Mid-Winter 2021 Anime Ranking

Going into this season, aside from the obvious sequels, there were very few new anime that caught our attention based on description. Therefore, voice talent became a major deciding factor for the shows we checked out. That’s how we ended up watching almost everything that Umehara Yūichirō and Saitō Sōma, my current favourite and my sister’s favourite seiyuu, respectively, have roles in.

I had to bail on EX-ARM (starring Sōma) after 3 episodes, however. I never had any delusions that it might be good. More like I had hoped it might be so bad it’s good. But it was just bad.

Also because of Sōma, we picked up The Quintessential Quintuplets (Go-Toubun no Hanayome) in the middle of its second season, without bothering with season one. So yes, we are now following both the sextuplet-brothers anime and the quintuplet-sisters anime.

We started HIGH-RISE INVASION as well (Ume plays Sniper Mask), also with the expectation that it might be so bad it’s good. So far, that’s panning out fine. We’ve seen only 4 episodes, so it’s not included in the ranking below. Of course The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ isn’t included either because we started on episode 9.


01. JUJUTSU KAISEN (ep. 14-22) – Last cour, we fell in love with Nanami. This cour, Tōdō has stolen our hearts with his instant bromance with Itadori.

I really did not expect to like Tōdō so much when he was first introduced. It turns out he is incredibly talented, strong, smart, stupid, and funny. When he’s being serious, his thoughts are impressively organized. Like any good eccentric genius though, he’s got his quirks. Not only is he a zealous otaku who lives for his waifu, he also happens to have a hilariously over-active imagination. That whole elaborate shared history he spontaneously fabricates for himself and Itadori is priceless!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


02. Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) Final Season (overall ep. 60-72) – This is a very different show from when it all started. The setting has expanded; the characters’ understanding of their world has completely been altered; and the character art has changed too – I’m not personally a big fan of the new art.

Because we felt a bit lost after the radical developments at the end of season 3, we weren’t as keen for this final season when it started airing in December as we should have been. We actually put off watching until mid-January. But once we started, it was very hard to stop.
(streaming at Crunchyroll and Funimation)


03. SK∞ (SK8 the Infinity) (ep. 1-9) – Langa grew up snowboarding in Canada, so when he takes up the skateboard in Japan, that experience informs his style and natural talent. As he rapidly gains attention in the underground “S” racing circuit, how will that affect his relationship with his newfound skateboard buddy, Reki?

All of the characters are likeable, fun, and attractive. Well, I’m not sure I can say I ‘like’ ADAM that much, but he certainly makes an impression! Langa and Reki have a genuinely sweet friendship. And for some reason, I really like Cherry, including how his distinctly masculine voice is somewhat at odds with his very feminine appearance. Long, pink-haired effeminate dudes are not uncommon in anime. I’m serious: check out Mochizuki from Skate-Leading ☆ Stars and Kokoro from I★CHU from this list alone. However, I don’t think I’ve ever come across one as elegant and manly as Cherry.

SK8 is helmed by Utsumi Hiroko, director of Free! and Banana Fish. If you loved the heart and artistry of Free!, this gorgeous anime is definitely one I recommend.
(streaming at Funimation)


04. Dr. STONE: STONE WARS (ep. 1-9)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


05. Horimiya (ep. 1-10) – I’m really particular about my romance anime. I find the usual tropes and melodrama tiring. Fortunately, Horimiya mostly hits the right notes for me. The characters seem like good, well-adjusted kids. I like that when the main characters get confronted by classmates about their dating status, the response is “Yeah, so?” instead of denials and lies.

That said, I do find Hori’s recent kink development to be problematic on multiple levels. It would not be an issue if they kept it very occasional and very private. Acting like that in public, however, can give their teachers and classmates the wrong idea and get them in real trouble.

Also, abusive behaviour could easily become real, as Miyamura has to change his mindset in order to act so differently from his usual nature.

Worst, their play-abuse normalizes that type of interaction for people who see them and makes light of those who may genuinely be victimized. So yeah, I know it’s not meant to be taken seriously, but I could do without that aspect of the show.
(streaming at Funimation)


06. 2.43: Seiin High School Boys Volleyball Team (Seiin Koukou Danshi Volley Bu) (ep. 1-10) – The early time skip was confusing to me. It wasn’t obvious how much time had passed and what went down in the meantime. Some of the characters seemed to be dealing with some past trauma, but that wasn’t very clear. And are Haijima and Kuroba actually close friends?

At least the Seiin team senpai, Aoki and Oda, are more likeable. Especially Aoki (Ume’s character); I love how bossy, manipulative, and clever he is.

Well, then the Fukuho team made their debut mid-series, and almost immediately, I was wondering, ‘Oh no, these are the rivals right? How come it feels so much like they are the protagonists of this story? I haven’t even warmed up to the home team this much yet!’
(streaming at Funimation)


07. Skate-Leading ☆ Stars (ep. 1-11) – This is a sports anime featuring skate-leading, a fictional group-ice-skating sport that’s part dance and part synchronized figure skating. Competitions have a short program and a long program like other figure skating divisions.

Ep. 6 kind of confused me. First Maeshima was criticized for being too sloppy, but then as soon as he tightened his performance, he got blamed for playing it too safe. I’m surprised he didn’t seem as frustrated as we felt watching it.

Sōma and Ume both have supporting roles, and both of them play to type here. Ume turns in another Non-expressive Dude, while Sōma continues to make Radiant Golden Boy his personal specialty. Kuonji (Sōma’s character) is actually a highlight of the anime. Because he apparently spent time in Canada, he regularly peppers his dialogue with (well-pronounced!) English phrases. Kuonji is just so obnoxious and in-your-face, he kind of bulldozes over the rest of the cast and steals the show. It’s awesome.
(streaming at Funimation)


08. Hortensia SAGA (ep. 1-10) – A fairly generic fantasy-adventure anime starring an extremely generic-looking male lead, with some pretty generically evil villains. Surely Marius/Marielle could do a better job at pretending to be a man. Anyone who didn’t already know she was supposed to be a guy would take just one look and assume she’s female!

Anyway, the king of Hortensia has been murdered and the church has taken control. It’s up to the hidden princess and her trusted companions to defeat the evil forces and save her kingdom.

But wait. Let’s put aside the evil pope and the war for a moment. Adelheid, ruler and military commander of the Principality of Olivier, ‘noticed’ Deflotte! Could it be? Here I assumed his romantic advances were only meant to be a clownish character flaw. Could it be he actually has a chance with her?

Not saying anything about the rest of the show, but in general, I like how they’ve portrayed this (Ume’s) character. For all that he’s made out to be a girl-crazy flirt, I have to respect that Deflotte had no eyes whatsoever for the likes of the pretty pop-idol princess-pretender who charmed dozens of male admirers, and instead set his sights way, way above his station! He also gets to speak up and complain whenever they have to do anything unpleasant, though that never stops him from doing his duty faithfully.
(streaming at Funimation)


09. Osomatsu-san (Mr. Osomatsu) 3rd Season (ep. 13-22)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


10. THE PROMISED NEVERLAND (Yakusoku no Neverland) Season 2 (ep. 1-9) – I had high expectations for this, based on how good the first season was, but it’s been pretty disappointing.
(streaming at Funimation)


11. I★CHU: Halfway Through the Idol (ep. 1-10) – It’s a common complaint of mine when it comes to these idol shows: too many characters. Even in their groups, I have trouble recognizing each guy. Once they are separated from their units? Forget it.

