The Top Anime of 2016

At long last, it’s here! To be completely honest, I found myself a bit wearied at the prospect of embarking on the great voyage that creating these posts always is, but once I actually got to the writing of it I found myself swept away by the sheer fun of remembering how much I like each of the shows I talk about. That, my friends, is a sign of a good list.

To see how things shook out during the year, check out my final rankings posts for each season.

Winter 2016 | Spring 2016 | Summer 2016 | Fall 2016 (TBD)

And with that, let’s get to it! As per our tradition (three years strong now!) here’s the Best Girl of 2016 to kick things off!

Konosuba

Honorable Mentions

  • New Game!
  • Mob Psycho 100
  • Sansha Sanyou
  • Kuromukuro
  • Mayoiga
  • Konosuba

It’s always fun to look back at the honorable mentions from the year, as they’re typically repositories of great memories. For example, New Game! reactivated some existential angst that had been settled for a while in me, it’s idealized portrayal of a video game company reminding me how desperately I want to work in a creative field. Fun! Mob Psycho 100 was an incredible visual ride with a delightful emotional core, while Sansha Sanyou was just good solid moe comedy fun. Kuromukuro‘s probably the show amongst the honorable mentions that’s closest to making it into the top ten, but I sadly haven’t finished the second half yet, and Mayoiga was, if nothing else, a thrill for its novelty and the intellectual puzzles around craft it presented. And, finally, Konosuba rounds out this segment because no matter how much I love Aqua I refuse to excuse it for how gross it can get and put it in my top 10.

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But that’s enough of that! On to my favorite shows of the year! As is my custom, I’ve included links to other bits of writing on these show—most are by me, but here and there you’ll find a piece by someone else that I found particularly worthwhile.

#10. Regalia: The Three Sacred Stars

2D animated robots are things to be treasured, to the point of getting me to upload them to sakugabooru of my own volition. And yet, it’s not just the hand-drawn mecha (although, believe me, the robot fights in this show are Good and Important) that get us Regalia: The Three Sacred Stars leading off this list. Although dogged with production problems so bad they causes the show to take a full month off the air before beginning its broadcast over again from the first episode, I think it’s rather obvious that Regalia is a labor of love. A non-Gundam robot anime with a commitment to keeping its mecha hand-drawn with characters that are all loli-like designs, Regalia feels like a show from an older era with a distinctly modern touch. It’s a curious effect, but one that’s quite appealing.

What Regalia: The Three Sacred Stars gets right is its commitment to its two central elements: robots and a warm emotional core. Despite weakly written villains, Regalia succeeds because its mecha fights are good and its main characters are deeply likable. From the sweet and steady princess, Yui, to the melancholic (and smokey-voiced) Rena to the cheerful duet of Sara and Tia, Regalia adeptly mingles these easy-to-watch characters into its bombastic battles, adding in a dose of “mecha-as-legendary-beings” for good measure. While its somewhat lackluster plotting keeps it from rising higher on this list, Regalia‘s main goals couldn’t be clearer—and since I happen to enjoy both of its most prominent components, it was basically impossible for me not to like it.

Regalia: The Three Sacred Stars

#9. Bungo Stray Dogs S2

Bungo Stray Dogs‘s second season is a tale of two shows. The first, a flashback arc with little relevance to the immediate present of the main story, is a tale of revenge, loss, and fate. It’s bittersweet in the best of ways, a cocktail that crushes your heart and makes it swell all at the same time. It’s also beautifully shot, featuring some of Takuya Igarashi’s best directing since I don’t know when, bringing its written and visual elements together in a sweeping, memorable short story. Although Odasaku never wrote the story he wanted to write, the story of his life is magnificent on its own—one good enough to recommend all on its own for its poignancy.

The second show that makes up Bungo Stray Dogs S2 is substantially less awe-inspiring, but it takes the best parts of Bungo‘s first season and improves upon them while leaving the lesser parts alone. The addition of the Guild to the ongoing rivalry between the Armed Detective Agency and the Port Mafia allows Bungo to really stretch its shounen wings, constructing a delightfully involving three-way war with pockets of interesting or moving character work (like the evolving dynamic between Atsushi and Akutagawa in the finale episodes or Kyouka’s arc). In the end I suspect I’ll remember the former of this show’s two halves the longest, but I’m not one to sneeze at a fun shounen romp when it comes my way—especially when it’s as pretty as Bungo Stray Dogs is.

