Top 10 Anime of 2016 [Non-Sequel]

Top 10 Anime of 2016

2016 was an amazing year filled with all kinds of surprising events. Trump got elected as President, Scientists detected gravitational waves, Eddie Hall pulled 500kgs on the deadlift, some celebrities died, harambe died, more random memes got famous, more people did stupid stuff, and a guy punched a kangaroo in the face. What a time to be alive!
On the other hand, in the world of Anime, the number of titles released this year surpassed the last. No surprises there, they just keep chucking them one after the other. While movies like Koe no Katachi and Kimi no Nawa created a lot of buzz, the shows also put up quite a performance. Here are my top 10 picks of 2016.

Disclaimer : This list does not include sequels, unless the whole series aired in the same year (example Ajin). So, no Durarara, Jojo, Haikyuu, Assassination Classroom, Hibike! Euphonium or Natsume's Book of Friends or anything else I forgot to include. Also, this is my list, an opinion on what I think are the best shows of 2016. It doesn't have to agree with your opinions. I'm sure you already know how the rest of this dialogue goes.
So, without further ado, let's begin.

#10 : Boku no Hero Academia

Studio : Bones
Genre : Action, Comedy, Super Power, Shounen
Episodes : 13

Putting My Hero Academia on the number 10 spot was a hard decision for me. After excluding the sequels and picking my top 7, the shows that I was left with were good in some aspects but they had some glaring flaws that I just couldn't ignore. After an extensive, thrilling elimination round of Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, I was left with 91 Days and My Hero Academia. And here we are.
The reason I didn't pick 91 days is because, to me, mafia shows (or shows related to gangs and violence, e.g., The Wire) have always been about strong memorable characters. And 91 days lacks that. Majority of the characters don't develop beyond their initial impressions (thanks to the short run time) and towards the end, the show questions the morality of its main characters' actions, something which I think is absurd. Anyways, let's move on.

My Hero Academia is a very conventional shounen anime, as conventional as it gets. It's the good old underdog story, about a guy who goes from zero to being a hero. The main character wants to become a hero because he really wants to, from the bottom of his heart. There's no "I'll be a hero and save this world" scenario. He wasn't born a hero, and he wasn't forced into it thanks to an accident (radioactive spiders or gamma ray exposures) or a tragedy. The job of a hero isn't thrust upon him by someone, it's what he wants, because superheroes are cool (I totally agree on that).

One thing I liked about the show is that it wasn't all about the war of good and evil. Instead, it was more about our main character, his past, how he deals with his powerlessness, then his newly acquired powers and his relationship with his "idol" All Might and his "friend" Bakugou. And towards the end, it incorporates some themes involving the hypocrisy when it comes to using violence, and about symbols and society; it's there and you are free to analyse (or over-analyse) them, but it isn't something to be taken too seriously. Despite the lack of "actual content" and sluggish pacing, the show has some quality moments in it. And it's fun to watch. So, you can pick this up if you want to see the old conventional superhero story, but don't expect to be blown away.

#9 : Ajin

Studio : Polygon Pictures
Genre : Action, Mystery, Horror, Supernatural, Seinen
Episodes : 26 across two seasons

So, a species of seemingly immortal beings appear and they are being hunted down by different groups from all over the world. A huge reward is put out and whoever helps the government catch an Ajin gets hundreds of millions. You are an average Japanese high-schooler, and listening to all the buzz and gossip about Ajins and catching them makes you a little uncomfortable. So, you're walking back home, thinking about all the things you should and shouldn't do, and out of nowhere... BAM! Plot hits you in the face and splatters your guts all over the asphalt. And it turns out, you're an Ajin. Congratulations! Better start running.

Actually, Ajin is a little more than just our peace loving protagonist running around for his life. It's got torture, inhumane experiments, politics, media, terrorism, a little bit of supernatural and lots of blood and violence, all in shiny full 3d animation. It's a great watch if you aren't bothered by the full CG art (you know the whole, sometimes it's cool, sometimes its like playing a game on ultra when your GPU can barely handle it on medium). It's got two seasons - the first season is amazing and while the second season takes a different route from the manga, it's still entertaining enough. I would recommend this if you are looking for a serious action series which incorporates the aforementioned themes in its story.

