Hi! I’m Mogtrix, Cosplayer and Anime nerd. And I’ve been invited to write a few articles for your enjoyment.
Since the Winter 2017 season is still in its beginning few weeks I thought the best place to start would be a quick overview of what 2016 had to offer and what stood out to me. Having said that I am no professional reviewer and I can’t say I watched every show that came out in 2016. Keijo may very well be the greatest thing to have ever happened but as I didn’t watch it I honestly don’t feel that I can have an opinion beyond initial impressions (sports and fan service are not high on my list). Admittedly this article may be a little late as most other sites have already done their years’ end wrap ups but I’m happy to treat this as an introduction.
Before diving into the main list, I’d like to make a few mentions of both the honorable and not-so-much variety. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (David Productions) gave us part 4’s tales of Morioh town, and a very strong contender for villain of the year in Yoshikage Kira, and while I’ll admit that JJBA ranks very highly on my personal list of all-time favorites I feel that it’s gotten big enough that I don’t need to talk about it. Berserk – 2016 (GEMBA) made some serious mistakes. Heavy CG, poor sound design (a sword that is described as a solid slab of iron should not sound hollow!) and assuming that the audience would know enough about the existing plot to do away with the Lost Children arc and giving nothing more in the way of backstory than a few rushed scenes in the credits did it no favors. And this is a damn shame because once you got past the shaky first few episodes the actual story was strong enough to make up for these flaws, but for many it was too little too late. Still, to be a Berserk fan is to suffer. After all, how long were they on that damn boat? Disappointment of the year however, goes to Joker Game (Studio IG) which promised a tightly plotted World War Two espionage spy drama, and instead gave us a forgettable, faceless cast and a string of Scooby Doo style, ‘the only other character is the bad guy’ episodes. So disappointment aside, let’s get to it! Here in no particular order are my top anime of 2016
Erased/Boku Dake ga Inai Machi
Kicking the year off was a murder mystery from A1 Pictures. Erased follows protagonist Satoru Fujinuma, who has an ability that he refers to as ‘Revival’ that allows him to go back a few moments into the past to correct things that have gone wrong. When he is falsely accused of his mother’s murder he is sent back into his 10-year-old self, when several students from his school were abducted and killed. Somehow these events are connected, and by saving his classmates he can prevent his mother’s death in the future.
Erased started off strongly, focusing on building the relationships between Satoru and Kayo Hinazuki, one of his classmates destined to be kidnapped. And it had some utterly beautiful and heart-breaking moments, but it lost sight of the mystery element when it became clear that there was only one person who could be the killer. For me personally Erased peaked at episode 10 with the big reveal, and a scene that is pretty much my worst nightmare. But the final two episodes couldn’t match what had come before, leaving an unsatisfying ending. But even with these flaws this show still had me in tears on more than one occasion, and is one of my top picks of the year.
Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World-
You knew this one would be here. From White Fox came one of the most divisive shows of the year. You either loved it or you hated it, but Everyone was talking about it. And I mean EVERYONE, even the people who said they weren’t going to talk about it. For reasons as yet unknown (to me at least) Subaru Natsuki finds himself in a fantasy world full of demons and cat fairies, and the only useful thing he has is the ability to return to a point in the past should he die. And he dies. A lot.
I almost passed this one by, the first episode was so cutesy and Moe that I just wasn’t interested, so I dropped it and started watching other things (I’m looking at you Joker Game), only to go back to it when I kept hearing nothing but praise for it. And once I got past the cute to the blood, guts and gore of the matter I was hooked. I binged watched all the episodes that were available and began the cycle of impatiently counting down the days till the next one. There’s not too much I can say about Re:Zero that hasn’t already been said, like I mentioned before, this is easily the most talked about show of the year. All I’ll add to this is that I’m still not over episode 15, and Rem is Best Girl Ever.
Bungo Stray Dogs
This is an odd one, and I’ve honestly not seen too many people talking about it. Bungo Stray Dogs from Studio Bones features characters loosely inspired by famous authors with abilities based on their most famous works. Our story starts with starving orphan Atsushi Nakajima saving the life of a man drowning in a river, which leads to him getting dragged into the strange and wonderful world of the Armed Detective Agency and people gifted with supernatural powers. The hard sell to me (I’m English) is that I went in from that description expecting Arthur Conan Doyle and getting Osamu Dazai, and then kicking myself at my own stupidity at not thinking about Japanese authors. Still, the show was funny, the action was good and while the plot was a little weird and unbalanced in places when I was stuck for new shows in the Autumn season BSD’s second cour was a good solid choice as I’d enjoyed the first half enough. This was when things got interesting and this show did something that I was not expecting. It raised the bar. Everything about it was just better than the first season. Those stupid little unbalanced things I’d noticed earlier? They were laying the groundwork for things to come and those sudden ‘That’s what that was!’ moments were a joy. Honestly, there were a few times I found myself anticipating this show more than JJBA – and we’re talking about a favorite show here.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans
This is kind of how I watch anime. I’ll have a handful of shows that I’m interested in or that have somehow caught my attention. Out of these I’ll always end up dropping a few, and once I’ve either dropped enough or the shorter, 12 episode shows are starting to wrap up and there’s a little time to check out what I missed I’ll go back and see what grabs me. That’s how Studio Sunrise’s Iron Blooded Orphans passed me by at first, then I got to go back and have a good ol’ binge watch that had me singing ‘Raise Your Flag’ on my way to work. I’m a newcomer to the Gundam series, having some crazy wrong idea about it being 80’s cheese which I now sincerely regret as it kept me away from a fantastic series for far too long a time.
