Jacquie’s 2016 Year in Review – Anime

As I sat down to contemplate the series that I felt were the best of 2016, at first I thought I might be looking at a 3-way tie, maybe even 5-way. Only after checking my scoring on MyAnimeList did it become apparent that one series received a higher grade than everything else. The other shows settled in behind it then. The top shows were really close, though; and it doesn’t help that they were all so different in terms of setting, genre, tone, and subject matter.

In the end, the top 4 were basically my highest ranking picks from each season. I’m not actually going to rave about these series again right now; please follow the links if you wish to see the previous write-ups.

☆ Top 10 Anime:

#1. 91 Days (12 episodes)
91-days-wallpaper
Aired Summer 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#2. Yuri!!! on ICE (12 episodes)
yuri-on-ice-06
Aired Autumn 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#3. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (13 episodes)
shouwa-genroku-rakugo-shinjuu
Aired Winter 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#4. ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu) SECOND/FINAL SEASON (25 episodes)
Assassination Classroom
Aired Winter 2016 and Spring 2016
(First season of 22 episodes aired Winter 2015 and Spring 2015)
(streaming: FUNimation)

#5. AJIN (26 episodes)
ajin-season-2
Aired Winter 2016 and Autumn 2016
(streaming: NETFLIX)

#6. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. (Saiki Kusuo no Psi-nan) (24 full-length episodes)
saiki-k
Aired Summer 2016 and Autumn 2016
(streaming: FUNimation and DAISUKI)

#7. KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS (Koutetsujou no Kabaneri) (12 episodes)
Kabaneri - Mumei
Aired Spring 2016

#8. Thunderbolt Fantasy (13 episodes)
Thunderbolt Fantasy - Lin Xue Ya
Aired Summer 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#9. ERASED (Boku dake ga Inai Machi) (12 episodes)
ERASED
Aired Winter 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll and DAISUKI)

#10. Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! LOVE! (Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE! LOVE!) (12 episodes)
cute-high-earth-defense-club-love-love
Aired Summer 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

☆ Favourite Guilty Pleasure Anime:

Scar-red Rider XechS (12 episodes)
scared-rider-xechs
Aired Summer 2016

I watch most of my anime with my sister. Scar-red Rider XechS was bad or boring enough after 3 episodes that she dropped it. I persevered however; and before long, I found myself looking forward to each new episode with an enthusiasm that was out of proportion with my generally low opinion of the production’s quality.

One of the reasons was that I started to love the characters. Yosuke and Takt (more on him later) in particular were well-written and well-acted, but the rest of the cast were also entertaining and endearing in weird ways.

The other reason was my gradual belief that the absurd plot developments and dialogue were intended to be comedy, and weren’t just bad writing. Just as how The Lost Village didn’t make it clear to its audience if the plot was supposed to be funny or not, SRX sometimes presented a similar predicament. Well, I like my personal interpretation of these shows; after all, I seem to have found a lot more enjoyment from both of them than most viewers did!

Anyway, I will always remember the “western-style restaurant” conversation of ep. 5. It literally had me giggling for days, maybe weeks, afterward whenever it came to mind.
(streaming: FUNimation and DAISUKI)

☆ Sequels that significantly outperformed their predecessors:

Active Raid 2nd – With all the goofing around they did in the first cour, and much of the second too, who would have imagined that Active Raid was in actuality laying down the groundwork for a serious, even thought-provoking, storyline all along? But that was what we got! The payoff was a whole lot better than I expected, infinitely better, since I don’t think I ever considered that a show like this would arrive at such a coherent, meaningful outcome.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

BUNGO STRAY DOGS 2 – Even those of us who were not won over by the meandering first cour of BUNGO STRAY DOGS had to sit up and take notice when this second season started. Suddenly we had a brand new protagonist and a mature, plot-heavy flashback tale. I, for one, was in no hurry to return to the present timeline. When we did, it was predictably a bit of a disappointment, but by then the show had secured my interest and my goodwill.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

☆ Biggest Regrets:

Dimension W and KIZNAIVER. These shows had some potential, but managed to squander it completely and go in the opposite direction. I ended up hating them.

BATTERY the Animation similarly went completely off the rails and turned into a huge disappointment. However, it didn’t incite the contempt that those two shows did.

Other shows that were simply a waste of time: GARO: CRIMSON MOON, Bloodivores, Utawarerumono: The False Faces, OZMAFIA!!, and Sekkou Boys. It was my own damn fault for continuing to watch most of them, though.

☆ Favourite Characters:

srx-05-takt
#1. Kirisawa Takt (cv. Miyano Mamoru), Scar-red Rider XechS

Obviously, the leader of LAG’s 6th combat unit and frontman of Odd I’s is pretty and has a nice voice. And it’s easy to sympathize with him as the straight man in a show full of eccentrics.

Beyond that, I like him partially because I can relate to him on a personal level. That sort of thing doesn’t happen often for me, but as a fellow skinny, height-challenged, long-haired idealist with a discerning taste for rock music and a preference for black platform boots as everyday footwear, I guess this anime character and I have a few things in common! Naturally, I also share Takt’s opinion on the topic of shiitake mushrooms as an ingredient for food preparation.

bungo-stray-dogs-odasaku
#2. Oda Sakunosuke (cv. Suwabe Junichi), BUNGO STRAY DOGS 2

He was only in 4 episodes, but those 4 episodes, which told a dark, tragic prequel story, were so good! I loved Odasaku in the lead role; he was badass, principled, and extremely sympathetic.

As mentioned, that early segment of season 2 totally blew me away and changed my opinion of the whole series up till that point.

days-kimishita
#3. Kimishita Atsushi (cv. Ono Daisuke), DAYS

Abrasively bossy characters with a habit of pointing out other people’s faults because they themselves are so smart and/or skilled are certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. I seem to have a soft spot for these types, though. MACROSS DELTA’s Messer had this kind of personality as well, albeit with less anger than Kimishita, and I liked him a lot too.

There are the rare occasions where Kimishita reveals that he is actually a nice guy. However, those moments of kindness could also be interpreted as a backhanded way of expressing his impatience at others’ incompetence, whereas normally he is just way more upfront about it.

It is entirely thanks to Kimishita and the other senpai, especially Ooshiba and Mizuki (ie., not the main characters), that I made it through all of DAYS and ultimately gave the show a somewhat decent score. I even intend to return for the sequel.

☆ Best (Funniest) Single Episode:

Osomatsu-san 16 Osomatsu-san 16a
Osomatsu-san episode 16: “Matsuno Matsunan / The Ichimatsu Incident.” As if the “Mad Max” parody featuring F6 wasn’t gratuitously over-the-top enough, it was then followed up by an incest sketch!
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

☆ Best Finale:

TSUKIUTA. THE ANIMATION – I can’t actually recommend most of this idol anime. But if you’re inclined to watch, make sure you continue to the end, because the last part of that concert-themed final episode was the most stunning and feel-good finish of any series that I watched in 2016.
(streaming: FUNimation and DAISUKI)

As far as shows I do recommend go, I applaud ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM for its emotional yet heartwarming and hopeful ending.

I was also very satisfied with 91 Days’ ending, including the way it left some things open to interpretation.

☆ Best OP/ED Sequence (music & visuals):

BUNGO STRAY DOGS season 2 OP: “Reason Living” by SCREEN mode, version 2, which appeared in the middle of the third episode (or overall ep. 15). It occurred once only, but we may have watched it more times than we do most regularly occurring OPs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a link to share here; if you’re interested, you can find it at 11:52 to 13:22 of ep. 15.

Honourable mentions: Yuri!!! on ICE ED “You Only Live Once” by Hatano Wataru, and 91 Days OP “Signal” by TK from Ling Tosite Sigure.

☆ Anime Songs Top 20 Countdown:

As with last year, this is a list of the best anime songs of 2016 according to me. The songs are evaluated primarily on the music, not the accompanying visuals of the shows they’re associated with. And it’s the full songs, not the TV-size versions, that are being considered.

20. old revelation, by Mutsuki Hijiri (cv.KENN) (Scar-red Rider XechS ED)

19. RUSH, by GALAXY STANDARD (cv: Miyano Mamoru, Toyonaga Toshiyuki, Hirakawa Daisuke, Eguchi Takuya, Suzuki Tatsuhisa, Ono Yuuki) (PRINCE OF STRIDE: ALTERNATIVE insert song)

18. Shounen no Hate, by GRANRODEO (Mobile Suit GUNDAM: IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS 2 ED)

17. The Experience, by OLDCODEX (Kuroko’s Basketball Winter Cup Soushuu-hen: Namida no Saki e Main Theme)

16. Kaze wa Yokoku Naku Fuku, by WALKURE (MACROSS Δ ED8)

15. Reason Living, by SCREEN mode (BUNGO STRAY DOGS 2 OP)

14. Be My Steady, by GALAXY STANDARD (PRINCE OF STRIDE: ALTERNATIVE ED)

13. Kokoro no Arika, by Heshikiri Hasebe(cv:Shingaki Tarusuke), Souza Samonji(cv:Tai Yuuki) & Yagen Toushirou(cv:Yamashita Seiichirou) (Touken Ranbu -Hanamaru- ED2)

12. ninelie, by Aimer with chelly(EGOIST) (KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS ED)

11. You’re My Courage, by GALAXY STANDARD (PRINCE OF STRIDE: ALTERNATIVE insert song)

10. Through My Blood <AM>, by Aimer (KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS insert song)

09. Scribble, and Beyond, by OLDCODEX (Kuroko’s Basketball Winter Cup Highlights -Shadow and Light- Main Theme)

08. Yoru Ha Nemurerukai?, by flumpool (AJIN OP1)

07. Ao to Aka no Forzato, by Komae Christoph Yosuke (cv.Suzuki Tatsuhisa), Kirisawa Takt (cv.Miyano Mamoru) (Scar-red Rider XechS OP)

06. HOW CLOSE YOU ARE, by Miyano Mamoru (AJIN ED1)

05. The Birth, by Miyano Mamoru (AJIN: Shougeki Main Theme)

04. Signal, by TK from Ling Tosite Sigure (91 Days OP)

03. Hikari aru Basho e, by May’n (Izetta, The Last Witch ED)

02. Warcry, by Sawano Hiroyuki feat. mpi (KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS insert song)

01. Deal with, by OLDCODEX (SERVAMP OP)

☆ In closing, some Notable Quotes:

“If you look even half-decent, you’re considered hot.” – Choromatsu, considering the voice acting profession, in Osomatsu-san ep. 20.

