Think of them as delicious s’mores roasting on this fire of a year!
We can pretty much all agree that 2016 was, er, not the greatest. But there were a few bright spots, at least, and one of them was definitely the anime. Each season had its standout hits and surprise treasures, filled with compelling characters, stylish animation, striking cinematography, and stories that ran the gamut from clever silliness to sincere enthusiasm to gripping tension to wrenching drama. I watched about 30 shows to completion (yeah, that scares me, too) and would recommend almost all of them to someone, depending on what kind of genres they enjoyed.
Problem is, this makes it nigh impossible to pick just 10 series to highlight as The Best Of The Best. How can I bear to ignore this hidden gem or snub that enjoyable blockbuster? The answer, it turns out, is to just straight-up abandon any pretense of critical distance. Or any modicum of Serious Blogger Professionalism whatsoever, really. That’s why this list has a whole slew of Honorable Mentions before even getting to the Top 10, and why the Top 10 is really just “the 10 shows I liked the best.”
It’s also why there is no #6. Instead, my Top 5 will have 6 shows in it. My blog, my rules, suckas!
Diving in for one last look at summer’s little treasures.
The Fall season may be well under way, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take some time to bid fond farewell to our Summer standouts. After spending two weeks out of town and then writing a whole lotta final thoughts on orange and 91 Days, my schedule’s a mess right now (I haven’t even finished all of the shows on my summer watchlist), so this post will be shorter and more informal than usual so I can get it out before the Fall season overtakes me completely. Thanks in advance for your understanding!
As all that may suggest, Summer’s been pretty hectic on my end thanks to a second move, family events, new writing projects, and the aforementioned two-week trip, so maybe it’s no surprise that I gravitated toward lighter comedies and escapism this season. That said, there are still a trio of shows on this list that’ll punch you right in your feels pouch. Good thing you’ve got those other soothing shows to help ease the sting, eh?
Dumb chats, silly spats, and the absurdity of adolescence.
MyAnimeList hired me as a feature writer, and I promptly used my new power to write an essay-length article about magical boys. 13-Year-Old Me is giving Present-Day Me so many high-fives right now.
Click here for the full article on MAL!
Smooth sailing through the summer stream.
I’ve trimmed my watchlist down to a manageable number and am happy to announce that pretty much everything is either holding steady or improving on itself. So if I sound like I’m repeating some of my Rule of Three comments, well, blame these series for being so darn consistent, the little jerks! And then cross your fingers that that trend continues. I’d much rather come back in another five-ish weeks singing these shows’ praises than sighing about how they dropped the ball in the back half, doncha know.
Guess I oughta call it a “Rule of Four Review” at this point…
Between the two shows I’m covering for Evo this season, the standalone posts I still need to finish (I solemnly swear those last two Tanaka-kun mini-essays are gonna happen someday!), a potentially expanding load of freelance geek writing, and Moving Day Part Deux, getting a full Rule of Three post out this season just wasn’t in the cards. (Actually, if the other work stays steady, I may wind up retiring the Rule of Three Reviews entirely so I can focus on other posts, but if I hear a Great Outcry to keep them then I’ll reconsider.)
Still, I figured I owed it to you to pop in and at least let you know what my summer watchlist looked like. There isn’t a ton that I’m excited about, but I am really excited about a few of them, and given everything else that’s going on I’m more than happy to sacrifice quantity for quality. Hit the jump for a quick run-down.
I’ve never been so sad to see the end of winter.
Real talk, dear readers: This was the best anime season I’ve experienced since I started regularly watching simulcasts a few years ago, positively jam-packed with not only quality adaptations but also tremendous original works (a relative rarity these days). As a result, creating this list was torture, because there were simply too many great or good series, full of tightly woven plots, provocative themes, and captivating characters. So take the numbers with a grain of salt and, if you’re looking for a new show to watch, pay closer attention to the grades and premises.
I like to talk season trends in these retrospectives, and Winter saw a couple fascinating ones: Well-written female characters, and an exploration of binaries (male/female, life/death, Madonna/whore, geeky/sporty, etc.) and seemingly irreconcilable cultures and social groups. The top seven shows all feature diverse, layered lady protagonists; in five of those shows said protagonists are the main character; and two of them (Yurikuma Arashi and Maria the Virgin Witch) are overtly feminist works, portraying and challenging society’s expectations/treatment of women in both reality and fiction.
There’s a mess of complicated, morally gray, thought-provoking stuff here, but more impressive still, these ideas are generally paired with complex characters and compelling stories, leading to a gripping cocktail of the intellectual and the emotional, a winning combo of Dem Thinks and Dem Feels. In short, Winter was a damn good season, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. Hit the jump for some spoiler-free mini-reviews, final grades, and Totally Arbitrary Rankings.
A “more better” finale pushes Cute High out of a mid-series slump and easily justifies the journey—but is it a trip for everyone?
Mild spoilers below the jump.
And here I thought winter was supposed to be the quiet anime season.
A solid mix of carryovers, sequels, and newcomers has (so far) made this the best winter anime season in recent memory, filled to the brim with engaging shows of varying styles and genres. The fall trend of arealism continues as almost every series on this list has at least some fantastical element to it, but perhaps most happily, there’s a sense of people taking risks – or, at the very least, having fun – this season, both in the art/animation and in the storytelling.
There are a surprising number of original series on the list (a relative rarity these days), and while it’s often messy and unpolished, it’s not the same ol’ blend of tropes and story lines churned out without imagination or even enjoyment. Energy and enthusiasm can make up for a lot of imperfections, and this season has me thoroughly engaged because of the amount of sheer excitement splashed across these frames. Here’s hoping that continues through the second half of winter, too.
The mean green parody machine.
Well, the Winter Season certainly wasted no time in making an impression, did it?
As a reminder, I watch every licensed premiere and do at least a brief writeup about them. I’ll do full meet ‘n’ greets for shows that caught my interest enough to warrant it. Everything else gets a blurb explaining what I liked, didn’t like, and why the show might not or didn’t make the cut.
So here we go! Magical boys, magical bears, and a boy named Thor. Oh, anime. For better or worse, this is why I love you.