One of the groups consists of members from 5 different nationalities. I would think that would afford them the unique liberty of being able to incorporate a wide variety of styles into their music without worry of triggering cultural appropriation accusations; but they seem to play it safe. Of course, this is a show that has a walking, talking bear as a school principal, so never mind.

Credit where it’s due, the I★CHU performance segments appear to be more hand-drawn than CG, and they look good!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


12. WAVE!! -Let’s go surfing!!- (WAVE!!: Surfing Yappe!!) (ep. 1-9) – A dumb kid suddenly develops a passion for surfing. Then tragedy strikes (in a rather dumb way.) Then life goes on.

The CG surfing animation is not amazing, but I think it’s passable enough to service the story. The story itself is the real problem; I am pretty surprised at how it’s basically gone nowhere.

Right, and don’t get me started on that annoying synthesized soundtrack.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

(EX-ARM, The Quintessential Quintuplets∬ are on Crunchyroll; HIGH-RISE INVASION is on Netflix)

Mid-Summer 2020 Anime Ranking


01. The Millionaire Detective – Balance: UNLIMITED (Fugou Keiji: Balance:Unlimited) (ep. 3-9) – The main feature is the odd-couple repartee between the 2 police detectives, and Millionaire Detective is probably worth watching for that alone.

Fortunately, the initial formula of Daisuke causing reckless, unnecessary damage and then paying huge amounts in reparations doesn’t last the entire run of the series. There is an actual mystery storyline here.
(streaming at Funimation)


02. APPARE-RANMAN! (ep. 4-11) – Like Millionaire Detective, APPARE-RANMAN! initially debuted in the spring season but got delayed due to the pandemic. It’s really nice to finally have these shows back.

Appare and Kosame are taking part in the Trans-America Race in their steamship-turned-racecar in hopes of winning the prize money and getting back home to Japan. More than the race itself, it’s fun to follow this motley crew of colourful and extraordinary characters on their adventure.
(streaming at Funimation)


03. DECA-DENCE (ep. 1-10) – Is this post-apocalypse? Sci-fi?… Isekai?

The second episode was a drastic departure from the first one; and it’s not until episode 3 and beyond, however, that we get a clearer picture of what DECA-DENCE is really about.
(streaming at Funimation)


04. AHIRU NO SORA (ep. 37-47) – Both of this and Fruits Basket (below) have hit a nice stride. They are reasonably enjoyable to watch every week; however, they’re still nothing to get super excited for either.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


05. Fruits Basket 2nd Season (ep. 14-23)
(streaming at Crunchyroll and Funimation)


06. Mr Love: Queen’s Choice (Koi to Producer: EVOL×LOVE) (ep. 1-9) – I quite like the MC in this otome game adaptation. She looks like a little girl, yes, but she’s smart and independent. It’s obvious she finds Victor intimidating, for example, but she isn’t afraid to speak her mind to him.

Unfortunately, I do find it weird and somewhat troubling that the subtitled names and spoken names in this series are not the same, especially in the case of Lucian/Simon.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


07. The Misfit of Demon King Academy (Maou Gakuin no Futekigousha: Shijou Saikyou no Maou no Shiso, Tensei shite Shison-tachi no Gakkou e) (ep. 1-11) – Instead of introducing characters and taking the time to get us familiar with them, the setup is often accomplished by characters standing around and explaining things. That does get us to the important part of the plot expediently, but we don’t know enough about the players to feel the weight of subsequent events. Because of that, the pace somehow manages to be too fast and too slow at the same time.

The story, and the humour, is passably effective, but I feel most of it could be a lot more impactful with some more skillful and graceful storytelling.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


08. JAPAN SINKS: 2020 (Nihon Chinbotsu 2020) (10 episodes) – I was expecting something along the lines of its thematic predecessor Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, but with how this show seems preoccupied with killing off its characters in the most ridiculously shocking and gruesome ways, JAPAN SINKS comes off as more of a B-grade horror flick than a disaster movie.
(streaming at NETFLIX)


09. Food Wars! The Fifth Plate (Shokugeki no Souma: Gou no Sara) (ep. 3-11) – While there has always been a fair amount of fantasy to Food Wars!, it has gotten plain ridiculous at this point. The members of Noir are literally clowns! And what’s with the authorities of this BLUE competition randomly turning a blind eye to illegal activities?

Worst of all, the show is also rushing through the cooking and food presentation, which was previously one of the main highlights of the series.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Mid-Winter 2020 Anime Ranking

The season is already over, so this is more of a season-end ranking instead of the mid-season ranking it’s supposed to be. It is also unfinished, regrettably. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, things have been hectic at my essential service day job and quite different at home as well, leaving me with no energy or ‘alone’ time to think about writing.


01. CASTLEVANIA Season 3 (10 episodes)
(streaming on NETFLIX)


02. ID: INVADED (13 episodes)
(streaming at FUNimation)


03. Chihayafuru 3 (ep. 13-24)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


04. Blade of the Immortal (Mugen no Juunin: IMMORTAL) (ep. 13-24)
(streaming on Amazon)


05. Uchitama?! Have you seen my Tama? (Uchi Tama?! Uchi no Tama Shirimasen ka?) (11 episodes)
(streaming at FUNimation, Crunchyroll)

06. Ace of Diamond (Diamond no Ace): Act II (season 3) (ep. 40-52)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

07. Haikyuu!! TO THE TOP (Season 4) (ep. 1-13, expected to continue in summer)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

08. AHIRU NO SORA (ep. 13-24, ongoing)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

09. number24 (12 episodes) – One thing you can’t criticize about this rugby anime: it definitely does not have a generic milquetoast lead! Natsusa is not even one of the players on the team, at least not anymore. Personality-wise, he’s very friendly, but he’s also surprisingly pushy and manipulative when he wants to get his way.
(streaming at FUNimation)

10. Smile Down the Runway (Runway de Waratte) (12 episodes)
(streaming at FUNimation)

11. The Case Files of Jeweler Richard (Housekishou Richard-shi no Nazo Kantei) (12 episodes)
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

12. Kabukichou Sherlock (Case File nº221: Kabukicho) (ep. 13-24) – The final arc was dark, rather disturbingly so; but Kabukichou Sherlock was actually much better for it. No more problematic, tone-deaf, mean-spirited attempts at humour at least. It’s a shame they didn’t cut all that filler out from the beginning. This didn’t need to be a two-cour show.

In the end, I was unable to muster as much sympathy for the villain as the story seemed to demand. I’m a known bleeding-heart pacifist, but even I believe some people are beyond saving.
(streaming at FUNimation)

13. PLUNDERER (ep. 1-11, ongoing) – There’s a decent story here somewhere, probably, but first you have to get past the staggering amounts of sexual harassment/sexual assault (mostly perpetrated by the main character no less) and other filler. If the girls are not all being groped for half an episode, then it’ll be a nonsensical drinking contest that lasts half of another episode.
(streaming at FUNimation)

Mid-Autumn 2018 Anime Ranking

Due to the demands of work and travel, I haven’t had much time for watching anime this season, never mind writing down my thoughts about what I have seen, which makes me sad. Unfortunately, that means this quarterly post might be a little bit more half-assed than usual.

