Ah, 2016, the year that can just eat a lifetime supply of dicks for the rest of eternity. So, it is no secret that this year massively sucked in the real world for...well just about everyone. If you are one of the few people to actually have a nice 2016, fuck you, and know that everyone else hates your guts right about now. Thankfully, movies aside, this has been a really great year for escapism media. From games to live action TV shows to, of course, anime.
What a hell of a year for anime it was, too. This has to be the strongest overall year I’ve experienced since I started watching anime seasonally back in 2013, with each season rolling out several shows that I enjoyed. As those who’ve been reading my stuff for the last few years know, I just can’t toss out a simple Top 5 or Top 10 list and call it a day. I just enjoyed way, way too many shows every year to limit it like that. So typically what I end up doing is pass out a bunch of various awards. Though I didn’t start out like that, with my first end of the year article simply being just a giant ass list of my favorites from the year. The last two years though I moved from the list to doing individual award categories(though the first of these two also contained a Top 10 list in it).
This year I’ve decided to say screw it and combine both of the previous methods I’ve used. What I mean by that is what follows is a list of the 25 series I enjoyed the most the past year in alphabetical order(the “anime” status of a few of these being rather in question, but screw it, my list, my call). Some of the shows will have an orange banner, similar to that of the header image, that lists the awards I decided to bestow upon them. As for eligibility rules it is really simple. To be considered a show had to not be a short(I made a list of my favorite shorts from the year for that very reason), I had to see the show(no shit), and the show had to originally air at some point this year. What that last one means is, unfortunately, Lupin the Third Part 4 is not eligible, as that show was from 2015, it started its original run in 2015 and it ended its original run in 2015. Granted said original run was only in Italy, but hey I wasn’t the one to decide that.
So with that all said, ladies and gents, these are my favorite anime series from 2016.
We begin with the series that was probably the most screwed by coming out this year. 91 Days is just straight up a great show. A fascinating tale of mafia revenge in the Prohibition era. Taking place in the fictional Great Lakes area city of Lawless, the series follows Angelo Lagusa, a man living under the alias of Avilio Bruno, as he tries to worm his way in to the inner circle of the Vanetti crime family so he can exact revenge against the members of the Vanetti family that murdered his family when he was a child. This was one of my Top 3 shows in the Summer season and ultimately ends up in my Top 10 overall for the entire year, the problem is, this year was just absolutely stacked with standout shows that poor old 91 Days just kind of got lost in the shuffle here at the end of the year.
It sucks that I can only give a show I loved as much as this only one award, but that’s just how things go sometimes. Nevertheless, the one award I did give it, it most certainly earned. While there were other period piece shows this year that did a fantastic job of portraying their eras, Rakugo and Joker Game I’m looking at y’all, 91 Days just perfectly captured the feel of the Prohibition era to me. Even more interesting was it was showing us Prohibition basically in middle America. Normally when you get works like this it usually has one of two locations, Chicago, or the New York/New Jersey area. Now granted, Lawless is set relatively close to Chicago, because characters are able to travel there pretty quickly for 1920s America, but it is still nice to see a new locale for this kind of work. So let’s pour one out for 91 Days, the show that on another year might have been my Anime of the Year.
Speaking of shows I wished I could give awards to, Ace of the Diamond has been a mainstay of my anime watching rotation since the Fall 2013 season, and the chunk we got this year was probably the series at its best. I will fully admit to getting rather teary-eyed during the finale to this outstanding sports show. At the time I thought it was for sure going to be the best sports anime series I saw this year, especially with how slim the pickings were during Spring and Summer, but then the Fall season came around and gave me three phenomenal sports anime to pick from, and one of them took the crown instead. Which one got it? Well, just keep reading ya mook.
I am still amazed at how much Bungo Stray Dogs improved this year. After the first season in the Spring I would never have imagined Bungo Stray Dogs would even have come close to this list. I thought the first season was entertaining and beautifully animated, yet overall a flawed show, particularly with its pacing and plot and character development. Then the second season happened, and just...god damn. The second season got started off with the amazing four episode prequel arc focusing on Oda Sakunosuke. Odasaku himself gets my nod for MVP of the year, because he basically saved Bungo Stray Dogs by himself. His arc marked the turning point in the series, where the jumbled mess of plots and characters from the first season finally came together and focused on telling a cohesive tale. Odasaku’s influence on the series didn’t even end with his arc, as how he influenced major series character Dazai has some profound ripples felt during the second season. No other character this year did so much for a show with so little overall screen time, and that is why Oda Sakunosuke is this year’s MVP.
