2016 was bad. Watching the world fall apart has made something as silly as writing about cartoons difficult to focus on at times. Still, it’s good to have a way to escape and anime has been good for that. In fact, I’d say this is the best overall year of anime we’ve had since 2011. I certainly had fun compiling my annual list of favorite moments and it was hard to narrow down to ten… so I decided not to. Hey, it’s my list and I will do what I want. So enjoy the list and stay tuned for the rest of the week as the rest of the crew shares their highlights from this year.
17. Giorgio Hits Rock Bottom
Sekko Boys Episode 4
This year’s hottest idol group is all about absurdity and Giorgio’s several day bender full of alcohol, (probably) drugs, and women is probably the peak. Just look at that screencap of a sentient stone bust growing 3 day stubble and that probably says it all. The fact that Giorgio is the stuffy, straight-laced, by the book member of The Rockies only makes it that much funnier.
16. Bottle Ramune Is a Hell of a Drug
Dagshi Kashi Episode 5
In a year full of solid comedies, I don’t think Dagashi Kashi got enough credit. Yo’s crippling love of bottle ramune was one of the funniest scenes of the year. Coconuts plays the perfect straight man to his dad and Hotaru, treating his uncontrollable urges like a horrible cocaine addiction in a completely deadpan manner… actually that sounds kind of dark, especially since the bit ends with Dad and Hotaru heading off to rehab. But hey, that’s why it’s funny!
15. Gas Station Jesus
Bakuon!! Episode 4
Hane meets god at a gas station and he gives her the holy grail, which is apparently a Suzuki mug. Then she blacks out and wakes up the next town over. Uh… what?????? Bakuon’s weird, random supernatural elements and acerbic attitude elevated it to something much more interesting than your average school club comedy, and this set the bar for that very high. Even though it often fell flat from episode to episode, you couldn’t help but watch and see what happens next.
14. Light Novel Face
Girlish Number Episode 1
Never has a target audience been more in sync with a character than when rookie anime voice actress Chitose discovers her next role is a light novel adaptation. Her look of disgust was priceless, and it set the tone for the type of show Girlish Number has turned out to be. While last year’s Shirobako was a grounded but optimistic look at the anime industry, this show is here for a fight. Punches have been thrown, shots have been fired, and it all started here.
13. One More Bowl
March Comes In Like a Lion Episode 1
This was a tough call as March is full of great moments every episode, so I chose to go with the one that made me realize “yeah, I’m really into this”. I’ve always been a fan of director Akiyuki Shinbo’s unique style, so much that I’ve put up with a lot of his work *cough*Monogatari*cough* longer than it deserves. So seeing his talents applied to something that’s actually good and doesn’t make me feel like I need to take a shower after watching it is a real treat. Hinata’s mad dash through breakfast is a perfect example of the shifting art styles and reality bending that Shinbo is known for, transforming what could be a visually dull series into something that takes advantage of the medium.
12. Perfect Gentleman
Konosuba Episode 5
Konosuba flips a lot of fantasy tropes on their head with varying results, but the best by far is taking the “hero” down a peg when he obsesses over Aqua. Our actual hero Kazuma may be a jerk, but he treats Aqua fairly and knows who she really is. This new guy subscribes to that ancient, creepy notion that if you perform enough good deeds for a lady you deserve her affection, raising her on a pedestal despite not knowing a thing about her. It’s a surprisingly positive social message coming from a light novel series, but Konosuba proves that not all light novels are… nah, I can’t say it, they’re all still trash.
11. Miyano Has Your Back
Tanaka-kun Is Always Listless Episode 5
Tanaka-kun as a series is one continuous feel good moment, so it’s hard to pick just one. After much deliberation, I had to go with Miyano as Shiraishi’s ultimate wingwoman. Normally tiny, squeaky voiced, high energy character is not the uh, well let’s just say most “perceptive” of the cast, but Miyano figures out Shiraishi’s crush on Tanaka immediately. Her positive attitude and unconditional support is something that is surprisingly rare given the amount of romantic comedies that are cranked out every year. It’s one of many sweet moments between the lovable cast that makes Tanaka-kun such a joy to watch.
10. Bedroom Faces
This Art Club Has A Problem Episode 10
I can’t think of many shows that grow and mature as well as Art Club does over the course of the series. it starts as a dumb and slightly sleazy Rom Com with the main character Usami throwing herself at the boy she likes. The moment in episode 10 when she finds said boy sleeping in her bed finds the show in a much better place. Rather than try and take advantage of the situation, she makes a sweet and silly decision that shows how much self respect she’s grown to have. it’s the first of many such moments, foreshadowing the lovely ending that really sends a positive message to young girls with dumb middle school crushes. I would have never expected that from a series I refer to as “that dumb art club show”, but here we are.
9. Origin Story
Space Patrol Luluco SEASON 5 Episode 13
I was really close to choosing the Kill la Kill episode simply because they played DON’T LOSE YOUR WAAAAAY, but I don’t know if any of the moments on this list made me go OHHH I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING the way the final episode of Luluco did. Revealing her true identity was an ultimate act of fan service, a final payoff for the Trigger faithful in a series that banked on us actually knowing about Sex and Violence at Mach Speed. I wouldn’t even say I’m the biggest Trigger fan in the world, but I did love this fun series and I’d say they found the perfect way to end it.