Note: I am aware that two of the shows on my list are not technically anime, but whatever, it’s my blog, so I’ll put in whatever I want… even if it’s the top 3!


01. DOUBLE DECKER! Doug & Kirill (ep. 1-10) – So far, this show has simply been a lot of fun. DOUBLE DECKER! can be serious when it wants to be, but when it goes for funny, it hits the mark because it is always smart enough to recognize its own stupidity. It’s full of interesting and colourful characters; even the narrator has quite the personality! And more than any anime I’ve ever seen, DOUBLE DECKER! acknowledges the existence of things like workplace sexual harassment and LGBTQ issues while telling its greater story.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


02. Thunderbolt Fantasy S2: Sword Seekers (Touri-ken Yuuki) (ep. 1-8) – It’s an incredible treat to get more of Urobuchi Gen’s Taiwanese puppet show! The writing is stellar and I just love these characters. The explanation as to why so many people have been crossing the Wasteland was so obvious in retrospect, I could have smacked my head. I fully expect that Sword Seekers will continue to surprise and impress me.

The music is always amazing in this series too. Well, it is Sawano Hiroyuki after all. The collaboration with Nishikawa Takanori for the OP and ED this time just takes it to the next level.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


03. CASTLEVANIA Season 2 (ep. 1-8 complete) – Trevor kind of takes a back seat to his mates, Alucard and Sypha in this installment. And they all take a back seat to Dracula’s court, which is the main focus of this story. We’re introduced to Dracula’s crew, as they scheme and question the loyalties and competencies of their comrades. Meanwhile, our heroes prepare for battle by hunkering down to study with books…

The 4 episodes of CASTLEVANIA season one and these 8 episodes are hugely entertaining, slickly animated productions featuring dark, intelligent storytelling. I’m very glad there’s a third season on the way!
(streaming at NETFLIX)


04. Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san (Gaikotsu Shoten’in Honda-san) (ep. 1-8) – This is a hilarious short format anime. I think anyone who’s worked in retail or customer service can relate to Honda’s bookstore experiences. I love that the humour is in the situations and Honda’s reactions, and is not generally mean-spirited toward the customers that he encounters.

Saitou Souma is really great as the soft-spoken title character; and the frequent random English is funny as hell.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


05. BANANA FISH (ep. 13-20) – I greatly enjoyed the thrilling hospital escape in ep. 16. But then I thought Ash seemed to give up too easily when Blanca came on scene. I would have expected him to maybe have some ideas on Blanca’s potential weaknesses, having known him and spent time together with him in the past.

I am also frustrated by Ash’s willingness to sacrifice himself for Eiji’s sake. He shouldn’t need to do that. It’s a little melodramatic, and if I were Eiji, I don’t think I would appreciate my own survival if it meant never being able to see my loved one again.


06. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind (JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Ougon no Kaze) (Season 4) (ep. 1-8) – Another season of JoJo’s brings with it another set of awesomely flamboyant characters. This represents Part 5 of the overall saga. I’m still getting to know the new cast, but JoJo’s is JoJo’s, and it’s as consistently entertaining as always.

The highlight so far was that impromptu torture dance on the ship. I have honestly never seen anything like that before! So good.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


07. DAKAICHI –I’m being harassed by the sexiest man of the year- (Dakaretai Otoko 1-i ni Odosarete Imasu.) (ep. 1-8) – In an unlikely development, I’m watching two BL-themed series this season: BANANA FISH and DAKAICHI. Whereas BANANA FISH is a drama and its plot involves much more than the love story, DAKAICHI is basically a romantic comedy; and as such, it works well.

I was worried that there would be a lot of non-consensual shenanigans (just look at that title), but that hasn’t really been the case, at least not between the 2 leads. I am reasonably convinced that their relations are indeed fully consensual. Also, Takato (I love his snarky internal monologue) and Junta are great characters who have real chemistry together. DAKAICHI is a lot of fun and I actually find this relationship more interesting and compelling than the one in BANANA FISH!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


08. GOBLIN SLAYER (ep. 1-10) – Through watching this controversial anime, I’ve discovered that this is my tolerance for objectionable content: brutal violence/rape (ep. 1) challenges my idea of entertainment, but is OK; gratuitous nudity (ep. 2) is eyeroll-inducing, but OK; insects – moving, up-close, with sound effects (ep.5) are NOT OK. I really wanted a lot more censorship in ep. 5!

Despite the fact that I have almost as many complaints about GOBLIN SLAYER as the next person, I actually sympathize enough with the characters that I would say I mostly like the show. In fact, if it were only the characters and the story, GOBLIN SLAYER might be vying for a spot in the top 5 right now. However, the distasteful aspects are significant enough that I would be hard-pressed to recommend this show; and even I, myself, would not relish the thought of enduring those difficult scenes a second time.

Of course, I am also watching because Umehara Yuuichirou is voicing the lead character, his first starring role since his return to work. He was in hospital for much of 2018 after being diagnosed with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, and during that time it was uncertain whether he would be able to continue his career. So there was basically no way I was going to miss this!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


09. Tsurune: Kazemai Koukou Kyuudou Bu (ep. 1-6) – Gorgeous KyoAni production about some high school kids in an archery club. What happens in it? Well not much actually; don’t ask me to describe the plot. Did I mention it looks great?
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Also kinda sorta watching:

Boarding School Juliet (Kishuku Gakkou no Juliet)

IRODUKU (Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara)

The iDOLM@STER SideM: Wakeatte Mini!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Mid-Winter 2018 Anime Ranking

I haven’t started with one of these in some years, but there are actually a few decent theme songs currently, so let’s kick things off with my choices for best OP/ED songs this season:

1. The Perfect World, by Marty Friedman feat. Jean-Ken Johnny & KenKen (B: The Beginning ED)
2. KISS OF DEATH, by Nakashima Mika (Produced by HYDE) (DARLING in the FRANXX OP)
3. Treasure, by Narek (cv: Ishikawa Kaito) & Vino (cv: Umehara Yuuichirou) (Dame x Prince ANIME CARAVAN ED3)
4. Heavenly Visitor, by TRIGGER (IDOLiSH7 ED)
5. Ref:rain, by Aimer (After the Rain ED)

It’s the season of Sanrio and ramen. Sanrio, the company behind Hello Kitty and My Melody, not only has their own anime airing right now, they also have product placement and tie-ins with the other 2 “cute” shows on my list, How to keep a mummy and SCHOOL BABYSITTERS! Meanwhile, ramen is featured in the titles and content of 2 (very different) shows.

To tell the truth, I’ve been procrastinating about making this ranking. The reason is that there are so many really good series this winter that it’s kind of a pain deciding which show is better than which! Anyway, I’ll do my best.


01. DARLING in the FRANXX (ep. 1-9) – Depending on how I feel about each episode week by week, any of the shows in my top 5 could easily be my favourite of the season. Ultimately I’m going with DARLING in the FRANXX because I’m most invested in the characters of this show. The ways they relate to one another are compelling and I’m curious to know more about their world, even if I’m not expecting to be blown away by originality.

The early episodes of this mecha anime presented the cockpit scenes as one elaborate, extended sex joke. I think it turned some people off. I, however, thought it was really funny! Well, I also liked Aquarion EVOL and STAR DRIVER, so apparently I’m not one to be easily offended by this type of material. (On the other hand, I do find a tad offensive the way we always see Futoshi eating something. You can always count on good ol’ anime to fat-shame the chubby kid whenever there’s an opportunity to do so.)

