So 2016 has come and gone in anime and we are making way for new anime in the Winter season of 2017. Though the transition has been made, let us not forget the anime that stood out among the crowd for whatever reason. Whether it struck a chord with you, whether you love the intensity and excitement or had a relaxing time, there will always be at the very least one anime per year that stands out in your mind. To me these ten accurately depict the brighter side of anime in 2016 for me. There are others that I would love to mention like Danganronpa 3, Amaama to Inazuma, Alderamin in the Sky, and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable that didn’t make on the list. Well without further ado let’s move onto the list!
10. Yuri on Ice
On Love: Agape is one of my favourite songs to listen to this season. Yuri on Ice is a variable triumph for obscure anime getting the spotlight. Who knew an anime focusing on a gay couple falling in love with each other through their passion for figure skating would be this popular? All I can say is that I love the trend and hope that this type of show is not just a one-time thing. I have my misgivings with Yuri on Ice, the relationship when it gets into the really emotional moments hits me really hard and I love them. Though I found myself in the beginning not really feeling the connection between the two due to it more feeling like sexualized manservice over developing a closer bond like that lip move Victor does in one of the beginning episodes it just didn’t feel natural. Though I digress, I’m glad it went the more emotional and funny route than the previous focusing entirely on manservice. Fan service can really ruin a good idea or show and that didn’t happen here.
Victor and Yuri really do develop well over the course of the show and their love is well executed for the most part, again still have some misgivings but not enough to detract from it. When they hit those final few episodes I was completely overjoyed with seeing people rejoice in something like watching an anime about figure skating. I do enjoy watching figure skating from time to time, and to see people embrace an anime about figure skating is really nice to see. The performances were sketchy in moments animation wise, but always managed to make me want to see them come through. The skaters were fun to watch and see explored through their themes and how they skate. Even when they are down, they never give up and it can be quite moving in moments. I really do enjoy a lot of what Yuri on Ice has to offer and I’m really glad it turned out this good. Always remember that it’s JJ Style!
9. Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans 2nd Season
I am a big fan of Gundam, yet I never had Iron-Blooded Orphans high on my list for 2015 for certain reasons. I found the series trying to stand out too much with an awkward pace that never allowed it to breathe much like previous ones. The 25 episodes told a story that while I enjoyed the inner workings, it felt the need to rush and force certain ideas that it wanted to use a bit too often. Sometimes the plotline was a bit overstuffed and rushed at the same time and the villains were for the most part interchangeable.
Now the second season of Iron-Blooded Orphans is something I didn’t see coming. It is making the child soldiers it glorified in the first, more like fame seeking monsters on the battlefield. The cold nature of some of the deaths is at times scary to see how the optimistic guys from the last season are more in tune with mafia proceedings than just being children. Wanting to make a world for themselves, they forgo logic half the time for brash and emotional reactions that warrant problems down the line for them. This seems like the type of show that will end in tragedy for both its villains and its supposed anti-heroes. All sides are fighting for what they believe to be just, intermingling in a space opera that I’m excited to say is a good Gundam season.
In the summer season there were a lot of stand outs for me, Amanchu in particular stole the slice of life portion of the season to me. What gravitated me towards Amanchu in the first place was just the design scheme I could see on the poster, I thought it could be a fun time. Little did I know that this relaxing journey would also be one of the most heartfelt journeys I took in 2016. The impressive aspect of Amanchu was the duality it plays with in regards to the sea, showing both its entrancing beauty and its endless darkness waiting underneath. Futaba goes through this journey of opening up to a new life, to a new path she wants to walk down even if she wants to merely curl up into a ball and just not do anything. There is this relatability to Amanchu’s characters that allow one to truly see them as human beings, and not so much as fictional. You learn about the small details of their personality, the small moments they love to cherish, when they are afraid, when they are happy. This is a great slice of life show that aptly knows how to create strong characters, showing us the time in one girl’s life where she decides to open up to the world and it is truly magical to watch.
