By my personal rough count, 2015 premiered 217 new television & web broadcast anime. My list excludes new seasons that continued the name and episode numbering of the prior season, OVAs & movies broadcast on TV such as Digimon Tri, and non-Japanese produced animation aired on Japanese TV networks such as Chu Feng Bee. Of those 217 programs, I was fortunate enough to watch one or more complete episodes of 211 of them. I deliberately chose to skip watching the premiere episodes of the second seasons of Aldnoah Zero and Fate/stay night Unlimited Blade Works. During 2015 I was never able to access any episodes of Fuusen Inu Tinny second season, Isobe Isobee Monogatari: Ukiyo wa Tsurai yo, or Neko no Dayan: Nihon e Iku, and I’m not even completely sure that a complete episode of Momokuri was actually released, but I’ll include it on the list regardless. As a reflection of what I actually watched and didn’t, I may not be able to provide a definitive critique of the year’s best broadcast anime primarily because I didn’t watch a sufficient amount of the highly praised Noragami Aragoto, and I personally wasn’t engaged by the highly regarded Ore Monogatari. So I can only provide my own subjective but reasoned list of personal picks of the past year’s new anime series.
Based on what I watched, I must call Gatchaman Crowds Insight the finest “new” anime of 2015. Despite being a continuation of the 2013 series, “Insight” existed as its own largely self-contained narrative. While sustaining the stylistic aesthetic and dynamic animation of the first series, the 2015 season took aim at the fundamental nature of Japanese social ideology, provoking viewers to not only think for themselves but even to merely recognize the pervasive dangers of the established Japanese cultural philosophy of hegemony. Plenty of anime have analyzed and criticized Japanese society and culture, but few shows have ever been as forthright about chastising the complacency and unethical discrimination inherent in Japan’s culture of going with the flow. The show’s frighteningly believable depiction of an amorphous Fascism developing out of complacency, misguided social responsibility, and simple laziness shines a harsh spotlight on a real aspect of Japanese culture that’s widely overlooked and rarely given serious consideration, especially in popular media.
Provocative creator Kunihiko Ikuhara’s Mawaru Penguindrum follow-up series Yurikuma Arashi actually, coincidentally, focuses on the same social criticism, albeit in a more subtle and even more highly stylized fashion. Yurikuma Arashi takes a more abstract, allegorical route to focus attention sharply on the principle that Japan’s cultural emphasis on serving the communal good and “reading the atmosphere” smothers individuality and creates a de facto discrimination against individuals that simply don’t think, feel, or act like their peers. Like Mawaru Penguindrum, Yurikuma Arashi may ultimately be just a bit too convoluted for its own good, and the show distinctly feels as though its narrative concept changed focus shortly after production and broadcast had already begun, but despite its flaws, the show is still one of the very most creative, unique, and provocative anime of 2015 or any other year.
The Japanese TV broadcast of the Lupin III: L’avventura Italiana TV series is a perfect illustration of all of the characteristics that have made Lupin the Third a beloved classic. While the characterizations are spot on, the nuances between character relationships elevate this particular series to the top tier among all Lupin anime. Yuichiro Yano’s direction particularly contributes to the tight pacing, crisp editing, and simply fantastic sense of constant tension, excitement, and fun that pervades every episode. The series is constantly unpredictable and surprising in spite of its obligation to respect established continuity. The Japanese broadcast, unlike the initial Italian broadcast, also benefits from one of the year’s finest opening animation sequences. Every single episode of this series put a big smile on my face.
One Punch Man is another series that wins over viewers with a sheer honest charisma. Thanks to excellent writing, the characters are all stereotypes, yet each one of them still manages to feel alive, unique, and distinctly human: flawed but full of pride, ambition, and hope. Both the heroes and villains throughout the paradoxically seriously goofy series are super heroes and super villains that genuinely feel threatening or feel like people with real, personal, even selfish motivations for their superheroics. The story is a hyper exaggerated satire rooted in very simple, easy to relate to human motivations, making the show and its characters easy to relate to and sympathize with while still providing larger-than-life spectacle. The elaborate, epic battle animation and the extensive matter-of-fact gore that always present but never fetishized makes the series a gratifying visual treat.
