In case you missed the last video, I listed my twentieth-through-eleventh favorite anime of 2016 along with just as many honorable mentions, so be sure to check that video out first. Once again may I remind you that everything in this list is just my opinion and nothing more. If your favorite show isn’t on the list, then that means I just didn’t like it that much. Try to make comments pertaining to the shows which are actually on the list as opposed to talking about what you would’ve listed–you can make your own videos for that. Other videos in which I discuss each of these shows at greater length will be linked below. Anyways, let’s get into the top ten!
Number ten on my list is Doukyuusei, because nothing is sweeter than love; and getting to experience it vicariously through characters whom I actually want to share it is a lovely thing. A couple of years ago I made a list of the six things that I look for in anime romance: firstly, for characters who are interesting in their own right and have other things going on in their lives, but are nonetheless made better by being together, and whom I want to see in a relationship for their own sakes. Secondly, for the romance to have interesting points of conflict, but to continue to make progress at a satisfying rate–and for it to be presented in a way which utilizes the medium of animation to deliver on the emotions of the story. Doukyuusei checks all of these boxes in just an hour of runtime.
In fact, it’s the first time since Kare Kano that I’ve seen a romance anime do so much with its visuals to deepen my engagement with the story. Its wispy, almost undefined character art and washed-out backgrounds brought with them a sense of warmth that actually captured the nostalgia which so many high school anime purport to be trying to instill. It’s these highly expressive character animations and some phenomenal voice work, especially from Kamiya Hiroshi, that allows our main couple to come to life so thoroughly in such a short time; and then to cover more ground in their relationship than most entire TV shows manage to do.
As something of an expert in anime rom-coms, I think that this was easily one of the sweetest and most memorable of the year; and there’s the added bonus that it’s the outright best gay romance anime I’ve ever seen. There isn’t an ounce of pandering here, nor does it shy away from or beat around the bush with what it is. It addresses the fact of the matter head on, and even has conflicts revolving around it–and every step of the way it feels completely honest and true to life. There are conflicts addressed in this story which can only arise from being in a same-sex romance, and yet what makes the film work is that it’s just an incredibly strong romance story regardless. Overall it’s a fantastic film, and I’d really love to see more from this director.
Number nine on my list is Lupin III Part 4, because there’s always room in this world for classic cool–and nothing can capture classic cool quite like a classic. Lupin has been running for over fifty years in one incarnation or another, and for the most part it’s always had the same consistent attitude of slick, devil-may-care badasses performing lighthearted crime capers and getting away with whatever they feel like doing. It’s formulaic to the core, but the formula works perfectly, because the specific personalities of its cast are so iconic and can be slotted into so many slight variations on the same core plot that it’s hard to get sick of them.
This modern incarnation wisely doesn’t try to change any of the main tenants of the series, but instead simply adds some new elements and aesthetic layers. This time it takes place in Italy, and introduces a handful of new recurring characters who fit into the narrative so comfortably that it’s hard to believe they haven’t been there all along. Best among these is Rebecca Rossellini, whom, aside from being my pick for the hottest anime girl of last year, is exactly the kind of youthful bombshell brimming with personality who could breathe fresh life into a franchise full of older, familiar faces getting up to the same old tricks.
As crime shows go, Lupin III is not the most cleverly written. It’s not the kind of show wherein a surprising twist in the story makes everything slot into place, or in which you’ll be impressed by the storylines or the action. If anything, most of it is actually very stupid–and at times it can even be jarring just how often characters get away with standing in hails of gunfire, dodging bullets, and cutting massive structures in half with swords. What allows all of these things to work is that it’s just such a goddamn good time that it’s worth watching anyways. It’s got that old-school swagger, where everyone smokes and dresses smart and double-crosses each-other constantly, but with no hard feelings because we’re all criminals anyways and we all get it. All of this is backed by some truly stunning character art and color design, peppered with moments of excellent sakuga.