Since then, the focus has turned more toward developing each of the characters, and I’m enjoying that aspect too, since I really do care about these kids… Well, except for Mitsuru; I have a feeling even he might become sympathetic eventually, but for now I just feel really sorry for Ikuno, who has to partner with him.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


02. SCHOOL BABYSITTERS (Gakuen Babysitters) (ep. 1-10) – I love my sisters more than anything in the world, so I’m a super easy target for heartwarming stories like this that emphasize the bonds between siblings. Additionally, there is a big age gap between myself and my youngest sibling, just like Ryuuichi and Kotarou, so this brings back memories of when my baby sister was, well, actually a baby.

Ryuuichi and Kotarou are on their own in this world after suffering the loss of their parents. Naturally, they are very attached to each other. They get taken in by the Chairwoman of a private school, and Ryuuichi uses his experience in raising his brother to help out at the school’s daycare.

The anime is not as sombre as I’m making it sound. Most of the time, it’s lighthearted and sweet and funny. I laugh a lot while watching; and then afterward, I’m left thinking about the characters’ personalities and how different the various sibling relationships are.

Personally, I would never leave my child at a daycare staffed by guys, especially not if the adult in charge were someone like Usaida – he is disturbingly irresponsible! I think I enjoyed it too much when Kamitani whacked him on the head that time. Then again, I always enjoy it when Kamitani whacks people. Is that bad? – I absolutely do not condone hitting people (especially children) in real life!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


03. HAKATA TONKOTSU RAMENS (ep. 1-9) – This show depicts Hakata as a city teeming with killers-for-hire. It has a huge ensemble cast, and it’s really hard to keep track of who’s who and who is whose associate, but I can follow it enough to enjoy it a lot. All the double-crossing and personality quirks are a blast to watch, although I’m also glad we are finally getting some background on Lin.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

04. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. 2 (Saiki Kusuo no Psi Nan 2) (ep. 1-9) – More Saiki K. goodness. It’s great to have Saiki and his friends and family back; their personalities and the situations they get themselves into are always hilarious. If you liked the first season, you will also enjoy this.

The current OP, “Psilent Prisoner,” by Psychic Lover featuring lead vocals by Kaidou (cv: Shimazaki Nobunaga), is very chuunibyou and kind of amazing. I wonder if I should have included it in my song list up top?


05. How to keep a mummy (Miira no Kaikata) (ep. 1-9) – So freakin’ cute. That’s pretty much all you need to know. This show, about a boy and his mini mummy, and his friends and their fantastical pets, takes the cuteness of something like SCHOOL BABYSITTERS and dials it to eleven. There’s no deep meaning, no complicated plot to follow; just sit back, relax, and let the warmth wash over you.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


06. B: The Beginning (ep. 1-6) – A mature investigative crime drama along the lines of PSYCHO-PASS and Terror in Resonance. Uploaded by NETFLIX in its entirety early in March, we haven’t had time to marathon it, but we did check out the first 6 episodes over 2 sittings and I’m intrigued by what we’ve seen.

In some ways, Lily, the female protagonist, kind of sticks out like a sore thumb. She has a more cartoony appearance than the other cast members and it’s obvious she’s there largely for comic relief. But I like her. B: The Beginning is dark, violent, and frequently disturbing. When Lily shows up though, it lightens the mood and makes things feel less horrifying.
(streaming on NETFLIX in its entirety)

07. Yowamushi Pedal: GLORY LINE (ep. 1-10) – We’re in the middle of the Inter-High and GLORY LINE (YowaPeda season 4) is once again as exciting and funny as the first 2 seasons. It’s nice to see the Sohoku boys back in the spotlight. Their team banter is always fun too, especially Naruko and Imaizumi. Now all we need is for Onoda to strut his stuff!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


08. Dame x Prince ANIME CARAVAN (ep. 1-10) – This show is pretty dumb, but damn if it isn’t really funny too! It basically functions as a parody of reverse harem stories. The guys of DamePri are handsome to look at, I guess, but every one of them is a certifiable weirdo. Part of the joke is that our lead, Princess Ani, wouldn’t be caught dead dating any of them. Her reactions to the shenanigans are hilarious.

All along, there were hints that something shady was going on behind the scenes, but the anime has been fluffy and comedic for the vast majority of its run. Until now, that is; the tone suddenly shifted in ep. 10, and it seems like things will be a little more serious in the final stretch.

Funniest character: Prince Narek. He’s so ridiculously, obliviously full of himself that sometimes he only needs to show up and I already feel like giggling. Least-funny: Gurimaru. Mascot characters just don’t work for me.
(streaming at HIDIVE)


09. After the Rain (Koi wa ameagari no You ni) (ep. 1-10) – After the Rain is about a teenaged girl with a crush on her 40-something boss. As such, it tiptoes on some potentially problematic material. To its credit, the anime is sensitive and believable and not really weird at all, in no small part because Kondo, the boss, is a decent guy who doesn’t take Akira’s advances too seriously.

10. GARO -VANISHING LINE- (ep. 13-21) – Even though Sword and Sophie are the real main characters, it’s the episodes focused Luke that I’ve enjoyed the most. Also, ep. 16, a mostly stand-alone story about a chance acquaintance, proved to be a highlight. It was written well enough to make me care about this random guy. And it was refreshing to see that not everything has to be because of Horrors.

As previously stated, the action is great; and in particular, I am satisfied with the musical accompaniment during those scenes. A show like this is just crying to have some metal in its soundtrack; GARO gets it.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


11. VIOLET EVERGARDEN (ep. 1-10) – The animation looks absolutely stunning in this much-hyped KyoAni production. VIOLET EVERGARDEN tells the story of a former-soldier doll who starts a new life after the war as a letter-writer, while coming to terms with her past.

Disappointingly, the quality of the visuals far out-classed the rather unsophisticated narrative in the early stages. But then the anime apparently started following the source material more closely around the fifth episode and it was a huge improvement. My enthusiasm for the show increased dramatically.

Basically, VIOLET EVERGARDEN has taken the opposite trajectory of SANRIO BOYS (see below) in my rankings.
(streaming on NETFLIX weekly)

12. Record of Grancrest War (Grancrest Senki) (ep. 1-10) – This reminds me a bit of Lord Marksman and Vanadis (2014). Both have a political/fantasy setting, extremely fast pacing, and strong female warriors. Grancrest Senki is the less fanservicey and more respectable of the two.

The pace really is fast. There’s a war going on and there can be five or ten different things happening at the same time, with very little explanation. It is possible to enjoy it just from following the gist of it, though.

The series can also be terribly violent at times, but I feel the violence tends to be presented in ways that are more artistic than gratuitous. I also like that even doomed extras sometimes get decently animated fights before getting killed off. However, it’s kind of a shame that frequently, named characters with interesting personalities or backgrounds also just get killed off soon after their introduction.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

13. IDOLiSH7 (ep. 3-12) – The male idol anime of this season is fairly competent, though I don’t feel it particularly stands out among other shows of its genre. It’s realistic that IDOLiSH7 does not become successful immediately, and that in fact a couple of the members rise in popularity ahead of the others.

