The Top Six Best, Worst, and Disappointing Anime of 2016

2016 was a pretty shitty year for the world, but there was some good. It’s just that you have to dig very deep to find it.

Well it’s that time of year where all the bloggers list out their favorite anime like it’s no tomorrow. The common consensus from the majority of bloggers is that 2016 was good, but not great – which I find kind of hypocritical given how so many people absolutely loved the best anime of each season this year. My personal opinion is that even by the low standards of anime years, it was a little worse than usual. Lots of ambition in the movie front and there were quite a few popular shows that deserved their future-proof reputation to an extent, but there was also a lot of repetition and shallow cash-ins and bad production teams somehow even getting worse over time. And I’m going to highlight as many of them as I can with three top six lists for 2016’s anime selection: a good list, a bad list, and a disappointing list.

With that said, here are some ground rules for my lists:

  • Only anime that have finished this year are in the running. Also remember that I have to have personally finished the anime, just in case you Battery haters want to complain about my choices for what I consider the worst of the year or all you Keijo watchers want me to acknowledge the show’s existence in general. And if I didn’t finish a “good” anime, it’s probably because it belongs to a genre I don’t care for like iyaikeishi (Amanchu) or Star Trek (whenever that Yamato 2199 thing comes back).
  • Keep in mind that everything on this list is ranked by how much fun I personally had with a title and not by how many bad-joke tweets or fujoshi-sales or pretty much everything surrounding Yuri on Ice erupted from it.
  • No sequels on the good side unless they’re an improvement on the original (like, say, The Dark Knight was to Batman Begins), as most of what’s good about them belongs to the first installment and the year it came out, that’s not fair to the new blood that’s trying to carve their own space in this wretched thing we call a fandom, and that sends the message that we want diminishing returns from our anime, which I highly object to. As such, Concrete Revolutio: The Last Song, Persona 3: The Movie #4, and Sound! Euphonium 2, are automatically disqualified from the list despite being solid anime. Danganronpa 3 is allowed because its previous installments were video games and it is an improvement over the first anime adaptation, even though not even Seiji Kishi seems to acknowledge the existence of that thing anymore.
  • There are no sequels on the bad side because there are so many shit anime in the world and I prefer to highlight the ones that tried to make it big and failed spectacularly. With that said, let us give a big fuck you to Garo: Crimson Moon, Digimon Adventure Tri, and Kizumonogatari.
  • That music video, Shelter, is not allowed because why the fuck would I want to promote that more anime should be music videos? The story it displayed wasn’t even very good. Thunderbolt Fantasy is not allowed either because at that point, you might as well allow RWBY. And I didn’t watch past the first episode anyways.
  • Finally, anime films that haven’t been released on DVD/Blu-ray like Kimi no Na Wa and Koe no Katachi are forbidden for personal and legal reasons.

Now that that’s been established, let’s get this started.

****

Sixth Best: Ajin Demi-human

I’ll be straight with you guys, while I recognize that Ajin Demi-human is a good show thanks to its solid world-building, interesting take on Stand-like superpowers, and angsty yet complex characters who must do whatever it takes to survive in a world that shuns them for very good reason, I’m having a hard time deciding on how much my praise for it should extend. It never really excelled at anything apart from maybe the English dub, the story is incomplete due to it being based on an on-going manga, and the second season was an overlong pile of fluff. My confusion regarding my true opinion of the show’s overall quality is the main reason why I never bothered to write about it, and I’m having enough trouble describing Ajin on here as is. Don’t get me wrong: it is generally fun to watch, or otherwise I wouldn’t be putting in on the best list. But there sure are a lot of caveats sticking on my mind regarding Polygon Pictures’ new hit after I finished it.

