Pictured above, Gatchaman Crowds Insight, Oregairu 2, Noragami Aragoto, and DRRR!!x2 all aired this year as wonderful sequels, on par with or better than their originals. 2015 in general was a pretty strong year for sequels, and not just because at least 5 or more seemingly aired each season. I always appreciate a quality sequel when it comes, but to have at least one each season rival or outperform their predecessor is a gift.
And while some of these such as Durarara’s two new cours simply work because they continue the action of a storyline with everything working for it and an established aesthetic I adore, not every outstanding sequel this year was guaranteed to be a hit. Hell, even Durarara was on potentially shaky ground, with a production transition from Brain’s Base to the newly-formed (albeit expressedly for the purpose of continuing the show) Studio Shuka. My only real gripe is that occasionally the character designs felt a bit off-model, but the action and run-around narration I’ve learned to crave from Durarara were here in full force with not just one sequel cour, but two, and a third coming up in January to wrap x2 up.
Shuka wasn’t the only studio transition for a sequel either, and the biggest surprise of the bunch for me ended up being Studio feel.’s work adapting a second season of Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru, also known simply around these parts as Oregairu. Oregairu’s first season (also by Brain’s Base, go figure) presented a slightly above-average slice-of-life with strong main character dynamics centering around the cynical protagonist Hachiman and his growth process after being forced to join a service club with the snappy aloof Yukino and cheerful optimistic Yui. Their personalities bounced off each other fantastically, and while its side characters and occasional attempts at comedy were less successful, Oregairu was still a valiant effort that could’ve been even better had it focused more on its writing strengths and had some better art.
Both of which feel. accomplished with their sequel, which I lovingly refer to as Oregai2. The character designs are much cleaner, allowing the show’s crucial use of body language to shine underneath a season whose events unfurled in a natural manner from where Oregairu left off. The writing was more solid than I’d ever hoped it would be, the comedy was toned down and the earned drama was upped in moderation. From a production standpoint, Oregai2 undeniably delivered, and its approach to continuing the story was – though apparently hit or miss with some people – an absolute pleasure to tune into each week for me. Also it starred the best irrelevant character all year. Keep buzzwording on, Flappyhands McGee.
And speaking of pleasure, sometimes you know when you haven’t seen a good friend of yours in a long time and suddenly you do and you realize you didn’t necessarily miss him before but you’re sure glad he’s back now? Yeah, that’s my relationship with Noragami. At first I thought its first season was only a standout because of how absolutely abysmal the rest of the winter 2014 anime chart it aired with was, but no, after a delightful rewatch of season 1, I was overjoyed to hear we’d be getting more of the Studio Bones shounen hit. Shounen aren’t something that I normally care for either, and Noragami’s premise – a story about gods and phantoms fighting covertly in the current world – is far from an original concept, but the show’s universe is thought out well and surprisingly invigorating. Sometimes the show gets lost overexplaining its universe’s laws, but for the most part, Noragami is as consistently entertaining a shounen as they come without sacrificing a keen sense of pacing and drama. Aragoto’s two halves, the Bishamon arc and the Ebisu arc, are not only on par with the first season’s material and each other, but they quietly fill in gaps of character dynamics I hadn’t even bothered to ponder on too much before now. Noragami is a fun, living, breathing, world to adventure through, and Aragoto’s doing as good a job as it can.
Which leaves us with the last of the year’s standout sequels, and yes, I saved the best for last. Gatchaman Crowds Insight isn’t just better than its prequel, it’s the only thing the prequel needed to improve its own standing. That may sound weird, but consider how naïve key parts of Gatchaman Crowds’ ultimate philosophy was; “the internet can be weaponized, but just log off it and you’ll be safe! And when you get back on it, you can change the world!”
Sorry, but what?
As good a show as it otherwise was, that ideology just didn’t mesh well with people. So what could Gatchaman Crowds Insight do but challenge itself in response? In a sense, GCI feels like a more overtly political show than its predecessor, but that’s just a natural extension of the hive mind logic it employs; in season 1, the antagonist Berg-Katze acted as the ultimate pessimist, a manifestation of chaotic individuality and recklessness. Whatever the case, he was clearly the Big Bad, but life isn’t always that black and white. GCI recognizes this. I’m still not sure who to blame most for the events that occurred in Insight. Is Gelsadra the ultimate villain though his oppressive state was brought to be by powers other than his? Is Tsubasa the traitor for constantly instigating him? The general public? The media? In GCI, almost everyone is to blame, just as everyone also holds the key to make positive change. In this regard, it’s a smooth progression from Crowds’ philosophy, but it makes the whole situation more relateable and believable – and a nation led by meddling media icons and an uninformed apathetic public is a scary notion in a world where people like Donald Trump are still feasible candidates for running for office. Visually, GCI is bright and bold like its predecessor, but with a noticeable amount of pep to it too. Insight provided insight and improvement, and in a year stuffed with great sequels, it’s the one with the honor of being crowned Best Sequel 2015.