Top Ten Anime of 2016

And somehow, another year has come to a close. This has been a strange year for me – as my first full year of wholly anime-related employment, it’s been often terrifying, sometimes uplifting, and always exciting. I’m not sure it means anything that my move to freelance coincided with the world catching fire, but hey, things happen. At least I also write for Crunchyroll now!

As far as anime itself goes, this has been a very solid year in general. The industry is currently at a somewhat unsustainable level of production, and though foreign streaming and other forms of revenue are putting the industry in a more stable place financially, that still hasn’t adjusted the workflow mechanisms that keep animators so terribly underpaid. That will have to change eventually, but as far as the actual shows go, there were plenty of anime I had a great time with this year, and solid hits in a wide variety of genres. In fact, this year’s crop was so good that I even have some honorable mentions! That’s honestly kind of unusual for me – I generally struggle getting to ten shows without including stuff I’m not totally sold on. So let’s start right there, and run down the shows that just barely missed the list before we count off the final ten!

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Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash – Review

Today I reviewed the season’s other trapped-in-a-fantasy-world show! Grimgar was great, in the end – the show had a wide variety of tiny issues, but none that could really substantially detract from the things it did well. It was lovely to see a show that actually treated one of these worlds as a living space, and treated the things people do there as actions with consequences. From what I’ve heard, a great deal of Grimgar’s merits came down to the excellence of its director, so I’m very eager to see whatever he does next. A great show is one thing, but a show that introduces me to a new artist to follow is even better.

You can check out my full review over at ANN!


Winter 2016 – Week 12 in Review

Most of this season’s anime came to a close this week, leaving just those two oft-compared highlights, Rakugo and Dagashi Kashi, to finish the season alone. ERASED pulled itself together to end with as much dignity as it could, given the circumstances of its villain, while Active Raid similarly felt hamstrung by its own weak antagonist. I almost feel tempted to write an article specifically about antagonists now, because the problems with both those shows were so specific and so centered on the ways they handled their villains. Though of course, that article would then end up spinning out into how an antagonist shouldn’t be something you design independently, and should instead reflect the core themes and conflicts of your narrative, and then we’re all the way back at storytelling step one again. Anyway. Some shows ended this week, some shows didn’t. Let’s crack those knuckles once more and RUN ‘EM DOWN!

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Winter 2016 – Week 11 in Review

Anime was pretty great this week! Basically anything would feel like an improvement after last week’s tragic slate of episodes, but this week’s selection was about as strong as you could hope for. ERASED didn’t magically fix the heavy fundamental damage its last episode caused, but it recovered as well as it could with an episode that mostly rediscovered the concept of subtlety. Dagashi Kashi had one of its best episodes so far, and Rakugo made up for its relatively grounded visual storytelling with some of the most endearing character moments of the season. Things are looking pretty okay in animeland at the moment. This may have been a relatively underwhelming season, but with Rakugo on track to become a legit classic, you can’t really call it a letdown.

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Winter 2016 – Week 10 in Review

Well I guess some weeks have to be disasters. A couple of the shows I’m watching were fine this week, but there were some real terrible episodes in there, and one in particular… I don’t even know what to say. It’s pretty rare that a generally excellent show completely sets itself on fire just a few episodes before the end, but here we are. This is what we got. So let’s get right into it.

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Winter 2016 – Week 9 in Review

Anime stayed pretty respectable this week, offering up reasonable episodes all around. It seems like Rakugo’s going to the only show I can call truly great by the end of this season, though. ERASED just has too many moments where its thriller mechanics drag down its more compelling variables, and though Grimgar is quite interesting and unique, it’s also a very uneven production. The season’s second tier is also somewhat questionable; Konosuba and Dagashi Kashi both regularly gesture towards jokes that don’t work in the slightest, and Active Raid is pretty much just an average crime procedural. The season has managed to hold together to the point where I’m not actively disappointed, but I’m still very ready for the much richer spring season to begin.

That said, at least Rakugo continues to knock it out of the park every week. So let’s start right there as we run ’em down!

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Winter 2016 – Week 8 in Review

Anime was good this week! Basically every show I’m watching had a solid episode, and some impressed with legitimate highlights, too. Both Konosuba and Dagashi Kashi have now established their character relationships firmly enough that they can often just coast on audience investment, and ERASED pulled off a real stunner this week, focusing largely on Hinazuki’s feelings for the first time. Grimgar executed a major action sequence with characteristic emotional grace, and Rakugo Shinju continued to be just as great as it always is. This season has a fairly light spread of shows, but you don’t really need catalog depth if the first couple tiers are holding strong. Let’s get right into this week’s highlights and RUN ‘EM DOWN!

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Winter 2016 – Week 7 in Review

This week in anime was a week in anime. We’re entering that stretch of the season where shows often become kinda tough to write about – they’ve established a firm rhythm and personality at this point, but they’re not quite into the leadup to the climax, and so episodes can oftentimes just be described as “pretty much like the last episode, I guess.” Even a show like Konosuba, one of this season’s most inconsistent wildcards, is now at least becoming steady in its inconsistency. There were some slight dips and slight rises among individual shows, but everything is at the moment falling within the margin of error of its existing expectations. That doesn’t mean things are impossible to talk about – that just means I have to work harder to find good points of interest. So sit there and appreciate my hard work as I run this week down!

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Winter 2016 – First Half in Review

And suddenly, six weeks have passed. Fortunately for me, it’s actually hard to pretend the winter season has rushed by; not because the shows themselves have proceeded slowly, but because I live in goddamn New England, and so every day is an interminable march of suffering through sub-arctic temperatures and mocking snow. I hate winter, and I’d rather live in a place where it doesn’t exist, but for the moment I’m stuck here. As far as anime goes, this has actually been a perfectly reasonable season.

This seems like one of those seasons where, to an even greater degree than normally, the show quality just drops off a cliff after the second tier. In an ordinary season, there are a decent number of shows I’m not watching that people in a general sense are still enjoying – things that don’t appeal to me genre-wise, or whose writing or art style don’t gel with me, or some other quirk of preference. But this time, it seems like nearly everyone I know is watching the same shortlist of anime, and then there’s just a vast desert of nothing. But this actually doesn’t affect my viewing habits at all – I never tend to find more than half a dozen or so shows watchable, and as far as that small crop goes, as long as I have two to three shows that seem genuinely good, I’m satisfied. But it’d be far too mature of me to just say “I’m enjoying a fair number of shows for a variety of reasons,” and besides, we’ve got traditions to uphold. So let’s start at the top and ruthlessly rank this season’s claimants to the throne!

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Winter 2016 – Week 5 in Review

I hate to say it, but this was not a good week in anime. Everything beyond Rakugo Shinju and ERASED has been kinda iffy this season, but this week, not only did ERASED put out its worst episode by far, but both Dimension W and KonoSuba were so bad that I’m probably dropping them until further notice. I was already sort of on the edge with both of those shows, and it honestly wouldn’t take that much to convince me to give KonoSuba another episode, but when half the shows you’re watching disappoint you, it’s not a good scene. ERASED in particular was a real disappointment – the show’s existing issues of overselling dramatic peaks and just being too much of a boilerplate thriller took over entirely this week, leaving me with an episode that felt more silly than dramatically effective. But that said, there were also highlights to make up the difference, and I can always use the time saved to work on more Current Projects! Let’s start at the top and RUN ‘EM DOWN.

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