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Spitz’s Year End Wrap Up 2015

January 7, 2016

(Much care was given toward avoiding spoilers, but keep in mind that series will be spoken of in a retroactive sense, and what I say may be a detriment to your initial enjoyment of those series.)
 You have been warned! Don’t let me spoil your enjoyment.

 

あけましておめでとうございます! Good bye 2015. Hello, hello 2016.
I enjoyed a lot of anime this past year, though I didn’t get through as many as I would have liked. There are series such as Cardcaptor Sakura and Gugure! Kokkuri-san which I’ve wanted to binge through for such a long time now, but the latter half in particular of 2015 often inhibited my ability to keep up on currently airing series, little less whittle away at the backlog.
Games were great this year, as 2015 was when developers finally started developing games specifically for current gen hardware (with no 360/ps3 release), and thanks to that, has offered at the very least a healthy helping of eye-bleedingly beautiful visuals.
This was the year I stopped writing up monthly video game articles, and instantly regret doing so.
Let’s get into it:

 

The Round-up:
Here is a list of the things I have talked about here on the Soapbox over the past year. Click the name to be brought to the post in which that particular thing was found.

Anime:
Aldnoah.Zero 2
 Anime de Training EX
 Another (live action film)
 Charlotte
 Eve no Jikan (series)
 Fate/kaleid Prisma Illya 2wei Herz!
 Gakkou Gurashi
 Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka?? (season 2)
Hackadoll The Animation
 Hello! Kin-Iro Mosaic
Hidamari Sketch
 Houkago no Pleiades
The Idolmaster Movie: Kagayaki no Mukougawa e!
 Juuou Mujin no Fafnir
Kantai Collection
 Kaze Tachinu
Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu
 Komori-san wa Kotowarenai!
Koufuku Graffiti
Military!
 Nisekoi: (season 2)
 Persona 3 The Movie #2: Midsummer Knight’s Dream
Plastic Memories
 Rakuen Tsuihou
 Re-Kan
Saki: Achiga-hen
 Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda
 Uchuu Kaizoku Captain Harlock
 Urawa no Usagi-chan
 Wakaba Girl
Yama no Susume Second Season
 Yuru Yuri San Hai

Games:
Bloodborne
Evolve
 Metal Gear Solid V
Resident Evil HD
 Splatoon

Manga:
Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica: The Different Story Vol. 2

 

Spitz’s Obligatory Awards Section:
I believe “___ of the Year” awards are dumb, but it’s still fun to look at what I watched or played and come up with some largely meaningless vectors from which to praise some of those things.
These are some of what stood out to me over the past year and an explanation for why I think you should check them out (or avoid them) yourself.

Anime:

Biggest Surprise:
koufuku graffitiKoufuku Graffiti-
I always go into Shaft series, if anything, expecting to be entertained, but I was not prepared for how aggressively over-the-top this series based around sharing a meal with friends would end up being.
There is a love for the medium that the ones responsible at Shaft have that bleeds through wonderfully in each scene of this series. I have not watched a more warm and inviting series this year, nor have a tried so hard to hold in laughter at a scene that I never would have assumed would call for such a response.
It looks and sounds terrific. The characters are lovable. The style is there. The narrative is heartfelt. What else do you want?

 

Most Underwhelming:
Charlotte_animeCharlotte-
The difficulty in marking Charlotte as “Most Underwhelming” rests in the fact that up until around the half-way to two-thirds mark, I did enjoy this series quite a bit. Where it spun out of control however, is when it began wrapping up story threads late in the series, and the rushed feel of its conclusion.
The Angel Beats! connection is clear, and much like that series, Charlotte mixed the comedic and the sorrowful wonderfully, but unlike Angel Beats!, Charlotte failed hard to stick the landing.
There could still exist a proper version of this story, if released in visual novel form or an extended version, but having seen the conclusion as it is, it’s hard to remain interested.

 

Best 萌え:
Yama-no-Susume1Yama no Susume Second Season-
I liked the first season of Yama no Susume quite a bit. The premise was strong and the characters were great, and I expected, going into the second season, that it would just be more of the same.
And well, yeah, in a way, that was the case. But the doubled episode run time afforded more time to be spent with these characters, and it was around episode 20 in particular in which I absolutely fell in love.
Their cheerful demeanor off of the mountain makes their arduous trek up them carry more weight, and the creators did a great job at showing both the highs and lows of the activity of mountain climbing.
I wish they would release this series on disc in the West, because I would love to give them my money.

 

Madoka Magica Spirit Award:
d15019030693a25416542e1402ea2b96Gakkou Gurashi-
While 2016 offers potential to continue praising one of my favorite anime series, 2015 did not, but the spirit of Madoka Magica’s story telling lived on in the form of Gakkou Gurashi.
It wasn’t a perfect series. There were some minor pacing issues in there, but Gakkou Gurashi did what I absolutely love for a story to do, which is to throw your expectations out of the door, and offer something much more compelling than what you expected would have been there anyway in its stead.
The less you know about this series going into it, the more it excels, and I highly recommend you give it at least one episode.

