Ask John: What Were John’s Picks of 2016’s New TV Anime?

2016 anime

In order to be most useful to readers, I need to preface my reflection on 2016’s anime by first explaining my own criteria for judgement. Despite having watched Japanese language anime religiously for thirty years, I still find myself as enthusiastic and enamored with the medium as I ever have been. I still watch hours of anime every week, and I enjoy sampling shows I’ve never seen before. But I’m also now more than twice the age of the typical American anime watcher, and I find that my tastes, which have always been just a bit out of step with the majority of America’s otaku community, have diverged even further from the average. As a result, I have not extensively watched many of the shows most popular among American viewers this year, including Boku no Hero Academia, Mob Psycho 100, Yuri on Ice, and Boku Dake ga Inai Machi. I did manage to watch at least one complete episode of 233 out of the roughly 242 new television & web broadcast anime that premiered in Japan this year. This year’s total was up by 25 compared to the roughly 217 new anime released in 2015. However, a strikingly small number of new titles this year grabbed both my attention and respect.

orange-anime

Orange owes most of its success to its original source manga by Ichigo Takano, although that’s not to say that Telecom Animation’s TV series adaptation is weak. The anime is visually lush and gorgeous. The animation quality doesn’t have a high bar to clear since the series is so dialogue heavy, but occasionally, particularly in episode 9, the animation quality does stumble appreciably. This teen drama about a group of friends struggling to compassionately console a suicidal classmate yanks at heartstrings with a graceful touch, evoking both warming smiles and sobbing tears through depiction of kind, considerate young people trying to do what’s best while conflicted by their natural adolescent anxieties and uncertainties. The show may not be quite as arrestingly affecting as 2011’s Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai, but it’s also not quite as exaggerated nor as morbid as AnoHana was. The argument may be made that Orange serves up absolutely nothing new. But on the contrary, the show is also a heartache filled romantic drama at the peak of its form.

Re: Zero

Ironically the primary strength of Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu is also its primary weakness. The “Groundhog Day meets sword & sorcery” story is completely unpredictable and constantly surprising because it doesn’t have to play by the conventional rules of narrative storytelling. The protagonist is free to be completely impulsive because in the absolute worst case scenario time resets, erasing all consequence and negative result. So on one hand the show can be wildly unpredictable because it has no lasting consequences to executing any and all of its characters. At the same time, the viewer may not be able to completely empathize with the characters because we know that they literally can’t fail since every failure ultimately gets erased and redone successfully. The show has an annoying habit of pulling rabbits out of hats, introducing plot twists appropos of nothing, but it gets away with the habit because it establishes the tendency as a matter of course from the very outset of the program and is, moreover, a natural characteristic of the fantasy world setting itself. The show also features a substantial amount of shocking, grotesquely graphic, sadistic violence. Depending upon the individual viewer’s perception, the show’s extreme brutality is either a welcome and natural component of the setting’s unpredictability or gross exploitation. The animation quality is consistently excellent but not unusual. If Re: Zero did not have its characteristic unpredictability, it would largely resemble one of many other such fantasy adventure shows.

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Dagashi Kashi doesn’t seem to get much love from domestic viewers because it’s “just” a routine romantic comedy, but I see much more in the show that initially evident. Dagashi Kashi has a small but vivid cast of uniquely satisfying character types that play off each other well. Moreover, Dagashi Kashi provides anime viewers with something we’ve never seen in any anime before. The Morinaga candy company mascot Kyoro-chan got his own anime TV series in 1999, but Dagashi Kashi is the only anime that extensively elucidates the history and social relevance of specific Japanese candies. In effect, in addition to being a tremendously fun romantic comedy, the show also provides an interesting window onto an aspect of Japanese history and culture that no other anime ever has.

Uchuu Patrol Luluco

Studio Trigger’s Uchuu Patrol Luluco seemed to largely get ignored or dismissed by much of the American otaku community, and I’m not sure why because Studio Trigger is a recent fan darling, and the show is most indebted to fan favorites Gurren Lagann and Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt. The show is another, in my opinion, welcome dose of wacky visionary director Hiroyuki Imaishi’s excited genius. The series that pits a young girl’s first love against space pirates, black marketeers, aliens, multiple dimensions, her own death, and literal, embodied cosmic cynicism is a hyperbolic, hyperactive celebration of both Studio Trigger’s cannon and the outrageous kinetic creativity of anime itself. The show is pure, vibrant creative energy shot through with the sense of artistic personality and enthusiasm that’s been so sorely missing in anime since its golden age. Space Patrol Luluco is a show that reminds viewers of the crazy, creative, eclectic attitude of anime that turned us all into otaku in the first place.

Neko Neko Nihonshi

I’m highly tentative about nominating Neko Neko Nihonshi because I was only able to watch the series’ first episode. But few anime this year warmed my heart and made me smile as much as that single episode did. The world, and especially Japan, adores cats. Neko Neko Nihonshi is an adorable history of Japan dramatized by simplistically stylized cats, complete with typical cat behavior. It’s literally the anime version of YouTube LOL cat videos combined with a detailed history of Japan documentary.