“Your stupidity can’t be cured even by your death. So you might as well live.” – Julieta to suicidal Iok, in Mobile Suit GUNDAM: IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS ep. 37.

“Well don’t lose heart. Girls are as plentiful as stars in the night sky… and just as unreachable for you.”
– Saiki to freshly rejected Toritsuka, in The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. spec. ep. 50, or full ep. 10.

“There’s only one carbonara!” – Yosuke to dumbfounded Takt, in Scar-red Rider XechS ep. 5.

Mid-Summer 2016 Anime Ranking

By the numbers:
30 – series I started or continued this summer season. Of those, at least…
3 – series already finished airing mid-season
3 – anime involving time travel/re-living the past
2 – cooking anime
3 – sports anime
2 – spoon-bending psychic lead characters
47 – idol singers/band guys (WALKURE: 5, Odd-I’s: 5, Procellarum: 6, Six Gravity: 6, Kitakore: 2, THRIVE: 3, MooNs: 5, VEPPer: 2, MIVV: 1, Fluna and Seleas: 12)
7 – idols cast in the role of Shinsengumi members for in-show stage plays
5 – idols cast as Shinsengumi member Okita Souji for in-show stage plays
4 – series airing Christmas episodes during the month of August (Cute High, Saiki K., CHEER BOYS, Scar-red Rider XechS)

91Days - 02
01. 91 Days (ep. 1-9) – In this dark prohibition-era mafia revenge story, there are really no good guys, just a matter of who you might be rooting for at the time. Our protagonist is just as evil as they come, and he’s more conniving than most. Characters in this show get brutally killed off all the time; it would not surprise me in the least if even Angelo does not survive past the end of the series.

After 9 episodes, story progression continues to be pretty much flawless. Also, I like how the angsty OP theme, “Signal” by TK from Ling Tosite Sigure, effectively evokes a sense of tragedy amidst all the violence and bloodshed.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Saiki Kusuo 01
02. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. (Saiki Kusuo no Psi-nan) (special ep. 1-50, or ep. 1-10) – Saiki is an ESPer who can move things with his thoughts and read other people’s minds. In turn, we’re privy to the rapid-fire snarky comments in his head and it’s devastatingly funny.

Considering that Saiki claims to not give a damn about anyone or anything except for not drawing attention to himself, he’s actually an unexpectedly good guy. While he’s not beyond judging people (he does it all the time), he does go out of his way to help friends and strangers alike with surprising regularity.

Apparently even telekinetics call their mama when there’s a bug in the house. Who knew?
(streaming at FUNimation and DAISUKI)

ReLIFE Kaizaki
03. ReLIFE (ep. 1-13 complete) – ReLIFE had the most unusual release schedule, with all 13 episodes made available immediately at the start of the season. We watched the first half of it almost right away, then put it aside reluctantly to check out the other new offerings of the summer, then returned later to finish the rest.

Underemployed 27-year-old Kaizaki is recruited to take part in a social experiment. He takes medication to age down his appearance and must redo a year of high school for unknown reasons. The characters are very well-written and their conversations mostly ring true. The way little bits of the mystery are revealed gradually as the students go through their experiences makes it hard to stop watching.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Orange 01
04. orange (ep. 1-10) – The group of friends in this show is really convincing and likeable. Unlike KIZNAIVER from last season, for instance, it’s easy to understand why someone would want to be friends with these people.

This anime deals with mental illness and I appreciate the way it handles the topic. Depression sufferers don’t go around moping 100% of the time. It often is hard to tell that someone is thinking about hurting themselves until it is too late.

What’s really a shame is that the animation quality has been declining steadily week after week. Lately, the characters’ faces sometimes look so off-model that I have trouble telling who’s who.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Macross Delta 22 - Freyja
05. MACROSS Δ (ep. 14-23) – This newest iteration of MACROSS is only my second foray into the musical-combat space opera franchise. My initiation was its immediate predecessor, MACROSS Frontier from 2008.

That there is also a love triangle in this MACROSS anime is not at all surprising. What is refreshing is that Mikumo, the lead singer of the musical unit WALKURE, has a different role to play and is not part of said triangle. Additionally, DELTA has none of the fanservice that Frontier had; that alone makes me respect this series so much more.

The most notable element of this production has got to be the music. The show generously trots out a new song every few episodes. These musical numbers don’t sound generic, either; they are consistently well-crafted and frequently sung by the voice actors specifically for the scene (as opposed to only using the recorded versions).

06. Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! LOVE! (Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE! LOVE!) (ep. 1-10) – It’s the sequel, and our colour-coded Battle Lovers are back with frilly new upgrades to their combat outfits. Now that they’ve been around the block a few times, they have a good understanding of when they need to mobilize, and when it’s okay to just stay in the bath.

Unfortunately for our attention-seeking villains, the Beppu twins, the Defense Club has deemed them to be not a threat. The Beppu brothers are also known as the pop duo VEPPer, because obviously, in an anime environment so chockfull of idols, Cute High would surely have at least one or two.

I quite enjoyed the weaponized words in ep. 3. It reminded me, likely intentionally, of Aquarion LOGOS, which was based on the whole bloated premise of physical word attacks. Being used as the passing assault of the disgruntled-student of the week in this show was the proper treatment for that particular lame concept.

Also, the aforementioned Christmas episode was pure comedy gold.

Season one ended pretty conclusively. There didn’t need to be a second season. But these writers are confident and highly self-aware about their material. I have no doubt they know exactly what they’re doing and I’m happy to be along for the ride.
(streaming at Crunchyroll and FUNimation)

srx-01-yousuke
07. Scar-red Rider XechS (ep. 1-10) – I’m not into the generic sentai action, nor am I particularly interested in the alien attack storyline. Even the band stuff is sub-par; the guys seem to talk about music way more often than they actually make any. How SRX has won me over is with its oddball characters, which goes to show how important that single factor can be in determining whether or not I can find a mediocre series enjoyable.

The way Yousuke beats around the bush instead of saying things directly makes me laugh. And I especially empathize with his serious and self-conscious best friend and group leader Takt. Their conversations together are hilarious!

I even kind of like the romance subplot. Three of the guys (so far) seem to have a crush on the same (oblivious) girl, but they each have their own reasons for admiring or feeling protective of her. Because their personalities are well-written enough, it’s actually convincing.

Unfortunately, I’m not super-enthused about the recent dark turn of events. The show is better when it doesn’t bother with the serious plotline as far as I’m concerned.
(streaming at FUNimation and DAISUKI)

08. MOB PSYCHO 100 (ep. 1-9) – Of the psychic-themed comedies this season, this is the more serious take of the two. Mob is young and inexperienced, but he has strong principles regarding the use of his special powers, at least when he’s able to control them anyway. His part-time employer Reigen is a real personality. He’s a self-serving liar and professional con man, and yet, he improbably manages to be a decent mentor to Mob; and it’s all completely in-character.

If you’re into detailed action animation, MOB PSYCHO delivers on that front, offering creative camera work and fluid motion in its fight sequences. If I’m honest though, I’d have to complain that the character designs are all pretty ugly.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

09. Food Wars! The Second Plate (Shokugeki no Souma: Ni no Sara) (ep. 1-10) – As the Autumn Elections continue, Souma is challenged harder than ever and is even forced to acknowledge some of his shortcomings in the face of fierce competition. At the same time, we’re seeing more collaboration among the Totsuki students.

Shokugeki continues to be a fun watch, especially during mealtimes, but it does feel a bit repetitive in how it’s mainly just been one tournament after another.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

sweetness-and-lightning
10. sweetness & lightning (Amaama to Inazuma) (ep. 1-10) – Kouhei is a single father juggling the demands of his job as a school-teacher and the needs of his young daughter. It concerns him that Tsumugi rarely gets to eat a decent home-cooked meal, so he ends up joining forces with one of his students and the 3 of them learn to cook together. There is some mild development in other areas of their lives, but basically a new dish is served up every week.

This is certainly a sweet and pleasant show. Probably the only thing I really have trouble believing is Tsumugi’s curly, below-the-bum long hair. I can’t imagine any parent, let alone a single dad, having the time and patience to handle such an unruly mane. I think it could even be a safety hazard for a pre-schooler like her.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

11. The Morose Mononokean (Fukigen na Mononokean) (ep. 1-10) – Ashiya starts working for Abeno, the Mononokean, after the latter helps him to remove a fuzzy yokai that attached itself to him and was draining his energy. Other than an arc in which the pair enter the underworld themselves, the show consists of a series of sentimental stories of yokai needing to make peace with their worldly issues so that they can be exorcized.

