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

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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).

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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?

Friday’s Feature – On Watching Trash and Finding Gems

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If you’ve been reading my blog you probably already know that I watch a lot of anime. Watching anime and reading novels are my two main forms of entertainment when I’m not working and I consume a lot of stories. I previously did a top 5 list on reasons why I drop a series that I’ve started watching but in today’s feature I want to look at why I continue watching some anime even after it is quite clear they are going to be complete and utter garbage.

Just warning you that this one is definitely more of a ramble than a focussed post.

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Storytelling isn’t a science. Two stories with a nearly identical plot structure and character archetypes can be told in two entirely different ways and feel completely different. One might be amazing whereas the other might be ordinary or dreadful. Good storytelling involves the careful manipulation of a range of elements in order to convey a decent story. Even then, just because overall a story isn’t well handled doesn’t mean that everything in it is bad. There could be one idea, one character, one scenario that just nail whatever impact the author was hoping for.

Because of this, while I might drop an anime in the initial few episodes if it fails to grab my interest, once I’ve decided I’m interested in something (whether it be the premise, a character, a setting or whatever else it might be) I rarely let something go. The result is watching and reading a lot of things that I probably should have let drop.

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Here’s the thing though, if you don’t finish it, you’ll never know. You’ll never know if they somehow brought those elements together. You’ll never know where those characters ended up. You’ll never know if you missed that one moment with a character that could have changed your entire outlook on them. And maybe you’re fine with not knowing. If something is bad enough you may be perfectly happy to cut ties and to never speak of it again. But… that nagging voice always gets to me.

When episode 10 of Taboo Tattoo came out I actually didn’t watch it on my usual day. I found other things to do. It wasn’t a conscious decision but I just wasn’t in the mood. The show was dreadful. I hated most of the characters. The action had never looked as interesting as the first episode and the plot had seriously thrown itself off a bridge more than once. The next day I saw it still sitting there in my Crunchyroll queue and I sighed. I wanted to drop the show.

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So, I continued. Did it get better? Nope. Was it still pretty much trash? Yep. Do I regret that I didn’t just let it go at episode 10? Surprisingly, no (although while I don’t regret dropping it I do wonder if maybe another show could have entertained me more for the season).

At least now I know that the show didn’t ever rise above it’s first episode (which was completely generic but watchable with a half-interesting set-up). Every episode after seemed to find a way to cripple the plot or the characters and visually it deteriorated as well. I’m not having to rely on others telling me it wasn’t good. I know it wasn’t and I judged that for myself.

More importantly, if it had become a hidden gem, I’d have had the chance to see it.

And even when something is bad it provides opportunities. You can think about why it isn’t working and compare it to other stories and why they are better. You can discuss it with others and either share a dislike for something or have a fun back and forth about the redeeming qualities or lack thereof. You can imagine ways it could have been better and share your views with others.

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The other reason I feel watching shows that just aren’t good can be helpful is because it definitely puts things in perspective. I remember after the summer season ended reading the views of the reviewers on Anime News Network as they selected the best and worst shows of the season. While they are entitled to their opinion, the number of them that selected Cheer Boys as the worse show kind of stunned me. Sure, Cheer Boys has a lot of issues, but it is hardly a walking disaster of a show.

Which made me wonder how many of them had waded through some of the truly worst shows of the season? I also wonder this when someone spends a long amount of time trying to convince me that SAO is garbage. Is SAO perfect? No. Is it garbage? Not even close.

All and all, sometimes it’s watching the not so great anime that make the great anime shine.


Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James


Poor Pacing – Is this a story killer?

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Poor pacing isn’t a new problem by any means; ask anyone who has watched Dragon Ball Z or Bleach about battles that just don’t ever seem to end. However, both the Spring and Summer seasons in 2016 have given us new examples of shows that manage to kill interest with pacing issues so I thought I’d touch on it briefly this week.

Bleach - long running anime that suffers from poor pacing

That said, pacing is as subjective as every other element in entertainment. Slow can be really good when done well and fast paced doesn’t always equal exciting. So what am I defining as poor pacing? Essentially anytime you are watching the clock instead of the episode and wondering when it’s all going to wrap up or when you feel like you just got whip lash from trying to follow all the plot changes that just got thrown at you.