Sixth Worst: Rewrite

Not gonna lie, choosing six bad anime to represent on this list was pretty hard. I watched so much shit this year that I’m surprised I haven’t committed myself to a mental asylum. But let’s start things off by dipping into my visual novel anime bias with one of the worst adaptations I’ve seen in years: Rewrite. With Key’s reputation getting to the point where putting their name on a product is almost guaranteed to reduce viewers and Romeo Tanaka’s anime just being shit in general, the last thing anyone needed was these two entities working together. Badly animated, obnoxiously padded, and just plain nonsensical when stuff actually did happen, I’d be surprised if anyone involved with this show had a career after its inevitably terrible sequel finishes airing.

Sixth Disappointing: Lupin III (2015)

Choosing between disappointments wasn’t nearly as hard because not a lot of things intrigue me based on the premise alone. But when they do, you can trust anime to bumfuck it all up about 90% of the time. And while it has its beautiful moments, this new iteration of Lupin III made its first mistake by introducing a new girl who was more of an annoyance than someone who fit within the Lupin canon, then devolved from there into a bunch of episodics that are nothing more than barely improved rehashes of tales from the old series before ending on an epic plot and villain that was so mismatched, an elephant trying to blend itself into a basketball team would have looked more natural. Fun for fans of this genre. Kinda meh for people like me who want anime to transcend whatever genre it’s attached to.

Fifth Best: The Boy and the Beast

Selecting six anime to represent the positive side of 2016 was difficult this year, but for completely opposites reasons to choosing six anime to represent the negative side. Only the top two slots really stood out to me, and the other slots feel more like compromises than anything else. I mean everyone has already gone on about how The Boy and the Beast is basically just Hosada’s Howl’s Moving Castle, with its disjointed narrative and familiar tropes, and I had that opinion long before it came out on the Internet. But I can’t deny that the individual set pieces and semi-coherent family story that was buried underneath all the disjointed subplots made for something mildly entertaining – which is a level that so many of 2016’s selection struggled to obtain. And hey, at least it was better than that godawful live-action remake of The Jungle Book, right?

But yeah, Hosada should be happy that his movie didn’t get released to the public in a more interesting year.

Fifth Worst: Big Order

To be honest, fifth worst anime is something I find more fascinating in its awfulness in a sort of “how the fuck did you make something this incompetent?” kind of way than something I truly hate like most anime fans seem to. It takes a certain amount of skill to put in so much weird shit like Big Order did, and yet somehow it’s all completely boring. But yeah, all the nuclear missiles, pregnant bunny girls, and Stand-like powers can’t save you if you have no good characters, no good animation, no story that goes beyond getting passed from ugly set piece to ugly set piece like a round-robin prison gangbang, and so many bad directing choices I’m surprised the show ever made it into broadcast. The fact that this thing got licensed so soon after completion is pretty laughable in of itself. Who exactly is the audience for Big Order and why haven’t we detained them yet?

Fifth Disappointing: 91 Days

How the fuck can people support a show with as many failures in the storytelling as 91 Days? Technically good but soulless animation. Horrible world-building that assumes you already know what the Prohibition period was like. Characters, story, and entire scenes ripped off from much better gangster stories (and other movies) that the show fails to make into its own or effectively parody. It’s pretty much the by-product of Hollywood’s current system of rehashing what everyone loved in the past whilst using prefabricated plots as an anchor rather than create new interesting stories that try to push things forward. You do realize it’s this same mindset that’s causing the light novel industry to exist, right? So why the fuck do I have to deal with a non-ecchi, more American-ized version of that same mindset when all it does is push anime to its death even further?!

Fourth Best: Mob Psycho 100

In retrospect, I think I was too harsh on Mob Psycho 100 when I initially reviewed it. Sure none of the jokes were really all that funny. Sure it felt more like a prelude of things to come, but then again, so was Batman Begins. Sure it took around half the show to get things setup and the highs it achieved after that weren’t the most original twists on the psychic power genre. Sure it was more of a “fun” show that I still don’t want to buy the blu-rays for. But what can I say? Not really much to choose from this year, and any anime that manages to successfully accomplish character-driven storytelling supported heavily by the animation deserves whatever recognition it gets. As such, Mob Psycho 100 easily gets my recommendation over stylistic shows that just pass you from plot beat to plot beat like a Disneyland amusement park ride.

