Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Best and Worst Anime, Manga, and Light Novels of 2016
With the end of the year drawing ever nigh I figured I would get my best of 2016 list written up. So here is my best and Worst Anime and Manga of 2016 picks and thoughts on a few series I am looking forward to in 2017. First Anime than Manga and Light Novels and best OP and ED of the year Voice Acting picks than series I am looking forward to in 2017. #1. KonoSuba - God's blessing on this wonderful world!!: KonoSuba is my number one pick much for the same reason Mr. Osomatsu was in 2015 I find it harder to write good comedy as comedy has to break through the intellectual barriers of "why is this funny?" And KonoSuba does that expertly creating a mean, cynical, and oftentimes unpleasant look at a fantasy world. In short a meaner version of Slayers with a cast of characters that range from endearingly insane to bordering on too dumb to live. Making for a series that is not interested in being nice at all. While also occasionally allowing for flashy Special Effects animation in the battle scenes. While also being a surprise hit at scoring a second season when it was only slated for 10 episodes and will now be receiving a second season in Winter of 2017 #2. Concrete Revolutio: The Last Song: In a word this series is Shou Aikawa's baby and Last Song brings this Watchman like meditation on heroism and politics to a close in a way that completely upends the audience's loyalties for a most of the series while giving a visual feast for the eyes in the action scenes. Giving something that is both thought provoking and adrenaline pumping while also having callbacks to the first season with its massive cast although it is very much Jirō's story for the series. Making a series that is a treasure trove of references to classic Tokusatsu shows political subtext and an overall engaging cast of flawed characters. #3. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: A master class in storytelling and character writing this story about the entwined fates of two performers of the ancient form of Japanese storytelling known as Rakugo shows what happens when Studio Deen is able to marshal their funds wisely find a competent director in Shinichi Omata. And allow for the series to be itself. This is a series that will never be universally loved but it can be looked at as a competent piece of mature period writing while also being able to capture everything from the mood of 70s era Showa post World War Two Japan and the seeming slow death of a once venerable art form to modern forms of entertainment. This will be a series you can recommend to lapsed Anime fans and make a case for it being a series that works more as a time capsule or snapshot of an art form's seeming death and metamorphosis through ossification to a replenished vitality. #4. Orange: This honestly could have been the most cliché riddled piece of nothing but instead became a downright scarily realistic depiction of the mindset of a clinically depressed and suicidal person for that even if the animation goes off model or certain budget stretching techniques. This is a series that understands not only the seriousness of Depression but how powerless those who want to help the depressed person can be. For that, this series is on my list because in short, it matters #5. Magical Girl Raising Project: This was a series that many did not give a chance due to many I feel prematurely comparing it to Puella Magi Madoka Magica but really this series never really gives any real hope even with its inconclusive ending that seems hopeful. Magical Girl Raising Project never gives up some would find this unbearably sad but this is a series that makes you care only to rip your heart out when a character you like gets eliminated. Making someone care in a series this dark is important because you can end up becoming numb to the death if you're not careful. In short, a good series that does not try to go for an overly deconstructive take on Magical Girls but is unafraid to make unlikeable people absurdly powerful in a dark and twisted death game and remove likable characters in heart-wrenching scenes. Honorable Mentions: She and Her Cat: Everything Flows: A reworking of one of the first works of Makoto Shinkai takes what was a rather bare bones series about the life of a single woman from the perspective of her aged cat and makes for a compelling look at the pains of growing up the limits of love and overall a bittersweet tale that never feels manipulative. The Lost Village: Is this an intentionally bad series made with the purpose of "trolling" the audience? Or simply a hack job horror series that is so tone deaf and badly made as to be unintentionally hilarious? That's something that can be left up to the viewer to decide as is this is a ridiculous series that makes an