Top 10 Anime Series of 2016
Written by: ClayDragon & Shiggins
Well, it’s that time again. Another year has ended, and a bunch of new anime shows are about to start airing any day now. So for our final retrospective article of 2016, let’s have a look at the best series that graced our screens over the past year. And whilst there may have been less hype for some of these shows compared to 2015’s series, our entries this year were more than enough to keep us satisfied. As with our other lists, only shows that started airing in 2016 are eligible.
Side note: Whilst we made an effort to watch lots of shows that started airing this year, we couldn’t see them all. So if there’s a series that you think should be on this list but isn’t, then it’s probably because we never got around to watching it, as opposed to us not liking it.
As is this the case with many of these lists, SPOILER ALERT. You have been warned.
10.) KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World! (Written by: ClayDragon)
Has anyone here ever played Dungeons & Dragons? The basic idea is that each player makes a unique character in order to create a well-balanced party capable of dealing with any situation. Sadly, no-one in KonoSuba got that message. When Kazuma is transported into your typical fantasy world, he forms an adventuring party consisting of himself (a thief), Aqua (a water goddess), Megumin (a mage) and Darkness (a knight). Unfortunately, this entire party is incredibly ineffective – Kazuma has poor stats all around, Aqua is too vain to use her powers properly, Megumin only knows one limited-use spell, and Darkness has such low accuracy that she couldn’t hit water if she fell out of a boat.
|"...God, we suck."|
In spite of their numerous shortcomings, the team do occasionally enjoy success – granted, their victories are more due to sheer dumb luck as opposed to actual skill, but credit where it’s due. Whilst the main plot is meant to be about Kazuma slaying the Demon King, the party is so incompetent that it’s unclear if they’ll ever achieve this goal. Instead, the series mainly focus on their many mishaps, and we get to see them grow closer over time.
|Agreed. That's why I hardly ever leave the house.|
Although fantasy shows are becoming more and more common lately, KonoSuba stands out because of two reasons. The first is that the main character isn’t a capable, undefeatable badass – rather, Kazuma is a pathetic perverted jerk who dances the line between ‘likeable’ and ‘asshole’. The second reason is that it’s funny – almost every aspect of fantasy shows and games are lampooned, from things like levelling up to resurrection spells. It’s an amusing, lighthearted take on the genre, and given that the second season is just about to start, this is a perfect time to get in on this show.
9.) Kiznaiver (Written by: Shiggins)
While it's nowhere near as amazing as it could have been, Kiznaiver gets on this list by having some brilliant ideas and fun characters alone, although I do feel the series could have improved on the usage of its premise and delivered something worthy of our top 3. For those of you who don't know, Kiznaiver is made by TRIGGER, the same company who gave us the surprisingly wonderful Kill la Kill, and have definitely got some connections with the epic sci-fi Tengen Toppen Gurren Lagann. So some could argue that expectations were high just from the get-go.
|I love when anime colour-code their characters. It means I don't have to actually put any effort into remembering their names.|
The premise is that a group of characters, all with big personalities and quirks, have suddenly been linked by magic-science and can now feel each other's pain, because this is an experiment that will apparently create a solution to world peace. When one of them gets hurt, they all get hurt. And as time goes on, the experiment begins to evolve and suddenly the pain goes from physical to emotional trauma.
|Today on "Pictures to show Non-Anime Fans without Context..."|
I remember watching the first episode and realising that this could be either brilliant or horrific, depending on the quality of the writing. And while the characters, including the uncaring Katsuhira Agata and the seemingly snobbish Tsuguhito Yuta, really do carry the show in every episode, the plot desperately tries to undermine it. Focusing far too much on romantic relationships instead of the dramatic ramifications of the experiment, Kiznaiver ends up at 8th because of characters and premise alone.