The 2 main guys are pretty entertaining to watch, but the best characters are Fuzzy (Mojya), who is expressive with just his eyes, and the yokai wall scroll of ep. 4. That wall scroll deserves more screen time!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

12. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: DIAMOND IS UNBREAKABLE (ep. 14-23) – JoJo’s is just as good as it always is as far as story, characterization, and humour goes. The reason I’ve been liking it less this season has more to do with the content rather than the quality of the show. I can’t help it; things like severed body parts and spider dissections (I had to look away) are huge turn-offs for me.

If there was one episode I enjoyed immensely, that would be the standalone ep. 16, in which Josuke teamed up with Jotaro to hunt down a rat. Josuke’s thoughts and reactions throughout the ordeal were so funny!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

arslan-senki-fuujin-ranbu
13. THE HEROIC LEGEND OF ARSLAN: Dust Storm Dance (Arslan Senki: Fuujin Ranbu) (ep. 1-8 complete, overall ep. 26-33) – The first series ended without resolving anything, so this is basically a continuation of the story. I liked that they revisited the slavery issue and the effect that Arslan’s position on the topic could have on his potential allies. I also enjoyed the political stuff toward the end. Otherwise, the animation was not great for the most part, and I’m not sure I agree with how the limited time this series had was spent. The pirate arc took up a pretty big chunk; and (spoiler) they still don’t make it back to Ecbatana, though the pieces are now in place for what could be an explosive season 3.
(streaming at FUNimation)

14. Re:ZERO –Starting Life in Another World- (Re:Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu) (ep. 14-23) – I’m definitely not enjoying this second half of the series as much as I did the first half. The supporting cast are mostly new and we don’t seem to be getting any closer to solving the underlying mysteries from before. Maybe it’s me, but I don’t think I’m really getting the point of all the Witch’s Cult and White Whale stuff and how it relates to the big picture.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

15. CHEER BOYS!! (Cheer Danshi!!) (ep. 1-9) – The men’s cheerleading anime. This was pretty enjoyable for the first few episodes, when the core group of 7 guys were assembling and preparing for their first performance. Then the troupe suddenly ballooned in size to 16 members! Not only did I no longer know who was who, but I was also a bit bored that the main focus was on a personality clash between 2 of the newcomers.
(streaming at FUNimation)

b-project-01-thrive
16. B-PROJECT~Kodou*Ambitious~ (ep. 1-9) – Both B-PROJECT and TSUKIUTA. this season feature multiple boy bands, making it pretty challenging to keep everyone straight and remember which unit they each belong to. We’re talking about a total of 22 idol guys between these 2 programs alone! God help me.

Of the two, B-PROJECT seems to be the slightly better series in terms of characterization and providing insight into the Japanese idol/music industry, well, up to ep. 4 anyway…

They lost me a bit with the incurable illness stuff in ep. 7. Was it supposed to be sad or funny? Sad, I would assume, but I was laughing when I realized the same character who shares a voice actor with Okita Souji (from Hakuouki, whose name as a Shinsengumi member came up previously in this very show) also has a TB-like infectious disease.

They lost me a lot with boring ep. 5 and the spirit-possession stuff in ep. 6. Also, those trashy naked end cards seem out of sync with the not-nearly-so-sexually-suggestive content of the show proper.

Personally, I do enjoy the musical and cultural references in B-PRO. I have twice attended T.M.Revolution’s real-life INAZUMA ROCK FES that the RAIZIN Festival of ep. 4 was based on. Also, ep. 6 had a scene in a Jangara Kyushu Ramen restaurant, one of my favourite ramen joints in Tokyo. However, the way the material plays to an in-the-know audience could be potentially alienating to an average viewer.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

17. BATTERY the Animation (ep. 1-9) – A talented but abrasive young pitcher joins the baseball team at his new school after befriending the catcher. This anime is about baseball, however, the potential BL is frequently acknowledged in-show, as our pitcher-catcher duo is often teased with romantic/sexual innuendo by family, friends, and others.

It started out pretty good, actually. I thought Takumi’s attitude was believable and I was interested in what was going on with his little brother Seiha. However, it’s been very slow moving and it seems like we’ve gotten derailed with the current story involving the rival-team couple.

18. The Highschool Life of a Fudanshi (Fudanshi Koukou Seikatsu) (ep. 1-10) – A fudanshi is a male BL fan. This short series focuses on Sakaguchi’s experiences and his friends’ reactions to his unusual hobby. Generally, it’s pretty funny, but no kidding it really is short, at about 3 minutes runtime per episode only.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

19. planetarian (ep. 1-5 complete) – This five-episode adaptation of a Key visual novel is about a cute-girl android and the junk-collector who encounters her at her planetarium years after the apocalyptic destruction of the city (and maybe the world). It is intended to be a terminal illness-type moe tearjerker, as Yumemi is running on her final few hours of battery life. I thought it was all right.
(streaming at FUNimation and DAISUKI)

tsukiuta-01
20. TSUKIUTA. THE ANIMATION (ep. 1-10) – One of my least favourite parts of this show are the CGI dance sequences, which never seem to look good in any idol series I’ve seen using that technique. I can understand that doing them that way allows for a greater amount of detailed movement, but it’s just too weird here, especially when the characters are suddenly singing with doll-like faces.

Incredibly, both TSUKIUTA. and B-PROJECT each had an episode where some of the idols were training to star in a Shinsengumi stage play, portraying Okita Souji specifically. Is that a really common thing for boy bands or something? Anyway, TSUKIUTA. won that round; its version, which involved a tough veteran actor (and no supernatural elements) was definitely the better take.

TSUKIUTA., like B-PRO, is vastly different from episode to episode since its focus changes to a different character every week and there is limited linear plot development. So far, I’d say episodes 3 (Animate), 4 (stage play), and 6 (where TSUKIUTA. suddenly became a whodunit comedy) were worthwhile. All the rest were okay, I guess, but I don’t feel like I gained anything from watching them, and I still can’t keep the guys straight! (It turns out there are 12 idol girls in this show too, but don’t even get me started on that. I give up.)
(streaming at FUNimation and DAISUKI)

kuro
21. SERVAMP (ep. 1-8) – Way too many characters just keep showing up, some of whom have had memory-wipes and/or memory implants. Meanwhile the plot is very unclear. I almost dropped this after 3 episodes – actually, I really did drop it. But eventually, I came crawling back to give it another chance because of the voice cast and because Kuro is so damn cute. I had to completely start over in order to get a better grasp of what was supposed to be going on in this stupid vampire anime.

One thing SERVAMP definitely has going for it is its delightfully heavy OP “Deal with” by OLDCODEX, my choice for best theme song of the season. Additionally, in what other entertainment do you get to see pretty men conversing with and fighting each other while carrying cute dolls and kittens in their arms? Then again, maybe nobody needs to see that.
(streaming at FUNimation)

22. DAYS (ep. 1-10) – My brutally uncharitable take on soccer anime DAYS is that it’s nothing but self-insert wish-fulfillment sports fiction. I totally don’t buy all the opportunities Tsukamoto gets, or the admiration he inspires in teammates and opponents alike, when he is so clearly unskilled. That said, the show is not wholly unlikeable. Several of the supporting cast have amusing personalities, including team captain Mizuki, who has his own unique way of expressing himself that everyone finds hard to understand, and team tsundere Kimishita.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

23. OZMAFIA!! (ep. 1-10) – Not much happens in this series of 4-minute shorts about a new student at Oz Academy. There’s no point in watching weekly, so I marathoned a bunch of episodes at once. OZMAFIA!! functions primarily as companion content for the otome game it’s based on, as far as I can tell, not being a player of the game myself. To its credit, the character designs are really cute, but seriously, this show isn’t good. Don’t watch it.

The ending sequence alternately features several songs by Article One, a defunct Christian rock band from London, Ontario that I’d never heard of before. Once again, it amuses me to learn something about my home country through Japanese entertainment.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Also watching:

thunderbolt-fantasy-05
Thunderbolt Fantasy (ep. 1-10) – the Taiwanese/Japanese co-production puppet show, which is technically not an anime at all.

It takes a bit of effort to get used to the puppets’ movements and expressionless faces, but the personalities and storytelling are quite involved. I guess we’ve come to expect no less from writer extraordinaire Urobuchi Gen. I’m still struggling with the Chinese names, though, since they bear no resemblance to their Japanese pronunciations.

Sawano Hiroyuki’s soundtrack expertly adds drama and gravity to the narrative, while the voice actors do a stellar job of breathing life into each of the characters as well.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

BROTHERHOOD FINAL FANTASY XV (ep. 3-4) – The latest installment was the one I had been anticipating the most. Finally the Ignis episode! Suffice it to say I was not disappointed. Ignis is totally like a mom to Prince Noctis. How can you not love him?
(streaming at Crunchyroll and YouTube)

Active Raid 2nd (ep. 1-6) – since it’s the sequel. However, you may recall we weren’t terribly impressed by the first season, so it’s no surprise we weren’t that keen on this either; and we’ve fallen behind. I must say, though, ep. 5 was pretty great. Sena’s impassioned takedown of a garbage-strewing idiot was the highlight. But let’s not overlook MIVV’s sugary, Satanic pop tune; that was pure fabulousness.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Mid-Spring 2016 Anime Ranking

In a season where there are some shows trying really hard to be smart (JOKER GAME, and arguably KIZNAIVER) and at the same time other shows trying hard to be really dumb (Sakamoto desu ga?, and arguably The Lost Village), it’s a challenge to rank them in any kind of order. Here’s my attempt at it anyway.

