I think we can all agree that anime is pretty cool and good, and that there were definitely some worthwhile anime TV shows that came out in 2016. Amidst those, there were no shortage of effective and emotional scenes which had me bawling my eyes out, laughing my lungs to shreds, and pumping my fists in the air with passion. But in this video, I won’t simply be talking about my outright favorite anime scenes of the year–instead, I’ll be dissecting five moments which not only made me feel some type of way, but which also gave me the impression like, “this is what anime is all about. This, right here, is THE POWER OF ANIME.” I don’t think I can explain it any better than that without getting into the examples themselves, so let’s dive right in!
#5 – March Comes Like A Lion, & I Cry Like A Baby
Rather than any one particular moment that stands out, I want to give a nod to 3-gatsu no Lion for how it consistently utilizes unique audio-visual presentation in its conveyance of myriad moods and emotions to stunning effect. I’ve seen this show accused of using too many SHAFT-isms, in reference to the fact that studio SHAFT is known for their off-kilter visuals, but I think that this accusation completely misses the point of WHY there are so many moments like that in the series.
Simply put, 3-gatsu no Lion never misses an opportunity to present an emotional state visually and with music and sound effects as opposed to doing so with words. In fact, there are some impressively lengthy sequences in this show which have little to no dialog at all, yet convey a constantly evolving chain of emotions by way of facial expressions, color design, unique animation styles, and shot compositions. It’s as if the staff was always asking themselves, “what does this emotion look like? What does this emotion sound like?” And then they would seek to convey that in the animation.
3-gatsu no Lion is a series that I watched with tears in my eyes for nearly the entire runtime–not so much because of its big, powerful scenes that pull at the heartstrings (though those are plenty effective in their own right), but because at every moment I could feel it penetrating into my consciousness and reflecting exactly the way that my emotions feel inside of my own mind. There are a lot of feelings that I couldn’t probably put into words easily, but if you show me a picture of it then I’d think, “yeah, I’ve felt that way before,” and 3-gatsu no Lion shows me faces like that in just about every single scene–while the incredibly moody music touches into parts of my soul that I don’t even know how to relate to except when I hear it. It’s good shit.
#4 – Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu’s Rakugo Performances
Did Rakugo Shinjuu have to be an animated series? Probably not. I mean, it’s not impossible to imagine this story being conveyed with most of the same nuance in the hands of a talented enough director and team of live-action actors. But this didn’t stop the team behind it from using the full power of animation to their advantage in making the series work, particularly in the surprisingly extensive rakugo performance sequences.
In anime criticism, a lot of attention is given to the quality of the artwork and animation in a series; but far less often talked about is the quality of editing–the flow of images and overall visual pacing of a scene. If there’s anything that Rakugo Shinjuu handles with stunning deftness, it’s these very elements. Each rakugo scene is very carefully staged and timed not only to draw the viewer into the world of the stories being told by the characters, but also to convey the personalities of the performers, the quality of their performance, and how the performance is being interpreted by the audience. In a series in which much of the drama centers around the creative and lifestyle differences of the characters, as well as each of their relationships with their own artform, being able to convey all of these things during the performances themselves is crucially helpful to the viewer intimately understanding how each character relates to their art and to each other.
In many of these scenes, it’s the subtle particulars of where the camera decides to linger, which details it focuses on, and how frequently it cuts to something or someone else, that communicates the quality of and response to the performance; backed by stunning voice work that allows us to find entertainment in these bizarre old stories in themselves. Suffice it to say that this show made a series of comedy stories which are based largely on old-timey Japanese lingual jokes that I could barely understand, nonetheless entertaining and engaging for minutes on end every time they came up.
#3 – The Mere Existences of Thunderbolt Fantasy and Nyanbo
There are some people who would say that Thunderbolt Fantasy is not anime. To those people I would say–well, it’s animated. It’s also written by anime superstar Urobuchi Gen. What’s not to anime about it? Seriously though, while puppet animation isn’t exactly a new concept, the way that Thunderbolt Fantasy goes all-in on telling a serious, dark, and violent Eastern fantasy story by way of dolls that can only really talk by moving their eyes, arms, and shoulders–and even goes above and beyond with full-blown tokusatsu action scenes–was definitely like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Whether this is technically anime or not, it was one of the coolest and most impressive pieces of visual media that came out this year, and it was very exciting to see a titan of the industry such as Urobuchi Gen going out of his way to make something like this possible.
And speaking on a much smaller scale, I also can’t forget about Nyanbo! This Yotsuba& spinoff series of adorable five-minute episodes felt like something I’d desperately wanted as a kid and never quite got. It’s a show about a bunch of CGi box cats superimposed onto seriously gorgeous live-action footage, and often interacting with real-life cats. Again, it’s not like this is a totally new concept, but the way that the show integrates real-world objects and CGi almost seamlessly is really cool, and the show is all-around a pleasant and creative surprise that left me wondering why there isn’t a lot more anime doing cool stuff like this.
