And so another GLORIO year comes to a close with only one thing left to do: reveal our picks for the ten best anime series of the year, or in our case eleven since it seems the only flaw in our system is getting ties at #10. If this is your first time joining us, every year we each make a list of our favorite shows and through MATH and SCIENCE compile a top 10 that reflects our variety of opinions. 2016 was a good year for anime so there were a lot of tough choices and close votes, but we are pretty satisfied with the results. Take a look and let us know what you think.
Euri: It may be joint tenth on the list, but Flying Witch is easily the most chill anime of the year. It doesn’t try to be many different things, and instead focuses on wonder. While the cast is a likeable bunch, they really aren’t much more than pretty basic characters that exist to show how weird and wonderful the world really is, through the eyes of someone who knows where to look. It’s a welcome change when there are already so many shows shooting for something more character-driven; Flying Witch shows that a colourful world and some playful oddities are sometimes all you need. And hey, after a corker of a 2016, perhaps this is just what you need.
Artemis: I thought it might have been a problem that I’m not in the least interested in rakugo – I’ve seen it in real life and while I respect the history and the art of it, it’s just not my thing – but no, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu completely won me over anyway. Granted, it doesn’t hurt that I’m a bit of a Shouwa-era fangirl, and it also doesn’t hurt that the number of historically accurate anime titles of any period drama is woefully low. The beautifully depicted setting isn’t the only aspect of this show that sets it apart though; the cast is made up of compelling adult characters, the voice acting is top-tier stuff, and the atmosphere is both subtle and sophisticated. Make no mistake, Rakugo Shinjuu is one classy show. In fact, it’s one the most ‘un-anime’ anime I’ve ever seen, in that it’s both extremely precise and wonderfully restrained – two words I rarely use when it comes to the medium, let alone in the same sentence. A lot of this has to do with the absolutely stunning cinematography, but the writing matches the craft near-perfectly as well. Neither of these aspects of the series are what I’d call flashy or flamboyant, because funnily enough, despite being a drama centered around the theatre, Rakugo Shinjuu tends to steer away from dramatic theatrics. Instead, what we’re presented with is a tense, highly emotionally-charged work that manages to be simultaneously delicate and powerful.
Marlin: The most notable thing about Grimgar to me is the fact that I mostly forgot that this was supposed to be a trapped in another world story after the second episode. Its dedication to realism allowed for a gripping tale of the everyday struggles of life. Its message became all the more powerful after creating he most tasteful depiction of grief I’ve seen in a while. Not everyone reacts the same way, because everyone processes grief differently. It’s only time that can heal the wound and when it does, the moment is incredibly powerful. Amplifying it is when Haruhiro realizes that Mary went through something three times worse, with the added layer of her being a healer, the one most responsible for keeping them alive. While it may not have been perfect, it’s beautiful art style made up for its technical limitations, and its strong scenes overcome any ogling camera angles. Only a few anime have demanded I watch them as soon as possible this year, and Grimgar was certainly one of them.
Euri: I’ll admit that I have a bit of a soft spot for anime parenting. Bunny Drop is probably the show that kickstarted that, and Barakamon is another that comes to mind. However, there’s a fine line between portraying children realistically and making completely insufferable anime kids, and fortunately for us this show falls on the better side of that line. First of all, the characters are all great. Dad is certainly in the running for 2016’s best anime dad of the year, and his food-loving student is also pretty cool herself, playing something of a surrogate mum as far as food prep is concerned. The show thankfully hasn’t tried to form a romance between the two, which is quite the achievement when most people had seemingly resigned to the thought that it was an inevitability, being an anime and all. Tsumugi acts like you’d expect a kid would, finding fun in most things and having the occasional tantrum, giving the show the realism it needed but also making Tsumugi the star of the show. While this show is a little cliche in that it killed off the mum before the start of the show, you have to give bonus points for it not leaning into it too much. No, this show earns its place here by being a fantastic, fun and mostly down-to-Earth romp with best dad and his cool kid.
Gee: The newest Weekly Shounen Jump darling, My Hero Academia, made quite the splash when it debuted. Drawing inspirations from Western superhero comics, it was an exciting but wholly genuine tribute to classic heroism through the familiar lens of the well-worn battle Shounen genre. It won’t win any points for originality, but My Hero Academia had heart and spectacle in equal measure. The anime adaptation did an overall exemplary job of bringing the manga’s bombastic and likeable cast to life. Flashy heroes and villains alike made their animated debut with exactly the kind of flair I hoped they would, all while maintaining the emotional core that made it so compelling. Accompanied by a thematically perfect soundtrack, the My Hero Academia anime not only lived up to its source material, but in some ways even surpassed it. With its second season on the horizon, I look forward to My Hero Academia’s continual ascent above and beyond. Plus Ultra indeed.