I kind of wish there was more focus on the rival group, TRIGGER. Two of the 3 guys have somewhat abrasive and rebellious personalities. They clearly have their own agendas, and I am genuinely interested in learning what their motives are. Plus, TRIGGER’s music is better; which isn’t actually difficult since the IDOLiSH7 songs are all terrible.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


14. Ms Koizumi loves ramen noodles (Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san) (ep. 1-10) – While this is a cute and pleasant show, it really has no plot. Gluttony is the name of the game for ramen-addicted Koizumi and her friends. We usually make sure to get some ramen in us before watching, or at least have food in hand, because man, all that ramen on display looks sinfully good. It’s definitely given us ideas on where we want to eat when we next go to Japan!

It can be argued that both this and last season’s Love Rice are pro-carb propaganda vehicles, and I’m not sure I can really support that message. While I do happen to be staunchly pro-carbs myself, it’s more of a personal preference and not because I have any delusions that this kind of diet is balanced or healthy. Having ramen every day, several times a day may sound heavenly, but it can’t possibly be good for you!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

15. BORUTO: NARUTO NEXT GENERATIONS (ep. 40-47) – The Byakuya Gang arc was actually not bad, in that it was fairly enjoyable to watch. I didn’t see the grey in the criminals’ ideology, though. They were trying to gain public favour by robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, but I think Boruto summed it up pretty nicely right from the start, that “stealing is stealing!”
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

16. Osomatsu-san 2 (Mr. Osomatsu 2) (ep. 14-23) – A clear improvement over the first cour, even if it still isn’t quite measuring up to the creative genius of season one.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


17. SANRIO BOYS (ep. 1-9) – SANRIO BOYS had a very promising start. The message of the first few episodes, that it’s okay to be yourself, even if you like Sanrio mascots and you’re a boy, was relevant and easily applicable to anyone who might feel they don’t fit in with the crowd for any reason.

Then, the show veered off into worshipping-Hello-Kitty-as-a-deity territory and they lost me. In ep. 7, the boys had a transcendent experience visiting the Sanrio Puroland theme park. I didn’t get it at all. I’m grateful I got to see it in this anime, though; now I know I don’t ever need to go there myself!

Now the new friends are putting all their resources into making a musical, even though it’s obvious none of them has any expertise in that sort of thing. It’s just not believable. All in all, SANRIO BOYS could have been so much better if it had continued to play out as a parable for the challenges of learning to accept yourself and to accept others who are different from you. What a missed opportunity.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Mid-Autumn 2017 Anime Ranking


01. RECOVERY OF AN MMO JUNKIE (Netojuu no Susume) (ep. 1-10 complete) – 30-year-old Moriko reacquaints herself with the world of online gaming after leaving her job. She soon becomes very attached to Fruits de Mer and her in-game friends. Little does she know that real life and fantasy are about to collide in unexpected ways.

This is such a cute and sweet show. The characters are sympathetic, likeable, and funny. Moriko’s reactions are especially great.

On a personal level, I’ve never been much of a gamer myself, but I have recently developed an attachment to an online game for the first time in my entire life (note: see previous post). Even though it’s not an MMO, the experience nevertheless gives me an extra level of intimate familiarity with some of the themes of this anime. Yes, I can attest it is absolutely believable that a grown professional woman could carry on like a middle-school girl because of a game.

Unlike Moriko though, I did not quit my day job and become an Elite NEET. Not yet anyway!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


02. INUYASHIKI LAST HERO (ep. 1-9) – Ichirou, a middle-aged man who appears older than his years, and Hiro, a high school boy, are both killed when a flying saucer crash-lands into them. The hit-and-run aliens proceed to hastily reconstruct the victims’ bodies using machinery in an effort to cover up the accident. Thus, our 2 main characters unwittingly become cyborgs at the start of this action/sci-fi drama.

INUYASHIKI examines how Ichirou and Hiro each handle their newfound bodies and super-human abilities in vastly different ways. The consequences that result are fascinating, often tragic, and thought-provoking.


03. JUNI TAISEN: ZODIAC WAR (ep. 1-10) – Warriors representing the 12 animals of the Zodiac are recruited to take part in an epic battle royale. It’s a fight to the death where the last survivor is the victor.

JUNI TAISEN spends a lot of time setting up elaborate back stories for the various participants. The stories are good, but it’s weird that the characters are often killed off quickly and unceremoniously afterward without really getting to demonstrate their skills in a proper fight.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


04. DREAM FESTIVAL! R (ep. 7-12 complete) – Depending on how you count them, there are as many as 6 male-idol series this season. (Note that I am not even counting the female-idol shows!) TSUKIPRO, THE iDOLM@STER SideM, DYNAMIC CHORD, and Love Rice 2 are fully part of the Autumn cour. IDOLISH7 doesn’t officially start until January, however 2 advance episodes have been broadcast already. That brings me to DREAM FESTIVAL! R, which began airing mid-August and thus already had 6 episodes under its belt before the current season began.

Of the many idol franchises, DREAM FES is probably one of the least hyped of the bunch. It happens to also be one of the best of its genre. Well, STARMYU is probably more crazy-fun overall, but that show is also way cheesier and more fantastical, whereas DREAM FES is a little more grounded in depicting the hard work and challenges faced by the performers.

I still dislike the CG stage work and transformations, which can’t be helped, but the narrative parts are really good! The characterizations are detailed, and the expressions and interactions show that the creators put a lot of effort into making each of the guys seem like real people with their own goals and perspectives. It helps too, that there are only 2 main units, consisting of 7 guys total, a manageable number.

KUROFUNE received a bit more of the spotlight this time around, which suited me just fine. I thought Keigo and Yuto’s development in the first half was believable. I totally didn’t expect that we’d be seeing Keigo’s schoolyard bullies again too, but I loved that even that relationship got revisited.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

05. Food Wars! The Third Plate (Shokugeki no Souma: San no Sara) (ep. 1-10) – The first 5 episodes covered Totsuki’s Moon Festival, in which Souma was cast as the underdog (again) against one of the Elite Ten. Then things took a sudden dark turn as Erina’s creepy father returned from exile to engineer a hostile takeover of the school, putting everyone and everything at the whim of his unbending beliefs of culinary right and wrong. Souma and company quickly find themselves at odds with this new dictatorship; but of course our hero has never been one to back down when it comes to taking on the establishment.

Souma’s cool confidence is always fun to watch; and as usual, the dishes featured in the show look scrumptious.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


06. THE IDOLM@STER SideM (ep. 0-9) – The idols of 315 Productions number 19 in this guy-version of the iDOLM@STER franchise. I absolutely do have trouble recognizing all the characters and placing them in their respective groups.

It’s an interesting gimmick that the agency specifically recruits talent from outside the entertainment field, however some cases are not as convincing as others. It’s hard to buy a doctor and lawyer putting aside their hard-earned and expensive educations to become idols (when they haven’t even been barred from practising their professions), for instance.

I do appreciate that the performances are beautifully animated and not all CGI, truly a rarity nowadays for an idol show. I also love the realistic depictions of various locales, some of which are familiar to me in real life, including Haneda airport and some of the livehouses where the units perform.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

07. GARO -VANISHING LINE- (ep. 1-10) – The latest GARO anime takes place in the fictional location of Russell City, USA, a dark and gritty urban jungle. Once again, there’s a whole new set of characters to accompany the new setting.

