Reflections on Anime in 2016 – The Best and The Worst of the Year (in my opinion)

It’s the first day of the year so let’s look back at the year that was. I know that at the end of Summer I did my first reflection post looking back at the anime I’d watched and  I purposefully left D Gray Man and Sailor Moon Crystal 3 off the lists because nostalgia was strong with those two. But now we are at the end of the year and I’m not playing nice anymore. I’m giving my lists of top 10 best and worst for 2016 and finally the results from the reader’s poll.

My rules:

  • I need to have watched the whole series (or as much as has aired in 2016 – I know some of these are continuing on).
  • My judgement is entirely based on the entertainment I got out of watching the anime.
  • Feel free to suggest your own top 10 best or worst in the comments.

Starting from the best.

  1. Yuri on Ice
  2. D Gray Man Hallow
  3. Natsume Yuujinchou
  4. Assassination Classroom 2nd Season
  5. Snow White with the Red Hair Season 2
  6. March Comes in Like a Lion
  7. My Hero Academia
  8. Alderamin on the Sky
  9. Erased
  10. Sailor Moon Crystal 3

Yeah, I can’t believe it either but Yuri on Ice actually edged out D Gray Man Hallow on anime I enjoyed watching. Neither anime is perfect (and I’ll happily admit to the flaws in both) but when it came to pure enjoyment I couldn’t beat either of these and in terms of the anime I’ll rewatch the most from this year, these 2 are the top picks. So why Yuri over D Gray Man? D Gray Man Hallow always had the advantage of nostalgia, but if I take that away, while I would have still enjoyed Hallow (assuming it made sense) it wouldn’t have been as enjoyable as the viewing experience for Yuri. In terms of the anime I sat waiting to the minute for the episode release, Yuri on Ice definitely won out.

However, for everything you enjoy there is a show that you watch and wonder why. Once again, I know there are worse anime out there, but these are the anime I watched all the way through and really wonder why.

Starting from the worst.

  1. Taboo Tattoo
  2. Big Order
  3. Lost Village
  4. Hitorinoshita
  5. Divine Gate
  6. Dimension W
  7. Nazotokine
  8. Norn 9
  9. Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle
  10. Bloodivores

What was pleasantly surprising was how few of the Autumn season found their way onto this list. Mostly the shows I watched in Autumn were more boring than terrible (though I did avoid a few shows that I knew were going to end up in this category so they didn’t count on the having watched them criteria).

Party

The Reader’s Poll

I was surprised by some of the results and not surprised by others. Probably the biggest issue is there were only 54 votes total so from a data point of view this probably isn’t the most valid survey. Anyway…

  1. Yuri on Ice (7 votes)
  2. Assassination Classroom 2 (6 votes)
  3. Mob Psycho 100 (6 votes)
  4. Tanaka-kun is Always Listless (5 votes)
  5. Bungo Stray Dogs (3 votes)
  6. Erased (3 votes)
  7. March Comes in Like a Lion (3 votes)
  8. Kiss Him Not Me (3 votes)
  9. Flip Flappers (3 votes)
  10. Grimgar of Fantasy of Ash (3 votes)

With that I say goodbye to 2016 and welcome in 2017 for a whole new year of watching anime.

By the way, over the next 4 weeks my Tuesday’s Top 5 post is going to do a recap of 2016. Top 5 Female Characters of 2016 is up first, followed by Top 5 Male Characters of 2016, Top 5 Visually Interesting Anime of 2016 and finally Top 5 Opening Themes of 2016. Then I will move on to something different but I felt January was a great time to recap the previous year.

Over to you: Which anime was your favourite or most hated from 2016?

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Friday’s Feature – Comparing Apples and Oranges

Erased Title Image

With the new season of anime starting, I’ve found myself doing a lot of episode 1 impressions and trying to write a basic overview of a lot of different shows. The number of times I found myself falling back on the “it’s like …. with a bit of ….” in order to describe a show kind of got me thinking. Is it fair to compare one show to another?

