Twelve Days #5: The Dark Horses

Today’s topic is gonna be about what are commonly known as “Dark Horses”. For those who don’t know what the term means, a dark horse is something that you don’t expect to do well or succeed but suddenly comes from behind and “wins the race” so to speak. Now 2015 was quite a good year for this, whether that be because of a lack of REALLY good shows or because of the hidden potential in quite a few of these shows. Yes, as usual, take this.

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This topic is going to cover shows only that I’ve seen all the way through; I know there were shows like Classroom Crisis or potentially even Iron Blooded Orphans that did really well in the general anitwitter/anime community circles but I wasn’t able to finish them or watch them for one reason or another, due to my own “obviously superior” taste.

So let’s just go season by season then, ne? First off is Winter 2015. As opposed to the amazing flops of titanic shows like Aldnoah.Zero season 2 and Yuri Kuma Arashi, we had two that I believe stood out and kind of shined through.

Death Parade is the first, in my opinion. It’s not necessarily that no one expected this show to do poorly or that no one was going to watch it. Rather, I don’t really think anyone knew what exactly to expect of this show. Being based off of Death Billiards from a few years prior, there were a few scenarios that people thought it could go through: playing games every episode, trying to expand the universe, or going completely out of left field.

Well, given an extremely catchy opening and the first few episodes which took a look at human behavior in multiple different scenarios, many fans had their tension eased, while some didn’t expect anything more from it. But it managed to keep it tight until the ending and remain a solid show, for what it was worth. I don’t know how many people would have said Death Parade was going to be their AOTS at the beginning of the season, but now there are quite a few who claim it.

The second, which I’ve already gone over in great detail and won’t spend too much time on, is Junketsu no Maria. For all its failings and shortcomings, EVERYONE was expecting to just laugh at the show named “The Virgin Witch Maria”. Thankfully we were proven wrong, given a show that was beautifully drawn, paid attention to small details, and presented several tough questions. Personally my show of Winter 2015.

Moving on to Spring 2015 is a bit tricky. Those who were in the know probably had confidence in Hibike! Euphonium but for those (like me) who didn’t know the staff, it was all I could do to keep the faith in KyoAni. Thankfully we were treated to the best show of the year. I know I certainly wasn’t expecting the show to be a tenth as good as it was; the premise was cute girls doing cute big band things, for cryin’ out loud. But UFO could be argued one way or another, dark horse or not.

What I DO genuinely believe was a dark horse show was Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches. Another adaptation of a harem premise? Yeah, everyone expected to laugh it off. And besides a rather rushed job at introducing the characters given its short length, we were thankfully treated to a fairly heartwarming show in which the main character utilized the typical role of a “nice guy” fairly well and the girls all had interesting struggles that couldn’t be solved in a simple way. Good voice acting as well, given the fact that the characters had to switch speaking mannerisms several times.

For Summer 2015 I WOULD like to say that Gakkou Gurashi was my dark horse but I was fully expecting it to be at least as good as it was, given that the director had done White Album 2. But like Euphonium, some of those who may not have known the staff might have been completely thrown off by this show as well, and enjoyed it without ever really expecting to. So maybe it could qualify?

I think there’s actually a few here that could qualify as well. Such as Akagami no ShirayukihimeShimoneta, and Ushio to Tora. At the very least I didn’t expect to enjoy Shimoneta as much as I did and didn’t really think Ushio to Tora was going to be as solid as it’s proven to be up until the writing of this post. And Shirayukihime really managed to do some good stuff with traditional anime tropes when it came to relationships.

And lastly, unfortunately Fall 2015 seems to not really… have that many dark horse shows in the terms of them turning out to be really good. At least, from what I’VE seen. I know there’s buzz around ConRevo and the like. The closest for me would be… Utawarerumono, because it’s been fairly enjoyable to watch even without having seen the original. I think I’ll still stand by my assertion that this season was pretty weak.

Yeah, that just about covers it for this topic. A lot of this is mostly my own opinion based off of seeing the first reactions and then seeing end of season reactions and reacting to it all myself. I’m glad there were at least one or two from each season that surprise people; makes it enjoyable to watch anime each season that way. So yeah, until tomorrow, thanks for reading! 😀

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