Wait... anime?

What, you thought I was only ever going to talk about video games here?

Anime is a relatively new hobby for me. Discounting the Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh I watched as a kid, I only started watching anime at all around two years or so ago. But I've watched a decent amount in that time, and the time spent watching it this year accounts for a lot of the time I didn't spend playing games. So I figured I might as well do one of my annual best-of posts for anime as well. Maybe having a whole other medium to write about will hasten the updates of this blog.

Probably not.

Anyway, similar to the gaming best-of, an anime just needs to have had a release sometime in calendar year 2015 to be eligible for this list. In the context of anime, that generally means that an episode aired in Japan sometime this year. For movies, theatrical and home media releases both count. And like the gaming best-off, these are in no particular order.

Shokugeki no Sōma

It's because his... food is so good.

It's because his... cooking is so good.

An incredibly fun, intense, hype show about... cooking. Food Wars, as I believe is its official English title, is how I imagine a Dragonball-esque shounen show with all the crazy battles replaced with cooking. Our main character, Soma Yukihira, is an almost high-school age dude (about 14-15 in Japan) who runs a small diner with his dad. Both of them are hella fuckin' baller at making food. One day, his dad decides he's off to travel the world for a bit, so while he's away he secured Soma a spot in Toutsuki Academy, a high-school for the absolute culinary elite, with a tiny graduation rate due to the insane standards. Soma is somewhat arrogant and wants to be the top-dog at the school, but to get there, he has to defeat anyone who stands in his way at shokugeki - the school's traditional form of dual. The premise is kinda dumb, but the execution is superb, with a great cast of characters and great animation. There's also a large amount of... foodgasms. The guy who draws the original manga is known for being a hentai artist... Overall, pretty great.

One Punch Man

The very embodiment of a hero.

The very embodiment of a hero.

I don't ever rank the things I put on these lists, but hold a gun to my head and make me, One Punch Man might be my #1. I'd go so far as to say that if you have even the slightest passing interest in either anime or western-style superheroes, you ought to watch One Punch Man. Saitama is pretty much the epitome of the oblivious, uninterested dude, who's a hero just "for fun". But he is so powerful that any enemy he comes across is felled with just... one punch. To the point he's become bored at the complete lack of challenge. Genuinely funny, as well as being able to remain exciting throughout with a protagonist who finishes every fight with almost literally no effort. It's a shame that the anime industry generally isn't conducive to sequels, so waiting for more will likely be a long wait. Fortunately, the manga is probably just as good.

 

Owarimonogatari

[Presented Without Context]

[Presented Without Context]

The latest instalment in the what is now fairly long-running Monogatari Series. Monogatari is really fucking weird. Like, definitely-would-not-recommend-to-people-who-don't-watch-a-lot-of-anime-and-even-for-those-who-have-is-still-love-it-or-hate-it weird. Incredibly dialogue heavy. Large amounts of (somewhat untranslatable) Japanese humour. Crazy art-direction and cinematography. A little bit more fanservice than most people would probably be comfortable with. For fans of the show, Owarimonogatari is among the best its been, but describing it's merits to someone unfamiliar can be difficult, especially in this particular short-form format. Perhaps I will one day do something on the series as a whole. Perhaps not. Those interested in the show should start with 2009's Bakemonogatari, then proceed through the others in release order.

Charlotte

An adolescent guy discovers he can take over other people's bodies.

An adolescent guy discovers he can take over other people's bodies.

If I gave out different categories of awards, Charlotte would almost certainly win "Most Potential Squandered". Similar to Angel Beats, creator Jun Maeda's previous work, Charlotte is marred with pretty horrendous pacing issues. But like Angel Beats, the entire premise of the show is really interesting, with a set of characters that deserved more time for development. But like Angel Beats, Maeda tries to tell a story whose scope is not very well suited to a standard 13 episode anime. The result is a show that I was really enjoying for the first half, before the main plot kicked in without nearly enough episodes left to tell it, and I finished somewhat disappointed. Overall, I mostly enjoyed it, and it stuck with me, though mostly for negative reasons. While not a total trainwreck, and definitely worth watching for the earlier episodes, just be ready to leave thinking this should've had another 12 episodes.

 

Non Non Biyori Repeat

Renge might be my favourite child character to appear in anything, ever.

Renge might be my favourite child character to appear in anything, ever.