entertaining watch if only for how odd it is. Consider it the Troma Movie of Anime series for this year. Re: Zero: Re: Zero was 2016's Sword Art Online meaning that those that loved it often loved it to an extent that it became uncritical almost fawning praise while those that hated it would sometimes oversell how bad this series was. I personally liked the series and while it takes 15 episodes to get really good those episodes that build up to make Subaru a character you can come to understand often times weak, self-absorbed, and emotionally broken. Mind you this was a series I originally had not an intention of even bothering with because it became so popular and haveing been burned by Sword Art Online I had no desire to watch what seemed to be another Isekai power fantasy. Yet this series makes you care about everything from villagers and Oni maids to a seemingly useless screw up like Subaru only to hurt you deeply, in short, this was a work that enjoyed hurting it's audience on levels comparable to Fate/Zero. Making for a series that was a pleasant surprise even if parts of it were supremely unpleasant to the point that parts of episode fifteen had me screaming out "oh God no!!" And crying. Keijo: A big dumb sports Anime wrapped in the clothing of a fan service fiesta this was a series that writers at Kotaku accused of being everything from being Anti-Woman to Pedophiliac yet it is very much a very stupid concept played straight to great effect for comedy. In short dumb fun done right. Worst of The Year #1. Berserk: Honestly I have never been the biggest fan Berserk it's just never been my cup of tea but this 2016 adaptation of the cult Dark Fantasy series had everything wrong with it from horrible CGI animation an overload of dark and vile actions by characters and a plot that devolved into a second rate JRPG. this series was a disappointment for fans of the series and only made me even less of a fan than I ever was of the series. #2. Erased: This was a murder mystery that had the most obvious murderer reveal I've seen while not knowing if it wanted to be a dark grounded mystery, a commentary on the concept of community, or a problem play. Erased was a tired series too enthralled with its own superficial cleverness to really say anything of any importance. #3. Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko ja Nai to Omotta?: Another entry in the terrible trend of Otaku pandering Waifu bait but whereas a series like Oh My Goddess would make the object of the audience's affection hyper-competent. This series continues the disturbing trends of taking the female lead and coding her in terms that would make her mentally ill in real life. In short, this series is a disgusting "wife raising" fetish Anime that does nothing except push the idea that we are supposed to find a delusional woman-child endearing I wanted to forget this series even existed and really the only thing that made it the least bit bearable was M.A.O.'s performance in it. #4. Joker Game: This had the potential to be an interesting look at Espionage in World War Two from a Japanese perspective and Smiley's People for the Otaku set instead what we got was a tiresome sterile action yarn set in the era of World War Two with characters that had as much personality as Ken Doll. Bland and a missed opportunity. #5. Big Order: The latest work by the mind behind the hatefully misanthropic Future Diary this has nothing but the same overpowered protagonist and one-dimensional power fantasy garbage and try hard edgy tropes that were in Future Diary but made somehow dumber. Dishonorable Mentions: Bungou Stray Dogs: An interesting concept that devolved into weird Slash Fiction like character writing of classic Japanese novelists with powers connected to their most well-known works. Gakusen Toshi Asterisk 2nd Season: From it's bland and uninspired first half that is nothing but a drawn out tournament arc to Chitose Moringa's air raid siren-like line delivery as a child maid this series was alternatively annoying and uninspired at least the first season was entertaining fluff the second season can't even really make me muster enough bile really hate this. Best Manga: #1. The Prince in his dark days by Hico Yamanaka: This is a series that got me back into reading Shojo Manga after a period of time where I quit because it was either tiresome overly chirpy School Days romances or creepy almost stalker like relationships that felt like trying to get the remaining Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey Audience. Prince in his Dark Days takes the sort of story that would be looked at as a wish-fulfillment fantasy in a series in Boys Over Flowers and instead makes it into a dark look at class and gender roles. Having elements of a reverse harem series but also feeling like a gothic romance series in short Ouran High School Host Club if