Fourth Worst: Re Zero

Have any of you guys noticed that White Fox’s anime are starting to become like KyoAni’s and PA Works’ in that they’re mostly defined by their female characters? Also, have any of you guys started to realize just how fundamentally flawed light novel writing is as a concept? Well obviously you haven’t, because otherwise Re:Zero would never have become as popular as it is. In a world where people can say to me that Durarara!! is still a good anime with a straight face, the last thing I needed was for light novel writing to reach a new low by basically remaking Now and Then, Here and There except even worse. Enough with the overly long character interactions. Enough with the “not-funny-at all to anyone who’s not an anime nerd” humor. Enough with “suffering as character development”. And enough with the junk food stories that have no point and never go anywhere interesting!

Oh, and don’t kid yourselves, guys. Now and Then, Here and There is shit.

Fourth Disappointing: ERASED

Well let’s get the really obvious one out of the way: ERASED. A-1 Pictures’ incredibly overhyped and overpraised noitamina hit that wasn’t without merit, but quickly flushed said merit down the toilet when you realized that the main character it had saddled us with was an utter tool, the “save the girl” story was pretty much a glorified visual novel route with severe logic holes, the final villain was about as charismatic as Albert Wesker without the throat cancer voice, and the plot was nothing but a bunch of “beautiful” moments strung together with loopy writing and gimmicky animation tricks. Not the worst emotionally pandering/socially shallow show of all-time, but very much a product of that inexplicably popular trend that MAL just can’t seem to get enough of for some reason.

Third Best: Planetarian The Reverie of a Little Planet

Visual novel anime have a long history of being shit. Their first mistake is taking control away from the player during transition, and mistakes #2 through 75 is putting in so many boring character interactions in order to get a decent length out of their miniscule stories that it turns my brain into stone. As such, I’d like to thank David Production for reminding me of a time when Key adaptations were once able to overcome those problems with Planetarian, a show that understands that drama and character need to go hand-in-hand rather than put in separate time-outs in two different rooms that are in different countries altogether. With a format that allows the pacing to be as long or short as it needs to be and a story that makes up for its lack of originality with its solid (if flawed at points) characterization, this web series stands somewhat proud as one of the most under-appreciated gems of 2016. Big emphasis on “somewhat” of course, but I think its strengths are good enough to deserve at least one watch.

Third Worst: The Lost Village

Not only is The Lost Village a bad show, it’s a show that represents everything wrong with today’s current English-speaking anime fanbase. There is literally not a single person who liked this show that went into it blind. They knew who made it beforehand. They participated in the crappy fan activities during its airing just to get entertainment out of it. They never judged this show by its own merits. And on its own merits, it was an utterly incompetent mess with crappy CG monsters, characters who had less personal identity than Mickey Mouse, an illogical plot that went absolutely nowhere, and NOBODY FUCKING DYING. But because people looked up who wrote and directed the show beforehand, it suddenly became post-modern genius.

Guys, I can’t stress this enough: stop looking at who makes an anime before you watch an anime! That has never benefitted anyone, least of all me, and anyone who says otherwise is lying.

Third Disappointing: Kiznaiver

Man, all those positive articles written about Kiznaiver’s potential and my trying to meet it halfway as it aired was really fucking stupid wasn’t it? I mean this show’s understanding of the teenage mind was about as mature as someone who still thinks “your anime is shit” is funny (it never was), and where do I even start with the number of ways this show wasted its potential? The annoying tonal shifts? That shitty sci-fi plot that tried to make a big deal out of human emotions without delving any deeper than “I love this emotionless boy”? The fact that the only conclusion to the Kiznaiver experiment was “human emotions are too complex to scientifically analyze”? How pretty much every conflict ends with the discovery that humans have *gasp* EMPATHY and JEALOUSY! This is what people consider the improved Kill la Kill? A bunch of elementary-school logic carried out by a bunch of annoying stereotypes with the only thing standing out about it being the hyperactive visual direction?

