On a fateful day in July 2012, we created our first post. To commemorate this special occasion, we decided to relive our favorite part of forcing ourselves to watch every anime that ever comes out: the surprises. Just about every season a show or two pops up out of nowhere and turns out to be pretty good, and we wanted to give a shout out to a few you might of missed. In today’s post we’re looking at 2016, which was such a good year for anime that it almost takes up a post of its own.
Original by Sanzigen
Director: Daizen Komatsuda
Air Dates: January 9 – December 17, 2016
Azuma Kazuki was born on a mysterious island in the heavens where his mother guarded a race of giant robots. Now cast back down to earth he must lead a ragtag gang and their superpowered weapons in an attempt to discover what really happened to his family.
Zigg: The big surprise with BBk/BRNK was finding out it’s not the show it appears to be on the surface. Everything about the setup suggests its aiming to be a weighty tale of dystopia, a quest for family and identity, and almost agonizingly personal revelation. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, this is a rip-roaring dumbass shonen adventure packed with giant robots, ridiculously over-the-top fights and characters who are so one dimensional they might as well be caricatures. I other words, it’s a colossal amount of fun, and has a pretty high ‘holy shit!’ quotient. The CGI isn’t to everyone’s taste but it allows an awful lot of absurd mecha shenanigans and the bright, unique character designs are a treat for the eyes. If you like them big and stupid, there’s no finer option.
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
Hai to Gensō no Grimgar
Adaptation by A-1 Pictures
Director: Ryosuke Nakamura
Air Dates: January 10 – March 26, 2016
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – a gang of teens is sucked into a game-like fantasy world and forced to learn how to survive.
Grimgar surprised us all by taking the most barren, cliched premise in modern anime and….completely ignoring it. Cutting the isekai (‘another world’) elements of the light novel source material to a bare minimum, the show instead presented itself as a charming and nuanced medieval fantasy of the type that we don’t see too much anymore. Grimgar built a complex and unique cast around central protagonist Haruhiro, taking care to extend each personality beyond one dimension, and making their growth as a team the central spine of its story. Deftly balancing comedy, tragedy, and action, it also boasted the lovely watercolour stylings of Studio A-1, who bought the world to beautiful (and occasionally grotesque) life. A true hidden gem.
Manga Adaptation by TMS Entertainment
Director: Junji Nishimura
Air Dates: April 5 – June 21, 2016
This is literally K-ON! with motorcycles (idiot savant girl saves the club!) until things get really weird.
Alright, I can’t honestly say Bakuon!! is good overall but few shows have delivered this sheer quantity of memorable WTF moments. We were all prepared for yet another boring, boiler plate girls’ club comedy, and yet instead we got things like talking transgender motorcycles, Jesus showing up at a gas station with an iPad, and a senpai that is basically The Stig from Top Gear who may or may not be an immortal ghost. Sadly the show itself doesn’t have much substance and can get a bit trashy with the fan service, but I’d recommend watching at least one episode for the sheer spectacle of the thing.
Tanaka-kun Is Always Listless
Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge
Manga Adaptation by Silver Link
Director: Shin’ya Kawatsura
Air Dates: April 9 – June 25, 2016
Tanaka-kun is always listless, but fortunately he has a great group of friends to support him.
I never thought Tanaka-kun looked bad, it was just so low key it flew completely under my radar. I’m glad Artemis talked it up enough that I eventually watched it, as it turned out to be one of my favorite shows of the year. On paper it almost sounds too idealistic. There are no conflicts, the only mild tension comes from one of the characters developing a crush on Tanaka, and the entire cast is incredibly friendly and supportive of one another. Basically, you want to hang out with these people and that is what the show lets you do for 12 episodes.
This Art Club Has A Problem!
Kono Bijutsubu ni wa Mondai ga Aru!
Manga Adaptation by Feel
Director: Kei Oikawa
Air Dates: July 7 – September 22, 2016
A girl has a crush on a boy in her art club who is only interested in anime girls. WAIT, don’t leave!!! Keep reading!
