And here we have the year, 2016. It’s obviously more fresh on my mind than 2015 and while it wasn’t quite as disappointing a year, not series that came out in 2016 made it onto my favorites list. Rakugo Shinjuu and Yuri on Ice couldn’t appeal to me despite the large amount of acclaim they got, most of the stuff I liked didn’t quite live up to their promise, and let’s not get started on the anime that couldn’t even come close. Now most people will remember that this was also the year when those ground-breaking anime films came out in Japan, but us Westerners couldn’t watch those until the following year (I will be including them in this list though because otherwise making a top five of anime I like would be nigh impossible). It wasn’t a bad year overall, especially if you see it as a warm-up for the much better 2017, but I could take or leave it.
Oh, and nothing from Haoliners gets on the worst list because that’d be way too obvious. Why kick something down when it’s not even trying to fight back? Plus, they’d take up the entirety of the top five (despite only having two anime that came out in 2016) if I gave them recognition.
5. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress (Wit)
I love Guilty Crown, but I’m aware that you shouldn’t try to recreate it. Pretty sure a lot of what made the series work was done on accident anyways, and I wanted to see the guys who made that show try to impress me in a different way.
“Sure,” they replied. “But you don’t mind if we recreate some scenes, recycle some character types, and use the same type of hilariously cynical humor that made you love our previous work, right?”.
I don’t see why not as long as you’re not doing another deconstruction of power fantasies and bullshit romances.
“Okay, how about a hilarious zombie action series that doesn’t have too much in substance, but enough camp to please your senses in the same vein as that cinematic Monsterverse you enjoy.”
I don’t like The Mummy.
“No, the one with Godzilla and King Kong“.
Well there are worse things you can do for Guilty Crown Season 2 guys, but when you come back, do you mind copying from the arc where Shu turns into a Neo-Nazi a bit?
4. Mob Psycho 100 (Bones)
I put Mob Psycho 100 way too low on my initial top anime list for 2016. I swore I wouldn’t make that mistake this year…if it wasn’t for the fact that a certain trilogy of movies also came out this year and thus Mob is still in fourth place. Whatever, it still gets recognition as my favorite series of the year, okay? The characters, the animation, the humor, the fact that big brothers are seen as inferior to little brothers in this narrative…I wish it had more originality, but we all have a lot of wishes that don’t come true, don’t we?
3. A Silent Voice (Kyoto Animation)
We all know it’s going to be the 2016 critically acclaimed, beautiful looking movie trilogy that occupies the top three spots on this, so the question we’re going to have to ask ourselves is “what order am I going to use to represent them?”. Let’s start with A Silent Voice, which is ironically the movie I’ve rewatched the most despite it being my least favorite of the bunch. Part of it is due to circumstance, but the main reason I just can’t stop going back to this movie is because it just keeps getting better with each watch. Not only is it beautifully animated, but there’s so much storytelling contained in the visuals that you miss on first glance, and even with multiple watches, I still don’t think I’ve uncovered everything the movie wants me to understand. Maybe after another rewatch…
2. Your Name (Comix Wave)
Look, I like my bittersweet romance stories, but I’m also a romantic at heart. What I love the most about Your Name is how it’s so similar and yet so different from Makoto Shinkai’s previous magnum opus, 5 Centimeters Per Second. It doesn’t ride on the coattails of what once worked as a desperate means to remind viewers how much we used to love it. It’s using familiar cliches as an accessible means of giving us something new, and it just so happens that the new thing it’s giving us is one of the most heartwarming takes on long-distance relationships I’ve ever seen.
1. In This Corner of the World (MAPPA)
No sense beating around the bush. In This Corner of the World. The anime that embodies everything I love about the medium and life in general. I laugh. I cry. I get visually enraptured. I get to think. I experience adrenaline with each watch. Every single thing about this anime gets 10/10s across the board, and that’s not something I can say about most things in general, let alone Japanese cartoons.
5. My Hero Academia (Bones)
It was going to be either this or the new Lupin for the fifth most disappointing spot of the year. And I don’t really care about Lupin anymore so we’ll go with the Bones anime most people think of when they hear the term “superhero anime” mentioned. Now that I’ve seen what My Hero Academia can be like when it’s good, going back to the first season where it did nothing but act as a really slow prologue for what was to come is just painful. I didn’t think the first season was good from the start, but I was surprised at how much more underwhelming it is now that I have context of Hero Killer Stain and whatnot. Would I have continued watching Hero Academia if this was my only exposure and I was just a normal anime fan who drops everything he doesn’t like at the drop of a hat? I think its spot on this list should answer that question.