Number eight on my list is Space Patrol Luluco, because no matter how stupid and worthless and inconsequential your feelings may be, they can also be the most powerful and important things in the universe if they’re what drives you to do everything that you can. Luluco, not unlike Kiznaiver from the same studio which ran alongside it, makes fun of its teenaged protagonist for daring to feel something–but then gives her the chance to say no, fuck you, my feelings are real and mean the universe to me, and I am more powerful than any of you. And jesus christ, does she say so in epic fashion, with a climax that ramps up the scale of the series to an unbelievable degree for a show of just thirteen seven-minute episodes.
Luluco is something of an amalgam of everything which my favorite director, Hiroyuki Imaishi, has ever been a part of. Stretches of the show exist solely to make references to other shows from his studio, Trigger, and there are countless visual callbacks to all of the classic GAINAX shows which he participated in over the last two decades. Speaking as a diehard fan of both studios, this is all perfect for me–but Luluco also has its own distinct personality and life to it, and even may be something of a keystone for understanding Imaishi’s approach to his work on the whole.
It’s a show that spits in the face of the idea that some feelings are more meaningful and highbrow than others, or that the silly, vapid first love of a preteen girl is invalid. It’s a defense of all things dumb, and a love letter to irreverence, and an explosion of brightly-colored beautiful art backed by the charming and heartfelt, completely sincere love that its protagonist feels. As a whole, it is the embodiment of the ethos of Imaishi and studio Trigger, and is everything that I love them for.
Number seven on my list is Konosuba, because as much fun as it is to take the piss out of the isekai genre, it wouldn’t be half as fun if it didn’t take place in a strangely well-realized world of derpy fantasy, and feature one of the most lovable ensemble casts in comedy anime this decade, comprised entirely of completely useless and not even all that good-natured idiots. I honestly think this series may have broken some new ground in animation and character art by figuring out how to make the cast all look simultaneously vacuous and adorable at all times.
I also appreciate the show’s approach to fanservice, which is mostly just to take place in a world where bras don’t exist yet, and to have a huge boner for saggy tits–which I fully approve of. Even though this show is every bit as perverse and crass as any of its contemporaries, something about the dirty, dingy setting and dumbass scenarios helps it all make sense. It also helps that the main characters are old enough not only to drink, but to need to drink.
Not every episode of Konosuba is equally funny, or it would be even higher on this list–and it leaves a lot of room to be expanded on after a mere ten episodes in 2016. Thankfully the second season is already airing at the time of this writing, so it still has a chance to grow. It makes me happy to see that this has been among the most popular comedy shows of recent years, because the characters are actually as great as their designs are, and I want to see toys and cosplays of them, and for people to keep enjoying the series for years to come.
Number six on my list is Bakuon, because there aren’t many things dumber than being a fanboy; and yet there’s also not much that inspires greater passion and dedication in people. Bakuon presents motorcycle fandom as possibly the dumbest thing in the world–but also is very clearly deeply entrenched in it. The manga’s author described the series as “K-On meets Top Gear,” but unlike the girls in K-On, there isn’t much for these girls to learn and grow from. They’ve dedicated themselves to something which is dangerous, outdated, not particularly good as a mode of travel, and basically shouldn’t exist–except that it feels cool doing it, so nothing can stop people from it.
The series has no shortage of uproarious gags, mostly based around the kind of fandom arguments that those of you watching this video have probably all been witness to (or perpetuated yourselves). For some of these girls, the belief that their motorcycle is objectively superior is a matter of pride–but of course their metrics for objective superiority are all different, because opinion is always couched in taste, and in matters of taste there should be no disputes… except that’s literally all there ever is in matters of taste.
In spite of all its sarcasm surrounding the hobby that it’s girls get into, Bakuon still has a deft understanding of why people gravitate towards fandom, and what’s appealing about motorcycles themselves. It’s obviously a subject that the author cares about, or else the story wouldn’t work so well–and so many of the best conversations in the series are practically word for word arguments I’ve heard between car enthusiasts in real life that I couldn’t help but laugh at them. Besides all that, it’s a decent cute-girls-doing-cute-things show in its own right, with just enough tongue-in-cheek absurdity to keep it fresh and exciting compared to most of the genre.