The second season of Non Non Biyori, a show that reminds me what it felt like going outside to play with my friends back when I was still in primary school. It invokes a strong feeling of nostalgia in me. A slice-of-life show about a group of friends ranging from ages 6-7 to around 15 living in a rural countryside Japanese town. Charming, funny, heartwarming and very relaxing to watch. Felt good coming in from work on a Monday night and just chilling, and watching Renge and co. get up to... well, nothing in particular; the kinds of things you did with your friends when you where little kids.

Sound! Euphonium

Seriously, this show looks incredible.

Seriously, this show looks incredible.

The latest from Kyoto Animation, who are at this point probably my favourite animation studio. Set in high-school, like most of their works, Euphonium focuses on the school's concert band. The school at one time used to participate in national tournaments, but as of late haven't even made it to the qualifying tournaments. This changes due to the arrive of the club's new, friendly, but strict instructor, and the band itself decides to try for the nationals. The story focuses a lot on the commitment required to build up their strength as an orchestra, as well as the drama that can occur between members - a more talented, but less popular student being given a solo to play, for instance. I was never much of a musically-talented person, but discussion from other "band kids" on the Internet show just how faithful the representation of being in a highschool band can be. Being a KyoAni show, it's not all drama of course, with plenty of lighthearted, more slice-of-life type moments, as well as just gorgeous animation. Seriously, Sound! Euphonium might be the best looking TV animation I've ever seen.

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works

MFW I try to read up on the lore of the Fate universe.

MFW I try to read up on the lore of the Fate universe.

Fate/stay night is a visual novel, with three distinct story routes. The Fate route, the Unlimited Blade Works route, and the Heaven's Feel route. This is an adaptation of the second, brought to us by animation studio Ufotable, a studio noted for being up there with KyoAni for producing gorgeous looking shows. The Fate franchise is pretty fucking convoluted, so I'm not going to go into too much detail. Basically, the Holy Grail (as in,  the omnipotent wish-granting device) exists. Occasionally a bunch of dudes duke it out to claim it, known as a Holy Grail War. Each "master" summons a "servent", who is a physical manifestation of the lore and legend of a well-known person from any point in time. Every body tries to kill each other and the last person standing wins. This show is the story of one such of these Holy Grail Wars. It's pretty decent. Gets a bit up its own arse sometimes, but has a ton of cool moments and fight sequences. You know, if you're into that.

Shirobako

Also: sick drifts.

Also: sick drifts.

Shirobako (literally: white box) is an anime about... making anime. A group of five highschool girls are part of their school's animation club and pledge that one day they'll all work together on a professional anime title. And then before you can think "oh god, not another highschool slice-of-life show", it timeskips ahead a few years to where two of the girls already have burgeoning careers at an animation studio. I'll admit, I like slice-of-life and cute-girls-doing-cute-things more than I probably should, but it's refreshing to see a similar type of show, but with characters older than highschool age. But not only that, Shirobako gives a genuinely fantastic insight into Japan's animation industry and the sort of work that goes into producing a typical late-night anime episode. Everything from the drawing of keyframes and inbetweens, to the casting process for voice actors, to having to deal with the companies that own the source material of the anime you're making, to having to deliver the show to the TV stations before it airs. A huge cast of characters, most of whom are very well fleshed out, many of which feel like... well, real people just trying to make a career in a very harsh industry. Fantastic show.

Persona 3 The Movie: #2 Midsummer Knight's Dream

This is a shot from the 1st movie, but whatever, shit it cooool.

This is a shot from the 1st movie, but whatever, shit is cooool.

Persona 3 is one of my favourite video games of all time. A fantastic blend of social/life simulator and dungeon-crawling RPG, with an incredible story and memorable cast of characters. The follow-up, Persona 4 is arguably the better game, mechanically, but something about 3's world and bittersweet plot stuck with me. Like Persona 4, 3 is also getting its own anime adaptation, though in the form of 4 movies as opposed to Persona 4's 25 episode TV show. Midsummer Knight's Dream starts pretty much where the first one left off and introduces Aigis, everyone's favourite robot lady. I can't really delve too deep without getting spoilery, which I don't like to do here. Basically, in Persona 3, you summon your "persona" (which is a physical manifestation of your inner psyche) by pointing a gun-like object (an "evoker") at your head and pulling the trigger. Then, rather than your skull splattering against the wall, a bunch of light shoots out and your persona appears. You do this for almost every attack in battle. It's pretty fucking baller.

