Posted in 2016, Fall 2016, Retrospective, Spring 2016, Summer 2016, Winter 2016, tagged Amanchu!, Boku dake ga Inai Machi, Boku no Hero Academia, ERASED, Flip Flappers, Hibike! Euphonium, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Kiznaiver, My Hero Academia, Orange, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, Yuri!!! on Ice on December 31, 2016|
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Hahahahaha, 2016, oh wow. It sure has been a year! While it’s been crappy to exist in, it’s been pretty alright for escapist media! And from my perspective, there’s been a lot of good anime – enough that cutting down to 10 was actually difficult.
As always, I’m counting ‘2016 anime’ as series that ended in a 2016 season and films that I first had the opportunity to watch in 2016. So if it started in the autumn season of 2015 but finished at the end of the winter 2016 season, that would count; if it started in the autumn season of 2016 but won’t finish until the end of the 2017 winter season, it won’t. For split cours, I just go with my gut. In short, unless I’ve been able to put a score on it I won’t be considering it – prematurely enshrining how great something is when it isn’t even half over is a bad idea!
So with that out of the way, onto my top 10 anime of 2016! Ah, but first, a few series that didn’t quite make the cut…
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The other cute-girls-doing-cute-things show I stuck with this season, Sansha Sanyou is unremarkable save for two aspects:
- It is bizarrely well-animated considering what it is
- All the characters are kinda garbage people
Now, the first is a nice surprise. It makes the show a visual delight and gives the cartoonier moments some appropriately goofy animation. But hoo-boy, you have to watch this to understand the depth of that second point.
When I say they’re “kinda garbage people”, I mean that they are trash humans in so many varied and beautiful ways. We’re not talking It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia levels or anything, or that they’re even inherently unlikeable. They’re just… trash.
You have the bankrupt rich girl retaining all her mannerisms while subsisting on a diet of bread crusts and mayonnaise. A girl who can only be described as an undiscerning glutton. A girl who is pure evil. And that’s just the main trio! There’s also the extremely proud girl who fucking hates the pure evil girl (don’t worry, it’s mutual-ish). And her best friend who manages to insult everyone constantly and no one knows if that’s intentional. And the evil girl’s twin sister who forces her, frankly, poisonous cooking on everybody. And the rich girl’s ex-butler, who refuses to not be her dog. And her ex-maid, who has no ethical compass. And… and… and… the list goes on.
There isn’t a single person in this show who is worthy of admiration. And there are a lot of characters.
But by god, does it make Sansha Sanyou funny. No matter what is happening, someone is actively being shitty and someone is being miserable and oftentimes at least one character wants to cut another. It is such a breath of fresh air to see a cute-girls-doing-cute-things anime eschew the ‘doing-cute-things’ in favour of low-key sociopathy.
Unfortunately, I don’t think it makes the most of it. It doesn’t exactly go out of its way to avoid the expected tropes, failing to make itself not a cute-girls-doing-cute-things show at the fundamental level. And while the worst of it is avoided thanks to the large cast, colourful personalities, and how energetically they can bounce off each other, the show still leans a bit too heavily on the character quirks for humour in place of more developed jokes.
Still, Sansha Sanyou is a good laugh and a nice change of pace even if it ultimately doesn’t distinguish itself. Worth a punt if you’re looking for a decent comedy and aren’t feeling especially choosy.
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The first of two cute-girls-doing-cute-things shows I stuck with this season, Anne Happy is a fairly by the numbers affair with a couple of twists. The first being that it’s about a group of girls in a class exclusively for the severely unlucky (something the show is more than happy to get silly with), and the second that it relishes in ludicrous situations far removed from the standard.
It’s the latter where Anne Happy finds its own identity; colossal underground board games and quiz shows, holodeck-level VR used exclusively for a casino and an RPG duelling arena, a huge game of tag where the students are fleeing from a giant flying mech, there’s a lot of nonsense driving the humour of the show that lets it move beyond the limitations of the genre and gives it a much-needed sense of energy and action. Not that this approach is necessarily for the best as it gives us ‘Timothy’, a small robot rabbit-butler thing that I think the creators think is more cute, funny and not-annoying than it actually is because they force it on us way too much.
Despite unluckiness being a core motif of the show, in practice it amounts to very little. The bulk of its relevance is in the characterisation, where it’s just a goofier iteration of the “character quirk in place of actual character-driven humour” trap that anime all too often finds itself falling into. Remove their misfortune and you’d have the most generic, archetypical, identikit characters I’ve seen in a long while. So when the show doesn’t lean on the bad-luck side of things, opting instead for typical moe s’life shenanigans, it’s dull and lifeless. With no characterisation and no heart, there’s simply no appeal in character-focused rather than situation-focused entertainment.