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#8. Scorching Ping Pong Girls

Most anime are rather difficult to sum up in a single word, but Scorching Ping Pong Girls presents no such difficult since “joy” is the obviously dominant characteristic. I’ve long wanted a sports anime featuring female characters that actually engaged the competitive and adrenaline-inducing aspects of sport, and it was with joy that I found out that Scorching Ping Pong Girls was exactly that. In fact, Scorching Ping Pong Girls was probably even more excited about well… the excitement of sports than I was, with racing hearts being one of its ongoing themes. I was happy to be along for the ride.

To add on to this, as all the best sports anime do, Scorching Ping Pong Girls took the time to invest in its characters—their lives, their reasons for playing, and the way those reasons played out through their matches. Whether it was Agari’s insecurities, Koyori’s adoration of playing for fun, Kururi’s love for Zakuro or another player’s feelings, Scorching Ping Pong Girls brought them all together and infused the ping pong itself with their feelings. That joy, to return to the show’s basic nature, spills over as you watch it, and doing so thus becomes a joy in itself.

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#7. Konobi (This Art Club Has a Problem!)

Konobi is, without competition, my pet show for the year. In a year with plenty of solid anime comedies, Konobi stands out for pairing clever elongated set-ups and punchlines with a distinct feeling of warmth. I watched a lot of stuff I enjoyed or that I found comfy this year, but I don’t think there was any anime that gave me quite the same sort of pocket-like feeling that Konobi did. There was just something about this show, about its characters, its color, its music… okay, about its everything… that just made it nice to watch. Describing it is difficult because its virtues are so intangible; the overall effect washes over you without needing to be consciously apprehended or engaged.

That description is plenty nice on its own, but it doesn’t quite recommend Konobi to this spot on the list as well as it should. If I were to sum that up, I’d say it’s that Konobi set a new standard for the school club romcom genre for me. While calling it the pinnacle of what this particular brand of sub-subgenre is capable of might be a little much, it’s thrilling to think about how cleverly and effectively this little show operates within the recognizable confines of being what it is. While it’s got its blemishes here and there (most notably its rare drifts into pandering fanservice), it nonetheless appears to me as a sort of masterpiece of execution. Konobi being Konobi, I don’t know if it was possible for this show to be any better than it was—and I mean that in the best way possible.

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#6. Macross ∆

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t somewhat disappointed to find Macross Delta so early in the list, but the fact is that no matter how good Walküre’s music is, it wasn’t enough to buoy up a show that had three episodes of misplaced downtime right before the final and never really managed to grasp what music’s role was. For a Macross shows, those are obvious and (honestly) strange flaws, and although I suspect my opinion of the show will improve upon a marathoned rewatch, the fact remains that Delta never fully extended the thrill of its initial episodes consistently through the rest of the show.

Even so, Macross Delta is still Macross, and nothing anyone says will take that away from it. Above all else, the barometer of any show in the franchise is the existence of what I term “Macross moments,” and even if Delta didn’t always chain them together well, scenes like Freyja’s birthday, Mikumo exploding the Protoculture ruins, break dancing robots, the “Silent Hacker” infiltration, and the mobage-style Walküre mission are peppered throughout Delta. The show’s also got one of the most thoroughly likable casts in the franchise and, as already mentioned, succeeds admirably in the unenviable task of following Frontier‘s stock of Yoko Kanno-composed idol music. Delta isn’t everything I wanted it to be, but it still earns its stripes as a Macross series.

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#5. Akagami no Shirayuki-hime S2

The sad truth is that Akagami no Shirayuki-hime would likely have reclaimed its position from last year had it not been afflicted with the pirate arc that largely turned away from the show’s core strengths. The wonder is that, even so, it remains one of the most best shows of the entire year. Masahiro Ando is a great action director; we all know this. But in his expert hands, Shirayuki-hime finds a quiet dignity belied by the fluffiness of its exterior. There is a deep maturity that resides at the core of this show (part of the reason the more shounen-esque pirate arc feels mismatched), and it pulses calmly throughout.