While on the topic of shows improving later on, Durarara!!x2 Ketsu provided a rather satisfying finale to the infamously crazy tale of Ikebukuro and the hodgepodge of colorful characters that inhabit it. Unlike Bungo Stray Dogs, though, this was to be expected. The first two parts to x2 from 2015, Shou and Ten, were basically nothing but set up. After two cours of set up, Ketsu was expected to deliver, and deliver it did. A substantially large chunk of the franchise’s biggest, “Holy shit!” moments occurred in Ketsu, and made for an entertaining romp the style of which only Durarara!! can give us.
ERASED is one of the biggest examples of just how much weight an anime’s finale has on its lasting legacy. The reception to the finale, and really the last few episodes in general, is so divisive that for the most part we kind of forgot just how much we loved ERASED. For the overwhelming majority of the Winter season, ERASED was the show to watch that season. There’s no two ways about it, though, ERASED’s parts in the past were simply phenomenal and easily worthy of Anime of the Year contention. What drug the show down though was its modern day parts, and since the show wraps up its excellent past arc with several episodes to go and thus leaves us on a string of weaker present day episodes, it was obvious the show was going to leave a bad taste in the mouths of many, myself included. That being said, the show itself was still for the most part a great watch, and I could easily rewatch the past arc episodes. I honestly can’t wait to see the next work from the director and writer of this show, because they did probably the best they could with the source material.
Ok, real talk, Flip Flappers should not be as good as it is. I say this because for those who don’t know, there was a massive shake up in the staff behind the scenes. Halfway through the show both the writer and the background art studio, the amazing Studio Pablo, just up and left the project for reasons I still do not know. At first the change wasn’t that obvious, but around episode 9 or 10 it became rather clear something was off, but not too off. The first half of Flip Flappers was a rather subtle show that was doing fun and whimsical magical girl spins on classic fairy tales. The second half became something that resembled to some people a magical girl rip off of Neon Genesis Evangelion, acid-fueled “what the fuck” ending included. That’s not even touching upon how the show’s once top shelf sakuga-filled animation significantly regressed towards the end. However, despite all of this, Flip Flappers is never a bad show. Despite the dip in quality as it goes on, it still remained one of the best shows to watch in the Fall season, and in a year with a surprising amount of magical girl shows, it was still far and away the standout member of the bunch.
Flying Witch is absolutely bar none the chillest show of the entire year. This was the perfect show to relax to, as the stakes were never high and no one was ever in danger. All it was was literally little chunks in the life of a witch living peacefully with her relatives in the countryside and the magically charged, yet ultimately insanely mundane(aside from a certain whale) adventures she would have with her sister, cousins, and new best friend at school. This show was the slice of life genre at probably its best this year, and that is saying something as this was an insanely strong year for slice of life shows.
However, for as strong as slice of life was this year, nothing was stronger than the fantasy and adventure genres, which were filled to the brim with numerous legitimate Anime of the Year contenders, and their representation on this list all starts with Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash. Despite being from the Winter season I actually didn’t see this until a few weeks ago, thanks to it finally being placed onto Crunchyroll over the Summer. So Grimgar is probably the fastest I’ve binged a show this year. I’ll admit to taking about a week long break after watching the first two episodes because of how slow they were, but when I picked the show back up I finished it all in one day, which for me is incredibly fast. I just became glued to the tale about overcoming loss and the trauma it can bring that the show was spinning. The watercolor palette was also something to behold, but really this was all about the story here. No other show engrossed me with its tale this year as much as Grimgar did, and I really wished I could like toss it a “favorite fantasy series” or “favorite adventure series” bone, but like I said, this year was stacked in those departments.