By far the most memorable part of Anne Happy is something a bit more meta. Namely, the fact that after a few episodes I just couldn’t shake the feeling that there was going to be some dark, unsettling secret to the class, so spent a lot of the time bracing myself for the tonal shift I was half-expecting to happen. It never did, for the record, but all that means is that I’m left with a lot of questions. An undue amount of attention was paid to Hanako’s hair clip, which was shown to hold back the worst of her bad luck. Was there some greater mystery to it? Why did we see the teachers look more concerned than you’d expect unless they were privy to some information that the students weren’t? Why was Timothy’s creator only shown in the shadows near the end and never formally introduced? Things like that. Exacerbating it is that the characters designs and general art style of Anne Happy feel very similar to Gakkougurashi! which, well, did have a shocking dark twist.
On the whole though, Anne Happy is fine. It has moments where it had me laughing hard, and was inoffensive and serviceable for the rest of it. Despite the frequent wackiness it fits in pretty seamlessly with the rest of its ilk, and does very little to stand out. Nothing I regret watching, nothing I’d bother recommending, but if you like this sort of anime you might get a kick out of it.
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I never knew how much I wanted World War II anime spy fiction until Joker Game started airing, but it managed to hit a spot that was apparently there all along. Well, touched a spot; I wouldn’t say this series has exactly satisfied me entirely.
Set in the run up to World War II, Japan is initiating its own ambitions on the world stage and as part of that has established a spy organization known only as “D-Agency”. It trains its young men ruthlessly so that they might carefully, efficiently, and of course secretly carry out various missions both domestic and abroad in the name of intelligence gathering.
The eponymous ‘joker game’ is a bit of fun the spies in D-Agency have – a game among them that tests every aspect of being a spy. It is shown as what appears to be a simple card game, but that is merely a front for the real game of hidden and subtle alliances, double-crossing, signalling and otherwise working with, between and against everyone around you to accomplish your own victory. An outsider from the Japanese military experiences this first hand, and then again when tasked with rooting out an American spy with D-Agency’s spies as disguised subordinates – a way for them to prove his own capability.
It is in this context that D-Agency embarks on many missions of espionage on a grand scale…
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Posted in 2016, Review, Spring 2016, tagged Kuma Miko on June 26, 2016|
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Kuma Miko is a show I wish I could say I liked. For all of its top-notch humour and charm during its best moments, its central relationships and driving forces are unpleasantly and disturbingly abusive.
It’s not that the premise is inherently flawed. Machi, a middle school shrine maiden (hence the Miko in the series’ name) from the countryside wishes to go to high school in the city; however, she’s hopelessly naïve and clueless about city life and the modern world, something her friend and guardian Natsu is all too aware of. So he sets up a series of trials to test her knowledge, teach her what she needs to know, and let her gain valuable experience. Only if she can pass all of them will he let her go. Naturally, there are comedic misunderstandings and plenty of fish-out-of-water moments to make it all entertaining (and the absurdity of Natsu being a talking bear. Did I not mention that? The village worships the mountain bears, which talk, hence Machi and Natsu’s closeness), but in the end lessons are learned and everyone becomes closer. Naturally.
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Now this is what I call timely! Putting up my plans when the season has already started (and I have already started watching things) is… not the best. But frankly, who cares, it doesn’t even matter.
Last time I said the winter season was looking excellent and, in retrospect, it wasn’t bad. I did pick up a lot, but did also end up dropping a fair bit, and the things I continued were mostly pretty unexceptional. The only stand outs from the season ended up being Boku dake ga Inai Machi, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu and Mahoutsukai Precure! (which is absolutely darling and you should go watch it) – still better than the last autumn season!
This season, well, I don’t know if it’s looking good but it’s certainly looking packed. There are a ton of series that I could justify checking out, to the point that I’m actually being picky! Which is very unusual!
Either way, here’s what I’m picking up:
Courtesy of anichart.net
- Big Order
- Boku no Hero Academia
- Bungou Stray Dogs
- flying witch
- Hai Furi
- JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable
- Joker Game
- Koutetsujou no Kabaneri
- Kumo Miko
- Sakamoto desu ga?
- Sansha Sanyou
- Sousei no Onmyouji
- Space Patrol Luluco
- Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge
And as always, wot I think about them:
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