4. 91 Days (Shuka)
There seems to be a mentality that thinks anime should try to be more like western media. A mentality that will hopefully die over time if it keeps giving us anime series like 91 Days. Yeah, because I totally want to see a soulless recreation of every Prohibition revenge story ever, just like how I want to see Hollywood make a sequel to their version of Ghost in the Shell.
3. ERASED (A-1 Pictures)
You know what’s the most disappointing thing about ERASED as time passes? How utterly retarded the writing is when you no longer have fan hype to carry you and know all the twists. When you notice that the time travel just happens whenever the plot feels like it. That Satoru prioritizes saving girls over pursuing the killer. That the way the story unveils relies almost entirely on coincidence. I’ll admit the Kayo fan art this show produced is cool though.
2. Kiznaiver (Trigger)
Look, Mari Okada has always been bad at understanding the teenage psyche. In fact, she’s bad at understanding how human emotions work in general. Yes, they’re generally too complex for anyone to really understand, but I know that when I was the age of the characters in Kiznaiver, I didn’t have to be taught how to feel empathy or what jealousy was. So why is that when Trigger finally gets over their budget problems and make something consistently animated from beginning to end, it has to be this garbage?
1. Orange (TMS Entertainment)
Orange is not only the anime that let me down the most in 2016, it’s also the anime that made me realize just how hard it is to combine anime tropes with serious issues in a manner that’s cohesive. If you lean too much into the tropes, you’ll just be another throwaway entry into a specific genre. But if you lean too hard on the substance, you’ll just come off as a college professor who puts in the bare minimum for what qualifies as a lecture. There has to be a balance, and while Orange initially had it, it ended up slipping hard and broke its leg, causing the final stretch to be the visual equivalent of a track runner limping to the finish line. It’s final take on how to alleviate suicide wasn’t very good either.
5. Rewrite (8-bit)
If it wasn’t for the hilarious ending (technically mid-ending, but S2 isn’t quite bad enough to be as recognized as S1) where every single character died in a faux-End of Evangelion kind of way, Rewrite would be a lot higher on the worst list. You don’t even have to be a Key hater to realize that this is not how you transfer a visual novel to animated form. The awful CG? The awful animation in general? The character arcs that just come and go without any fanfare or importance? The painfully sexist humor? Somehow, this show has that weird combination of trying too hard and yet also not trying hard enough.
4. Izetta: The Last Witch (Ajia-do Animation Works)
I only learned a year later that this anime was written by one of the Code Geass writers who would later go on to do Guilty Crown and Strike the Blood. Honestly, the majority of his trainwreck anime aren’t that bad so much as forgettable, but Izetta: The Last Witch is definitely something that measures up to Hiroyuki Yoshino’s awful reputation. Think of Geass except all the good parts were either incredibly simplified or removed altogether, and…yes you get one of the numerous Geass copycats. But trust me when I say Izetta is worse than them.
3. Big Order (asread)
Okay, I know a lot of people consider this to be the worst anime of the year, but I thought its’ perfect recreation of everything that can go wrong in anime with no self-awareness whatsoever was just weird enough to elevate it as mildly hilarious at times. I mean, it has a guy stopping a nuclear missile with his bare hands and somehow that scene is completely boring. That takes a certain amount of skill in a retarded kind of way. Don’t get me wrong though, this show is very dull and horrible with almost none of the craziness sticking due to its utter lack of context. Even calling out the Jojo references gets old after a while.
2. Occultic;Nine (A-1 Pictures)
Look A-1, I know your light novel adaptations look like ass. I know most of your anime in general look like ass. I know you’ve been trying to defy people like me who say you have no artistic vision as of late by aiming for a more cinematic approach to your shows. But you could have at least tried to tribute good cinema rather than copy films with more dutch angles than Battlefield Earth that just make your numerous talking heads an ironically literal headache to watch. Not that it helps you were saddled with the poor man’s version of Zero Escape for your story, but I don’t see how it absolves Occultic;Nine of sucking so badly.
1. The Lost Village (Diomedea)
The Lost Village is not only another indication of why anime can’t do horror right, but it’s also an indication of how there exist anime that just can’t do entertainment right in general. Yeah, I totally believe those CG penguins can kill me with its incredibly telegraphed flipper punch, just like how I totally buy into these characters’ “personal problems” that consist of nothing more than yelling at the world because you accidentally stood on a thumb tack (yes this is also a Mari Okada anime). Why don’t you just take these kids to Iran and see how awful they’ve got it? Tell me that wouldn’t make a more interesting setting than a Japanese village that can’t kill worth shit.