Last anime season of the year is here. It’s strange when I think about it. Apparently, in Japan, the year starts with Winter instead of Spring. It’s a bit too late to say Merry Christmas, but Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone in the western hemisphere.
It’s all for the sake of going out with a bang. 2015 ends with a season of the extremes. Fall 2015 brings to the year-end party four really good shows with great rewatch values. Sweep the other two utter garbage shows under the carpet and count the number of middle-grounders, I don’t think we have ever gotten this many rotten and nugget shows in one season before.
The watch list this season is huge!
I need a system to categorize my picks. So, I use terms from the Growth-share matrix to represent my expectations pre-season and my personal ranking (Highlight/Decent/Mediocre/Trash) for post-season rating. Here’s the list this season:
|One Punch Man||Star||Highlight (1)|
|Komori-san wa Kotowarenai!||Question mark||Highlight (2)|
|Owarimonogatari||Cash cow||Highlight (3)|
|Subete ga F ni naru||Star||Decent|
|Heavy Object||Question mark||Decent|
|35 Shiken Shoutai||Question mark||Mediocre|
|Hidan no Aria AA||Question mark||Trash|
|Comet Lucifer||Question mark||Trash|
Highlight: One Punch Man
And now, behold! The indisputable, the one and only, the genuine champion of this anime season: One Punch Man!
It’s rare that the highlight winner is vastly superior to the runner-ups. The last time this happens was in Winter 2015 with KimiUso. I’m very excited to write-up a lengthy review which is almost certainly going to be full of praises. Though, just to keep it objective, I promise to crank my head, crack my brain and squeeze my mind to come up with some flaws of this clearly lawless…eh, I mean, flawless show.
Let’s see what the fuss is all about!
There’s a list of top-end animation studios. You’ve heard about Bones, ufotable, A-1 Pictures and P.A Works. Now you hear about Madhouse.
Madhouse is good at not messing up decent materials. The studio is even better at taking already aesthetic materials to the next level. In other words, they’re excel in adding values, not taking values away like two other certain studios-whom-shall-not-be-named. And when I say “add”, I actually mean “multiply”.
One Punch Man has two fathers. The author is a web-mangaka known as “ONE” and the artist is a professional artist named Yusuke Murata. ONE is absurdly good at writing…absurd comedies and character designs. Meanwhile, Murata is good at detailed and, well, professional drawing.
As a result, the source material is already aesthetic on top of over-the-top comedy (beat me how it topped that top-top). In short, it’s just the kind of material up Madhouse’s alley. At this point, even the haters have to agree: they have nothing against the visual aspect. One Punch Man is simply spectacular.
I personally adore the opening sequence. It’s awesomeness taken to eleven. The opening song is an ear-worm. I can listen to it in endless repeat all day. Its lyric is the spoiler and the confirmation of the main theme:
What does it truly mean to be a hero? What does a hero truly desire? Fame? Fortune? Promotion?
None of the above. A hero who does his job not because he has to but because he wants to. He asks for nothing in return and he’s strong, so strong that he can throw himself under the bus to help others. He does so for humanity, even when humanity turns against him.
That’s Saitama. Forget what I said, that’s also Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and pretty much the stereotype superhero in Marval or DC comics. Remember that “Turn over the Bat or we’ll blow up the city?” Yep, that kind of age-old idealistic hero story.
What makes One Punch Man special is how it focuses all its time and energy making us laugh at how ignorant the mob was, how absurd the world didn’t give Saitama any credits for his feats, and also the load of meme-material reaction faces coming from…mostly Saitama.
And then it tugs the heart strings, every time, after the cynical gags. It makes me wonder what a horrible person I am to be humored by injustice. But that’s more an after-thought when here comes the action, and the jokes again!
One Punch Man is philosophical, heart-warming, rage-inducing, dramatic, realistic, fantastical and hilarious all at the same time. Get rid of logic, get rid of disbelief, this is a book that preaches not to judge a book by its cover, in yellow spandex cover!
Runner-up: Komori-san wa Kotowarenai! (Komori can’t refuse!)
Okay, so it’s a 2-minute-per-episode, 12-episode-season show. How on Earth did Komori-san wa Kotowarenai! snatch the runner-up spot with one fifteenth the screen time of a standard anime? Turn out, I enjoyed the show more than Owarimonogatari.
Art-wise, the backgrounds are rather simple. So are the characters. These characters, few as there are, are designed to be adored. Komori is kind. She’s big and…well-endowed for her age. She’s dependable too! Although she’s one to rely on, over the course of the show, it’s revealed that she also wants someone she can depend on too.
Otani is similar to Komori. In some ways, he’s thoughtful and even more dependable than Komori is. His outside appearance does not speak much about his qualities, he’s more than meets the eye. I love the chemistry between him and Komori. They seem like the most unlikely pair from the outside. But, they’re amazingly similar and they compliment each other well.
Packed in the time it would take to watch a normal-length anime episode is a dose of sugary Rom-com and a teaspoon of Aesop in a cup of cacao to warm the heart. And I could skip the closing to make it even shorter.
But I would never do that, the ending song is adorable.
Honorary mention: Owarimonogatari
To be honest, while Owarimonogatari is still enjoyable, it’s not as good as previous -monogatari shows. Main reasons: Ougi and Sodachi.
Sodachi Lost arc is a lost cause for me. Characters from the previous arcs are all integrated into later arcs one way or another; that’s the usual Monogatari way. However, something is different this time. Sodachi Oikura won’t ever appear in the story again. She won’t have any impact on Araragi’s misadventures at all.
This irked me. Sodachi Lost arc doesn’t have any color of the supernatural, and the key character is a one-shot wonder. Neither of the above belongs to Monogatari Series. The arc overall is a poor mystery-themed spin-off with Monogatari’s setting. It’s missing out on all the bits that made Monogatari Series interesting.
On the other hand, there’s Ougi: mysterious, creepy and as plot dispensing as Gaen-neesan. Without Ougi Dark, her/his/its presence in Owarimonogatari is nothing but extra luggage. I’ve already known what Ougi Dark is all about so I can understand why Ougi is necessary in the story.
However, a flaw is a flaw, it doesn’t matter if SHAFT could help it or not. Anime-only viewers would have a hard time making senses of Ougi’s purposes.
The good news is, Shinobu Mail arc is awesome.
Winning Failure: Heavy Object & Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai
Finally, these two shows are enjoyable not for their production values but because they failed so hard on certain non-vital aspects, they became good.
Heavy Object should be viewed with a lowered general knowledge and critical thinking. It’s a show that runs on the Rule of Funny and fail logic. I find the jokes hilarious. I love how the author fails at sci-fi reasoning. The opening (One more time) is quite catchy too.
Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai, on the other hand, runs on Rule of Cool. Escalation is the name of the game. Every other episode, the show would pull out something a hundred times more chunnibyou than the last chunnibyou thing. There’s no overarching story here, there’s no logic as well, there’s only loads of fanservice and loads of chunnibyou merchandise.
B-But, they have Excalibur Railgun and loli Lapis chanting an old nursery rhythme in one episode.
Sold! I’m buying this barrel of laugh.