Second Best: Danganronpa 3

Like you guys didn’t see this one coming. Danganronpa 3, the epic conclusion to a series that not only brought back the fun in this hobby, but went all-out in terms of roasting pretty much everything whilst going all-out in tying things together to an admittedly distracting degree. It has pretty much everything for nerds, everything for elitists, and everything for people who just want to have a fun time in general, with the usual visual novel problems kept to a bare minimum, even if they had a tendency to show up at some unfortunate critical moments. It’s so well-known that Hentai Beta actually features the main villain on their header (no seriously, it does). Everything that most of this year’s anime did wrong, Danganronpa 3 did right, even if it introduced some of its own problems on the way. And that’s what makes it one of the gems of 2016’s lackluster selection.

Second Worst: Occultic;Nine

You know, I just did a review for this one. As such, it really feels redundant to list off why this show sucked so much, so here’s a quick summary: this show was every goddamn obnoxious visual novel storytelling trick under the sun combined with horrible production choices and a sense of humor that’s more unfunny than Kanye West trying to get political. The Science Adventure writers suck on this, and A-1 Pictures just plain suck in general. Can someone please put this company out of its misery? Anyone? No? Fine then, I’m just going to have to continue to make fun of this studio until they go bankrupt.

Second Disappointing: Orange

What irritates me the most about Orange – as well as why it’s so high on this list – is that I could see how it could have been good if it didn’t derail so hard that the wreckage ended up in a country across the ocean. The shitty production values as it went on are one thing, but the lack of teeth and obvious padding that ended up plaguing other notable adaptations of critically acclaimed manga were what really killed it for me. It just goes to show that if you want to combine anime cliches with serious storytelling, you have to put a lot more effort into it than this. And sadly, Orange could not break that trend.

Best Anime of 2016: Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

Wasn’t really sure whether to put this or Danganronpa 3 in the number one spot. Yeah the latter is the one I’d be more likely to rewatch, but the pre-requirements needed to understand the entire series is a bit high, and given my refusal to put other sequels on this list, it should be clear that I prefer to promote anime that can stand on their own. So I decided to recognize Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress as the best anime of 2016. Yes it was basically Guilty Crown trying to go for more of a mainstream appeal, but even through its worst, it still retained all the basic qualities that made this team’s first collaboration so fun to watch. Grab some popcorn and laugh at the cliched characters getting themselves into increasingly unfair and ludicrous situations, with all that godawful self-awareness that embodies most of today’s anime replaced with the tone of a Shakespearean tragedy. It worked for Prometheus. It worked for that 2014 Godzilla reboot. And it definitely works for the most fun Japanese cartoon to come from this dreadful year.

Worst Anime of 2016: Hitori no Shita – The Outcast

Why exactly is Hitori no Shita: The Outcast the worst anime of the year, you may ask? Well first answer this question: how many of you even remember this show existed? And even if you did, why would you want to remember it existed? I mean a Chinese-Japanese co-production that plays to none of the animation strengths from either country? Animation and characters so cut and paste that it makes Qualidea Code’s cast look like they were written by Shakespeare? A boiler-plate plot that sort of gave up on itself in the final few episodes, meaning it can’t even stand on its own as a self-contained product? Is there anything about this show worth remembering? The only thing I got from this show was utter pain at its banality with no fun to be had in analyzing its faults. And that is why it’s my worst anime of 2016.