Your Lie in April

This dude's hair tho

This dude's hair tho

I don't have much to say about this one, because I don't want to say too much about this one.

If you want something on the more emotional side and you happen to like classical music... well, you're in for a trip.

A feels trip. Hope you've got your permission slips.

 

 

So that's that. Them's are the top 10 animes what I watched this year that I think are completely alright or something. This is the first anime post I've written here, and you can probably expect to see more in the future, what with anime taking up a large amount of my free time (and income) as of late. My top 10 list of video games will drop fairly soon as well, likely before the new year, so look forward to that.

Also, if you happen to be into the animu, and have a MAL profile, mine is here if you're so interested.

Welcome, one and all, to the now third annual installant of Those Games What Released This Year That I Think Were Alright. It's been a slow year here on Jeo.me, with a whopping TWO previous posts in 2014. I had plenty of posts I was planning on putting up this year, but I kind of got lazy and they fell through. Mostly because I was probably too busy playing Street Fighter. Enough of that though, apologising about lack of posts is pretty much a trope round these parts at this point, so on to talking about games from this year that I liked.

You should know the format by now; these games are in no particular order, and being released in 2014 is the only requirement needed to be eligible.

Final Fantasy X / X-2 HD Remaster

I've mentioned it before and I'll mention it again: Final Fantasy X is my favourite game of all time. Is it objectively the greatest game ever made? Of course not, but it's my favourite. It had probably the greatest impact on my taste in video games that I can think of, and I immensely enjoy all the time that I spend with it. So to be able to play a game that is now almost 15 years old at this point on a somewhat modern console, with somewhat modern looking graphics, is an utmost pleasure. Me being me, I'll probably also end up double-dipping when it comes to PS4 next year.

Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire

I've always been a total sucker for the mainline Pokemon games. Ever since the original Blue and Red versions, I've always invested a fair amount of time into every major Pokemon release since then. The original Gen III games were probably around the time a lot of people started to write them off, citing "badly designed pokémon" or whatever (even though they often gloss over some of the terrible Gen I designs with their rose glasses). I've a particular fondness for each generation of Pokémon, and Ruby and Sapphire were no different. Being able to adventure through Hoenn again, with all that water and all those trumpets, only this time in 3D and with all the gameplay up-grades you'd expect, has been a treat.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call

Do you like Final Fantasy music? Do you like rhythm games? Then there is almost nothing to not like about Theatrhythm. Curtain Call improves on the first game mostly by just having a metric fucktonne of music, as well as a whole bunch more characters available to build your party with. There's also a whole new quest system, which is enjoyable to play and provides a little more meat than some of the content of the first game. There's also a new multiplayer mode, which is... eh, not great, but can be a fun distraction. But the main draw has always been the simple, but fun rhythm gameplay and the swaths of Uematsu-san and company's music spanning two decades.

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

Considering I paid the extravagant amount of £0 for Isaac (well, minus my PS+ sub fee of course), the money-per-hour ratio of this game is probably the highest on the list. If you played the original Isaac, you'll know what to expect here. It's basically the same game built again from scratch, so it's no longer a flash game, which is good. Very good. Content wise, I believe it contains everything from BoI plus the Wrath of Lamb expansion, as well as some other new content sprinkled throughout. I never got very heavily into the original, but I've played enough of Rebirth to cause my PS4's left thumbstick to start falling apart. Also, Azazel is hella OP.

Ultra Street Fighter IV

For a brief second, I considered making this entire post just "Street Fighter is rad, peeeeace" and leave it at that. Definitely wins the award for most amount of time I've spent with a game this year. This latest version of Street Fighter IV, as well as introducing five "new" characters (four from Street Fighter X Tekken and one literal Cammy clone) also introduces a few new system mechanics to help move the game away from the very set-play heavy state the previous version was. It's still very much Street Fighter IV and I love me some Street Fighter IV.

The Wolf Among Us

While I feel that the story took somewhat of a dive towards the end, and an episodic format is probably not the best for a murder mystery story, I found myself nevertheless enjoying The Wolf Among Us immensely. As someone who wasn't familiar with Fables going in, I found the premise incredibly interesting, and the game itself is just... stylish. Killer soundtrack and 80s-inspired neon visuals, the game is a treat for the senses.

