Only half joking with that title, this year has been marked with a lot of changes, not the least of which being my entry into studies for the priesthood. Still you’re not here to listen to me talk about contemplating celibacy, you’re here for the characters this year who pretty clearly are on the opposite end of the spectrum. 2016 was a light year for pure romance shows, but I’m here for you to dish out the best of the best.
Shiraishi and Tanaka- Tanaka-kun is Listless
I’ll admit, they really don’t become a couple, but Tanaka realizes that Shiraishi has feelings for him and is more motivated by laziness in not pursuing her than a frustrating lack of common sense in knowing she has a crush in the first place. It adds to the first love nature of Shiraishi’s feelings that they constantly overemphasize Tanaka’s good qualities while ignoring his obvious deficiencies. Plus, just watching her flit about in her embarrassed tizzies was enough entertainments to give you a real warm feeling inside.
Hagita and Azusa- Orange
I know this story was supposed to be focused squarely on Naho and Kakeru’s growing romance, with the gang acting as guides and confidants in the letters dealing with his tragic past, but I was hoping for something out of the rest of the crew. Hagita and Azusa had the most obvious room to grow, with Hagita playing the part of denying any kind of spark between them, but then it just kinda…. stuck there. Every single joke about a romance played out exactly the same way, with absolutely zero growth, making it more frustrating than entertaining to watch. It made you think the writers forgot any of the other characters than the main two and self-inflicted third wheel Suwa even existed, or like, should have personal development like normal human beings or something.
Best Implied Romance
Haruhiro and Mary- Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
On the other the other end of the scale was the beautifully underplayed romance between Haruhiro and Mary. What started as an obviously business-only relationship changed as Haruhiro owned the mantle of leadership he inherited after Manato’s death, finding a way to make Mary accepted in the group. This combination of her willingness to open up and Haruhiro’s increased confidence created a natural bond between the two, first sweetly touched upon on the way back from a visit to Manato’s grave and further developed in a cute back-and-forth as Haruhiro returns to consciousness after almost losing his own life. Nothing in this show ever made me crack a smile more than him saying “Is this heaven?” on seeing her. When it seems sometimes two people need their faces mashed together to realize they love one another in anime, seeing such an effortless affection was an absolute charm.
The Taiga Aisaka Award for Most Melodramatic Bullshit
Mikado’s Path to Self Destruction- Durarara!!
Taking what could have been a great flip of protagonist to antagonist, I was really hyped for Mikado’s turn to deranged gang leader and new shadow broker. Him stabbing Aoi’s hand was my favorite scene of the show that season, and his appearance behind the scenes in almost every scene of the OP that started afterwards had me hyped for what was to come. Unfortunately, things seem to go very awry as everything he was working towards seems to amount to nothing as the Saika clones seem to override any other type of story, until in the end he finishes his work in Ikebukuro by making the Dollars so hated no one wants to associate with them, shooting an already wounded Kida, and trying to kill himself before being saved by Deus ex Machina Celty. Honestly, I was ready to call Durarara!! redeemed when he actually pulled the trigger, hoping a main character’s actions would finally have consequences in this show, but alas, it was to no avail.
The Golden Sawako for Excellence in Not Making Out Already
Naho and Kakeru- Orange
Orange was the only real shoujo show I watched this year after falling off of Snow White‘s bizarre pirate quest. While the weird sci-fi angle of the letters got a bit strange at times, the core of the story was all about the relationship with Naho and Kakeru, and how, by trying to save him, Naho slowly grows closer to him and finally come to love him. Kakeru, for his part, gives us an incredibly realistic depiction of guilt and depression as he suffers from the weight of his mother’s suicide. Their romance was sweet and awkward the way a real teen romance should be, and the payoff was worth the subpar animation every week.
Everyone in Durarara!!. No I don’t feel ashamed with using the same cop out two years in a row- Durarara!!