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Let’s start with Flying Witch. This is supposed to a slow, slice of life. It’s character driven rather than plot driven (which is probably a good thing given in the episodes I watched other than a witch moves in with relatives who aren’t witches I didn’t really pick up much of a plot). So, slow paced is fine, right? And for some people, Flying Witch was a relaxing and enjoyable watch. For me it was fingers tapping, pausing to go get something to eat or drink, clicking over to other websites, and generally getting frustrated because none of the characters ever seemed to do anything.

I get that pacing is subjective but Flying Witch was like trying to admire the formation of mountains in real time (okay, probably not the best analogy ever but I really didn’t want to go with paint drying because underneath the slowness of it there was something actually quite wonderful in Flying Witch).

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Secondly, The Asterisk War and Food Wars. Let’s take them both simultaneously because they both did more or less the same thing and both of them nearly threw me from their audience in the process. They set up a school situation with our protagonist being the underdog/fish-out-of-water and yet super strong at their respective trade. We spend most of season one in minor challenges, making friends and meeting potential rivals and it’s all kind of enjoyable fun. Then a tournament is announced and our protagonist will just happen to end up in it. Season 1 ends with the tournament just getting underway. Annoying, but sure.

Season 2 picks up with the tournament in full swing and then continues to make us watch match after match with very little diversion in between. Gone are the cute encounters between characters, a sense of a world outside of the arena, a sense of time period. Episode after episode of repetitive battles. Then the tournament ends, before the end of season 2. And instead of offering any kind of resolution to season 2, both felt the need to introduce a new challenge and then stop (although Food Wars kind of gave the second challenge an ending).

It’s aggravating to the audience and you constantly wonder why you are still bothering to watch. Sure there are great characters in both and both protagonists have an ultimate goal and perhaps what they are doing will help them get there, but in the meantime we’re all just watching them go through the motions. Have we never heard of a montage to compress a period of time? Sure, the animators get to show off some impressive battle effects (either with weapons or food depending on the show) but the plot and characters stall. For most of an entire season.

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Last ones I want to touch on (but not the last to have pacing issues) are Big Order and Taboo Tattoo. These don’t know what they are doing in terms of pace. They rush over essential plot points (the few plot point there are) and then dwell on totally unnecessary things (fan service, sadistic characterisation, moping). It’s frankly a mess and neither the plot nor the characters come out of it unscathed. The sad thing is that both shows could have been reasonable even without major plot or character changes just by pacing them appropriately (they still wouldn’t have been good but they could have been far more watchable than they were).

Other shows in Spring and Summer that made me wonder about their pacing include Days, Orange, Bungou Stray Dogs, Kiznaiver and Super Lovers.

So far we’ve only seen the first half of most of the Autumn shows but I dropped Occult;Nine in episode 1 because of the pacing (and just being unable to care about where any of the introduced characters were going) and I’ve found Izetta increasingly frustrating in the way it is rushing forward over what feels like should be far more important plot points.

So now over to you. Which shows do you think suffer from pacing issues?


Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James


Taboo Tattoo Series Review

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Taboo Tattoo Overview:

In Taboo Tattoo Seigi is an ordinary teenage boy in Japan (who is of course trained in martial arts) who is given a tattoo that has some mystic powers and then gets caught up in a battle between nations that may or may not have world ending consequences.

Taboo Tattoo Review:

It’s probably obvious from the overview that I was not a taboo tattoo fan. While the first two episodes were generic and cliché, they didn’t really do anything too wrong but everything after that went down hill. If you are looking for the quick and dirty version: overall opinion is to give this one a miss.

Let’s start with the plot because this is probably a good study in how not to write a story. Firstly, let’s introduce way more characters than we actually need and ensure that they each take up screen time while we introduce their particular one note quirk (because that’s how you distinguish characters) and then let’s ensure we knock them off unceremoniously and without any reason in a battle we aren’t going to explain or justify other than these two groups are opposed.

And then let’s do it again only bigger and with less purpose. And let’s splinter off one group from the two main ones just so we are clear on which characters are going to somehow survive even though they also serve no purpose.

