2016 in retrospect: anime

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My anime-watching declined somewhat this year; the new routines that come with being married compiled with a flurry of new things and projects to distract me meant that anime got shoved to the side somewhat, but I still managed to get through over 20 series/OVAs throughout the year. This is paltry compared to most serious anime fans, I know, but it’s something.

None of the anime I watched this year were from…this year, they were all established series that I hadn’t seen before. So while other people across the Internet are giving their year-end evaluations of the many anime from 2016, I’ll just sit in my corner here and talk about stuff most of you probably already know about. With any luck though, maybe I can convince you to watch some of the better things on this list if you haven’t already — or stop you from wasting your time on some of the less good stuff on here. Anyway, here we go!

1. Kaiba
2. Now and Then, Here and There
3. Touch*
4. Death Billiards/Parade
5. Uchouten Kazoku
6. Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Zoku
7. Little Witch Academia: Mahoujikake no Parade
8. Humanity Has Declined
9. Shinsekai yori
10. One-Week Friends.
11. Natsume Yuujinchou
12. Little Witch Academia
13. Natsuyuki Rendezvous
14. Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. OVA
15. Tsuritama
16. Zankyou no Terror
17. Tokyo Marble Chocolate
18. So Ra No Wo To
19. Katanagatari
20. Kawai Complex
21. Noein: To Your Other Self

 It should be no surprise for anyone who’s talked to me this past year, or who has kept up with this blog, that Kaiba was the best thing I watched in 2016. I wrote a lengthy review on it earlier in the year, in case you missed it, but it’s worth repeating now that this is a stunningly good, weird, and thought-provoking series that every self-described anime fan owes it to themselves to view. You are missing out on something incredibly special if you let this one go; for myself, Kaiba has certainly become one of my all-time favorite series, and I doubt I’ll ever find anything quite like it.

• Now and Then, Here and There…where to start with this one. I probably should have written a proper review when I first watched it, but this is another anime to put on your shortlist if you haven’t ever seen it. Just be aware, it starts off in horrible brutality, and doesn’t really let up. It depicts torture, rape, and terrible violence throughout its 13-episode run, although never in a tasteless way. This anime’s world is an awful place, characterized by human suffering, but it still tells a poignant story worth hearing. It explores the depths of human depravity while simultaneously acknowledging that nobody is beyond salvation. It’s an old anime at this point (originally released in 1999), and rarely talked about anymore, but if there’s any series that doesn’t deserve to be lost to the annals of the medium’s history, it’s this one.

• Touch is on here, but only kinda. I started watching this in like June of this year, and so far am only halfway through it (it’s over 100 episodes long, and I watch maybe three episodes a week, if I’m lucky). I decided to put it on here because, even though I’m not through with it yet, it’s on track to be another one of my all-time favorite series. It’s a slice of life series from the ’80s that focuses around baseball, but man is it good. Deep characters, fascinating plots that intertwine in unexpected ways, and an epic overarching story that simply does not get boring. I’m looking forward to watching the second half; you can definitely expect a full-fledged review when I finish, and I’m fairly certain it will be sitting at or near the top of next year’s list as well.

• Uchouten Kazoku reminded me a lot of Kamichu!, which if you recall was my favorite anime that I watched last year…not in the sense that the stories were anything alike (they aren’t, at all), but in the sense that it had a certain feeling to it that I craved whenever I wasn’t watching it. Take that away and the anime itself is really only okay; it doesn’t do anything that can’t be found elsewhere, but to me the anime had something that I couldn’t get enough of, and I don’t know if I can really describe.

 One of the more surprising and entertaining things I watched this year was Humanity Has Declined, an offbeat post-apocalyptic story brimming with colors and life and bizarre humor; it had a little bit of everything and was simply overflowing with creative energy. It follows an unnamed girl who acts as arbiter between the declining human race and a race of tiny fairies, who are becoming the dominant species on the Earth. “Quirky” is such an overused adjective for things like this but I can’t really think of a better descriptor; it’s absolutely an anime worth your time if you want something different and fun. And man, I can’t wait to make an AMV with this.