#2. Space Patrol Luluco and Mob Psycho 100 Know How To End Right
So far in this video, I’ve mostly been talking about shows that take particularly unique approaches to animation–and this is certainly also true of both Luluco and Mob Psycho 100 (the latter of which brought in all kinds of totally out-there tricks that I’ve never even seen in TV anime before, such as paint-on-glass animation)–but what I really want to highlight these shows for is their complete mastery over the basics of why animation is so fucking cool.
Director Hiroyuki Imaishi is my personal God, to whom there is a shrine built inside of my room, and that’s because his work is just so goddamn satisfying to watch. Every image is timed just right and moves in just the right way–his camera pans and zooms, his characters’ expressions, his unbelievably perfect color choices; and I say “his,” because any of the same things could be said about Kill la Kill or Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, or the first episode of Re: Cutie Honey, or so much of Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, etc.–but Space Patrol Luluco nails every single bit of it just the same.
What uniquely fascinates me about the climax of this series is that it ramps up the tension so effectively and to such epic proportions in such a short time. In spite of being a series of just thirteen seven-minute episodes, Luluco manages to expand out to the scale of Gurren Lagann’s ending all in the last handful of episodes, and somehow completely earns it just through how well each of its big moments are timed and executed. Think of it as something like a visual essay on why Hiroyuki Imaishi is the best anime director ever–and then wait for me to eventually write an actual text essay on that subject in the future.
Mob Psycho 100 is similarly constructed of just so many perfect pieces of animation. Every big moment in the series is punctuated by some all-star animator bringing his absolute A-game to the table and making a fucking statement. It’s imperative to the show’s climactic speech that not only is Reigen such a cool and smartly-written character, but that the way he moves and the way that his actions are conveyed in this scene are just so goddamn perfect. Incidentally, head on over to the Canipa Effect’s channel and watch his videos about the show if you want to know just which people were responsible for making it such a delight to take in.
#1 – Konosuba Endears Me to My Core With Its Montage Scene
I think that this goofy-ass montage from the first episode of Konosuba might be my outright favorite anime scene from 2016. The whole episode is a fun, sarcastic piss-take on the whole genre of dudes getting sent to save fantasy worlds, and is rife with great comedy moments, but this one montage scene not only transcends just being a joke to actually being more of a whole character arc, but was so endearing to me that I completely fell in love with the show through it.
What makes this scene particularly special as a piece of animation is that it’s entirely visual. There’s no dialog, no sound effects, and the music isn’t particularly relevant. It’s a story that’s told entirely through the expressions, animations, and situations of the characters. Each of the repetitive images is packed with so much personality and humor that they really bring these characters to life in ways that the dialog could never do on its own.
There’s the cut of Kazuma manically swinging his pickaxe, obviously not making any progress on this grueling work with his scrawny, weak body–which we also see crumbling to pieces under the weight of a wooden board as he tries to carry a bag of rocks; meanwhile Aqua, looking adorable in her tied-up work gear, is leisurely serving water to the other workers. Then there’s Kazuma’s awful form in contrast with the other diggers, which is followed by Aqua being so dopily excited to haphazardly slam paste across the wall that she’s instantly and completely forgotten that this menial labor was not their goal and is a huge waste of time.
Then there’s the growing sense of accomplishment, when, after washing themselves off, taking a proud gulp of milk, and enjoying the spoils of their work at the pub, the horrifying turd pile that they had to sleep on the night before becomes, with the addition of one sheet, a bed that they can flop on with totally sincere excitement. The buff guy workers whom they’ve been afraid of suddenly become their best friends after a round of drinks, and soon Kazuma is holding Aqua’s hair back while she’s throwing up in an alleyway. Bear in mind, this is episode one, and these characters had known each-other for like half a day until the start of this montage; and at this point we’ve already watched them progress to the point of living their whole lives together and sharing their most vulnerable moments. The scenes repeat themselves a few more times until once, during another drunken dance, we see the looks of utterly carefree joy on Aqua and Kazuma’s faces as they’ve totally and sincerely adapted to this lifestyle and can even take joy in it. So much so that when the cycle is finally broken by Kazuma suddenly jolting up in existential dread, Aqua is legitimately confused, having long forgotten that they had any other goals in mind; and soon afterward, we see that Kazuma and Aqua have formed a real bond and have a deeper understanding of one-another than they did before. And all of that was earned just by way of how damn perfect every single one of those goofy images was at getting us into the headspace of the characters in that montage. It’s beautiful!
Anyways, those were the five moments that most made me feel the POWER OF ANIME in 2016. If you had any moments like that this year, then be sure to tell me about them in the comments below, and stick around for my videos listing my Top 20 Favorite Anime of 2016! Support my channel via patreon if you want to help me to keep making videos like this, and share this one to anyone whom you think it would interest. If you want way more Digibro content, then be sure to follow my vlogging, podcast, and let’s play channels as well, where I update much more frequently. Thanks again for watching, and I’ll see you in the next one!