8.) Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash (Written by: ClayDragon)
I previously mentioned that one of the best aspects of KonoSuba is the fact that it parodies many expected features of the fantasy genre, and Grimgar takes a similar approach. Except instead of poking fun at these clichés, Grimgar deconstructs them – sometimes to brutal levels. When Haruhiro wakes up in a strange new world with no memories, he joins a team of people with similar circumstances, and together the six of them form an adventuring party in order to survive in this new world.
|Just kick him in the balls!|
But it turns out that living in a fantasy world is a lot more difficult than it might sound – after all, you need to earn money somehow, you need a safe place to sleep, and simply getting new clothes becomes a lot more challenging. Plus, there’s the very real danger that you could be killed by a monster at any given moment, and this indeed happens to an unlucky party member roughly halfway through the series, and Grimgar takes great pains to emphasise the grief and pain that the rest of the party go through.
This series takes a lot of the genre’s established tropes and turns them on their head, forcing the audience to think about fantasy life in a completely different way. Whilst some of the characters aren’t the most well-developed, it’s still a slow-paced, beautifully-animated, thought-provoking series that portrays the mourning process with a depth and sincerity that few shows can match. If you’re looking for a slightly different fantasy show than normal, you could do a lot worse than Grimgar.
7.) My Hero Academia (Written by: Shiggins)
It's funny to think that superheroes were once considered the bottom bar of drama and story. During the 90s, superhero movies and tv shows suffered a huge downfall, and nobody took them seriously. The best you could get was the epic cartoons of Spiderman and X-Men, but it wasn't enough. Nowadays you can't go five feet without being told about a superhero film from Marvel or DC, and the occasional third party trying to throw their hat into the ring. Well this year, anime took a chance and we now have My Hero Academia!
|Now, if only Midoriya could get the perfect costume...|
Set in a world where the majority of civilians actually have superpowers, Izuku Midoriya is a power-less geek who feels inferior to everyone around him. That is until he meets the greatest superhero ever, All Might, and is chosen as his successor so he can attend an academy literally devoted to teaching kids to use their powers to fight villains.
In many ways, this is the ultimate child fantasy. A lonely nerd who gets bullied by the surprisingly badass Bakugou is suddenly given the powers of his idol that he keeps a poster of, gets a girl he likes, a bunch of friends and will fight against the evil villains who do evil things because they're evil. As someone who grew up with comic books, I adore this series. I just wish it went a bit less predictable with its plot... but on the bright side, that's where season 2 comes in!
6.) Yuri on Ice (Written by: Shiggins)
If you had told me in 2015 that a sports anime about figure skaters would make it to the top 10, you'd be rewarded with a huge scoff and spit in the face. That sounds ridiculous! And yet here I am, writing about Yuri on Ice and wondering how I got to this point in my life. Did I do something wrong? Did I do something right? I don't know. The only thing I do know is that I like Yuri on Ice far more than any other sports series out there, and that's something for the history books.
|I think from now on, every Top 10 should have a "Tempting Shiggins" category... It's getting far too frequent with all these anime pretty boys.|
Yuri Katsuki is a down-and-out figure skater who has lost the confidence and motivation to keep going and just wants to distance himself from his career. When his private practice is posted online however, famous superstar Victor Nikiforov is inspired and travels to Japan to become his personal coach. This causes the anger of Yuri Plisetsky, a Russian rival and badboy who also worships Victor, and the two will now skate against each other for Victor's attention.
|Aaaaaaand I'm gone.|
The first thing that really caught my eye about this series is the figure skating itself. I think figure skating works better than basketball or football because it feels like a spectacle. A show filled with emotion and an internal drama, and one that the animation makes absolutely beautiful. The scenes where Yuri, Yuri, Victor or the other tight men skate across the ice is just wondrous, and the series is made even better by the bright and interesting characters and their relationships with each other. Chances are you've heard of Yuri and Victor's romance and... yeah, that's wonderful too. It's all wonderful! It doesn't reach the top five in this list because I still roll my eyes when a character acts as if the sport is their entire life, but other than the amount of charm and wonder in this series makes it an absolute treasure.
