As usual I ended watching more anime than any sensible person should throughout 2016. From TV anime to OVAs and movies I managed to fill up quite a long list of titles by the end that contained a lot of truly great titles worth all the praise they can get.
So after a lot of contemplation I compiled my twenty favourite anime titles of the year, all of which finished airing* or first released on home media in 2016. Let’s go!
*One exception for a series that ends in the first month of 2017.
#20: High School Fleet
Orig. Title: ハイスクール・フリート
Also known as: Haifuri
Studio: Production IMS
I won’t be surprised if I’m the only person I see giving this series any sort of accolade, it wasn’t exactly beloved like other series in its genre. Haifuri tells the story of a near future where navy ships worldwide have been decommissioned from military duties and are now mainly used for rescue operations out at sea. As such, there are high schools devoted to training students to become the crews these ships require and that’s where the title and setting stem from.
What makes the series shine is the strong cast of characters that we follow on the ship. Every position on the crew have a named character that’s given at least enough screentime to present some sort of notable personality. Though I can’t deny that the characters that steal the day are Wilhelmina, the German girl rescued by the crew, and Kouko, the upbeat girl with an overly active imagination. The two main characters, Akeno and Mashiro, are solid characters as well, in particular Mashiro who finds herself at odds with captain Akeno a lot out of her devotion to studying the ships and their purpose. Listing the entire cast would take up the entire article, but I can’t say I disliked a single character on the ship, which is impressive.
Despite the name, Haifuri is not exactly a school life anime. Instead it focuses on a mystery where the main cast are trying to figure out why certain ships within their fleet are suddenly committing mutiny and firing on them. Unfortuantely, it’s within this mystery where the series’ weakness is the most obvious. The world building in Haifuri is very weak and once you learn the reason for the various attacks within the fleet that’s more clear than ever. I’m not going to spoil it, as I do still recommend checking the series out, but it’s this weakness that puts it at the bottom of my list and likely off anyone elses in general.
#19: Dagashi Kashi
Orig. Title: だがしかし
This is a show about snack foods. But not just any snack foods, but dagashi, Japanese snacks in endless varieties that tend to come in small cheap doses. In Dagashi Kashi we follow Kokonatsu, a kid whose father runs a dagashi shop that he often helps out at. One day an excited and strange girl called Hotaru arrives at the shop and from there on no day is the same. Hotaru is a dagashi aficionado who basically lives her life through the snack foods and nothing else. She knows every detail about essentially every brand and product, she sets her days up around ridiculous dagashi related challenges and she drags Kokonatsu into all of it.
A quite solid comedy with some unfortunately awkward triangle drama story bits that never really go anywhere, Dagashi Kashi is a delight to watch. While Hotaru’s joke of being overly centered aroudn dagashi might wear thin sometimes, the expanded cast helps mitigating that to great degree. There’s Saya, Kokonatsu’s childhood friend who also has a crush on him, who managed to become my favourite character in the series. Her distaste for sweet things, including dagashi, makes her a great contrast to Hotaru, despite them getting along really well and becoming close friends throughout the series run.
I would have loved to put Dagashi Kashi higher on the list, but as I mentioned the jokes do wear thin at times and it can be pretty taxing to watch the entire series as a result. I watched it split up in two, the first half in spring and the second half just a few weeks ago, and had I not watched it that way I would likely not have finished the series at all. But when it shines, it shines truly bright and I most certainly recommend checking it out, even if you do tire of it. Because until you tire it’s a great fun ride.
#18: Maho Girls PreCure!
Orig. Title: 魔法つかいプリキュア!
Also known as: MahoPri
Studio: Toei Animation
I love PreCure! a whole lot. Having followed the franchise since the original 2004 Futari wa PreCure! (Originally localized as Pretty Cure in the west) series I’ve been through quite a rollercoaster of ups and downs in terms of quality. However, this year was most certainly a success to me as Maho Girls PreCure! is possibly my favourite entry in the series in several years and a nice reminder of just why I’m so fond of the franchise.
