I spent 2016 watching 619 episodes/films of anime from 29 different series. This included 1 re-watch (Evangelion), 5 series I'd seen before this year, 4 sequels, 2 movies (one being a reboot of Evangelion), and 18 new series. Now the year is over, it's time to see what anime from that lot ended up being the best I saw in 2016, based on a mixture of subjective and objective opinion.


HONOURABLE MENTIONS


RahXephon (2002)

It may be dismissed as an Evangelion clone. However, this mech series about a young teen who finds out his city has been apprehended by invaders does have some good things going for it. The ancient South American culture imagery and references give the show its own flavour, and the soundtrack and directing are solid. The drama is also interesting, with each episode throwing in a new twist to keep you intrigued. Perhaps what prevents a spot on this top ten is the indirect and at times pretentious way it answers its questions, making it hard to understand what's going on and requiring multiple watches to understand.


Inari Kon Kon (2014)

A little short for my liking, but this was a sweet coming-of-age tale about a girl who gains the powers of shapeshifting from a fox goddess. There was some good character development from most of the cast as they learn to create relationships with others, and Inari herself is an endearing character in the Sakura Kinomoto mould.


Black Butler Book of Circus and Book or Murder (2014)

A return to form for the franchise after the fanfic-ish ending of season 2. Whilst the animation is limited for both arcs, the stories make up for it. Book of Circus is a soft reboot that gradually takes the show through it's darkest and most cynical arc to date, as Ciel and Sebastian solve a series of kidnappings tied to a circus. Book of Murder might not be as dark but still a solid closed room mystery, where nothing is as it seems.


Yona of the Dawn (2014-15)

Despite missing out, I really wanted this in my top ten. This series, about a princess who goes on a journey after her father is assassinated by her crush, is a solid action adventure with likeable characters. Hak is a badass who reminds me so much of Tamahome from Fushi Yugi, and each of the dragons all had unique personalities and upbringings. Su-Won, despite his dastardly actions, wasn't exactly a one note villain, wanting to improve the country in his own way, and even the sidekick of Yona's squad in Yun had his charm. Perhaps the shining light of the series however was Princess Yona, who gradually went from spoiled princess, to showing glimpses of a warrior determined to fix the kingdom herself.

Perhaps the reason why I stopped myself from putting this on my top ten was because of how it ends mid-story, as if everything up to this point was a prologue to a bigger journey. That said, can StudioPierrot (or someone else) make a second season of this? PLEASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS-


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And now...THE TOP TEN!


10. Erased (2016)

Perhaps the trend for me this year (other than incomplete series) is that at least 4 anime I saw had a time travel element, three of them from series released this year. Whilst not the best, Erased was a decent thriller where Satoru had to go back to his childhood to save a classmate and his mother from certain death. Perhaps the predictability of the culprit's identity, the children acting like adults, and some other elements near the end did diminish it some. However, its still well directed, has some good atmosphere and touching human drama.



9. Phantom Memory Kurau (2004)

When she was 12, a science lab incident saw the tomboyish Kurau merge with a being known as a Rynax. Over ten years later, and the being's other half (or pair) is born as a girl named Christmas. Together, the two must dodge the authority figures who want them captured, whilst also forming a sisterly bond. Whilst its pacing can be too relaxed at points, and other elements felt flawed, there was still something engaging about this series with the girls being constantly on the run. Add some good action, down to earth characters (including the antagonists), and some believable and touching interactions, and you have this underrated gem.



8. Jormungand (2012)

“I devour the five lands and drain the three seas, yet only the sky is impossible to reach. With this body lacking wings, hands, or legs. I am the World Serpent. My name is Jormungand.”

In the similar vein as Black Lagoon, Jormungand is an ultra-violent, but also thought provoking action series about child soldier Jonah working with arms dealer Koko. Along with the other members of HCLI, they go from one dealing to the next. Amongst all the chaos, there is some dark humour, whilst being grounded in realism and complex themes on war and morality. The cast is alpha as f*ck, with the standout being Koko, who keeps smiling in all the chaos. Perhaps my main beef with the series is how ani-climatic the ending was, and the naivete of Koko's final plan.