#8 : Fune wo Amu

Studio : Zexcs
Genre : Drama, Romance, Seinen
Episodes : 11

Now there's another profession I have deep respect for.
Getting to know what really goes into making everyday things is a delight for me. Especially things where humans do majority of the work and their character plays a huge role (so, episodes of How It's Made wouldn't count, probably). I get fascinated by watching other characters get fascinated by what they do. Usually, shows that feature such premises tend to have characters with fiery burning passion and 'intense' personalities. This is where Fune wo Amu steps in and shows us something different.

It's a show about making a dictionary - what it is, how it's made, what it means to it's creators and what purpose it should serve. Usually, shows with this kind of premise will have a very tense atmosphere with a lot of chaos among the characters (in the form of a competition or a deadline, or both). But Fune wo Amu is very calm and laid back, almost too laid back for it's own good. And this lack of "intensity" shows its effect in the character department. The main character, who really loves words and carries the word "serious" (or seriousness) in his name, is really bad at expressing himself. He is always introverted, doesn't actively participate in conversations, and would seem like a shy reserved person from the outside. Which is not bad, because his job requires him to be a very calm, collected person with monumental amounts of patience & dedication. But here's the thing, I still can't understand or relate to his passion for words, especially how 'intense' or deep rooted it is. And instead of providing us with more material to further his character, the series just constantly throws the ship analogy in our face.

I feel that the series could have done a lot more, but the creators just, sort of, didn't bother. Despite all that, it certainly gets it's message across, that making a dictionary is no easy task. This series is not a must watch for everyone and it certainly wouldn't get your blood pumping or keep you on the edge of your seat, but it'll show you how amazing humans are. So, if you are interested, go give it a shot.

#7[Tie] : Sakamoto Desu ga

Studio : Studio Deen
Genre : Comedy, School, Seinen
Episode : 12

#7 on the list is a tie between Sakamoto Desu ga and ERASED. Why? Well, because it is. Actually, I just want more anime on my list. Don't take it too seriously.

I like comedies, they're quite simple. You either laugh, or you don't. And Sakamoto Desu ga is one of those shows, where, you'll either like it from the first episode, or you'll just hate it because it's stupid. The story is about Sakamoto, a guy so perfect that compared to him, even Usui Takumi has flaws. We, the audience, get to witness his miracles as he goes about living an overwhelmingly cool and stylish high-school life. Popular guys, popular girls, average guys, average girls, bullies, seniors, teachers and even the birds and the bees can't keep up with him and are left in awe of his otherworldly godlike swag. Impossible situations? They're just everyday phenomenon for him, and he just glides through them gracefully. Not only that, his actions, directly or indirectly, end up helping others.

Point is, majority of the show's comedy is centred around Sakamoto getting out of impossible situations, most of which involve some kind of bullying. While not every gag is gold here, the kind of humour presented (suave humour) was refreshing because of it's ridiculousness and it's something quite different from the usual slapstick comedy you see in anime.

#7[Tie] : Boku Dake ga Inai Machi

Studio : A-1 Pictures
Genre : Mystery, Psychological, Seinen, Supernatural
Episode : 12

It's been a year since I watched this show but I still can't get over the frustration of that ending. The whole reason I watch mystery shows is to enjoy the rush of the reveal. When all the knots untie one after the other, when that one linchpin surfaces and all the dots connect to reveal the picture, when the curtain is finally lifted and our minds are blown away by the truth and the sheer genius of the deduction. That's what I wanted from this show, but what it delivered didn't even come close to a "surprise".
So, why is this show on #7?

Well, as much as I hate to admit it, up until the point where the reveal became "obvious", I enjoyed every moment of this show. The fact that we were going to solve a murder mystery by travelling back in time was fascinating, the protagonist's 29 year old psyche trapped in a child's body and all the monologues were amusing, the relationship between him and Hinazuki was cute and developing in an interesting way, the direction was on point and the animation really set the mood and pulled me in. But then....
Long rant short, I expected way too much from this anime. It's like Tokyo Ghoul all over again. And, considering the best moments of the show, it is more like a slice of life-ish show with a not-so-mind-blowing mystery on the side. Maybe I shouldn't have put this on #7. Oh well.