And what more is there to say about a show that does nothing exceptional, merely excels at the small and simple things? That the ongoing visual motif of windows grants a sort of cohesion to the show that could be easily missed if you aren’t looking for it? That Michiru Oshima’s divine soundtrack is incorporated so gracefully into individual scenes that it’s only after the chills have started running down your spine that you realize what’s happening? That Saori Hayami’s (as far as I’m concerned) seminal role is only the first in a line of excellent voice performances? The praises this show deserves are many—and yet none of them can truly capture just how sublime Akagami no Shirayuki-hime‘s best moments are. That’s a grace reserved for the show itself.

Akagami no Shirayuki-hime

#4. Fune wo Amu

An anime about making dictionaries is esoteric enough by itself to qualify it as an automatic prestige entry, but Fune wo Amu, as it happens, is more than that. Lofty ideals like creating better understanding between people through dictionaries pervade the explicit text of the show, but (perhaps ironically) it’s in the subtext of the show that its themes of interpersonal understanding, individual growth, and dedication truly flourish. Around the axel of the dictionary revolve the characters of Fune wo Amu, working, learning, and, ultimately, living. Ends and beginnings weave in and out of each other, and yet the steady lighthouse of their shared commitment shines through it all.

I think my favorite episode of Fune wo Amu is actually its fourth, in which the Dictionary Editorial Department hastily tries the save the dictionary project from impending doom due to budget cuts. Cinematographically, it’s perhaps the most delicate and flowing of all the episodes, but it’s also arguably the most proficient at using multiple scenes and situations to reinforces the show’s core themes. With Nishioka leveraging his substantial talents to make the contacts that will save the dictionary standing on one end of the episode, we see the budding connection between Majime and Kaguya on the other, ending with a fantastic conversation in ferris wheel about the sustaining force of a quiet passion. That same soft enthusiasm runs through Fune wo Amu as a whole, and it makes it a joy.

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#3. Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju

Ah, tragedy! Ah, theater! Ah, performance! Thus goes the tale of Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, and thus goes my love of it. Period dramas can be a bit hit or miss for me, but to call Rakugo just a period drama does disservice to a show that is clearly in love with its own subject matter (the storytelling art of rakugo) to the degree that it cannot help but allow rakugo itself to become an essential channel for its characters. Lives and loves are funneled through rakugo as the stage and life become inextricably intertwined. The performer in me exalts at the pure truth of performance that Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju puts on display for all to see.

In some ways, the story of Rakugo is but half-told in this season, but at the same time it is complete. And while it is tragic and sad, the depth of humanity—angry, betrayed, joyful, needy, sad—it embodies recommends itself. If I were to put it poetically, I would say that Rakugo desires to make beautiful the dark hearts of humans. In this way I find the artificiality of the show’s play-like presentation essential; the framing of the lives of Sukeroku, Miyokichi, and Yakumo is such that even amidst loss the shaded beauty of humanity cannot be missed.

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#2. orange

orange was an anime that was a long time coming for me, a manga that I’d all but given up hope of seeing animated after its live-action version was announced. But sometimes miracles do happen in this industry—and in the case of orange it was a miracle that was always destined to lead to something good thanks to the strength of the source material. I first read the orange manga on Crunchyroll a couple of years ago and quickly recognized it for the gentle, warm, empathetic story it was, but as I’ve learned more about caregiving for people going through hard times, I’ve grown more and more impressed with the tale’s understanding of empathy, friendship, and hope.