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Durarara!! was once the darling of Otaku everywhere, the kind of show you could introduce to people without totally turning them off the genre. Narita’s patented blend of urban fantasy and gigantic casts was a recipe for success, leaving everyone divided into their own favorites and united in their hatred for Izaya. While the ending of its second cour could never reach the heights of Mikado summoning the Dollars to the rescue, I was still very interested to see how the story in Ikebukuro would come to a conclusion. It was such a pity that the third season marked a slow decline into mediocrity and obscurity, a process finally brought to an end here in season 4. As noted above, my hopes for Mikado’s character development were dashed, and many characters were found relegated to the background or just plain misused. The addition of like a dozen more characters to the already bulging-at-the-seams cast did not help the sense of confusion and disruption of relationships that lead Durarara to limp to the finish.
The 4th Annual Dusk Maiden Award for Excellence in Being Simultaneously Cute and Smutty.
A.K.A. THE ERO-KAWAII AWARD
One wouldn’t immediately think a show about sugar would involve constantly putting a buxom crazy girl in a number of questionable positions, but here we are. I’ll admit I did not stick with Dagashi for the full run, but I got enough of a taste of it’s quirky blend of cute, endearing characters and blatant fanservice to realize nothing would top it for the coveted Ero-Kawaii. Now, you might be thinking: Hey, wasn’t that Bakuon show all about cute girls in incredibly inappropriate positions? Also apparently motorcycles for some reason? The difference here is Bakuon crossed a line into tastelessness up around the time the girls are simulating sex on top of their bIkes in bikinis.
Bro of the Year A.K.A. The Iskandar
Ohta- Tanaka-kun is Listless
Sure, I could tie this award to the cast of Orange for their above and beyond effort in saving Kakeru, but while it takes five people to save that tragic manic-depressive, one man alone is basically responsible for preventing a guy from being so lazy that he starves rather than go eat. Not only is Ohta a bro for Tanaka, but he’s just an all around nice dude. He basically cones right from the Ryuuji school of “looking like a delinquent but actually really nice” but without all the parental abandonment issues and poor judgement skills. His love-hate relationship with Echizen also spread the cute romantic development around the whole class, making Tanaka-kun into the adorable comedy romp that it was.
Jojo with the Bizarrest Adventures, 3rd Consecutive Title
Joseph Joestar- Diamond is Unbreakable
Now, at first glance, Joseph Joestar doesn’t have too much involvement in this particular bizarre adventure, but he is involved in the most bizarre adventure in my opinion. Faced with absolutely no danger, the old man happens to find a baby on the side of the road, problem is it makes itself and everything immediately around it completely invisible. After decades of fighting vampires and stand users, the old man finally finds his niche in child care, bringing another great addition to the comic relief characters.
The Moment of 2016
Acceptance- Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
Grimgar was a complete gem for me. Sure, it suffered Yatterman Night levels of missing animation near the end, but its pastel atmosphere was breathtaking, and an absolutely stellar background to the powerful, muted drama of loss, grief, and acceptance of Manato, their healer and party leader. This all culminated, not at the end, but a few steps from the finale, when the team had finally come together around their new healer and finally grew strong as a team. In a small but powerful gesture, they purchase for him the same license they had all been striving for. As snow slowly falls on the party, they say the goodbyes they weren’t ready to give at his first passing
2016: The Year of Glorio Cameos
In a bizarrely good year for anime, what could only make it weirder was the number of characters and scenes with direct ties to our own members. First we had the 100% accurate portrayal of Aqua’s personality in KonoSuba, then Iro’s inspired roll as everybody’s favorite art senpai in Flip Flappers, and finally the roll I was always destined to play, the trophy adorning a New Year’s Card in March Comes In Like a Lion. Clearly this is just a foretaste of Glorio’s rise to anime fame in the coming years. What’s next, an adaptation of Zero Wing set in a medieval fantasy world? A slice of life tale about a young moon goddess hangin with her gal pals? Whatever we have to look forward to, it looks like a bright world in 2017… for anime, at least.
I’m not the only one to think this was an absolutely stellar year for anime. While never romantic enough to get on this list, I’ve just gotta give a shoutout to Mr. Osomatsu for scratching my comedy itch, and ERASED and 91 Days for their stellar drama in a genre that has really been lacking in it the past few years. As said, my only real disappointment was the dearth of shoujo shows and good romantic comedies. Wait, what’s that? We’re getting a spiritual successor to Amagami SS? I think I’m going to enjoy the new year just fine.