For Part II, I decided to have a little fun, with highlights for not just my favourite -deres and pretty boys, but also my picks for the year’s most memorable, notable and absurd ships, good and bad.
Strap yourselves in, folks, in case you are angered that your yaoi or yuri fantasies weren’t fulfilled. (and incest isn’t wincest…unless I say it is.)
Top 10 Notable Ships (Good, Bad and the Absurd)
10. Adlet x Fremy (Rokka no Yuusha) | GOOD
As a relative asspull in terms of plot progression (with the show actually acknowledging it, by letting Fremy almost granting Adlet his death wish), I couldn’t help but actually seeing this relationship blossom. In fact, I seriously want it to: a misunderstood warrior with a big ego, but an even bigger heart, coupling up with an unfortunately shunned half-demon, sent to kill all the Braves, but was instead betrayed by her own devil kin. Fremy’s presence in the show seemed to be weighing on a part of my brain, that just makes me want to tear up, after witnessing her loneliness: she deserves unconditional love, as a girl who has suffered more than her short life has bargained for.
Fremy is perhaps the most likeable and sympathetic character of all the Braves, in my book anyways: see past her cold exterior and you find a frail girl, who’s begging for solidarity, but is actually craving compassion. Adlet’s interactions with her were among the most touching of the entire show, with much emotional connections made with her during those campfire conversations.
As for Adlet himself: I give him props in PROVING his love for Fremy, but I still find it sketchy. Whilst the show did well in proving Adlet’s love, it doesn’t show much of the progress, in terms of Adlet FALLING in love with Fremy (unless this really is one of those ‘I don’t know, I just fell in love with her at first sight’ situations), as they journeyed towards certain death. Maybe the light novels will share more background on this relationship, but as far as the anime goes: there’s isn’t much to show us how and why Adlet fell in love with Fremy, who was at the time, an apathetic and emotionally distant sniper, who hated any interactions with humans.
Perhaps Adlet was observant enough to see the softer side of Fremy, as the moment he first saw her, Fremy’s face was etched with gentle melancholy, as she returned a puppy back to its parent, but that’s about it.
Nevertheless, I ship these two, purely based on my belief that Fremy f*cking deserves a man in her life…and because Adlet was brave (and stupid) enough to prove how genuine he is, even with a pissed off half-demon with a big gun and a dumb mountain lady chasing him, calling for his head on a pike.
9. Nagato x Kyon (Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan) | GOOD
First of all: yes, I found the sexual tension between Kyon and the unknowing goddess of the universe to be amusing and charming in its own right, but as a standalone side story, this surprisingly entertaining show (especially that amazing middle arc) had me legitimately rooting for Nagato…well…one version of her, at least.
My lord…Kyon must be a super nice guy in every goddamn timeline, if he managed to seduce God and TWO versions of Nagato.
Ahem*, during the second arc of the 16 episode series, a certain incident rendered Nagato unconscious. A different person awoke in place of the old Nagato.
In the Disappearance film (featuring the alternate world, of which this side series also takes place), fans around the world drooled at the blushing kawaii Nagato, as a normal but shy dating sim player, who couldn’t get herself to confess to the nice guy that randomly decided to help her register a library card. To be honest, whilst I liked this Nagato, this isn’t the x Kyon ship that I approved of. That’s right, Nagato 2.0 (aka. the original, android-ish version) got my seal of approval, and its mainly due to the execution of the middle arc’s progression.
I’ll be honest here: shy Nagato had no chance, and the show seemed to think so, too, as it had no sense of character progression until the incident. Alternatively, the more quiet and stoic Nagato’s story surprisingly had a more tragic and bittersweet undertone, with studies regarding one’s own identity and the inevitability of losing that sense of identity. Nagato 2.0’s resolve to curve out her own self and confess on her own terms, even with the knowledge that she’ll disappear before long, is one that resonated with me deeply: kinda like witnessing a Romeo & Juliet love story, except you already know the outcome.
