The Best Anime of Summer 2016

The Summer 2016 season of anime is long over, but I’m still thinking about some of the shows I watched back then—and that’s a good sign. On the whole, I felt it was a pretty okay season, with a more balanced spread of truly great shows and shows that were just fun to watch than we’ve had during the rest of the year.

Macross Delta

[If you want to recap the entire summer season, from my first impressions all the way through the end of the season, you can hit up my posts in the Summer 2016 tag!]

10. Show by Rock!! Short (5/10)

It was short. It was Show by Rock!! The school skit in the final episode was incredibly good, as was the other SHINGANCRIMSONZ episode. I still can’t remember the name of the band with the crazy lady who lives in a daruma. Basically, this show was everything you’d except from a Show by Rock!! short or want a Show by Rock!! short to be. That is, unless you were hoping for any of the Criticrista (best SbR!! band name, by the way) girls besides Rosia to get significant screentime. Then, I suppose, you were probably disappointed.

Awards: Best Short

Show by Rock!

9. Amanchu! (5/10)

I made a lot of jokes towards the end of Amanchu! with friends about the lack of actual progress towards the stated goal of diving in the ocean, but that’s not really the reason Amanchu! finds itself in this position. Rather, what I really ended up feeling was that the show only rarely did enough with that in between time to make the intervening episodes completely worthwhile (not to mention what looked like steadily less and less inventive visuals t0 me). For me, I think the show peaked in episode two with the pool scene and had its final truly solid episode with episode 6. While there were still some real peaks that appeared in the latter half of the show, I never really felt like the show recaptured the magic of the early episodes. It was still enjoyable throughout, but I suppose I feel it missed its greatest potential by a ways.

Awards: Best OP—”Million Clouds” by Maaya Sakamoto (Honorable Mention: Best OST)

Further Reading
Sea Tones: A Study of Setting in Amanchu!

Amanchu!

8. D. Gray Man Hallow (5/10)

You know, back around the middle of the season when I first started thinking about what I would write for this blurb, I was sort of expecting to wind up just talking about the power of nostalgia. And while the nostalgia effect certainly is in play, D. Gray Man Hallow really surprised me by reminding me why I had that nostalgia in the first place. Because I love these characters. Because the story has just the right combination of tragedy, darkness, warmth, friendship, and light. And Hallow, shockingly, wonderfully, tapped right into all of that and made watching it worth it on its own terms—not just as a sequel to a show I once really liked. Yes, it was great to see Allen, Lenalee, Kanda, Road (I love her) and the rest again, but it was more than that. It was a story worth seeing them in again. And, so, improbably as this show’s existence is, I’m thankful it did indeed exist.

Awards: Best Adventure, Best Fantasy

D.Gray Man

7. 91 Days (6/10)

Now here’s a perfectly solid show with a great ending. I rather feel 91 Days is ultimately a show that’ll fade from my memory pretty quickly, but since I’m still remembering it now, let me give it a few words of praise. Production woes aside, the storyboarding for the show is very good, the backgrounds are lovely, and the general control of the story is solid on a level that’s (perhaps depressingly) unusual for anime. 91 Days is written with stunning confidence. Maybe that’s partially due to the fact that it’s so clearly a genre homage, but even then! Solid, functional storytelling just isn’t something we have the luxury of not appreciating in anime! So good on this show, kudos for having the guts to go for an ambiguous and almost impressionistic finale, and congrats on holding the production together all the way to the end.

Awards: (Honorable Mentions: Best OP—”Signal” by TK, Best ED—”Rain or Shine” by ELISA)

Further Reading
91 Days and the Cinematography of Murder

91 Days

6. Love Live! Sunshine (6/10)

Love Live! Sunshine was at its best when remembering love for its predecessor, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good at other times. While I did wind up feeling like this season of Sunshine! (obviously, there will be another season coming) was kind of empty by the end, overall it’s a super fun, super engaging beginning to a story. I wish it had given more of a satisfying semicolon (rather than the comma we got) in the finale, but when hijinks are this energetic and moments of character drama this solid (my favorite was the resolution of the You/Chika episode, even if that episode had other problems), I can’t complain too much. And then the meta stuff. Oh heavens, the meta stuff was glorious. It proved Sunshine fully understands both its origins and how to be its own show without forgetting them. I loved it.

