Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Top 5 Best Anime of 2016


2016 IS FINALLY OVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sorry, I just thought that everyone, as a species, needed to hear that. I would include fanfare and people dancing in the streets in this post to show just how in love I am with that fact, but I can only do so much in a post like this.

But seriously. thank God that 2016 is done. Political unrest, social upheaval, and the world being torn inside out by its own stupidity. When the most tragic thing that happened in 2016 was the death of a gorilla, then you know for a fact that the world is on a fast track to some circle of hell that we haven't discovered yet. I could go on about how 2016 wasn't all that bad and that there were some good things that happened, but no one wants to hear about that. Everyone wants to hear that it's done, t's never coming back, and that we can move on to bigger and better things.

So here we are, looking back on a year that was social garbage, but at least some anime were good... I mean not a whole lot, but there were still some good shows, if not downright great shows. I've had a problem with most anime in 2016 because there was just too much of it! With nearly 200, yes 200, shows produced over the span of the year, there were just simply too many titles to judge accurately, let alone ones that stuck out to me. Most of these titles were just generic Moe slop, mobile phone tie in anime, light novel adaptations, and just general assembly line anime that had nothing to them besides existing.

That being said, I did enjoy several titles this year quite a bit, and I even regretted not picking up some shows in the long run. Usually the shows that I watched were what I was craving at the moment. One season I may want some action anime, while another season I may want some more mellow slice-of-life fare for my palette. Point is, there are some shows I just didn't watch because I wasn't interested in them at the time and I simply don't have enough time to watch them now. Re: Zero, Yuri on Ice!!!, and Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu have been popping up on many people's best anime of the year list, but I haven't seen any of them. I just didn't have the time, and in the case of Re: Zero, the concept alone just didn't appeal to me. I know that many people will disagree with me on that, but maybe I'll give that and all of those shows a watch and kick myself for not putting them on my list. But this is MY list. I am the barometer for what I like, and what I enjoyed the most this past year. You may agree or disagree, but that's just the way the world works.

And so, let's get right to it with our honorable mention of...

Honorable Mention: Mob Psycho 100
Mob Psycho 100 was a damned fine show that had quite a lot to say about adolescence and too many other themes and idea for me to accurately explain here. I was debating between putting Mob here or Danganronpa 3, but I decided in favor of Mob at the last minute for how polished of an experience this is.

Mob Psycho 100 has genuinely great characters, my personal favorite being everybody's favorite con artist Reigen, fantastic animation, and the best OP of the year, but what pushes Mob over the edge for me was that it told a self contained, standalone story. Danganronpa 3 is a niche of an anime, appealing to fans of the game and being both a prequel and a sequel to games that never got an anime adaptation. It had a high entry bar for non-viewers, though fans of the series, like myself, enjoyed it immensely. Mob Psycho 100 on the other hand, is accessible and has topical messages all wrapped around stunning minimalistic animation. I may not have liked it when I first saw it, but it slowly grew on me the more that I thought about it.

What keeps it from breaking into the Top 5 though is simply the fact that I liked other shows immediately after I saw them. There was no wait period between me liking the shows in my Top 5, I just liked them instantly. Mob needed to grow on me, and it would feel wrong for me to put an anime as my favorite list for only liking it in retrospect versus titles that have stuck with me the entire year. So yeah, Mob Psycho 100 is a great show, ONE is a great author, and I can't wait to see more ONE adaptations.

#5: planetarian
So I didn't know exactly what to do with planetarian to be perfectly honest. I was first a net animation of five episodes that varied in length before being turned into a movie... that was just reusing all of the animation from the anime to tell its story. I opted to give it a nod as an anime series though because of just how beautiful and simple it is.

If there's anything I've learned over the years, some of my favorite anime and movies are those with simple premises and executions. Simple doesn't mean bad, it just means that it's something to easily grasp your head around. Yumemi and the junker are the two characters in the story, it's about a post apocalyptic world and Yumemi trying to fix her planetarium.

planetarian is an elegant show that's able to do so much without ever resorting to cheap shots. You know the kind of cheap shots I'm referring to. In a drama like this, it's easy to manipulate the audience to have certain feelings and reactions, but planetarian doesn't manipulate its audience. Every reaction the viewer has is genuine because we grow to care about Yumemi and the world that she lives in. Every scene feels justified and there's no wasted space in here.

Clocking in at less than 2 hours, anyone can watch planetarian in a sitting and with the show ending on its own terms and not stretching its premise out longer than it needed to be, it feels like a magical experience. Give this series a shot, or watch the movie that reused the animation from here. Either way, it's a calming and enjoyable experience.

#4: Keijo!!!!!!!!
I just spent more time not even a week ago defending Keijo!!!!!!!! as a good anime, and I wasn't all that surprised to see it appear in my Top list either. It's just a simple, fun show. Remember when things could be goofy and fun and didn't have a shred of cynicism in them? That's the case here. Keijo!!!!!!!! is all about having a good time and entertaining audiences, and it succeeds in spades.

