I was questioning whether I should make this post or not. 2016 was a really good year for anime and it was actually hard to pick out enough titles that I actively had enough distaste for to even make a list for them. But after a lot of consideration, I decided that I wanted to both vent out my thoughts on a few of them and that I can’t let bad things slide just because other things were good.
So here we go, one list in one post, the worst anime of 2016.
#-1: KINGSGLAIVE: FINAL FANTASY XV
Orig. Title: KINGSGLAIVE: FINAL FANTASY XV
Studio: Square Enix Visual Works
My favourite game of last year was FINAL FANTASY XV. It wasn’t even a competition, no other game had me as firm in its grip as the latest entry in my favourite video game franchise. It’s five-part ONA series, BROTHERHOOD: FINAL FANTASY XV, almost made my top 20 anime list. However, the big budget prequel/side-story feature film, KINGSLAIVE, was one of the worst things I sat through in 2016.
In KINGSGLAIVE, we learn what happens in the city of Insomnia after Crown Prince Noctis’ departure. How the Niflheim Empire breach the signing of a peace treaty to kill the king of Lucis and take control of the crown city in the process. We’re told most of the events through second-hand accounts in the game itself, but this is the full story as told through the eyes of Nyx, a member of the kingsglaive, a specialist squad who borrows the king’s magic to perform their amazing feats. It should be simple and hard to mess up, considering how the game’s story is already solid on its own, but what we get is a tone-deaf mess.
Basically nothing in KINGSGLAIVE matches what one experiences in the game. From the daemon forces, the way the kingslaive members use magic to fight or even the colour scheme. It looks like a completely different universe entirely, not a simultaneous story meant to deepen our understanding of the game’s lore. Even on its own, it’s neither interesting nor exciting. The combat scenes are terrible, with the same basic warp-move repeated over and over until there’s nothing impressive left to it. The main character is a bland tough guy without a single trace of emotion or personality and the supporting cast isn’t much better.
The only saving grace of the film are the characters which also appear in the game. Ardyn Izunia is as entertaining to watch in KINGSGLAIVE as he was in the game and King Regis and Lady Lunafreya are still somewhat interesting. What’s odd is that most characters have different facial capture from their voice actor, making the lip syncing atrocious even in the best of times. It honestly looks like a bad fan-dub sometimes, not a professional high budget feature film meant to promote last year’s biggest video game.
That’s not even getting into how much the film hates its own cast, in particular the female characters. FINAL FANTASY XV have received flack for not having a woman in the party, but at least women weren’t constantly written as meaningless cannon fodder like they are in KINGSGLAIVE, with the sole exception in the entire film being the character that is required to survive to appear in the game.
A horrible film on its own and a terrible representation of what FINAL FANTASY XV is like, I can’t even recommend it for lore expansion. It does answer a few questions, mainly one concerning the character of Ravus der Fleuret, but it’s not worth watching the film for when you’re better off just looking up that particular scene online. As someone who will fight tooth and nail to defend FINAL FANTASY: The Spirits Within, I did not expect to sit here and utterly loathe this film like this. If you want an introduction to FINAL FANTASY XV before playing the game, watch the BROTHERHOOD anime instead, it’s better and actually represents the game well.
#-2: Lostorage incited WIXOSS
Orig. Title: Lostoriage incited WIXOSS
But my disappointment of KINGSGLAIVE is nothing compared to this disaster. I love the original selector infected WIXOSS and its sequel selector spread WIXOSS a whole lot. Both were two of my favourite series in 2014 and when I heard we were getting a new TV anime in the franchise I was ecstatic. I feel I should explain the timeline of the WIXOSS series a bit first. The main product is a card game for which an anime and a manga were produced as marketing material back in 2014. The anime and manga were both very dark stories, quite unlike most card game anime and manga on the market.
The manga, selector infected WIXOSS -peeping analyze-, was a prequel to the anime. Telling the story of the LRIG Piruluk and how she wound up where she was in the anime. Piruluk also reappears in Lostorage incited WIXOSS, which was our first hint that this new anime was a sequel and not a reboot that some had guessed based on how the rules of the card games, the selector battles, had changed.