So, remember how I said earlier I thought Ace of the Diamond Second Season was my initial favorite sports anime of the year? Yeah, that lasted until I saw this. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Haikyuu!! Season 2 as well, but Haikyuu!! Season 3 was not just Haikyuu!! at its best, but probably sports anime at its best. Everything that I’ve come to love about sports anime, absolutely everything, was crammed into this perfectly paced 10 episode package of pure hype, and much like Ace of the Diamond, I will fully admit to getting teary-eyed when this season was all said and done, something the fact that the original voice actor of Karasuno’s coach dying during the production of this season did not help with.
Ok, so cards on the table, at the absolute least Diamond is Unbreakable is my second favorite part of JoJo’s to be animated so far. I think I still love Battle Tendency just a tiny bit more overall though, because DiU does have a few gaps where it felt like we got some monster of the week type treatment. Granted, unlike Stardust Crusaders, this ended up serving a purpose as many of the characters introduced this way would see use at some point later on after their introduction. However, I can safely say, and this may be sacrilegious to some people, that Yoshikage Kira is my favorite JoJo’s villain to date. Yes, more than Kars and the other Pillar Men, and yes even more than DIO himself, whom you may remember I named as my favorite villain last year. This is for two reasons. The first is that he is more grounded than the villains of the past. Instead of trying to rule the world, he is just a serial killer trying to live a peaceful life in Bum Fuck, Japan, which leads to a completely different style of adventure than we are used to from JoJo’s. The hunt for Kira is a murder mystery more in the same style of Persona 4, which is my favorite game of all time. The second reason is he’s basically a walking reference to Queen, especially his Stand Killer Queen. Even his own personal theme song sounds like it could have been the music used in a more low key Queen song. And Queen is my favorite band, so anyone who references Queen gets major brownie points with me.
I greatly loved Joker Game because I am a pure sucker for period piece anime series as history is a big passion of mine. When I heard that this would be a series about Japanese spies during the World War 2 era that weren’t exactly kosher with the nationalistic leanings of the rest of the Japanese military, I began salivating at the possibilities, and at least to me, Joker Game absolutely delivered. The episodic nature of the show turned many people away, but I love episodic series, so I was treated to numerous thrilling tales of espionage mystery set during one of my favorite time periods to study. This would have been my favorite historical series for the year had 91 Days not happened, and funnily enough, the two shows share the same writer.
Yes, Keijo!!!!!!!! is one of my favorite shows of the year. When it comes to pure entertainment value, few shows this year entertained me like Keijo!!!!!!!! did. Despite initial appearances, the show is actually rather serious at times, which is where most of the humor in the show comes from. Everyone in the show taking such a ridiculous concept at face value is one of the things that kept me coming back. The other was the stupid off the wall parodies of other anime series. I didn’t know what the show would bring out next. To me the show’s insanity reached its peak in episode 10 when the characters Kazane Aoba and Sanae Hououin faced off. Sanae giving a new definition to the term “titty twister” clashing with Aoba’s immense arsenal of copied moves visualized through a send up to Fate/stay night of all things. This show was just a pure blast and is one that I really hope gets another season.
Trigger has covered many different styles of action shows by now, so someone decided they should try their hand at doing drama. So how well did Trigger’s signature bombastic visual style mesh with Mari Okada’s infamously overdramatic prose? Well, better than expected, yet somehow weaker than it should have. Like let’s get this out of the way, I don’t know how many people actually put faith into Trigger being able to deliver on a drama series, since well, their entire style is basically anti-drama. Yet for the most part it actually does work, and their usual flair makes the more overtly dramatic scenes all the more powerful. The trade off, though, is that Kiznaiver’s more subtle moments aren’t anywhere near as subtle as they probably should have been. There’s also just something a little off about seeing characters with the usual Trigger design style being all sad and stuff.
That being said, I still greatly enjoyed this show on the whole, even if Persona 4: Dancing All Night basically covered the same core plot as this series did, just with swapping the sci-fi stuff for, well, Persona stuff. I’m actually looking forward to the next Trigger animated drama series, because I have a feeling with time and experience they can improve on their subtlety and deliver dramatic animation similar to KyoAni, as in knowing when to go big and grandiose and when to go subtle and subdued.