5.) Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak Academy (Written by: Shiggins)
It's over! This beautiful, painful, brilliant story about murdering your own classmates finally comes to an end in a finale packed with ups and downs. I've adored Danganronpa since Game 1, and I'm already planning to buy every single game when it comes out on PS4 this year. (2017 is already looking good!). For more on the spoiler-filled reasons why I loved this series, click here.
|Yay! I only like one of you!|
With half of this series being a prequel and the other half being a sequel, Danganronpa 3 begins its complicated events filled with murder, mystery and madness. Monokuma announces a new Killing Game, with brand new rules and characters, in a last attempt for Despair to wipe out the heroes who fight for Hope. In the prequel, we see how the main characters of Danganronpa's second game interacted with each other and how their actions influenced the entire franchise as a whole.
Danganronpa 3 was filled with many ups and downs, causing quite a controversial reaction from fans and newcomers alike. Personally, a lot of the flaws for me were completely outweighed by the great parts. Whenever I got pissed off at the protagonist Naegi, I got reminded of how much I adored newcomer Munakata. Whenever one twist made no sense, another twist came out of nowhere to please me. I can't pretend it was perfect, but Danganronpa 3 provided me with closure. It satisfied me. Thank you, Danganronpa.
4.) Bungou Stray Dogs (Written by: ClayDragon)
Isn’t it weird how sometimes, an idea can look strange on paper, but turn out to actually be really good? The concept of famous authors with superpowers beating each other up in the present day might sound like a bizarre plot, but Bungou Stray Dogs manages to pull it off. In this series, every character is named and based off of a well-known author (although the vast majority of characters are inspired by Japanese writers because, you know, anime). Despite this, you don’t need a vast knowledge of Japanese authors to enjoy the show – although it does help for some of the references.
|Why are they dressed like they just walked out of the 1920's? Who cares!|
When protagonist Atsushi rescues a man who’s trying to commit suicide, he ends up being inducted into the Armed Detective Agency – a group of superpowered individuals trying to maintain order in the city. Complicating things is the existence of the Port Mafia, who are trying to capture Atsushi for their own reasons. The series mainly focuses on the cases that the Agency take, whilst the conflict with the Mafia takes a back seat until the end.
|Maybe you shouldn't have taken your eyes off of the Great Old One, Dazai.|
Bungou Stray Dogs is a weird mixture of superpowers, crime drama, and literary references all wrapped up together, and it somehow all fits. There are one or two problem areas, but when you have interesting powers, hilarious characters (i.e. Dazai), and H.P. Lovecraft as an antagonist in the second series, it’s hard to hate this series. Don’t let all the literary allusions put you off – it’s perfectly accessible and very entertaining.
3.) Erased (Written by: Shiggins)
I'm actually shocked that Erased wasn't our number one, but you can take that up with the other two on our list. Not every series needs to explode or be filled with chaos, but instead can be a straightforward story about friendship and abuse. There's no intense action scene or hysterical comedy reaction, but just strong emotion and care.
|Oh, he turns young too. Don't worry, the relationship isn't creepy now.|
Satoru Fujinuma is a delivery boy who has the power to travel back in time, somehow, and after a horribly tragic event occurs in his life, he goes back to when he was a little boy in school. Realising that the event in his life is connected to a series of murders from his childhood, Satoru promises to save their lives and uncover the mystery that killed them in the first place.
|One weird nitpick I have is this kid. He's awesome but he's waaaay too mature for his age. It's scary.|
While the mystery itself is average and the ending is a bit of a mixed bag, the entire relationship between Satoru and the emotionless child Kayo Hinazuki is a fucking masterpiece. As we learn more about Kayo's life and the brutal abuse she has to deal with, we grow ever more thankful of Satoru's compassion. We want to help Kayo, and our hearts absolutely melt as she is opened up by Satoru and his mother. I don't want to say another word because you should be watching it. Watch Erased. Erased is beautiful, in every way.