In honesty, when I write a review of a full series, I generally avoid comparing one anime to another. Occasionally it seems necessary to make a point about one particularly aspect. Whether it be a character, a bit of music, or a particular plot point, sometimes drawing a comparison can be really helpful in order to explain where you are coming from. However, I avoid falling back on this as my main form of review for the simple reason that I feel things should be taken for what they are and not what other things are that might be better.

erased

Erased is a good anime to look at when we think about whether or not we should compare anime. If we look at Erased as a mystery, even taken by itself you can see that the mystery itself is flawed due to the lack of viable suspects. This makes the guessing who the culprit is pretty easy and takes away any dramatic reveal that might occur later in the series. So even without a comparison Erased isn’t going to stand up very well as a mystery. But if we then played it against a mystery (something like Blood C or Paranoia Agent which leave you guessing until the reveal) Erased starts looking even worse.

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Is that fair? Admittedly, if I were doing a Top 5 list of best mystery anime, Erased wouldn’t be on it, but when I reviewed Erased I was looking at more than just the mystery component. So comparing it to something else only as a mystery takes away from what Erased actually is as an anime.

My review of Erased focussed very much on the characters within Erased and their reactions to the situations. I looked at the characters I liked and didn’t and the events that shaped them. Are the characters perfect? Not really. If I compared Erased to other character driven dramas would Erased be the best? Probably not. But Erased is a character driven drama with mystery and supernatural elements thrown in. It is the combination of all of these things (working together) that make watching Erased a reasonably entertaining experience.

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But if we start classifying things like that I may as well say that Taboo Tattoo was the most interesting anime about princesses trying to rewrite the world via the power of sentient tattoos. I’d be right (at least I hope there aren’t any others), but that doesn’t make it a good anime either.

Alderamin7a

Another anime that I really liked recently was Alderamin on the Sky. I really enjoyed each episode and getting to know the characters, however I found myself regularly pointing out that this anime wasn’t trying to be the most exciting thing in the world. Looking back at my weekly thoughts, I said this a lot. Why? Because when you do a surface comparison of Alderamin to any of the big anime, Alderamin is going to come off second best. Not because it isn’t a good story with good characters but because it just doesn’t have any of the flash of some of the big names. Any kind of comparison is going to go badly for Alderamin but I would still say you should watch Alderamin.

I also remember a lot of people comparing Shirayuki (from Snow White with the Red Hair) to Yona (Akatsuki no Yona). Yeah they were both red-haired heroines who appeared at around the same time and both ended up being quite independent, female leads. It seems natural to compare them. Except that does it matter if Yona is more active than Shirayuki and learns to shoot a bow? Does that make Shirayuki any less of a positive, female character in an anime? Does it matter that Shirayuki has far more self-determination right from the start of the series than Yona does in hers? Does that make Yona less of a heroine because her direction was chosen for her by destiny at first?

I’m not actually criticising comparisons. They do work well at highlighting similarities and differences and make you really consider stories and characters. I just wonder what the purpose of some comparisons are and whether there has to be a better or a worse option when things are compared?

What is your view on using comparisons as part of a review?

2016 Reflection

Okay, with the Winter, Spring and Summer anime seasons more or less done and dusted, I felt it was a good time to look at my favourite anime for the year. I’ll do my final best of 2016 list after the Autumn season concludes.

I’m going to point out that Sailor Moon Crystal and D Gray Man Hallow have both been left off the list. Not because they aren’t awesome (D Gray Man would have had the top spot), but because I’m well aware that I am blatantly biased toward these anime. Regardless of what else happens, D Gray Man is my number 1 for 2016. Now that I’ve got that out of the way, here’s the official list for the year so far.

A few rules. The season needed to end in 2016. I needed to have watched the whole series or at least as much as has been so far released (so there are plenty of other anime good and bad that aren’t on either of my lists here – though that said some are clearly going to continue). Judgement is made entirely on entertainment and pleasure watching (no technical scores for being beautifully animated and the like). As such, the list is entirely my opinion. Please feel free to tell me your favourite in the comments.

Starting from the best.

  1. Assassination Classroom 2nd Season
  2. Snow White with the Red Hair Season 2
  3. My Hero Academia
  4. Alderamin on the Sky
  5. Erased
  6. Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
  7. Days
  8. Tales of Zestiria the X
  9. Bungou Stray Dogs
  10. ReLife

But if we’re going to look at the best, we also need to look at the worst. Remember, I’m only listing anime I’ve actually watched all the way through. There are a number I would have loved on this list (First Love Monster springs to mind) but I haven’t watched it through so am not going to pass judgement on it. Please feel free to tell me which anime you think is the worst in the comments.