So all year long, even up to last week, I’ve been going back and forth between which comedy series was my favorite this year. It was either going to be Osomatsu or Konosuba, and ultimately in the end decided to go with Konosuba, for one key reason. While I definitely remember laughing more at Osomatsu at the time, all these months later, the one whose jokes I actually remember is Konosuba. Basically, while Osomatsu was funnier to me, Konosuba had the more memorable jokes. Out of all the fantasy shows I saw this year, Konosuba gets the nod as well, because it was taking the total piss out of basically the entire genre this year as nearly all of the top quality fantasy shows this year were “trapped in a fantasy world” light novel adaptations.
As for “most surprising”, it was between this, Rakugo, and Keijo!!!!!!!!. However, Konosuba edged those two out because it legitimately was the most surprising show of the year. No one I knew was going in expecting anything from this show. Rakugo at least had some minor pre-debut hype around here thanks to those who knew of the manga. Keijo!!!!!!!!, I had seen the PVs for, and the insanity within them made me interested in the show in the first place. Nothing of this sort happened with Konosuba. It just appeared out of thin air, charmed the pants off of most of us, and welp, here we are, with this show’s sequel being the most hyped show for the Winter season.
Mob Psycho 100 is just a pure sakuga machine. Nearly everything in this show was animated beautifully, including both fire effects and molten metal, two animation effects that are kind of hard to do right, especially in a weekly anime. That’s not even touching upon the gorgeous alternate animation styles the show utilized, such as some stunning paint on glass sequences. Pound for pound, this was the most visually breathtaking show of the entire year in terms of animation. That in turn allowed it to have the hypest collection of fight scenes out of any action show this year. When the fighting started, the animation would ramp up to insane levels.
Lastly, this show had a rather fun and interesting twist on the use of people with psychic powers in anime. Yes there is the standard telekinetic powers, but you also have people casting illusions, giving cutting edges to dull weapons, and creating essentially mini black holes. Yet despite all of this, Mob Psycho 100's best aspect is probably its writing and themes, which focus on envying the things others have that you lack as well as what growing up means.
Hot damn do I love me Iron-Blooded Orphans. I decided to focus on the first season for this because I still don’t know where the second season will ultimately go. That said, I absolutely loved the back half of the first season of IBO. The first half of IBO that aired this year fell into a lull a bit as the crew was trying to make their way to Earth, but once they got there, holy crap. Easily some of the best content I’ve seen from a mecha show in a god damn long time. I can only hope IBO2 ends as strongly as the first season did, and if it does, man are we in for a treat. For some reason the overall quality of the sci-fi anime we get each year tends to go up and down like a roller coaster. 2013 and 2015 were strong years for sci-fi, but 2014 and 2016 were rather lacking overall, though unlike 2014, the sci-fi shows we got this year were pretty damn good, there just wasn’t that many of them.
As I mentioned earlier, the winner of my favorite comedy crown last year had to vacate the crown to a hot newcomer, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort, as the second half of Mr. Osomatsu we got this year had me laughing harder than the first season did. Considering Mr. Osomatsu was far and away the best selling anime in Japan this year(for reference, the combined total sales for all the home release volumes of DVD and Blu-ray easily broke 500,000 units, effortless eclipsing all the other films and TV shows from this year), at this point it is merely a matter of “when” it gets a second season, as there is no way in hell the production committee is just going to sit on the cash cow they have on their hands.
Poco’s Udon World gets the distinction of being my second favorite slice of life series this year. Sure it may not have won the genre crown, but the fact that it was #2 for me in a year absolutely freaking loaded with quality slice of life series and I’m a huge fan of the genre so of course I saw damn near all of them, means it done did good. It also does do a few things that make me like it more than Flying Witch in some areas. For one, Poco’s Udon World actually has a story to it. We get to see Souta grow as a person and come to terms with the rocky way he left home to start his own life over the course of this season, and when it came time for the feels, I don’t think any show repeatedly ripped my heart out like this show did this year. In the end I simply just enjoyed Flying Witch more, but Poco’s Udon World is some damn high quality slice of life anime.
