Spring 2015 Review: Trip the Anime-Fantastic (Lights, Camera, Action! Special)

By Drew Hurley 30.08.2015

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Anime has come a long way in the past couple of years. Long gone are the days of acquiring VHS copies of random series at conventions or waiting months or years for releases after the shows have finished airing in Japan. Even the world of having to download fan-subbed shows from irc or torrents has pretty much passed by, with fantastic free streaming facilities like Crunchyroll and Viewster. Now, the latest and greatest anime can be seen almost as soon as it's shown in Japan. With that in mind, Lights, Camera, Action! kicks off a look at some of the greatness over in Japan, with a quick retrospective of some of the best shows from the Spring 2015 season just gone.

Spring 2015 Retrospective

This year's spring season was a very mixed bag, filled with a variety of anime for every possible audience. For those looking to pick up the shows that have now finished, giving them something to marathon through, here are some highpoints worth considering:

Owari No Seraph | Seraph of the End
Set in a post-apocalyptic world where a deadly virus wiped out anyone over the age of 13, the children survivors either ended up as cattle for Vampires or trying to survive in a wasteland where giant monsters known as The Four Horsemen of John killed anyone they found. A group of human survivors have militarised in Japan and are fighting back using weapons imbued with the souls of demons.

Tonally, Seraph is very much like D.Gray-man and Blue Exorcist. Fans of Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan) will find in this show the same sort of dark Shonen that made Attack on Titan so popular. With likeable characters, good looking animation, and a plot that offers up some unexpected and interesting developments, this show is one of the first to try this season. After only 12 episodes and a killer finale with some major cliffhangers, fans thankfully won't need to wait long for the second season, with the show on a break briefly before returning this October for the autumn season.

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Plastic Memories
Every season has a series with a unique and original premise that doesn't fall into the usual genres of anime. Plastic Memories is set in a world where androids live among people, but these androids have a lifespan of just under 10 years. If they go beyond that, their mental facilities begin to deteriorate, they lose their memories, and turn violent. The series follows a team who collect the androids that are approaching their expiry date and help both the android and owner come to terms with the end.

The show really tugs hard at the heart-strings, dealing with some deep subjects based around life and death. Many fans will find parallels to experiences in their own life. It is a very original series that manages to be hauntingly beautiful and truly moving.

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Shokugeki no Soma | Food Wars
Think of Hell's Kitchen meets Master Chef meets the best of ecchi anime. When Soma, a young man who just wants to succeed his father in their small restaurant, is sent off to a school for the best chefs in the world, he has no idea what to expect. The school is home to the super elite of the culinary world, where only 1% ever graduate, yet Soma's unbelievable skills get him quickly climbing the ranks of the school and taking part in some unique cook-offs.

Shokugeki getting a series in the mainstream Shonen JUMP! title was a real surprise. Although precedent has been set with previously extremely ecchi series like ToLoveRu, it's still not common, as they often end up in the other JUMP! magazines aimed at the older audience instead. There isn't much risqué activity in the actual plot of the series - instead it is all kept within the reactions of tasting food. As the metaphors for the flavours are played out, with the eater being transported… often naked… to their imagination, the metaphor literally goes from "feels like melting in honey" to "feels like my entire body is being groped by giant tentacles."

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Dungeon ni Deai o Momeru no wa Machigatteiru Darou Ka (Danmachi) | Is it Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
In a world where the gods have descended from Heaven to Earth, they gather followers to form "Families" in their name and then send these adventurers to conquer a dungeon that looms over the land. Unlike Sword Art, this series isn't set within a game, yet much of the mainstays of an RPG are indeed within the world - getting XP, crafting items, levelling up, and learning skills - making it feel very much like a JRPG. The story follows "Bell Cranel," the only member of the goddess Hestia's family, as he works his way up from a Level One newbie.

It is great when these massive titles quickly get an abbreviated version. 'Danmachi' is manageable compared to the mammoth mouthful of the original title! This, at first, seemed billed as a silly harem show but turned out to be one of the best of the season. Although there still are elements of harem, with Bell and the numerous ladies he meets, there's a special quality to the season that is hard to grasp - it just feels well done, overall. Hopefully a second season isn't too far away.

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Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works Season 2
Fate was originally a Visual Novel game in Japan. The basic premise is that seven mages are able to each summon a champion known as a servant from legendary historical warriors and battle to the last mage standing. The prize is "The Holy Grail" - an all powerful MacGuffin that grants the winner and their servant whatever their wish may be. The protagonist, Shiro, is an undertrained mage who miraculously ends up with King Arthur as his servant as he takes his place in the Battle Royale.

The Fate series has a massive audience. The original anime based on the game was released way back in 2006 and was generally well received, but it was the prequel, Fate/Zero, by studio Ufotable, which drove fans crazy. The high production values, combined with a great story and beautiful art, made for an all round superb product. Now, Ufotable has returned with a retelling of the original game, based on a different branching path of the story, and hasn't disappointed. Unlimited Blade Works has offered an alternative story that many fans have found superior, with fantastic new points of view on key characters, some great interactions that were previously skipped over, the same high production values, and art quality that have made for some of the best animated and choreographed fight scenes in some time.

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Kekkai Sensen | Blood Blockade Battlefront
When a portal suddenly appears one day in New York, the entire world changes, as the city is overrun with unbelievable creatures. Now, three years later, New York has become Hellsalem's Lot and the humans who live in the city are trying to carry on their day-to-day lives, although now alongside Lovecraftian horrors, Daemons, Vampires, Alien-like creatures, super-powered weirdos...and so on. It's a fantastic stage that has been set... The story follows Leonardo Watch, a young boy who hopes to become a journalist. He has been given the "All Seeing Eyes of God," and accidently joins an organisation called Libra that has been fighting to keep order and sanity on the streets of Hellsalem's Lot and to contain the madness from spilling into the rest of the world.

This is the new work of Yasuhiro Naito, most well known for the phenomenal Trigun. That alone should be enough for anyone to give this series a chance. Although much of the season is very "Monster of the Week," it's done well and keeps the viewer engaged and entertained throughout. Every aspect of the show shines, the premise is great, the writing is witty and smart, plus the supporting cast are well developed and have some fantastic designs.

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These are just some of the best the Spring 2015 season had to offer. There are certainly plenty more worthy of watching and numerous honourable mentions. Be sure to share thoughts in the comments below - what were some of Cubed3's readers' highlights of the season? What was the most enjoyable, what was dropped, and was there anything in this Lights, Camera, Action! anime special that was missed out?
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