#6 : Re:Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu

Studio : White Fox
Genre : Psychological, Drama, Thriller, Fantasy
Episodes : 25

Perspective. It's interesting how people can have such varying points of view about the same thing, all justified in their own right, influenced by who they are.
After reading all the different opinions on Re:Zero and considering my own, I'm having a hard time presenting this show. I can't label all of it as bad because there were some amazing moments in the show, but I can't label it as a masterpiece because there were an equal amount of frustrating moments and nuances. What to do?

Re:Zero is a show that takes the old trusted formula, actually, several variants of it, adds some new things, slaps a new dress on it to hide all the patchwork and presents it to the audience. It's got blood, violence, moe, time travel, romance, drama, all in a fantasy world with cute characters, evil characters, cool characters, narcs, heroes, witches, elves and whatnot. It starts off really good, sets up the premise in an interesting way with a double first-episode, but as things go on, everything turns to mush. Into a sort of situation similar to when you turn up a big rock and there's all that going on underneath. But thankfully, it's entertaining. Cliffhangers at every episode, characters dying in painful ways to the point that its not overkill to call this a torture-fest, characters doing a 180 on their personality, lots of second hand embarrassment, an ever-present evil with no clear motive - you name a popular troupe, it's there. The downside? It's a mess. But it's fun.

#5[Tie] : Flying Witch

Studio : J.C. Staff
Genre : Comedy, Magic, Slice of Life, Supernatural
Episodes : 12

Always wondered if flying on a broom in that position hurt. I was convinced that the wonderful feeling of flight greatly overshadowed the agonizing pain of your privates getting crushed under your own weight. Glad I was wrong.
Flying Witch, a show by J.C. Staff that features a teenage girl by the name of Matoko Kowata who just moved to Aomori as part of her journey towards being a professional witch. Hearing the words "magic" and "witch" probably paints a very flashy, colourful picture in one's mind, one with transformation sequences, eccentric characters and bizarre phenomenon. But Flying Witch takes a modest and subtle approach to this premise. There is no great evil - external or internal, our characters have to fight against, no big dream or goal they are out to accomplish, there is no tension, no pressure on the characters. It's a slice of life show to the core. And it delivers.

The series has a calm atmosphere, complimented by serene, beautiful background art and soft loveable characters. The enjoyment comes not from eccentric over the top actions of the characters (as you'd expect from a typical slice of life show) but from subtle things like a child's reaction to seeing magic for the first time (like the fact that the witch can talk to her cat), or how the world of magic and witches is introduced to the audience. It's the kind of show you'll watch to unwind and relax, not to get a rush of adrenaline. So be mindful of your current mood if you do decide to watch this and you'll have a great time.

#5[Tie] : Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge

Studio : Silver Link
Genre : Slice of Life, Comedy, School
Episodes : 12

Me : "Hey, these two shows aired in the same season and belong to the same genre of SoL. Which one should we put on the list?"
Other me :"I don't know, which one's better?"
Me : "For that we'll have have to analyse both of these shows and based on factors like humour, direction, animation, execution of the jokes and overall character development, decide, which one is objectively a better show."
Other me : *Yawning* "Just put 'em both on the list!"
Me : "Wow! You're a genius man."
Aaaaaaaaaand, here we are.

Actually, Tanaka-kun is always listless is a delightful show. You have your lazy main character who has mastered the art of listlessness to the point that he can erase his presence. Not only that, the people around him are a peculiar bunch. Coupled with your everyday situations, this mix turns into a pleasant experience. Now, I'm generalising here but what Tanaka-kun does is it gives each of it's side characters a quirk that doesn't fit with their character at all, hence, turning them into characters "who aren't what they seem like". The most common overused example of this is the tsundere. But here this "method" isn't applied with a romantic interest in mind. For example, you have Miyano. A petite vivacious girl, who is always active, motivated and full of energy. But she gets fascinated by Tanaka's way of listlessness and decides to become his apprentice so that she can master it herself.
Or take Ohta - a tall, well built guy who looks nothing short of a delinquent (to the rest of the people in the show, I don't see it). But he is actually a pretty nice guy with a sweet tooth.

And here's the thing, it's not just Tanaka's listlessness and the side characters' peculiar personality which drives the show, the characters also share interesting relationships with each other and it contributes plenty towards the show's overall entertainment quota. The downside is that as the show progresses into the latter part, it's initial charm falls off. Not because it gets boring, but because the show starts to lean towards the romance aspect (trust me, it's not as bad as it sounds). Either way, the show is a notable addition to the genre, just like the other show it shares this #5 spot with.

