This is where for me all the shows get pretty much perfect and I thoroughly enjoyed most parts of them. So shows I think are excellent are going to miss the top 10. And of course this is still all shows that are new to me during 2016. So yes, Toradora and Your Lie In April can count.
15. Your Lie In April
(the quality of fanart for this anime is just incredible)
Anime Rank: #19 in all-time
Genre: Drama involving a focus on classical music performances
Tentacle Rating: 2/10 – there is a bit of slapstick comedy that at times feels a little out of place which is a shame because otherwise I’d actually be considering showing this to my mother (who is a violinist by trade). It’s an incredible story that deserves to transcend medium.
Music: Naturally. The ending and opening themes, particularly the first opening, rise the music to the appropriate level of drama and feel in place with the classical themes of the show, considering they are still pop tracks. And in the show there are tons of performance pieces from Chopin and Tchaikovsky and the like, which come across beautifully in the soundtrack, coupled as they are to the plot making them directly emotional.
Best Girl Characters: I guess I really identified quite strongly with Arima, which is good, because this is his story.
There’s so much to discuss about Your Lie In April that I doubt I could quite do it justice in this paragraph. I’ll first say the effect it had on me. It got me wanting to learn piano again. And I’ve played a lot more than I used to lately, getting back into it, but if only I could run my fingers over the keys like Arima does. And he spends quite a long time in the anime unable to play anything because of a (psychological) condition he has and yet he still comes across as a master. That struggle he goes through throughout the anime, to make something of himself, to allow people to feel his emotion in the music when he was a mere ‘perfect puppet’ before, able to play everything note-perfect but without feeling. The story is him meeting Kaori in a park and developing a relationship with her as the girlfriend of his best friend, where he is referred to as the unimportant ‘Friend A’. And he and Kaori go do music concerts together. His relationship with Kaori influences that of course, as she puts everything into her violin playing and he himself gets inspired to play better. And he’s surrounded by friends who want him to be happy, even his competitors learn to respect him. And yes. This anime made me so hyper aware of the emotions that different orchestral arrangements can put into classical pieces such that no two performances sound the same that it’s made me keep an eye out for that ever since (and pretend to be jotting down notes in the way that the judges watching each performance do). And it’s an incredibly emotional and well-told story besides. I did cry at the end, I would be surprised if anyone wouldn’t and the only reason I’m not saying this outside of spoilers is so that people don’t come away thinking ‘this anime will make you cry’ is all this anime is because it is quite a bit more than that and just having that expectation tends to spoil it
Anime Rank: #17 in all-time
Genre: who the f*** knows? mystery, experimental, avant-garde, parody, comedy, and supernatural are all words I’d say are in there but none really begin to describe it well.
Tentacle Rating: A solid 9/10. The story structure and whole presentation of this show is incredibly weird to start off with and that’s before you get main character Araragi fighting with a small girl, building up harems of girls with something supernaturally wrong with them and the bluntness and sexual openness of about…. all the characters. I believe this is kind of the point. But it’s still damn weird.
Music: Unusually, the opening theme kept changing, to songs wildly different in style and tone, depending on which girl the episode was focusing on. Staple Stable, the first in this video is probably the best. I actually ended up falling in love with the ending more, it was more consistently there and once I’d watched part a certain point in the anime the lyrics became really powerful.
Best Girl Characters: What this entire show revolves around. If you don’t like the characters, good luck liking any of the episodes. I myself LOVED Senjougahara as she was darkly sarcastic and Tsubasa became really good near the end.