Kekkai Sensen is a heavily flawed narrative and a troubled production, yet its vibrancy and sheer lunacy overcompensate for all of its weaknesses. “Blood Blockade Battlefront” has a barely-there linear narrative filled with ideas and characters that come and go abruptly. The show exists as a post-modern sci-fi horror animation equivalent of improvisational jazz music. Trying to trace the core rhythm throughout the length of the production is nearly impossible, and when the show finally remembers that it’s actually supposed to be telling a particular story, it only loosely manages to tie up its narrative. But the experience along the way is the magic. The show’s wildly imaginative cast, its frequent divergences into crazy side-stories and lunatic scenarios, and its elaborate, dazzling animation elevate the show to a literally “must see” status. As a linear narrative production, Kekkai Sensen is really not very successful. But as a kinetic post-modern cinematic impressionary experience it’s difficult to top.
Gundam anime typically exhibit high quality visual design and animation quality because Gundam is one of the anime industry’s signature franchises. So, excellent production values are both expected and typical. What sets Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans apart from countless other anime is its titular pair of orphans. Unlike practically every teen boy anime protagonist, Mikazuki & Orga are deliberately aggressive about determining their own fate and securing their own future. These two protagonists are a degree of fresh air in anime because they’re not just riding along the societal path laid out for them. They’re not working hard to excel at a sport or a game. They’re literally carving out their own niche in the world for themselves using the skills and tools that they have without ever hesitating or self-doubting. Mikazuki & Orga are characters ready to dig their fingers in, willing to bloody their hands to reach out for survival that their world tries, at every step, to snatch away from them. These orphans are characters that viewers empathize with and want to root for. They’re abused, downtrodden underdogs not seeking fame, fortune, or revenge, but merely self-identity and independence. The way the show forces viewers to respect these characters in spite behaviors that may seem immoral or ruthless to us, yet are necessary and normal in their universe, adds a compelling personal facet to the show.
Having already mentioned that I simply didn’t like Ore Monogatari and didn’t watch enough of Noragami Aragoto to fairly critique it, I do want to mention a few supplemental titles of note.
I have a great deal of respect for Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru for its attractive art design and more importantly for its daring willingness to challenge typically taboo aspects of Japanese culture including the traditional Japanese respect for mortality and the value of truth over appearances. However, the show suffered significantly from an ill-defined relationship between its lead characters and a narrative construction that introduced multiple story arcs yet never attempted to resolve any of them.
The Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider series deserves high praise for daring to be an eleven-episode long chamber piece, a strict talking heads show that dared viewers to keep up with the conversation. And countless viewers eagerly did, probing every nuance and clue. However, I’m personally of the opinion that the show included too many red herrings and based a large part of the explanation behind its murder mystery on circumstances that simply aren’t objectively believable.
What follows is my complete list of 2015’s new broadcast anime:
Akagami no Shirayuki-hime
Aldnoah Zero 2nd Season
Ameiro Cocoa Rainy Color e Youkoso!
Anime de Wakaru Shinryounaika
Anime Yakyubu Aruaru [web anime]
Aoharu x Kikanjuu
Baby Steps 2nd season
BAR Kiraware Yasai
Battle Spirits: Burning Soul
Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love!
Boo Boo Boy
Cardfight!! Vanguard G: Gears Crisis-hen
Chaos Dragon Sekiryuu Senyaku
Concrete Revolutio: Choujin Gensou
Dance with Devils
Danna ga Nani wo Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken 2 Sure-me
Deban Desu yo! Onigirizu
Dia no Ace 2nd series
DIABOLIK LOVERS MORE,BLOOD
Doushitemo Eto ni Hairitai
Dragon Ball Super
Duel Masters VSR
Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darou ka
Eikoku Ikke, Nihon o Taberu
Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya 2wei! Herz!
Fate/stay night Unlimited Blade Works 2nd season
Funassyi no Funafunafuna Hiyori
Fushigi na Somera-chan
Future Card Buddyfight 100
Fuusen Inu Tinny 2nd Season
Gakusen Toshi Asterisk
Garo: Guren no Tsuki
Gatchaman Crowds Insight
Gate: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakeri
Go! Princess Precure
Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka??