Assassination classroom 2nd Season - 22
01. ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu) (ep. 36-44, or SECOND/FINAL SEASON ep. 14-22) – Things are really getting serious as AssClass heads towards its conclusion. Koro-sensei’s past is revealed in detail at last. Predictably, the increased awareness of their target’s backstory does nothing to enhance the murderous intent of Class 3E.

I like the direction they’re taking with the story. While the students have been specifically tasked with eliminating the threat which is their teacher, in the big picture, the overall goal is actually to save the Earth. But they’re not the only ones who want Koro-sensei dead.

Whether he lives or dies, either way, I’m definitely going to miss Koro-sensei and his assassination classroom when this is all over.
(streaming at FUNimation)

Kabaneri - 06
02. KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS (Koutetsujou no Kabaneri) (ep. 1-9) – A lot has been made of KABANERI’s similarities to Attack on Titan. It’s clear that KABANERI owes some inspiration to its predecessor, but it’s easy enough to appreciate this series as its own entity.

Many of the characters have distinct personalities and it’s been nice to see their development as the story has progressed. In particular, Ayame has shown herself to be brave and forward-thinking. I think she has really risen to the challenge of leading her people, despite the fact that the role was thrust upon her unexpectedly. And Ikoma has displayed emotions ranging from joyfully ecstatic, to bitterly crushed, to everything in between. He’s a testament to nerd heroism: his inventions are not only protecting the survivors aboard the Koutetsujou from the Kabane attacks, but the selling/sharing of his technology is also helping to feed the train’s occupants!

Mumei started out as overly strong but unsophisticated; gradually she’s gaining some maturity through her experiences with Ikoma. I’m not sure about Biba, though; so far, he’s been too blatantly evil. I’m curious to see if they will do anything more interesting with his character. I hope so.

KABANERI has its flaws, but for the most part, it’s well-written, it looks great (especially the action scenes), and yes, we are also here for the musical soundtrack by none other than Sawano Hiroyuki.

Re Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu - 06
03. Re:ZERO –Starting Life in Another World- (Re:Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu) (ep. 1-10) – It’s an ongoing mystery why Subaru suddenly finds himself in an alternate fantasy world where his life is constantly in danger. The good thing is he has the ability to start over at a seeming “save point” whenever he dies. However, it is scary and painful to be killed, and it isn’t known how often he can restart before it’s game over for real. Re:ZERO is entertaining, well-written, and at times, genuinely suspenseful.

I’m impressed that Subaru is actually a decent, likeable guy, considering that he is the male lead in a fantasy show full of female supporting characters. I like Ram and Rem too; they’re cute and they seem to have a complicated bond as sisters.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

My hero academia - 01
04. MY HERO ACADEMIA (Boku no Hero Academia) (ep. 1-10) – It’s kind of like X-Men, except mutations (called “quirks”) occur commonly and are valued by society. Poor Midoriya (Deku) grew up idolizing superheroes all of his young life and is devastated when his quirk never appears. Nevertheless, he is determined to attend The Hero Academy. He does receive some unexpected help, but still it won’t be easy. Deku is so enthusiastic and hard-working. You just can’t help but root for him!

It’s weird to me that the bad guys actually call themselves “villains” in this show. Does it have a different meaning in their world? Or do they not believe in the justness of their own cause?
(streaming at FUNimation)

05. Tanaka-kun is Always Listless (Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge) (ep. 1-10) – The show’s bright and clean aesthetic is very appealing, and that’s a major selling point, even if I’m not at all a fan of the main character’s slack-off, do-nothing personality. Those types always annoy me. He is, however, the whole reason this series exists. And there are other things I do like, such as Tanaka’s long-suffering and enabling best friend, Ohta. Ohta comes off as really sympathetic and his lines are frequently smart and dryly funny.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Joker Game 7
06. JOKER GAME (ep. 1-10) – D-Agency, a paramilitary spy organization, is created in Japan and its operatives are stationed around the world in this WWII-era drama. Most of the series has been more episodic than I expected. The early parts would feature one of the spies at a time in short stand-alone stories. They are difficult to tell apart from one another and we don’t get to know them much at all; which is completely intentional, since they are spies after all, and they’re not supposed to stand out. However, that has the side-effect of leaving me less invested in the show as a whole.

It’s only recently that there’s been a greater semblance of an overarching narrative, as Lieutenant Colonel Yuuki’s enemies are trying to figure him out. Ironically, because we are seeing things from an outside perspective now, that actually removes us even further from D-Agency. Lt. Colonel Yuuki and his spies remain as much of an enigma as ever.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

07. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: DIAMOND IS UNBREAKABLE (ep. 1-11) – Something in Morioh City seems to be attracting stand users. It’s the 90s now, and our main protagonist this time is Josuke Higashikata, the illegitimate son of elderly Joseph Joestar.

There’s just no denying how entertaining JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure consistently manages to be. I may not love the character designs or the show’s technicolour aesthetics, but when all I need is some good dumb fun, JoJo’s always comes through.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Shounen Maid - 08
08. Shounen Maid (ep. 1-9) – Chihiro goes to live with his young and carefree uncle after his mother passes away. He refuses to just accept Madoka’s charity, and plus Chihiro happens to have an unnatural love for housework, so they agree that he will do the household chores in exchange for room and board.

The tone is consistently light-hearted, funny and positive, but what’s unique is that there is an underlying sadness here that doesn’t get addressed directly. On the one hand, it’s really heartwarming that Madoka and Chihiro have found and connected with each other after the loss of their sister/mother, but there’s no way child-like Madoka could ever take the place of Chihiro’s mother, Chiyo. It’s also perplexing that Chiyo seemingly made no plans for her child’s welfare and never introduced her son to her family, even when her death was imminent.
(streaming at FUNimation)

Bungou-Stray-Dogs-02
09. BUNGOU STRAY DOGS (ep. 1-10) – I admit many of the references are lost on me, as the characters are based on real-life historical writers and I’m not very familiar with their works or backgrounds. As an uninitiated viewer, it seems a lot of focus has been on showing how wacky the cast is instead of presenting a real story.

It’s been getting a bit better recently, now that our main character Atsushi is finally taking the lead. Ep. 10 featured some good action and it convinced me that Dazai and Atsushi have a close mentor-apprentice relationship, even though I didn’t really get that from the show previously!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

10. The Lost Village (Mayoiga) (ep. 1-10) – A busload of one-note characters arrives at mysterious Nanaki Village to start their lives anew. A vast number of them are pretty annoying and stupid and nobody would have minded if they became fodder for getting killed off one by one as they faced the monsters in the woods.

The Lost Village can’t be considered good by any stretch of the imagination, but you’ve got to give it credit for not pretending to be anything more than the shallow schlock that it is. In fact, the jury is out on whether this show is intentionally ridiculous or if it’s just plain bad writing. Personally, I’ve been taking it as absurdist comedy because it makes me laugh.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

11. Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto (Sakamoto desu ga?) (ep. 1-9) – This show is based on one single joke, and that’s that Sakamoto is absolutely, unbelievably perfect and cool in everything that he does. More often than not, it works and it’s funny! The best parts are when the bullies and tough guys find themselves becoming Sakamoto’s fans. I think those guys are more fun to watch than Sakamoto himself.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Flying Witch - 04
12. Flying Witch (ep. 1-10) – This is a charming, slice-of-life series about a young witch-in-training who goes to the countryside to live with relatives. The characters are likeable, and more than a few of them are a bit quirky. Of particular note is Chinatsu, the little girl who is fascinated with witches now that she has gotten over her mild shock at the discovery that they exist. She is adorable and totally makes the show.

The reason Flying Witch is relatively low on my list? Well, nothing really happens in it. I hate to say it, but honestly, it’s a little too laid-back for my taste and I find it kind of boring. Also, I rather disliked the behaviour of our main characters during the café segment (eps. 7-8), in which they tricked their waitress and harassed the other customers (although they didn’t seem to mind too much). Fortunately, Makoto and company are not that boorish usually.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

13. RAINBOW DAYS (Nijiiro Days) (ep. 13-21) – I was worried about my tolerance for this show since it is airing this cour without the accompanying Club RAINBOW live-action segments. I’m relieved that the developments have been just slightly more interesting than in the first half and the new characters (in eps. 17 & 18) have proven to be a welcome addition.
(streaming at FUNimation)

Kiznaiver 04
14. KIZNAIVER (ep. 1-9) – Several high school kids are unwittingly enlisted to take part in an unethical human experiment in which they become linked to each other through feeling/sharing each other’s pain. It’s all for a lofty purpose, apparently.

From the special episodes which preceded the series, it seemed the people who were working on the project were pretty hyped about its concept and characters, which succeeded in piquing my interest. Unfortunately, after 9 episodes, I still find the whole thing to be underwhelming. The characters are not terribly sympathetic, the humour often misses its mark, and the romantic shipping seems forced and melodramatic.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Also watching:

MACROSS DELTA – but I’m not caught up enough to include it in the rankings or have much of an opinion about it. Word is, the songs are quite good; of course, it’s girl-idol pop music, so I’m not a reliable judge of that aspect.