Bakemonogatari literally means ‘Ghost story’ and the plot can be described as ‘guy finds spirits living within girls that he knows and tries to cast them out or fix the problems they have’. He, Araragi was also recently a vampire but that’s not important right now (it will be in the later Monogatari shows that I haven’t watched yet I assume, Bakemonogatari being the first part of the story but not first chronologically). One day Senjougahara falls down the stairs into his arms and after he finds out that she weighs nothing, she stabs him with a stapler. And that’s one of the more normal parts of the plot. But the most notable thing about Bakemonogatari, and all Monogatari, is the presentation. In that it literally looks like a presentation. Or a Powerpoint. Some people call it Powerpoint: The Anime. At random times different ‘slides’ containing information will flash up on the screen containing plot points and then flash away too quickly for you to read them. And very little ‘happens’ in the episodes. There’s a bit of action, but 90% of the episodes is Araragi and one of the girls waxing lyrical about some philosophical point that’s relevant to what they’re talking about right now. Or it could be on the specific supernatural point because the supernatural spirits, a snail meant to slow people down, a crab that takes your weight, they’re not normal spirits. But mostly it’s an anime of people having conversations – so you’d better be good at reading subtitles as they also slip in tons of Japanese puns and play on words as much as they can. It’s almost trying to be too clever for its own good but I managed to keep up and I feel really quite rewarded for doing that. And it’s a very open anime, no subject is too taboo. Violence, sexuality, the author could have written a dissertation for this story and it wouldn’t have turned out too differently. It got better as it went on and I got used to the style and became invested in the characters. I’ve been meaning to go onto the next show, Nisemonogatari but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I really should do that soon. An anime that… if the anime world were mostly made up of ‘pop song’ animes, this would be something very indie and obnoxiously hipster, yet incredible and raved about by the few who decide to sink into it. I definitely enjoyed it quite a lot.
Anime Rank: #16 in all-time, #5 in anime airing in 2016
Genre: Mystery Thriller
Tentacle Rating: 1/10 – as I’ll explain in a short while, one of the West’s biggest shows this year had some notable similarities to this but was probably weirder. This is very much something with few anime trappings and just a dramatic storytelling. Definitely one I recommend people check out, I hooked Jacob through this one.
Music: The opening is very upbeat and fun, probably in contrast to the rest of this anime. It does feel slightly nostalgic though. I briefly got into the ending a bit more though, no one talked about it but it’s a very sweet song.
Best Girl Characters: Who doesn’t want to protect Kayo? And Satoru and Kenya were very enjoyable and mature, that’s a criticism I’ve heard of this anime, that the kids talk like grownups but if it makes them more bearable for the purposes of a story…
I wasn’t sure what this was before I watched it and it only became clear to me by the end of the first episode so I would recommend not reading what follows but I’m going to continue to talk about it and not spoiler tag it because it’d be hard to hide the entire plot of this anime. Only I did gasp at the end of the first episode when I realised how the plot was going to play out.
Anyway. Before Stranger Things took the Western World back to the 80s when we were all kids, the biggest anime of the Winter season was already doing that, although by the more natural method of mental time-travel. And if we’re talking thrillers, Erased really had me on the edge of my seat better than most this year because it talks about replaying an old murder. And that is one of the creepiest things I can think of, reading old murder spree details on Wikipedia is one of the more grimly fascinating pastimes I occasionally partake in (and wondering if time travel was a thing, how they could be fixed). Erased, or in Japanese, The Town Without Me, brings this back to a cold winter in northern Japan in the 80s where children were abducted and brutally murdered. Only this time, the main character has made it his mission to save the children who died. Two of these children were in the same class as him. It was really creepy and scary and honestly the only reason it’s outside the top 10 on this list is (real spoilers this time) the identity of the killer who was obvious to everyone and their grandmother through being literally the only viable option presented to you. But the ending was really positive and happy.
12. Food Wars (Shokugeki No Souma) (Season 1)
Anime Rank: #14 in all-time, not a rank for 2016 as I didn’t actually watch any episodes of it that aired in 2016
Genre: Audacious Food Battle Shonen Comedy
Tentacle Rating: 11/10 – When the first episode has not three minutes in an image (all the dodgy stuff is in the over-the-top visual reactions of what it feels like to eat the food) that could easily be mistaken for literal tentacle porn if someone walked in on you and didn’t look properly… it deserves this. I don’t think anything else is quite that bad from memory but it really deserves its accolades of ‘If Masterchef included orgasms’, ‘you know how food makes you feel so good it spontaneously tears all your clothes off’ and ‘hey what if food porn was like… food and porn at the same time’. Nothing explicit of course, (and it’s equal opportunities, it’s just as likely to give these over the top reactions and sudden nudity to fat old men as it is to beautiful young women) or it would never have been this popular but definitely a show you want to make sure no one catches you watching. And yet it’s so high. Because I enjoyed every second of it.
Music: Incredible. Spice and Saachan’s Sexy Curry (yes, that is the title) are very pleasant songs to warm you down after an episode of high-octane cooking action. Kibou No Uta, the first opening, is an incredible and well building male pop song with a slightly imperfect voice that fits so well. The background music is very lovely and tense through the long explaining scenes. With music like this, you’re never going to be bored.
