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Other Reference: Overload
Although January is right in the dead of Winter for nearly every country in the world, I fashion it as the warm beginning of a new adventure. January may not be the month of the ‘sakura’ cherry blossoms, but at any breath you take might just be the right time to look back at last year’s best anime adventures.
2015 was a year of variety, new formulas and throwbacks to the classics in terms of adventure anime, seeing many well-known anime staff not known for their prowess at telling adventure stories have a go at topping the genius Fullmetal Alchemist to different degrees of success. The ten anime listed below offers a whole selection of adventures approaching significantly different subjects, of which might just be the right ticket to get you out of your comfort zone.
10. GATE: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri (GATE)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jul 2015 - Sep 2015
GATE was probably not the manga that many fans considered to be suitable for an anime adaptation. Its mix of gratuitous violence and military themes was translated surprisingly well to the airwaves, comprising one of the best adventure series in 2015.
Veteran Japan Self-Defense Forces Officer Youji Itami wanted nothing more than to spend his vacation on his otaku hobbies, but found himself in the front lines of an invasion of medieval, magical beast-riding warriors in Tokyo. Having successfully forced the invaders back through the dimensional portal, known only as the ‘Gate’, from which they came, Youji is celebrated as a war hero and becomes the commander of a scouting party looking to explore the fantasy-like new world.
GATE returns to the mix of a realistic human world and a fantastical other-world that worked so well for some of the memorable series of the past decade, the most famous of which probably being Zero no Tsukaima. However, the series’ capability of depicting an engaging reality of war and its gritty tone makes it a worthwhile watch among many mediocre adventure anime stories. The show surely would have made it to the upper half of this list if it was not for it still being incomplete; the second half of the show is now airing in the current Winter season of 2016 and promises to beat all expectations anyone could have had for it.
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Jul 2014 - Sep 2014 (Season 1); Jan 2015 - Mar 2015 (Season 2)
Five years ago from now, a veteran visual novel writer by the name of Gen Urobuchi was featured in some magical girl show called Puella Magi Madoka Magica. The more genre-savvy of anime fans may fondly look back at that moment as the ‘Urobutcher’s major entry into the anime medium, having since terrorised the industry many a time with formidable scenarios and shocking plot twists.
Princess Asseylum of Mars travels to Earth in order to form diplomatic relations between the two planets’ communities, but is victim to an assassination attempt during her journey. Inaho Kaizuka, who just so happens to be near as it happens, is quickly forced into a combat situation as the people of Mars avenge the death of their princess and rapidly overwhelms the people of the Earth with their vastly superior military technology.
Aldnoah.Zero is a bit of a departure from its usual drivel, being more of a typical mecha series with the usual genre tropes and some funny twists here and there. If you have already dipped yourself into the deep end of the mecha genre, you might be disappointed to know that Aldnoah.Zero does not push any boundaries in terms of storytelling. However, it is also an interesting balance of personal development and intriguing human-alien politics that is a nice change from the chockfull of laser-dodging in some of its peers.
As such, Aldnoah.Zero is more for the adventure-lovers thing, since seeing Inaho and Asseylum go through their trials and tribulations making their way through the world is clearly the highlight. If anything, 2015 brought a new flavour to the stale state of the mecha genre by reminding keen viewers that they are about the epic world-building and character stories as the awesome robot fights.
8. Yoru no Yatterman (Yatterman Night)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jan 2015 - Mar 2015
Western anime fans today probably do not know the first thing about Yatterman. Then again, the Yatterman franchise has gone through so many remakes and reboots that makes any new entry a complete unknown even to devoted fans.
Yoru no Yatterman is the latest addition celebrating Yatterman’s 40th anniversary, meaning that it might just be the perfect excuse you need to see what the whole thing is about. In this iteration of the story, the Doronbow crew (usually considered the villains of the franchise) are the protagonists lead by the enigmatic Leopard. Through an admitted repetitive string of animated flairs, every conflict is underlined by the strong personality of the main protagonist and supports the gradual change of two important side characters, Galina and Alouette.
The show clever plans the changing relationships between its characters and rewards franchise fans who notice the oddities neatly lined up through the course of its run. However, one may also complain that as an isolated product, Yoru no Yatterman ultimately lacks the kind of focused storytelling that makes some of the best adventure series in anime. However, as a one cour show with tons of precluded knowledge to work with, it is definitely an accessible entry point into a long-standing franchise.
7. Arslan Senki (The Heroic Legend of Arslan)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Apr 2015 - Sep 2015
Arslan Senki is the only show in this list that is not set in a world of magic and fantastical beings. Viewers who enjoy settings that are based in real-world historical backgrounds, archaic forms of warfare and political conflict, will surely be delighted to know that this show is perfect for them.
