The number of anime I watch per year has been growing exponentially since 2013. I started to watch anime seasonally just last year’s fall, so making a top ten this year did take up a lot of my time: constantly editing my list and sparsely re-watching some series to consolidate my views, then shortlisted 20 anime series and settled on 10 honorable mentions and the top 10. Now, before I proceed, some ground rules are in order: I only picked anime that have finished airing this year and I did not pick any films because I only watched two anime films from this year (Kimi no Nawa fans- you’ve got no reason not to be if you have watched it, legally or otherwise [that leak is pretty bad in quality]- I’m sorry but I have to wait for the home video release in 2017 and then I will rewatch it, gush disgustingly on a review and at least rank it number 5 on the 2017 top 10) and admittedly it has been a good year for anime films in Japan, as far as commercial success goes.
Anyway, here are the top 10 of 2016. I would like to point out that number #9 to #4 are interchangeable but the top three anime are pretty static in their positions.
Kiznaiver was an interesting show for me. I don’t know, Mari Okada has been a hit and miss in the wealth of her works, but she certainly keeps a show entertaining and surprisingly watchable (like that crap storm of a show Mayoiga). The characterization in this anime is pretty good with the exception of Hisomu (I really didn’t like that character, a very comfortably written character in my opinion); Niko was my favorite character- I loved her characterization as a false eccentric and how she was this glue that bonded the cast other than the Kizuna system. Sure, the whole angst y teenage-drama stuff can get a bit forceful sometimes (like that scene where everyone cries in the rain, classic Mari Okada); but I was genuinely engaged in this show despite its unstable narrative structure. At this point, I am sounding overly defensive but this story isn’t badly written at all and the character interactions needed to be cynical to emphasize the need of empathy to develop between these teenagers. The visuals of these show sold me on this anime: character designs (2nd best of the year) were vibrant to look at and the art style with the bold lines and impressive color palette. The OP and ED are also good with, again, decent visuals. This show is a memorable one for me.
ReLIFE is one of the most non trope y anime in the clothes of a trope y anime. At the surface level, this anime seems to go down a weird path, but the way the show handled the strange situation the protagonist was in was really realistic and engaging. If you didn’t watch this anime because it has bad production value (which it admittedly does) and it seemed to have a very ‘anime’ premise, I suggest you give this another chance. This anime just might have one of the best cast from this year. I don’t have any gripes about any character from this show and I think that it has good story to tell. I have read the source material and so if somebody says this show is slowly paced- I would vigorously shake my head because the 13 episodes covered more than 100 chapters from the webtoon; which is pretty impressive. The character designs are pretty eye-catching despite the weakly put together animation. The liked the way the ending theme changed every episode, but I am not a fan of the bland soundtrack…
8. Yuri!! On Ice
Okay, maybe I was bit too harsh in tone in my review. This is an enjoyable show and has the best of character writing anime had to offer this year. The ensemble cast of characters have good character interactions between them and the their routines were entertaining to watch. The OP is easily top three of the year for me, with impressive hand-drawn animation. Then again, the animation fell off from the amazing level it had in the early episodes and I am really not a fan of the flippant take it had on the yaoi relationship between Yuri and Victor; it saddens me that after the huge leap the anime took in episode 7, Yuri on Ice regressed to the fan service y and trope y nature of most similar anime. However, I have nothing but admiration for the things Yuri on Ice has to offer and tried to offer in its short run and the unique premise it has been set on. Unlike Re:Zero, I really feel that this show deserved the popularity it had.
7. KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World!
If you thought ReLIFE had bad production value, just watch this one’s crappy animation: the characters look so off model sometimes… it’s pretty jarring. Now, that all the bad things that are to be said for this anime… this is the best comedy of 2016 (Sakamoto is a close second). I love the mean spirited comedy and the way the characters bounced off each other. Wow, I have now run out of things to say: this is turning out to be weak justification. I am sucker for mean-spirited comedy and I couldn’t care less for the semblance of a plot this anime may or may not have. I just watched for the laughs, although the comedy may not be for everyone. I may have gripes about the animation- but the art style suits the show well. I look forward to the second season.