Awards: (Honorable Mentions: Best Story, Best Female Character—Chika Takami)

Further Reading
The Spirit of Joy Lives in Love Live Sunshine!
Love Live Sunshine!, Macross, and the Resonance of Franchise Lore

Love Live! Sunshine

5. Konobi (6/10)

It feels like it’s been a while since I had a seasonal pet show that was so completely a pet show as Konobi was, and let me tell you, I was so thankful for it. While there were some obvious elements of the show I really disliked (namely mean-spirited panty-related jokes and the like at Usami’s expense—which really grated against the rest of the material), there was just sooooo much else in it that I truly loved. The atmospheric moments. The amazingly good chemistry between Usami and Uchimaki. Collette, Imari, and the President all being such genuinely nice and pleasant people. I’m already missing this show a great deal; more slice-of-life comedies should aspire to be what Konobi is.

Awards: Pet Show of the Season, Best Comedy (Honorable Mentions: Best Visual Aesthetic)

Further Reading
The Art of Good Anime Crushes
Finding Gold in an Everyday Art Club!

Konobi

4. New Game! (7/10)

Along with KonobiNew Game! really helped set a new standard (no pun intended) for what moe slice-of-life shows, although it was a bit different in nature than Konobi. Rather than pitch-perfect character dynamics (although New Game! does have a bit of that), though, what New Game! does best is instilling a sense of inspiration and joy into the seemingly opposed acts of artistic creation and full-time employment. Of course, there’s obviously a bit of fantasy spinning going on there, but it’s a fantasy close enough to my heart and my own hopes for my future work that I’m willing to just let myself be inspired. Alongside that, New Game! also plays host to the wonderful Kou, whose leadership struggles and desire to prove herself by working hard I found incredibly relatable. In the end, New Game! was much less escapist than I expected—rather than serving as comforting diversion from my life, it instead wound up one of those shows that made me want to keep working hard to achieve my dreams of creating art. And that’s pretty cool.

Awards: Best Slice-of-Life (Honorable Mention: Best Female Character—Kou Yagami)

Further Reading
Making Moe Real

New Game!

3. Macross Delta (7/10)

So. Let’s be honest—for a Macross series to end up here is a bit of a disappointment for me. I can’t deny that. Whether it’s an effect of the sky-high expectations I had for the series following the first few episodes or just the long grind of watching something weekly for half a year, Delta didn’t have enough consistent highs to really take me where I wanted it to take me. But, on the other hand, it’s still a gosh darn Macross series doing those Macross things I so love. There’s breakdancing mecha, floating on the wind, singing in the stars, galaxies collapsing, snow machines, idols, and remembering love. Macross is simply unlike anything else, and even its weaker efforts still resonate with me. I wouldn’t be planning on importing the other five volumes of the Japanese BD releases if this show wasn’t important to me. That should say it all, even if it wobbles a bit stacked up against its seasonal fellows.

Awards: Best Female Character—Freyja Wion, Best ED—All of them (Honorable Mention: Best OST)

Further Reading:
—R042’s excellent episodic posts

macross-delta-26-148

2. Mob Psycho 100 (8/10)

In an interview near the beginning of Mob Psycho 100‘s airing, original mangaka ONE said that he wanted the series to be about “kindness.” I’m pleased to report to all of you that his intent carries through in a special way in Mob‘s anime adaptation, which is not only a solid testament to the power of kindness and a fascinating musing on the nature of adulthood and childhood, but also features some truly incredible animation and visual storytelling. Mob is not just a show with a huge heart at the center of its narrative, but also at the center of its production as an anime. As you all know well by now, anime whose natures as artistic artifacts are in harmony with the stories they want to convey are a huge weakness of mine, and the way Mob leaks energy from every frame seems to me to parallel the story’s enthusiasm for just being kind.