Well, holy shit, the Anime of the Year Grand Slam has finally been completed. What I mean by that is, this was the fourth year I’ve been watching seasonal anime, and now each season has produced at least one Anime of the Year winning show for me, putting to bed once and for all the idea that any season is inherently better just because of what season it was(to explain, early on in my seasonal viewing years I kept seeing people looking forward to the Spring and Fall seasons the most every year, while begrudgingly looking towards the Winter and Summer seasons, and I get that in the past there used to be good reasons for this, like the Winter and Summer seasons used to have jack all air in them, but that isn’t the case anymore, hell this little idea was already on rocky ground with me after last year’s Fall season was actually really freaking lacking to me). In 2013 I gave AotY to Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova, a Fall title, in 2014 I gave it to Mushi-Shi: Zoku Shou, a Spring/Fall season show, and in 2015 I gave it to Gatchaman Crowds Insight, a Summer season show. This year it goes to the Winter show Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju.
This show was just simply amazing and for the entire rest of the year the question I was asking wasn’t whether or not Rakugo would be one of the best of the year, it was if any other series could actually top Rakugo for me. Suffice to say, no, none of them did. However, I’ll be damned if Re:ZERO, Mob Psycho 100, 91 Days, Thunderbolt Fantasy, Yuri!!! on ICE, Flip Flappers, and everyone else didn’t give it their best damn shot.
That just speaks volumes towards how much I simply and purely loved this show for it be able to weather the storm and go wire to wire. The writing was phenomenal, both with the insane levels of subtlety the show used at times, to how it made you have to question exactly what parts we were seeing was actually the truth, as we had to keep reminding ourselves that what we were seeing was a recollection of events being presented by a master storyteller. Speaking of that master storyteller, Kikuhiko was easily my favorite male character this year, only matched, fittingly enough, by his friend/rival/potential lover Sukeroku. Not only could I relate to Kikuhiko surprisingly well, but I just loved everything about his characterization.
I knew I was in for good things with this show when its first freaking episode is a double length episode that could work as an excellent stand alone movie just as is. The fact that everything after the first episode managed to even top that was just pure bliss to me. Needless to say, I am looking forward to its next season with great anticipation to see if for the first time ever I’ll have a series repeat as my Anime of the Year. 2016's other series put up a hell of challenge, now the gauntlet is being thrown at you, 2017's anime. Make sure to bring your A game.
ReLIFE was a rather interesting series of note this year, in part because it tried something I honestly never seen done before in anime. ReLIFE was released like a Netflix series is, all the episodes available in one ready to binge bundle from the beginning. Now I’ve seen the drop the whole show in a binge bundle thing done before, on, well Netflix itself when they would release the anime they’ve gained the rights to, it’s something I’m expecting to have to endure with the Little Witch Academia anime next season. However this is the first time I’ve seen it done right out of the gate, no needing to wait for the season to end before getting to see it. It was all there right from the start of the season.
This is something that could in theory change the way anime is delivered in the future as the way people consume media slowly shifts more and more towards digital binge watching. Thank goodness, then, that the first show to experiement with this was actually a good freaking show. ReLIFE was both a funny and sad show to watch, and the way I was able to connect with Chizuru Hishiro was rather...shocking to say the least. It was like watching a female version of myself on screen, basically. Awkward smiles and all.
Yes, I love Rem, bite me. I know it is the cool thing to hate on Rem and her fans, but, eh, screw y’all(:P). Look I know Re:ZERO has many issues, but damn it, I still really, really loved the show despite those flaws. If it wasn’t for Konosuba or Thunderbolt Fantasy, this would have received either a favorite fantasy series or favorite adventure series nod as well.
When it came to picking my favorite episode this year, I had a lot of really good options to pick from, such as Flip Flapper’s “Pure Echo” being one of the finest examples of horror in anime I’ve seen in recent years or 91 Days’ “Behind the Curtain” for being one of the best uses of misdirection and playing with expectations I’ve seen. Hell, Re:ZERO itself had at least 2 or 3 episodes I was considering. However I had to go with “From Zero” because quite simply, almost the entire episode was just two characters talking in the same location. It had no right being an entertaining episode, like at all, and yet I found myself hanging onto every word being said. I was completely enthralled...by two people...talking for about 20 minutes, and I was enjoying it. Like all of it, cheesy John Woo doves in the background and all.