The excessive fan service may put some people off, but it's not that detrimental to the show itself. It's just there, apart of the world, and it doesn't harm any of the proceedings. There's no objectification, by others, no skimpy outfits to embarrass the ladies, and definitely no romantic subplots that would cheapen the show. Keijo!!!!!!!! is just Keijo!!!!!!!!. You know exactly what kind of show it is based off of the poster above. You'll either love it or be repulsed by it, but after a few episodes, it's hard not to crack a smile at the whole proceedings.

#3: Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
I'm just going to come out and say that I enjoy Kabaneri way more than I enjoyed Attack on Titan. Made by the exact same production team, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress takes the conflict of AoT and sets it in Edo Japan with steampunk weapons, hordes of parasitic zombies, and the only people that can take them out are super-powered vampires. It's a grand, action packed epic that all takes place on a giant train alla Snowpiercer

Now I know its a loaded statement to say that Kabaneri better than one of the most beloved anime titles of the past decade, but hear me out. Kabaneri is able to throw together a whole host of characters that come from various walks of life and pits them under the same circumstances. You have mechanics, warriors, a princess, a vampire killing machine, and normal civilians all trying to survive, and that's not even including the political machinations of the main villain and their forces. Death here has meaning behind it because in the span of 12 episodes, only two characters die, and one has quite he near death experience. Death isn't used frequently, but death does exist, making all of the moments spent with our heroes all the more special.

But let's be perfectly honest here, the action in Kabaneri is just sensational. The animation is beyond comparison and makes scenes where the vampire move down monsters all the more satisfying, and even when some giant monsters are thrown it gets even better. People punch trains here!!!

All of the feelings and emotions of Kabaneri are larger than life and the series is all about spectacle. Some of its themes and ideas fade away when the action scenes take center stage, but that's par for the course for a series dedicated to INTENSE FEELINGS AND ACTIONS. As long as you can get behind it, you'll have the best action series of the year.

#2: Erased
So I'm at least somewhat aware of the fact that most of my Top 5 are all anime that I personally enjoy the most. Looking around and most other anime critics best lists, there's no mention of any of the titles I've listed already. When I think about "the best", I don't think about a generic, overall best. I think of my own personal best, as in the shows that I enjoyed the most. The very few times I cross over with popular opinion, it's for a damned good reason. Erased is that damned good reason.

Not only is the first episode of Erased arguably the best episode out of any shows I've seen this year, but there's nothing but gut punch after gut punch of emotional resonance here. Every episode has a moment or two that's just spectacularly done and devastates me inside. Whether it was Satoru's realization of what happened to him in the first episode, his encounters with Kayo's mother, or Kayo having a home-cooked meal for the first time, Erased was dead set on making sure you felt for the characters.

And you know what? I felt for all of the characters. Not only is Satoru's mother one of the best mothers in all of anime, his relationships with his friends all feel real and you can see exactly how they influence him. The humor works, the drama works, and did I forget to mention this series is a murder mystery? That's probably the most compelling thing about this show. Each week new facts are presented to the audience to determine who the killer is, but nothing is laid clear until about episode 8... that being said, the reveal of the mastermind is at episode 10 or so, so the ending is flubbed just a little bit because it draws out the reveal and the machinations of the mastermind for what feels like an eternity.

But despite the lukewarm ending, there's still a lot to enjoy at how the series concludes. There's one moment towards the end of the show that absolutely justifies the price of admission alone, and its about a character that Satoru spent so much time trying to protect and become friends with through it all. I highly recommend seeing Erased as soon as possible. It's easily one of the best shows of 2016... but not my number one. What could that possibly be? Well...

#1: Flying Witch
I never would have expected to love a slice-of-life comedy as much as I did this year, but Flying Witch blew me away episode after episode. I've never been a big fan of slice-of-life comedies, but Flying Witch always had a sense of wonder to it. Ever episode felt calming and positive, almost like a reverse Mushi-shi. While Mushi-shi was somber and very introspective, Flying Witch was positive and extroverted. This was a world that was pleasant and welcoming.

Each episode revolved around little happenstances, but they were just so memorable and enjoyable to watch. I remember episodes about the coming of the Spring Spirit, meeting a fortune teller in the park, discussing the differences between pancakes and hotcakes, visiting a ghost cafe, and going sightseeing on a flying whale. Moments here resonated way more than any other show this year because the show never tried to paint itself as anything more than a fun little show about a witch living in a small town. It's the same reason why Kiki's Delivery Service is so beloved by people.

The best way I can use to describe Flying Witch is that's its a nostalgic show. Whenever you watch an episode, it just gives you the fuzzies all over and when you're done watching it, you look back at how much you surprisingly enjoyed yourself. It's like laying in a hammock on a spring day; peaceful, but certainly needed.

It's always difficult to describe why I like a show so much, because there's only so many ways I can say "It's good because it's good", but I can clearly say that Flying Witch is good because of how it puts the audience at ease watching it. I was never more comfortable watching a show this year than Flying Witch, making it my choice for the Best Anime of 2016.

Hey everyone! Please consider donating to my Patreon, which can be found here. Spread the link and even if you can't donate, send a link to someone who may be interesting in reading critical reviews from a cynical man!

No comments:

Post a Comment