Best Girl Characters: Very hard to pick a best girl actually, Megumi is very cute. I always get drawn to characters with blue hair and pink hair and she fits the former. Hisako fits the latter. There’s Ikumi Mito who gets a lot of development as well and she’s hard to miss in a scene with her bronzed skin and American flagged wear. And the guys, Yukihira, the main character is very charismatic and likeable, it’s always a good sign when I count the main character as one I like, and the Aldini twins are great adversaries and I want to root for the less spotlighted Polar Star dormitory characters. I like a lot of these characters.
I’m not exaggerating when I say I enjoyed all of this – it’s got dodgy as hell scenes to Western eyes but it’s such an unabashed, unafraid, totally audacious show in its love of cooking preparation that it’s hard not to fall in love with it. It’s incredibly funny too, hitting most of the right notes for comedy. I have yet to watch any of the second season but I have decided that I am, with most shows, going to not lose my momentum upon watching them and watch them once the entire season is out. The first season ended with a run of brilliant episodes, the last few focusing on a tournament where nearly every character with any screen time thus far made their own unique and mouth-watering curry. And up before then every episode had had one or two or three similarly excellent dishes presented with cooking skills that seem inhuman. Each time I think something is impossible one of the characters pulls something from somewhere that makes the impossible possible. There’s something so enjoyable about it. And like with Your Lie In April making me more interested in piano, this made me more interested in the art of cooking. I think my cooking has literally improved since I started watching this – and I’ve been far more keen to cook. Eventually I want to try one of the more feasible dishes from this show, lots of them probably aren’t really intended to be made, ever, because they use experimental techniques that are impossible to keep together in the kitchen or are too much style over substance in reality but there are a few that could be replicated. I never cared for Masterchef or Great British Bake Off or any show about making food before this. Food Wars made me interested in the art of cooking. Anime is truly magical. And it’s for more reasons than the lewdness, it’s the way they are so enthusiastic about it and the life-or-seppuku competitions that are portrayed in this beautiful show. I started to really get behind rooting for the large cast of characters by the end (large casts are nearly always better and I think this is the largest cast in my anime list so far, although it’s going to be outmatched by what’s above it).
Anime Rank: #13 in all time
Genre: Romantic comedy that becomes romantic drama later on
Tentacle Rating: 3/10 – would be mostly unchanged as a Western highschool romantic comedy although obviously you still have the culture differences between how Japanese teenagers act in comparison to others.
Music: Decent openings, cutesy pop songs that I didn’t really get very much into. Emotional music when it needed to be.
Best Girl Characters: Toradora is all about the characters and all of them were likeable and relatable. Ami I found the most complex and she’s been in my avatar for the past month as a reward, outwardly mature and likeable, inwardly sarcastic and childish, she has enough of both to make herself better by the end and although that’s not really the main story here, I loved her little arc. Minori is inspiringly positive but has serious depths, Taiga and Ryuji, the main two are adorable in different ways despite being rough on the outside (I have to watch the sub because Taiga’s voice just melts me), and Kitamura has an episode or two where he is able to shine as a weird personality.
Toradora (‘Tiger & Dragon’) is the most recent anime I’ve watched, I’ve seen it described as the best romantic comedy anime has done, and I’d sort of agree. You spend the episodes really getting to know what makes these characters tick, their vulnerabilities, their strengths, their desires and their ambitions. By the end, you know them. In a way. In only 22 short episodes, you know them. At first though, it’s very funny and successfully so as to suck you in when you don’t know them. Taiga and Ryuji, are the two most feared kids in the school, one for being a short hair-trigger temper size inadequacy, the other for having a very scary set of glaring eyes. She has a crush on Kitamura, he has a crush on Minori, so, in a deal that’s heavily weighted in Taiga’s favour at first as she gets to slap him around and call him a dog, they agree to try and set each other up. And so starts a beautiful friendship, lots of Ryuji cooking for Taiga, lots of talking about your true self, and a feels train that’s speeding towards the end before you know it. Oh and there are lots of episodes set around Christmas and one of the biggest events in the series happens on the episode of the Christmas Eve party so it’s often one that people in the anime community watch around Christmas time. So I was right on time there. Very high quality romantic comedy, and I know that’s sometimes a tough statement to make, but one I enjoyed and ended up putting far higher than I expected it to because of its direction and purpose and well-developed characters.