While I think I’ll continue to prefer the original manga as the best version of orange, the anime itself succeeds through production struggles, ill-advised digressions about the technicalities of time travel, and occasionally odd directorial choices simply because of how clearly its message of love rings out above everything else. I’ve seen far too many shows collapse on top of similarly important messages to say that orange could have succeeded as an anime no matter what, but the facts are that it didn’t have to—it was as good as it needed to be, even great at times, and that was enough for us to hear orange tell us that everyone is worthy of love, and worthy of hearing so.

orange

#1. Concrete Revolutio: The Last Song

While there’s a part of me that feels a bit odd about giving the number one spot to the same anime two years in a row, I firmly believe Concrete Revolutio: The Last Song deserves to be here. The vast majority of my favorite anime are deeply and personally embedded in individual characters, but what makes Conrevo so special is that it takes that same sort of fundamental dynamic and applies it to human society, politics, and big concepts like truth and justice. In other words, the well of universality that Conrevo draws from is inherently different than the one character-driven shows use. Rather than finding its point of connection in the commonality of our emotional and relational experiences of the world, it pulls back to a broader view, one that affirms and condemns the virtues and vices of humanity as a whole without the mediation of representative characters.

To clarify, because it’s not as if Concrete Revolutio doesn’t have relatable characters. Instead, the point is that the characters in Conrevo are actors for the show’s ideas, rather than the sources of them. It’s a different way of doing things, but Conrevo succeeds because those ideas gradually feed back into the characters, until the final moments of the final episode, where the show’s realist, hopeful ideology spills out through Jiro. It was beautiful. It was moving. It was powerful, relevant, and important. Shows like this don’t come along often, and when they do we gosh darn better remember them.

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7 thoughts on “The Top Anime of 2016

  1. I’m surprised Konobi is so high up in your list, but then maybe I shouldn’t have been. I agree the exectuion was excellent and the show was all sorts of fun to watch.

    The less I say about Orange, the better.

    I also notice you finished Fune wo Amu after all. Well, worth it, no?

    I’ve made my own list, but none I’ve come up ever quite works out all right. I don’t think I’ve ever had this much trouble making a list, and the only place that’s absolute is #1. So, here’s the list, in reverse order, in case the system eats the numbers again (because I can never remember what format the code lets through.

    {10} Planetarian: A really touching and cute story, of a planetarian robot left behind in a war-destroyed zone. I’m not so fond of the ending; they piled on a bit much. If it weren’t for the ending it could be easily higher up.

    {9} Concrete Revolutio: This is for both seasons. The first season would have been higher up; the second season probably wouldn’t have made the top 10 at all. I think, ultimately what leaves me out of it, is that I don’t really like hero shows, and this is clearly an hommage. That said, it had a flair for drama and absurd imagery that I’ll never forget.

    {8} Keijo!!!!!!!!: The show works both as an extended joke and as a super-powered sports series, and while its good its very good, not the least because of a very likable cast. Near the end, the show collapsed under the need to get ever more absurd, and it lost the surprising coherence it had up to then. Pity. In a year that had many good sports shows, this one was my favourite.

    {7 } Koukaku no Pandora: The second fanservice show on this list, and so probably not a recommendation for people who frequent this blog. We have a cheerful and competent full-body cyborg heroine, who has to finger her android friend in the panty area to gain superpowers (complete with a matching costume). We have a rivalvry of two shady scientists, and on top of that all we put a straight-forward shounen villain who loses because he makes the mistake to take life seriously. Oh, it’s my kind of show: trickster dominated but warm-hearted and cute. Some of the fanservice is actually clever, but sadly some of it is straight awful, like the voyeur AI who activates an advanced weapon system, whose easily the most annoying character of the year.

    {6} ReLife: Adult goes back to highschool. This should be horrible, but instead its actually a show full of good characterisation and interesting themes (such as when to help, and when to stand back and let them make their own mistakes). If only it didn’t look so lacklustre. The character designs are distinct and appealing, but the general execution just isn’t good.

    {5} Tanaka kun Itsumo Kedarauge: Oh how I loved this comedy with its quirky characters. I can so identify with low-energy mode. Heh.

    {4} Shounen Maid: Looking back at the year, this show held up better than I thought. It’s a warm and re-assuring story about grief and reconnecting with estranged family. This was easily the most pleasant surprise of the season, considering that I expected it to be a comedy that relies on embarrassment.

    {3} Fune Wo Amu: Excellent visuals (especially body-language). Likable characters (especially in the old-people category which anime so often gets wrong). And a geeky pleasure (linguistics is a hobby of mine). I didn’t quite feel the romance insert (although it worked like a charm after the time-skip), but everything else was perfect.

