Let’s start 2016 with a proper farewell to 2015. Before we look forward to another year of anime, we should look back on 2015 and reflect on what made it one of the best years of anime in recent memory. There were numerous anime and characters that were incredible, dazzling, brilliant sensational, influential, and monumental in 2015, and today, I want to take a moment to provide my thoughts and opinions on the 15 most significant anime and characters from this last year. Come, take a look and re-experience why the anime of 2015 are so remarkable and unforgettable.
One thing to keep in mind before viewing these lists are that they are geared specifically toward the TV anime of 2015 and not toward OVAs, movies, specials, or other formats. I may try to cover those later, but it’s more a question of time than anything at this point.
Top 15 Characters of 2015:
Honorable Mentions: Hitagi Senjougahara (Owarimonogatari)
Senjougahara has always been one of my favorite characters from the Monogatari series, but she was essentially a background character in Owarimonogatari. Had her role been similar to that in the other Monogatari anime, I would’ve felt comfortable to add her to this list, but she really wasn’t featured much, and played a much smaller role than she usually does. Still, she appeared in an anime this year, and I feel that she should be mentioned despite having the least amount of screentime of everyone on this list…
15. Maya Matsumoto (Working!!!)
Well… It’s hard to say whether Senjougahara or Maya Matsumoto had the least amount of screentime, but considering that Maya is a background character, it’s only appropriate to include her since she did have a presence in the regular episodes for the first time in 3 seasons. She probably has the highest success rate for jokes in the series for me, which is why I always find myself normal excited whenever she’s on screen.
14. Aoi Miyamori (Shirobako)
Aoi Miyamori is the heart and soul of Shirobako, being our guide as we go through the anime industry with our favorite production assistant, now production manager. What makes Aoi so remarkable is that she is relatable as a person and genuine as a character; you can associate with her challenges and accomplishments, whether it’s personal or professional. Not only that, but Aoi has a positive and cheerful personality that makes her enjoyable to be around, even in the face of yet another deadline.
13. Nosuri (Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen)
Although every character has had the opportunity to make me laugh in Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen, no one has been as outstanding as Nosuri. This noble bandit has been featured throughout the sequel as a lighthearted antagonist, with has produced some of the best jokes at the expense of this unlucky girl. What also helps is that she has some of the best faces and reactions in the series, making her easy to enjoy as a comic relief character.
12. Kumiko Oumae (Hibike! Euphonium)
Kumiko Oumae is a fascinating character who grows and matures throughout Hibike! Euphonium. At the start, she’s an ordinary girl who lacks direction and is never particularly emotional or invested in the things around her. But, after joining the Kitauji High School Music Club, Kumiko experiences a number of trials and challenges that test her resolve, and, as she goes through a rollercoaster of emotions, we see her grow into a fine, young lady. And let’s not forget that she probably has the best display of emotions of any anime character this year.
11. Kanon Memphis (Soukyuu no Fafner: Dead Aggressor – Exodus)
Although I am missing half of Kanon’s character because I never watched the 2004 series, I find Kanon to be particularly gratifying as a character considering her selfless devotion to those around her. She’s both gentle and ruthless, with a calm and stoic exterior while possessing a fragile and aching interior. Her development throughout the sequel was a pleasure to watch and an instant favorite for me in a wonderful mecha franchise.
10. Hiyori Iki (Noragami Aragoto)
Hiyori is a character who exhibits an ideal combination of both sincerity and comedy. Her character is the central point of everything that happens in Noragami, whether it’s being the emotional link for Yato or Yukine or being the victim of another joke or prank. She’s selfless as a character, which is evident by the amount of time and attention she spends on the gods and their relics. Hiyori continues to impress me as a character and she has become an even greater character through this sequel to Noragami.
9. Saber (Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works)
What makes Saber satisfying as a character is her devotion and dedication to her master. Although her role is somewhat reduced in this route, Saber is stunning as a character considering her personality and resolve in the face of almost certain death. Then again, she’s intended to be the embodiment of loyalty and magnanimousness, two traits that I always enjoy in a character, so it makes sense why this gallant knight is ranked so highly on my list for 2015.
8. Suruga Kanbaru (Owarimonogatari)
A common theme on this list are characters that can be both humorous and humane, and we saw exactly that from Kanbaru in Owarimonogatari. Kanbaru is strong and resilient as a character, and was able to be the backbone for Araragi and others throughout this series and all the others. Although she’s not at the height of her character for me, a zenith which occurred in Hanamonogatari, I’ve always enjoyed this transformed character who always seems to make me laugh or smile.
