2016 was an…interesting year in the wider sense of things, but in the narrow world of anime it has been one of the strongest of the decade so far. It might not have had the absolute highs of 2013 but it had a greater strength in depth where there were anime it hurt me that I couldn’t fit them on the list, and anime I wish I had finished but never got around to. It didn’t have the breadth of different tastes catered to as 2011, but also didn’t have that year’s extraordinary lows. It had the dumbass butt shows like last year but also critical darlings and intellectual masterpieces. 2016 was pretty great for anime is what I’m saying, so I’m here to count down my top 10 anime of this year, as well as hand out a couple of other awards.
#10: Space Patrol Luluco
Luluco was Trigger’s enjoyable little feel-good bonkers short series about a dumb teenage girl experiencing her first love. Also her dad is a talking brain, her mum is an intergalactic space pirate, her boss is Inferno Cop’s long lost cousin, and her boyfriend is a hilarious idealistic vision of what teenage girls think is hot. It’s wacky yet surprisingly heartfelt, which is why I ended up being so taken with this dumb little series. There’s a weak segment in the middle where they decide to include references to all their other works, but everything else is huge fun that I really got into and the kind of thing I want Trigger to make all the time.
Keijo, with its 8 exclamation points, is the best super robot anime in years. All right sure it may have replaced the super robots with butts, but that doesn’t change much. It’s super-powered, ridiculous shounen attacks with people screaming their names and their hilarious logic for how these attacks work. It’s a weird kind of anti-fanservice where giving yourself the wedgie of a lifetime is the key to unlocking your super-speed attacks where every hit sounds like you just bounced a volleyball inside a steel echo chamber. It’s a series where whipping off your bikini top is the sign that you’re about to use your nipple as a hook to utilise a judo throw. All right maybe it’s not the series you would show your parents, and the non-Keijo parts are stupid and boring, but it’s shockingly entertaining nonsense that takes itself just seriously enough to somehow get invested in this bikini clad sumo wrestle magical sport.
2016’s 2017 Anime of the Year: March Comes in Like a Lion
This award is always the first one I give out because it prevents people from asking where a certain anime is when it hasn’t ended yet. It’s the award for the best anime that aired this year that didn’t actually finish yet. Both Gundam the Origin and Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans were good shouts, but both got a mention in this award last year and neither have finished yet, so mentioning them twice for this award seems weird. But even if I did include them, there’s one anime that stormed forward and took the nomination with some truly phenomenal episodes lately: March Comes in Like a Lion. Let’s hope it continues in 2017 as strongly as it ended 2016.
#8: My Hero Academia
My Hero Academia is the most hopeful and inspiring of the many shounen action anime out there. Its message that you can achieve your dreams no matter what your disabilities are is powerful and worthwhile. Call it naive if you want, but the way it’s presented is fantastic and makes it stick out from its contemporaries. Asides from that it’s just another good fun shounen action anime with a great cast of side characters with well-rounded motivations and some…rather ridiculous character designs, for good and for not. All Might is my hero and he is beautiful and I want him to remain the shining beacon of hope that he stands for. Looking forward to that second season.
#7: 91 Days
91 Days very much wants to be a Godfather anime. It’s set in its genre and wants to execute that story with as thoroughly and efficiently as possible. That may sound like damning with faint praise but in reality what it means is that everything about the writing, story construction, and character development works perfectly as intended. It crafts an excellent revenge story with rounded characters and engaging dialogue. It’s just so well done in everything it does, from the pacing to the shot composition. It’s basically perfect in what it does. We don’t review from 10 then knock off points for errors, which is why it isn’t automatically anime of the year, but it’s still an excellent anime that deserves to be recognised for its achievements.
Best Anime I didn’t finish this year: Code Geass: Akito the Exiled
A newly created award for the anime that really should have made it but I hadn’t finished it by the time the end of the year appeared, something that will be increasingly likely given that the number of anime made each year continues to increase and I’m getting older so have less time. The Great Passage could have easily taken this award but because it was streaming on Amazon I kept forgetting it existed so never got fully caught up. But instead I’m giving this to Akito the Exiled, because I am a huge, hopeless Geass fanboy and have really enjoyed what I’ve seen so far. But the final 2 episodes I had downloaded and was getting ready to watch before writing this post had broken subtitles so I never was able to finish it. The lesson here anime companies is please put your anime on streaming platforms anime fans use.