    {2} Flying Witch: IMO, an object lesson in how to make a slice-of-life show.

    {1} Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju: Drama, expressed both through restraint and melodrama, and often through performances. My favourite show not only of this year, but all the way back to Uchouten Kazoku.

    A lot of good shows didn’t make the list: Momokuri, Anne Happy, Hibike Euphonium 2, Flip Flappers, Mob Psycho 100… It was a really good year, and the list might have looked a lot different had I done it yesterday, or tomorrow. Only the top 5 is definitely in, and I’m already wavering.

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  2. There were so many good shows in 2016 that rather than rate and rank, I’m just going to list off some of the best and most important. And mostly quote from my own past reviews. I sweated over them, so I see little sense in re-inventing the wheel. (Plus they’re replacing the siding on my building this week, and it’s hard to think and write with all the noise.)

    Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash: A year after it’s premiere, I’m still stunned by Grimgar.

    The basic premise, folks transported to a fantasy world and left to fend for themselves, has been done to death. We’ve seen legions of people lost in a world they never made. But Grimgar takes this hoary old trope and turns it on it’s head.

    I honestly can’t summarize Grimgar or dispose of it neatly in a handful of sentences as I do so many other shows. It did so many things well… from the small details of their struggle to find enough money to eat and clothe themselves, to the larger struggle of dealing with death and change. From quiet moments among friends around the fire, to the almost unendurably strong bonds forged in blood and sorrow… Few shows ever so consistently hit their marks.

    If I had to pick a Number One for 2016, it would come down to Grimgar, Orange, or She and Her Cat. And I think Orange‘s flaws would pull it down out of that group.

    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 hellaciously good taken as a whole. And it’s good to step back from nitpicky forest-for-the-trees viewpoint and look at things holistically.

    Like Grimgar and Orange, ultimately a show about life and hope for the future. The slow inner transformation of the downtrodden and cynical Junker into the Starteller is the heart and soul of Planetarian.

    Orange: Despite it’s significant flaws in animation and pacing, 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!)

    Like Bless said, despite the show’s technical struggles, the message about life, hope, and friendship rings loud and clear through every episode.

    She and Her Cat: Everything Flows: Another show that it’s very hard to convey what made it so darn good… A simple story on it’s face, but also a fairly deep examination of human bonds and their tenacity. The final scene, on destiny and the circular nature of the world is simply stunning.

    Three Leaves, Three Colors (Sansha Sanyou): Probably a bit of a surprise given some of the other shows in my list… But as I look back over the year, Sansha Sanyou stands out for how quietly and simply good it was. Purely character driven, the plot arising naturally from the characters and their interactions. On the other hand, like the other shows in this list, there are strong elements of friendship and the joy of life. If I had to pick the best slice-of-life of the year, I’d be sorely tempted to put Sansha Sanyou ahead of Flying Witch. A controversial choice, but Witch just jumped about too much in my opinion.

    I decided while I was in the shower to limit myself to just five shows… and I wrote mostly stream of consciousness, so there you have it.

    I’m as surprised as anyone by which shows didn’t make the list Sound Euphonium 2, Erased, Magical Girl Raising, Sweetness and Lightning, Flip Flappers… And that’s just the shows that particularly stand out for one reason or another and omits the favorites (and also very good) like Lovely Muuuuuuuco!, Scorching Ping Pong Girls, Flying Witch and AOKANA. I think everything really springs from the decision to write/think about Grimgar first. And once the theme began to emerge, I wanted to include Sansha Sanyou… despite the fact that it’s a slightly bad fit. And many of the shows I didn’t get to could be fit into that mold too. Which mostly says something about my taste in anime and attitudes towards life I suspect.

    But, like Dawnstorm said, if I’d written this yesterday, or tomorrow, the list might be a little different. Or it would have been different had I decided to rate-and-rank (a task I find very difficult). Or had I picked a different show to lead off with.

    Oh, and Best Girl – hands down, Kurashina Asuka from AOKANA.