Look, you’ll probably watch the first episode of this and think “Jel, this is a dumb pervy comedy and this girl has no self respect, how is this good” and you would be right at that moment, BUT stick with it and Art Club turns into one of the sweetest, most satisfying comedies I’ve seen in years. The key difference is telling the story from the girl’s perspective instead of focusing on the boring nerd she’s in love with. Over time she learns to respect herself and see him in a somewhat different light, and it’s quite satisfying to see her make progress as a person. Throw in some weird, subtle humor that gets very reminiscent of anime classic Nichjiou (haters can fight me) and this is definitely worth checking out.
Anime Original by Shuka
Director: Hiro Kaburagi
Air Dates: July 9 – October 1, 2016
A young man infiltrates a crime family seeking revenge for his murdered parents and sister.
I don’t think 91 Days was particularly shocking in that it looked like The Godfather II turned into an anime and for the most part that is what it was. There is a lot of backstabbing, bootlegging, and over the top violence that you might expect in this kind of thing, so I was really more surprised by the subtle elements. The friendship that develops between the two main characters is one of the most interesting relationships I’ve seen in an anime, and it culminates into an unexpected ending that still sits with me about a year later. It’s certainly nothing like any other anime going these days, so it may be worth watching just for that.
Anime Original by Studio 3Hz
Director: Kiyotaka Oshiyama
Air Dates: October 6 – December 29, 2016
Shy Cocona meets an aggressively friendly girl named Papika and ?????????
Stuffed into a season packed with magical girl shows in an industry packed with magical girl shows and with hardly any details before airing, it was hard for Flip Flappers to stand out. That made it all the more satisfying when it blew us away with some incredibly imaginative, surreal visuals, great animation, and a cute friendship to serve as the beating heart of it all. It’s the type of show that can only exist as anime and reminds why we love these dumb cartoons. It was good enough to be our #2 anime of 2016 so you should probably check it out.
Anime Original by Diomedea
Director: Shota Ibata
Air Dates: October 7 – December 23, 2016
Chitose wants to be an anime voice actress for all the wrong reasons
As far as pure shock value, Girlish Number has to rank pretty high on this list. We were all dreading watching it as it sounded like an idol show with anime voice actresses slapped in, so needless to say we were all delighted when it said what we were feeling in our cold, dead, cynical hearts. While I’d argue the show dips its toes into the territory it’s supposed to criticize, its brutal evisceration of some of the problems in the anime industry is certainly something worth seeing. Watch this particularly if you hate light novels.
Interviews With Monster Girls
Demi-chan wa Kataritai
Manga Adaptation by A-1 Pictures
Director: Ryou AndoU
Air Dates: January 7 – March 25, 2017
A concerned teacher befriends his “demi” students (girls who have abilities similar to mythological creatures) and learns more about their everyday challenges.
Anime fans’ thirst for monster girls is well documented, so we were understandably ready to write this off as another trashy harem comedy that we’d forget about in a week. Instead we got a rather quiet, mild series that mostly treats its female cast with respect and takes the subject matter seriously. It’s quite interesting to see how they explain the challenges of living as a vampire or other mythological being in modern society, to the point where it almost becomes an allegory for real issues like living with a physical disability. Maybe that’s giving the show too much credit as there are still occasional red flags (half the cast still falls in love with our protagonist), but it’s a pretty solid show overall.
Anime Original by Sunrise
Director: Yoichi Fujita
Air Dates: October 9, 2016 – March 25, 2017
A group of classical music composers have been brought back to life in the present day, this time with the ability to wield “Musik” – unpredictable powers that they each must learn to use.
I can’t say I was personally surprised by Classicaloid (see the 2012-13 post and my bit about Yoichi Fujita) as it was probably my most anticipated show of that season, but it certainly caught a lot of other people off guard. While it is interesting to see how they’ve interpreted each of the composers into a super powered weirdo, the premise has almost nothing to do with the show. Instead, we’re treated to a dumb-in-a-good-way comedy about a group of dorks becoming friends. Not that the show ever gets particularly sentimental, in fact a lot of the the comedy is based on everyone being a horrible person and I’m totally OK with that. Throw in a lot of creative visuals and hilariously bizarre twists that can only be described as “so avocado” and you’ve got yourself a winning formula. Now someone please tell me HOW this weird show got greenlit for another season?