7. Touka (Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen)
This might be cheating considering that her role is completely diminished and muted versus the original Utawarerumono series, but Touka was one of the few bright spots in Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen thanks to her personality and comedy in her one appearance thus far. Like most of the other girls on this list, Touka is both chivalrous and comical, and made the most of her brief appearance by displaying both those elements in a limited time. Again, it might be cheating because her placement on this list is due to her effort in previous anime, OVAs, and specials, but it’s the product of her growth that makes me enjoy her so much as a character.
6. Orihime Minashiro (Soukyuu no Fafner: Dead Aggressor – Exodus)
Orihime is rather unique as a character as she is the reincarnation of the island’s core from the original Fafner series. Though she possesses the body of a child, Orihime behaves like a venerable veteran, demonstrating tremendous knowledge and understanding of both life and death. And while she’s deadpan and serious, almost lacking human emotions, she’s very considerate and caring as a person, as we saw by her actions throughout the series.
5. Kaede Kagayama (Non Non Biyori Repeat)
Kaede, affectionately known by the local children as “Dagashiya” or “Candy Store”, is a heartwarming character thanks to her generosity and benevolence. Although she doesn’t want to be known for it, she’s one of the best motherly characters of the year given how she readily takes care of Renge and the others at a moment’s notice. Kaede also had great humor throughout thanks to her personality and the circumstances she found herself in. Overall, one of the most rewarding characters of the year.
4. Dio Brando (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders)
A series can only be as great as its antagonist is, and wow, what a character that Dio is. Although the middle of Stardust Crusaders dragged on and on, we knew the anime was building up to the final showdown with Dio, and it did not disappoint. Dio has been developing as a villain since the very first episode and it all culminated at the end of Stardust Crusaders. Dio is truly one of the greatest villains of our time thanks to his persistence, heartlessness, and sophisticated personality. A series can only go as far as its villain and Dio was able to take JJBA to the top.
3. Celty Sturluson (Durarara!!x2)
Celty has always been one of my favorites, and while she had a diminished role in this sequel to Durarara!!, her presence was always a bright spot. As the characters and Ikebukuro change, Celty remains wholesome and respectable, remaining as one of the only “good” characters in urban jungle. And though she remained on the sidelines for most of 2015, the series is starting to revolve back to her and her story, which is something to look forward to in 2016 when the series returns. Oh, and let’s not forget that OVA with Shinra, too, which will be out in January, too.
2. Tsubasa Hanekawa (Owarimonogatari)
What is simply remarkable about Hanekawa is that she was probably my least favorite character at the end of Bakemonogatari. She didn’t do much for me in Nisemonogatari, either, and when she started off as the protagonist in Monogatari Series Second Season, I thought I was going to hate it. But, at that time, Tsubasa transformed herself as a character, and I began to appreciate her more and more as a altruistic, sincere, and motherly character in the Monogatari franchise. Her role in Owarimonogatari elevates her even higher considering her role and effect in this series. I can’t think of another character who has shown such an astronomical climb in a series, but I’ve fallen in love with how Tsubasa influences the story and the characters around her. Her story arc and transformation were phenomenal and she continues to grow on my with each new apperance. She is truly remarkable as a character, and I can only hope to see more of her as the Monogatari franchise continues.
1. Joseph Joestar (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders)
Like many of the other entries on this list, Joseph Joestar possesses many of my favorite character traits. However, what this JoJo excels in is how well he represents the duality of comedian and integrity. And while he isn’t the protagonist of Stardust Crusaders, Joseph steals the show thanks to his flamboyant personality, his resilient perseverance, and his ability to ruin heartwarming moments with the worst of jokes. I was rather fond of Joseph as a protagonist during Battle Tendency but he has become one of my favorites thanks to his role and effect in Stardust Crusaders.
Favorite OP and ED of 2015:
OP: Soukyuu no Fafner: Dead Aggressor – Exodus OP1 (Exist by angela)
FOLLOW ME. FOLLOW YOU. With a powerful song by angela, astute directing, and gorgeous art and animation, Fafner is easily the best opening sequence of the year. I’ve always been fond of angela, but this song is perfect as an opening with such a strong beginning as soon as the opening starts. Not only that, but the song has elegant vocals and catchy lyrics, too. The directing is superb, with the pairing of the characters and their backgrounds to start, then progressing to battle with dynamic shots of pilots and their mechas to go with stoic support characters staring into nothingness. Easily the most enjoyable OP to watch all year and still enjoyable to this day.
