I’m sure I’m not the first to tell you this, but 2016 was awful. I won’t waste your time with all of the crap I’ve been through this year, but needless to say, I’m very glad we at least had some great escapism to keep us from going completely insane. While I don’t think this was an excellent year for anime, it’s definitely been better than years past. We got a lot more shows that were more average or heavily flawed than anything else. Not necessarily mediocre, just ok. Because of that my requirements this year are simple: were the shows memorable, and did I finish them? If you’re wondering where Yuri on Ice and Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju are, it’s because I didn’t finish them and I haven’t exactly been able to go back and catch up.
Ok, on to the list.
Besides having one of the cutest character designs this year, Nyanbo! is a technical wonder to watch. How the show seamlessly blends CGI and live-action is truly breathtaking. It’s one of the few times where the character models actually look like they are interacting with their environment. The lighting above everything else is the real star of the show here. Trying to match lighting patterns on character models is no small feat, and for the creators to match the lighting of an environment in which the lighting is constantly shifting is mind blowing. I could talk more about this in detail, but I only have so much room here. Needless to say, Nyanbo! is going to become a show that many CGI model artists will be studying for years to come.
Easily my favorite soundtrack for the year. ClassicLiod is a quirky little show about the power of music. While far from a serious discussion on the subject, ClassicLiod still beautifully captures the spirit of the all time greats like Beethoven and Mozart while also making time for a prat fall or two. A very charming, goofy comedy about a girl trying to keep these robotic musical masters in check.
3. Sweetness & Lightning
I am a total sucker for “Single Parent” dramas, and boy did this show hit that sweet spot like a thunderbolt. (Rimshot) Anyhow, I liked how it explored cooking as a away to bring a family closer together. It’s not about the end result, it’s about those moments where you’re teaching your daughter how to use a knife, or kneading dough together and laughing at the silly shapes you’re making out of the dough. It’s a show more about the importance of the little things than any big gestures. That scene where Tsumugi walks to the restaurant by herself and let’s her imagination go wild is easily one of my favorite moments in anime this year.
2. Thunderbolt Fantasy
“BUT IT’S NOT ANIME!” You are welcome to think that. The truth of the matter is, I actually do see puppetry as a form of animation, much like claymation. The idea of animation is you are transforming a still image and giving the illusion of movement. Puppets, by design, are still objects that are given life by the puppeteer. While it’s not the most traditional form of animation, it is still, by definition, animation. Also, I absolutely loved this show, and I could care less if you see this as a valid entry or not.
I grew up watching shows like Thunderbirds, Stingray and Captain Scarlett, so seeing Thunderbolt Fantasy this year instantly took me back to my childhood. I loved this epic fantasy show about acquiring team members to go on a quest to retrieve pieces of an ancient weapon that could destroy the world if placed in the wrong hands. The designs of the puppets are gorgeous, the fight scenes are surprisingly brutal and the dialogue is absolute perfection. While the setup is tried-and-true, what makes this show fascinating is how alliances are constantly shifting; you’re never really sure who to trust. Everyone has these brilliant motivations for going on this quest, and it makes for an enjoyable watch. I know puppetry isn’t for everyone, but I cannot recommend Thunderbolt Fantasy enough.
1. Please Tell Me! Galko-Chan
I loved this show a lot. Besides being the show that made me laugh the most this year, there is a beautiful underlying message about assumptions. This show thrives on taking all of those generic tropes you’d see in every school-based comedy and tossing them out the window. The show really is about how everybody is more than what you first see on the surface. You’ll have the heavy-set girl being the most athletic person in class, or the quiet, well-dressed girl being a heavy metal fan. Even Galko-chan herself (which should be noted isn’t her real name, which is never given) is one of the most diverse characters to come on the scene this year. Any other show would depict the popular female character who talks about sharing clothes and the importance of doing your nails as a shallow bimbo. Galko-chan is everything but that. She’s popular because she legitimately cares about everyone around her, and the other class members appreciate being treated like individuals.
I really liked how this is quote unquote “Adult humor” without actually being obscene. The humor is never crass or rude; it feels like real conversations you’d have with close personal friends in private. Among the many jokes I loved in this show, my favorite has to do with a personality quiz that involves buying a gift. Basically, the joke is the gift is an orgasm and how they go about getting this gift is how they’d perform. What I love about this gag is how it starts as a simple joke and evolves into a defining moment for multiple characters. We get to learn more about who these students are instead of simply laughing at a sex joke.
So those are my picks for best anime in 2016. I know I don’t exactly have popular picks, but I’m not exactly a popular guy. Above everything else that came out this year, I think these five shows are totally worth your time if you missed them. While I’m glad to see 2016 end, I remain hopeful that the coming years will be better. Dear reader, I hope you will continue to support the site and our writers as we continue to grow in 2017. No matter what the future might hold, anime will be the thing that continues to bring us together.