Number five on my list is Yuri!! On Ice, because it presents ice skating with all the glitz and glamor and high-energy excitement that would make me care about any subject, regardless of how much I know about it; and then it applies the very same principles to its off-the-ice story of seeking self-actualization and heartwarming romance. Not a single second of this show is ever boring–it feels constantly like it’s sweeping me off of my feet and trying to show me something that it cares a lot about and thinks is super cool–and I usually find myself agreeing with it.
In a year wherein I feel like I’ve been praising every other show for its phenomenal character designs, Yuri On Ice still competes among the best, with some of the most attractive animated men that I’ve ever seen. Each of them has a plethora of fantastic expressions, and no shortage of both hilarious and effectively dramatic scenes which are brought to life by the artwork. Best of all, we get to see them in fantastically glittery costumes dancing their sweet hearts out through no shortage of breathtaking animation cuts. The nearly two-minute dance sequence in the first episode was absolutely magical to pay witness to, and the sheer number of awesome dance sequences in the series is like nothing I’ve ever seen before.
Sports anime are generally a great place to go for hype-ass moments, but it’s rare that I’m treated to one starring characters who are closer to my own age, already deeper into their careers and facing decisions that would concern someone just on the edge of being past their prime. For that, I’m thankful; and for the fact that this show was lead by a trio of the most lovable personalities that I got to watch all year.
Number four on my list is Momokuri, because at the end of the day I am just a gigantic softie who wants nothing more than to watch a bunch of adorable kids be adorably in love, while wearing adorable outfits and being adorably funny. Momokuri is abundantly pleasant and splendidly directed, with countless perfectly-timed audio and visual cues that sell all of its little jokes and heartwarming scenes. It’s not the kind of show in which any one moment particularly stands out, but in which every little moment is cute and comfortable.
Most interesting about the series is its presentation of a relationship in which both participants are getting something completely different out of it. One decides to casually accept the love of a girl whom he doesn’t really know or understand, and finds himself mostly dealing with his own neuroticism and self-image problems while trying to get closer. The other is secretly a full-blown stalker of the boy that she ends up dating, and struggles with the idea of actually getting closer and more intimate with him, because she still regards him as some kind of distant holy being whom she is only fit to observe from afar. The fact that they actually get into a relationship at the very start of the show, and then have to work through these issues without ever totally grasping how to deal with one-another is kind of fascinating, even if the show doesn’t exactly go super in-depth with exploring these concepts.
More than anything, though, it’s a romance that ticks all of my boxes, and has a cast full of cute kids that put a smile on my face every time I see them. It’s the kind of show I could get so lost in and comfy with that I spent a lot of time just debating with myself over which were my favorite outfits in the series, or whose voice was the most adorable. I felt like I could go on watching it forever, and I would love to see another season of it.
Number three on my list is Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto, because Sakamoto is perfect. None of us are anything like him–none of us deserve him, but all of us need him. In any situation, Sakamoto will always make the best possible decision (and the most bizarrely hilarious one, at that). He simultaneously projects an image of unflappable coolness, while also being completely honest with himself and never putting on airs or being afraid to humble himself. He can do virtually anything, and forces everyone around him to be constantly aware of their shortcomings–but he’s also the arm that they need to cry on and the moral support that they need to better themselves.
That the show is able to craft a character like this is no small feat. All it would take is one moment where things don’t quite click–where I don’t actually feel like Sakamoto has made the right decision, or where the message gets mixed, or where Sakamoto isn’t believable as the kind of person that he needs to be in that situation, and it would topple the entire conceit. But instead, the show is consistent–Sakamoto is always perfect, always funny, and everyone around him always stands to learn something by being in his presence.
