Zane’s Top 10 Anime of 2015

Click here for Preston’s List.

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Honorable Mention #2: Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry – Fall (8.38) – The best of the three Fall “Magical School/Harem” shows, due in large part to a likable couple with a extremely solid and credible central romance

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Honorable Mention #1: Owarimonogatari – Fall (8.42) – Really a tale of two shows; IMO Sodachi Lost was superior in terms of emotional resonance than Shinobu Mail, which felt like it dragged a lot more

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10. Shokugeki no Souma – Spring (8.58) – Food. Comedy. Romance. Rivalries. Everything I love in one show! Inspired me to cook a lot more than I usually do when I was watching it. Deliciously awesome

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9. Oregairu 2 – Spring (8.58) – Brilliantly written drama driven by a cast of wonderfully well-rendered, emotionally struggling young people trying to find out who they are and where they fit in the world and in each others’ lives

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8. One Punch Man – Fall (8.67) – Brevity is the soul of wit. This show’s title is its premise, and it’s gushing with both wit and bodaciously awesome – and typically howlingly funny action

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7. Hibike! Euphonium – Spring (8.75) – Turns out there was room for another high school music romance in my life – one with less psychedelic visuals! And some moments ended up matching and even surpassing Violin Girl

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6. Gakkou Gurashi! – Summer (8.83) – Don’t let the bright, cheerful beginning fool you, this bold and uncompromising show is a lot more than meets the eye, and it went places I never thought it would

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5. Ore Monogatari!! – Spring (8.92) – Huge nice guy, tiny nice girl, and a regular-sized, nice best friend. The quality that unites them all is kindness, earnestness, and selflessness. Even when they faced inevitable conflicts, the trio was always an absolute joy to watch

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4. Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – Winter (9.05) – Even when we knew tragedy would befall the protagonist, and the childhood friend lamented her lot in life for the umpteenth time, I still couldn’t look – or listen – away. A show that truly brought out all the feels without fail (though its slapstick comedy often clanged on the floor)

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3. Prison School – Summer (9.08) – No show since Aku no Hana has so effectively weaponized adolescence and sex. Only where that show was dark, this one is mostly hilarious, though also tense and occasionally sweet

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2. Saekano – Winter (9.15) – A smart, funny, sexy, cute harem rom-com that’s a send-up of harem rom-coms, having its cake and eating it too. Featuring one of my favorite characters of the year: a boring girlfriend who’s anything but

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1. Yuri Kuma Arashi (9.17) – There are multiple ways of watching YKA – Gorgeous eye (and ear) candy on its surface, but deeper analysis of its characters, themes and iconography comprise a harsh critique of Japanese society. Not quite as good as Penguindrum, but still petty damn great

Prison School – 08

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Yours truly should have known, but my “manly feelings” were also manipulated, as I, like Shingo, stopped worrying about what was or wasn’t too good to be true and actually roll with the idea of a random girl at Shingo’s school being legitimately into him. After all, Chiyo can’t be the only one who likes having the guys around, right? Well, it’s not really a yes or no question.

But let’s just say for most of the episode and all of last week, Anzu was putting on an act. Unlike Chiyo, who puts herself at risk trying to warn Kiyoshi of the impending plot afoot (writing it in Go stones…so refined!), Anzu is acting on behalf of the Underground Student Council, in exchange for Mari’s recommendation she be named to the executive committee next year. She was a part of DTO…but by the end, she’s almost responsible for foiling it.

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Why does she do that? Well, everything was going according to plan, with cheek-pinching about to move on to something else, until Shingo just cant sit there and watch some random kid in the park get sand thrown at him by his friends. When he yells at them too harshly, they cry, and the kid who was getting bullyed throws sand on him. 

This isn’t just a show about T&A. It’s a show about fate and justice; friendship and forgiveness. The confessions that take place in that park aren’t of love between Shingo and Anzu. Shingo confesses to being a snitch, and can’t betray his friends anymore. But then Anzu ‘fesses up about being appointed by Mari to seduce him as part of a plan to get the boys expelled.

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Of course, Anzu was only one of Mari’s variables in her devastatingly intricate scheme, which involved using Meiko’s voluptuousness and lack of punishing Andre to drive him mad until he’s chasing cardboard cutouts, and finally, the real thing. When Meiko offers to whip him if he just comes through the fence, Andre can’t help himself, pushes through the wire (which had already been cut), and is guilty of the boys’ second breakout. If Shingo doesn’t get back in time, that will be three strikes, and they’ll be out. Baseball Metaphor!

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In the time Anzu’s spent with him, culminating in those shared confessions, she can no longer play him any more than he can play Kiyoshi and the others. So she does everything she can to get him back to school on time. At first, their getting along seemed all to easy, then was revealed to be an artificial fondness that then became real. I just hope this isn’t the last we see of these two.

If Mari and the council have their way, however, it will be…and the boys won’t get to experience “seaside school” in the summer, when the girls hold a wet t-shirt contest. While I’m almost positive that’s just bullshit to get them riled up, the fact they believe her so intensely is pretty hilarious.

In fact, it’s that dream of transparent tops that move Kiyoshi, Gakuto, Andre and Joe to put their wishes and hopes together and chant for Shingo’s on-time return. Shingo is almost hit by a truck, but avoids it, and that truck happens to be the laundry truck for the school! Almost as if the universe is rewarding him for his honesty, eh?

Well, not quite: the kicker in DTO is that the other four inmates were put to work adjusting how the door to the stockade opens so it slides rather than pushes in, so Shingo can’t open it, and he’s outside when his time runs out. Dayum, that is one ice cold checkmate.

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Happily, as they await their impending expulsion, Shingo prostrates himself and apologizes profusely for what he’s done…and he’s forgiven, just like that. Well, until he mentions details of what happened with him and Anzu; then they lay into him, but when they’re done, they’re all of them satisfied and even. Mari may have gotten them expelled, but she failed to break their brotherly bonds.

Mari all but smacks her dad in the face with the official school regulations and how the boys are indeed guilty of breaking out three times. Chiyo is there to argue their case, but her pleas are shouted down by Kiyoshi and her confederates. This is one of those times you’d really wish her dad the chairman had some backbone, but considering how awkward and awful he feels about Mari seeing so many overt glimpses of his fetish, he probably feels he has no moral ground to stand on, even if Chiyo were to back him up in the pro-boys corner.

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So, is that that? Will the end of the week after next be all she wrote for our lads? Or is the festive victory celebration by the council—complete with cake, sparkling cider, and Meiko getting her thong caught on the door after doing fingertip pullups—premature? For her part, Anzu tells her boss how she ended up failing her mission when she fell for the target, but Mari lets her off the hook, while ordering surveillance on her as soon as she’s out of the room.

As for the boys, because their bonds have never been stronger, and their hopes somewhat miraculously reached Shingo, they belive anything is possible. They’re not done yet. They’ve got allies in Chiyo and maybe Anzu and the director, they have each other, and they have at least a couple of weeks. Can they somehow overturn the verdict of the council? Will they turn DTO’s victory into a defeat? I hope so.

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