The park bench confession was perhaps one of the most no-nonsense anime confessions I’ve seen in a while (especially considering the almost harem-like set up here, with three identities after Kyon’s heart): no endless blushing, just a straight-up ‘I love you’ over the phone, ending with an almost instant reaction from Kyon, followed by the bittersweet resolution. Too bad Nagato 2.0 didn’t get to see her handiwork.
You might’ve noticed, how one-sided this post is: yes, Kyon doesn’t have much of an emotional presence in this fictional relationship; despite me approving it. It’s literally all Nagato. Not a good sign, king of snark.
8. Zen x Shirayuki (Snow White With the Red Hair) | GOOD
A rather tough one for me to disapprove, yet an even more harder one to truly invest in: the entire relationship is functional, and not much else, to be honest.
However, the show does a decent job at selling the notion, that Zen and Shirayuki completes each other’s resolves, to walk their own paths of destiny: Zen learns to do his paper work, and Shirayuki starts to learn to get over her workaholic tendencies, all well and good.
Here’s the problem: both characters are likable and good people, both realises their affections for each other, their embraces aplenty and they never have any tensions between each other. Sound exactly like a Disney relationship: pleasant, but unrealistic. And yes, perhaps that was the point, as the brunt of the relational tensions present in the show were almost entirely from external influences, from an idiotic prince of a neighbouring country, to an overbearing older brother.
And yet, I ship these two. Hypocrite? Perhaps…but despite the above issues; issues of which I shouldn’t be dwelling upon, purely because IT’S ANIME; I see no point in disrupting the ship like a jealous shark: the overarching themes of the show deals with self-determination, and the relationship acts like a literal representation. I’m cool with that.
7. Ikki x Stella (Chivalry of a Failed Knight) | BAD
And this is where tomatoes will start getting into throwing positions…I find nothing REALLY *bad* or overly offensive about this getup, hell, there some damn good dynamics between these two that I would KILL to see more in other anime or light novels of this fashion. However, its the surrounding gunk that made me hesitate about this ship and eventually made me deciding against it. Frog-kun’s reasonings against this ship were sufficient, but I feel that my take on this relationship will need some extra explaining, including the POSITIVE aspects of the ship.
“You’d need to have some pretty low standards to call Rakudai Kishi a quality romance” – Froggy (A fellow scum of the earth)
Let’s start with the good, shall we? The confession was quick and both members of the relationship are sexually honest with each other, as showcased by the cottage fireplace scene, where the usual ‘HENTAI!’ reactions to Ikki’s erection (i.e. a natural function of the male body) wasn’t utilised for tired comedy, and Stella’s suggestion to making love was rejected without fuss, based on understandable ethics. Stella is evidently oblivious (‘doesn’t care’ seems more likely, actually) about the bullshit social and political implications of her romantic relationship with ‘The Worst One’, and Ikki’s oblivious to the typical harem-leader reaction of catching a girl in her panties: his immediate reaction was wanting to balance out the status quo: he caught a girl naked, so he should let the girl see him naked too! It didn’t feel like a perverted reaction at all, it genuinely felt like a nature progression of Ikki’s sense of a ‘fair outcome’.
But the problems fan out from there. The relationship simply doesn’t develop, Stella’s original status as a badass Blazer was quickly sidelined; Stella never gets an extended on-screen battle after the first episode; and her presence almost felt like a commentator on how awesome Ikki is. To word it in the worst (and perhaps the most efficiently accurate) way: Stella’s status almost got demoted to being just a model trophy wife at times. Even if Ikki doesn’t feel that way about her, the show certainly portrayed her as one: an emotional power boost when Ikki needs one.
In many ways, this relationship’s general association as a welcome change was mainly due to the light novel (and the show) cutting a lot of the fat from a typically tiring romantic snooze-fest (no endless blushing, needless distractions and frenemy relationships): what you get left with however, after the confession, is wasted potential: we are left to guess why Ikki and Stella are romantically attracted to each other, since the show didn’t allow screen time to develop this mutual relationship.
Granted, the hints to why this relationship was inevitable were pretty obvious: both characters feel trapped by societal expectations, despite being at opposite ends of the social spectrum. Quoting from my Fall 2015 overview:
One’s trying to ascend uphill whilst the other is struggling to climb down to recognition.
