Well the year has come and gone and with it comes a whole slew of anime both good and bad. But unlike the other anime-reviewing titans on YouTube, I’ve only gotten around to watching a handful, so I’m nowhere near qualified enough to label the best anime of the year. In fact, some of the year I spent watching shows that came before, such as Barakamon and Sasakemi Koto. Although I can’t speak to which anime of 2016 is inherently the best, I would still like to take a moment to talk about all the anime I watched over the year. I’ll also be talking about shows I’ve watched most of, so shows I watched 3 episodes and then ditched aren’t gonna be a part of this list. I also will be nixing the synopses to make this article more manageable.
Starting the year off strong is an anime whose manga counterpart I had been a big fan of. In fact I discovered the anime adaptation by complete accident and almost fainted. A very real and dark tale about a guy who accidentally warps back in time to his childhood that talks about concepts like unstable households and whether or not to believe in those around you. The animation was superb, the acting was spot-on, and the tension, as many of you know, gripped you by the face and forced you to wait each week for a follow-up. Unfortunately, it came under the usual strain of a 12-episode run, so a lot of content had to be cut. While at first I was okay with it, I noticed that they had to leave out a lot of details that helped character motivations and explained certain nuances. Also, while I was okay with the alternate climax at the end, I can see why people were a bit let down. The final two episodes seem to be a rushed finale for frankly one of the best built-up suspenseful anime in a long time. But despite all that, ERASED is something I really enjoyed, as both a critic and a fan of the author. Here’s hoping that Kei Sanbe will hit us with another masterpiece.
GRIMGAR: OF FANTASY AND ASH
Those of you who follow this blog know about my feelings on Grimgar. Objectively speaking, there isn’t a whole lot going for it. There’s a lot of problems in multiple areas, and the overall flow of the show is a bit shaky. But for what it accomplished, I think there’s still something there. The regular-people-warped-to-fantasy-world trope has been done literally to death, but I do like the idea of them just trying to live there and not trying to have some sort of paper-mache ending. It wasn’t perfect, but since the characters were done so well, I enjoyed it all the way through. I can understand people disliking it, because it is sort of wonky with its animation, battle direction, and plot consistency. I found a lot to enjoy in the smaller moments, however, so for me I think it’s worth waiting around for whenever they decide to make a season 2.
This is one I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with. The manga’s art, and sometimes the anime’s too, do not look good. Artistically and design-wise speaking, Assassination Classroom looked quite ugly. It didn’t help matters that a lot of plot points and character developments were either throwaways or really painful to watch. But despite that, it has one of the best characters I’ve seen in the form of the series antagonist, Koro-sensei. He’s smart, insightful, but downright hilarious when it comes to multiple jokes. Supporting cast members like Nagisa and Karma are alright, and there are a couple of the other students that shine, but Koro-sensei absolutely steals it. I also appreciate that this story set up its ending within the first chapter, and surprisingly since this manga is from Shonen Jump, it follows through with that ending. So despite, artistically speaking, the anime isn’t that good to look at, although it is animated well, the character of Koro-sensei with his antics and teachings help to push the series along to a very memorable finale. Even though he just happens to push a lot of other stuff with it that isn’t that memorable.
With Mabucchi’s dance moves circulating the meme-space for months, I finally sat down and watched it, and found myself a bit torn. On the one hand, it was a lot more in-depth in its premise than I had originally thought and was animated very well. But on the other, it IS a lot more in-depth and the series plot direction is almost only about its own meta. What I mean is that every development has to do with the world that Mabucchi and friends live in. There’s no outward message on over-use of technology and there’s no real character development that doesn’t someway have to do with the Coil-centric world that they live in. Despite this, the concept of Dimension W makes absolutely no sense, so a lot of plot nuances come mostly from thin-air. There’s some great action, and as said before the animation is fantastic, but the story direction is a little weak. But it’s not awful, to say the least, so I still say it’s at least worth the watch.
