FUNimation had a big year as they celebrated their 20th anniversary since starting off with Dragon Ball Z all those years ago. They had a lot of shows make it onto TV and gained a lot of new attention with their release of Attack on Titan as well as getting it onto Cartoon Network to expand its awareness all the more. They had several things that made it into theaters and we also got them moving forward with more complex limited/premium edition releases as well as various shop exclusives, something that’s certainly more common in Japan with releases. They also started to get some real attention for their Broadcast Dubs, coming off of how well received the worldwide release of Space Dandy went over. The pressure is certainly on them to top themselves in 2015 as 2014 had a lot of great moments overall. So, without further ado, here’s the top ten releases that they put out which rocked our socks.
10) Kamisama Kiss: Goddess Edition Premium Box Set [Review]
I was a bit leery of this show going into it since it does have some hype behind it and we’ve seen a number of shows over the years trying to be the next Fruits Basket. Kamisama Kiss is the first one that comes close to legitimately trying to take that title. The show works well when it focuses on the two main characters but it also has an easy and enjoyable flow when the rest of them are around as well. There’s drama to be had to be sure, but it’s not confined to the final arc nor does the earlier parts of the season feel like they’re done to just work through the usual routines. The whole thing has left me feeling very good about the show and thinking that it definitely deserves more to explore this group and their bonds. FUNimation has a pretty solid premium edition release here with the Goddess Edition as we get a lot of great pack-in goodies that the fans of the show will love, especially with its limited run out there. The release pretty much hits everything right and will be a great addition to any collection.
9) Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods [Review]
For me, what made this film work, is the combination of the appeal of the animation itself and just getting to spend time with these characters again. While we do get the larger threat of the world blowing up, so much of this film is relaxed because it’s Beers and Whis enjoying the birthday party and all of its food, all while Vegeta is freaking out. This party atmosphere works perfectly, at least within the director’s cut where things have more time to unfold, to just ease into it and give it room to breathe. I’ll easily admit I wasn’t expect much with the film when I started because there’s been a mostly bad history with Dragon Ball Z films and how enjoyable they are. But this is the turning of the corner as it has me really looking forward to more original stories if they’re done with this style of animation and fun. They won’t change the world but they’ll extend my enjoyment of the property and the characters just a little bit more.
8) A Certain Scientific Railgun S Parts 1 & 2 [Review]
I was wary of this series as a whole before it came out because it usually doesn’t work in taking a supporting character from one series and making them a main character elsewhere. I liked Misaka and her story, but I wasn’t sure it could manage its own series, never mind two seasons of two cour each. Taking us back to before her time in Index and then catching up and moving forward, we get a lot of good stories and a solid expansion on the character, her circle of friends and the changes she was going through as she discovered what her past has wrought in the present. The first half of this season is the stronger of the two in a way, but the season as a whole is a very good one and this second half works through her evolution in a very good way while making her an even more likable character that has you wanting another couple of seasons – if they can move her forward some more.
7) Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Borders 1 & 2 [Review]
Ghost in the Shell ARISE kicks off its four episode run here with the first two and it certainly does it very well. There are complicated plots afoot that are built on top of other foundations that are revealed little by little along the way as it wants to deal with the military, mercenaries, politics, cybercrime and what it means to be human along the way. And it’s all wrapped up in action as well, of course. The show has a great visual design about it, though Kusanagi and her design could be considered the weakest part of it, and it hits some great marks as it moves forward and starts to build its energy with the revelations, the reactions and the intensity of many segments. With this covering the first half, it already feels like it’s over too quickly and has me pining for another series because this is a world with endless possibilities for stories.
6) Eureka Seven TV [Review]
I hadn’t seen Eureka Seven since the original single volume releases but the show has been held in pretty good regard by me ever since. Revisiting it in this marathon form definitely helps to improve the overall view of the property and the story it wants to tell, making so many things come together in a clearer and more enjoyable way. The tapestry of the story feels far more complete and whole in this form and it’s one that’s definitely told well. While there are always things you could do to tighten it up and cut down the episode count, there’s little that I’d actually want to do that with. In the end, we get a rich and engaging series here that plays with a large cast really well even if some of them are a bit superficial. The end result is a show that definitely holds up very well and this presentation gives it to us in what’s pretty much the best it’s looked in North America at a fantastic price with almost everything that we had before.
5) High School DxD New: Complete Collection [Review]
I love this show. It’s so easy to write it off as a smut fest but it’s so much more than that. You can easily enjoy it as just a lot of sexuality with some action mixed into it, but it really does work the characters in a good way, changes and expands relationships and sets a larger backdrop to work with that’s going through its own changes that span eons when you really think about it. The story for the show is definitely a big plus and I love that it doesn’t get lost in it and that it really does have meaning for the characters and their motivations. But I also simply love the fact that the series has such an absolute blast with its fanservice and sexuality side, enjoying every bit of it and having all of them very much enjoying it. Instead of it being creepy and unwanted, it’s all about the fun and enjoyment, which is definitely one of the best selling points of it for me.
4) Psycho-Pass Complete Collection [Review]
The advantage of the show for me is that it takes this season of twenty two episodes and does spend its time introducing us to the world, but it makes everything count towards the story that encompasses the entire season. While there’s a beautiful bit of symmetry between the beginning and the ending, change happens throughout and the cast are not who they are at the start. The face quite an ordeal, one that challenges them and their beliefs and about the way their society works, and how it may or may not play out as time goes on. There’s some very black and white aspects to the show with how the latent criminal aspect works, but it’s the gray side of life itself and how characters like Akane try to grapple with the big picture that makes it so engaging. More cannot come soon enough.
3) Cowboy Bebop Complete Collection [Review]
Cowboy Bebop has been a series fans have been hoping for as part of rescues for quite awhile and FUNimation went all out this year, with not only the usual standard and limited editions but exclusive editions for their site and Amazon itself. The show is one that still manages to stand the test of time after all these years as there’s a whole lot of fun in the execution, animation and music to give us a lot of standalone stories that comes together to a beautiful larger narrative and tapestry of these character lives. Revisiting it now myself, seeing it in marathon form definitely changes it from how I originally saw it and it only makes me love it all the more.
2) Attack On Titan Parts 1 & 2 [Review]
Attack on TItan is the kind of series that can definitely appeal outside of the traditional anime fan and it has the potential to be the next big evergreen series that we’ll be seeing popularized for years to come. And in many ways, it definitely earns that position with what it starts to do here, particularly in its multi-episode arcs that really wants to spend its time making sure we get what it is to live in this world. It doesn’t hold back on the creepy factor, the blood and the brutality of it but it ties the characters emotions and issues of living with such horrors rather well. With great animation, a concept that leaves you wanting to know more and more of what the truth of the situation is and the uncertainty of who will survive, Attack on Titan is definitely worth the hype.
1) The Devil is a Part-Timer Complete Collection [Review]
With beautiful production quality about the animation, the acting and the pacing, this is the kind of light novel you wish was adapted more. The characters here are a blast to watch with the banter, the gags and the more serious moments as well as the whole work aspect of it all. While there’s no firm ending here considering all the material that’s still out there in the books, what we get is a real blast to watch and you can feel content at the end but also hopeful that more is made at some point. This is a real gem of a show that pretty much hits all the right marks consistently and highly. I really think this is the title I enjoyed the most from FUNimation this year that made a lasting impression amid the sea of releases that I see.