Banjo’s Top 10 Winter 2016 Anime
Not too long ago, I had a conversation with one of my uncles about films. We were watching Pixar’s Up at the time, and he said something that caused us to get into a (calm) argument.
“Animated stuff will never make for top-tier experiences.”
It is his belief that films like Schindler’s List and Rain Man will always be better than something like Toy Story or Finding Nemo — simply because the former are “real” while the latter aren’t.
Obviously, I disagreed.
How could I not? While the conversation was geared at computer-generated animation, my mind instantly went to anime. It’s the same principle. Yes, anime about giant, metal balls or high-school kids competing with hover boots may not be the next All About Eve. But anime has the capacity to tell intricate stories. The rationality to explore relatable characters. The ability to simply be downright fun.
I could not change his viewpoint (which I tried to do), but, through our small debate, I grew even more fond of this medium that I have come to adore so much.
So it is that, on this day, we look back on the Winter 2016 anime season to reflect on the best of the best, those that prove anime (and other animated media) can be and are top-tier experiences.
This time around, twenty-two anime showed up to fight for a spot. Ten succeeded, but only one claimed the title of Best Anime of Winter 2016.
Before diving into the list, it is important to know two ideas: what counts and the reasoning behind everything.
First, I am an advocate of an anime counting in the season in which it completed. Meaning, whether it is fantastic or not, something like Assassination Classroom Second Season has no place here despite starting in Winter 2016. On the opposite end, an anime like Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen does have a shot since it concluded in Winter 2016 despite starting the season prior.
Meaning, if you do not see Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen here on my list, that means I either did not see it or it was simply not good enough. (It’s the latter!)
I’m going to repeat this statement one more time: An anime counts if it completed in Winter 2016.
Some of my wonderful readers miss this important detail that I adhere to, so, now having said it twice, I get to call them goofballs should that happen again (here and forever after).
Second, each anime has a personalized review that demonstrates why it deserves to be here in the first place. Simply click on an anime’s name to be linked to its review to read my complete thoughts on it. For every review that I wrote for this season, follow this link to my Winter 2016 Reviews page!
With all of the introductions, formalities, and rules out of the way, it is time to get to my Top 10 Winter 2016 Anime!
Candy creates cavities. And should that candy be Japanese dagashi, it also happens to attract a bubbly, hyper, and passionate girl by the name of Hotaru. Dagashi Kashi is an anime that centers on both dagashi and Hotaru, looking at the history, make, and forms of the sweets while adding in some sexual flair here and there. While the educational segments can be dull, and the majority of the characters are even duller, Hotaru carries the show as far along as she possibly can. Alongside some nice character designs and musical pieces, it’s certainly more appealing than a trip to the dentist’s office.
Hallucinations and spirits run rampant in Musaigen no Phantom World, and it is up to Haruhiko, Mai, Reina, Koito, and Kurumi to quell them. While this slice-of-life anime can have the occasional ecchi moment, its comedy, action, and bittersweet happenings are the norm. The cast is weak — on both an individual and group basis — but the show’s subtle theme on togetherness, the very pretty art and animation, and the good voice-acting performances keep it from falling fully behind. All in all, it’s quite the colorful adventure.
If statues could talk, what would they say? Sekkou Boys lets its audience know that marble wouldn’t just speak; they would sing. Following St. Giorgio, Mars, Hermes, Medici, and their stressed-out manager Miki, the anime focuses on being quirky, silly, and funny. Animation and music (minus the ED, of course) may not be its strong suit, but its varied jokes, fact-based characters, and short length keep this one from being a bust.
Akagami no Shirayuki-hime 2nd Season marks the return of Shirayuki, Zen, and the rest of the gang, as well as the second appearance of this series on these lists. For this iteration, Raj and Obi take up the majority of the spotlight. To be fair, it gives their characters a lot of strength, but it also disrupts the focus on Shirayuki and Zen’s story. Regardless, the gorgeous visuals, the theme on home, and the heart-skipping romance make this anime an apple worth biting into.
For the cast of Hai to Gensou no Grimgar, they struggle in a fantastical world filled with monsters, grief, and pain. The anime makes realism its go-to motif: enemies with emotions, soul-crushing events, and grounded interactions. Its unnecessary sexual content gets in the way, but nice characters, interesting music, and beautiful watercolor backgrounds support the show throughout its run. The reality is that its an anime at least worth checking out.
As the people on Mars succumb to troubles on both the social and economic scales, a ragtag group of kids joins forces with Kudelia, a stalwart princess who seeks to correct these wrongs. Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans follows this unlikely pairing across planets and space itself with a couple of strong main and supporting characters, a story-esque artistic direction, and lots of really cool robots. The narrative may have a few hiccups, but its mettle proves to be as tough as iron.
Anime has more than its fair share of girls, but they, unlike the main trio of Oshiete! Galko-chan, do not usually talk about what happens to an in-use tampon submerged in water. Such topics are the usual for Galko, Otako, and Ojou in this short, girly comedy. The relevant sexual material, its theme on “the inside, not the outside, matters most,” and the colorful art are just some of its positives. And of course, making the private girl talk public gives the anime even more intrigue — especially for the males out there. Periods or no, these girls are a cute bunch to watch.
Sometimes, people look back on life and wonder, “Was there more I could have done?” For Satoru of Erased, this question is the one he seeks to answer. The suspenseful narrative, a theme on believing, and his mother Sachiko are some of its strengths. Particular characters are not that meaningful, and certain choices near the ending are controversial. Yet one cannot deny its interesting artistic direction and wonderful music (especially the ED). It’s a thrilling ride that won’t be erased anytime soon.
KonoSuba does not have purposeful themes, deep characters, or even a meaningful message. But that doesn’t stop it from being absolutely hilarious. Kazuma, Aqua, Megumin, and Darkness are a mishmash of ridiculousness. Parody oozes from each encounter the group faces. And its different brands of comedy (which I investigated in my essay KonoSuba and Comedy Through Theory) demonstrate why the show is so gosh darn funny. The world they live in may not be so wonderful, but the anime certainly has received a blessing or two.
More than earning the title of Best Anime of Winter 2016, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu reaches a level of execution that is almost unheard of. The writing is dramatic and clever. The visuals are a symbolic treat. The characters are complex in their emotions and layered in their connections. The music is beautiful in its composition. And the maturity in its material, the absurd amount of technical proficiency, and the way in which it challenges how one approaches the medium turn it into an unforgettable experience. While just a man’s life story, it ends up being one of the best anime of all time, making its spot at the top of this list a no-brainer.
And that’s it! As always, I want to thank each and every person who supported me throughout my reviews for this season. From the kind words to the insightful comments, from the people who checked out just the summaries to the people who read every single word. I am and always will be eternally grateful for the constant stream of love delivered my way.
Spring 2016 is just over the horizon! :3