BROTHERHOOD FINAL FANTASY XV – only 2 short episodes have aired so far. They’ve been low on substance but undeniably fun anyway.
(streaming at Crunchyroll and YouTube)

Jacquie’s 2015 Year in Review – Music

BEST SINGLES (A-sides & B-sides):

X.U. scaPEGoat
01. X.U. | scaPEGoat, by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk] (X.U., scaPEGoat, INSANITY LOVE) – I have already gushed about this single before. The double A-sides, sung by Gemie and Yosh respectively, represent the OP1 and ED1 of the Seraph of the End anime series. As I said back in the spring, these Sawano songs are head and shoulders above the majority of music that’s commonly heard as anime themes and in pop charts. The B-side INSANITY LOVE is a quieter, melancholy tune sung by vocalist mica, and it’s no slouch either. As if that wasn’t enough, the TV size versions of X.U. and scaPEGoat are included, as well as the full instrumentals of both songs, making it evident that both of them shine even without their vocal tracks.
(Available on iTunes internationally – title tracks only)

Aching Horns
02. Aching Horns, by OLDCODEX (Aching Horns, Reminder, Get Up To Go) – It seems to me that there were very few new releases in the early part of 2015; I remember having only about 3 new songs to listen to during the first quarter-year. OLDCODEX saved my ears from boredom when they came out with the excellent “pledge” EP in April. They continued releasing anime tie-in singles through the summer and finally snuck in at the end of the year with this gem, the main theme single for the “High Speed! -Free! Starting Days-“ film. The title track seems like it might be a ballad at first, but soon makes clear that it is definitely not. It’s angsty and melodic and really good. And the B-sides, they’re killer.

As with their first “Free!” tie-in single, “Rage on,” these coupling songs are harder and heavier than their A-side. Reminder doesn’t feature much actual singing, but it doesn’t need it. Its melody is all in the instrumentation and there’s an attractive urgency to the song. Anyway, it sounds amazing.

Get Up To Go is the best. It is heavy, rhythmic, melodic, and complicated and everything I love about OLDCODEX and music in general.

GazettE UGLY
03. UGLY, by the GazettE (UGLY, DEPRAVITY, GODDESS) – It took me a while to warm up to UGLY. True to its name, it is kind of ugly, as advertised. But warm up to it I did. (“Death to traitors!”)

DEPRAVITY took less convincing, as it has a familiar GazettE sound; I’m probably thinking along the lines of BEFORE I DECAY (2009). The third track, GODDESS, is simply divine (once again, truth in advertising). It is heavy, dark, and just a little twisted and it actually reminds me a bit of QUIET (2013), one of my favourite the GazettE songs. If I had bothered to make a Best Song ranking for 2015, GODDESS would likely have taken the top spot.
(Available on iTunes internationally)

EVOKE cover
04. EVOKE, by lynch. (EVOKE, DOZE, GUILTY) – A huge wave of new releases from my go-to artists started at the end of the summer and continued into fall: multiple releases by the GazettE and a full-length album from coldrain, among others. lynch. unleashed 2 maxi singles and a full-length album at just one month intervals between each. “EVOKE,” the first single, turned out to be my favourite of the three, based mainly on the strength of the two B-sides. Incidentally, their album, “D.A.R.K. –In the name of evil-“, had its highlights, but I felt it to be a letdown after last year’s far superior “GALLOWS” album.
(Available on iTunes internationally)

BEST MINI-ALBUMS:

OLDCODEX pledge_350_350
01. pledge, by OLDCODEX – It may seem like I’m just an OLDCODEX fan girl, but that’s not entirely true. I’d say that lately, I tend to like their works more often than not. However, their music covers a range of genres and I’m not into everything they put out. The single that came after this, “Lantana,” for instance, with its more pop-punk B-sides, was not really my thing.

The selection of songs on “pledge,” though, represents the style of OLDCODEX that I love the most – their darker, more metal side. It’s almost like they made it just for me!

Favourite tracks: Lost before and physical (the “Q Transformers” OP)

ANOTHER ARK
02. ANOTHER ARK, by UROBOROS – I had first heard of vocalist Kamiki Aya several years ago. My sister used to listen to a lot of pop-rock guitar girls and Kamiki Aya was one of them. I remember she had more of a rocker chick image than some of the others and I thought it a shame that her songs were so tame. What a nice surprise it was to find her fronting this new prog-rock outfit! And UROBOROS kindly scored a tie-in for their first single, Black Swallowtail, as the OP for an anime I was watching (“Rokka –Braves of the Six Flowers-“), so I didn’t have any trouble finding them either.

Favourite tracks: Jyuuni ya and Red Moon
(Available on iTunes internationally)

BEST FULL-LENGTH ALBUMS:

coldrain VENA
01. VENA, by coldrain – How do they just keep churning them out? “VENA” is another remarkably strong record by coldrain, chock-full of hooky, appealing, modern rock songs. Vocalist Masato is really quite the lyricist. Listening to Japanese music all the time, I sometimes forget how much meaningful words can add to an already good song. It is obvious that English is Masato’s first language, but still it’s kind of ironic to find some of the most thoughtful, exceptionally well-written English lyrics I’ve heard coming from a Japanese band.

Favourite tracks: WHOLE and HEART OF THE YOUNG
(Available on iTunes internationally)

DOGMA
02. DOGMA, by the GazettE – In my opinion, this material is not as easily accessible or immediately engaging as the GazettE’s previous two full-length albums. “DOGMA” does sound very cohesive; and there are actually plenty of good songs in the track list. Unfortunately (and this might be an unreasonably high standard), I don’t consider any of them to be up there with the best work the GazettE have ever done.

RUKI’s English pronunciation has come a long way in the past few years. And his English lyrics make perfect sense too; just check out BLEMISH!

Favourite tracks: WASTELAND, BLEMISH, OMINOUS, DERACINE
(Available on iTunes internationally)

Dark before dawn cover
03. DARK BEFORE DAWN, by Breaking Benjamin – I never said I only listen to Japanese artists! Pennsylvania-based Breaking Benjamin received praise as well as criticism for sounding like themselves on their first release of new material in 6 years and after significant personnel changes. Personally, I thought it was the right decision to not stray too far from the tried and true for their comeback album. “DARK BEFORE DAWN” is a worthy collection of solid rock songs.

Favourite tracks: Hollow and Angels Fall
(Available on iTunes internationally)

For a list of my Top 15 Anime Songs of 2015, please see the “Year in Review – Anime” post.

Jacquie’s 2015 Year in Review – Anime

There were about 50 or so series that I watched in entirety which finished airing in 2015. Those are the titles being considered in this Best of 2015 section.

Looking back on the anime series that I really enjoyed during the past year, I realized that while they all had various strengths, most of them were considerably flawed in one way or another.

If I were to think about the shows I most looked forward to watching each week, there would be GARO THE ANIMATION or GANGSTA.. However, both of those had issues in the later parts and I wasn’t that happy with the way either of them ended. And good endings are important to me.

On the other hand, if we’re talking about great endings, Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! might have actually had the best one all year. But that’s a show that didn’t even crack my top 10 as it aired during the winter season.

Meanwhile, there were anime series that were thoroughly unique and well-written, such as SHIROBAKO and SCHOOL LIVE!. Unfortunately, the characters in those shows didn’t click with me personally, for whatever reason.

There was ultimately only one truly enjoyable series that did not have any problematic issues for me.

I think it was our last pick-up of the summer season and it might not be what you expect. Certainly I, myself, did not have very high expectations when I decided to start watching this fanservice-laden jailbreak comedy.

Anime of the Year:

Prison School
PRISON SCHOOL (12 episodes) – Five male students in an otherwise all-female high school are imprisoned on school grounds by the Underground Student Council for the crime of attempted peeping. They are forced to perform hard labour, endure indignities, and complete their studies in jail. They could just get themselves expelled and walk away, but somehow these guys view expulsion (and having to explain to their parents the reason) as a far worse outcome than their current situation.

PRISON SCHOOL is riotously funny, thrilling, and well-paced throughout. And it presents a satisfying conclusion even as it sets up a possible storyline for a sequel.

The main drawback is that I can’t exactly recommend it to polite company. PRISON SCHOOL is a gross-out comedy, after all, so there is implied nudity, sexual deviancy, uncontrolled bodily functions, forcible confinement; the list goes on. But in the show’s defence, almost all of it is plot-relevant! I’d also say the more gratuitous fanservice stuff is just totally over-the-top rather than titillating in nature.

In spite of all the absurd and uncomfortable situations that they find themselves in, the characters are generally viewed sympathetically. As I’ve said before, PRISON SCHOOL is not particularly mean-spirited, and that goes a long way in making the crude content tolerable and in helping the humour to really succeed.
(streaming: FUNimation)

And that’s it! No seriously, it’s too hard to do a proper anime ranking this year, so I give up. Instead, I’ll just highlight some of the shows that stood out for me and say a little bit about them. Maybe next year I’ll go back to the Top 10 format.

My Favourites, with Flaws:

Garo the animation
GARO THE ANIMATION (GARO: Honoo no Kokuin) (24 episodes) – This anime started its first episode with the burning-at-the-stake execution of the main character’s pregnant mother. Yup, that immediately set the stage for what kind of dark, mature-content production this was going to be.

Throughout most of its run, GARO excelled in its depiction of its complex, flawed characters. It was evident from the animation, story, and dialogue that the people who worked on this action-drama anime really loved and respected these characters. And because they gave a damn, that made me give a damn too. I particularly enjoyed the father-son dynamic between German and Leon and the refreshingly cooperative relationship between the two young Makai Knights.