Starting from the worst.

  1. Taboo Tattoo
  2. Big Order
  3. Lost Village
  4. Hitorinoshita
  5. Divine Gate
  6. Dimension W
  7. Norn 9
  8. Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle
  9. Luck & Logic
  10. Joker Game

Yeah, I know Joker Game doesn’t deserve to be in a worst of list, but at the moment, it’s in top ten of anime I finished watching but didn’t get all that much enjoyment out of. Pretty sure there will be something in the Autumn season that will take it out of the list for the year.

And yes, Taboo Tattoo I officially found worse than Big Order. After weighing them both up I just had to put Taboo Tattoo as the worst thing I have finished watching so far this year.

One more season to go and then I’ll have my official best of list for the year. It will be interesting to see if Days is still on the best list after continuing on and whether anything can top Assassination Classroom’s emotional ending.

Looking forward to more anime. What’s your best so far for 2016 and what’s your worst?

 

Erased Series Review

Overview:

Satoru has a strange ability to go back in time moments before a disaster. After his mother is murdered and he is made the main suspect he goes back 18 years to when he was a child and finds himself trying to prevent a series of kidnappings and murders from his childhood.

Review:

Erased is one of those anime that when it was airing everyone was talking about it. Some people loved it, some people thought it was overly hyped, and there were a few who really didn’t care but just got sick of hearing about it. Given it’s a murder mystery with a supernatural plot device (though that aspect of it never get’s developed or explained), I was kind of sold on the series from the get go.

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I’m going to keep this review short (or so I thought when I started but it kind of went on a bit) because most of what I’d like to say has already been covered a million times before and also,  and because it’s a mystery of sorts (though that aspect doesn’t work so great because you can pick the culprit one episode in after the time jump) so I don’t really want to spoil it for anyone who has avoided the internet for most of this year and somehow still managed to find my blog.

I’ve already said the mystery doesn’t work so well. The main issue is the lack of potential suspects. Plus, the story is told in a relatively straight forward fashion (strange for a time travel story) so it’s really easy to get a sense of where things are going and how they connect. That said, just because it isn’t really a guessing who the villain is kind of story, doesn’t make it bad. The plot works really well and the changes Satoru makes in order to overcome the past tragedy have sensible flow on consequences. Though, without any real mystery, the plot could be accused of being a little bit dull. Which is a weird thing to say about a time travel story with murders occurring both 18 years ago and in the present time setting.

bokumachi_001

With Erased, it is the characters who sell the show. And even then you couldn’t point to anyone character and say that character is amazing. A lot of people liked Satoru’s mum but I found her one of the least interesting characters because she really didn’t seem like a realistic mother and was more a plot device that existed only to Satoru the advice he needed when he needed it, cause him distress with her death in the original timeline, and filled in any parts of the plot that you really couldn’t expect a child to succeed at overcoming. The friends Satoru has as a child are also a little off and at times serve no purpose. The first potential child victim is interesting but not overly believable as a character. However all of these characters complement each other perfectly and create a show that has a lot of heart and at times emotional depth. Even if they don’t shut up and like to endlessly articulate things that really don’t need to be said.

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The opening theme is fantastic. On my first watch I wondered what that up-beat song was doing on such a show, but like the cast of characters, there’s a surprising amount of depth when you listen to it and by the second watch through you realise just how perfectly the music is for the story and its themes. Erased is also beautiful. Whether we are focussing on a character or the night sky, everything is just really pleasant to look at and the animation works well.

I really enjoyed my first watch of Erased. So much so that I talked a friend into watching it with me about a week after it finished airing and we marathoned the series. This is where I think the plot really succeeds. If Erased had been a guess that bad guy kind of mystery where the reveal at the end was what brought all of the plot threads together, I don’t think a rewatch could have been very satisfying. However, as a character driven piece with a steady and well thought out plot, Erased can be watched again and I actually enjoyed it more the second time through, because I knew what to expect and wasn’t trying to watch it as a mystery.

erased

For people that might find endangering a child a bit confrontational, Erased probably isn’t their cup of tea. If you’ve been told it’s a murder mystery you may walk away disappointed. If you actually want to know why Satoru time travels and how that works, give up now. But if you want to see the power of the human spirit and friendship overcome what seems like an insurmountable obstacle and you don’t mind an overly talky ending, Erased will be a rather enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.

 

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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