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2016 Anime of the Year Pt. 3: Writer's Corner

Our writers select the best anime in 3 different categories - biggest disappointment, worst anime, anime of the year - as we take a look back at the year in anime.

by MAL_editing_team
Jan 13, 2017 2:15 AM | 35,023 views

Selection criteria: Any anime which ended in 2016 is eligible. This includes OVAs and ONAs. Movies will not be included due to the difficulty of watching them abroad, otherwise you can assume Your Name and A Silent Voice probably would have won far more awards.

MAL statistics as of January 2nd, 2017

Biggest Disappointment: Nominations

Scamp: Active Raid

MAL Score: 6.01 | Popularity Ranking: #1414

Active Raid
I keep forgetting this exists. Or perhaps I’m trying to forget it happened. I’ve mentioned before how big a fan I am of Code Geass, but I’m equally a huge fan of its director and most everything he has done in the past. So how did his new anime about a robot police crime fighting force in the vein of Patlabor turn out so drab and forgettable? I think I’ll go back to pretending it doesn’t exist. I feel happier that way.

Honorable mentions: All Out, Dimension W

Guardian Enzo: Battery

MAL Score: 5.91 | Popularity Ranking: #1642

I was very tempted to pick Sangatsu no Lion here, but truthfully, as soon as I heard Shaft would be adapting it I figured it was going to be the disaster it turned out to be. I’ll pick Battery, which I went into with big expectations. It was a sports anime based on an award-winning YA novel, airing on NoitaminA, directed by the great Mochizuki Tomomi. And while it had its moments, in the end Battery never seemed to have a clear grasp on what it was trying to accomplish as a series.

Honorable Mention: Sangatsu no Lion, Bungou Stray Dogs

HoyvinGlavin64: ReZero

MAL Score: 8.62 | Popularity Ranking: #64

This was an odd sort of disappointment as I had no interest in the show before it started airing (I prefer my fantasy worlds more Escaflowne, less SAO) but the hype got to me. Watching the show was an interesting and inconsistent experience. The first half combines interesting character work with dreadful pacing. The second half for the most part is a definite improvement, even if it had one of the most annoying villains ever. My big disappointment, then, was the ending. Without spoiling it, the show’s final scene undid most of the genuinely good thematic work going on up to that point by falling back on the unearned wish fulfillment fantasies the show appeared to be deconstructing up to that point.

Honorable mention: Dimension W

Jankenpopp: Koutetsujou no Kabaneri

MAL Score: 7.38 | Popularity Ranking: #139

Koutetsujou no Kabaneri
I’ve talked before about how disappointing I found Attack on Titan, and Wit’s other foray into the apocalypse let me down for the same reason. It starts strong, dithers for a bit, and then picks up story threads that were never properly part of the tapestry to begin with. I love watching Ikoma put himself through hell to survive, but the stakes never really rise beyond the total loss depicted the first two episodes.

Final Deliberations

Scamp: Good lord we have no consensus here. I’ll say that while Kabaneri was disappointing, there’s still at least half of a good show there and I’m still on board for a sequel so long as there’s no more Biba. Re Zero I actually think was actually the opposite of disappointing in that it was way better than it had any right to be given that it’s a light novel adaptation about a wise-cracking kid stuck in a fantasy world surrounded by cute girls. Battery is the argument I feel is strongest (outside of my own nomination of Active Raid of course) but Enzo tried to talk mess about March which is waaaay better in anime form than manga form and the only reason I’m not nominating it for a bunch of the best anime categories is because it doesn’t end this year, so I want to disagree with him on principle. In short, I don’t know who wins this. Discuss it amongst yourselves =D

HoyvinGlavin64: Like I said, ReZero was better than you’d think based on the premise but as a whole worse than I’d have thought based on the hype and the promise it showed throughout that it never consistently fulfilled. I think this might be an area where a lot of us weren’t watching the same shows. One I did watch the first episode of and was mildly disappointed (in as much as I had no expectations but mild optimism, and it turned out to just be kind of stupid) was Dimension W. If anyone else agrees on that being a disappointment maybe it can lead from behind?

Guardian Enzo: I dunno - both Kabaneri and Dimension W ended about where I expected them, so I’d have a hard time supporting either as the pick. But if it’s the only one to get two votes...

