Whether 2015 was a good year for anime depends on what you’re looking for in anime. Do you want dark, edgy science fiction or fantasy with brooding heroes, giant robots and epic battles? Then 2015 was rubbish. Do you like trash? Well then 2015 might just be the best year for anime of all time. There was super-powered dumb fighting girls trash, pure bromance ass wrestling trash, and even trash that defended the sanctity and importance of trash. We here at The Cart Driver Dot Com enjoy both types of anime, so therefore we’ll call this a mixed year for the medium. We’re now in 2016 so it’s time to do what we always do and dish out awards and count down the top 10 anime of the year.
Some quick notes: The anime must end in 2015 to be eligible, not start. This prevents you from considering something like Hunter X Hunter after 13 episodes rather than the actual 100+ episodes it actually aired for. Split-cours anime like Durarara or Gate are counted as one season for the purposes of this list. There is also no attempt to be ‘objective’ about this, as though there could be any such thing with anime. This is merely an amalgamation of our collective favourites.
10: Kuroko’s Basketball S3
The third season of Kuroko’s Basketball is an excellent send off to a generally solid superpowered sports series. The games are at their most dramatic, the stakes are at their highest, and the powers are at their most ludicrous and awesome. All the friendships and rivalries, the teamwork, the individual player development is paid off in satisfying fashion. Perhaps the most surprising thing is how thoroughly this final stretch nails the pacing — just enough basketball to whet the appetite each week, but also such a frustrating portion that viewers were starved for more. It’s rare that anything nails the particulars twists and turns, ups and downs, of competitive sports as well as Kuroko’s Basketball.
It appears that every year we will have whatever the latest Monogatari is on our final year-end list. This wonderful, bizarre little creation can hardly be called “little” anymore but it still manages to consistently entertain, in part because even after 6 years and its incredible popularity, nothing else has managed to capture and bottle what it does. The abstract, postmodern approach to setting and architecture. The flowery dialogue that places a huge emphasis on the exact phrasing of feelings and arguing semantics as a way of establishing character. Owarimonogatari may not have been the massive accomplishment Second Season was, but it’s still a strong entry with Ougi excelling in particular.
2015’s 2016 Anime of the Year
Gundam the Origin
This award is here both as a message to people who don’t read the opening paragraphs and demand to know where certain anime that hasn’t ended yet is, and to celebrate the anime that we’re really excited about now but haven’t ended yet. This one was really a toss-up and could have gone to the other Gundam airing now, but Scamp strong-armed Origin in because gosh darn is this thing wonderful. It tells the origin story of Char and does so fantastically, giving colour to all these characters and factions in a way that’s super compelling to follow. It feels like the start of an epic, which is exactly what it’s going for. Let’s hope the second half can be just as good so it can be included in next year’s Anime of the Year.
8: Yuri Bear Storm
Kunihiko Ikuhara is something of a favourite with the staff here, with Utena and Penguindrum both being considered as one of the best anime of all time by various members of the staff. His latest anime arguably doesn’t rank as highly as those two (“arguably” only because Scamp would like to argue that it does), but what it does with visual metaphors continues to be fascinating and entertaining. Symbolism can be considered dry and too dull to engage with for most people, but Ikuhara makes that stuff fun. Where heady themes of social isolation and discrimination based on sexuality can be presented via the medium of cartoon bears waving their butts in the air. Gao gao.
7: Gatchaman Crowds Insight
With political commentary wielded like a sledgehammer aimed straight to the viewer’s skull, Gatchaman Crowds has never been interested in subtlety. However, this does not dull the show’s message, a timely treatise on the political and social influence of online media, and the always-evolving battle against a simmering, festering atmosphere that threatens to lead a populace into poor decisions. Insight is not simply a lifeless lecture — it couches its commentary in the concerns and ideals of its superheroes, who are all fighting to make the world a better place, but disagree on the best approach to make this happen. How much can we trust a group of people to make the best decisions? Is a single person or small group of people calling the shots much better? Insight’s questions are viewed through the lens of the modern era, but its concerns are timeless.
Movie of the Year
Psycho Pass: The Movie
Movies are always awkward to rank on these lists. The time it takes for anyone outside Japan to actually see these movies ranges from almost instantly after to something like 2 years later. So instead of wrangling them onto this list somehow, it has its own award for “Best Movie We Could See For The First Time This Year”. The Psycho Pass Movie came out on home video and boy was it a wonderful kickstart for a franchise so thoroughly crapped on by its second season. It brings back the depth and intelligent discourse the first season had, but adds its own unique spin on things by integrating themes of colonialism on top of this cyberpunk world. It actually makes you excited for what else you can do with Psycho Pass, something that seemed dead after season 2.