The motivation driving the characters is weak, generic, or insane. At no point do the writers ask you to care about why the characters are doing things because the explanations are dreadful and actually make you care even less. The consistent introduction of characters who are unlikable and fairly pointless (and their pointless deaths) just disconnects you further  and you cease even trying to remember the names of the latest character/victim who has entered the scene.

Trying to give us a ‘mentor’ type character mid-series was an improvement but I’m still not actually sure what his goal was or why he though Seigi (the apparent protagonist) could pull it off or why Seigi felt any sense of obligation to adopt his goal so all and all while BB (the mentor) did help improve the show nothing was going to save this ship from sinking.

The villain is equally unrelatable. Her goals make no sense (I’d even prefer the old I’m going to destroy the world because I’m evil motive over the I’m going to save the world by destroying it) and her actions make it impossible to believe that she actually thinks she’s saving anything. More importantly, why did she turn into that monster thing in the last episode.

Seigi did (apparently) because the science guy made him drink something and then activated it during the battle, but given advantage it gave Seigi during the battle it made no sense for the Princess to follow. And the throw away explanation that somehow Seigi and the Princess linked because she kissed him however many episodes ago does not make sense.

And that is the problem with the plot. The logic behind it has failed horribly and completely. It doesn’t even work using narrative logic in which rules are established early in the plot (that may not make sense) but are at least consistently adhered to. This show just throws new ideas and new rules at you to justify increasingly illogical actions and powers until we are literally left with two monsters pounding each other into the ground before one of the characters runs away. The end.

I’ve touched on the character flaws already but beyond them having no sensible motivation or taking appropriate actions, they just aren’t good characters. Even if we ignore the side-note canon fodder characters the ones we are asked to care about give us little to no reason to do so.

Somewhere from the first three episodes to the last three we are asked to transition our thinking about Izzy. She starts off as the brazen person in charge who sweeps in and changes Seigi’s whole life. Then, mostly through the introduction of BB and that story, we’re somehow supposed to start seeing Izzy as a victim(?) of the tattoo’s and someone who needs to be saved.

Why does there need to be someone to save? Because Seigi is apparently completely incapable of seeing bigger pictures and needs to fixate on something concrete and childhood friend girl get’s knocked off during the first major battle. If this transition in Izzy’s character had been dealt with well maybe the series could have pulled it off and some of that last episode might have made sense (maybe). However, the transition is clunky and after one flashback it is as if the writers just assume the audience have made the leap and they don’t bother trying to do any further development they just give her the new character.



The Princess is… who knows. She leers and makes speeches and occasionally kills people but in honesty I have no idea what I was supposed to think about her. Was I meant to see her side but dislike her methods? Was she supposed to be a monster? I am absolutely clueless as to what they were trying to do with that character. Which makes it really, really hard to care about events when the villain is that clouded.

Before I move on from characters I am just going to touch on Tom. He’s there from the start but is not important, interesting, and he does not develop. He exists only to ask question, scream, and occasionally carry another character. Why?

Having failed to deliver a plot that makes sense or characters who are interesting or develop in any kind of logical fashion, does Taboo Tattoo succeed at anything?

Episode 1 would have you believe that the fights will be visually impressive. Does that standard get maintained? No. Battles become increasingly messy affairs with a focus on reaction shots rather than combat and then we just shed any kind of elegance for two giant monsters flailing at each other in the final episode.

The music is forgettable but not back. I don’t know why they felt the need to play the opening theme over the final battle (maybe it was to avoid more character dialogue but who knows) given it didn’t seem to match the tone at all, but that’s the least of the show’s problems.

There are some themes touched upon that might have been interesting but the messages are buried (when they aren’t entirely contradictory) beneath poor plotting and characters.

Alright, I hated this. I don’t say that very often, because usually I find something to appreciate in a show I’ve watched all the way through. But there is just nothing. Episode 1 was okay but everything after that just got worse and worse.

Feel free to disagree but I am interested in what you thought of Taboo Tattoo if you managed to make it through.


Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James


Feature – Comparing Apples and Oranges

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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.

Are you comparing apples to other apples or apples with oranges?

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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.

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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?


Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James