- “Mountain Confession” From Hibike! Euphonium
- “Inconsolable defeat” From God Eater
- “Maria’s Imprisonment” From Maria The Virgin Witch
- “Sodachi’s Family” From Owarimonogatari
- “The Real Thing” From SNAFU TOO!
Some of the entries on the list here are from series I was less than fond of (Euphonium, God Eater), but that didn’t prevent them from shining at some points.
Kyoto Animation played things too safely with Euphonium for me to really consider it visually impressive, with weak character designs and a questionable brown colour choice that, though it worked very well for Attack On Titan, felt more mundane than grounded here. However, this was all pushed aside as the stunning mountain-top set piece in the second half of episode 8 almost made though earlier 7 episodes of mediocrity forgivable. Reina, the most promising character up until that point, revealed her true feelings to Kumiko, the protagonist, making some very delicate gestures as the animation went from bland to grand. The lighting was sharp and perfect, as was the music and general atmosphere, and this moment gave birth to much shipping and fan-fiction. The series only approached this level of strong scene composition again in episode 11, but this stands as a reminder that beneath the uninspired Moe pandering and directionless stories, Kyoto Animation have some very skilled staff.
God Eater was a very controversial series in 2015, with the experimental CGI heavy animation style being fairly hit-and-miss and the cliché characters preventing it from serving as anything more than fan service for the fans of the original video game. However, director Takayuki Hirao (responsible for what many consider to be the best of the Garden of Sinners Movies) has a sharp eye for pressing atmosphere and desperation, and that shone through here more so than any other point so far. The Black Vajra is a very forbidding antagonist, with his electric powers, seemingly human-level intelligence and glowing red eyes, he defeated Lenka and Co. so badly that they spent several episodes later feeling beaten down. The literal blood shower and failure to save any refugees was icing on the cake. The strongest of them was made paltry, their seemingly indestructible weapons ruined and their bodies barely in tact, this was the most horrific beatdown of the year.
Maria the Virgin Witch had many great moments from episode to episode, with the finale being a constant stream of character-defining, hard-earned conclusions. Most emotional of these would have to be when Maria was imprisoned by the Church and stoned by the people she devoted her life to protecting. This was very tense; the townspeople would be accused of heresy if they sided with her, but the alternative is to let a friend who had saved them so many times in the past die. This moments screams “Unfair” for so many reasons, and the emotional build-up is what made the ending of Maria the Virgin Witch so effective. Add that to the tension stirred up among witches, soldiers and her underlings, and Maria’s imprisonment was an emotionally stirring, resonant experience.
In tradition with the overly verbose style that the Monogatari series has become known for, the reveal of Sodachi’s mother’s condition was extremely dramatically effective without falling into melodrama. The complex psychology of happiness is discussed here in great detail, and this made for some thought-provoking dialogue. Had Ougi been present, Hanekawa would probably not have been able to resolve the situation, though Sodachi did seem to be a bit complicated for me to completely grasp the first time around, though later explanations cleared this up considerably. This is one of the darkest point in a series than has proven that it isn’t afraid of tackling loaded topics, and it was executed in such a way that one of 2015’s best series earned it’s finale.
The emotional and visual pinnacle of SNAFU’s second season came in the 8th episode, where Hachiman reveals that in spite of his observations that everyone lives out their highschool lives in easy archetypes, he wants real relationships and real connections. This scene showed both Yukinoshita and Hachiman in a state they had never, and since have never, been in, with their cynical, calculating views of the world parting for a more personal conversation. Tetsuya Takeuchi’s strong key animation, with his signature minimum-frames for maximum-impact style works wonders, with the usually fluid and impersonal animation being replaced by something more raw and distinct, much like the series it self. In terms of intimacy, this is the most powerful moment in anime I experienced this year, so much so it was almost intoxicating, but it is the most memorable moment of the year for me, and unlike some of the above entries, it totally deserved a scene like this.