Most Disappointing Anime of 2016: The Project Itoh Films

I know this is kind of hypocritical of me to say given how my favorite anime of the year was a noitamina show, but we really need to stop giving any special attention to the slot. All it’s good for at this point is disappointing hype, and that carries over greatly to this Project Itoh thing – or to be more accurate, the first two movies as the third one hasn’t been released yet. Empire of Corpses had good presentation, but the story and action was so fucking scattershot that it made Michael Bay’s Transformers movies look like Die HardHarmony had the more interesting themes and yeah I did give it a really positive review at first, but I found the in medias res and overall presentation to be too insufferable to get through on rewatch now that I know what’s going to happen. Both movies were big budget projects with interesting premises and a good pool of talent behind it. Both ended up failing in major ways. And in a year where anime films were doing their best to make a name for themselves given how many of them there were, both Project Itoh films were easily the most disappointing anime of 2016.

Minor Quips

  • I wonder how many bad anime I can get myself to sit through in 2017?
  • Depending on how you look at it, Amazon Prime’s terrible release of noitamina shows in the US are either frustrating or merciful.
  • Good non-anime TV shows of the year include: The Crown, Stranger Things, The Night Of, The Loud House, Good Girls Revolt, and I’m sure there are some others I’m not thinking of atm.

18 responses to “The Top Six Best, Worst, and Disappointing Anime of 2016

  1. Speaking of non-anime stuff, have you seen “The Young Pope”? Was pretty good for me, but it certainly isn’t very plot-driven so YMMV.

      • Well, it’s definitely peculiar. Paolo Sorrentino is a very eccentric and ‘artsy’ director – but if you enjoy good photography and composition and a masterful use of mood dissonance he’s your man. The show’s been compared to “House of Cards” set in the Vatican but it’s far less cynical, trying to inspect all sides of Catholicism and people involved in it, exploring everyone’s motivations with a rather dry eye. The plot itself has multiple threads and is supposed to fully resolve in the second and last season – it’s nothing extremely complex, more like a bundle of things happening in parallel like you might expect a Pope might have to manage (an archbishop involved in a child rape scandal, the relationship with an adviser of opposing political opinions, and so on) but Jude Law absolutely knocks it out of the park with his performance.

        I think the OP does a good job of setting the mood for the show. If it sounds like it could tickle your interest, do check it out – it’s very good if it’s your cup of tea.

    • Masou Gakuen HxH did too. That’s how bad a year 2016 was.

      I considered putting Joker Game in the disappointing category, but I soon realized it didn’t look good at the start to begin with.

      • Oh. Now that you mention it, I kind of expected Masou Gakuen to be there.. but then.. the ones in the list are pretty bad enough. Haha!

  2. I think I’m gonna defend The Lost Village because I liked it and it’s NOT because of who made it since I went into it blind. I don’t really follow the names of the people behind creating the shows because besides remembering Hayao Miyazaki, asian names are too hard for me to remember compared to English names ha.

    The main reason I liked it can be summed up by asking you this question. Were you surprised expectation-wise on where the show was going? Because nearly everything when it comes to characters, plot-twists, plot was very unpredictable for me in a somewhat subversive, tongue-in-cheek way.

    We thought it was gonna be a bloodbath/battle-royale mystery and the common tropes surrounding the genre ended up being flip-flop around. The social angles of “facing your fears” wasn’t that badly done either IMO. I had similar thoughts to you regarding to whether any characters would die but I was distracted enough by other absurd plot-points that by the end of the show, the lack of serious consequence of their life and character development was quirky in a way.

    Remember that Simpsons episode where Homer was told he had 22 hours to live and after going through a phase where he accepts his fate whilst gaining a new perspective in appreciating life? Yet by end of the episode you see Homer doing his thing by watching TV as if nothing he went through happened. The humor of the resolution was based from that comparison I made.

    It had that sense of self-awareness without being blatantly about it by winking at the audience. In a sense, The Lost Village amused me for the same reason you liked Guilty Crown. The show was campy and exaggerated as hell (especially some of the over-the top characters) and its tonal shifts to “comedy” and “horror” were pretty amusing I thought.

    I KNOW I might seem like an extreme minority for liking the show but I don’t blame you for trashing it.