8. Mato-Chan-Sensei Is the Best
Amanchu! Episode 6
Watching Amanchu is like having someone give you a hug and tell you everything is going to be OK. The most direct verbal hugs come from everyone’s favorite teacher, handing out great life advice nearly every episode. Possibly the best advice comes in episode 6, when she assures Teko that she doesn’t need to find her own wishes and aspirations, that’s OK to just keep moving forward and go where life takes you. It’s the kind of mature advice that goes well beyond the simple “power of friendship” or “work hard and you can accomplish anything” themes you find in most other shows. Basically, Mato-chan-sensei wants these kids, and by extension us, to know that our feelings and insecurities are normal and that with the right attitude, everything will turn out fine.
7. GIRI GIRI AI
Macross Delta Episode 1
Whoever was in charge of Macross Delta made the right choice by using “Ikenai Borderline” as the first insert song of the series. Music is so important to Macross and if you don’t get the soundtrack right (as we would see later) it can really hurt the show. As a long time Macross fan, the final battle in episode 1 did its job and got me really excited for the rest of the series. Super powered idols, break dance fighting robots, and the debut of singer JUNNA with a voice powerful enough to warp time and space – I couldn’t ask for anything more in a first episode. Sadly the series peaked too early and never lived up to its potential, but even months later I can’t get GIRI GIRI AAAIIIIIIIII out of my head.
6. Senpai, NOTICE THIS!
Sound! Euphonium Episode 10
Over two seasons of Euphonium we’ve seen Kumiko learn to harness her “terrible personality” and provide the brutal honesty the band needs to stay afloat. Her relationship with Asuka has been the litmus test for this throughout the series. We’ve seen her get more and more fed up with Asuka’s fake persona over time and she reaches a boiling point when Asuka is on the verge of leaving the band. Kumiko’s outburst in episode 10 is a culmination of all the lessons she’s learned from getting tangled everyone else’s drama, and a fine summary of the themes and messages the series drives home. Given Asuka’s circumstances, it was also a contender for the most emotionally impactful moment of the series. Most importantly though, KyoAni didn’t mess up a season 2! Wow.
5. Tsumugi’s Grand Adventure
Sweetness and Lightning Episode 7
I can’t think of another example of a show that made me feel the mix of emotions in this episode. As Tsumugi sets out on her own to find help for her sick dad, we slowly progress from an adorable stroll through the imagination of a child to the terrifying horror of a parent not knowing where their very young daughter is. Your heart sinks the moment Tsumugi bumps into a rude stranger and her dream world collapses and even though you know Sweetness and Lightning is not the type of show where she would be in danger, you still have a knot in your stomach watching her run for safety. It’s a powerful episode that really makes you sympathize with the challenge of being a parent, something this series is really good at.
4. Day At the Beach
91 Days Episode 12
Due to the late airing of the final episode cutting into the next season, I didn’t get to talk about this. So let’s fly the ***SPOILER*** flag and mention it now. The final episode of 91 Days is not even close to what I expected. It’s far more brilliant. The series never shied away from exaggerated characters and big loud action scenes, so I thought we were on a crash course with a big final battle between Avilio and Nero. Instead, we get a quiet, somber road trip to serve as a heartbreaking reminder that these two enemies actually like each other. The final scene probably drove some people crazy but I loved it. Was Nero smiling because he let his friend go, or was he happy to put Avilio out of his misery? We’re left to think about it as the credits roll and the waves slowly lap at the beach, creating one of the most powerful moments of the year.
3. True Playboy
Yuri!! On ICE Episode 10
In episode 3, Yuri is struggling to find himself in the program that Viktor has choreographed for him. Rather than accepting the playboy role he’s being asked to play, he settles in as the beautiful woman who tries to attract him. It makes sense because throughout the show Yuri narrates his life as a shy, insecure fan trying to get the attention of Viktor, who he sees as the flirty, carefree playboy. Episode 10 changes all of that. In what is probably the best plot twist of the year, the story suddenly takes Viktor’s perspective and we see Yuri had the roles reversed the whole time. It’s a brilliant bit of character development, and an interesting statement about how our own self evaluations can get skewed sometimes. It’s also validation that Yuri On Ice has the substance to be more than just hot guys in tight outfits almost making out with each other, if there was ever any doubt to begin with.
2. Painted Nails
Flip Flappers Episode 6
Flip Flappers is structured so that it can do pretty much whatever it wants. So when episode 6 gave us a break from magical girls fighting fantastical oddities to a normal, real life setting, it was a bit of a shock. It was also the best single episode of the series. Diving into the difficult childhood of Cocona’s art club friend, it’s a bittersweet story told with a brilliant mix of reality and surrealism that very few series could handle this well. As the girls help Iro overcome her regret, we’re left with an amazing emotional payoff in one simple shot: a girl holding up her painted nails. Explaining it further wouldn’t do it justice, so go watch for yourself and see why Flip Flappers is a strong anime of the year contender.
1. Super Iyami Kart
Mr. Osomatsu Episode 18
Yes, I’ve been sitting on this since February and yes, this means Osomatsu gets my moment of the year for two years in a row, but I think it’s deserving. It’s the best of what the show has to offer, a hilarious and brutal climax for a despicable cast of characters that we love to hate. Every joke and reference is spot on during the race, and then it all falls apart into one of the most absurd, over the top spectacles I’ve ever seen in anime. It’s dark and funny and leaves you shocked that it actually happened, which for me is a recipe for a perfect anime comedy.