How on earth did a sequel to the most harmless of kids anime from the 60s turn into this raucous blue comedy where people shit on tables in coffee shops and rip off their bollocks to give to children so they can use it as a baseball? This is what happens I suppose when you let Japan run wild with their comedy. A sort of no-holds-barred parade of weirdness and inappropriate behavior. It’s wonderfully imaginative and capable of messing with convention when it wants to as well. It was something of a minor sensation in Japan too, which shows that producers should let comedy writers spread their wings a bit, as well as animators draw something outside of the ordinary. It’s creative and inventive and I want to see more anime like this.
I figured maybe I would start to get bored of Haikyuu in season 2 and 3 since it didn’t seem like the characters had that much more room to develop and I figured I’d get tired of them by now. The fact that by the end of season 3 I was more in love with the show than I ever was shows the level of improvement the anime has gone through. It’s as though the creators got more confident with their directing and musical choices, hitting beats at exactly the right times, pacing the matches between downtime flashbacks and epic moments perfectly. It’s legitimately one of the best directed and produced anime I’ve seen and the most invested I’ve been in a sports anime.
Most Disappointing: Active Raid
This was supposed to be amazing. Goro Taniguchi, the director of Code Geass and Infinite Ryvius, returning to make an anime original mecha police procedural. He’s directed so few anime since Code Geass R2, but I really liked his return with Maria the Virgin Witch. This was supposed to be him back making awesome mecha anime. I really tried to like it too. But each episode was so drab and I didn’t care about a single character. The comedic tone meant it felt weightless and none of the jokes were funny. Even when it tried to be serious and emotional it felt forced and mawkish. I gave up towards the end of the first season and forgot about it for months, but looking back now I feel so let down. I’ll take heart in the belief that every second Goro Taniguchi anime is bad so maybe the next one will be amazing.
#4: Gundam Thunderbolt
Thunderbolt feels like it came from a bygone era. We live in a sort of post-irony era where things are ridiculous and knowing yet earnest. Meanwhile Thunderbolt feels like it came from the early 90s, deadly serious depressing story about the destructive capability of war on the mind and the soul. It’s a harrowing story that’s difficult to watch but fantastic at conveying its message. War will destroy your mind unless you drop your humanity and give yourself over to the machine. It’s amazingly animated, got a unique and memorable soundtrack, and manages to convey the themes of Gundam better than anything…apart from War in the Pocket I suppose. But it’s still fantastic and at barely more than an hour in length, well worth tracking down and watching.
#3: Mob Psycho 100
I stalled on watching Mob Psycho after 2 episodes originally because it felt like a more ambitiously animated but slightly less funny One Punch Man, an anime I wasn’t a huge fan of anyway. But then I returned and it suddenly turned into 2016’s answer to Akira. A story about psychics having trouble with their ego and identity and their place in the world, followed by the chaos that is wrought when they can no longer keep their id under control. It’s a fantastic character study that’s incredibly ambitious in its production and goals and goes for some truly original presentation but succeeds in basically everything once it gets going. It turns a little shounen yelling explosions at the end, but Akira also got a bit messy at the end and I don’t hold that against either anime.
Worst Anime: Big Order
I actually liked Future Diary, that pile of wonderful nonsense. It had a clear goal with rounded characters who acted in accordance to their world views and goals. It wasn’t Shakespeare, I admit but, but boy did Big Order make it look like it was. It was truly hideous from start to finish, forgetting about plot twists barely an episode after it made them. Character goals changed by the week, and if they had clear goals they were stupid. There may have been some worse anime from technical perspectives that achieved less. But Big Order tried so much and failed so many of those things in such spectacular fashion that it deserves this award. It is the most worse. It is The Cart Driver Dot Com’s Worst Anime of 2016.
#2: Yuri on Ice
It was really close between Mob Psycho 100 and this for the runner up spot and if you ask me tomorrow I might change my mind again. Right now though I’m still in that happy honeymoon period after finishing Yuri on Ice where I and in complete joy in how this anime turned out. It’s manages to be wonderful nonsense with silly characters acting dumb yet also be a truly powerful tale of following dreams and achieving your goals. It’s got the most lovable cast of characters which the show itself clearly loves too and you can tell they had so much fun creating this thing and writing these characters in their sparkly outfits. Even the romance, which early on irritated me because it felt like queer-baiting without commitment, turned into how I want my romance anime to always be written.