As a relationship initiator, this works really well. However, the execution of this relational dynamic was uneven in the show, with almost no explorations except during the opposite ends of the series.
As a typical example of a badly executed good premise, Ikki x Stella is not a good ship.
6. Hotaru x Komari (Non Non Biyori Repeat) | BAD & ABSURD
…I honestly don’t even know why this is a thing…WHAT’S THE POINT OF TEASING THIS?! Granted, no official ships (God forbid), no fanfics that go overboard with this, as far as I can tell, but the hints present in Non Non Biyori’s both seasons were enough to irritate me. Hell, a large portion of an episode was dedicated to Hotaru trying to hide those Komari dolls from the visitors.
Creepy. That’s the only word from me. Good show with one REALLY bad apple.
5. Yato x Hiyori (Noragami Aragoto) | GOOD
Another great example of not just a sweet relationship, but also one that retains a great deal of bittersweet and depressing implications, if one were to be realistic with their imaginations: Yato is a God, Hiyori is a human, who; as far as everyone can tell; will die eventually.
One of the major relational anchors between our main trio is based on this possibility (and perhaps inevitability) that Hiyori will leave the two boys behind one day: in some ways, Yukine’s even more wary of this than Yato, as shown in Aragoto, when one of his friends told him about the forgotten love between him and a mortal girl. Hiyori’s influence on both Yato and Yukine is one that resembles a moral compass and as a guide for compassion: Hiyori literally saved Yato from destruction and her good nature is one of the main driving forces that’s keeping Yato from going back to his old days of calamity.
There are many clues to Yato and Hiyori’s mutual affections for each other, suggesting that it’s more than just a mother & son relationship (more like a ‘wife takes the lead’ relationship, to be honest). This was showcased in a number of ways, from both viewpoints: Hiyori’s stubborn stance against leaving Yato’s side, her clear discomfort when she was on the verge of forgetting Yato, of whom she knows subconsciously as someone who is special to her, and her willingness to be blighted, in order to save Yato. This was met with Yato’s anger at the possibility, that Bishamon had kidnapped Hiyori for personal vendetta, and his absolutely heart-felt gratitude, for having received his first shrine in perhaps centuries from Hiyori. He can dream all he want about that golden crown of his, but it’s clear that Hiyori’s painstakingly handmade, toy-like shrine is his reason for still existing.
Also come on, Hiyori’s cute and Yato’s simply adorable. Perfect couple, right there.
4. Rize x Sharo (Is the order a rabbit??) | ABSURD
This one shares similar blood with the above Hotaru x Komari situation, but at least this one played it a lot more humorously, instead of a closet creep who makes dolls of her favourite kawaii senpai. I find nothing offensive about this relationship dynamic, whatsoever, in fact, I find the one-sidedness quite adorable, even though I realise its purely comedic intentions in the entire group dynamic of our girls hanging around the rabbit town.
Plus, Sharo is HHHHHMMMMMMMMM *Nose bleeds and faints*. (But I stand by with the belief, that Cocoa is best girl).
3. Takeo x Rinko (My Love Story!!) | GOOD & ABSURD
If many anime romantic comedies are shunned because of how f*cking long they need to hook up, My Love Story!! collects these situations together, and plow through them all in one push. Essentially, the show is a cliché-smasher: the couple gets put into situations that are way too familiar to rom-com regulars, but instead, Takeo and Rinko react to them in completely mirrored fashions that magically resolves the potential issue without any fuss. Totally unrealistic, but that’s the point.
For 24 episodes, your head gets bashed in with the pretty obvious notion, that Takeo and Rinko are the abnormal perfect couple, and you totally buy it, despite the TOTALLY UNFAIR (hold it together, jealous asshole…) convenience of it all.