7. March Comes in like a Lion/3-Gatsu no Lion
I haven’t seen enough of 3-Gatsu no Lion to really set down a solid enough opinion about it, but so far it is easily in my top ten of 2016. Usually I have a mixed time with Shaft’s animation, especially when it makes the screen a bit too busy much like in Nisekoi. The awkward angles, filling the screen with flowers and hearts or maybe even bubbles it just seemed like they always wanted the screen too be filled in some way. 3-Gatsu no Lion for the most part takes all of the inventiveness from Shaft’s animation style with very little of my misgivings with its busy nature. The way you are juxtaposed in the very first episode about the two different side to Kiriyama’s life, the very dark and secluded world of being alone in his bland apartment to how vibrant the world seems when he is with the three sisters is a great introduction that I was infatuated with.
The farther down the rabbit hole I go, the more I fall in love with the series and I’m certain by the end of it I will be begging for more. My only major misgiving is that the show can beautifully show you the story without telling it, letting its animation lead you through it, only to have them narrate we were just shown making that point moot through redundancy. It happens early on, but not enough to cause me concern for the rest of the series. It is still a very loveable and charming ride into the life of a guy who has been through a lot and trying to find out what home is to him.
6. KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World!
One of the best surprises of the previous year. I originally thought that KonoSuba would have been just like every other “stuck in a video game fantasy world anime” in recent memory. Flashy action, but nothing beyond the flash. Yet I was immediately proven wrong when I laughed a bunch through the first episode. This comedy is at times very smart excellently giving great twists on classic RPG tropes, terms and logic. It can also be very raunchy with its humour without being distasteful, which to me is just impressive. It also can have sharp physical comedy that I loved to death with the reactions of its characters to situations. This is a show that had terrific enough performances to pull all of that comedy off and I applaud the Japanese voice actors. Each character shines in their own right and has great scenes to show off in, with none of the main characters being shafted or sidelined. If it wasn’t for the last few episodes missing their mark more often than not it would’ve been higher on this list, but that just makes me all the more excited for another season of it.
5. Haikyuu!! 3rd Season
Haikyuu is the little sports show that could, giving us a solid trilogy of seasons leading to this climatic finale to a great set of arcs. These 10 episodes are honed in on a singular match and it is the payoff of two 24 episode seasons that lead us to this point and oh boy does it soar. Watching them endlessly build these characters up throughout the match, focusing on specific people from the opposition and taking the Karasuno team to new heights with their growth and determination culminating in this important match. The imagery used, the way they edited it together, the great animation, everything on a technical level soared in this season of Haikyuu. What made this stand out so much is how strong both sides truly are as each moment is intense, especially when you get down to the end where everyone is giving it all they have. It truly makes for some of the most intense moments I have seen in a sports anime. I have greatly enjoyed the journey of Hinata Shoyo and what he can accomplish, there is never a dull moment in this back and forth match with monsters on both sides of the court.
4. 91 Days
There are problems with 91 Days and its pacing, yes I will agree there is one particular episode with some very odd parts. I do think though that this particular series works despite those deficits with a captivating story of revenge between two intriguing characters. Yes it is not the most original story in the plethora of gangster entertainment available at our fingertips. Do not come in expecting the Godfather, instead expect a bombastic tale of betrayal and characters playing a part in an even grander tragedy. This is a tragedy through and through with two characters who make you wonder who you should be rooting for throughout the series. Do you root for Avilio, the ruthless avenger who will stop at nothing to attain vengeance? Or do you vote for Nero, the charismatic target who seems to be a stand up man with strong moral qualms over what he has done and will do but will do them nonetheless?
I like this series despite its animation hiccups, since the shot composition and how scenes are pieced together really allows them to shine. We never see prohibition era pieces in anime very often, especially something as risky as allowing the director of Kimi no Todoke direct an original work like a gangster drama. The ending was daring and controversial, the amount of risks this production took throughout was pretty surprising and to me they almost all paid off. I love the sheer tenacity of the series both standing out with strong lead characters and an entertaining ensemble, even if some don’t get fleshed out as well as I would’ve hoped. It captivated me and while it certainly could lose some pizazz over time, right now in this moment it hasn’t lost its touch with me.