#4 : Mob Psycho 100

Studio : Bones
Genre : Action, Slice of Life, Comedy, Supernatural
Episodes : 12

How does a show about a grade-schooler with super powers get on the #4 spot? What is so good about main characters with no drive, who only do something when they're "triggered"?
Well, if you think about it, that is unusual. But Mob Psycho 100 isn't about our main character trying to find motivation in life. Or how to utilise these awesome superpowers he was born with. It's more about how to deal with... life. I know that makes it sound like it's something grandiose, but it's not like that. Our main character isn't like your typical cool grade school kid who sits by the window seat in the corner and has all the pretty girls falling for him for no reason. He's socially awkward, has trouble making conversation, doesn't know what he wants most of the time, isn't good at sports or studying, and he's always dazed. On top of all that, he has these psychic powers that he can't fully control and doesn't know how to deal with them. He has grown up, watching people around him, with no super powers, lead perfectly fine, happy, ordinary lives. And that's what he wants. So, the conclusion he's arrived at is that psychic powers are completely unnecessary to live a life.

Now, there's a lot to look into if you sit down and analyse every bit of this show's aspects. Like the duality between the Kageyama brothers, how the show has cliches like the evil organisation but calls them out as "a group of children who never grew up", Mob's emotional outbursts and all the jokes and satire. But if you don't want to pick this show apart and just want to have fun, then you can do that too. There's tons of well-animated action, albeit, it's not your everyday animation with smooth contours and "beauty", it's a bit messy. But it's good. And there's some nice comedy with some of that second hand embarrassment that we all love.
Point is, this show is on #4 because I said so. That's all.

#3 : Saiki Kusou no Psi-nan

Studio : J.C. Staff & EGG FIRM
Genre : Comedy, Supernatural, School, Shounen
Episodes : 120 [5 min per episode]. 24 if you count them as 20 min compilations.

Being born with psychic powers sucks.
The reason we think that psychic powers are so amazing is because there are a lot of things we ordinary humans can't do. So, it's only fair to think that for a human to be able to do impossible superhuman feats would make their life awesome. In the case of someone obtaining superpowers, maybe yes. But being born with psychic powers means living a different kind of hell. Because when you're born with superpowers, the whole context of "I can't do something" disappears, and all the superhuman feats are just natural for you. And as you grow up, you realise how much of a pain those powers are. There is no sense of achievement because everything is a piece of cake. No surprises for you since you can see everything coming. You have to control your strength so you don't accidentally obliterate everything in a 10 kilometer radius. And if people find out about your powers, they won't stop nagging you for favours.

Saiki Kusou no Psi-nan is about a guy who is in a similar situation. Saiki Kusou was born with every imaginable psychic power - superhuman strength, psychokinesis, pyrokinesis, mind reading, telepathy, teleportation, power to change the very DNA make up of humanity, you name it, he's probably got it. He just wants to live a peaceful life and eat coffee jello everyday. But sadly, he is the main character of the show, so, life ain't easy for him.
The kind of comedy this show has, is the type of comedy I love. It consists of short, absurd gags filled with snarky remarks, references, fourth wall breaking and sarcasm. The characters are just the most ridiculous whackos you'll ever see and their interactions are just hilarious. Instead of talking more about how good this show is, let me put it this way :
The only reason KonoSuba is #2 on this list is because it was a much needed parody of the "trapped in a fantasy world" setting. And it did a good job. If it wasn't for that, this show would be my comedy of the year. No, wait, it is.

#2 : Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!

Studio : Studio Deen
Genre : Adventure, Comedy, Supernatural, Fantasy
Episodes : 10

The fascinating thing about comedy is that you can never quite explain why it's funny. It just is. If you've ever tried explaining a joke to someone then you know what I'm talking about. You can pick apart the whole thing and analyse how the joke is put together, how it's structured with a premise, how it draws you in and then how well it utilises the element of surprise to get that laugh out of you, but if you do that, you'll just end up killing the joke. Besides, the whole point of the joke is to make you laugh, and if you did laugh, there's no need to probe further and you move on. And even if you didn't laugh, you move on anyway. There's no point in trying to criticise a joke for not being funny.