Grisaia no Meikyuu
Grisaia no Rakuen
Hacka Doll The Animation
Haikyuu!! Second season
Hello!! Kiniro Mosaic
Hetalia: The World Twinkle
Hidan no Aria AA
High School DxD BorN
High School Star Musical
Himitsu Kessha Taka no Tsume DO
Hokuto no Ken: Ichigo Aji
Houkago no Pleiades
Isobe Isobee Monogatari: Ukiyo wa Tsurai yo
Itoshi no Muko
Jakusansei Million Arthur [web anime]
Jewelpet: Magical Change
Jitsu wa Watashi wa
JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Stardust Crusaders – Egypt Hen
Joukamachi no Dandelion
Junjou Romantica 3
Junketsu no Maria
Juuou Mujin no Fafnir
K RETURN OF KINGS
Kaijuu Sakaba Kanpai!
Kamisama Hajimemashita 2nd season
Kamisama Minarai: Himitsu no Cocotama
Kantai Collection -KanColle-
Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans
Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo R 2nd season
Kinya, Abe Reiji: Heikin-teki na Salaryman no Ijou na Nichijou
Kodome Keiji Memetan
Komori-san wa Kotowarenai!
Koukaku Kidoutai Arise: Alternative Architecture
Kuroko no Basket 3rd Season
Kuusen Madoushi Kouhosei no Kyoukan
Kyoukai no Rinne
Lance N’ Masques
Lupin III: L’avventura Italiana
Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha ViVid
Makura no Danshi
Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku
Minna Atsumare! Falcom Gakuen SC
Miss Monochrome: The Animation 2
Miss Monochrome: The Animation 3
Momokuri [web anime]
Monster Musume no Iru Nichijou
Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu
Neko no Dayan: Nihon e Iku
Ninja Slayer From Animation
Nintama Rantaro 23rd season
Non Non Biyori Repeat
Nyuru Nyuru!! Kakusen-kun 2
Ojarumaru 18th season
Okusama ga Seitokaicho!
Omakase! Miracle Cat Dan
One Punch Man
Onsen Yousei Hakone-chan
Ore ga Ojousama Gakkou ni “Shomin Sample” Toshite Gets-Sareta Ken
Osiris no Tenbin
Owari no Seraph 1st season
Owari no Seraph: Nagoya Kessen-hen
Pankis! 2 Jigen
Peeping Life TV: Season 1??
Pocket Monster XY&Z
Q Transformers: Kaette Kita Convoy no Nazo
Q Transformers: Kaette Kita Convoy no Nazo 2nd season
Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry
Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace
Robot Girls Z Plus
Rokka no Yuusha
Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata
Saint Seiya: Ougon Tamashii -soul of gold-
Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru
Seiken Tsukai no World Break
Seiken Tsukai no World Break Retake Ban
Senki Zesshou Symphogear GX
Shimoneta to Iu Gainen ga Sonzai Shinai Taikutsu na Sekai
Shingeki! Kyojin Chuugakkou
Shinmai Maou no Keiyakusha Burst
Shinmai Maou no Testament
Shokugeki no Souma
Shounen Hollywood: Holly Stage for 50
Show By Rock!!
Sidonia no Kishi: Daikyuu Wakusei Seneki
Sore ga Seiyuu!
Soukyuu no Fafner: Dead Aggressor – Exodus
Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider
Super Short Comics
Suzakinishi The Animation
Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai
Takamiya Nasuno Desu!
Tamagotchi! Tamatomo Daishuu GO
Tantei Kageki Milky Holmes TD
Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note
Tesagure! Bukatsumono Spin-off Puru-Purun Charm to Asobou
The IDOLM@STER: Cinderella Girls
The Rolling Girls
To Love-Ru: Trouble – Darkness 2nd
Tokyo Ghoul Root A
Urawa no Usagi-chan
Ushio to Tora
Uta noPrince-sama: Maji Love Revolutions
Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen
VALKYRIE DRIVE -MERMAID-
Wooser no Sono Higurashi Mugen Hen
Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Zoku
Yamada-kun to Nananin no Majo
Yoru no Yatterman
Young Black Jack
Yu-Gi-Oh: Duel Monsters 20th Remaster
Yuri Kuma Arashi
Yuru Yuri Nachuyachumi!+
Yuru Yuri San Hai!