7. Haven't you heard? I'm Sakamoto (2016)

COOL. COOLER. COOLEST!

Attention Sword Art Online: this is how you write a Gary Stu character. Whilst all the ladies want him, and all the men despise him for his coolness, the show excels in exaggerating Sakamoto's coolness to a hilarious extreme. The supporting cast is just as fun and weird, and seeing how Sakamoto would get out of a situation like he was the cool bishounen version of the Roadrunner was always a delight to watch.



6. Re:Zero (2016)

Re:Zero is ahead of Yona because it does something unique with its “boy trapped in a fantasy world” premise. Instead of been given a power that makes him into a powerful hero, all Subaru is given is the ability to “Return from death”: to go back in time when he is killed. In what is essentially “Edge of Tommorrow: the fantasy anime”, we end up seeing Subaru fail multiple times, and the suffering and tragedy he faces is heart wrenching to watch. However, it is also good to see him learn from his past mistakes and use it to his advantage. The series also balances the light hearted stuff and the darker elements very well, unlike other shows I can think of (Akame Ga Kill).

However, the reason why it isn't higher is because the series is incomplete and there are some cliché elements. A lot of plot lines have not gotten anywhere (such as the election), and I can see how many would feel his love for Emilia might not be justified when maid Rem is obviously more in love with Subaru and has shown more to prove it. That said, it is an entertaining series and I do hope to see more seasons of this down the line.



5. 91 Days (2016)

This gritty crime drama meets revenge story sees Angelo returning to the town of Lawless to get revenge on the men who killed his family. With solid directing and an atmosphere worthy of films such as The Godfather, seeing Angelo's journey into darkness was captivating until the end. What perhaps ruined it for me was the need for things to be ambiguous at the end. It also proved that a mafia anime didn't have to rely on supernatural elements (such as Baccano) to be good.



4. Assassination Classroom (2015-16)

Who would've thought that a series about a tentacled creature turned-teacher who is threatening to destroy the world would make me emotional by the final episode?

Whilst the comedy is hit and miss, this fun series still has a lot of chuckles and great character development from the entire class, and focuses on themes of being an underdog, turning weaknesses into strengths, and how hard work pays off. Also, it has not only one of the best twists I've seen this year (episode 36), but also one of the best series finales in anime. Period.



3. Monthly Girls Nozaki-Kun (2014-15)

It starts like a scene from any typical high school series: a girl confessing her love to a boy she likes. Then she gets his autograph and becomes his assistant because he's actually a manga artist.

If I am to be honest, this was my favourite series out of everything I saw this year, and one of my newest favourites of all time. It is one of the funniest shows I have ever seen, and has one of my favourite casts in all of anime. It doesn't exactly focus on plot too much and its clearly open for a sequel, but the series was so light hearted and fun that it really didn't matter to me.



2. One Punch Man (2015)

ONE PUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU UUUUUNCH!

It is one of the best shounen series of recent times. Yes, the main character can just beat things with one punch, but the fights are well animated and the cynical Saitama is an endearing and funny character. The rest of the show has a good sense of humour, the other heroes and villains are zany and creative, and the climax itself is just as epic as you'll think it will be. However, there was still some loose plot threads that prevented me from putting this on top.


And topping the list is...














1. Your Name (2016)

Ignoring my nitpicks with the movie (NOT ENOUGH BODYSWAPPING HI-JINKS!), it is worth the critical hype surrounding it. It is a touching high school romance about two unrelated teens who start to swap bodies and how many elements get in the way of them meeting. The beautiful animation and the photo-realistic backgrounds alone are top tier, but the story (give or take some plotholes) also keeps you engaged until the end of the gripping final act. The characters are likeable enough that you want them to succeed and the heart wrenching twist in the middle was something I didn't expect and proved this film was more than just “Freaky Friday the anime”.

Even if Makoto Shinkai doesn't become the next Miyazaki, I (to quote music guru Molly Meldrum) will say “Do yourself a Favour” and watch it.