Zigg: Superpowered teenagers are so common in anime that they’re barely even a reason to bat an eyelid, but there’s never been one quite like Shigeo Kageyama before. A sweet, quiet boy in the middle of a sea of freaks, hoodlums, and monsters, Mob Psycho 100 welded together the kooky coming-of-age drama and the superpowered shonen battle manga to amazing effect. Veering from crazed surrealism to wacky humour to surprisingly heartfelt emotion, Mob expertly played on the contrast between the absurd and the normal to produce a memorable comedy drama full of unforgettable moments and characters. Then of course there was Studio BONES’s astonishing visual work, breathing life into some of the most exciting and dynamic battles ever put on screen. Simply irresistible stuff.
Jel: Osomatsu deserves to be on this list for the impact it’s had on the industry alone. More importantly though, it’s also one of the best anime comedies of all time. The premise is brilliant: take a group of beloved, classic characters and treat them like spoiled child stars who have grown up to be lazy, selfish NEETs. The result is a master class in irreverent black humor that crossed the line so many times that at least two episodes had to be banned. Rather than feel arbitrarily dark or edgy though, the humor helps you laugh to keep from crying, ploughing through the pains of adulthood with a shrug and a smirk. The “lost” first episode alone should be required viewing for all anime fans, and the series as a whole is easily one of the best shows of the year.
Artemis: There are two things that make Yuri on Ice so amazing for me. The first is the craft of the piece. I’m not only talking about the good writing or the consistent pacing, the pretty art style or the downright gorgeous soundtrack, but the actual art of depicting a fairly arty sport. So yes, while there’s a lot of reused stock footage and some comparatively shoddy animation going on, particularly in later episodes, I have a huge amount of respect for the effort put in to making the figure skating a largely authentic and realistic part of the series; choreography was done by retired national champion figure skater Miyamoto Kenji, and it absolutely shows. But the second and even more compelling feature of Yuri on Ice is, for me, the continually developing relationship between main characters Yuri and Victor. Because I was hesitant to believe it would actually happen at first – I’ve been burnt before – but this is more than just yaoi-baiting, more than just pandering to a female audience with shitty BL tropes that a) often never really go anywhere and b) are creepy and unhealthy. Yet here we finally have ourselves a genuine, reciprocal, and beautiful canon gay romance in a mainstream televised anime, which is inherently tied into the character development to become one of the main focus points of the entire thing. And that’s not just cool. That’s more extraordinary and more wonderful in ways I don’t have the room to write about here (seriously, Yuri on Ice literally made history), and it also had me tearing up at multiple points throughout the show.
Iro: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure returns yet again to our Top Ten, with Diamond is Unbreakable joining Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency in the prestigious #3 slot. It’s well deserving of this honor, since Part 4 is when Araki’s ridiculous “Stand” concept hits full stride. There ain’t no rule that the villains (or the heroes!) have to have straightforward powers; in fact, DiU‘s esoteric, borderline-incomprehensible abilities lead to more distinctive and memorable bouts. How can we forget Josuke smashing a motorcycle mid-jump to avoid a bystander only to reform it before he hits the ground, a villain who transforms nail clippers or doorknobs into deadly bombs, or an Italian chef whose Stand causes customers to literally spew their guts? Hirohiko Araki’s bizarre ideas ensure that JoJo‘s legacy endures as a classic of the shonen battle genre, and David Production’s continued work has given us a truly singular adaptation.
Zigg: If animation’s greatest strength is the ability to take you anywhere your mind can conjour up, then nothing expressed that truth more this year than Flip Flappers. A stunningly rich and textured portrayal of the power of imagination, dreams and surrealism, it somehow also found time to be a touching tale of identity, friendship and love. The odd couple friendship-cum romance between the two leads stands among the year’s best relationships, alternating between funny, heartbreaking and deeply emotional, and Cocona’s quest for identity and self-realisation was an anchor around which the inspired madness of the story could revolve. Always slight in explicit narrative, it nevertheless delved deep into symbolism and metaphor with gripping and compelling results. A testament to the power of visual storytelling and sheer creativity, it’s a tale that couldn’t have been told anywhere other than in anime.
Aqua: Erased feels like a show from a different era. Not just because it aired when 2016 was still just a year like any other, but also because it subtly, yet firmly, averted every single foible we’ve come to expect from anime in this day and age. It deals with time travel without blatant disregard for the conventions of storytelling, abuse without exploitative histrionics, intergenerational friendship without questionable paedophiliac undertones and twentysomething freeter nostalgia without all the usual easy gratification anime has become all but synonymous with. Yet more than with its unconventional modesty, Erased blew us out of the water with its cinematic directing, nerve-wrecking pacing, and strong emotional core. With the shadow of its oft-discussed, underwhelming denouement looming over its eventual legacy, Erased probably isn’t the most consistently fantastic anime of the year – yet it’s saying something when a show can be elected our anime of the year on the strengths of its gut-wrenching middle part alone. With its sincere storytelling and memorable cast, Erased ushered in a phenomenal year for anime by setting the bar so high nothing else came even close to topping it.