Awards: Best Visual Aesthetic, Best Action (Honorable Mentions: Best Story, Best OP—”99″ by Mob Choir, Best ED—”Refrain Boy” by ALL OFF)

Further Reading
Mob Psycho 100, Apostle of Animation
Power, Kindness, and Adulthood in Mob Psycho 100

Mob Psycho 100

1. orange (9/10)

What can I say about orange that I have not already? I think it’s an important show, I think it’s a good show, I wish the warmth of the love I feel it conveys could be instilled in every person out there struggling with self-hatred. The affirmation of the person’s right to exist and live is such an important thing, and in a world where this kind of idea has more or less been forgotten outside of the religious sphere, secular stories like orange are that much more important for their accessibility. But all that is true of both the anime and the manga version of orange—so is there anything of particular note in the anime itself? Putting aside the story, orange as an anime is something of a mixed basket. There are moments of directorial genius, parts where the production lets down the story, a phenomenal soundtrack, and an undeniably unique approach to the direction of the voice actors. On the whole, I feel it’s not the best adaptation the source material could have had, but in the end it was good enough to let its important message be heard and that’s what I care about most.

Awards: Best Story, Best OST, Best Drama (Honorable Mentions: Best Visual Aesthetic)

Further Reading
The Importance of orange

orange


Still Watching

Regalia: The Three Sacred Stars, Kuromukuro

Dropped

  • The Morose Mononokean (1 ep)
  • B Project (1 ep)
  • Battery (1 ep)
  • Tsukiuta (1 ep)
  • Taboo Tattoo (1 ep)
  • Momokuri (1 ep)
  • Sacred Rider XechS (1 ep)
  • sweetness & lightning (4 eps)
  • DAYS (5 eps)

 Unawarded

  • Best Harem, Best Sports

And that’s all! Hopefully I’ll get on this quicker for the Fall 2016 season, but these days I don’t think I can promise that. So it goes!

7 thoughts on “The Best Anime of Summer 2016

  1. I forgot about Summer already. My favourites would have been (in no parituclar order) Re:Life, Mob Psycho 100, Momokuri, Planetarian, 91 Days, New Game, and Konobi. Probably. Summer was probably the worst season of the year for me. (Shows on that list I didn’t watch would be Love Live and D-Gray Man, the former because I’ve had enough with one season of that style, and the latter because I haven’t seen much of the older series.)

    Autumn season looks a lot better for me.

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  2. Well, I didn’t really have a favourite “anime” from the summer season… but best show? Yeah, that’s an easy choice for me – Urobuchi’s Thunderbolt Fantasy. It was awesome and I almost dissed it, because ‘eh puppets’.

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  3. A reminder on my rankings… they’re on a five point scale to coincide with my rankings on Anime Planet. But one 2.5 can often be different from another 2.5, so when needed I supplement them here with verbal comments to clarify.

    The shows I watched are in italics, the ones my lovely wife and I both watched are in bold.

    In order of final ranking:

    Battery Sigh… any one of the half dozen or so themes the raised were meaty enough to build an entire season around, but they kept blundering from one setup to the next with no clear vision. Nor did the fujoshi bait (that got more and more blatant as the series went on) help any. It’s not that I object to fujoshi bait mind you, it’s that they seemed to insert it whenever they’d run out of other ideas to drop.

    Final ranking 2.0

    Love Live! Sunshine!! Sigh… and a wry shake of the head. Look, I wanted to like LLS. Hell, I wanted to love LLS. But I have to be honest… The girl’s characters were wonderfully drawn, very individual, and only mildly tropey. When they allowed the to interact naturally, we got some of the best moments of the show. But those moments were sadly few and far between, as they kept shoving them into tropey boxes and pulling their strings to have them gush over the wonder and the majesty that was μ’s. They simply couldn’t stop shoving the show’s famous sibling in our faces rather than letting it stand on it’s own. And, oddly for an idol show, there was only one performance by the idols – though there were several music videos tacked onto the ends of episodes to fill out run time. (That is, only the first performance felt like it took place organically and ‘in world’.)