Point is, KonoSuba is funny, I laughed a lot while watching it, and I said all that above because I don't want to explain why. I could tell you all about the whacky characters and how the show does an excellent job parodying the "trapped in a fantasy world" setting, but your experience with the show will depend largely on your sense of humour. Also, telling you about the characters sort of spoils the funny bits. So, just go watch the show. If you laugh, good. If you don't, don't force yourself to watch the whole thing, just move on.

#1 : Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu

Studio : Studio Deen
Genre : Drama, Historical, Josei
Episodes : 13

*Drumroll.....* Yay! Here we are, Anime of the Year.
I guess that whole drum-roll thing doesn't work when you write it. Not to mention, "Anime of the Year" just sounds.... lame.
Anyways, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is #1 on this list for obvious reasons. One, it was about a profession I didn't know anything of. Two, it had really interesting characters which developed throughout the show; and we saw the influence of not just Rakugo in their life but of other factors as well (take love for example). Three, the presentation was brilliant. And last but not the least because I said s- oh, I've already used that one.

This is a slow paced show about two people involved in the traditional Japanese 'art' (add an internal *ugh* as you read that word) of storytelling called Rakugo, where a guy sits in front of the audience and 'performs' a story. It's about how those two got into Rakugo, the difficulties and challenges they had to face to become a better performer, their relationship with each other, their personal lives - everything your everyday guy in that era would go through.

So, then, what's the big deal?
It's not. Yes, the show is different, an outlier, and it is put together well, and on your average scale, whatever that is, the show performs well above the threshold. But, in the end, it's a show about a guy 'performing' a story. Not everyone is going to go bonkers over something like that. And even in the show, the guy performs in a small theatre which isn't bursting with people (at least most of the time). Point is, the show is going to be boring for a lot of people. So, if you don't enjoy it, it's okay. Just remember, beauty is in the eye of the beer holder (whatever that means).

Honorable Mention : Yuri on Ice!!!

Studio : MAPPA
Genre : Comedy, Sports
Episodes : 12

Ah! This show.
If you've read my first reaction/review then you already know how I feel about this show. I thought this anime was gonna show me the beautiful world of ice skating - from everything that goes on in there to why the skaters love it so much (each with their own reasons). But what I got was something entirely different.
Since this is supposed to be an honorable mention and not a rant, I'd like to stop and say few words of praise.

Yuri on Ice is a good show.
There. I said it. That'd be all.
Okay, I know that's rude but any kind of praise I give to this show is bound to turn into a rant after a few lines. Because of how badly it screwed up the opportunity it had. It's as if you sent a guy into a cave full of treasure. And he walks out holding a rock saying "Hey look. I found this interesting rock. Almost looks like a penis." I don't know if that makes sense, but that's how I'd describe what I felt. So, my advice is, don't go in expecting a breathtaking show, or something crap. It's not THAT bad, it's just frustrating to see what it did with what it had.

Honorable Mention : ReLife

Studio : TMS Entertainment
Genre : Slice of Life, Romance, School
Episodes : 13

Oh god that smile.
I swear, that is the sole reason I've put this show here.
ReLife is one of those shows where you feel giddy that the main character is going to live his high-school life again, but at the same time it's kinda sad that he doesn't have anything in his present to be happy about. It's got your usual high-school cliches like the slippery stairway where girls trip and fall on our protagonist, and characters with their usual self doubt and guilt over being good or bad at something, characters who don't fit in because they're too awkward and just don't know how to deal with people all in your usual high-school ecosystem with all of it's phenomenon of tests, festivities and whatever. The twist here is that our main character is a 27 year old guy whose outer appearance has been altered to look like he's 17. It's an experience similar to when you replay that super hard level from a video game.

The show has some fun moments that got a good laugh out of me and I find Chizuru's awkwardness adorable. There's also your usual life lessons of treasuring your present and all that, along with adding a little weight to your usual high school stereotypes (take the whole talent and working hard 'argument' for example). The problem is that the show isn't complete and all we got was the setup of sorts - of how our protagonist influenced other people's lives and what we didn't get is how it changed him and what he does with that feeling/lesson to make a difference in his current life. Still, I liked it.

And with that, I wrap up this late-as-usual post. What were your favourite shows from 2016?

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July 17, 2018 at 8:21 PM delete

Great list with top 10 for 2016! Here is another one for best anime of all time -