2. Hak x Yona (Yona of the Dawn) | GOOD
Making one more trip back to more conventional couplings, Hak and Yona share one of the most hilarious and violently endearing (if you have a significant other, you will know how that feels) relationships of 2015: Hak finds pleasure in teasing Yona in whichever way he can, yet he struggles with his inner feelings that are tempting him to advance his relationship with the princess, beyond just being her loyal protector. Yona’s incredibly noble but childishly innocent nature makes a perfect foil to Hak’s advances, being both a sensitive girl when it comes to looks, and pathetically under-lectured when it comes to more…adult subjects.
In addition, Yona’s increasingly crowded band of merry men only means more competition for Hak. Also no pressure, but Yona’s still in love with the pretty boy who murdered her father…the pain of the friend zone, eh?
Come on Hak, you can do better.
Come on Yona, Hak loves you, just f*cking take him!
1. Reina x Kumiko (Hibike! Euphonium) | GOOD & BAD
And thus, we arrived at the definitive yuri ship of the year. Whether or not it’s due to a fandom-wide reaction to the touchingly (trust me…this word has an entirely different meaning in this subtext) intimate episode 8, featuring the girls touching noses and talking about becoming special, the yuri atmosphere present between these two girls were developed to such a state, that only a rock statue would remain oblivious to it. Also, the mastery of human interactions on Kyoto Animation’s part had a very significant hand in this, quite obviously.
Let me provide some perspective, in regards to my bipolar rating: by no means, do I have any social or political standings against same-sex coupling, none whatsoever (hell, I’m questioning my own sexuality, as of right now O.o). If I were to judge this potential ship, based on the masterful scripting and framing of the relationship between Kumiko and Reina alone, there would be no competition in terms of how well constructed this ship is. In fact, there isn’t.
My problems stems mainly from Reina’s character: a rather interesting choice for a fandom favourite, among a cast where there are far better candidates to choose from, in my opinion. Reina’s character is defined by her greed for recognition and a fear of failure, which rendered her antisocial and kind of an asshole as a consequence. When observing her as an explorational representation as one of the facets in musical personalities, I kinda get why she was portrayed in such a ruthlessly determined manner. However, that doesn’t mean *I* have to like her. For totally personal reasons, she reminds me of the worst of high school ensemble life: pretentious ‘elite’ players who; despite earning respect for practicing their music tirelessly; saw no harm in ruthless criticism of new musicians, with the reasoning being the need of a ‘perfect performance’. It was an issue I dealt with constantly, as a section leader in choir, having to offset some of my fellow leader panels’ more negative inputs with less spiteful remarks.
Is Reina an interesting character? Hell yeah, she is! However, there simply isn’t much material to make her a LIKEABLE one, as supposed to how much Natsuki has managed to achieve, in terms of having an effortless sense of coolness and a good-natured vibe, which made her one of MY favourite characters from the series. I never saw Reina attempt to cheer up a classmate or section when they are down (it goes against her supposed code, banning ‘fake’ relationships), nor did I see her sign messages of encouragement on other players’ music sheets before the competition, her apology to Kaori felt utterly half-hearted (not to mention going AGAINST her code of not trying to form useless relationships) and her only reason for liking Kumiko was HER supposed terrible personality. Yeah, a well developed character, but pretty difficult to like.
Granted, her views on fake sentimentality is shared by yours truly: there’s no point in commenting or liking a Facebook post, if I don’t feel anything towards it, for instance. Maybe I’m being too harsh on the girl, but as of right now, after 3 rewatchings of the series, this opinion still stands: I don’t see Reina as a likeable character.
I think one of the reasons for my negative reaction for Reina, was because I never saw her interact much with any other characters other than Kumiko. The reason why I found Kumiko to be a much more compelling character, despite her unapologetic and bored outlook on social life, was because I DID see her interact with more characters. Whilst Reina’s struggle throughout the series, was one of disdain, for not having a platform, from which to showcase her individuality as an awesome trumpet player, Kumiko’s struggles were more relatable and realistic: regretting her overly honest mouth’s comments, the fear of emotional investment and failing that expectation of winning and of course, wanting to improve on her musicianship, because of Reina’s influence on her. In addition to that, Kumiko interacts with far more characters on screen, including her trio group with Hazuki and Sapphire. She also played a significant role in cheering up her friend, when she felt strangely lost as a new music player, and her friendship with Natsuki was also well-developed and rather touching at times.