6: Sound! Euphonium
The Cart Driver has never been known as a Kyoto Animation-friendly site. It takes only one to be dedicated enough to get a series onto the list, and Sound! Euphonium is impressive enough to deserve that honor. Euphonium surrounds a solid core story — a high school concert band works to get good enough to play at nationals — with innumerable smaller, human stories about achieving goals, realizing what it is one wants to do with life, and coming to terms with the limits of talent, among other topics. And, of course, all this is wrapped in a typically brilliant visual package. I certainly couldn’t imagine a high school that looks as lovely as the one in Euphonium. (Mine was definitely a flaming trash pile in comparison.) Euphonium is a show with a heart that beats very strong.
5: Maria the Virgin Witch
Who could have thunk it? That after 7 years the director of Code Geass would finally make his return with an anime about a medieval witch fighting institutionalised negative attitudes towards female sexuality in religion? Maria tackles quite a difficult subject with a firm hand, demystifying virginity while attacking society’s weird enshrinement of it and how that’s done through religion. It does this with a variety of tools, from crass humour to intelligent debate. It also has an incubus that lives in eternal shame because it was created without a dick because his creator has never seen one. Yeah it doesn’t hit the mark on everything, but it does so much it’s worth celebrating.
Normally this award goes to something we had huge hopes for before it airs, which wasn’t exactly the case with Rolling Girls (although there was some very fancy looking trailers). Rather Rolling Girls gets the nod for being so joyous and exciting at first glance and then repeatedly failed to ever reach that height again. Rolling Girls didn’t make us angry, but if we’re talking pure disappointment, then nothing else comes close. It’s like watching a puppy drown as it tries to swim ashore. You so desperately want it to succeed and you cheer every sign where it looks like it’s making it, but ultimately you’re just left feeling miserable at what could have been.
4: Symphogear GX
Not quite as consistently batcrap bonkers as Symphogear G; GX felt more like an experiment to get an actual story going along with the big, dumb action set pieces, singing, and cliffhangers. It didn’t totally work, but a few characters were made more engaging, and GX (wonderfully subtitled “Believe In Justice and Hold a Determination to Fist”) was not lacking in absurd, loud fun in its effort to be a bit more serious. It has also been amazing to see Symphogear’s evolution from “this is a show with a whole lot of heart, but BOY does it look like these poor people had no time to make this” to “we’re going to open this third season with our heroines jumping out of a rocket and surfing on missiles and nobody can stop us.” The Symphogear fans at The Cart Driver sincerely hope that the folks behind this bonkers mess of a series keep going at it. Perhaps one day they will perfect the formula, and we will all see God for the first time.
3: Shimoneta: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist
Shimoneta man, who saw this coming? Who saw this bizarre little series about terrorists wearing underpants on their head making it as #3 of the year? By using the format of terrible light novel adaptation in which a boring high school male lead falls in love with the student council president, it makes a surprisingly convincing argument as to why these terrible teenage fantasy light novels should exist. They are the teenage form of sexual exploration and expression, and trying to deny teenagers from learning about sex only serves to make them more fucked up. It’s a giant Fuck You accompanied by hip-thrusting to the sexually conservative societies of the world, and even to Japan’s own government. It’s hard not to celebrate that.
Worst Anime of the Year
Maybe we should be giving this to a more high-profile failure (Inushinde made some good arguments for Grisaia) and not a short, flash-animated series that’s just an advertisement for a phone game. But those excuses don’t hold water. There’s been good shorts (Tonari no Seki-kun), good flash series (Thermae Romae), and good phone game advertisements (Rage of Bahamut). There’s even been good short flash series (Inferno Cop), good shorts that are just advertisements (Fireball), and even good flash advertisements…actually I can’t think of a good one of them. But anyway, Vampire Holmes got picked up for streaming abroad. Some companies were sold this for exclusive streaming rights. Someone was paid to subtitle it. Sometimes you just have to highlight sheer incompetence in every form.
2: Prison School
Look here, Ladies and Gentlemen. Let’s be honest with ourselves here. There is very little to Prison School. It is exactly what it appears on the surface. It is a series jam packed with breasts exploding out of shirts, guys holding bottles over their dicks, and giants with tiny faces being driven to starvation and depression because they’re no longer getting their masochistic fantasies treated to. With all of that, it is one of the most purely, ridiculously entertaining anime ever. It is a tale of camaraderie as you learn to truly care about these dumb characters as the writers do. They are flawed but at their heart they are nice people who just need to trust each other to succeed. They grow emotionally as their bonds for each other too grow stronger. It’s a wonderfully stupid anime that has a heart. A heart that means you can cheer for these people while marveling at the depths this show’s mind can sink to.