    Final ranking 2.5/5 (Average at best, but clinging there only by the tips of it’s fingernails.)

    Bananya A very, very funny short that set up an impossibly silly premise and then proceeded to take it very seriously for the balance of the run. I really can’t say much more without window dressing.

    Final ranking 3.0/5
    Award: Best VA: Yoshikazu Ebisu voicing Narrator. (Really, seriously, the narrator made the show.)

    Ranking the next three comparatively was… much harder as they all ended up with the same numerical grade. And each was, for it’s own reasons, outstanding. But after much thought and much pacing of my balcony with a smoke and staring moodily at the fall colors, here we go…

    Orange Honestly, I don’t know what to say here that Bless hasn’t already said here and other places. Despite it’s flaws, orange is still a minor masterpiece. If it ever hits a conventional streaming service it will go on the shortlist of anime I recommend to people to watch and serve as an exemplar of why I watch anime in preference to Western media. (It’s the story and the acting fool!) That being said, it does have some deep flaws… sub par animation and off model characters in many places, and very obviously relying on static shots in too many places. I’m normally a rabid fan of “show, don’t tell”, but while that worked for the other characters we could have used a little exposition on Najo and her hesitancy.

    Final ranking 4.0/5
    Award: Best OP soundtrack. Best OP sequence.

    Sweetness and Lightning Just.. WOW. Though the plot was simplistic, S&L had some of the best characterizations of the entire season. (And with Love Live! Sunshine!! and orange in the same season, that was a tight race.) Tsumugi was just a delight from beginning to end, a rare example of a child allowed to be a child. Bringing in Endou Rina (a child actress who also voiced Hina in Barakamon) was a stroke of genius. She’ll go down alongside Naru (Barakamon) and Renge (Non Non Byori) as one of the best child characters ever. The biggest flaw in my mind was in the adaptation… they left out about five to eight minutes (across the run of the show) that explained a great deal of what they left in. The main result of this was leaving Lida Kotori less than fully fleshed out and more set dressing than character. Which is sad, because in the manga she’s very definitely a main character with her own story – one that echoes the larger themes of family and friendship that are embedded deeply in S&L‘s DNA. Honestly, though I’m a rabid fan of S&L, Kotori should have been Best Girl and deserved much better.

    Final ranking 4.0/5
    Award: Honorable Mention, OP sequence.

    Aaaand, drumroll please and probably my most controversial choice – AOTS for Summer 2016:

    Planetarian Story, characterization, animation, voice acting, directing, aesthetic… There’s very little about this show that wasn’t well done. (If, like me, you were bit disappointed by Plastic Memories – you should watch Planetarian to see what PlasMem could have been.) Nothing was perfect mind you, but rarely do you see all the pieces drop so neatly into place. OK, maybe the animation was just serviceable, but the story didn’t need anything more than that. The biggest flaw was pacing, though the individual episodes varied in length (making them more like acts in a play than episodes of a TV series) it could have been tightened up some.

    Final Ranking: 4.0/5 – a classic.
    Award: AOTS. Best Finale. Best epilogue. Best Drama. Honorable Mention, voice acting. Honorable Mention, animation. Honorable Mention, OST.

    Dropped: Amachu (1 ep), Handa-Kun (3 eps), Momokuri (5 eps, though my lady stuck with it and enjoyed it), Naria Girls (90 seconds), New Game (2 eps), This Art Club has a Problem (2 eps), Time Travel Girl (1 ep)

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    • I did love Planetarian, but we seem to have slightly different takes. You say “best finale”, but I was comparatively less fond of the finale than I was of the rest of the show. They laid it on a bit too thick for me (body half-torn up, rain to simulate tears…). It was a more quiet tragedy before that. On the other hand, the moment when Yumemi says that robots are made to make people happy (or something to that effect) and you see the defunct war-bot in the background…

      Also, this is the second time I forgot about Sweetness and Lightning. It was one of the shows I enjoyed the most but I keep forgetting about it. Odd.

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