Ok, I think that’s enough. Better end this before it gets out of hand. Phew, that was a mouthful…
BONUS: Kamunagi of Chains (Saraana & Uruuru) x Haku (Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen) | BAD & ABSURD
This is wrong on so many levels…
Yep, that’s it. I’m done.
As my first shipping segment, that went longer than I previously planned…Eh, whatever, ONTO THE NEXT SEGMENT.
Favourite Characters of 2015
Side note: My favourite characters tend to be GOOD people. So don’t expect some excruciatingly evil villain to get on this list, anytime soon.
5. Sunakawa (My Love Story!!)
Put simply, this guy’s the best bro any person can have. If I was more willing in breaking the unbreakable law of shipping Takeo with anyone BUT Rinko, Sunakawa would still be wearing that plastic wrap, struggling through a kissing lesson with Takeo.
Seriously, Sunakawa literally floats around like a chill angel, totally oblivious (or just doesn’t give a shit) about his good looks and how he’s making every female creature in the nearby vicinity swoon: anyone who teases Takeo or anyone he cares about, won’t be getting any of him, in return.
A good guy, purely based on the fact that he puts his friends before him.
Consider how, and why this guy’s literally the only male character who made the list.
4. Kumiko (Hibike! Euphonium)
It’s rather interesting, considering how unconventional of a main character Kumiko is: she doesn’t really fit into the ‘too cool for school’ type, since she did pick the high school based on how cute the uniforms were, and appears to be somewhat interested in relational interactions. But she also doesn’t fit into the ‘I can be whatever I want, LET’S PARTY’ trope, since she appears rather disinterested in something she has obvious talent in.
But overall, despite the slow start, Kumiko’s growth as a character, and as a literal sponge of the good will that surrounds the better personalities of the concert band, made her character journey one of the most satisfying to witness in 2015.
3. Cocoa (Is the order a rabbit??)
I’ve already covered much of the background information, in regards to the endearing nature of Cocoa’s character and how she affects the group dynamic of the entire main cast. But in a nutshell: Cocoa’s childish but bubbly disposition and her addictive enthusiasm essentially provides the group dynamic with both a creatively comedic printing press, but also the heart of a child that always finds the best fun to be had.
Under Cocoa’s care, time and schedules seemed to have lost their relevance and photographed memories started to descend into that pit of absurdity and goofiness.
2. Natsuki (Hibike! Euphonium)
Again, already covered this, but I suppose it’s fair to recount a bit.
Natsuki’s likability is partly due to her lack of broadcasted presence: her screen time is painfully limited, but her story arc and presence made the most of it: she perfectly encapsulates the personality of a quietly caring upperclassman, who supports both her friends, juniors and fellow section mates in subtle, but undeniably awesome ways.
Sarcastic, laid-back and cool, Natsuki is best girl of Hibike! Euphonium.
1. Yona (Yona of the Dawn)
I suppose I did kind of spoil this listing in my Part I publication, when I mentioned that Yona is my favourite female character of all time.
Yona’s story arc has become my staple textbook reference as the standard for all character arcs: slow but steady progress, visible growth that strengthens not only the character herself, but those around her. Yona’s trials and tribulations were suffered through largely on her own, and her determination was not based on some external influence, but her own personal promise to stay alive for her own, her companions and her country’s sake. Yona’s progressive growth from a stuck-up princess to a compassionate but war-hardened warrior was not only satisfying to witness, but has literally heightened Yona to become one of the most well-written and well-realised female characters in recent memory.
Hazuki (Hibike! Euphonium)
One OVA episode. That’s all it took for Hazuki to storm past dozens of competition, despite being closely knocked out of the top 5. As one of the more underexplored characters in the original series, Hazuki’s personality was expanded thematically in the OVA special, where the best of the genki trope provided her with a sense of boundless energy and optimism that makes her simply adorable and an endearing sweetheart. (Yes, I used that word.)
Brace for one more round, as we muse over the best titles, studios and music of 2015 in Part III.