From what has been a really good year for iyashikei anime, this soothing breeze of a show is the best of the bunch. I love the character designs in this anime and if I rank the character designs this would place third; the alluring mermaid dresses that deceptively provides fan service and this reminds me of those fleeting fan service-y moments in Flying Witch (that is also a good SoL anime from this year) and the hair is actually stranded out. I like watching SoL on a weekly basis and this show did nothing but consolidate this love. The art is superb: crisp border lines, toned down colors to accentuate the dominant blue tint in the background- it just is beautiful to look at. The character writing that centrals around a small cast holds together throughout the show and this helps to turn Futaba into an endearing character. Pikari is funny with her derp face, but it goes a bit too out of hand with the comedy- and unfortunately, the comedy does not sell me on the show. I love the way the episodes are told in terms of different emotions. However, I didn’t really like the way the beautiful OP is kind of misguided in terms of visuals and the show doesn’t turn out to be as focused on diving as the OP told us it would be. Then again, I don’t have any complaints on the alternative route the show took. Overall, a refreshing show.
Other iyashikei shows that I recommend from this year are: Flying Witch (impressive art style and animated by the same studio: J.C. Staff), the new season of Natsume’s Book of Friends and New Game (the best moe blob show from this year, with good character writing).
5. My Hero Academia
My Hero Academia has the best character designs of the year for me. I love this shounen and how diverse the quirks are. I also like Deku as a shounen character, he does have that secret hidden power but he isn’t as charismatic as most shounen protagonists are. People are comparing this anime to Naruto, but I couldn’t disagree more. Deku and Bakugo is not the new Naruto and Sasuke. Bakugo isn’t really a bad guy in terms of sides but he is pretty egoistical and wouldn’t actually turn into the bad guy like freaking Sasuke did. Anyways, I am glad that this show is going in a good direction. The animation is pretty good and the pacing isn’t good, it’s slow: sometimes, I just laugh at the way I write. Really enjoyable show. Again, I look forward to the second season.
ERASED is the best anime thriller of 2016, easily. It is just that well directed of a series: the cinematic style of narration, the change in aspect ratio whenever Satoru travels back in time, the tastefully done scene transitions. This anime has the best OP of the year for me. I have nothing but admiration for the visuals of the show. The narration was really solid till then; it was solid, engaging and suspenseful. I couldn’t rank this higher because of the unexpected genre shift it took from mystery to thriller and the lackluster writing at the end. Overall, I would still recommend watching this show. Also, Sachiko is best mom- I mean, she took care of her son when he was in a coma for 15 freaking years.
3. Mob Psycho 100
Mob Psycho 100 is an encyclopedia of top-tier animation. The diverse animation styles- from popping colors to tastefully done character movements to paint on glass animation- are magnets to my eyes. I am an apologist for its animation- Yoshimichi Kameda (Key Animator) is a genius- remember that iconic moment in Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood when Mustang was burning the crap out of Envy? Yeah, Kameda animated that. I have no gripes about the art style, it’s fine and suits the animation. But the animation, no matter how stellar it is, never justifies the position this show has on this top 10. The characters of Mob Psycho 100 were an interesting bunch: even though Mob was an interesting protagonist for this coming-of-age story, I liked Reigen’s development much more- he consolidated his role as a teacher and a propellent for Mob’s growth as a moral human being. And don’t we all love when the weak one becomes a bad-ass at some point in the story? I almost forgot about the best ED of the year- that masterful animation through paint on glass- I really appreciate the effort people gave for this anime in terms visuals (I cannot stop gushing about the visuals). I highly recommend watching this anime.
