2016 saw a rise of quality in anime like none before it. Gone are the stale plots and lifeless characters well, not entirely but at least this year studios finally had the cojones to take risks and break away from the tradition dull plots, cliched tropes and overly moe moe monster girls (looking at you Twin Star Exorcists and Kaiju Girls) by adapting light novels as well some webcomics into anime hits. Below is my short personal list of anime that I had the pleasure of viewing last year and that I definitely recommend checking out if you already haven’t.
My Hero Academia
Born into a world where superheroes are commonplace, Izuku Midoriya is one of the few people who is born without a superpowered “Quirk”. Despite not having of one, Midoriya dreams of becoming a hero. Moved by his inherent values of putting others first he is then scouted by the number one hero All-Might to become his successor.
This is a classic underdog story of a boy overcoming prejudice and self doubt in order to rise to the top. Filled a memorable and fun cast alongside the seriousness of being a hero, this is a series that you should definitely catch up on before the new season.
Watch it if: You like Shonen Anime, Naruto, One-Piece, and Fairy Tale
Please Tell Me! Galko-Chan
A refreshing short form anime based off a twitter manga is a slice of life comedy about three high school girls, Galko, Otako, and Ojou, as they engage in very candid conversations about bodily functions and life's idiosyncrasies. The show often spins female promiscuity and teenage immaturity into a fun tale without shaming either, and without the outdated purity culture that often shrouds all things anime - especially in the shows that revolve around some education institution. Admittedly, the show has managed to school me in a few unknown japanese subcultures without the heavy use of stereotypes. For instance, the brief exchange between two female students about the differences between Black Metal and Death Metal was thrown in so nonchalantly that I nearly missed it since neither student was portrayed as the typical Metal Head. This series is fun, inventive and crude in all the right ways.
Watch it if: You like Slice-of-life anime, Daily Lives of Highschool Boys and My Wife is the Student Council President, Tanaka-Kun is Always Listless
Re:Zero - Starting Life in Another World
This show was THE sleeper hit of 2016. It follows Subaru Natsuki, who is suddenly transported into another world with no indication of who summoned him, where he meets a half elf girl within minutes of arrival before feeling compelled to help out the obviously distressed maiden. If you skipped over this title because it sounds like the typical “hero transported to another world” anime, you are sorely mistaken because the similarities end there. Admittingly, I almost skipped over this one after finding out that Subaru has the ability to reverse time by dying with an ability called “Return by Death”. A show in which a hero has unlimited mulligans didn’t give off the vibe of a show with much character depth and plot development. Thankfully, I was wrong. While at times Subaru seemed to be overly whiny and dramatic, his character feels genuine. Even though he is seemingly able to return to a predetermined save point, as if he’s being guided by some unknown force through his death, he is clearly terrified of that prospect often avoiding it as much as possible as he still retains the memories of the physical and emotional trauma of his every demise. This anime makes clever use of cliffhangers, pacing revelations that adds to the drama and suspense as the audience tries to unravel the mysteries alongside Subaru. It’s almost heart wrenching to see some great development between Subaru and some of the characters only to see it reset with an untimely demise.
Note: This show was so intense that the creators made a short form anime spin off to accompany the main series in order to dial down the feels to the light hearted side.
Watch it if: You like Shonen and Other World Anime, Groundhog Day, Overlord and Gate: Thus the JSDF Fought There!
Konosuba - God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World
Another “Hero to another world” series, this anime is a complete 180 from Re:Zero. Following his untimely and hilariously embarrassing death, Kazuma Sato finds himself sitting in front of a beautiful goddess named Aqua. Aqua, a revered and respected goddess, finds no sympathy for the Kazuma and in fact, laughs in his face about how he pissed himself upon death while on his way to buy the latest MMO. Instead of heading off to a boring afterlife Aqua instead offers reincarnation if he joins the fight against the Demon King. Kazuma accepts the offer after being told that he would retain his memories and even be able to take any god-like equipment or ability with him; as revenge for insulting him Kazuma drags Aqua with him and now both their lives suck. The show, while cast in a magical world, is quite relatable often mirroring the struggles of debt, living pay to pay, terrible neighbors and unstable job market; while this show does occasionally fall in the same old anime tropes tropes, like Darkness’ single obligatory sex joke and the unintentional panty thieving, it still sits as an energetic and fun parody of the MMORPG genre.
Watch it: if you liked Log Horizon or Sword Art Online, Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-Kun
Drifter starts off the gate with a roaring and gory battle, wasting no time telling you what kind of anime you are about to watch. Featuring expertly animated scenes and tightly directed plot that's wastes no time as it moves along. Well, that is after the first two episodes. While I was slightly put off by the two episode setup of the show - showing the who’s what and why’s; Shimazu Toyohisa is the first of the main trio of protagonists who lives only for glory on the battlefield we are introduced to. Joining him are other famous warriors and tacticians from different eras of the world's history in a game of conquest between the Drifters and the Ends. Drifters is adapted from the manga by Kouta Hirano best known for his work on Hellsing. Normally I would criticize an anime for having a protagonist with really a thin motivation, it works for this particularly explosive setting as hot-headed Toyohisa is very well complemented by the seasoned warrior Oda Nobunaga and brash archer Nasu no Yoichi.
Watch it: if you like Battle anime, Hellsing, Samurai Seven or Kabaneri of The Iron Fortress
Sweetness and Lightning
This show probably plucked at my heartstrings the most this last year. This feel good anime starts off by introducing us to single father Kouhei Inuzuka and his daughter Tsumugi who try their best to eat a balanced diet composed of precooked convenience store food. Worried about his daughter’s mental and nutritional well being a year after his wife’s death high school teacher Kouhei decides to break the monotony of frozen dinners and takes his daughter to a picnic under the cherry blossoms. Upon arrival he has a chance encounter with Kotori, a student of his high school, who is sitting by herself and shares her mother’s home cooked meal. After Tsumugi exclaims that she would like to eat the delicious food again the girl then hands Kouhei a business card to the restaurant her family owns.
What I enjoyed most about this anime was the portrayal of the father-daughter dynamic. Too often children in anime are portrayed as really bratty or perfect miniature adults, this show has no major conflicts and instead focuses on the interaction and maturity of small child growing up without a mother, treating her problems with validity and understanding. Often the meal of the day being dictated by whatever minor problem each character has - such as Tsumugi unable to forgive a fellow classmate or Kotori having trouble making friends at school. While Kouhei and Kotori do end up spending a lot of time together to the point of being the defacto motherly figure in Tsumugi’s life, Kotori’s relationship with Kouhei is never forced with awkward romance, instead the two mainly come together in a “it takes a village” kind of mindset. The manga does explore the romantic aspect of the two as is natural of two people spending affluent amounts of time together. This anime in particular exceeded my expectations with its endearing charm and awkwardness
Watch it: if you like Slice of Life, Bunny Drop, Azumanga Daioh, Spice and Wolf or Honey and Clover
Do you agree with our list? Be honest with us, how many of you named your pets after you favorite characters?