Persona 4 Arena: Ultimax

Thankfully, the wait here in Europe this time around for the next Persona 4 Arena game wasn't quite as painful as it was last time. Ultimax is basically the... well, ultimate version of P4A. The story I felt was a lot weaker this time around compared to the last game, but from a pure gameplay side, there's a lot to like. An expanded roster, now featuring pretty much every conceivable character from Persona 3 and 4 that makes sense, "shadow" versions of every character who play differently and have different tools, and a whole host of incremental improvements, including a very cool and robust lobby system for online play. I'll never get into it quite the way I did Street Fighter, because fundamental things about the way anime fighting games play don't jive well with me, but Ultimax is a great fighter worth checking out if you're into the genre, or simply just a Persona fan.

The Last of Us: Left Behind

I could put The Last of Us Remastered on here, since that game is still as incredible as it was when it first came out, but I'm not going to do that. Instead, I'm going to put Left Behind, the story DLC that released earlier this year. There was a lot to love about The Last of Us, and Ellie is at, or close to, the top of that list. So to get the chance to learn a lot more about her backstory is something I just couldn't pass up. The story aspects of Left Behind are top-notch as you'd expect, but so is the gameplay. They use a lot of the game's combat mechanics in interesting and novel, non-combat scenarios and it also features the only combat encounters in the entirety of The Last of Us that feature both human and infected enemies, something that should've been present in the original game. If you enjoyed The Last of Us, you owe it to yourself to play the Left Behind.

Titanfall

Remember Titanfall? Released way back in, what, March? Man, that game didn't set the world on fire quite like a lot of people expected it to, but it was still a pretty solid first outing from Respawn. It definitely has some key flaws, but it's the sort of thing that makes you excited for what could be in Titanfall 2. Plus, the core gameplay is a blast. It's interesting to see games like Halo 5 and this year's Call of Duty already seemingly taking influence from the way Titanfall does movement and mobility.

Threes!

Threes! is a mobile game, and mobile games are generally not something I give much of a fuck about. It's a number game, where you have cards on a grid, and have to move them in 4 directions to combine identical cards, similar to, but not as insane as something like 2048. It also has a great style, with fantastic music, silly voiceovers, and a nice clean aesthetic. There's even a snappable Xbox One version now, which is cool. It deserves a spot here solely based on the amount of time I spent with it this year. Mobile games tend to have a very "flavour of the week" thing going on, where big games come and go really quickly, but Threes! had a constant presence on my phone throughout the majority of the year.

Honourable Mentions and Games That Would've Been on this List had I Played (More of) Them

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is probably the best CoD game in years, and the only one since MW3 that I've bothered to finish the campaign of. Halo: The Master Chief Collection is a collection of 4 games, each great in their own right, but isn't on the list because... well, that game was, and still is, broken as fuck. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes gets me real excited for The Phantom Pain, but as a standalone product, there just isn't enough of what I want out of a Metal Gear game. Destiny is the worst game that I spent the most amount of time playing. I could probably write an entire post about everything that game did wrong, yet for some reason, for a good chunk of time, I couldn't stop playing it. Fantasy Life is an adorable RPG for the 3DS by the Professor Layton people, that seems like it has a bunch of stuff to do in it, but I simply haven't been able to put that much time into it yet. Lethal League is an awesome take on the fighting game genre that I definitely need to play more of. Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor and Wolfenstein: The New Order are the two big standout non-Wii U games this year, that are the kind of games I enjoy, but I simply haven't played.

There are also a multitude of indie games this year that either passed me by, or that I simply didn't manage to play. This year was also probably the best year yet for the Wii U, with games like Bayonetta 2, Mario Kart 8, and Super Smash Bros. putting up a strong argument that, maybe, I should think about getting a Wii U at some point soon.

Looking back, 2014 has been a somewhat lackluster year. The new consoles are out, and have been for over a year now, but are stuggling to make a strong footing with games convincing you to throw down the money for them. Most of the big games for them have been either remasters and rereleases of old games, or big marquee titles that were mostly broken messes at launch.

But tomorrow is 2015, and if Back to the Future taught us anything, it's that we're all going to be flying about on hoverboards and flying cars, and that sounds way cooler than any of this video game shit.

