Thursday, January 7, 2016

Otaku's Best of 2015

Following are my best picks for manga, books, anime and dramas and movies I read or watched in 2015. I honestly didn't watch too much anime this year and of what I did watch there were only a few series worth mentioning. On the other hand, I watched a lot of dramas and movies, so that section is going to be a bit larger this year as there were several worth mentioning. While I live in hope that I will one day give extended reviews of the titles listed below, history tells me I probably will not do this for the majority of them. I like to start off my year with a realistic outlook on my resolutions.

For the few people who actually read my blog, do you have any recommendations for me to watch or read in 2016? I'm always on the lookout for a new favorite.

My Best Manga Reads of 2015

Love Com
Love Com by Aya Nakahara: I actually tried reading this series a few years ago and didn't get past the first volume. However, after watching the Lovely Complex movie this year I decided to give it another chance and I'm glad that I did. It's funny, quirky, and a little romantic. I loved watching Risa's and Otoni's relationship slowly develop from friendship to something more. I also felt the author realistically portrayed the awkwardness of first love and unrequited love between friends. I will say the first two volumes hover around a 3/5 stars rating, but if you stick with the series it's a solid 4/5 stars. 
Kyou no Kira-kun
Kyou no Kira-kun by Rin Mikimoto: So I'm currently only in volume five of this series, but only because I live in America and it hasn't been officially translated into English. I'm basically relying on fan translated online scans which I'm eternally grateful for. This is such a cute and bizarre series. It's one of those rare finds that's both strange and beautiful. It follows the lives of a reformed (kind of) asshole, a social outcast, and her talking parrot. There are other characters, but these are really the only three I'm interested in. I love the story; it's melodramatic in the best possible way.  
Orange by Ichigo Takano: This was an instant favorite! Granted, I still haven't finished the series, but it would have to take some incredibly bad writing in the later volumes to ruin this series for me (something I doubt the author is capable of doing). The premise of this series is fresh and the story crafting is beautiful and spans a range of genres from science fiction, mystery, romance, to drama. There are two interwoven stories, separated by ten years, being told simultaneously. There is a lot of emotion in the series as the author explores some heavy issues like suicide and the impact it has on those left behind. It's impossible not to feel with these characters trying to make sense of their loss by attempting the impossible. 
Chocolat by Ji-Sang Shin: This is technically a manhwa, but I didn't want to make another category so I'm including it in this section. I've yet to read a manhwa where I didn't feel confused at some point with the dialog or the continuity of the story. And while this series is no exception, I thoroughly enjoyed every volume in it regardless of any confusion I might have experienced while reading it. It basically follows the lives of a new k-pop group and a fangirl who joins their fandom to get close to another k-pop group whom she actually cares about. A ridiculously over the top and unbelievable premise, with the expected melodrama, but I loved the series anyway. 

My Best Book Reads of 2015

Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie: The protagonist of this book has such an honest and authentic voice that it easily absorbs the reader into the narrative. The internal dialog of Junior is a mix of crude humor, genuine emotion, and angst coupled with profound thoughtfulness that is undeniably the voice of a teenage boy. I also liked how the artwork in the book enhanced the story. I alternated between laughter and tears while reading this.  
Kindred Kindred by Octavia Butler: I would recommend this to everyone! It's unique premise is what first drew me to the book, but the characters are what really made me love the book. It was incredibly easy to connect with them and get lost in their lives. I worried, feared, hated, and loved with them. And Dana is one of the most believable characters I've come across. She has a voice that resonates with me on several levels. I plan on reading more books by this author; Butler's a new favorite. 
Dead Heat
Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs: I love the Alpha and Omega series and this installment did not disappoint. The antagonist in this book is a special kind of creepy that beckoned me to continue reading. The world building in Briggs' series does an amazing job of incorporating real life with the darker side of fantasy. Loved the book, love the series. I highly recommend both. 
Take Me On
Take Me On by Katie McGarry: I think at least one of her books has made it on to my favorites list since I began blogging. This series is just phenomenal. I'm always surprised by how much I enjoy each character McGarry introduces in her series. Each new character's story becomes my new favorite eclipsing the book before it. 
Giver The Giver by Lois Lowry: Considering it's brevity this is one powerful book. There is an "Aha!" moment that is kind of amazing and an ambiguous ending that left me eager for the next in the series. This is a quick read well worth the small amount of time you'll spend reading it. 