BOKU NO HERO ACADEMIA
Starting off the Spring season strong is a gauntlet of a series that Shonen Jump has been dying to get on the small screen. Boku no Hero Academia has all the hallmarks of being the next big thing. There’s a fantastic protagonist, a well-written rival, fantastic animation and style, and a healthy dose of action-packed fun. Hell, this show was so popular, it got a Season 2 Greenlight halfway through its first season’s run. Unfortunately, there’s a large problem I hope Bones fix with the next installment, and that is the pacing. Understandably, they probably wanted to stretch it out to cap off the season with a big battle, but nonetheless, the show suffers from a shockingly slow pace. Battles that would usually take place in one compact episode are stretched to two full episodes. Hell, you can’t even write a proper synopsis without spoiling the first three episodes. However, the show does amazingly in every other regard, so if Bones tune it up for next season, then we got ourselves a mega-hit.
RE:ZERO KARA HAJIMERU ISEKAI SEIKATSU
While I was super excited for Hero Academia being a fan of the manga, I had no freaking clue what Re:Zero was. Humorously enough, I actually remember reading the first couple chapters way before this story hit the mainstream, and just thought it was the typical frilly situation with misplaced gore. You do get a lot of manga like that, unfortunately. So I sat down and watched the double-episode premiere and still found myself skeptical of the whole thing. I could not wait to see how this would bomb. If only I knew. Re:Zero didn’t exceed my expectations, it fired past them like a rocket going to Mars, and reminded me that there are still people out there that make fantastic stories and protagonists. This is the tale of a misplaced person in a fantasy world, but has no purpose. Main character Subaru, being an otaku shut-in, forcibly shoves his way into the limelight and is severely punished for it. His acts of typical protagonist heroism are met with surprisingly realistic disdain and disgust. Yes, the main character suffers repercussions for being an idiot. Who’da thunk. The only problem is that the first few episodes set it up as a more comedic parody rather than a tragedy. Subaru’s unhealthy optimism is a great plot point later on, but for the beginning it does being to grate. If you’re willing to sit through the initial rough start, then you’ll be met with, hands-down, the best anime protagonist development of the year.
And here we come to the first big bomb of the year. I’m sure there were others along the way, but oh my god did this one suck. I got about halfway through the show and gave up. I’m throwing in the towel after there’s a super-powered idol that can talk to giant bug creatures. First off, the show is every other Sword Art Online, Asterisk War, Chivalry of a Failed Knight knock-off, but somehow worse. The characters are painfully bland, the action is weak, and not a lick of it makes any sense. They’re supposed to be defenders of an alien race known as Savages. What are Savages exactly? No idea. Why do they have an arena for the purpose of fighting each other? No clue. Is it possible to walk around with that much cleavage without any issue? Unlikely. I can’t even really recommend this as a joke anime to watch, because even I lost interest at the halfway mark. It’s that bad. Although there was some good to come of it, and that is one of the best anime images I’ve ever seen.
This didn’t happen.
This anime was actually one I was anticipating for a while. I had never played the games, so I figured the anime would be a really cool way to be accustomed to the world. While most people found the series lacking, I actually had some fun with it. It wasn’t perfect, the animation was pretty stiff and some of the jokes didn’t quite land, but I couldn’t help but wait week to week for it. What helped with that was the genuine fun of figuring out what happened along with the characters in the show. It wasn’t so easy to see where everything was going, but it was easy enough for people who aren’t good at detecting falsities to play along anyway. It was really fun to call out what would happen as soon as Phoenix got that click in his brain. I also appreciate that Crunchyroll had an option to change the names in the subtitles to the Western-Localized names. It’s easier to remember Wright instead of Naruhodo. So it’s not too impactful, but it is genuine fun to watch and figure out.
And that’s just about it for the Winter and Spring anime seasons! There was a ton more, and I’m sure there’s still a lot I need to catch up on, but for now this is the what I’ve seen and what I think of them! Tune in tomorrow for the Summer and Fall seasons!