid it.

Aside from the characters, probably the most intriguing part of this show is the ever-building mystery. I loved the way they managed to tie together seemingly unrelated episodes into a cohesive story where everything felt relevant. There were a ton of little moments scattered throughout the show that had connections, both obvious and subtle, to the core mystery found within this show’s story.

Sakurako

Beautiful Bones also shines in that its imagery is beautiful despite being a bit macabre. The focus on death and corpses is contrasted by lovely scenery and the ever-present butterfly. There were some moments where the combination of story and scenery moved me almost to tears, in fact. And it would’ve been nowhere near as powerful without the incredible imagery portrayed.

2) Charlotte

Charlotte’s interesting take on the concept of superpowers is a refreshing twist on a standard trope. Most shows of this type grant their characters powers that are essentially ‘flawless’… but Charlotte introduces major problems, issues, or weaknesses to these characters’ abiities. The protagonist, for example, has the gift to take control of people. The downside? His body goes unconscious and he can only do it for a maximum of 5 seconds. Our female lead has the gift to become invisible, but only to one person – everyone else can see her still. These ‘awkward’ gifts make the show a whole lot more relatable than most superhero shows.

Speaking of Nao, she is one of the best characters that I’ve encountered in a long time. She’s got an upbeat attitude and looks at things in an interesting light, but she also has this deep sadness to her character that just moves me, and gives me respect for her character. And, near the end of the series, she has one of the best single moments I can recall from any anime: the best romantic confession in history.

Covwe

The characters are really rich and well-developed, and it is easy to care about them. Yes, even the low-life protagonist who is using his power to cheat on tests and trick a girl into liking him. It’s amazing how well they design these characters to be relatable, and when the show’s more painful moments come, it hits hard.

1) School-Live!

School-Live! surprised me, turn after turn. The show did some really amazing things, especially with perception and foreshadowing. There were numerous scenes that tied back and made previous scenes mean an entirely different thing. The first episode is actually a very good reference point for the entire show… it shows a gradual progression of events that are presented in one light, but given more information mean something completely different.

The character progression in this show is utterly phenomenal especially for our main character Yuki. She is cheerful to an extreme and in complete denial of the reality of their situation. The depth of her denial is the real story of this show. As the show progresses, layers of her denial are peeled away, and you get to see deep into the heart of it… and you get to realize how integral her denial is to the rest of these young ladies’ sanity as well. With how well developed these adorable girls are, you’ll be hard pressed to not feel for their situation, especially when things go wrong.

One of my favourite parts of this show is the opening. Pay close attention to it, for it mirrors the show. The excessively cheerful music covers gradually darkening imagery. Certain portions of it are reflected through the lens of Yuki’s delusion and you’ll see bits of reality interspersed with bits of delusion to create a short, but incredibly detailed, tapestry that aligns surprisingly well with the show’s events.

Yuki

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at 2015’s Summer and Fall anime, and that you’ve taken at least one suggestion away from this for something to watch! Keep paying attention as we cover Ai-Kon Winterfest this weekend and my March Blade’s Edge Update to follow!

Do you agree that these are the best the season has to offer? Disagree? Got a list of your own to share? Feel free in the comments below!

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