I was honestly loving the series for the first few episodes. While it wasn’t as good as either of the selector series, it was still a strong pitch with some interesting ideas to it. We have two main characters, Suzuko and Chinatsu, who were childhood friends before Suzuko moved out-of-town. Now she’s back and wants to see Chinatsu again, but she doesn’t have her phone number or her new address. Meanwhile, Chinatsu is struggling as her family is running out of money and she’s failing to reach her own goals in school.
After becoming selectors and given the chance to partake the selector battles, their stories begin to intertwine again. In these new selector battles, memories are the key element. Every selector have five coins, each representing a memory. One of the coins are gold, four are black, if they win a battle another coin becomes gold. If one gets five gold coins they may wish for any thing relating to their own memory. They can conjure up a false memory, get rid of a memory, ask to remember something important, etc. If one lose a battle, a gold coin goes black and a random memory is erased from their mind. If all coins go black, the person themselves dies, their LRIG taking over their body.
It’s not a bad concept, it fits the tone of the original series quite well and puts the stakes in a different but still important place. Suzuko doesn’t have any wish, she just wants to find Chinatsu. Chinatsu however start to change after witnessing what the selector battles are like and the strength they require, she swears to become strong and independent, and comes to the conclusion that to be able to truly be independent she needs to erase Suzuko from her memory so that she no longer longs for her or wishes to be as good as her.
So where does it all go wrong? Well, just before the midpoint of the series the entire pacing falls apart as Suzuko basically stop being a main character and is relegated to mostly sitting by as other characters develop. Chinatsu’s negative transformation into a villain is given good space at first, but never really gets anywhere as a result of Suzuko being inactive. So the series introduce Shouhei, a boy from Chinatsu’s class. This time around boys are selectors as well, which was against the rules in the original series, this worried me since the original series tried to avoid any form of active romance unless it was to turn said romance into a negative story of despair as well, such as abusive relationships and incestuous lust tearing siblings apart. Oh yeah, selector is a fucked up series if you didn’t know.
But whenever a series introduces boys into a predominantly girl led series, there’s always the temptation to start pulling romance strings where there shouldn’t be any and cause an unnatural hiccup in the narrative. True enough, Shouhei is in love with Chinatsu, having asked her out before the story started. Chinatsu rejected him, so technically there shouldn’t be any more to that aspect, but instead Shouhei starts constantly chasing after Chinatsu, pulling her into his life, intruding on her privacy, constantly bringing up the two of them all in the name of “saving her” from her dark transformation. You know, that thing that our main character who is doing nothing was meant to do?
Now, I’m not going to pretend Chinatsu didn’t need someone to jump in and stop her. But it gets really uncomfortable with the way Shouhei is basically pushing himself onto her at every moment, in particular when she clearly states over and over to leave her be. At one point he even pulls a “I will leave you be from here on” only to call her in the exact same episode. I was feeling deeply ill at some points because of how obsessive he got, outright stalking her around the city at times. And he’s framed as the good guy for it. People love to call out any act of same-gender romance in fiction as “forcing it down their throat”, but no, this right here is an example of forcing a sexuality onto something. There was no need for this crush sub-plot to become a case of the anime presenting Shouhei’s actions as courageous and right because he’s a boy who’s in love with a girl. It’s disgusting.
But an episode or two of that wouldn’t be enough to hurt the series. Unfortunately it continues all the way until the climactic final battle. I’m not going to spoil what happens, but even after his role in the story should be permanently over and Suzuko finally remembered that she’s supposed to be the main character, he manages to sneak in to throw off what is meant to be this fateful reunion moment for Suzuko and Chinatsu. It’s absolutely ridiculous.
And it’s such a shame too, because it showed so much early promise. Piruluk’s return is amazing, the new character Hanna has a really soli character arc that was up to classic WIXOSS standards and the main villain is vile and disgusting in a way that works really well for the series. But in the end, the presentation and messaging of Chinatsu’s story through Shouhei and completely forgetting Suzuko’s role for most of the serise made it one of the most frustrating sequels I’ve had to watch in the last decade. This is how you kill a franchise. They’ve announced a second cour called Lostorage conflated WIXOSS for later this year, but with the already disappointing sales and countless disappointed fans like myself, I doubt that will help the series back on its feet.
