2016 has come and gone and it we can start looking forward to some really exciting new anime this year. Before 2017 gets any older though, I thought it would be a good idea to write about some of my favourites from last year.
I’m not going to order them in any particular way as there were several shows that could easily be ‘the best’ for different reasons.
Boku Dake ga Inai Machi
The first anime to really capture my attention in 2016 was Boku dake ga inai Machi or it’s English title, Erased. The feeling towards the show at the time of airing shifted as it went on, with some people criticising the ending and pacing of the show. And while there are always holes to pick when you’re dealing with time travel but on the whole I felt Erased achieves what it sets out to effectively.
Satoru has the ability to go back in time and change events that have happened in the past. The anime follows him as he goes back in time to save a fellow student and his mother. I enjoyed how the random element of Satoru’s ability kept me gripped right up until the end. One particularly refreshing aspect of the show was the development of the relationship between Satoru and Kayo – though it might not be quite what you would have liked, it’s definitely ends with (if you can say this in time travel anime) the most realistic outcome.
Erased started 2016 well and I’d continue to recommend it going into 2017.
Bungou Stray Dogs
I will admit before I start that Bungou Stray Dogs is no masterpiece. One of the more popular new franchises this year, it aired in two 12 episode cours in Spring and Fall depicting historical Japanese writers fighting it out with special powers that relate somehow to their writing (although curiously they don’t write in the anime…).
Bungou Stray Dogs is a shounen anime, full of over the top battles that go something like this:
“You think you can defeat me?! Watch as raise my strength to a whole new level!”
“Well don’t be so sure as I can become stronger too! I’m so glad I’m stronger than you now because I’m almost about to die.”
“That’s a shame because I can get stronger again muhahaha!”
“You thought you’d beaten me?! Well watch as I get stronger again!”
And you get the point – not exactly original in that sense is it.
That said, of all the seasonal shows I watched this year, this was the one that I waited for on the day of the release most eagerly. The characters had interesting powers that made the stereotypical fights worth watching. The dynamic between the protagonists, particularly in the first 12 episodes was really funny as well.
Despite a whole lot of issues that would usually put me off an anime, I really enjoyed Bungou Stray Dogs and am looking forward to the third season.
It’s not very often that a new slice of life anime comes along that has a genuinely original element but I thought ReLIFE attempt at it was a pretty good one.
Arata Kaizaki is a 27-year old NEET who finds himself working part-time with little prospects after leaving his first post-college job. The solution to his problem arrives in the form of Ryou Yoake, a staff member at the ReLIFE institute, an organisation that specialises in getting NEETS reintegrated into society. How do they go about this, you ask? By reversing a persons age by 10 years and sending them back to high school – obviously.
ReLIFE is a slice of life comedy with a hint of romance and it really does get the balance between the three spot on. Sure, there are some cliched characters – Kaizaki himself is hardly a mould breaker, but the concept was interesting. Putting a 27-year old into the place of 17-year old and playing with everyone’s emotions is what a good comedy should be.
If you had to ask me what anime I enjoyed the most this year, ReLIFE would be at least in the top two alongside…
Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu
If you’ve been around in the anime community this year you will have undoubtedly seen this:
If Rem’s teary/happy/sad/otherwise emotional face wasn’t enough to get you to try a few episodes of Re:Zero then let me tell you why you should.
As I said earlier using time travel as a plot device is fraught with danger. You run the risk of creating paradoxes, inconsistencies or just having no other ideas on how to forward a plot. In my opinion Re:Zero does the best with time travel in any anime since the (again in my opinion) near perfect Steins;Gate.
Subaru finds himself mysteriously transported into a fantasy world and soon finds himself in the company of the beautiful princess Emilia. After being robbed, finding some mystical spirits and negotiating with a giant, you would be forgiven for settling in for a stereotypical fantasy anime. That’s until the protagonist and his newly found princess are brutally murdered.
Re:Zero constantly keeps you on the edge of your seat, surprising the viewer with new, but relevant twists. I’m not going to say anything else beyond the one early spoiler I’ve given away, because you should experience them all yourself.
Kimi no Na wa
Kimi no Na wa or Your Name, is Makoto Shinkai’s newest film and it one that has transcended anything else from the medium this year.
It’s a body swapping drama with elements of supernatural incorporated into Japan’s ever-present fascination with natural disaster. 1 in 7 Japanese have seen the film, it’s grossed more in China than in Japan and it is set to be nominated for an Oscar.
There’s so much to love about this film from the light hearted comedy created by the body swapping at the beginning through heart-wrenching drama and emotion created in the final half hour. Keeping with a theme of this list we have an element of time travel involved which works well mainly because it isn’t overused.
The romantic in me though loves Kimi no Na wa not just for it’s content though, but for how it has captured the imagination of so many people, while still using plot devices that we would expect in seasonal anime.
Erased, Bungou Stray Dogs, ReLIFE and Re:Zero can all be watched on Crunchyroll for free with ads or ad-free with a £4.99 membership. Kimi no Na wa is still showing in some theatres and is due for home release in Autumn 2017.
So there you go, these are my favourite anime from last year. I’m sure I’ve missed some great anime so let me know in the comments and if I haven’t seen it I might just give it a go!