    Unrelated wise, I thought Yuri on Ice would make your Top 6 favorite since it seemed like you enjoyed it despite not appealing to your personal taste. Also regarding to your rule of “no sequels unless they’re original and good enough”, can you elaborate how Mushishi made it to your Top 6 list in 2014?

    • The social angles of “facing your fears” wasn’t that badly done either IMO.

      Couldn’t disagree more. It came off like every other time Okada tries to write teenage characters aka making too big a deal out of elementary problems that really didn’t feel important to the story either. Only difference was that it was in a horror setting.

      Everything else related to The Lost Village

      Yeah, I wasn’t seeing that camp due to how not creative it was. I mean with Guilty Crown, I can say the lead character turned into Hitler. In Umineko, I can talk about those goat soldiers and their one-hit kill homing weapons, or the multiple deaths by giant falling cakes. I didn’t see anything The Lost Village offered compare to those shows. There were way too many scenes where the characters do nothing but talk about what’s going on, the CG monsters that move slower than molasses and couldn’t harm a fly really bored me, and the fire arrows just looked like shit. I don’t even remember the characters’ names.

      Unrelated wise, I thought Yuri on Ice would make your Top 6 favorite since it seemed like you enjoyed it despite not appealing to your personal taste. Also regarding to your rule of “no sequels unless they’re original and good enough”, can you elaborate how Mushishi made it to your Top 6 list in 2014?

      Yuri on Ice didn’t make it on because I can’t see myself rewatching anything about it. Mushishi 2 is an exception because I’m never gonna rank the original 2005 show on those lists. Plus it has no main plot, so it’s hard to really judge the rules on that.

    • I was surprised by The Lost Village but the problem is the surprising part was that it was EVEN LESS exciting than I’d thought it to be. It could have compensated for that by being genuinely good, but it wasn’t that either.

      I mean, “Cabin in the Woods” subverts a lot of expectations for your typical “people go to secluded place in the mountains, get slaughtered” movie but did it while being interesting and exciting all the way through and I loved it. If the only surprise a show has for me is “well, you thought I was going to keep you on your toes with shocking plot twists? TOO BAD NOTHING ACTUALLY HAPPENS!” I’m really not impressed.

  3. Will you ever read the novel for Harmony? I’ve rewatched the film twice, and while I agree some shots were overdirected, I think it still holds up well.

    • Not sure. Got some other Japanese books to read first. Like Kokoro. Or Hell Screen.

      Also, my main problem with Harmony on rewatch is how it threw too much information at you in the beginning without much reason to digest it. Kinda like that video game, Transistor.

      • Cool.

        Got any anime recommendations for my mom? My brother and I have been trying to get her into more anime. I’m tracking what she watches and likes with a MAL profile I set up. https://myanimelist.net/profile/Omnium

        Since she’s a 59 year old lady I try to pick things that are a bit more serious or grounded. My brother kind of goes all out. She really liked Euphonium a lot, we finished both seasons and the specials just now. She also really likes Psycho Pass – she saw 2 episodes and that was enough for her to buy all the Blu-Rays. I think art is a pretty big deal for her since she can’t get into a series if she thinks it just looks bad.

  4. On the sidenote, I’m surprised you didn’t include Girls Beyond the Wasteland in your Top 6 worst anime. I seem to recall you saying it was worse than Plastic Memories. I guess including another VN adaptation and trashing it is kinda a uninspiring pick and gets old after a while. It’s kinda like the mentality that people had back in the past where they enjoyed reading bad movie reviews of Roger Ebert more than his good movie reviews.

  5. I agree this year is really shitty in retrospect, too many people died in terror attacks this year. Also not only do we have to watch out for bombs, we also have to watch out for trucks moving suspiciously. Brexit and Trump’s victory makes up for it for me, but for all those affected by the terror attacks….very unfortunate they get nothing worth the loss.

    Haven’t been watching anime nowadays coz 2016 has been a year so surreal that the news are more engaging than anime.

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