Yuri!!! On Ice
Did I say Re:Zero was the most talked about anime of the year? Yuri on Ice from Studio Mappa was completely unexpected. I did not expect to watch this show; I did not expect to like this show. And I certainly did not expect what was billed as just another Sports anime with a title that just invites bad jokes (Everyone has heard it. Yuri on Ice? More like Yaoi on Ice. Groan, face palm, whatever you do when someone makes a bad joke) to be one of the breakout hits of the year. The plot follows professional figure skater Yuri Katsuki, who at the start is considering retiring after a disaster of a season. However, when five times world champion, as well as Yuri’s personal hero, Viktor Nikiforov sees a video of Yuri copying one of his routines he decides to go to Japan to personally coach Yuri. The show is gorgeous. The animation (aside from a few later scenes, which I’m hoping will be fixed for the Blu-ray release), the musical scoring and the surprisingly well handled romantic subplot were all incredibly done and the show has picked up a huge following in both Figure Skating and LGBT communities for its outstanding representation of both.
My Hero Academia / Boku no Hero Academia
Studio Bones have had a very good year, this is their second entry on this list and while Bungo Stray Dogs may not have been on everyone’s much watch list this one certainly was. Our hero, Izuku ‘Deku’ Midorya, lives in a work where the majority of the world’s population are born with superpowers or ‘quirks’. While he has no quirk of his own he dreams of one day becoming a Superhero and following in the footsteps of his idol, the world’s greatest hero All Might. If I was going to recommend a show to someone who’d never seen anime before this would be one of my choices. It may not cover anything new in terms of plot, but it makes good use of its characters and ideas, and I found the ‘passing the torch’ theme between Deku and All Might to be one of the shows highlights, as well as the rivalry with fellow student Bakugou which could have easily decended into stereotypical Shonen ‘I must become stronger’ clichés into something much more interesting.
March Comes in Like a Lion / Sangatsu no Lion or 3gatsu no Lion
Another one I picked up between seasons, and another one that I initially didn’t look at because it got the word ‘Sports’ thrown at it, although Chica Umino’s Shogi is hardly the same thing as Figure Skating. This is actually a pretty touching drama series that deals with themes like grief and depression, and the support of family and close friends. Our Protagonist is a 17-year-old professional Shogi player called Rei who lives alone and isn’t dealing very well with life. He meets three sisters; Akari, Hinata and Momo, who live with their elderly grandfather and the many cats that Akari adopts, and together learn to cope with all the things life throws at them. This isn’t my usual, action packed Shonen series (I do have a weakness for those), but a quiet and reflective drama (Albeit one with a strange dancing cats sequence when the protagonist attempts to explain the rules of Shogi to a very young child) that I personally found uplifting.
Mob Psycho 100
This is the third entry on my list from Studio Bones and is arguably their best of the year. From One, the writer behind 2015’s undeniable hit One Punch Man, comes the tale of a quiet, average boy who just so happens to be the world’s most powerful psychic, or Esper as they’re known in Mob’s world, who represses his emotions because should they ever boil over his powers will hit 100% and he’ll explode. The animation in this show is beautiful and easily transforms what at first look like ugly and deformed characters into moving works of art and the story is top notch. At this stage there’s really not much to say about Mob Psycho 100 other than it is amazing and everyone needs to watch it.
While I said this list was in no particular order I saved my favourite till last. Remember Joker Game? I made this mistake of building it up in my head and was expecting a tightly plotted, unpredictable thriller? Studio Shuka’s 91 Days is what I was hoping for in Joker Game and more. Set in Prohibition Era America this Mafia story follows Angelo Lagusa, who as a child witnessed his family murdered. Seven years later, under the fake name Avilio Bruno, he receives a mysterious letter containing the names of the men responsible and he sets out to get his revenge. This show managed a gut punch of a plot twist in the second episode and it kept the tension throughout, delivering some truly unexpected surprises. This is definitely my top pick of the year.
We’re now well into January and there aren’t as many shows this season that I’m really excited about. While The Saga of Tanya the Evil / Youjo Senki (NUT) and ACCA: 13 Territory Inspection Dept. (Mad House) look interesting this season is looking to be mostly dominated by sequels. And while this may have gotten me to finally get around to KonoSuba – I’ve only been meaning to since last year – there’s not much that has grabbed me. Hopefully this will change soon