In MahoPri we follow Mirai, a common girl who meets a young witch from the Magical Realm, Riko, and is allowed a chance to become a witch herself. The two learn that they can take on the forms of PreCures, ancient magicians only spoken of in legends. As such, Mirai and Riko start fighting off evil forces in a typical magical girl series fashion while also taking part in studies to become more powerful witches. It’s a simple set-up but it works really well and Mirai and Riko are some of the most likable leads the series have had since the beginning, working off each other really well and even taking a page out of other magical girls’ books by having them raise a child together.
As with most PreCure series, it does suffer from exhaustion. I’ve not fully caught up with the episodes and the series isn’t ending until later in January, but I have found the series a fun experience so far. I might be getting a little too old to keep up with cartoons 48 weeks in a row every year, but MahoPri makes me want to keep trying. So I guess I’ll be checking out Kirakira☆Precure A La Mode in little over a month too then.
#17: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Part 4:
Diamond Is Unbreakable
Orig. Title: ジョジョの奇妙な冒険 ダイヤモンドは砕けない
Studio: David Production
Oh JoJo, sweet JoJo. While I’m personally not as big a fan of Stardust Crusaders, the third part of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, I did find myself enjoying the fourth part a whole lot. Having read the manga before the anime didn’t make the series any less fun either, more than anything it made me all the more excited to see the next chapter animated every episode. I feel like I hadn’t truly lived until I had seen the famous “spaghetti chapter” animated and I’m sure anyone else watching would agree with me on that.
As a protagonist, Josuke is quite entertaining, more so than Jotaro was in part three. Though it’s worth noting that Jotaro is a main character in part four as well, and I quite honestly like him better in this part. What makes Diamond Is Unbreakable different from previous series is that it all takes place in the town of Morioh, focusing on strange mysteries occurring around town related to stand users. It makes it more befitting to the episodic structure of the anime and David Production have made sure to utilize it to its full potential. There’s so many clever little moments in the art direction and animation that only works in anime and makes up for scenes that would only work the way originally intended in a manga with still imagery.
Funny, clever and 100% as bizarre as one have come to expect from JoJo at this point, Diamond Is Unbreakable delivers more than any JoJo adaptation before it. It’s not my favourite story or even my favourite season of the anime, but I can’t deny that no JoJo part has worked so well in animated form until now. Can’t wait for part five.
#16: Three Leaves, Three Colours
Orig. Title: 三者三葉
Also known as: Sansha Sanyou
Studio: Doga Kobo
I’m a sucker for corny slice-of-life anime with an all girl cast. This year there weren’t nearly enough of them if you ask me, but we did get Sansha Sanyou, a very charming and highly entertaining series about three girls who eat lunch together. It’s about more than that of course, but that’s the core of the initial premise. The three girls are Futaba, a glutton who specializes in eating contests, Teru, the class president with a secret sadistic personality and Youko, a formerly rich girl whose family lost all their riches and who is now living in poverty.
While the trio are charming and fun to watch, the supporting cast is truly stellar as well. From classmates to former associates with Youko’s family, the cast expands with more ridiculous exaggerated characters every other episode. It’s a series that doesn’t like to stand still, which can be a little overwhelming at times, but ultimately becomes a strong point. Sansha Sanyou also features a very unique look with every colour saturated beyond the norm and the luminance brought to max, making it appear almost dream-like in its presentation. Once again it can be overwhelming, but also very charming.
But most important of all is how funny the show is. From recurring gags to one-off situations, the series rarely misses the mark with its humour which is why it landed a solid spot in my top 20 this year in the first place. I laughed more and more each episode and that’s what a good slice-of-life comedy should let you do. It’s not a masterpiece by any means, but it’s a very good little anime that’s worth your time if you want a laugh.
And that’s my first five anime on my top 20, I’m aiming to post the next fifteen in the coming days so please look forward to it. Of course, let me know what anime you loved this year, I’d love to hear about it. Until next time!