#1: Shouwa Era Rakugo Shinjuu
Nothing came close to Rakugo this year for me. The way it is able to use storytelling through a performance art is incredible. The little touches to the animation in how to demonstrate unspoken feelings while the character is giving a rakugo performance is such a fantastic use of subtle storytelling. The little wobbles in the voices when acting to show confidence, fear, uncertainty, sadness and so on. Its writing is second to none in how it conveys the emotions through the least amount of lines. It manages to be sincere and serious while still being dryly witty. It’s a historical anime that isn’t hideously boring, which in itself is something anime has been struggling with forever. It’s the kind of anime I feel lucky to have seen made and is one of the best anime of all time and easily the best anime of 2016.
Reader’s choice awards
Best anime series that ended in 2016 (choose 3)
- Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (37%, 142 Votes)
- Mob Psycho 100 (30%, 115 Votes)
- Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable (21%, 80 Votes)
- Yuri on Ice (21%, 80 Votes)
- Haikyuu (13%, 48 Votes)
- My Hero Academia (11%, 43 Votes)
- Re:Zero (11%, 40 Votes)
- KonoSuba (10%, 37 Votes)
- Sound Euphonium 2 (9%, 34 Votes)
- Erased (8%, 30 Votes)
- Space Patrol Luluco (7%, 26 Votes)
- Flip Flappers (6%, 24 Votes)
- Concrete Revolutio (6%, 23 Votes)
- 91 Days (6%, 23 Votes)
- Durarara S2 (6%, 23 Votes)
- Macross Delta (4%, 16 Votes)
- Osomatsu-san (4%, 16 Votes)
- The Great Passage (4%, 15 Votes)
- Gundam Thunderbolt (4%, 15 Votes)
- Flying Witch (4%, 15 Votes)
- Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash (4%, 14 Votes)
- Keijo (3%, 13 Votes)
- Other not mentioned here (3%, 12 Votes)
- Code Geass: Akito the Exiled (3%, 10 Votes)
- Sakamoto desu ga (3%, 10 Votes)
- Amanchu (2%, 9 Votes)
- Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress (2%, 8 Votes)
- Kuromukuro (2%, 8 Votes)
- Tanaka-kun is Always Sleepy (2%, 8 Votes)
- Ajin (2%, 8 Votes)
- Lupin III Part 4 (2%, 8 Votes)
- Bungole Stray Dogs (2%, 7 Votes)
- New Game (2%, 7 Votes)
- Joker Game (2%, 7 Votes)
- Gate (2%, 6 Votes)
- Ushio and Tora 2 (2%, 6 Votes)
- Galko-chan (2%, 6 Votes)
- Koyomimonogatari (1%, 5 Votes)
- Planetarian (1%, 5 Votes)
- Girlish Number (1%, 5 Votes)
- Sekkou Boys (1%, 5 Votes)
- Mayoiga (1%, 4 Votes)
- Kyoukai no Rinne (1%, 4 Votes)
- Danganronpa 3 (1%, 4 Votes)
- Assassination Classroom 2 (1%, 3 Votes)
- Snow White with the Red Hair 2 (1%, 3 Votes)
- Kiznaiver (1%, 3 Votes)
- Heavy Object (1%, 3 Votes)
- Sweetness and Lightning (1%, 3 Votes)
- Udon Boy (1%, 3 Votes)
- Orange (1%, 3 Votes)
- ReLife (1%, 3 Votes)
- Love Live! Sunshine!! (1%, 3 Votes)
- Magical Girl Raising Project (1%, 2 Votes)
- Dagashi Kashi (1%, 2 Votes)
- Bubuki Buranki (1%, 2 Votes)
- Fairy Tail (1%, 2 Votes)
- Shokugeki no Souma: Ni no Sara (1%, 2 Votes)
- Kuma Miko (1%, 2 Votes)
- Izetta the Last Witch (1%, 2 Votes)
- Kiss Him Not Me (0%, 1 Votes)
- Occultic;Nine (0%, 1 Votes)
- Dimension W (0%, 1 Votes)
- Handa-kun (0%, 1 Votes)
- Rewrite (0%, 1 Votes)
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (0%, 1 Votes)
- D.Gray-man Hallow (0%, 1 Votes)
- Active Raid (0%, 0 Votes)
- World Trigger (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 380
Our tastes mostly lined up this time. I’m pleasantly surprised that we’re in agreement on Rakugo as that was not that well watched despite being a huge critics darling. I’m sorry about the collapse of my love for Jojo’s though. Maybe when they reach Steel Ball Run I’ll be back on board.