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    • Oooh, as a die-hard Tobisawa Misaki fan, I was right with you all the way up until the last sentence. Y’know, I was actually hoping for most of the second half that AOKANA was going to throw us a swerve and give us an Asuka/Misaki final match, since it would’ve added a lot more substance to the “rivalry” portion of their character arcs for them to actually have to play each other for stakes, but now maybe it’s better that they didn’t. Wouldn’t want us coming to (virtual) blows over the outcome! LOL

      Anyway, yeah, your list isn’t quite what I would’ve predicted from you, but it does make sense. I’m also happy to see you remembered She and Her Cat, which was a real hidden gem last year. That one is also on my list, which I’ll try to post either later tonight or tomorrow.

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      • The list isn’t really so different from a rate-and-rank list based on my raw rankings at Anime Planet… ( http://www.anime-planet.com/users/DerekL/anime/watched?year=2016&sort=rating&order=desc ) Though they caught attention here at the Barrel, I think both Planetarian and She flew under a lot of people’s radars because they both premiered late and were partial seasons.

        I was hoping for the same finale! (Though for different reasons than you, lol.) Saki falling to Shindo’s professionalism or to Misaki’s renewed energy and commitment would have been satisfying, certainly. We all wanted to see her get her comeuppance. But it would have pulled away from pitting Asuka’s sheer joy of flying against Saki/Irina’s cold steel style of FC. IMO, that would have made a much weaker ending.

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  3. I sort of stopped watching weekly streaming shows about halfway through the year (not entirely, but cut way back from my old 6-8 shows per season), so out of your list I only finished Konosuba. I watched half of Delta, half of Rakugo Shinju, half of Orange, and the first season of Stray Dogs but not the second. None of that being intentional – I enjoyed all four of those shows as far as I got with them and fully intend to eventually finish them all. I just got busier and busier as the year went on, so less time to watch anime, and when I did have time to sit down and watch stuff I was more interested in putting a dent in the backlog of discs on my shelf that I hadn’t watched since I bought them. I’m sure if I’d finished all of those, and had also seen some of the shows I wanted to watch but never even got started with like Flip Flappers and ViVid Strike, this list would probably look very different. But since I can’t rate what I haven’t seen yet, here are my top six as they stand right now, plus a few honorable mentions.

    #6: Joker Game
    One of the year’s more underrated shows, Joker Game was a really well-crafted episodic series that used its historical setting effectively to deliver some taut, exciting adventures. For fans of historical fiction and/or spy thrillers (like me!) it consistently delivered good episodes and strong animation from Production I.G. pretty much every week. Like I said before, though, this is a show where the audience has to set aside their expectations for how anime is “supposed” to tell stories and just take it the way it’s presented. Not everyone’s going to like its structure, but I had no problems with it. It comes in at #6 for me mainly because I didn’t get as much out of it as the shows above it, and as good as it was, I still feel like it also squandered some of its potential. Still one I’m glad I watched, though.

    #5: She and Her Cat: Everything Flows
    2016 in anime was the year of Makoto Shinkai, but unfortunately 99% of us in North America won’t get to see Your Name until this year. He does find a spot in my top five, though, albeit indirectly, via this wonderful little remake of his early short film. It expanded on the original story in all the right ways to give us a nicely animated short that was warm, joyful, and bittersweet, kind of like pet ownership in a microcosm. If anyone reading didn’t see this one, it only takes half an hour to watch all four episodes and it’s well worth the time.

    #4: Amanchu!
    The derp faces almost drove me away right at the start, but I stuck with it and I’m really glad I did, because Amanchu rewarded its viewers with a lot of heart and some of the best character psychology writing I’ve seen from a slice-of-life in a long time. Futaba was a compelling and very human lead, and with her social anxiety, fits of melancholy, and constant struggles with self-doubt, I could see why she’d latch onto Pikari and diving like grasping a lifeline. Futaba was one of my top five favorite characters of the year, but the real pleasant surprise was the way the show developed and humanized Pikari too. So often the fun/genki best friend just stays flat comic relief, but Amanchu also explores Pikari’s mindset and show us why she acts the way she does, so instead of being left to wonder why such a cheery person likes to hang out with Debbie Downer, we’re shown how Futaba’s friendship is actually just as much of a blessing to Pikari as vice-versa. It’s mostly the derp faces and the not-very-funny running gag of “Ai constantly beating up her brother” that were the two biggest anchors keeping Amanchu from placing higher on my list.