2. Haikyuu! (S2 & S3)
No other show from this year gave me the adrenaline rush that Haikyuu did. Haikyuu goes full throttle in character development, especially of Yamaguchi in season 2 and Tsukishima in season 3. They do these wonderful character pieces surprisingly patiently; a thing I didn’t expect from a sports show. I also love the way Haikyuu builds up hype through its uplifting OST and OPs by the Burnout Syndromes. Season 2’s second opening- “Fly High”- is the second best opening of this year for me. This show knows how to explain the technicalities well and there are never a moment where I did not understand what was going on. One of the few gripes about the show that I had was the overusing of the crow imagery- they could tone that down a bit. The tension in the matches are really well executed and the animation is top-tier (there is a really good Sakuga moment). Another problem with Haikyuu is that they are not taking a break from the matches and as a result the show is turning into nothing but volleyball matches; then again, I think that a training arc is coming. Anyways, Haikyuu is my favorite sports show- I am interested in what more it has to offer considering that it has reached near the peak of its potential in these seasons.
1. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
I don’t know, but a handful of Josei drama (Honey and Clover, Nodame Cantabile, Chihayafuru) I have seen have greatly impressed me and have left an impact on me on a deep level. Maybe I have turned into a Josei apologist (I guess it is pretty weird for a teenage boy to love an anime aimed for adult women) but man, was Rakugo great! This anime gripped from the first episode and hasn’t let go till the end. I love the directing (I want to see Shinichi Omata direct more shows): the framing of scenes, the dialogue and the pacing. The trio’s interactions were really realistic, humorous and touching and they were characterized really concretely: the stoic, traditional Yakumo; the hipster and rough Sukeroku and the dangerous and crazy b-lady, Miyokichi (I hate her, but I love her character portrayal). The OP sung by the sensual voice of Megumi Hayashibara (CV: Miyokichi) is equally captivating in a very strange way; this opening is a perfect representation of Miyokichi’s character. I almost forgot the character intros where the shamisen and that sometimes upbeat and sometimes angry jazz are so seamlessly and vibrantly stringed together in the OST. Now, due to cultural gap, I sometimes do not get the jokes in the performances but the way it is framed really pulls me in and the wonderful voice acting by the performers are beguiling- it is a wonder how seemingly effortlessly this anime stimulates interest in me for this ancient art form of rakugo. I can’t wait for the second season. I can’t really recommend this anime for all types anime fans (hell, no anime can be recommended to all types of anime fans): I recommend this show to those that like drama and are okay with the very non-anime art style that Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu portrays.
That is all for the top 10 anime from 2016. Here are some honorable mentions that made my shortlist but just didn’t make the cut:
- Re Zero: engaging and entertaining story and characters but disturbingly scattered and pointless narration.
- Bungo Stary Dogs: Interesting premise, not a fan of the strained comedy and weird Dazai comments: good character designs too.
- Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress: Awesome action and interesting protagonist, nothing to write home about other than that.
- Didn’t you Know? I’m Sakamoto: Good comedy, jokes got stale though.
- Keijo!!!!!!!!: Yeah, I was surprised at how much I liked this anime. Hilarious. Ridiculous. TNA on a very unattractive level. No cute character designs. The fan service becomes a bit too jarring at points.
- Flying Witch: Oh! That infectious OP, Shanranranran! Cute character designs, nice shading. I liked Amanchu better because Futaba is a more fleshed out character.
- Natsume’s Book of Friends (S5): Really liked the supporting cast’s developments. Nothing other than cameos for Reiko, though. I didn’t add this to the top 10 because I didn’t want a buttload of iyashikei anime just blocking the entry of the other shows from other genres.
- Tanaka-kun is Always Listless: Soothing OP, interesting cast, I really liked it. Again, 2016 has been a strong year for SoL anime.
- Orange: Very organic character interactions, awesome soundtrack. Not really sold on the animation and art. Naho is kind of frustrating as a character.
- New Game: Best moe blob anime of the year. I am not a fan of this genre, nor have I seen many from this particular genre- so I feel that I cannot critique it in a justifiable fashion. Still, I enjoyed it a lot more than freaking Anne Happy.
Thank you for reading through this ridiculously long post and have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!