So, I posted a little bit about Diablo III when it first came out, way back when. I enjoyed it for the most part, with my only real issues being in the storytelling department. Unfortunately, at that time I had not played through the game all the way to level 60, I only got to somewhere in the mid-30s. So because of that, I hadn't experienced any of the endgame, which is often the meat and potatoes of this genre. The endgame content of these types of games is basically just doing runs over and over until you find loot upgrades that allow you to do those runs more efficiently. Repeat until you get bored of it. The issues that people had with Diablo III's endgame basically boiled down to the itemisation. The loot just wasn't very interesting, and it took too long to find meaningful upgrades.

This was an almost direct result of the existence of the game's auction house. Whether it be by using in-game gold or real money, players could buy and sell items that they had found in-game. Because of this, finding decent items was a rare occurrence, otherwise virtually everyone could stick their loot on the auction house and make some money. It also meant that the most efficient way to upgrade your character was not by playing the game, but by simply buying upgrades on the auction house.

Since Diablo III's release two years ago, there have been a number of updates to help fix this issue, with the two main ones being "loot 2.0" and the now complete removal of the auction houses from the game. Loot 2.0, which overhauls the loot system to a more quality-over-quantity experience means you are now more likely to find more meaningful upgrades more often. Where previously a stat on an item could've rolled from anywhere between 1-100, it's now more like 75-100. Add to that much better legendary item drop rates (you're now pretty much guaranteed a legendary at least every hour or two, compared to my 3 legendaries in about 100 hours previously) means that the loot progression is much more satisfying and feels like much less of a grind.

This week also brought about the game's first major content update, in the form of Reaper of Souls. As well as adding a whole new act onto the story, the expansion also brings about a whole host of other cool new features. The biggest of these, Adventure Mode, essentially completely changes the way in which you play the game. Unlocked for all your characters once you've played through Act V once, Adventure Mode opens up the entire game and allows you to travel wherever you want, completing bounties. These bounties are usually quick, five minute affairs, where you travel to a specific location and kill a specified enemy, or complete a specific event. Completing these nets you experience and gold awards, as well as bonuses if you finish five bounties in one act.

But that's not even the coolest part. By completing these bounties, you will occasionally be rewarded with Rift Key Fragments. Spending five of these allows you go back to town and open a Nephalem Rift. These are essentially completely random dungeons (seriously, take every tileset and enemy type in the game, and throw them into an RNG) with a powerful boss at the end for you to kill. The monster density in these rifts also tends to be quite high, so the potential for big XP and loot gains is high.

Crusader is pretty dope.

Crusader is pretty dope.

The expansion also increases the level cap by 10, up to a max of 70. Higher level means better loot. Even some of the basic level 70 gears makes the best level 60 gear look terrible. Each class also has a brand new ability and set of runes to go with it, which first unlocks when you hit 61. The only one I've tried, the Wizard's Black Hole, is cool and seems to work well as a decent crowd control ability. There's also the brand new class, the Crusader. I haven't messed too much with it (only level 30 or so) but the class seems to play fairly similar to the Barbarian, with the main difference being a lot of more defensive abilities, which require resource spending to use, rather than being cooldown based. They definitely seem like they have the ability to be super tanky. Oh, and one of their passives allows them to weird a two-handed weapon and a shield at the same time. So that's pretty rad.

There's also a third artisan to go alongside the blacksmith and jeweller: the enchantress. She can let you enchant items, essentially completely re-rolling a stat on an item in the hopes for a better one, for a price of course. So if you find an item that is great all-round except for one bum stat, it's very much possible to fix that. She can also "transmogrify" items, altering their appearance. So if you find a really good upgrade, but think it looks ugly as shit, you can pay her to just make it look like another item of the same type. For someone like me who cares a lot about cosmetic customisation in games, this is a very welcome addition.

Some real nice environments in the new expansion,

Some real nice environments in the new expansion,

As for the actual new act, it's pretty good. I've only played through it once, but it felt to be of decent length. At least, much longer than the mostly disappointing act IV. Most of the new enemy types aren't particularly interesting, in my opinion, however, the new environment designs are probably among the best in the entire game. Strong art design has always been one of Blizzard's strengths and it definition shows here.

If you care at all about Diablo III, the expansion is definitely a worthy addition and worth picking up. If you haven't played the game much since release, you should probably give it another go. Even before the expansion there have been a number of improvements that have made the game vastly more enjoyable and rewarding to play. You don't need to upgrade to the expansion to experience the benefits of the new loot system. This is the Diablo III that should've been there at launch.