Shirobako is, in many ways, the anime fan’s anime. It tells the story of 5 young professionals as they get their start in the anime industry and discovering its harsh environments as they attempt to move forward. It leads these girls down some dark paths including but not limited to: Walking down a high street in the snow crying out for anyone to draw storyboards for you; stuck drawing tyres every day for the foreseeable future; sitting under a blanket in the dark drinking beer as you curse at your TV because you are failing to live up to your dreams. But in showing us the difficulties they face, they also show us the love. The enthusiasm veterans have when being given key scenes to animated, the professionalism of the most experienced actors, and the delight on the writer’s face when a story comes together. It taught us to love anime in a whole new way. For that, it gets the award of The Cart Driver’s 2015 Anime of the Year.
Reader’s Choice Awards
Best anime series that ended in 2015 (choose 3)
- Shirobako (40%, 173 Votes)
- One Punch Man (28%, 122 Votes)
- Sound Euphonium (22%, 95 Votes)
- Parasyte (15%, 67 Votes)
- Death Parade (15%, 67 Votes)
- Owarimonogatari (13%, 57 Votes)
- Prison School (11%, 48 Votes)
- Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders (11%, 48 Votes)
- Blood Blockade Battlefront (11%, 47 Votes)
- Yuri Bear Storm (9%, 41 Votes)
- My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO! (8%, 34 Votes)
- Other not mentioned here (6%, 28 Votes)
- Your Lie in April (6%, 27 Votes)
- Akatsuki no Yona (5%, 24 Votes)
- Noragami 2 (5%, 24 Votes)
- Garo (5%, 23 Votes)
- Non Non Biyori Repeat (5%, 23 Votes)
- Gatchaman Crowds Insight (5%, 22 Votes)
- Gakkou Gurashi (5%, 20 Votes)
- Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (5%, 20 Votes)
- Knights of Sidonia S2 (3%, 15 Votes)
- Maria the Virgin Witch (3%, 15 Votes)
- Shimoneta (3%, 12 Votes)
- Rokka no Yuusha (3%, 11 Votes)
- Ore Monogatari (3%, 11 Votes)
- Senki Zesshou Symphogear GX: Believe in Justice and Hold a Determination to Fist (3%, 11 Votes)
- Snow White with the Red Hair (3%, 11 Votes)
- Working S3 (2%, 10 Votes)
- Overlord (2%, 9 Votes)
- Cross Ange (2%, 9 Votes)
- Tokyo Ghoul (2%, 9 Votes)
- Kuroko Plays with His Balls S3 (2%, 8 Votes)
- Ushio and Tora (2%, 8 Votes)
- Assassination Classroom (2%, 7 Votes)
- The Perfect Insider (2%, 7 Votes)
- The Heroic Tale of Arslan (2%, 7 Votes)
- The Seven Deadly Sins (1%, 6 Votes)
- Ninja Slayer (1%, 5 Votes)
- Punch Line (1%, 5 Votes)
- Sakurako-san's Bones (1%, 5 Votes)
- Rolling Girls (1%, 5 Votes)
- Gundam Build Fighters Try (1%, 5 Votes)
- Gangsta (1%, 5 Votes)
- Is it wrong to pick up girls in a dungeon (1%, 4 Votes)
- Yowamushi Pedal: Grand Road (1%, 3 Votes)
- Log Horizon 2 (1%, 3 Votes)
- Plastic Memories (1%, 3 Votes)
- Aldnoah Zero (1%, 3 Votes)
- Yamada-kun and the 7 Witches (1%, 3 Votes)
- Charlotte (1%, 3 Votes)
- The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki (0%, 2 Votes)
- Monster Musume (0%, 2 Votes)
- Classroom Crisis (0%, 2 Votes)
- Seraph of the End (0%, 2 Votes)
- Lupin III 2015 (0%, 2 Votes)
- Gundam: Reconguista in G (0%, 2 Votes)
- The IdolM@ster: Cindarella Girls (0%, 2 Votes)
- Yatterman Nights (0%, 1 Votes)
- Kamisama Kiss 2 (0%, 1 Votes)
- World Trigger (0%, 1 Votes)
- Nisekoi 2 (0%, 1 Votes)
- Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace (0%, 1 Votes)
- Himouto! Umaru-chan (0%, 1 Votes)
- Kancolle (0%, 0 Votes)
- Jitsu wa Watashi wa (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 437
At least we agree on the top anime of the year, and by a fairly large margin to. But One Punch Man eh? I remember thinking when I read the manga that I didn’t quite see what all the fuss was about, and it seems the other two writers here share the same feelings. We all watched it to completion, just none of us thought it was that memorable in the end. Also Parasyte, which was the winner of last year’s 2014’s 2015 anime of the year. At the time Shinmaru sulked and said it should have gone to Shirobako, and I guess I have to hold my hand up and admit he was totally right. Stardust Crusaders is the honourary #11 but boy is that a big step down from 2013’s overall Anime of the Year.