It was sad to see that the celebrity cull of 2016 did not spare Japan, robbing us of several talented creators and voice actors. For the most part however 2016 was a good year for the anime industry. The sheer quantity of shows coming out on Japanese TV and local DVD stores is outstanding. Who knows if this boom period is sustainable, so let us enjoy it whilst it lasts. Over here in the UK, anime availability has received a shot in the arm thanks to the arrival of Funimation Now and their partnership with streaming site Crunchyroll. Great news indeed – although I hope Funimation’s expansion into Britain won’t drive local distributers out of business. A monopoly is never good… and I am not just saying that because the price of landing on Mayfair is extortionate. Let’s put the corporate speculation aside for now though and get on with counting down my top five anime of 2016.
5th) Log Horizon Season Two: For the second successive year my top five list opens with Log Horizon. Season two doesn’t quite match the quality of the first series, especially on the visual front due to a change of studio, but I still enjoyed it. This twenty-five-episode continuation reunites us with the titular guild as they raid for treasure, protect Akihabara from a serial killer, quest for satchel components and fend off a swarm of discount Mothras. If you are a MMO junkie or someone looking for a smarter Sword Art Online I can highly recommend giving Log Horizon a gander. Let’s hope a third season gets made eventually. Writer Mamare Touno could probably fund the project singlehandedly by using the savings he’s made through tax evasion.
4th) Orange: Much to my chagrin this series seems to have received a lukewarm reception with many viewers. I guess it really is true that people don’t like fruits and vegetables. This tale of a schoolgirl, who tries to avert an upcoming tragedy when she receives a warning letter from her future self, did however resonate with me. I enjoyed the slice of life moments in addition to the sweet romance between protagonist Naho and transfer student Kakeru. The series also does a commendable job of highlighting the dangers of depression, which is something I can relate to. Several people in my life have had to cope with bouts of despondency and even I feel low on occasion… although those spells only seem to manifest between the start and end of my work shift.
3rd) Planetrian: Speaking of depression, here comes a five part original net animation based on a decade old visual novel from the peddlers of feels that is Key. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Planetarian follows a scavenger who is forced to seek refuge inside a ruined planetarium after a run in with some hostile mechanical sentries. There he encounters a perky android named Hoshino Yumemi who pleads for his aid in repairing the establishment’s zodiacal projector. The two bond over the course of the ensuing maintenance work and then “stuff” happens. I won’t say what, but given that Key’s past works include the likes of Clannad it may be wise to invest in a box of tissues prior to watching this show.
2nd) Haikyu!!: What’s up with sport shows and exclamation marks? First we had Haikyu!! and not to be outdone Keijo!!!!!!!! followed suit at the tail end of 2016. Anyways, Haikyu successfully conveys to otakus why the jocks, who beat them up in high school, find sporting events to be so exciting. Despite having zero interest in volleyball (aside from the beachside female variety) I couldn’t put this series down. It’s a classic underdog tale, were a diminutive leaper and a talented setter team up to transform Karasuno High School’s minnows into tournament contenders. The cast (be they players, rivals or management) are all likable and the camaraderie they share is inspirational. Let’s hope that season two and three reaches the UK DVD market sooner rather than later.
1st) Mirai Nikki (Future Diary): Thanks to Kaze “our DVDs always get delayed” Entertainment I finally watched Mirai Nikki. It’s a show many of my pals have recommended and after finishing it I can see why. Packed with twists and turns, this psychological thriller pits reclusive Yuki Amano against eleven other competitors in a battle royale where godhood is the prize. Each participant is armed with soothsaying phones, which foretell the future, demanding that rivals resort to subterfuge in order to get the drop on their opponents. Things get chaotic real fast and aren’t helped by the fact that Yuki’s main protector is an unstable yandere girlfriend (making her only slightly more needy than your average love interest.) Mirai Nikki’s gore and dark subject matter won’t appeal to everyone, but as someone who enjoyed Death Note I lapped it up.
So there you have it, the five best anime that I watched in 2016. I only reviewed thirty-three shows in that period, so I must have missed out on a lot of stellar stuff. With that in mind I would appreciate any suggestions, which you consider to be essential viewing, in the comments section below. I’ll do my best to check out your nominations. Who knows, your picks could end up becoming a contender for my 2017 list. Don’t bother mentioning stuff like Naruto though. I have the attention span of a Ritalin starved fruit fly, so anime that runs for hundreds of episodes is unlikely to maintain my interest.