Jankenpopp: Bit of a paradox, this one. On one hand, I don’t in principle pick these shows unless I’ve finished them. On the other, I don’t generally finish shows that I feel are going nowhere. I stand by Kabaneri because while there’s half of a good show in there, it’s that half that gets your hopes up onto that precipice. One of these days I’ll get around to completing Re:Zero, but the protagonist feels like a bundle of verbs without clearly defined nouns to wield them. He’s flat, is what I mean to say.

Scamp: Since it was the only one to get two votes, despite not winning one, how do we feel on Dimension W winning?

HoyvinGlavin64: Sounds OK with me.

Winner: Dimension W

Dimension W
FUNimation’s first production committee show should have been cool, but wasn’t. “I hate coils.”

Worst Anime: Nominations

Scamp: Big Order

MAL Score: 5.69 | Popularity Ranking: #692

Big Order
This was a tough one. Nazotokine was probably the worst anime in the sense that it aimed low and didn’t even reach that. But I want to give the award to Big Order instead because it aimed high and failed that much more spectacularly. Yes it failed in more areas because it tried more, but it failed in ALL of them. I struggle to come up with an anime more thoroughly, consistently stupid than Big Order and I’ve seen Mad Bull 34 and Garzey’s Wing. It’s an achievement in terribleness that I feel needs to be acknowledged with this award.

Honorable mentions: Nazotokine, Battery

Guardian Enzo: Occultic;Nine

MAL Score: 7.14 | Popularity Ranking: #662

Honestly I hate these categories, because I dislike focusing on negatives at year-end and I rarely watch anime I dislike enough to be considered here for long enough to judge. I picked Occultic;Nine mainly because I hated the premiere (the only ep I watched) as much as any episode this season. For me, it represented everything that’s out-of-whack about anime as a medium in 2016.

HoyvinGlavin64: Super Lovers

MAL Score: 7.55 | Popularity Ranking: #1417

Super Lovers
Ugh. I don’t really seek out the worst anime and most of the stuff I watched this year was either good or just mediocre, so I went through a number of first episodes of the worst sounding shows for research. My thinking with this pick is that not only is it just a badly written, terribly animated, boringly directed piece of crap, it’s also one of the few anime out there that I can say makes the world a worse place for existing. Pedophiles adopting kids to groom them into “lovers” (er, “super lovers”): Woody Allen must love this! How is the MAL score so high!?!

Honorable mention: Phantasy Star Online 2 The Animation

Jankenpopp: Big Order

MAL Score: 5.69 | Popularity Ranking: #692

Those of you who read the first part of this series may notice that I gave this one an honorable mention for Best Writing. I look for innovation in particular when I consider these things - both in good writing and in bad. I'll give Big Order one thing: whether deliberately or by accident, it succeeds like few other shows this year in being so hideously nonsensical that you can’t help but laugh.

Final Deliberations

HoyvinGlavin64: There’s different types of bad. Big Order’s of the funny-bad variety and by nature of unintentional entertainment value I don’t know if funny-bad shows can truly be considered the worst. On the other hand there’s boring-bad (which PSO2 and Super Lovers are both guilty of) and on some imagined third hand there’s rage-inducing bad (which is what put Super Lovers over the top). At the same time giving something an “award” attracts attention to it and though it might be the objective “worst”, I don’t know if Super Lovers even deserves that level of attention.

Jankenpopp: Again, there’s so much I haven’t seen that I might have not seen something objectively terrible. I may have to go watch Super Lovers for the experience, because it’s not often that a show’s synopsis reminds you of Boku no Pico.

Scamp: On Super Lovers, to be fair to it, the romance part doesn’t happen until the kid is older and in college. Which is still super weird since he’s in a romantic relationship with his father figure, but not actual pedophilia so I’ll give it that.

Guardian Enzo: I’d be OK with Super Lovers here, because I did watch it long enough to be disgusted by it. And if you believe the sexual stuff doesn’t start from when the kid is way, way too young you’re kidding yourself - there’s terrible stuff going on it almost from the beginning of the series. The real shame is that the writing is good enough for it to have been a solid family drama without any of the pedophilia.