So what’s good about this GARO? Well the animation and fight scenes are intense and packed with motion. Frankly, it’s a bit much for my poor little computer to handle sometimes! Also, the show features a lot of racial diversity among the characters without making a big deal of it. And from Gina to Sister to Luke’s mom Adelaide, I can’t think of many series with such an impressive collection of seriously cool and kick-ass ladies.

How does it compare to the 2 previous GARO anime series so far? I think it’s not quite as good as GARO THE ANIMATION; I still liked that one more, and more consistently. However, VANISHING LINE is way, way, way better than CRIMSON MOON.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


08. Children of the Whales (Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau) (ep. 1-9) – The first episode was intriguing and beautiful, probably the best premiere of the season. However, it didn’t really set the tone for the rest of the series, which went on to take several sudden left turns in the following weeks.

Cerebrally, I liked seeing the differing approaches taken by Suou and Ouni when their people were attacked. I personally agree with Suou’s high-minded tactics more, but I can appreciate that sometimes it’s only the person who’s willing to get his hands dirty (and bloody) who can get favourable results when your opponent is not so high-minded.

The more fantastical content, related to the Nous at the heart of the ship, is weird and not explained that well, so I don’t enjoy that stuff as much as the character drama.
(to stream at NETFLIX eventually)

09. TSUKIPRO THE ANIMATION (ep. 1-10) – Another slice-of-life idol anime where it’s a weekly challenge to identify the characters and match them with the units they each belong to. Just to complicate things, people from TSUKIUTA. also make cameo appearances occasionally.

The highlight of the series was ep. 5, which might have been one of the best things I’ve seen this season. Basically, the 4 guys of SolidS went on a drive around the city in a borrowed car. TSUKIPRO is not exactly a plot-driven show anyway, so this was the perfect way to get us familiar with these idols as they experienced something mundane, yet funny and very relatable.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

10. Welcome to the Ballroom (Ballroom e Youkoso) (ep. 13-23) – Recent episodes have been more focused on the characters than the dancing, which is a welcome change, in my opinion. And when there is dancing, it’s often actually animated, not just still frames.

The sexism and occasional body-shaming still crop up, but I’ve gotten past that in this show. By now, I can just ignore that stuff and try to make the most of the positives.


11. King’s Game The Animation (Ou-sama Game The Animation) (ep. 1-9) – For the second time in his young life, high school student Nobuaki is targeted to participate in the King’s Game, in which he and his classmates receive mysterious text messages ordering them to do perverted and cruel things or else suffer a gruesome death. Nobuaki was the sole survivor of the earlier game.

The anime takes the unusual, and probably unwise, tactic of trying to cover the events of both King’s Games at once. In general, it is ridiculous and stupid and trashy. That said, it tends to not be boring either.

The main reason I came to this show was for coldrain’s OP “FEED THE FIRE”, a truly awesome song which really deserves to be in a better anime than this!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

12. Just Because! (ep. 1-9) – Eita reunites with his middle school friends when he returns to his hometown during his final year of high school. It is a difficult time for them, as they prepare to make the transition to the next stage of their lives, education-wise and career-wise, and in terms of romance.

The show utilizes a subtle style of storytelling. It’s so understated that it look me quite a while to figure out who is crushing on whom and what the coordinates of the love triangles are. Honestly, the languid pacing bored me for most of the first half. I’m following it a bit better now, though obviously, this isn’t really my kind of show.

13. Osomatsu-san 2 (Mr. Osomatsu 2) (ep. 1-10) – The first episode felt like a great comeback effort, but subsequent offerings haven’t really measured up to the levels of fun of the first season. In particular, I really don’t get most of the Cave-matsu skits. I enjoy them even less than the Girly-matsu stuff. If only we could get the pretty boys back instead.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


14. Code:Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ (~Sousei no Himegimi~) (ep. 1-9) – Protagonist Cardia is a walking weapon whose skin is poison to anything it touches. She ends up being taken in by Lupin and his colleagues. They are also investigating her father’s work, likely the cause of her affliction.

Code:Realize is based on an otome game, so I think we’re supposed to like at least some of the guys. Unfortunately, their personalities and the main romance (with Lupin?) are sorely underdeveloped. The story is also pretty weak, Finis’ motives especially (he’s evil).

The show looks reasonably good though. The character art and the steampunk Victorian London setting are nice.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

15. BORUTO: NARUTO NEXT GENERATIONS (ep. 27-34) – Boruto and his classmates’ excursion to the Hidden Mist Village turned out to be pretty tedious and boring. I was so glad to see the kids back at home finally, only to discover that it means we have to sit through a bunch more filler episodes before they actually get around to the graduation exams.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

16. SENGOKU NIGHT BLOOD (ep. 1-8) – Didn’t I say, only last season, that “Warring States Era time-slip stories are a dime a dozen”? Well, here’s another one already. Just like in Ikemen Sengoku (game version), a modern day girl is magically transported back in time to an alternate reality 1500s Japan. Only in this case, the Sengoku warlords happen to be vampires and werewolves.

It’s hard to get into the story when they’re trying to incorporate so many characters in a short time, and basically not doing a very good job of it. Therefore, the events seem to unfold without proper build-up. It also bothers me that Yuzuki constantly looks out of place in her modern dress. Is it supposed to be a joke that she can’t get a change of clothes?

Stupidly, the best parts of the show are the closing credits. Almost every episode features a new song sung by a different warlord, with new visuals. My sister dropped the anime long ago, but she continues to check out the EDs. This might as well have been another idol show rather than the low-rent otome fantasy that it is.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

17. DYNAMIC CHORD (ep. 1-6) – “Dynamic” does not describe this anime at all. Not much of anything happens in it. All that the guys seem to do is brood and look up to the sky, accompanied by random sound effects and maybe a moody piano or clarinet piece. Sometimes though, they brood to rock music, and then it’s slightly better. I’m not even kidding.

There’s something to be said for plot subtlety, but this is ridiculous. These guys really need to learn to say what they think instead of cryptically running away and hiding every time. How many missing band/musician story arcs can one show have?

Some of the performance animation, if you can even call it that, is so cringingly bad, I think they would have been better off using still images. It’s perplexing that they bothered to air this in a season so overflowing with higher-budget boy-idol shows. But then again, I’m sort of still watching it. At least the music isn’t bad.

Also watching:

Love Rice 2 (Love Kome –We Love Rice- 2nd Season) (ep. 1-10) – It’s the rice idols vs. the bread idols once again, but oh no, this time ramen is also a contender. Disappointingly, the cooking feature did not make a return in this sequel.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Notable drop:

The Ancient Magus’ Bride (Mahoutsukai no Yome) (ep. 1-5) – The most hyped and probably highest-rated show of the season… didn’t really do anything for me! After the initial 2 episodes, I didn’t particularly like Elias, the mage of the title. I kind of expected that we would get some good interactions between him and Chise that would endear them both to the audience, but that hasn’t been the case at all. Instead, the following story arcs were more on the arty, philosophical, and dry side. The pacing was slow enough to rival the underachieving DYNAMIC CHORD and there was basically no humour.

It seems to be a high budget production, so the imagery is pretty, but this type of fantasy anime just doesn’t appeal to my plebeian tastes. I have a feeling that fans of Mushishi or Natsume’s Book of Friends (both of which I also eventually dropped) would have a better appreciation for this sort of show.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL

3 stars (out of 4)

Released 2017

An immortal warrior named Manji joins forces with a girl who is out to avenge her murdered family in director Miike Takashi’s 100th film.