    #3: Sound Euphonium S2
    The first season is in my tier 1, inner-circle group of all-time favorite shows. Season 2 is not. It’s a tier 3 series for me. Eupho S2 is still a very good, occasionally brilliant character drama, and KyoAni’s animation quality is as immaculate as you’d expect. Where the series falls short of S1 for me is that it feels too much like a sequel. Like the author said, “You wanted more, so I’m giving you more,” but not much of it is really that essential to the bigger story, nor will you learn too much more about most of the core characters than what we got out of season 1. Unless you’re an Asuka fan, and then you’ll love all the new character development she gets in what was hands-down the best arc of the season. But even weaker material from Euphonium is still a lot stronger than many anime’s best material, and the highlight scenes are outstanding, so as long as you like this cast of characters, just getting to spend another 13 episodes with them is well worth it.

    #2: Flying Witch
    My favorite TV series of the year, Flying Witch was just a pleasure for me to watch from start to finish. I liked the vibe, I liked the art style, I liked its imagination, I really liked the way it effectively juxtaposed the magic of Makoto’s world with the magic of normal, everyday life, and Chinatsu was hands-down my favorite character of the entire year from any series. And so many standout scenes too, from the flying whale to the Harbinger of Spring to Chinatsu’s first broom ride to practically the entire cafe episode. This is one series I will definitely buy in the future, and it’s too bad it probably won’t have a dub, because I know it’s a show my Mom would really enjoy, too, if it did.

    #1: Girls und Panzer der Film*
    No anime I saw in 2016 captured “entertainment” in its purest, most cathartic form better than the Garupan movie. I was having an extremely stressful day when I went to see it, and then ended up missing the first 15 minutes of the movie on top of that because of heavy traffic and all the nearby parking lots being completely full when I got there. And for all those obstacles, I still walked out at the end of the movie grinning like a fool. It was just so much sheer fun to watch, all the stress I came in with never stood a chance against it. Some TV anime struggle to transition to cinema, but Garupan commanded the screen like it was born to be on film. It was about as close as I’ve ever seen anime come to capturing the energy and spectacle of a Hollywood summer blockbuster, and it also had some of the best 3D animation that I’ve seen from any anime yet. And that’s before I even start tallying up some of the highlight action sequences themselves, from a running hedge maze battle to a tank chase down a roller-coaster track to a combined assault on an enormous Karl-Gerat mortar tank. I’m already looking forward to watching it again (without missing the beginning this time!) when Sentai gets it out on Blu-Ray. So this was an easy choice for my favorite anime of the year, and as of now it’s my third-favorite anime movie ever, behind only Rurouni Kenshin: Trust & Betrayal and Spirited Away.
    *Note: yes, Garupan technically came out in Japan in late 2015, but since I had no way to watch it in North America before 2016, it’s a 2016 anime in my world.

    Honorable mentions: Konosuba and Kaitou Joker season 3 were the other two shows I seriously considered for my top five, but neither one quite measured up to the group ahead of them. I also enjoyed Sweetness & Lightning, Love Live Sunshine, Food Wars S2, Bungo Stray Dogs S1, and AOKANA, but all of those were too flawed for serious top five consideration.

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    • Can’t argue with you on Euph 2… Standalone, it’s a brilliant show. Taken against it’s sibling, it definitely comes off second best. (Though ep5, the regionals, was one of the best single episodes last year.)

      A local indy theater has been showing Ghibli films in sub over the last few months, and it’s been fascinating to see them as they were meant to be seen. My wife and I have tickets to SAO:Ordinal Scale in March, and can’t wait. As action oriented as SAO is, it should really pop on the big screen. (Crossing fingers.) Haven’t seen GuP, it came to Seattle but only to a really crappy theater that I’ll only go to again if I have no other choice for a movie I’m dying to see.

      I should dig up a copy of GuP on the dark side… I’ve heard a lot of good things about it.

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