Best Anime of 2015

by criticalhit009

And thus begins the year end lists of 2015. As with all of these lists, this list is not definitive, merely what I was able to see this year. This list will encompass both 2015 releases, and a separate section for those series I watched that also deserve mention.

The last two years were big for me as a burgeoning otaku, as I finally accumulated a little spending money to buy series both classic and contemporary. Enrolling in grad school in the fall has severely tampered with my media consumption, but I have watched enough to assemble a brief list of the best anime series I watched this year. So, in alphabetical order:

Best Anime of 2015

The Death Parade Logo from the final episode

Death Parade probably wins two awards this year. One for having the best first episode to a new series (not just anime, but *any* series that aired this year), and another for the best opening animation of the year. Lusciously animated by MADHOUSE, this series has some of the most beautiful animation I have seen this year.

Death Parade Ice Skating GIF

Of course, that’s not its only strength. As the series explores the tales of characters and how they lived and died, Death Parade touches upon the variety of experiences that make us human, from the lurid to the banal, from the tragic to the humorous. Some of the series’ best episodes were some of the most affecting television I’ve seen in recent memory. The series is streaming at FUNimation.

Title Text from One Punch Man

ONE PUUUUUUUUNCH! If Death Parade didn’t exist, One Punch Man would probably top the list for best opening this year. The energy of the opening number perfectly captures the series, a show  with zany energy that fuels both its over the top humour and jaw-dropping animation action scenes.

Image from One Punch Man Episode 11

Don’t let Saitama’s simplicity cool you. The series also boasts dynamic character designs, from bishōnen allure to the chiseled angularity a la JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. One Punch Man is a joy to watch, balancing its humour with social commentary on what it truly means to be a hero. I can’t wait for the season finale next week. The series is streaming on Daisuki.

The title screen from Yuri Kuma Arashi Kunihiko Ikuhara does it again. The anime auteur’s latest, Yuri Kuma Arashi is a polemic against Japanese media that portrays lesbians either as “just friends” or dangerous predators, critiquing media stereotypes while displaying the beauty and power of love between women.

Yuri Kuma Arashi GIF with Bears

Ikuhara’s works is well-known for its dense symbolism, and while layers of symbolism coat the series, the show’s beating heart for its characters and themes is dead clear. The series is streaming at FUNimation.

Classic Series Catchup

These are series I missed the first time around, but have since caught up with.

Space Dandy: Why did I wait? Season 2 was even stronger than the first, with stronger stories with emotional highs, wonderful sci-fi designs, and outrageous animation to tie it all together. This series is streaming on FUNimation.

Yuki Yuna is a Hero: I can literally affirm that this is a show that has changed my life, as I’m trying to incorporate the Hero Club’s five tenets into my life. This is another show that also reveals what it takes to be a true hero, not magical girl powers, but the passion to help others and the courage to act. The show is streaming on Crunchyroll.

The Tatami Galaxy: Masaaki Yuasa is one of my favourite directors in animation today because he understands the importance of movement. To quote Norman McLaren, “Animation is not the art of drawings that move but the art of movements that are drawn,” and this is something clearly illustrated in Yuasa’s work, whether it be his episode of Space Dandy, or this series, which uses simple yet elegant character designs for their expanded movement and expression. The show is streaming on Hulu.

Noximilien l’Horloger“: This is an episode OVA of Wakfu, with character designs my Masaaki Yuasa and directed by his frequent collaborator Eunyoung Choi. So of course it’s wonderful. I’ll end this list here by noting that with the rise of transnationalism, the notion of national cinemas, such as anime, are increasingly destabilized. Wakfu is itself a French show inspired by Japanese animation, and turns to Japanese animators for the OVA episode. This kind of transnationalism is where animation has been heading for decades, and reflects the larger trend within cinema itself. Unfortunately, this episode is not available for legal streaming, though you can find copies of it on the web.