My Best Anime Finds of 2015

My Love Story!
My Love Story!: It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of High School Debut, so when I heard Kawahara had written a new series and that it was getting its own anime I HAD to watch it. It still kills me that High School Debut never got an anime, so there was no way I was missing out on this. This is such a cute love story with a sort of a Beauty and the Beast vibe, only the "Beast" (aka Takeo) doesn't start out as a dick. He was always pretty awesome, but because he's not traditionally handsome, but instead a sort of large awkward and intense gorilla like person, he's looked down upon. Not only is this a cute romance, it's also a pretty cool bromance. It's just as much about Takeo's and Sunagawa's friendship as it it about Takeo's and Yamato's romance. I loved the anime and plan to read the manga as I'm sure it's equally as amazing. No bias at all, I swear!
Soul Eater Not! Soul Eater NOT!: Okay, so this Soul Eater spin off series has a lot more fan service in it than the original Soul Eater series, but if you can get past all of that it's a fun watch. I liked the idea of seeing the events of the original series told from the perspective of the underdogs and it was cool seeing some of the original characters again. While I would have preferred less fan service I still enjoyed the series. I hate that the only way Funimation will pick up a series is if it's hardcore shonen or has a lot of fan service, but that's another topic all together.
Anohana Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day: I absolutely LOVED this anime! There is so much pain and guilt in this series, but there is also that much love, forgiveness, and friendship. This has one of the cooler premises in this line up and a twist in the first episode that will surprise you. The ending is perfect. I might have ugly cried my way through the last two episodes. It's just that good.
Durarara!! Durarara!!: I didn't realize when I first started watching this that it was written by the same author as Baccano! However, by the first episode it was kind of obvious. Both series have the sort of disjointed nonlinear storytelling where you'll see events from one point of view and then in the next episode see the same events or related events from another point of view. I love this type of story crafting. It's complexity keeps the story fresh and interesting. I also love the fast pace of the storytelling and the intensity and playfulness of the characters.

My Best Drama & Movie Finds of 2015

Say I Love You Say I Love You: This is without a doubt one of the best manga series adaptations. While it changes some things around, which is expected due to format constraints, it remains true to the spirit of the series and the overall story arc. The acting is on point; Mei and Yamato were brought to life by the actors who played them, as if they stepped out of the manga pages and into our reality. I also love the soundtrack, especially One Direction's "Happily." The song and movie are forever linked in my mind. My only complaint is that the movie has been released on DVD and Blu-Ray, but without official English subtitles so I still don't own a copy.
Bokura Ga Ita Bokura Ga Ita Part I & II: I pretty much love every adaptation of We Were There that's been done and the live action adaptation is no exception. It's such a beautiful adaptation of the series and I'm so happy they broke the story into two movies as it's a love story that spans about ten years. The music in both of the movies is poignantly perfect for the emotion of the series as well. I highly recommend both movies. 
Love Com Love Com: This is hands down one of the funniest movies I watched this year. It's a perfect fit for the manga series as the over the top acting fits perfectly with the tone of the manga series. It also has one of my favorite scenes in a movie; the part where Otoni let's Risa down while on their class trip. It's a perfect blend of awkwardness and heartache. I also love how Maity is always introduced with a weird pose and a rainbow. Hilarious!
Shut Up Flower Boy Band Shut Up Flower Boy Band: I love movies that follow the lives of bands and this did not disappoint. It's so full of angst and ridiculous plot points that include a sort of homicide that I just had to keep watching. It also doesn't hurt that it's full of eye see what I did there. But no really, it's a fun movie with some fun music that will get stuck in your head.
Strobe Edge Strobe Edge: This is an amazing adaptation of the manga series. I'm torn between Say I Love You or Strobe Edge for my favorite Japanese live action adaptation. They are both just so good. I love the way the movie was filmed with a sort of quick flash back to explain the history between Ninako and Ren. Speaking of Ninako and Ren, the actors did an excellent job bringing them to life. They felt authentic. However, I didn't care for how Ando was portrayed...a little too much of the creep that doesn't really match his character from the manga. Regardless, I LOVED the movie!
Ao Haru Ride Ao Haru Ride: While I preferred the live action adaptation of Strobe Edge better, this is still a good adaptation of one of Sakisaka's works. There were a lot of changes from the manga series, but I think it still kept true to the spirit of the series. Also, I think the actors who play Futaba and Kou did a good job portraying the characters. What I especially like about this movie is how it was just as much about the characters' friendships with each other as it was a romance between Futaba and Kou which is what I like best about the anime and manga series. I actually found I preferred the live action over the manga series, but I like the anime over both.
Sensory Couple Sensory Couple: This has such a quirky premise that I couldn't help but watch it. And to be honest I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I started it, but I was sucked into the series pretty quickly. I loved the romance between the two main characters and adored the sort of amnesia aspect of it all and the absurd coincidence that the two main protagonists and the antagonist all have sensory issues and have a interconnected past. Also, the "villain" has the BEST library. Seriously, I kind of didn't care that he was a crazy serial killer; I was willing to overlook this for a shot at his library. Also, he's pretty hot which doesn't know until he kills you. It's a sort of murder mystery thriller with some epic cuteness thrown in.
Devil Beside You The Devil Beside You: You have to go into this Taiwanese drama with the understanding that it's going to be kind of ridiculous to truly appreciate it. There are multiple attempts of murder, fight scenes, and a truly horrific Christmas tree decorating contest where arguably the worst tree won. Also, a Christmas tree is set on fire at the end of the series to convey love somehow. Seriously, it's kind of epic in its absurdity. Also, the chemistry between Mike He and Rainie Yang is realistic to point where I kind of ship them in real life. (I usually refrain from shipping people in real life because it's weird and kind of creepy, but it's hard not to want them to be an actual couple.)
Why Why Love Why Why Love: After watching The Devil Beside You, I had to watch everything Mike He and Rainie Yang were in together which unfortunately is not much. I actually liked Why Why Love better than The Devil Beside You, because I thought Rainie Yang's character was much stronger in this series. In The Devil Beside You she's a bit of a damsel, wherein Why Why Love she's a bad ass who puts up with very little crap from either of the protagonists. Also, I love the music in both series; Rainie Yang's voice is both playful and melancholic.