#-3: Monster Hunter Stories: Ride On
Orig. Title: モンスターハンターストーリーズ RIDE ON
Studio: David Production
It’s rare for the visuals of a show to kill every hope it had of being entertaining, and yet it happens twice on this list. The first example of this is Monster Hunter Stories: Ride On, which I was very much excited for as a fan of the Monster Hunter series as well as colourful little adventure series for kids. And I have to be honest, the series isn’t technically all that awful if one could just look past the big elephant in the room. The elephant which happens to be the titular monsters.
In Ride On, all monsters in the series are pre-rendered 3DCG animations on top of 2D backgrounds with 2D characters. And yes, this looks just as awful as you might expect it. Every single show featuring a monster, which are quite a few of them given the series we’re talking about, looks like someone chroma-keyed in something from a completely different video on top of the otherwise gorgeous backgrounds.
Like, no, technically Ride On is not nearly as bad as KINGSGLAIVE or Lostorage, but at least those two weren’t unpleasant to watch on a psychological level. I had to constantly pause just to fully grasp that I was actually watching a supposedly finished product. It really is that, it’s one of the ugliest full-length TV anime series I’ve ever seen. But it’s only one of them, because there’s one more on this list that managed to be even worse somehow, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
#-4: Hybrid x Heart Magias Academy Ataraxia
Orig. Title: 魔装学園H×H
Also known as: Masou Gakuen HxH
Studio: Production IMS
CONTENT WARNING: This series features rape, sexual assault and other related bullshit, which I talk about in the following paragraphs.
I don’t hate ridiculous ecchi series on principle. In fact, it takes quite a lot for me to go from disinterest to finding utter distaste for one, not to mention that I’ve enjoyed plenty of the raunchiest non-porn anime one can find out there. So do not think that me putting HxH on this list is about the fact that it’s just a twelve episode harem sex fest, because that’s not the issue at hand here.
No, the problem in HxH is the depiction of said sex. You see, within the context of the show, the main character must sexually please girls in order to give them more magic power to get the upper hand in combat or some shit like that, think Valkyrie Drive but the main character is fucking everyone and is a dude and doesn’t turn into a swo– Okay, don’t think Valkyrie Drive. My point was more that the whole “sex to power up” thing has been done before.
But in HxH, literally the very first episode features the main character having to apply his “talent” to an unconscious woman. Yeah, by the command of his superior, he begins to molest an unconscious woman as a heroic deed to win the day, specifically rubbing her breasts to a power-up orgasm. He’s later celebrated for it too, because the series wants us to think of this as a great deed due to the circumstances, not assault. After this, all girls want to fuck the main character to power up themselves for combat, I think maybe two characters had an actual romantic or sexual interest in him, but the rest just wanted his ability.
But we’re not really at the worst part yet. Because the series introduces us to several villains later on, one being a couple of girls named Gravel and Aldea. These two are lovers, not for power-up reason, they’re just a lesbian couple who kiss and have sex and etc. for normal relationship reasons. These two were why I decided to check the series out, to see just how HxH would treat the inclusion of lesbians in an otherwise hetero-coded sex party.
Honestly, their first introduction indicated they would be handled quite well. Yes, there was the issue that the only characters that were homosexual and had sex for their own pleasure and attraction were villains, but they were also presented as minor villains compared to a larger evil, so maybe they’d be joining the heroes at the end? Well, not really, instead we’re introduced to the main villain, whose name I forgot and couldn’t find online and I’m not watching this again.
The main villain is an evil dominatrix rapist with her own harem of combat girls, she splits apart the couple and mindbreaks Aldea into her sex slave while torturing Gravel waiting for her to break as well. This is the last we see of them by the way. She then uses her super power to force the entire main cast into some sort of area-of-effect sex spell and I don’t care any more. This series is just awful and gives sex a bad reputation, and for some fucking reason it’s getting a second season.
#-5: Berserk (2016)
Orig. Title: ベルセルク
Studio: Millepensee, GEMBA
CONTENT WARNING: Again, talk about rape, sorry.