The anime follows the life of Arslan, the prince of Pars, starting in the days leading up to his maiden battle after which the kingdom is lost to the neighbouring Kingdom of Lusitania. With Arslan is a number of fiercely loyal subjects and soldiers who comes to Arslan’s support in his journey to reclaiming his rightful position and the freedom of his people.
Although the writer for the original Arslan Senki light novel series was famous for also writing Legend of the Galactic Heroes, the difference in impression from seeing Arslan Senki’s promotional material made it difficult to expect what the anime offered. What may be more impressive is Hiromu Arakawa, the mangaka for Fullmetal Alchemist, being responsible for the art of Arslan Senki’s manga adaptation. The influence of the latter is perhaps best noted by the very enjoyable fight scenes interspersed throughout the series and are ultimately the show’s highlight moments.
However, Arslan Senki also fails to be the epic that some anime fans may have expected. Instead, it is an exciting adaptation of an already popular light novel and manga series that is pleasing to look at but loses points for not fulfilling the potential that was offered by its source material. Hopefully the upcoming second season will tip things more to its favour.
6. Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darou ka
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Apr 2015 - Jun 2015
Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darou ka, often abbreviated as Danmachi, is among the latest of J.C.Staff’s signatory light novel adaptations. However, it puts itself ahead of many of its peers through a strong core cast of likeable characters and some very, very impressive scenes in the middle of its run.
Beyond all of its RPG storytelling elements, Danmachi is more than anything else an underdog success story of its protagonist, Bell Cranel. Bell wishes more than anything else to win the heart of Aiz Wallenstein. After their fateful meeting in a monster dungeon he is shocked to learn that the latter is one of the strongest fighters in their town. As such, he resolves to become stronger himself so that he could be recognised as her peer, while also recognising the need to boost the reputation of his host goddess, Hestia.
Unfortunately, Danmachi ends right as the story begins gaining momentum and ends with the viewer begging for more. Its production quality is also inconsistent overall with the ending episodes having some shabby looking character movement. However, it is only fair to say that when Danmachi is at its very best, especially in episode 8 and the final episode, it matches what the top anime of this list has to offer.
5. Rokka no Yuusha (Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jul 2015 - Sep 2015
Studio Passione’s last work was Rail Wars, meaning that fans of adventure series might find themselves quite reluctant to touch Rokka no Yuusha with a moderately long steel pole. Rest assured knowing that Rokka no Yuusha is not only vastly different from Rail Wars, but is also a competent and extremely enjoyable adventure anime.
Rokka starts off on a high note with its protagonist Adlet Mayer, the self-proclaimed “strongest man in the world,” interrupting a ritual tournament between some of the most formidable fighters in the nation that is meant to determine the individuals qualified to become one of the six Braves, chosen heroes to fight against the demon lord. Making short work of the favourites to win the tournament, Adlet is locked up for his brashness but ends up being confirmed as one of the Braves. His journey quickly brings him to the side of his peers but at the same time, creates confusion as something is obviously amiss.
Pure adventure fans who enjoy exploring the setting and seeing the characters interact in new environment, may want to look elsewhere, as Rokka quickly becomes somewhat of a mystery story halfway through its run. The adventure component of the plot is clearly promised for future entries in the franchise as this series settles with having each of the characters familiarised to the viewer. If anything, you might just forgive them for showing us that even in 2015, new and interesting characters can comprise a diverse cast.
4. Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans (Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Oct 2015 - (ongoing)
The existence of Iron-Blooded Orphans is in itself a miracle, bringing Director Tatsuyuki Nagai and writer Mari Okada to work in a Gundam series against all odds. While Aldnoah;Zero may have been enjoyable in its own right, Iron-Blooded Orphans is definitely the mecha-adventure anime to see in 2015.
Instead of the usual pattern of the Gundam pilot being a civilian who just so happens to wander into a Gundam cockpit, Mikazuki Augus is a full-fledged combatant who, along with many other child soldiers, do the dirty work of a private security firm headed by the abusive but incompetent militant adults. In one operation, they are attacked by an official military force who easily overpower them but give Mikazuki and friends the opportunity to overthrow their leaders, thereby earning the freedom to act as they push back all forces that intend to destroy them.
With the two big names working their magic on the series, Iron-Blooded Orphans spends more time developing its characters and making them more like real people than most other entries of the Gundam franchise. Compared to most mecha series, its fight scenes are emotionally engaging as we know that even a single defeat could stop the cast from earning what they rightfully deserve as human beings. Despite being incomplete, the human side of the mecha genre is better realised here as part of an adventure series than it has been for the past decade, making Iron-Blooded Orphans one of the must-see series of 2015 and deserving of being called one of the best adventure series of the year.
