I’m late to this party, but better late than never! In prior years, I’ve only ever named my favorite anime of the year, but couple of friends have requested a top five list. The first four were easy, since they were the highest rated shows at four and a half stars. Deciding which four star show should hold fifth place between four worthy contenders was far more difficult. At the end of the list, the three which fell short will be listed as honorable mentions.
Last year was excellent for anime, the only thing I regret about the shows last year is that none stood out as a classic. In 2013 and 2014, I had at least one show rated five stars. The year 2015, like this year, lacked a classic for my top fifty list. But, this probably reflects my favored genres–action, adventure, fantasy, and samurai–not doing so well.
On to the top five of 2016!
5) Alderamin on the Sky
I loved the unique setting and mood of this show. Someone dubbed it “WWI the anime,” and the heavy casualties, frequent use of artillery, style of uniforms, and generally bad strategy by our hero’s superiors all combine to give it that feel. The weapons add somewhat to this mood, as melee weapons are almost superseded by firearms. That the later battles were fought amidst high mountains with all the stresses of this terrain also made for some unique action.
To digress, 2016 (the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Jutland, the Battle of Verdun) marks an important centennial of WWI. Europeans will also be observing the Great War as a centennial this year and the next one no doubt. American units, though many Americans volunteered on the side of the Allies prior to our official entry into the war, did not see combat until the Battle of Catigny on May 27, 1918. Theodore Roosevelt’s son, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., was present at this battle.
At any rate, the action was compelling, and the characters, especially Yattori, were made even more likable by the hardships of war. Yattori also gave us the best sword fight bar none of last year:
Unfortunately, few people feel the same way as I do about this show, and a sequel does not appear to be in the works.
4) Flip Flappers
The artwork of Flip Flappers stands as one of the most unique of 2016. That, the dynamic of the heroines Papika and Cocona, and the ideas addressed by the show made this one of four magical girl shows I have ever completed. (The other three are Princess Tutu, Pretear, and Sailor Moon. Yes, I know that I should get around to Madoka…maybe sometime this year.) You can read more about what I liked about the show here.
3) Ushio to Tora
I can’t remember the last contemporary shounen fighting/monster slaying show to keep me glued to the screen. The morality of the show struck me as something straight out of Star Wars, but that did not stop me from thoroughly enjoying it. The dynamic between Ushio and Tora and the manner of Tora’s ensealment remind me of Inuyasha, one of my favorite shows of all time. The fights were intense, the characters likable, and it hit all the right notes for a show of its genre.
Okay, it’s time for me to come out of the closet: I used to be a Rabid Inuyasha Fan (RIF), staying up until 3 AM in the morning to tape episodes of Inuyasha on Adult Swim. So, one of the surest ways to please Medieval Otaku is to make a show as much like Inuyasha as possible. (The other way is to use elements from Rurouni Kenshin, à la Black Cat or Trigun–even the fanservicey and absurd Grenadier was enriched by borrowing from RK.) Kuromukuro has the modern high school girl meets boy from the past theme, a family almost an exact replica of Kagome’s (mother, younger sibling, Buddhist priest grandpa), and a less odious Kikyo character in Muetta.
But, Kuromukuro also featured spectacular animation, which made the fights some of the best of last year. The swordplay even felt rather realistic: I couldn’t find a way to knock it–unlike Akame ga Kiru. The comedy was always refreshing, the relationship between the hero and the heroine entertaining, and plenty of likable characters besides. The ending could have been more conclusive, but that’s one of the few downsides to the show.
1) Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
Considering my disdain for Attack on Titan, that this show impressed me so much comes as a surprise. Like Kuromukuro, it features some beautiful and fluid animation. Both the heroes and villains incite the viewer to feel passionately for or against them The antagonist, Biba Amatori, struck me as a sort of Robespierre, trying to bring about equality by revenging himself against the higher classes. Just like in the French Revolution, this vision of equality brings about mass suffering, and it is up to our heroes to stop it.
I found the world of Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress to be far more fascinating than Attack on Titan. What helped was that the humans could more effectively fight back against their monstrous foes, and the general populace was more willing to do so. That so many were not cowering in the face of the Kabane or shirking their responsibility to fight made a big difference in my engagement with Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress vs. Attack on Titan.
Honorable Mentions: Erased, Bungo Stray Dogs, Space Patrol Luluco
Stay tuned for my mid-season review for Winter 2017!