It took us nineteen years to get a second Berserk TV anime. Nineteen years only for many of us to realize that we were better off without it, at least that was my takeaway from last year’s disaster of a series. Much like Monster Hunter Stories: Ride On, the first clear problem with Berserk is that it’s almost entirely 3DCG animation, some of the worst I’ve seen in modern days. In fact, if compared within its era, I don’t think a full-length anime has ever had 3DCG that looks this bad, the animation and models are utterly sad to view.
But enough about the visuals, they’ve achieved legendary status and don’t need more detailing at this point. Let’s talk about the rest of this crapfest. Berserk always had its problems, though a good manga overall it never had much tact or respect for certain things, mainly its treatment of female characters. Most famously of this might be Casca, a strong and awesome female soldier who unfortunately is raped in a fairly infamous part of the story.
Well, for some reason Berserk has decided to make this the defining part of her character, making sure to remind us at every point it can that Casca was raped and that we need to remember that. Now, I get what it tries to do, it wants to show her pain in dealing with it all, but they even flash back to scenes relating to it outside of her context. If rape was a song, then Berserk made it Casca’s theme tune, and that’s not okay when she have other important aspects of her character. Even if she hadn’t, defining a character by their rape alone is an awful thing to do.
Oh, and did I mention that Casca no longer has dark skin? Yeah, she’s pale as snow now, for some reason. From what I understand this was changed in the Berserk movies that began releasing in 2012, but that doesn’t change how bullshit it is when the character was presented with very dark skin in both the anime and in coloured illustrations for the manga. All of this mixed with other numerous but minor flaws is why Berserk was one of the worst anime series of 2016. And yet…
#-6: Phantasy Star Online 2 The Animation
Orig. Title: ファンタシースターオンライン２ ジ アニメーション
Also Known As: PSO2 The Animation
Studio: Telecom Animation Film
Phantasy Star Online 2 The Animation is my pick for worst anime of 2016. The reason for it bypassing all the other ones is deeply personal and definitely grudge related, but it’s the worst nonetheless. You see, I have begged for a Phantasy Star movie or TV anime since the 90s, because I’ve been playing the games since a very young age. In Europe, the original four Phantasy Star games were some of the very few Japanese RPGs that hit shores, so I knew it before FINAL FANTASY, Dragon Quest or any other major franchise.
I also played a ton of Phantasy Star Online on Sega Dreamcast and still have my original copy left today. I’ve been playing the Japanese release of Phantasy Star Online 2 since it was in beta and for the longest time it was all I played. Basically, this anime was made for me, I was a very obvious part of the target audience. So it sucks that PSO2 The Animation spat right in my face from the very moment the premise was announced.
You see, PSO2 The Animation is not a simple adaptation of the game of the same name, instead it’s a story set on earth centered on people who play PSO2. Yeah, they decided to turn Phantasy Star‘s first anime into a Sword Art Online-chaser. Set at Seiga Academy (get it?), the main character Itsuki gets assigned an order by the student council to start playing PSO2 and report his experience, because …reasons.
Anyway, know how I said it wasn’t an adaptation? Well, that’s a half-lie, because it’s later revealed that the MMO is not actually a game but a gateway into an alternative dimension and then that dimension breaks out onto Earth and PSO2 start merging with the real world… This then became part of the plot for the real game’s latest expansion, PSO2 Episode 4, making the worst idea ever not just restricted to a shitty anime but now part of Phantasy Star canon.
I should probably mention that the “in-game visuals” somehow manage to be worse than the actual PSO2 game graphics, which is quite a feat. The characters are bland and uninteresting, the Earth setting is the last thing I wanted to see in a Phantasy Star anime and there are just no redeeming factors in this awful mess. It might not have as horrific or poorly made aspects as some other anime on this list, but in the end, no anime hurt me more in 2016 than watching PSO2 The Animation take something I loved so dearly and smash it to pieces.
And there we are, it’s the last post in my anime of the year series, and it’s certainly less upbeat than the other ones. But sometimes we gotta rant things out to be able to wipe the slate clean and get ready for the next year. So, what’s the first anime of 2017? Ai Mai Mi: Surgical Friends? Oh dear…