• Shinsekai Yori — one of the most inconsistent and frustrating animes I watched this year, and yet I’m so glad I stuck around because it was a wild ride that paid off in the end. Another post-apocalyptic setting, although this time much darker than the anime I mentioned above, it follows a group of friends, who all have psychokinetic abilities, as they age and learn more about the world they live in. A super-generic description is necessary here because it’s really hard to go into any more detail without spoiling things, but this is a gripping story, with a twist every other episode. It is impossible to tell where this anime will end up at any given point, but it’s worth sticking around to the end. It has lots of animation inconsistencies, and at times the storytelling gets really convoluted, but the world it creates is so rich and sinister and alive that you forget about those things. This is, by and large, really good stuff.

• One-Week Friends is basically ef: A Tale of Memories with less melodrama and with a more generic art style. I enjoyed it though; it was predictable, and it made me feel good, and it scratched a specific itch I was feeling at the time, so its sins of being derivative are at least half-forgiven.

 I only watched the first season of Natsume Yuujinchou, but I liked it a lot — people always use terms like “laid-back” to describe it, and while I get that, I feel like there was quite a bit more drama and despondency than such descriptors might let on. I need to watch more of this series, especially as they just keep making more and more seasons, but I don’t feel bad not downing this one all at once. Series like this, I feel, deserve to be savored and taken in slowly, so I may stretch this out a while as I go further into the series. I’m looking forward to it, though!

• Tsuritama was a pretty ridiculous anime involving fishing, aliens, and the meaning of friendship, and while I enjoyed it perfectly well as I was watching it, when all was said and done I realized that this is the exact same type of story arc that you see in 90% of popular media, just told in a weirder way. You can pinpoint almost to the minute when certain things will happen (like the protagonist seeming to turn his back on his friends in order to save them!), and in the end I felt slightly emotionally manipulated with how everything played out. It’s a fun story, with a really neat animation style, but trust me when I say you’ve seen this kind of thing a million times. Just watch PieandBeer’s video Something Fishy instead.

 I was really confused with how I felt when I was watching Zankyou no Terror; it’s a stupid anime, to be sure, with lots of really dumb archetypes (the cop who’s been shoved into semi-retirement in the precinct’s archive department comes back to the force to solve a high-profile terrorism case! He’s the only one that can Save The Day!), a lot of forced relationships, and a (couple) derivative revenge stories at its center, BUT it also has a weird way of making you want to keep watching. The thought process during each episode is pretty much, “This is stupid, this is idiotic, why am I– OH CRAP WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT??” I hated that I got so into it, and I would not recommend this to most people. However, if you can get over the tropes, maybe you’ll eke some enjoyment out of it.

• Katanagatari: A shounen anime that no one asked for. I know I’m going to be in the minority here but I (mostly) disliked this, a lot — it’s a story that takes place in feudal Japan and follows a girl trying to collect a bunch of legendary swords, who recruits a legendary fighter who only uses his hands and feet to fight, and never wields a sword himself. Honestly, this doesn’t sound too bad, until you watch it and realize that (a) every episode is 50 minutes long, (b) approximately 45 of those minutes per episode is just lots and lots and lots and lots of talking, and not even interesting talking, like, boring, meaningless talking that doesn’t contribute to character development in any way, and (c) every episode plays out very similarly. I found this anime to be a slog to get through, and I quickly found myself dreading having to watch the next episode. It has neat animation, and I love the setting, but man it’s just super boring and brought me back to some of the worst stretches of Dragon Ball Z that I watched as a kid. Don’t believe the hype on this one, although I can recommend UnluckyArtist’s video Yin-Yang Destiny as a satisfying alternative.

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About crakthesky

Mid-20s and vocal about my subculture.
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