HoyvinGlavin64: From what I’ve read about later in the series, when the kid is 16 he gets his first erection (?) and needs the older dude to masturbate for him and yeah, that’s uncomfortably close to if not quite as bad as Boku no Pico territory. But Big Order had more nominations, and considering there are people out there who will seek out whatever we award “the worst”, it's questionable whether it’s a good idea or not to even award something as wretched as Super Lovers. Which leads me to think we give the award to...

Winner: Big Order

Big Order
Consider this the “so bad it’s good” award. There are anime that are worse to the point of being unwatchable, but Big Order manages to be thoroughly watchable while also being completely awful.

Anime of the Year: Nominations

Scamp: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu

MAL Score: 8.59 | Popularity Ranking: #800

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
Nothing else came close to Rakugo this year for me. Its greatest accomplishment is how well it was able to tell its story using the most subtle of storytelling techniques. The little movements to show nervousness. The flutters under the breath of the voice actors to show their awkwardness. The writing showing how to convey the most complicated emotions with limited amount of dialogue. It’s truly fantastic and easily my anime of the year.

Honorable mentions: Mob Psycho 100, Yuri on Ice

Guardian Enzo: Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari

MAL Score: 7.79 | Popularity Ranking: #1426

Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari
The truth is I have enormous affection for Udon no Kuni, which is one of the most emotionally authentic anime I’ve seen in years. Anime about adult main characters struggling with responsibilities and choices are such a rare thing, and this is a damn good one - using magical realism to shed light on the human condition.

Honorable Mention: Mob Psycho 100, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, Orange, Boku Dake ga Inai Machi

HoyvinGlavin64: Yuri on Ice

MAL Score: 8.58 | Popularity Ranking: #431

Yuri on Ice
It was between this and Rakugo. Rakugo might be the better show intellectually, but Yuri grabbed my heart. The anticipation before each new episode and the joy during and after was like nothing I’ve experienced for some time in anime. I don’t know how it will age in five or ten years compared to Rakugo, but for now, what can I say? You only live once.

Honorable mentions: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, Mob Psycho 100, Gundam Thunderbolt, Osomatsu-San

Jankenpopp: Boku Dake ga Inai Machi

MAL Score: 8.65 | Popularity Ranking: #52

Boku Dake ga Inai Machi
Countdowns like these always make me abundantly aware of how much I’ve missed. But it’s been a while since I’ve seen an anime I honestly couldn’t criticize for filler. It’s a tight narrative that recognizes that the world is bigger than the protagonist and his aims, that selflessness is its own reward. Call the storytelling and pacing manipulative if you will, but every character more than earns their ending...happy and otherwise.

Final Deliberations

Scamp: Looks like it’s either Yuri on Ice, Rakugo or Erased. While Rakugo has my vote, I am totally cool with Yuri winning as it’s either that or Mob Psycho as my #2 for the year. I strongly vote against Erased because the last 2 episodes are the worst ending in anime all year and one of the worst of all time. It made me question what the hell the writers were supposed to be working towards the whole time and made me doubt any of my previous feelings towards the entire show. And honestly even without the ending, it’s a good show but not near my top 3 anyway.

HoyvinGlavin64: The ending of Erased wasn’t that bad, it was just “obvious killer is obvious” plus “the power of friendship saves the day again”. It was OK for what it was, just nowhere near as clever as the set-up. But it’s definitely not one of my top anime this year because of that ending. If it comes to Rakugo vs. Erased I vote Rakugo.

Guardian Enzo: I can admit it now - this should go to Boku Dake ga Inai Machi. Udon, MP100 and Rakugo each have a good case to make, but in the end Erased is the best series of the year for me when every factor is taken into consideration. It gets my vote.

Jankenpopp: On balance, none of this year’s seasons live up to spring or summer 2015. I think after a large-scale year of screwball comedy (Prison School) and abject tragedy (Aldnoah.Zero), a more intimate thriller like Erased caught me at a good time for a change of pace. Also, I can’t in good conscience award worst ending to anything but Kabaneri, in part because Shimoneta aired last year.

Winner: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
Super close between Rakugo and Erased, but Rakugo squeaks by with more mentions and fewer strong objections. It’s been a good year for anime (if not much else…)!

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