it was written by V. C. Andrews and at only four volumes it's not much of a commitment. #2. Interviews with Monster Girls by Petosu: Monster Girls have become a trend of late and while one could argue that the character has always been around. This series takes that and makes it more based on the interactions of the monster girls with a regular human without having it turn into a harem series or fantasy epic it's a lot more grounded than something like Everyday Life with Monster Girls while not falling into Fan Service overload and making the series insufferably boring. While also not getting bogged down in world building like Centaur's Worries. Best Light Novel: Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Bleak, opinionated, and at times deeply tragic and human Legend of the Galactic Heroes has been a fan favorite longer than I've been alive and having read the first three novels in the sprawling 10 volume space epic it's easy to see why the audience's loyalties are constantly up in the air from the ethics of warfare to working within the confines of corrupt political system. This is a series that is frankly evergreen in what it asks the audience to consider. Best OP: Usurai Shinjuu by Megumi Hayashibara: a frenetic Jazz piece performed by the voice of Rei Ayanami sets up a world filled with emotions, emotional pain, and a lively change over the often cookie-cutter J-Pop and J-Rock songs used as OPs in Anime while also showing the talent of Hayashibara in being able to sing a complicated Jazz number. Best ED: Chiisana Boukensha by Rie Takahashi, Sora Amamiya and Ai Kayano: The Ending Theme to the first season of KonoSuba with it's quiet almost Celtic influenced opening and simple delivery from the three main voice actresses this reminded me of the ED to Fractal while also showing a change in mood making for a relaxing end to the often madcap series. Best Seiyuu Male: Akira Ishida as Yakumo Yuurakutei: Ishida takes a character who has to not only play an older version of himself but also a young version of himself and be able to believable show the difference in experience and be a believable Rakugo performer. It's an amount of nuance that is amazing to see. Honorable Mention: Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Petelgeuse Romanee-Conti: Matsuoka is known by most as the voice of Kirito in Sword Art Online and I knew him as Masaki Ichijou in The Irregular At Magic High School. In short, he's known mostly for playing nice guy charcters so as Petelgeuse he plays a completely mentally unhinged and psychotic cult leader and in my opinion making one of the best villain performance since Jouji Nakata's performance as Kirei Kotomine in Fate'Stay Night. Best Seiyuu Female: Rie Takahashi as Megumin : Some could argue that Takahashi's performance as the explosion-obsessed Mage became some kind of Meme but honestly Takahashi was able to pull off a performance that overshadowed the other performances while also able to play off of Jun Fukushima's adlibbing and give as good as she gets in the toad slime scene. Making some of her lines the funniest in the series. Honorable Mention: Chika Anzai as Reina Kousaka: While Tomoyo Kurosawa will end up on most best of lists this year for her turn as Kumiko Oumae and deservidely so. I think Chika Anzai deserves a round of aplause for her turn as Reina from being an inscrutable and haughty ice princess to an adorably awkward girl trying to make friends while also nursing a hopeless school girl crush on her Teacher Anzai runs a gammet of emotions through the two seasons of Sound Euphonium. Anticipated Manga and Light Novels Waiting for Spring by Anashin: A reverse Harem series about Mitsuki Haruno who ends up becoming sort of friends with the stars of the School Basketball team this simply feels like Bishonen eye candy for girls and honestly I like reverse harem series more than regular harem series as Reverse harem series seem to be more based around wooing the female protagonist instead of the female cast throwing themselves at the male protagonist in a regular harem. Also, this is serialized in Desert a magazine which has put out other series I have enjoyed. How this will be I have no idea but I have pre-ordered so I am hopeful it will be if nothing else an entertaining diversion back into the green spring of youth. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu by Kumota, Haruko: The manga that the Anime was based on this is a series that I almost feel obligated to support as it is the kind of thoughtful character-driven series Mangaka are capable of making but either never get released here or are released and go over like a lead balloon. Aho Girl by Hiroyuki: a four-panel gag Manga about an absurdly stupid girl who has to be watched over by her childhood friend this simply just seemed like a funny lark of a series that I'd roll the dice on.