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Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, Joker Game, and Fune wo Amu are all praiseworthy for being relatively unique “gekiga” anime released in an era when otaku-oriented shows reign. However, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju compromised itself by informing viewers how the story would end within the very first episode, robbing the show of any dramatic tension. Joker Game is a far more rational and intelligent spy thriller than 2010’s Senko no Night Raid, but the show’s dozen broadcast episodes never built up to anything. The episodes did not compliment each other to compose a greater collective impact. Fune wo Amu was likewise content to redundantly re-examine the same superficial ideas rather than dive into some of the more intriguing and lesser-known aspects of compiling a modern dictionary. The show mentioned interesting ideas in passing; it just didn’t explore any of those interesting scenarios. Tonkatsu DJ Agetarou gave viewers an interesting peek into modern Tokyo’s DJ scene, but once again the show ultimately felt superficial and under-developed. Thunderbolt Fantasy ~Touriken Kouki~ was a rare instance of a contemporary puppet anime, perhaps the first such show since 2009’s Renzoku Ningyou Katsugeki: Shin Sanjuushi. But the series’ subsequent episodes never reached the delirious peak of spectacle that the first episode delivered and ultimately felt a lot like another example of screenwriter Gen Urobuchi hamfistedly trying to impress viewers with his elaborate, twisting plots. Sakamoto Desu ga was undeniably funny but was also undeniably a one-trick pony. Koutetsujou no Kabaneri featured stellar animation and superior visual design supporting a tired story with uninteresting characters.

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The nine anime premieres of 2016 that I wasn’t able to or didn’t watch any of are: Ganbare! Lulu Lolo 3rd Season, the Lupin III: Italian Game TV special (although I did watch the longer, unedited TV series), Mim Mam Mint, Nameko: Sekai no Tomodachi, Panpaka Pants W-O-New!, the Danganronpa 3: End of Kibougamine Gakuen – Hope special, Ohayo! Kokeko-san, Kimoshiba, and Inazuma Delivery. My list of 2016 “new” anime excludes subsequent seasons of shows that continued episode numbering from their prior seasons, and re-broadcasts such as Shingeki no Kyojin Original Remaster.

Didn't watch

2016’s New Anime:

100% Pascal-sensei [web anime]
12-sai.: Chicchana Mune no Tokimeki
3-gatsu no Lion
3-Nen D-Gumi Glass no Kamen
91Days
Active Raid: Kidou Kyoushuushitsu Dai Hakkei
Active Raid: Kidou Kyoushuushitsu Dai Hakkei 2
Aggressive Retsuko
Ahare! Meisaku-kun
Aikatsu Stars!
Ajin
ALL OUT!!
Amaama to Inazuma
Amanchu!
Ameiro Cocoa in Hawaii
Ange Vierge
Anisava
Anitore!! XX
Anne Happy?
Ansatsu Kyoushitsu 2nd season
Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm
Ao Oni
Arslan Senki: Fuujin Ranbu
Asa da yo! Kaishain
Bakuon!!
Bananya
Battery
Battle Spirits: Double Drive
Bernard-jou Iwaku
Berserk
Beyblade Burst
Big Order
Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love! Love!
Bishoujo Yuugi Unit Crane Game Girls
Bishoujo Yuugi Unit Crane Game Girls Galaxy
Bloodivores
Boku Dake ga Inai Machi
Boku no Hero Academia
Bonobono
B-PROJECT: Kodou?Ambitious
Brave Witches
BROTHERHOOD FINAL FANTASY XV [web anime]
Bubuki Buranki
Buddy Go!
Bungou Stray Dogs
Cardfight!! Vanguard G Next
CHEATING CRAFT
Cheer Danshi!!
ClassicaLoid
CoCO & NiCO
Crayon Shin-chan Gaiden: Alien vs Shinnosuke
D.Gray-man HALLOW
Dagashi Kashi
DANGANRONPA 3: The End of Kibougamine Gakuen – Kibou Hen
DANGANRONPA 3: The End of Kibougamine Gakuen – Mirai-Hen
DANGANRONPA 3: The End of Kibougamine Gakuen – Zetsubou-hen
DAYS
Digimon Universe: App Monsters
Dimension W
Divine Gate
Dream Festival
Drifters
Duel Master VSRF
Durarara!!×2 Ketsu
Eikoku Ikke, Shougatsu o Taberu special
Endride
Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA?ILLYA 3rei!!
Flip Flappers
Flying Witch
Fudanshi Koukou Seikatsu
Fukigen na Mononokean
Fune wo Amu
Future Card Buddyfight DDD
Gakuen Handsome
Ganbare! Lulu Lolo 3rd Season
Girlfriend (?) [web anime]
Girlish Number
Gra-P & Rodeo II [web anime]
Gyakuten Saiban: Sono -Shinjitsu-, Igi Ari!
Hagane Orchestra
Hai to Gensou no Grimgar
Haifuri
Haikyuu!!: Karasuno Koukou VS Shiratorizawa Gakuen Koukou
Hakuouki: Otogisoushi
Handa-kun
HaruChika: Haruta to Chika wa Seishun Suru
Hatsukoi Monster
Heybot!
Hibike! Euphonium 2
Hitori no Shita: the outcast
Hundred
Idol Memories
Inazuma Delivery
JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Diamond wa Kudakenai
Joker Game
Kagewani: Shou
Kaiju Girls ~Ultra Kaiju Gijinka Keikaku~
Kamiwaza Wanda
Kare Baka: Wagahai no Kare wa Baka de R [web anime]
Keijo!!!!!!!!
Ketsuekigata-kun! 4th Season
Kiitarou Shounen no Youkai Enikki
Kimoshiba
Kiznaiver
Kobito Dukan
KochiKame Special
Koneko no Chi Ponponra Daibouken
Kono Bijutsu-bu ni wa Mondai ga Aru!
Kono Danshi, Mahou ga Oshigoto Desu.
Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!
Koukaku no Pandora
Koutetsujou no Kabaneri
Koyomimonogatari
Kuma Miko
Kuromukuro
Long Riders!
Lostorage incited WIXOSS
Love Live! Sunshine!!
Luck & Logic
Luger Code 1951
Lupin III: Italian Game special
Macross ?
Magi: Sinbad no Bouken
Magic-kyun! Renaissance
Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku
Mahou Shoujo Nante Mou Ii Desu kara.
Mahou Shoujo Nante Mou Ii Desu kara. 2
Mahou Shoujo? Naria?Girls
Mahoutsukai no Yome
Mahoutsukai Precure!
Masamune Datenicle [web anime]
Masou Gakuen HxH
Mayoiga
Mim Mam Mint
Mob Psycho 100
Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn RE:0096
Momokuri
Monster Hunter Stories: RIDE ON
Musaigen no Phantom World
Nameko: Sekai no Tomodachi
Nanbaka
Natsume Yuujinchou Go
Nazo to Kine
Nejimaki Seirei Senki: Tenkyou no Alderamin
Neko mo, Onda-ke
Neko Neko Nihonshi
Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta?
NEW GAME!
Nijiiro Days
Ninja Slayer From Animation Special Edition
Nobunaga no Shinobi
Norn9: Norn+Nonet
Nurse Witch Komugi-chan R
Nyanbo!
Occultic;Nine
Ohayo! Kokeko-san
Ojisan to Marshmallow
Okusama ga Seitokaichou!+!
Omoi no Kakera [web anime]
Onara Gorou
Onigiri
Ooyasan wa Shishunki!
orange
Oshiete! Galko-chan
Otona no Ikkyuu-san
OZMAFIA!!
Pan de Peace!
Panpaka Pants W-O-New!
PazuDora Cross
Pepepepenguin
Persona 5: The Day Breakers
Phantasy Star Online 2 The Animation
Pitanko! Nekozakana
PJ Berri no Mogumogu Munyamunya
Planetarian ~Chiisana Hoshi no Yume~
Pokemon: Sun & Moon
Prince of Stride: Alternative
Pripara 3rd season
QUALIDEA CODE
Ragnastrike Angels [web anime]
Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu
Regalia: The Three Sacred Stars
Reikenzan: Hoshikuzu-tachi no Utage
ReLIFE
Rewrite
Rilu Rilu Fairilu
RS Keikaku -Rebirth Storage-
Saijaku Muhai no Bahamut
Saiki Kusuo no ? Nan
Sakamoto desu ga?
Sansha Sanyou
Scared Rider XechS
Schwarzesmarken
Seisen Cerberus: Ryuukoku no Fatalités
Sekkou Boys
Sengoku Choujuu Giga Kou
SERVAMP
Shakunetsu no Takkyuu Musume
Shingeki no Bahamut Genesis Short Story
Shiritsu Liyon Gakuen [web anime]
Shougeki no Soma: Ni no Sara
Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu
Shounen Ashibe: Go! Go! Goma-chan
Shounen Maid
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
Show By Rock!! Short!!
SHOW BY ROCK!!#
Shuumatsu no Izetta
Soul Buster
Sousei no Onmyouji
Soushin Shoujo Matoi
Stella no Mahou
Super Lovers
SUSHI POLICE
Tabi Machi Late Show
Taboo Tattoo
Tales of Zestiria the X
Tama & Friends: Uchi no Tama Shirimasenka?
Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge
Teekyuu 7
Teekyuu season 8
Terra Formars Revenge
Thunderbolt Fantasy Touriken Kouki
Tiger Mask W
Time Bokan 24
Time Travel Shoujo: Mari Waka to 8-nin no Kagakusha-tachi
TO BE HERO
Tonkatsu DJ Agetarou
Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru
Trickster: Edogawa Rampo “Shounen Tantei-dan” yori
Tsubasa to Hotaru 2nd series
Tsukiuta. The Animation
Uchuu Patrol Luluco
Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari
Usakame
Uta no?Prince-sama? Maji Love Legend Star
ViVid Strike?
Wagamama High Spec
Watashi ga Motete Dousun da
WWW.WORKING!!
Yami Shibai 3rd Season
Yuri!!! on ICE

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