I enjoyed the humour that was in the movie, although I personally thought there could have been more of it. Some of the quieter scenes dragged on a bit too, which needlessly slowed the pace in several parts.

But, as far as grand sword fighting spectacles go, BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL delivered what it promised. The body count was astoundingly high. So lots of good fun, in other words.

Rin, the lead girl, was pretty useless though! If she was supposed to be nothing more than a damsel in distress, they should have just made her that. Instead, I got the impression she was one of the better students at her father’s dojo. And she trained for her revenge every day with Manji, only to end up utterly incapable of defending herself! I have to conclude that probably the villain was right when he dismissed her father’s abilities; maybe he (and his sword style) really did suck.

BLAME!

blame

3 stars (out of 4)

Released 2017

Like the TV series KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA, this film is also an adaptation of a Nihei Tsutomu manga by animation studio POLYGON PICTURES. As such, the 2 projects have a similar gritty, dark, monochromatic aesthetic. Certainly, there are still limitations on how good CGI animation can look, but POLYGON is demonstrating here that they currently do the best work in this field. The background images and the action sequences, in particular, are stunning.

BLAME! takes place in a post-apocalyptic sci-fi setting in which the centralized technology operates blindly on its own, no longer recognizing the commands of humans. Instead, humans are seen as a threat to the system and are brutally purged by the Safeguard whenever they are detected. One small village of people known as Electro-Fishers has barely gotten by for decades, trapped in a protected space. But now they face extinction from starvation.

I would have expected one of the draws of the film to be Sakurai Takahiro as the lead character. Unfortunately, you might be disappointed if you are here for Sakurai, since the mysterious hero Killy hardly ever speaks! It’s a good thing (for me) Miyano Mamoru is also in this thing, in a supporting role, and his character actually gets to talk.

I was a bit disturbed by the rough way in which Killy handled the remains of Cibo. Yes, it was clear that she was basically a machine; but regardless, she looked human! I was also suitably terrified whenever the Safeguard activated to exterminate the villagers.

Some things do not get fully explained during the film, such as how Killy and Cibo came to be. Everything is also not resolved for everyone, so the door is open for a potential continuation of the story down the line.

The Boy and the Beast

boy and the beast

2.5 stars (out of 4)

Released 2015

A troubled runaway human boy becomes the apprentice for a warrior beast after stumbling into a hidden world through a secret passageway in Shibuya.

The charm of the film came from the characters’ development more than the overall story. The dialogue and interactions were strong and it was nice to see how Kumatetsu, Kyuta, and even minor characters changed over time through their shared experiences.

The actual plot was kind of a letdown, and amounted to not much more than one thing happening, which was then followed by another thing. The events just somehow seemed to lack a logical narrative direction and purpose.

The way Ren/Kyuta vascillated between the human world and beast world, all the while messing with the emotions of the people who cared about him, reminded me a lot of Ame from Wolf Children, another Hosoda Mamoru film. In both cases, what the child was actually looking for, what he wanted from his life, never were clearly explored or explained for the audience (or for his loved ones). But Ame was not the focal character in his film, so his enigma status was a little more acceptable.

I wasn’t really into the Moby Dick symbolism/analogy either. First of all, who learns to read using a Herman Melville novel? I mean I get that Ren’s smart, but that’s just patently ridiculous. And then the antagonist randomly decided to take the form of a whale merely because he happened to get a glimpse of the word “whale”? That was a pretty weak contrivance to justify the fantastical, though inconsequential, whale imagery and cool-looking animation which followed.

In the end, the moral of the story was: “Parents, don’t lie to your children,” I think.

Jacquie’s 2016 Year in Review – Anime

As I sat down to contemplate the series that I felt were the best of 2016, at first I thought I might be looking at a 3-way tie, maybe even 5-way. Only after checking my scoring on MyAnimeList did it become apparent that one series received a higher grade than everything else. The other shows settled in behind it then. The top shows were really close, though; and it doesn’t help that they were all so different in terms of setting, genre, tone, and subject matter.

In the end, the top 4 were basically my highest ranking picks from each season. I’m not actually going to rave about these series again right now; please follow the links if you wish to see the previous write-ups.

☆ Top 10 Anime:

#1. 91 Days (12 episodes)
91-days-wallpaper
Aired Summer 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#2. Yuri!!! on ICE (12 episodes)
yuri-on-ice-06
Aired Autumn 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#3. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (13 episodes)
shouwa-genroku-rakugo-shinjuu
Aired Winter 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#4. ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu) SECOND/FINAL SEASON (25 episodes)
Assassination Classroom
Aired Winter 2016 and Spring 2016
(First season of 22 episodes aired Winter 2015 and Spring 2015)
(streaming: FUNimation)

#5. AJIN (26 episodes)
ajin-season-2
Aired Winter 2016 and Autumn 2016
(streaming: NETFLIX)

#6. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. (Saiki Kusuo no Psi-nan) (24 full-length episodes)
saiki-k
Aired Summer 2016 and Autumn 2016
(streaming: FUNimation and DAISUKI)

#7. KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS (Koutetsujou no Kabaneri) (12 episodes)
Kabaneri - Mumei
Aired Spring 2016

#8. Thunderbolt Fantasy (13 episodes)
Thunderbolt Fantasy - Lin Xue Ya
Aired Summer 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

#9. ERASED (Boku dake ga Inai Machi) (12 episodes)
ERASED
Aired Winter 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll and DAISUKI)

#10. Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! LOVE! (Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE! LOVE!) (12 episodes)
cute-high-earth-defense-club-love-love
Aired Summer 2016
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

☆ Favourite Guilty Pleasure Anime:

Scar-red Rider XechS (12 episodes)
scared-rider-xechs
Aired Summer 2016

I watch most of my anime with my sister. Scar-red Rider XechS was bad or boring enough after 3 episodes that she dropped it. I persevered however; and before long, I found myself looking forward to each new episode with an enthusiasm that was out of proportion with my generally low opinion of the production’s quality.

One of the reasons was that I started to love the characters. Yosuke and Takt (more on him later) in particular were well-written and well-acted, but the rest of the cast were also entertaining and endearing in weird ways.

The other reason was my gradual belief that the absurd plot developments and dialogue were intended to be comedy, and weren’t just bad writing. Just as how The Lost Village didn’t make it clear to its audience if the plot was supposed to be funny or not, SRX sometimes presented a similar predicament. Well, I like my personal interpretation of these shows; after all, I seem to have found a lot more enjoyment from both of them than most viewers did!

Anyway, I will always remember the “western-style restaurant” conversation of ep. 5. It literally had me giggling for days, maybe weeks, afterward whenever it came to mind.
(streaming: FUNimation and DAISUKI)

☆ Sequels that significantly outperformed their predecessors:

Active Raid 2nd – With all the goofing around they did in the first cour, and much of the second too, who would have imagined that Active Raid was in actuality laying down the groundwork for a serious, even thought-provoking, storyline all along? But that was what we got! The payoff was a whole lot better than I expected, infinitely better, since I don’t think I ever considered that a show like this would arrive at such a coherent, meaningful outcome.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

BUNGO STRAY DOGS 2 – Even those of us who were not won over by the meandering first cour of BUNGO STRAY DOGS had to sit up and take notice when this second season started. Suddenly we had a brand new protagonist and a mature, plot-heavy flashback tale. I, for one, was in no hurry to return to the present timeline. When we did, it was predictably a bit of a disappointment, but by then the show had secured my interest and my goodwill.
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

☆ Biggest Regrets:

Dimension W and KIZNAIVER. These shows had some potential, but managed to squander it completely and go in the opposite direction. I ended up hating them.

