We’re edging closer and closer to the very best anime of 2016. Following #15 through #11, we reach the top ten, which was quite a competitive field this year. More so than it’s been for quite some time.
Let’s get to it, shall we?
#10: Girls Beyond The Wasteland
Orig. Title: 少女たちは荒野を目指す
Also known as: Shoukomeza
Studio: Barnum Studio, Project No.9
Based on last year’s visual novel of the same name, Shoukomeza follows a group of high school students bonding up as a game development circle to start working on a visual novel of their own. Led by Sayuki, a strict but passionate otaku who loves bishoujo-eroge games above all else, the circle ends up facing a lot of struggles, from writing blocks to poor management leading to nothing but stress and a bad working environment. It’s a fairly laid back and serious show at most times and with the story being based on a visual novel you can really tell that the people telling the story knows what they’re dealing with.
There’s a romance subplot that I was worried would harm the series moving forward. I’m not really fond of added romance stories when the core concept of a series is already as strong as this, as it tends to distract from it. But I have to admit, I was quite fond of how the series dealt even with this subject, as it felt fairly realistic to its high school setting, something very few romance stories succeed at. It takes focus in certain episodes, and it runs throughout the series, but it never distracts or ruin what is already a great anime even before you get into these personal character interactions.
I also really love how the series doesn’t just focus on one aspect of development. We see Buntarou deal with writing, we see Uguisu do a ton of artwork and even have a great recruitment arc to build up to it, we see Yuuka get frustrated with her role as voice actress and how she spends most of her time just waiting on the others. It’s a great composition that I feel deserves more praise than it unfortunately received. The anime chronicle about the first half of the visual novel, which released shortly after the anime premiered, I don’t think we’ll ever see the other half animated but it would be great if the visual novel itself could at least get localized one day.
#9: Yuri!!! on ICE
Orig. Title: ユーリ!!! on ICE
It’s rare to see an anime become such an instant international success as Yuri!!! on ICE, the story about competitive figure skating and the growing relationship between the lead character Yuri and his coach Victor. Though most of the buzz around the series talk about the presentation of same gender relationships and praises the rather bold presentation of it, that’s not what ended up making me love the series as much as I did. Not to devalue that aspect of the series, not at all, but what really grabbed me was how much love it expressed for figure skating as a whole.
I watch a lot of sports anime and I rarely finish them. One of the reasons tends to be that they’re just not that exciting or inviting when it comes to the sport itself, making the conflicts and general scenario harder to find interesting in the long run, but with Yuri!!! on ICE I found myself being immensely drawn into the world of figure skating despite not having an interest in it prior to watching the series. The beautiful choreography, the easy to follow explanations of how the competitive season works and all the direct parallels to real life skaters that have made me read up on the sports’ real world legacy all from this truly amazing experience as a whole.
As for the romance between Yuri and Victor, I very much enjoyed that as well. I don’t agree with the general consensus that it pushes anime into some unknown new territory or that it’s the most unapologetically queer anime of the year, but it’s still a very important part of the big picture with how it goes to great lengths with its representation. Hate to say that I were disappointed in the ending as well as certain aspects of the series, like the dominant fatphobia around Yuri’s initial story arc, but despite these flaws it’s a series that I loved seeing every week this fall and can’t wait for the inevitable second season of.
#8: She and Her Cat: Everything Flows
Orig. Title: 彼女と彼女の猫 -Everything Flows-
This four episode series about a lady and the cat she’s had throughout her youth was one of the most heart clutching stories this year to me. It’s hard to talk about it without spoiling too much, as it’s a very short and simple series on the surface. But if you’re a cat owner, like myself, you most definitely want to watch this one with a napkin ready. The anime is told from the perspective of Daru the cat. Daru watches over his owner, Miyu, throughout her stressful and ever-changing days, contemplating the stress humans go through.
Beautifully animated and performed, it was the initial anime of the year contender for me when 2016 first started, and I’m happy it’s managed to stay this high throughout. The complete length of the series is a mere 28 minutes and I highly recommend watching it in one go. I wish I could say more than that without just spelling out every episode, but please, give She and Her Cat: Everything Flows a go, you won’t regret it.
#7: Girls Und Panzer Der Film
Orig. Title: ガールズ&パンツァー 劇場版
Also known as: Girls Und Panzer The Movie
It’s rare for me to watch feature-length anime films, partially due to already taking too much time out of my day to watch TV anime to even consider putting down several hours on one single thing, but there’s several more reasons. But with Girls Und Panzer Der Film, the sequel to one of my top 5 favourite anime series of all time, hit home video this year I knew I had to get around to it. And I did, around nine months after release. Though it initially premiered in November 2015, the film is still in theaters in Japan as of writing this post in January 2017, and I completely understand why.
In Girls Und Panzer Der Film the girls from Ooarai learn that despite their victory in the national high school tournament of senshadou (the sport of tank warfare, for those unaware) their school is still shutting down. Demoralized and without much hope left, the girls seek to spend the last days together to the best of their ability when suddenly, thanks to some spectacular work done behind the school leadership’s back, a new opportunity and battle arises for the girls, making them return to the senshadou battle field again.
Easily one of the most solid transitions from TV anime to feature film ever made, Girls Und Panzer Der Film understands every bit of what made the original 2012 series so special. With the film the animation is at the best the series has ever seen and the 3DCG work for the tanks is downright impressive, blending together with the 2D in ways that most anime would dream they could event reach for. The characters, most of which are returning cast from the series, are all wonderful and the action sequences are bigger and more experimental than ever before. The only somewhat negative thing I could say for the film is that it’s a little odd of them to recycle the same initial conflict as the TV series, but it works so well that I can’t really complain about it.
#6: Scorching Ping Pong Girls
Orig. Title: 灼熱の卓球娘
Studio: Kinema Citrus
Had you told me, after watching the first episode of Scorching Ping Pong Girls, that it would end up on my top 10 anime of 2016 I would have laughed you right in the face. Not that the first episode was awful, but it showed a general lack of anything special to grab my attention, to where I expected the series to be an overall dull experience. Yet, here we are. From the start of the second episode to the final seconds of the series I was hooked onto this incredibly funny and charming sports anime about ping pong and cute girls.
It helps that ping pong, or rather table tennis, is one of the few sports that I’ve actually played and enjoyed. But what makes Scorching Ping Pong Girls stand out from the other sports anime this year is all the effort it puts into technique and presentation. The matches are like intense action scenes, with special moves, visual effects and speed lines galore to highlight just how awesome these girls are at their passion. If I had to make a comparison, it very much reminded me of Saki, the mahjong manga and anime, which also presented its matches in this overly dramatic fashion.
The characters are all very charming too, though my personal favourite character was one of the rival players, Kururi. I’m not going to pretend like the fact that my favourite voice actress, Izawa Shiori, playing her wasn’t part of why she made me enjoy her the most, but even so, as a rival character she shines above most others this years. If you’re looking for a fun sports anime that keeps increasing the intensity every episode, Scorching Ping Pong Girls is the series for you, even if the first episode is somewhat dull. It’s worth the watch.
And there we are, another five done. Next up we’ll be going into the final post with the best of the best. Not going to lie, the final five was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to rank, as this year wasn’t just great, it featured the highest rated anime series on average when it came to my series total. Thank you for checking out my list, please check out the rest and let me know on Twitter or in a comment just what your favourite anime of the year are.