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.

What's up folks, it's that time of the year again. The time where everybody indulges in a vast bout of navel-gazing over the past year of video games. Last year, I presented to you the games I thought were totally alright that year, so naturally it's time to do that again. Like last year, these are in absolutely no particular order and need only have been released in 2013 (and played and enjoyed by me) to be listed here.

BioShock Infinite

Might as well get some of the big hitters out of the way first. Crazy to think that it was all the back in March that Irrational's most recent masterpiece hit the shelves. While a lot of people, for a multitude of reasons haven't been particularly kind to the game in hindsight, I maintain the same opinion of Infinite that I held when I first played it: A greatly atmospheric, well-paced game, with combat that was as fun as ever (albeit, a little streamlined), with among the best characterisation I've seen in a video game. A worthy successor to '07's BioShock, I just prey we don't have to wait as long for the next major offering from Ken Levine and company.

Diablo III (Console Version)

I'll admit, this one is a little bit of a cop-out, since Diablo III originally came to us on PC back in 2012. But the shiny new console versions only released a couple of months ago, back in September, and a 2013 release is the only qualification a game needs to be here, dammit! The consolised version of the premier clicking-stuff-until-it-dies simulator actually surprised me by how well it played. Having direct control of your character on an analogue stick is fantastic, and even aiming the more precise spells the game offers you works pretty well with a loose lock-on type system. Add on to that a revamped loot system that made it so you got better gear, more tailored to your character, more often, made the sections of the game that would otherwise be a bit of a grind a lot more compelling to play. The moment I managed to find 3 seperate legendary items within 30 seconds of one another will stick with me for a while.

Persona 4 Arena

We got it here in Europe in May, so that's all the excuse I need to put it here! A fighting game I picked up mostly because the original Persona 4 sits among my favourite games ever, so the opportunity to enjoy some new content in that world with those characters was absolutely something I couldn't pass up. It just happened that because of that love of the source material, P4A ended up being the first fighter I ever made any real attempt to not play by simply mashing buttons. I've sinced moved on to Street Fighter 4, but I like to think it was Persona 4 Arena that sparked my now greater interest in fighting games as a whole.

Fire Emblem: Awakening

So, I've never really been into strategy RPGs. Back in the day, I played (and fucking loved) Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, but that game didn't spur me on to try others in the genre, and I'd certainly never played a Fire Emblem game before. But something about FE:A's blend of somewhat loose, but still deep and rewarding gameplay and good storytelling intrigued me. And while I'll admit it's a game I need to get back to at some point (I never said I had to have completed the games featured here!), I've played enough of it to know that yes, I would like some more, please.

Grand Theft Auto V

I think at this point it would be impossible for a Grand Theft Auto game to release and not be featured in some sort of end-of-year best of. Every major title in the series since 2001's GTA3 has been fantastic and Rockstar's latest offering certainly doesn't buck that trend. The decision to include three seperate protagonists that can be switched between (almost) at will was nothing short of genius. The grey and serious tone that defined GTA4 was toned down significantly (though not to levels of the PS2 games' silliness) with the result being I almost couldn't put the game down until I reached its conclusion. Shame the online component turned out to be a bit shit.

Tomb Raider

I was never a fan of Tomb Raider. Gunning down a t-rex with pistols akimbo and locking your butler in the freezer was cool, sure, but the games were mostly awkward platforming, with awkward combat and a bunch of awkward puzzles, and a main character who had less depth than a couple of watermelons glued to a broomstick. So when Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics decided to reboot the franchise and make a game that didn't control like arse and had a sympathetic and (mostly) believable character, I was down like a clown. Sure, the roughly 5 minute transition from unarmed, badly wounded, innocent young woman to shooting a bunch of dudes in their faces can be a little hard to swallow, the result is a cinematic experience that rivals Uncharted, with a larger world that is actually enjoyable to explore. Not sure how Lara's boobs manage to stay so perfectly in place with just a tanktop throughout all the beatings the game just loves to give her though.

Broken Sword 5: The Serpents Curse (Episode 1)

Although the final part isn't out until early next year, The Serpents Curse, the latest, kickstarted entry into one of my most beloved series is a return to the more classic point-and-click style of the first two games, rather than the 3D ones that put a bit of a stain on the franchise. While it ends just as the story really starts to get going, everything up to that is filled with the funny, well written (and acted) dialogue that made me so fond of the original games. With a perhaps over-reliance of returning characters that don't hit home as well as they should due to different voice actors, George and Nico are, however as great as they've ever been. Just a shame it won't be till 2014 until we see how the plot is really going to shape up.

The Last of Us

I struggle to think of any game that was so anticipated before release, and then actually lived up to all the hype, but if there's any developer that can do that, it's Naughty Dog. 2013 was a fucking great year for video game storytelling, and Joel and Ellie's story is up there with the best of them. Great plot, great pacing, great cast of characters, one of the most memorable openings to a game I can think of and a satisfying ending. As well as that, the gameplay wasn't just another Uncharted, but a more methodical game that required you to slow down and plan ahead. Even the multiplayer was really fun. Hell, the only gripe I really had with the game was that the achievements sucked.

BIT.TRIP Presents... Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien

Challenging, yet completely rewarding gameplay, great music, and a fantastically goofy sense of style. Not bad for £12.

Pokémon X/Y

There's something that always gets me giddy at the thought of a new generation of Pokémon games, yet I always play less and less of them as they go on. Not because they're getting worse, but because I have less time to play single games, and more money to buy other games. Spending a couple hundred hours filling up my pokédex in Silver was feasible, because I was just a kid, with a lot more free time, but no dosh to buy all those other rad games I wanted. X and Y had me particularly excited, because it's the first set of mainline Pokémon games to be released on new hardware in what seems like forever. It was only 2007 that Diamond and Pearl released, but it still feels like they dwelled too long on the same hardware. Just something about having two seperate generations of Pokémon on the same system didn't sit well with me. You could argue that Gold and Silver were still Gameboy games, but c'mon: Those games were designed for the Gameboy Color. X and Y to me feels like the first major step up in quality in a long, long time, especially so since these are the first ones to transition to full 3D, as opposed to using character sprites. Almost everything about it just feels super well made. The new region is awesome to explore for the first time, the new Pokémon are well designed for the most part, and the soundtrack contains some of the best pieces in the entire series, in my opinion. And there's also a bunch of changes to the battle system that should affect the metagame in interesting ways, you know, if you're into that. They added a new pokémon type! They haven't done that in over a decade!

Honourable Mention: Persona 4 Golden

Because we didn't get it here until February lol. Some day, I will spend a few thousand words here gushing about that game like I did Final Fantasy X.

So there you have it: the 10 games from this year that I deem to be totally okay. I'll be honest, I struggled towards the end there. Not because there weren't that many good games that came out this year, but simply because I just didn't play a lot of them. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and Gone Home are the two that stick out most in my mind, and I didn't play enough of Papers, Please to formulate much of an opinion on it. I always have a huge backlog of games, and this certainly wasn't the year where I made strides to try and improve that. Maybe next year? Probably not.

As for future content, I have a fairly big idea swirling about in my head, and should it come to fruition, you'll likely find it over at GAEMZnet. If that does happen, that site will be reborn with a name that isn't GAEMZnet because that name is totally dumb and I hate it now. This content idea will likely require the co-operation of a few mates and by putting it here in writing, maybe I can inspire some motivation into a few of them, since I'm not sure I could do it alone. So watch this space. Or that space. Whatever. VAGUE ALLUSIONS TO FUTURE CONTENT THAT PROBABLY WON'T HAPPEN YEAH.