2.) Mob Psycho 100 (Written by: ClayDragon)
Remember One Punch Man? That insanely popular show from 2015 that’s getting a sequel series this year? Well, Mob Psycho 100 is written by the same person, which should already give you a reason to watch this show. Whilst the two series may look similar at first glance – both star an average-looking protagonist who is actually incredibly powerful, yet dissatisfied with his life – they actually turn out to be very different.
|"...No habla ingles?"|
Despite being an incredibly powerful esper, Mob doesn’t really like his powers that much. Since they are tied to his feelings, when he gets particularly emotional his powers run out of control, forcing him to keep a constant check on his emotions lest he accidentally hurt the people around him. In actuality, all Mob wants is to be a normal high-schooler, and many of the decisions that he makes throughout the series reflect this desire. He realises that there’s more to life than just having powerful abilities, and he actively tries to better himself in more conventional ways, causing him to grow as a character.
|*Insert 'rock you like a hurricane' joke here*|
When this show first started airing, I said that it was good, but it looked as though One Punch Man would still be considered ONE’s magnum opus. Well, I was wrong. Mob Psycho 100 has flashy fights, great humour, strong character relationships and a solid emotional core, but all of these elements are tied together because of Mob himself. If you liked One Punch Man but thought it was lacking something, then look no further than Mob Psycho 100.
1.) Re:Zero –Starting Life in Another World– (Written by: ClayDragon)
I’m going to be honest here – I never actually bothered with Re:Zero when it was first airing in spring. It was only at the start of December, when we were first drawing up plans for these Top 10s, that I thought “oh shit, Re:Zero’s really popular. I should probably get in on that before we write these lists in case one or two aspects make it into the Top 10s”. And, well, you’ll have read our other lists this past week – Re:Zero made it onto every one. The whole ‘trapped in fantasy land’ genre has become incredibly popular lately, but the standout shows in this oversaturated market are ones that do something different with the formula – KonoSuba plays it all for laughs, Grimgar analyses the human cost of such a life, and Re:Zero says ‘what if an otaku was placed in a fantasy land but got zero special treatment?’. The result is a brilliant deconstruction of pretty much every facet of the genre.
|"If elected queen, my first act will be to kill the whole lot of you, and burn your town to cinders!"|
Upon arriving in this new world, main character Subaru discovers that he can rewind time whenever he dies, essentially like going back to a previous checkpoint in a video game. Despite the ‘dying’ part, Subaru jumps at the chance to be a real protagonist, and over the course of the series he starts believing himself to be a proper hero. Unfortunately, this belief causes him to develop a vastly overinflated ego, and the scene in which his arrogance is laid bare and his worldview is promptly torn apart is a sight to see.
Re:Zero is a wonderful combination of KonoSuba and Steins;Gate, and it goes even further in tearing down the genre than Grimgar did. Subaru is given absolutely no leeway for his actions, and the consequences always come back to bite him. The deconstructions are excellent, the characters are likeable (especially Rem – see Wednesday’s list), and it’s obvious that the anime staff put a huge amount of effort into this show. It’s an endearing, emotional, yet also dark series that had me hooked from the beginning – something that no other anime this year pulled off quite so well.
|Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto|
Is there a series you feel we missed out? Or do you have any suggestions for another Top 10 list? Let us know in the comments below!
Thanks for reading!
ClayDragon has finished studying Physics at university, and understands about as much as he did when he started. The main method of contacting him is his Gmail account at email@example.com. He has an ask.fm account at ask.fm/ClayDragon. When not playing games or reading, he can be found with his head in his hands whilst trying in vain to figure out what to do with his life. He revels in mediocrity.
Shiggins enjoys many strange forms of communication, especially those including cosplayers or presents or videos. However, until that wonderful day comes when people care enough to give him things for being him, you can contact him on his Skype; shigginsishere. He can also respond to you if you contact him through GMails at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can find out about him or ask him stuff on ask.fm/shigginsishere.