BATTERY the Animation similarly went completely off the rails and turned into a huge disappointment. However, it didn’t incite the contempt that those two shows did.

Other shows that were simply a waste of time: GARO: CRIMSON MOON, Bloodivores, Utawarerumono: The False Faces, OZMAFIA!!, and Sekkou Boys. It was my own damn fault for continuing to watch most of them, though.

☆ Favourite Characters:

srx-05-takt
#1. Kirisawa Takt (cv. Miyano Mamoru), Scar-red Rider XechS

Obviously, the leader of LAG’s 6th combat unit and frontman of Odd I’s is pretty and has a nice voice. And it’s easy to sympathize with him as the straight man in a show full of eccentrics.

Beyond that, I like him partially because I can relate to him on a personal level. That sort of thing doesn’t happen often for me, but as a fellow skinny, height-challenged, long-haired idealist with a discerning taste for rock music and a preference for black platform boots as everyday footwear, I guess this anime character and I have a few things in common! Naturally, I also share Takt’s opinion on the topic of shiitake mushrooms as an ingredient for food preparation.

bungo-stray-dogs-odasaku
#2. Oda Sakunosuke (cv. Suwabe Junichi), BUNGO STRAY DOGS 2

He was only in 4 episodes, but those 4 episodes, which told a dark, tragic prequel story, were so good! I loved Odasaku in the lead role; he was badass, principled, and extremely sympathetic.

As mentioned, that early segment of season 2 totally blew me away and changed my opinion of the whole series up till that point.

days-kimishita
#3. Kimishita Atsushi (cv. Ono Daisuke), DAYS

Abrasively bossy characters with a habit of pointing out other people’s faults because they themselves are so smart and/or skilled are certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. I seem to have a soft spot for these types, though. MACROSS DELTA’s Messer had this kind of personality as well, albeit with less anger than Kimishita, and I liked him a lot too.

There are the rare occasions where Kimishita reveals that he is actually a nice guy. However, those moments of kindness could also be interpreted as a backhanded way of expressing his impatience at others’ incompetence, whereas normally he is just way more upfront about it.

It is entirely thanks to Kimishita and the other senpai, especially Ooshiba and Mizuki (ie., not the main characters), that I made it through all of DAYS and ultimately gave the show a somewhat decent score. I even intend to return for the sequel.

☆ Best (Funniest) Single Episode:

Osomatsu-san 16 Osomatsu-san 16a
Osomatsu-san episode 16: “Matsuno Matsunan / The Ichimatsu Incident.” As if the “Mad Max” parody featuring F6 wasn’t gratuitously over-the-top enough, it was then followed up by an incest sketch!
(streaming: Crunchyroll)

☆ Best Finale:

TSUKIUTA. THE ANIMATION – I can’t actually recommend most of this idol anime. But if you’re inclined to watch, make sure you continue to the end, because the last part of that concert-themed final episode was the most stunning and feel-good finish of any series that I watched in 2016.
(streaming: FUNimation and DAISUKI)

As far as shows I do recommend go, I applaud ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM for its emotional yet heartwarming and hopeful ending.

I was also very satisfied with 91 Days’ ending, including the way it left some things open to interpretation.

☆ Best OP/ED Sequence (music & visuals):

BUNGO STRAY DOGS season 2 OP: “Reason Living” by SCREEN mode, version 2, which appeared in the middle of the third episode (or overall ep. 15). It occurred once only, but we may have watched it more times than we do most regularly occurring OPs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a link to share here; if you’re interested, you can find it at 11:52 to 13:22 of ep. 15.

Honourable mentions: Yuri!!! on ICE ED “You Only Live Once” by Hatano Wataru, and 91 Days OP “Signal” by TK from Ling Tosite Sigure.

☆ Anime Songs Top 20 Countdown:

As with last year, this is a list of the best anime songs of 2016 according to me. The songs are evaluated primarily on the music, not the accompanying visuals of the shows they’re associated with. And it’s the full songs, not the TV-size versions, that are being considered.

20. old revelation, by Mutsuki Hijiri (cv.KENN) (Scar-red Rider XechS ED)

19. RUSH, by GALAXY STANDARD (cv: Miyano Mamoru, Toyonaga Toshiyuki, Hirakawa Daisuke, Eguchi Takuya, Suzuki Tatsuhisa, Ono Yuuki) (PRINCE OF STRIDE: ALTERNATIVE insert song)

18. Shounen no Hate, by GRANRODEO (Mobile Suit GUNDAM: IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS 2 ED)

17. The Experience, by OLDCODEX (Kuroko’s Basketball Winter Cup Soushuu-hen: Namida no Saki e Main Theme)

16. Kaze wa Yokoku Naku Fuku, by WALKURE (MACROSS Δ ED8)

15. Reason Living, by SCREEN mode (BUNGO STRAY DOGS 2 OP)

14. Be My Steady, by GALAXY STANDARD (PRINCE OF STRIDE: ALTERNATIVE ED)

13. Kokoro no Arika, by Heshikiri Hasebe(cv:Shingaki Tarusuke), Souza Samonji(cv:Tai Yuuki) & Yagen Toushirou(cv:Yamashita Seiichirou) (Touken Ranbu -Hanamaru- ED2)

12. ninelie, by Aimer with chelly(EGOIST) (KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS ED)

11. You’re My Courage, by GALAXY STANDARD (PRINCE OF STRIDE: ALTERNATIVE insert song)

10. Through My Blood <AM>, by Aimer (KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS insert song)

09. Scribble, and Beyond, by OLDCODEX (Kuroko’s Basketball Winter Cup Highlights -Shadow and Light- Main Theme)

08. Yoru Ha Nemurerukai?, by flumpool (AJIN OP1)

07. Ao to Aka no Forzato, by Komae Christoph Yosuke (cv.Suzuki Tatsuhisa), Kirisawa Takt (cv.Miyano Mamoru) (Scar-red Rider XechS OP)

06. HOW CLOSE YOU ARE, by Miyano Mamoru (AJIN ED1)

05. The Birth, by Miyano Mamoru (AJIN: Shougeki Main Theme)

04. Signal, by TK from Ling Tosite Sigure (91 Days OP)

03. Hikari aru Basho e, by May’n (Izetta, The Last Witch ED)

02. Warcry, by Sawano Hiroyuki feat. mpi (KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS insert song)

01. Deal with, by OLDCODEX (SERVAMP OP)

☆ In closing, some Notable Quotes:

“If you look even half-decent, you’re considered hot.” – Choromatsu, considering the voice acting profession, in Osomatsu-san ep. 20.

“Your stupidity can’t be cured even by your death. So you might as well live.” – Julieta to suicidal Iok, in Mobile Suit GUNDAM: IRON-BLOODED ORPHANS ep. 37.

“Well don’t lose heart. Girls are as plentiful as stars in the night sky… and just as unreachable for you.”
– Saiki to freshly rejected Toritsuka, in The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. spec. ep. 50, or full ep. 10.

“There’s only one carbonara!” – Yosuke to dumbfounded Takt, in Scar-red Rider XechS ep. 5.