Unfortunately, the final story arc proved to be rather nonsensical and disappointing. That ultimately had a negative effect on my overall enthusiasm for the show.
(streaming: FUNimation)

gangsta-anime
GANGSTA. (12 episodes) – Amazing series, except there’s one major problem.
When I think of previous anime that made no attempt to wrap up any plot threads, the first to come to mind is “Deadman Wonderland.” With that show though, I didn’t particularly like or care about the characters at all.

At least with GANGSTA., I was primarily invested in the characters. I was interested in how their relationships were informed by their past and present situations. Even relatively minor roles were fleshed out and sympathetic. Because of this, I think I really got something out of each episode, even the final one, in spite of the obvious fact that it failed spectacularly in delivering any kind of conclusion whatsoever.

I suppose if there really was no good way to end it, this kind of “advertisement for the manga” ending was still preferable to an anime-original one that didn’t make sense or that would be problematic in the off-chance that a sequel should ever happen.  However, as it stands, I could never recommend this show without also warning the potential viewer about the unsatisfying non-ending.
(streaming: FUNimation, DAISUKI)

Seraph of the end
Seraph of the End: VAMPIRE REIGN (Owari no Seraph) (24 episodes) – Another show with an interesting storyline and characters who were full of personality. The facial movements and expressions were frequently exceptionally well-animated. The quality of the action sequences was inconsistent, but the show was enjoyable overall.

No concrete ending here, and likely won’t be for a long time, as the anime is apparently caught up with the source manga already.
(streaming: FUNimation)

PARASYTE the maxim
Parasyte –the maxim- (Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu) (24 episodes) – The smaller-scale story of Shinichi and Migi learning to live with each other and developing an understanding for the other’s perspective was thought-provoking and often humorous. For me, the show lost some of its momentum as the view expanded to the rest of the outside world.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

Arslan Senki
THE HEROIC LEGEND OF ARSLAN (Arslan Senki) (25 episodes) – The epic tale of Prince Arslan after the fall of his nation offered balanced viewpoints from all sides of the conflict. I really appreciated that aspect of the show. The second half was more about Arslan’s group working to assemble their allies in order to retake Pars and that was not quite as riveting for me. No real conclusion here either, as they don’t make it all the way back to Pars by series end.
(streaming: FUNimation)

Great Fun:

one-punch man
ONE PUNCH MAN (12 episodes) – The action scenes were often creative and really well done, however, what I loved best about the show were the characters and their interactions, especially the dynamic between Saitama and Genos. Sonic was great too; and I think Mumen Rider had me at hello!
(streaming: DAISUKI)

Assassination Classroom
ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu) (22 episodes) – This story of a class of misfits who must kill their tentacled teacher, Koro-sensei, before he destroys the planet turned out to be not only humorous, but also surprisingly heartwarming.
(streaming: FUNimation)

Starmyu
STARMYU High School Star Musical (12 episodes) – Let me just state that we were not impressed by the first episode of STARMYU. The many characters each got only brief appearances and we didn’t get a sense of who they were at all. But the real kicker was the abominable introductory song by the elite Kao Council, in which they basically told the student body, “We’re better than you.”

My sister, who is now a devoted fan, was so turned off, we almost didn’t continue with the show! For some reason, I insisted that we had to keep watching; maybe it was morbid curiosity.

We ended up loving STARMYU! It’s not about much, but the characters turned out to be really likeable and had good chemistry with each other. And I was actually moved by the flashback storyline which explained the difficult relationship between two of the Kao Council members.

It was weird when the guys broke out in song, and the pop tunes were generally not to my taste, but the music was competently produced and the songs sounded polished. One of them even found its way onto my best of 2015 list (see below).
(streaming: FUNimation, DAISUKI)

Cute high earth defense club love
Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! (Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE!) (12 episodes) – There was a significant mid-cour slump, such that I lost a lot of enthusiasm for the show for a while. But then the final episodes came along, and they were so inspired and insanely funny! That incredibly strong finale made me really glad that I watched this crazy stupid magical-boy anime!
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

Ace-of-Diamond-anime
Ace of Diamond (Diamond no Ace) (75 episodes) – This baseball anime was consistently enjoyable and deserves a mention here as a technicality.  The stopping point was kind of arbitrary and SECOND SEASON started immediately after the first one ended, so it really doesn’t feel like it’s over at all.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

Sequels Made with Love:

yowamushi pedal grande road
Yowamushi Pedal GRANDE ROAD (24 episodes) – The previous season ended right in the middle of the Inter- high. GRANDE ROAD brought the race to a proper conclusion with all of the show’s usual charm intact.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

noragami aragoto
NORAGAMI ARAGOTO (13 episodes) – This sequel took the concepts from the first series and really ran with them. ARAGOTO played out in two main arcs, the first featuring Bishamon and the second focused on Ebisu, and in turn, Yato. Both arcs ended up being thought-provoking and touching, with self-sacrifice vs self-preservation being a major theme.
(streaming: FUNimation)

K RETURN OF KINGS
K: RETURN OF KINGS (13 episodes) – After the first season, I wasn’t that sold on K’s setting or colour-coded Kings mythology. So much so, that I was actually reluctant to watch the subsequent movie and this sequel.

It seemed like too much style over substance. The K franchise is nothing if not stylish. The visuals were colourful and vibrant, and the constantly moving camera made for some stunningly dynamic action sequences (and also some uncomfortable fanservice).

Impressively, this had an ending that actually made some sense. It seemed obvious to me that the creators really cared about the story they were telling and the roles of the players involved. The characters were consistently true to their motivations and personalities, and the outcome made sense based on the setting and events prior. Maybe it also helped that I was not particularly fond of the Silver Clan, who were the primary focus originally, and therefore totally didn’t mind that they had much less screen time this season.

The Worst Ones:

I suppose it’s a good thing that I had to actually think about this. These are the shows that had some potential, but managed to disappoint despite already meagre expectations.

Tokyo Ghoul √A (12 episodes) – This continuation of the conflict between humans and ghouls inexplicably introduced a ton of new characters and featured even more clumsy storytelling than its predecessor. In the end, lots of people died, yet nothing of consequence happened.

Uta no Prince-sama Magi LOVE Revolutions (13 episodes) – My introduction to UtaPri was in 2011, when the first season was streaming on Niconico. I had heard that it was hilarious to watch with the scrolling user comments on. Indeed, that was good advice. The second season came along 2 years later, and it was actually respectable. I counted myself a fan.

Magi LOVE Revolutions… would have been better with scrolling user comments. Most of the dialogue and story arcs were pretty lame. Not only that, this third season did something even the previous ones didn’t: it actually ended on a cliffhanger.

Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider (11 episodes) – A murder mystery which cannot be comprehended by a normal human being.

Your lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso) (22 episodes) – Cloyingly manipulative tearjerker about middle school-aged musicians in love probably did right by its target audience. However, I was not that target audience, not by a long shot. We weren’t supposed to hate the girl at the end, were we?

________________________________________________________________

Here’s some more random retrospective stuff. This section includes anything that came out in 2015, not just the completed shows.

Memorable Quotes:

– We recently saw the GARO: CRIMSON MOON special episode. In one of the segments, the voice cast showcased their favourite lines from the show so far. That reminded me that there were not many notable lines in CRIMSON MOON of one quote that I did enjoy.

In many love stories, one partner has to make a great sacrifice for love and it’s beautiful and inspiring. It played out a little differently in ep.5. When Yasusuke told his ex-thief love interest Kosode that he intended to relinquish his name and status in order to be with her, she had this to say: “You want to step down from the good life you were born to? Who wants to be with a fool that doesn’t know the meaning of his actions!”

Well, the rest of the episode went to crap, but that one line was memorable for me.

– The quote that I think made me laugh the most last year came from ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM ep. 8. In response to his colleague apologizing for asking a prying question about his past, Koro-sensei said, “You’re a wise man, Karasuma-sensei. Even while traveling, it’s crude to ask after the number of one’s appendages.”

Favourite Seiyuu of 2015:
Akatsuki Jaeha 17 2015 Kuroko no Basuke 3 Suwabe 2015 Kamisamahjimemashita 2015 Fsn UBW Suwabe 2015 JoJo 2015 uta no prince sama revolutions Suwabe 2015 Food Wars 2015 Gangsta 2015 Gate 2015 Starmyu
That’s right: Suwabe Junichi. The above is a sampling of the roles performed by Suwabe-san last year. So many memorable characters. In at least two instances, his characters appeared mid-season and proceeded to steal the show; I’m thinking of Jae-ha, the Green Dragon in YONA OF THE DAWN, and Terence T. D’Arby in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: STARDUST CRUSADERS Egypt Arc.  He was also perfectly cast as Worick Arcangelo in GANGSTA. and as Ootori Itsuki, the charismatic mentor and muse in STARMYU.

Anime Songs Countdown:

And finally, in advance of the music retrospective post, which will go up next, I now present a list of the best anime songs of 2015 according to me. The songs are evaluated primarily on the music, not the accompanying visuals of the shows they’re associated with. And it’s the full songs that are being considered – that’s especially relevant to my top 2 picks, both of which have so much more to offer than what can be heard in their TV-size versions. Here we go.