 

Video Games:

Biggest Surprise:
Bloodborne_box_artBloodborne-
While I did not particularly care for Dark Souls 2 and its “quantity over quality” design, the first Dark Souls was excellent, and that appreciation for that game’s challenge gave me, by default, a passing interest in Bloodborne.
And then I started playing it, and saw much difficulty putting it down.
Bloodborne wants you to play it the way its designers intend it to be played. You take your time. You pick your battles when you can, and you do not over-extend yourself in combat. Otherwise you die. You learn about your enemies’ attack patterns, and you grasp an understanding of your own abilities. Otherwise you die.
This is a game that absolutely enforces patience, which is something I have unfortunately lost in my ascendance to adulthood, and it is something that, once found once again, allowed me to drink in the experience far more than I typically allow myself to do in games.
In a medium where “horror” is mostly reserved to label games ripe with jump scares, the fear you feel as a player in Bloodborne comes from getting back to safety with the resources you need to upgrade your character.
Exploration and progress is rewarded with gorgeous visuals and some of the most disgusting enemy designs I’ve seen in a long while. This is a dark and twisted, yet beautiful and oddly alluring world. It hates you and wishes for you to suffer, but you feel oddly at place within it, and wish not to leave.
This game felt designed specifically for me, and while I’m a little disappointed to see the next game in this series will be Dark Souls 3, I’m holding out hope for a sequel later on down the road.

 

2717093-spratoonboxAdditional Mention: Splatoon-
Competitive shooters and fighting games are two of the biggest genres, yet offer the least amount of innovation and creativity in game design.
This is why Splatoon is such a refreshing game to play, and why the world and characters found in Splatoon are such a joy to interact with.
It exudes style in ways nothing else has come close to this year (go Youtube that soundtrack some time. You won’t be disappointed.), and while I fell off of the multiplayer after awhile, truly smart things were done to keep the action fast and frantic.
I absolutely adore this game, and cannot wait to see what the minds behind it have to offer us next.

 

Best Gameplay:
metal-gear-solid-5-ps4Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain-
It was around the time where I shot tranquilizer darts into the heads of a half handful of guards, fulton ballooned the ones I wanted, and then mounted my trusty steed and instructed him to defecate on the remaining soldiers before galloping out toward adventure that I realized MGSV was a pretty good video game.
The promise of choosing your own route through the environment and approaching situations in your own way has been a promise of this series since Metal Gear Solid 1, but nowhere has it been realized like it has been with this game.
It’s true that I used the same loadout for pretty much the entire game, and approached enemy strongholds in largely the same way each time, but the thing preventing that from being a negative, is that this game allowed me to choose “My” approach, and once I honed in on what I needed to bring along to get things done “My” way, it became less a matter of feeling compelled to take the go-to items, and more a matter of “No, this loadout is mine.”
The story is what I go into MGS games for, and while that aspect of this game was underwhelming, it more than made up for it in the absurd breadth of weapons, items, companions and vehicles to experiment with out on the field.
It’s such a wonderful feeling for a game to be worth the wait, and as Kojima is no longer affiliated with Konami and is finally capable of doing something new after all of these years, I’m quaking in anticipation to see what comes out of his studio next.

 

Best Narrative:
91xpgxmX+5L._SY606_Batman: Arkham Knight-
I suppose Arkham Knight is less about its story than it is the excellence in presenting its story, but by that regard this game does wonders.
The Arkham Knight character himself is the least interesting aspect of this game, but the path leading toward his demasking and beyond is tightly paced and doesn’t rest on the hinges of the open world as you would expect from other open world game series.
Interesting and sometimes surprising things are done with the story, and Gotham City itself is allowed to become a character within it, leading toward one of the standout sequences in the game.
I finished this game in two sittings, and it wasn’t necessarily due to the story content, but rather the presentation of its story. The music. The voice acting. The camera work. It gets the ball rolling early on, and offers up a pace I didn’t want to interrupt.

 

Biggest Disappointment:
CXgnm67UsAEuNadDestiny: The Taken King (PvP multiplayer)-
The Taken King did wonders for the PvE portion of Destiny.
No longer did I feel guilty for spending time with the game, as I was somewhat rewarded for my efforts with better loot and more of it.
The Taken King made Destiny the game it should have been a year ago.
It was endlessly disappointing then, seeing the enormous number of improvements to the loot system and the character leveling and the narrative and the endgame, to step into PvP matchmaking and discover that all of that effort to try and fix the things that were poorly designed about Destiny were limited to PvE.
Here, classes are still poorly balanced against one another, special weapons are still too readily available, the maps are still (or, with The Taken King, even more) cluttered messes, class abilities are still “I Win” Buttons. Your rewards are not reflective of how well you perform. There is still a criminally low number of available modes. The list goes on.
If the argument to be made is “Destiny multiplayer is not for you”, then I suppose, yes, you’re correct. I prefer competitive multiplayer games that are properly designed and fun. I’ll be playing one of those while you’re having a hammer juggling contest with a bunch of Solar Titans.

 

And as for me:

Looking Back:
Did you see how short that list was up there? I had a lot going on in 2015, and not much of it was conducive to enjoying the things I put my free time into.
Embarrassing and shameful mistakes, large-sweeping hits to my mental state, hospital time, and ongoing (though quite mild) health conditions made it a rough go, and while I would like to think any year in which you both laugh and cry is a year worth living, 2015 is hard to make excuses for. It was easily one of my worst years, and as far as my life outside of hobbies is considered, it was the least enjoyable I can remember.
Good riddance, is what I say.

Looking Forward:
I’m unsure what I want out of a new year. That’s a lie. I know exactly what I want out of a new year, but I’m afraid to commit it to words for fear of it being smashed to bits.
There are a number of minor additions to the Soapbox I would like to find the time for each month, and there are several creative projects I hope I can find the motivation to kick off in the new year.
There’s always room for the upswing. We’ll see how it goes.

 

You have my tremendous, heartfelt thanks for visiting Spitz’s Soapbox. 
I do not know what the year 2016 will bring, but I am sure to return, and I would love it if you would as well.

From → Anime, Games, Manga

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