3. Junketsu no Maria (Maria the Virgin Witch)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jan 2015 - Mar 2015
Rarely do we see animation studios taking the risk of adapting manga that barely anyone has ever heard of. Something big must have happened behind the scenes for Gorou Taniguchi, the wonderful bloke who brought us Code Geass, Planetes and Infinite Ryvius, to helm the series. Frankly, it would make more sense for him to be working on Iron-Blooded Orphans instead.
Thankfully, we live in a world where the animation industry makes little sense and Junketsu no Maria ends up being pretty darn good to say the least. The titular Maria is a witch who lives during a fictionalised version of the Hundred Years’ War on France’s side, but is so adamantly pacifist that she interferes with any instance of conflict, stopping them with her amazing powers. However, in a world where religious institutions see her as nothing but a heretic, Maria faces adversity from all sides despite her good intentions.
Junketsu no Maria’s humour and subtle themes might not be everyone’s cup of tea, as is the case of seinen manga adaptations. It is a mature take on an adventure story featuring a female protagonist who struggles with her sexuality and moral compass, but perseveres to do what she believes is right. For a show that also manages to look as impressive as it is substantial against all expectations, Junketsu no Maria deserves nothing less than being recognised as an adventure anime of the upper echelons.
2. Dai San Bu Kujo Jotaro: Mirai e no Isan (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders)
- Episodes: 48
- Aired: Apr 2014 - Sep 2014 (Season 1); Jan 2015 - Jun 2015 (Season 2)
The JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure franchise needs no introduction, but it may be helpful to some to mention that the second season of Stardust Crusaders is thought by many fans to be the best part of the story yet.
Unlike earlier stages of the plot, Starlight Crusaders is much more of an adventure than an action anime as the focus is shifted on Joutarou and co actually travelling the world in their opposition to Dio’s schemes. Much of the formula remains the same with the show being divided into mini-arcs focusing on different characters or progressing the overarching plot to its next main development.
Much of JoJo’s potential is not only realised through Stardust Crusaders (as the earlier series surely had that accomplished), but is exceeded and blown out of proportion in typical JoJo style. If anyone ever accused JoJo for being too crazy in its action-focused storytelling to be an adventure story, Stardust Crusaders shows how pre-establishing a cast of likeable characters gives the production staff way more room to focus on the meat of the story. And how delicious the meat JoJo serves is, making it only an inch short of being the best adventure anime released in 2015.
1. Kekkai Sensen (Blood Boundary Battlefront)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Apr 2015 - Oct 2015
As the cream of the crop for 2015, Kekkai Sensen teaches us that the best adventures can be the ones where you wander about your neighbourhood. With a bombastic set of episodic stories and an underlying tearjerker plotline, Kekkai Sensen sees the most sensually appealing interpretation of how crazy downtown New York can get.
In the fictionalised post-destruction form of New York City known in-setting as Hellsalem’s Lot, a portal to the underworld has stabilised long enough for its monstrous beings to have comfortably resided within the city in relatively peaceful cohabitation alongside the humans. Leonardo is a human who, aside from having God-like eye powers at the cost of his sister’s eyesight, lives like any other aimless teenage boy who keeps away from his family. He finds himself getting caught in the activities of the vigilante organisation Libra and resolves to act as one of their members, setting the crew up for hilarious escapades often at the expense of large parts of New York being destroyed.
Kekkai Sensen is applaudable precisely because it cares much less about making sense than being impressive in every sense of the word, making sure to stimulate all senses that a human audience can possibly have. Action scenes are made grandiose in a JoJo or Gurren Lagann-esque narrative style, but not at all by sacrificing the comedic process of Leonardo and co’s character development.
What puts Kekkai Sensen heads and shoulder above its peers is its breakneck pacing and knack for making its plot flow, even when each individual episode has little to do with one another. Seeing Leonardo come slowly out of his shell and grow into a worthy man is makes for one of the best anime of 2015 and the year’s best anime that anime has to offer.
Other Reference: Noragami Aragoto
Can you look back on 2015 as a year where you were glad to have tried something new? Even if not, it is definitely still not too late. Last year may not contain the best collection of adventures, but there is definitely a selection of anime that attempts to twist the usual formula and bring us something unexpected. If those are not to your taste, do take comfort in knowing that some of the best anime of 2015 will easily sate any classic adventure fan’s desire a number of new additions to long-standing franchises.
Please leave a comment below if there is any other great shows you would like to share.