ED: Sore ga Seiyuu ED (Anata no Omimi ni Plug In! [Plug In to Your Ears] by Earphones)
What could be better than chibi girls happily singing and bouncing around to their own ED song? What about clips that review the last episode and clips that preview episode? Great, what else can we do? How about the characters taking a break to talk about the last episode? Awesome, I don’t think that’s really been done before. But… what else can we do to take it over the top? How about having the characters sing a different OP song each week? That… that’s perfect. And all of those elements are why Sore ga Seiyuu has my favorite ED of the 2015… it has so many brilliant elements that made it a must-watch every week and a highlight to the end of every episode.
For a list of the other Top 5 OP and ED of 2015, check out Day 3 of my 12 Days of Anime post.
Top 15 Anime of 2015:
Honorable Mention: Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin
I don’t include OVAs, movies, or specials in this list, but if I did, Gundam The Origin would probably be in the top 3. Gundam The Origin has been one of the most impressive anime of the year thanks to its distinctive art, its fluid battles, its robust narrative, and its powerful characterization. With only two episodes out, the series is still ongoing, but I strongly recommend this to anyone who enjoys watching anime (and especially if you avoid mecha or Gundam shows).
15. Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen
Although Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen is a huge disappointment when compared to the original Utawarerumono, the sequel performs well as a pleasant slice-of-life or comedy series with its relaxing setting and pleasant cast of characters. It also ranks highly for me considering the numerous references and parallels to the original, but falls flat for those wanting a bloody revolution with lots of kemonomimi fanservice and naked girls bathing. Hopefully the series will transform itself with the latter half in Winter 2016, because it is desperately missing elements of action and purpose. Still, it’s a cute anime with plenty of jokes and humor to keep me entertained.
14. Concrete Revolutio: Choujin Gensou
Concrete Revolutio is a bit confusing and messy with its abrupt and haphazard storytelling, but the elements and characters of the series keep me interested and intrigued as it reaches its halfway point. The characters are all quite strange and unique given their backgrounds and the ideologies and conflicts are rather interesting to watch in an anime given the subject of diversity and justice. There’s also the color palette and aesthetics which gives Concrete Revolutio a pleasant visual style. I’d enjoy the series more if it were a bit more direct with its story and writing, but hopefully this anime has a plan with where it’s going and what it’s doing.
13. Noragami Aragoto
Noragami has improved with Noragami Aragoto, expanding and developing the characters beyond what the original showed and further utilizing the chemistry of its main trio to better each character. The story arcs in this sequel felt more monumental and significant, really adding to the characters and causing them to change, which is something I always like to see with an anime.
12. Rokka no Yuusha
One of the biggest surprises of the year, Rokka no Yuusha featured outstanding chemistry and deception over one of the best mystery anime I’ve ever watched. What made Rokka no Yuusha so enjoyable were all the little, individual interactions between the characters and how they evolved throughout their fated encounter. The anime would’ve placed higher if not for its disagreeable ending, but it remains one of my favorite anime of the year regardless.
11. Yuru Yuri San Hai
To think, I passed up the original Yuru Yuri years ago because I felt it wouldn’t match my style. Well, since the original season, Yuru Yuri has grown on me as a comedy, and continues to do so with the OVAs and this third season in 2015. And while many weren’t happy with the change in art and color palette, I found the change to be positive as it gave the series a fresh, distinctive look. On top of that, the comedy improved, and I’ve grown to appreciate all the characters after all the previous entries in this franchise. Yuru Yuri is quickly becoming one of my favorite comedy franchises of all-time thanks to this third TV series.
Working!!!, another one of my favorite comedies, really impressed me with its third season by finally resolving a number of loose storylines and finally progressing toward its ending. Working!!! is a truly remarkable comedy, but the series was anchored down by its storylines that never seem to go anywhere. That issue was appropriately addressed in this third season with many outstanding issues finally resolved. I’ve always respected an anime that can make it to its ending, and while I am sad to see this franchise go, I am delighted with everything it has accomplished.
9. Gakkou Gurashi!!
Gakkou Gurashi!! is an marvelous blend of cute, cheerful moe comedy with depressing, dreadful elements straight out of a horror show. And while I wished the anime was less sugary-sweet, the anime was phenomenal in its unusual mix of styles, its characterization, and its story. And while I don’t agree with everything that happened in the story, it was still one of the most powerful and enjoyable anime of 2015.
8. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
Another year, another JJBA, and another entry in my final review of the year. The Egypt Arc of Stardust Crusaders was far superior to the first half in regard to the characters, the fights, and the Stands, especially when facing off against Geb, the Oingo Boingo Brothers, D’Arby, Pet Shop, and, of course, Dio. Again, JJBA is one of the best anime of the year due to its exceptional characters, art, comedy, and dialogues. I’m eager and excited for when it’ll return with Part 4 in 2016.
Finally, the sequel to one of my favorite anime of all-time, Durarara!!x2 continues to build off the personalities and relationships of Ikebukuro’s strangest. One thing that I’ve always loved about Durarara!! is its cast, and thankfully, it continues to grow with its second season. Although there were some issues with its quality, especially in Shou, the writing, storytelling, and directing are still premier and every episode is an adventure to experience. The end to this sequel begins this month, with Durarara!!x2 Ketsu, so keep an eye out for it this Winter 2016.
6. Hibike! Euphonium
Hibike! Euphonium was exhilarating and eye-opening, a smörgåsbord of events, experiences, and emotions that helped shape and form the teenagers of Kitauji High School. It was remarkable to watch the band go from a disorganized, chaotic rabble to a single, exceptional expression as a capable orchestra. Furthermore, Hibike! Euphonium had brilliant art, animation, and directing that brought the characters and their struggles to life. And as a bonus, I’ve always enjoyed classical music, too, so Hibike! Euphonium had all the right elements to make it one of the better anime this year. Executing all that, and then spicing in some surprises, made it one of the very best.
5. Soukyuu no Fafner: Dead Aggressor – Exodus
As I sit here now, I look back and wonder what I would’ve missed had I passed up Fafner because I never watched the 2004 original. Immediately, I also think about all the details and references that I’m missing, too, and how I’d experience the anime differently. Nevertheless, picking up Fafner is one of the best decisions I’ve made all year as the anime was simply brilliant and sensational. Although I felt confused and conflicted at times, Fafner was one of the most emotional anime of the year with the lives, struggles, hopelessness, and redemption of a tiny, insignificant island and its optimistic pilots in the face of an alien war. Fafner left a lasting impression on me and I can only hope that others follow in my footsteps and give this series a chance. You don’t know what you’re missing out with one of the best anime of the year in Soukyuu no Fafner: Dead Aggressor – Exodus.
4. Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works
Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works has all the hallmarks of a favorite anime given its exceptional visuals, its unparalleled characters, its unique setting, and its stunning story. I am very thankful to have finally finished one of the routes, and I couldn’t be more enthusiastic and learning how its other stories progress and conclude. I can finally understand and appreciate the fame and acclaim this series begets as this is truly one of the most impressive and special anime that I’ve watched.
Of all the anime on this list, Shirobako is the most human. Shirobako not only lives and breathes as the heartfelt stories and humorous experiences of the people in the anime industry, but it also documents and relives their lives through an educational, emotional, and eventful narrative. There is no greater ambassador to the anime industry than Shirobako as it provides an open-window into the lives, passions, and responsibilities of those in the anime industry. Shirobako is an anime, not to watch, but to experience, as it will offer you with an eternal and appreciating perspective on everything that goes into every anime that we watch and love.
2. Death Parade
Death Parade, the TV anime that evolved from my favorite OVA from 2013 – Death Billiards – is truly remarkable in its ideals, philosophies, and details. The series was elegant and sophisticated in its approach to its central theme on evaluating the lives of its characters. No other anime really dives deep into such complex and metaphysical questions of meaning and purpose as Death Parade does with its exclusive format and conflicting personalities. Additionally, the anime has an unforgettable setting, with stunning art and a cohort of astonishing characters to act out its debates. Death Parade is truly one of the most expressive and imaginative anime of all-time.
Brimming with charisma, introspection, and performance, Owarimonogatari is the pinnacle of the Monogatari franchise, thanks to its synthesis of numerous thought-provoking storylines, inspiring characters, and brilliant themes. Owarimonogatari is fascinating and mesmerizing, littered with magnificent monologues and dialogues that demonstrates characters maturing while grappling with disturbing oddities and unnerving mysteries. Owari is an anime to behold with how it connects the elements and details of all the previous and future stories, finally answering questions we never thought to ask and bestowing a mirror for which to reflect upon and understand our protagonist and the setting he lives in. This is Nisio Isin’s greatest masterpiece, the culmination of several outstanding narratives, and all this with some of the best directing and storytelling in all of anime. There is little doubt in my mind that Owarimonogatari is the top anime of 2015 given its influence on me and the sensation I feel when I watch an episode, truly unparalleled for more than a year at the minimum. The Monogatari franchise continues to improve with each revival, which only bodes well as the series is nowhere near its end.