3. Flip Flappers
Flip Flappers came out of nowhere and managed to dominate the Fall 2016 season for me. There is controversy behind whether or not the ending sours the overall show with how lackluster and rushed it felt, yet those initial 8 episodes really sell this show as something that deserves to at the very least be watched. Its visual flair and non-linear narrative structure opting out for a more episodic focus on character building really comes out in some experimental episodes. This series has more visual storytelling than the dialogue in moments, opting for more of an experience focusing on the characters and their emotional response to what Pure Illusion is rather than explaining every nitty gritty detail for the most part.
The ending does try to give a proper story to the entire series and while it may have failed in giving something compelling enough to match up to the rest of its imaginative episodes in the beginning, the animation quality never dwindled. Whether it was continuing the references to other anime, or jumping from genre to genre, Flip Flappers remained consistently entertaining even when it tried to shove in a narrative that takes away the joy the previous episodes had given. It builds on multiple characters often using Pure Illusion to delve into certain traits or pasts of specific characters while also having Papika and Cocona discover who they are as people and what they mean to one another.
2. Mob Psycho 100
Enjoyable when I thought it would never be, Mob Psycho 100 had me when One Punch Man lost me. The spectacle is still there, much like One Punch Man, and the same feeling remains in regards to ONE’s work. Yet Mob Psycho 100 managed to grab me with its characters struggles among all the fun and that is where I feel like One Punch Man let me down in its cohesion into the overall runtime. It felt more jarring in tone when One Punch Man had a down to earth moment only to shatter it by a comedic moment. I still think One Punch Man is worth the watch, but let’s focus back on Mob Psycho 100.
What Mob Psycho 100 does well is in how it handles the relationship between Mob and the others. Taking in the same comedic angles from One Punch Man, but also adding in its own flair to spice it up. The art style is polarizing yet expressive, yet when it wants to be impressive and have those moments of crisp animation flair it does it with literal flying colours. What really allowed me to love the series was the Mob and Reigen’s relationship. Yes there are other relationships that are powerful, but the one I will always look back for is that natural build to how important Reigen is to Mob as a whole. Mob Psycho 100 surprised me to no end, and managed to impress me greatly.
1. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
I haven’t seen another series this year grab me in such a way that Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu has. There is something masterful about how it handles such a forgotten art form, immersing the audience in a culture worth looking at and paying it great respect in the process. It uses Rakugo as a means of telling the story of Bon and Sukeroku as they grow up into apprentices to a Rakugo master, each learning about themselves through their style. Truly Bon is one of the best characters of the entire year for how he truly transformed through this tragedy. It feels almost Shakespearean in moments, something timeless taken out of something grounded in reality much like MacBeth. Yes I know for those who love Shakespeare that is high praise, and for those who don’t like Shakespeare it scares them away. Don’t fret it’s not like his stories, I’m just merely relating the timeless aspect to both. Rakugo reminded me that I can get lost in anime, get lost in a story that I love fully. It reminded me of when I watched things like Eureka Seven and Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, moments where I never wanted to take me eyes off the screen. Anime can have complexity within every little crevice while also being enjoyably melancholic in the process, and I for one think Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is a rare gem that I’m glad to have watched.
So that is my top favourite anime of 2016! Surprisingly enough I have no anime from Spring 2016, even Jojo’s and Sakamoto desu ga didn’t make my list and I really enjoyed both of them! It was hard deciding everything that wasn’t my number 1. Surprisingly enough have 2 anime from Winter, 3 from Summer and 5 from Fall which is kind of funny since I would have never had guess that Fall would overwhelm my list. I enjoyed every one of these pieces and I certainly think that all are at least worth a three episode watch. I will be posting my worst anime of 2016 the day following this one, and yes I do have enough to fill a top 10 unfortunately. So what did you like in the year of 2016 for anime? Do you think this is a good year for anime? Feel free to leave a comment down below and don’t forget to have yourself a great day!