Oh boy I can imagine the complaints already, “RWBY?! WTF?! That’s not an anime!” well, as I said earlier, my list, my call, and I view RWBY as an anime. I mean for crying out loud, it had its own manga adaption.
Either way, for the first two volumes of RWBY, I enjoyed it, but never enough to put it on my end of the year lists. That all changed this year with the back half of Volume 3. In Volume 3 of RWBY the kid gloves came off and shit got very real very quick and what transpired elevated RWBY to finally reach the status of being one of my favorites for the entire year.
For this entry I actually debated on how much effort I should put into writing about this show. Whether or not to channel my inner Tanaka-kun. Much like Anne-Happy, which I covered in my hidden gems article, Tanaka-kun is one of the shows from this year that on paper shouldn’t have worked. It’s a slice of life comedy about an insanely lazy dude. Yet, it absolutely does work, far, far more than it probably has any right to. Between the great extremes Tanaka-kun goes to be as slothful as possible to the way he interacts with the other characters, many of whom he simply tries his best to get them to go away so he can go back to being lazy, you know, until they are the only option he has left to try and aid in his laziness, Tanaka-kun is a charming surprise. It may not be either my favorite comedy or slice of life show of the year, but I don’t regret sleeping on this show, and you shouldn’t either!
Ok so here’s the real culprit as to why RWBY is here. Much as I loved RWBY this year, it wasn’t until this overwhelmingly fabulous show sashayed its way onto the scene and made many people even question “what is anime” that I decided, “Screw it, I’m going to have this and RWBY on my end of the year thing in some form”. Thunderbolt Fantasy is just an incredibly fun and campy adventure series...that somehow out-camped freaking JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure this year to me. The best example of this for me was when Shang Bu Huan and Screaming Phoenix Killer basically had an epic sword fight in their minds/via their words as they tensely sat and drank with each other.
Of course I can’t talk about Thunderbolt Fantasy and not mention the amazingly detailed puppets. The detailing and overall bishonen/bishojo beauty fused with wuxia clothing look each of the characters had was easily my favorite art style used this year. Everything just absolutely looked incredible.
Oh, and yeah I guess the epic main theme song Hiroyuki Sawano made for the show was like my favorite song from this year too. I suppose that’s what happens when it keeps playing literally whenever there was a badass battle scene in this show, and there were many of those, trust me.
Is there really any surprise that my favorite moment of the year would go to Yuri!!! on ICE? I freaking wrote an entire article about this moment! Never before have I done an entire article about a single moment from an anime before. Also, while Thunderbolt Fantasy has my favorite individual song, my favorite soundtrack easily goes to Yuri!!! on ICE, if only just for the amazing collection of tracks that played during the skaters’ programs, which featured an insane variety of high quality songs that I just couldn’t pick a favorite from. Some days I like “Theme of King JJ” the most, other times it is “Still Alive” that gets my love instead.
Yuri!!! on ICE, like many of the other shows here I wish I could give more love to, because I just flat out loved the show itself. Here’s to hoping it gets the much desired second season and it kicks ass as well.
And there you have it guys, my picks for my favorite anime(and “anime” I guess, for the picky folks out there) from 2016. If anyone is at all curious, the five shows featured in the header image are my overall five favorites from this year, though obviously not in the order they are in that image. The overall winning season for me this year was easily the Winter season. Despite having probably the fewest shows I actually watched in a season this year, it had the most representatives on the list and even managed to get two shows into my Top 5 overall, so yeah, I’d say I quite enjoyed myself that season. Even with 25 picks, though, I know I left off some shows I enjoyed a lot as well, especially a lot of the slice of life shows like Amanchu!, New Game!, and Anne-Happy. So feel free to comment what some of your favorites are below.
I find it rather interesting that following a rather over the top and bombastic year of anime like we got last year, this year overall seems a bit more grounded. Many of the top shows this year were more personal and had us looking in on ourselves and growing as people or at least coming to terms with our flaws. Not that this actually means anything, just something I noticed is all. Like always, thanks for putting up with me for yet another year, and I look forward to what’s in store next year. Hopefully the anime is just as good, if not better than this one.