15. Lantana, by OLDCODEX (Kuroko’s Basketball S3 ED3)

14. One Light, by Kalafina (THE HEROIC LEGEND OF ARSLAN ED2)

13. Black Swallowtail, by UROBOROS (Rokka –Braves of the Six Flowers- OP2)

12. Feed A, by OLDCODEX (GOD EATER OP)

11. Aching Horns, OLDCODEX (High Speed! -Free! Starting Days- Main Theme)

10. Renegade, by STEREO DIVE FOUNDATION (GANGSTA. OP)

09. FOCUS, by Showtaro Morikubo (GARO THE ANIMATION ED2)

08. Yoru no Kuni, by Annabel (GANGSTA. ED)

07. Brave Shine, by Aimer (Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works] S2 OP)

06. Akatsuki no Hana, by Cyntia (YONA OF THE DAWN OP2)

05. Limited sky, by Tsukigami Kaito (CV: Lounsbery, Arthur) (STARMYU insert song)

04. X.U., by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:Gemie (Seraph of the End OP1)

03. scaPEGoat, by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:Yosh (Seraph of the End ED1)

02. Last Theater, by NoisyCell (Death Parade ED)

01. physical, by OLDCODEX (Q Transformers: Kaettekita Convoy no Nazo OP1)

That was really long! Thank you for reading.

Mid-Spring 2015 Anime Ranking


01. THE HEROIC LEGEND OF ARSLAN (Arslan Senki) (ep. 1-10) – The Kingdom of Pars falls to Lusitania’s attack during Prince Arslan’s first sortie on the battlefield. Arslan is left to marshal his limited resources and find a way to save his nation and his people.

It’s not only about the good guys vs the bad guys, though. Time and again, I’m impressed at how well the show conveys the motivations of each of the players. We see the merits of their beliefs as well as the failings. Even people who are supposed to be allies might have differing opinions from each other.

There are a lot of little ongoing mysteries, including the cold way both the King and Queen seem to regard their son. It’s also not clear at this point who is really pulling the strings in this conflict.

To be honest, I’m not crazy about the character designs, but this is an action-adventure anime that I can appreciate cerebrally.
(streaming at FUNimation)


02. Seraph of the End: VAMPIRE REIGN (Owari no Seraph) (ep. 1-11) – There’s a kind of shocking, practically systemic, outward lack of respect for comrades and superiors at all levels of this Japanese Imperial Demon Army organization. It almost takes me out of the show. Almost. It’s actually well-written enough that I’m firmly onboard still. Part of what makes the nastiness amusing, as opposed to annoying, is that the characters do manage to work together when it counts and there’s no question that they are all on the same side.

On the other hand, I really like Mika, too. You know I’m a sucker for these cool, silently suffering types. Not only does he inhabit a different world from these other goons, it’s practically like he’s from an entirely different show altogether.

I guess I should mention that there was a very noticeable drop in production quality in ep. 10. I’m usually pretty forgiving of animation shortcuts. As long as the storytelling flows well, they don’t really bother me. That first battle scene, though, was too egregious to ignore. It looked more like coloured storyboarding with voiceover than anything resembling finished animation. No music, even. It was a big fight, but there was no tension at all. Also, Yuu and Shinoa’s services were needed at two different battle grounds. They shouldn’t have been taking their sweet time!

All right, after having seen ep. 11 as well, I can confirm that it doesn’t look quite as bad as last week. However, it is pretty clear by now that action sequences are not Seraph of the End’s forte. Conversely, what is impressive is how even minor characters seem to have personality (and attitude) to spare. I totally wouldn’t mind if they dispensed with the physical fights going forward, and just have everyone wield their tongues instead of their swords!

Finally, a positive note about the music: Seraph’s OP “X.U.” and ED “scaPEGoat” by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk] are easily two of the best theme songs this season. They have recently been released together as a double A-side single, and it’s so good! The instrumental versions are included, and even without the vocal tracks, both of them sound like complete songs. It’s almost a shame to cover them up with singing. This is real music, folks, not the generic pop that’s commonly used for anime music or heard on mainstream radio. (I’m not biased at all no way.)
(streaming at FUNimation)


03. KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA: Battle for Planet Nine (Sidonia no Kishi: Daikyuu Wakusei Seneki) (ep. 1-9) – There were already a slew of mysteries remaining from season one. SIDONIA 2 hit the ground running with a number of shocking new developments and even more unanswered questions. This stuff works for me and I’m definitely intrigued to know what’s going on.

The reason SIDONIA 2 is not number one on my list is that I feel it is wasting too much time on harem antics and fanservice, and that has got to be my least favourite aspect of the series. During the first season, the fanservice was certainly there as well, but it accounted for very minimal screen time. The rest of the production was so exceptional that I could easily overlook such indiscretions.

After watching ep. 8, I have to say I’m unimpressed. I suppose a lot of viewers are amused at the way these otherwise intelligent girls are trying to get close to our harem lead, but to me, it’s just ugh. The first season was so much more subtle with the romance! Tanikaze and Hoshijiro never openly acknowledged the romantic nature of their relationship, but when he kept going to see “her”, it strongly implied how connected to her he felt. What passes for romance this season is so clumsy by comparison, partly because it is all about what the girls want, with not enough input from the main character, which is typical of harem setups. It’s just, I don’t come to SIDONIA expecting some cheap harem anime! Can we get back to the Gauna please?

Anyway, to clarify, my quarrel is only with the sexual fanservice in the show. I have no problem whatsoever with the rice ball fanservice.
(to stream on NETFLIX starting July)


04. Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works] (ep. 13-22) – Ah, I was happy when Illya agreed to have a chat with Shirou and Rin. But alas.

It’s so hard to rank this one. When it’s good, it is really good. Take episodes 17 and 18, for instance, when our protagonists went to take on Caster. We found ourselves instinctively hitting replay for parts or all of those episodes.

But sometimes, it’s just not good. Like the subsequent showdown between Archer and Shirou. They have now spent several episodes talking and saying the same things over and over again; and both of them are stubbornly determined to follow the paths they’ve chosen. Um, there is an obvious middle ground here, isn’t there? Meanwhile, Rin is in danger and Saber is doing a whole lot of nothing!
(streaming at DAISUKI and Crunchyroll)


05. MY love STORY!! (ORE MONOGATARI!!) (ep. 1-9) – The shoujo romance with a male lead. But what really makes this refreshing is how likeable all the main characters are. Too many shoujo romances rely on mean people (or “good” people who behave in a mean way) to produce manufactured drama. When the setup and characters are interesting enough, as they are here, the show is naturally funny and entertaining without the usual gimmicks.

At this point, the relationship between the best friends is more compelling than the romance, though. Yamato is maybe a little too perfect.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

06. ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu) (ep. 12-21) – The 3-E class have worked hard for their accomplishments. Now it’s time for them to put their skills to the test as they stage an elaborate attempt on their teacher’s life and also work together to save their fellow classmates.

AssClass features a great ensemble cast and it’s easy to root for these kids’ success. At the same time, I wish Koro-sensei wouldn’t have to die! Is it just me, or does it seem like Karasuma-sensei isn’t really all that into the assassination either?
(streaming at FUNimation)

07. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: STARDUST CRUSADERS Egypt Arc (ep. 38-46) – The clock is ticking as the Joestar party approaches their goal. There’s still been plenty of stupidity and hilarity along the way. I especially loved the ending to the T. T. D’Arby arc.

Things are getting more serious now, though, as it’s time for the final showdown with DIO.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

08. Ace of Diamond (Diamond no Ace) SECOND SEASON (ep. 1-9) – This effectively got off to a late start due to the airing of 3 recap episodes at the beginning of the season. Since then, the anime has resumed its usual riveting gameplay, with a current emphasis on personal growth through competition for Sawamura and Furuya, and others.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


09. Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches (Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo) (ep. 1-8) – This supernatural high school comedy features lots of equal-opportunity kissing and likeable characters. I really appreciate that it routinely manages to avoid the most obvious types of rom-com tropes and fanservice that are common for the genre.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

10. BLOOD BLOCKADE BATTLEFRONT (Kekkai Sensen) (ep. 1-10) – BLOOD BLOCKADE is packed with over-the-top, larger than life characters. I’m particularly amused by Zapp and Klaus and I enjoy the dynamic they share with Leonardo. The overarching plot is harder for me to get a grasp on; though we’re probably not expected to understand a lot of the story yet.

It’s unfortunate I’m a busy girl, and I have lots of other anime to watch, so I can’t commit to multiple viewings of this one show. Because I do believe it warrants repeat viewings. There is A LOT going on visually in every scene, and especially since I also have to be preoccupied with reading subtitles, it’s very easy to miss a lot of details.

That is exactly what is so great and not so great about this series. If you have the inclination to give it your full attention and then some, I think it can be a really rich experience. The flip side is that it sometimes feels like work to watch it; it’s not something you can simply sit back and enjoy when you just want to relax.
(streaming at FUNimation)

11. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO! (Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Zoku) (ep. 1-9) – I was never in love with this pretentious series and even considered skipping this sequel. So I watch with a fair amount of cynicism. However, I’m actually enjoying it more than I expected to. Even though there is still that much-ado-about-nothing issue with the plot, I find I am able to appreciate some of the characters and the humour regardless.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


12. Food Wars! Shokugeki no Souma (ep. 1-10) – Frequently amusing, although there is not that much plot. Souma and the other students don’t seem to do that much actual learning at this elite school that they go to. Shokugeki no Souma is always reliable for its food porn. Quite literally, in this case, foodgasms and all.

Totally didn’t expect that JoJo’s reference in ep. 10, complete with voice narration and onscreen sound effects! Awesome. It was especially perfect because the 2 programs air on the same day and we happened to watch JoJo’s immediately prior. “You thought you were getting a cooking anime, but it was me, Dio!”
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

13. Baby Steps 2 (ep. 1-9) – Eiichirou’s path to pro tennis continues in this second installment of the series. First is a 2-week session at a Florida academy. Then he returns home to train and play some more, with his future riding on his performance at the All-Japan Junior Tournament.