There was a scene in one of the later episodes which simultaneously made me laugh out loud for minutes on end, while also making me cry out of legitimate pathos. It seamlessly tied an over-the-top boob gag into a moment of reflection on why a boy’s journey through life gives him such a deep admiration for boobs, and how a mother’s love shapes both her personality and that of her child–and all through this nostalgic, heartwarming flashback that is still all just a part of this hilarious boob gag.
There are very few series which can deliver on the kinds of overblown absurd comedy that this show does, while imbuing all of it with a deeper but lighthearted kind of social and psychological commentary; and all of that is what made Sakamoto one of my favorite comedy series of the year, if not of the past decade.
Number two on my list is March Comes Like A Lion, because I’ve felt this way before–so insecure–and it’s not very often that I watch a series with tears in my eyes for nearly its entire runtime. This series masterfully amplifies the emotions of every scene to a fever pitch with the best soundtrack that I heard all year, and visuals which transform the world to look like how it feels combined with how it looks. It does so with patience, too, allowing long scenes without dialog to breathe and sink in, and then bursting at the seams with energy when it needs to be.
The series does not change tones flippantly, but with great purpose. It presents us with a main character so wrapped up in his own head that, when alone, he can only go to the darkest places, and be submerged completely in his feelings; but of course, the people around him aren’t simply going to adhere to his mood, and he finds himself being ripped from the confines of that lonely place in his head and forced to interact with the kindly, energetic people around him, whom he doesn’t really know how to deal with, but can’t shake the enjoyment of being around.
March Comes Like A Lion is the closest thing I’ve seen in a long time to feeling like what the actual inside of my head feels like. It projects the constant and bizarre anxieties and paranoia over what other people are thinking or feeling, and getting swallowed up in myself until the instant I’m actually a part of something and able to get swept up in it. While I don’t have nearly the level of guilt complex that Rei has, his destructive level of empathy for others at the expense of himself is something I can relate to all too well–but as someone a good deal of years older than him, I can also see avenues for how he might get better–and I want to see him get there.
Finally, number one on my list is Girlish Number, because what could I possibly be more jaded and cynical towards than the anime industry, if not the entire industry of being an artistic creator in itself? Both of those itches are scratched wonderfully by this show that exposes all of the ugliness involved in a creative industry wherein creativity is basically a secondary element in the pursuit of success, and a behind the scenes look at the creation of shitty light novel adaptations that had a guy like me slyly smirking and muttering, “I fucking knew it,” every step of the way.
It’s also hilarious, and loaded with personality by way of its perfect main character, Chitose–the villain that we all deserve for being a part of this industry. She is wrong on every level, and at the same time, totally right about everything, because it doesn’t really take talent to win in this world, and it only takes hard work after you’ve already lost. Thank god the show lets her lose, because at least this is a comedy series and not a tragedy. Forgive me if the on-screen footage here is nothing but a collection of as many of my favorite facial expressions as I could fit into the timeline.
I could go on about Girlish Number all day, and I will. A day after this video comes out, I’ll be releasing a twenty-five minute analysis of that show, so if you’re watching this on anything other than the day it came out, then follow the link on-screen or in the description to watch that video. I would be upset if 2016 flew by with this show being underestimated for what’s great about it, so I had to be the one to speak up. I wouldn’t expect almost anyone to be in a position to enjoy this show as much as I did, as someone who built my career around bitching about the exact kind of anime that the characters in this show are shitting out, but it had to be somebody’s favorite.
And that’s it for my list! Feel free to bitch about my choices in the comments below, and let me know if any of these were among your favorite shows as well, and why. If this list has been helpful in recommending you some good-looking stuff that you missed, then consider sharing this video around or supporting me on patreon so that I can continue to dedicate the obscene amount of time and energy that it took to watch everything that came out last year in search of something I’d actually enjoy. Check out my After Dark channel if you want to keep up with my opinions on things as they come out, or to hear more of my thoughts on a lot of these shows, since I vlogged my entire way through catching up on 2016 anime. Head to my other channels as well for more of me, and as always, thanks again for watching–I’ll see you in the next one!