This is a well-written show, and very realistic. The reason I’m not more excited to watch it each week is that it’s maybe too realistic. Ei-chan has to work very hard for his successes, and we feel it – it’s not always fun to watch. Also, the slightly cross-eyed character designs have not gotten any more attractive since the first season, despite improvements in animation quality otherwise.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

14. Kuroko’s Basketball S3 (ep. 63-72) – It’s Seiren vs Rakuzan for the Winter Cup. But first, there was a 3-week delay at the start of the cour while the show did a flashback to Kuroko and Akashi’s time with the Generation of Miracles. So this sports anime took a while to get going as well.

I’m still not fond of Akashi. The more screen time he has, the less I tend to enjoy the show. The best thing this cour has going for it right now is a strong pair of OP and ED themes by regular contributors GRANRODEO and OLDCODEX, respectively. Animation-wise, I also don’t recall any previous opening sequence looking quite as good as this one does. Granted, it could be that I didn’t really watch them all because the music wasn’t good…
(streaming at DAISUKI and Crunchyroll)

15. Ghost in the Shell: ARISE – ALTERNATIVE ARCHITECTURE (ep. 1-10, complete) – Mostly a cut-for-TV rebroadcast of the ARISE OVA movies. If you have already seen the OVAs, there’s apparently no need to watch the first 8 episodes of this series. I still think it’s curious that they decided to start with part 4, though, before going back to the beginning. It seems like a questionable choice since that was probably also the weakest part.

The remaining 2-episode arc is new content; and it’s okay, kind of more of the same. Predictably, loose ends are not tied up, since there’s still a movie sequel to follow.

The movement animation and camera-work look great in this series. I can’t say the same for the character designs. That’s one ugly pixie cut the Major’s sporting; and seriously, they couldn’t do something about Togusa’s mullet? The best characters were the Logicomas; they were adorable.
(EVS streaming at FUNimation)


16. Uta no Prince-sama Magi LOVE Revolutions (ep. 1-9) – Episode 7 put the spotlight on Kurosaki Ranmaru, who I think of as prick #2 of QUARTET NIGHT. He’s all angsty because he decided to give up his “love for rock” (even though no one asked him to) in order to concentrate on his current boy band career. I mean, that’s just wrong on so many levels.

Fortunately, none of this third season has been as lame as the episode that started it, but overall, it just hasn’t been as much fun as season two.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

17. Sound! Euphonium (Hibike! Euphonium) (ep. 1-9) – KyoAni’s high school band anime. As expected, the art and animation are beautifully rendered, and okay, it’s a “better” show than UtaPri. But for me, Sound! Euphonium is too realistic and solemn most of the time. I even took music in high school, so I can relate to this stuff; but being more of a quitter than a band geek, I have little interest in it now. At least Baby Steps has some humour; this just bores me.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Jacquie’s 2013 Year in Review – Music

BEST SONGS:

01. QUIET, by the GazettE (B-side of FADELESS) – Early in the track, AOI’s pretty guitar riff and RUKI’s calm vocal melody are tempered by a few discordant, almost off-key notes from URURA’s guitar, signifying that all is not well. One can understand and come to accept that life and love cannot last forever. But no matter how prepared you are, that doesn’t make it hurt any less when the time comes to actually say goodbye. QUIET is a sad, sensitive song that could have easily been a ballad. But instead, the tempo is dynamic; and in the chorus, the percussion is just a little faster than you might expect, or want, as if to emphasize the merciless, inevitable passage of time. The result is visceral: so painful, but so incredibly beautiful too.

02. Out of Control, by Nothing’s Carved In Stone – Very catchy second OP of the PSYCHO-PASS anime. Nothing’s Carved In Stone’s music tends to be more raw-sounding than is my usual preference, and I think the connection with the anime probably helped me to open up to this song. I definitely warmed up to it. The awesome bass performance throughout is a stand-out feature.

03. REPLAY, by VAMPS – This progressive rocker was released as a tie-in for the “Dark Labyrinth” game, and I loved it from the first time I watched the fantastical game-themed PV.

04. TO DAZZLING DARKNESS, by the GazettE (from BEAUTIFUL DEFORMITY) – Though stunningly good, it’s hard to compare this track with the other songs I’ve listened to throughout the year, since to me it’s so strongly connected to the album. In fact, the song doesn’t really seem complete anymore if it isn’t immediately followed by the outro CODA.

05. Nocturne, by Tomohisa Yamashita (B-side of SUMMER NUDE ’13) – My first, and I expect only ever, time to really like a Yamapi song!

06. Scarlet, by Alice Nine (B-side of SHADOWPLAY)

07. THE SWAN, by 12012 (from THE SWAN – EP)

08. BALLAD, by lynch. – Perhaps it was not very original-sounding in that lynch. have used this kind of melody and chords before. However, the result here was better than their usual.

09. THEATER, by ViViD

BEST SINGLES (A-sides & B-sides):


01. Rage on, by OLDCODEX (Rage on, Now I am, Swamp) – Rage on is angrier and harder than what might normally be expected from an OP of a cute Kyoto Animation series like Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club. This single would have sold well simply from the association with the highly anticipated swimming anime. They could have half-assed the coupling songs, but they didn’t. Instead, Now I am and Swamp are great songs in their own right, and even heavier than Rage on! As a result, I feel OLDCODEX disseminated rock music to a potentially new, unsuspecting audience; and that’s consistent with my personal agenda.

02. Soukoku no Tsuya, by Sadie (Madara, Setsugekka, face to face) – Arguably, Sadie might have sounded a bit derivative on these tracks, channeling DIR EN GREY and the GazettE more than usual. Nevertheless, or maybe because of it, they succeeded in assembling a powerful single record with these 3 songs.

03. FADELESS, by the GazettE (FADELESS, QUIET, FORBIDDEN BEAVER) – While they’ve been considerably prolific with their full-length album releases, this was GazettE’s only release of a single in the past 2 years. FADELESS made for a sexy, compelling A-side, and QUIET was, of course, outstanding. Ah, but it wouldn’t be GazettE without some contrariness, so leave it to them to follow up with the unremarkable-sounding and rather vulgar FORBIDDEN BEAVER. Well, it’s a strong single nonetheless.

04. AHEAD / REPLAY, by VAMPS – There are only two songs on this double A-side offering, but they are the best VAMPS songs I’ve heard, probably ever.

05. Deeper Deeper / Nothing Helps, by ONE OK ROCK (Deeper Deeper, Nothing Helps, Kasabuta) – ONE OK ROCK’s music tends to be hit or miss for me. This double A-side single, from early in the year, was hit on all 3 counts.

06. BALLAD, by lynch. (BALLAD, CRYSTALIZE) – While BALLAD had a typical lynch. sound, CRYSTALIZE represented more of a departure, with the inclusion of dance-y, electronic sounds. All the while, it still managed to retain a heavy rock sensibility.

07. GREED, by CATFIST (GREED, Smile, REGRET) – This was my introduction to CATFIST. It inspired me to check out their previous work and to buy their subsequent releases. Good stuff.

BEST ALBUM:

BEAUTIFUL DEFORMITY, by the GazettE

No doubt about it, the GazettE have done it again with this release which celebrates the twisted, miraculous beauty that is spawned when these five musicians combine their talents. Year after year, they’ve been very reliable with their releases, always expanding their sound, but never losing their identity; this was no exception.

Some of my favourite tracks: IN BLOSSOM, DEVOURING ONE ANOTHER, LAST HEAVEN, and TO DAZZLING DARKNESS, which blends seamlessly into CODA to close the record.

the GazettE have done an amazing job with both the intros and outros this time; and the way album opener MALFORMED BOX segues into INSIDE BEAST is also perfect.

(Honourable mention in this category goes to the Attack on Titan OST by Hiroyuki Sawano, which I’ve written about previously. Much impressed with this soundtrack. I spent many hours listening to it in the car during the summer and fall, even though it’s not exactly my usual J-rock music.)

“Attack on Titan” Original Soundtrack

Music by HIROYUKI SAWANO

I can’t remember the last time I liked a soundtrack the way I enjoy this one, from beginning to end, all 77 minutes of it!

Musically, it’s very diverse. There are swelling orchestral parts, including strings and horns. There’s sparing use of acoustic guitar and piano and electronica/dubstep on some tunes, as well as a generous but judicious presence of electric guitar work. Some tracks feature Middle Eastern or Asian ethnic sounds; one even has an American bluesy feel. Underlying it all is a rock foundation, and that’s probably at least part of the reason why this record appeals to me so much personally.

One male singer and 3 female singers provide vocals to several of the songs. Of those tracks, three (“The Reluctant Heroes”, “DOA”, “Call your name”) are mainly rock numbers, while the others (“Vogel im Kafig”, “Bauklotze”) sound more atmospheric and melancholy.

Additionally, tracks 2, 4, and 5 are related. Well, they sound like completely different songs, but they all eventually reprise the main melody which begins in “The Reluctant Heroes.”  Likewise, “eye-water” and “Call your name” are somewhat alternate takes on a same song.

Although many of the tracks clock in at over 5 minutes in length, they don’t seem long at all because the music often takes a radical turn mid-song, with vastly different instrumentation, melody, and mood.

All in all, a great listen!

I originally checked out this soundtrack because I was interested in the “Attack on Titan” anime, but now it’s come to the point where I’m enjoying the anime more, in fact it can practically do no wrong by me, because it has this music in it!