2016 was a crazy year for anime. A lot of really amazing series came out and were finally available for streaming and purchase on DVD/Blu-Ray. There were also some series that had me moving my mouse toward the X button real quick. Now, I will admit – I did not stay on top of anime much this year what with a change of career and cosplay taking over my life. Cosplay is still going to take over my life in 2017, but I hope to be more on top of anime in terms of actually watching it when it airs, not a year later… Challenge accepted!!!
So, what about this list? You’ll notice that some of these series didn’t even come out in 2016 – some were 2015 or even older. My #1 favorite place to watch anime is Crunchyroll; that is the one bill a month I happy accept pay without question. Think about it: when I was a teenager, I used to go to a local comic book shop and order four episodes per VHS for $19.95 plus tax. Or, I’d go to FYE and pay amounts in triple digits to have them order anime for me from Japan that then took months to arrive in the States. Then there was eBay… It was really hard to get anime. You had to buy without knowing if you liked it yet half of the time. Stressful. With sites like Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu, and Netflix to name a few, those days are long gone and dead. I can stream gigantic libraries for a tiny nothing price compared to what I coughed up in the past. Hell yes I’ll give you my money, Crunchyroll. Bless you.
…Anyway. Now that I’ve aged myself, what did I watch in 2016? A lot of oldies, newbies, and simulcasts. Things I loved, things I liked, things I hated. Need some recommendations? Well I have a few for you…I think. Here’s a fun list of the anime I binged in 2016 whether I loved it or not, in no particular order. I’m even nice enough to give you links to watch them. I’m so kind~
Sailor Moon was my gateway anime. When the announcement of a brand new anime based off the manga was announced, I cried in my car for a very long time. I have my issues with the first two seasons, but season three saved me. Instead of having weeks between episodes, season 3 was aired every week, and with a new animation style to boot. A lot of people hated the transition – but I loved it. They looked their age instead of like they were in their 20s. Manga-style doesn’t always translate well to anime, in my opinion. The S season, or Infinity Arc, moved quickly through the introduction of Sailors Neptune, Uranus, Pluto, and finally Saturn, in an epic battle against the Death Busters and Pharaoh 90. The voice acting was really well done and I am in love with the three versions of the opening, as well as two out of three versions of the ending. I did have my grievances, though. Saying Sailor Moon’s name over and over within a few minutes gets incredibly tedious, and seeing the manga story animated made me realize just how useless the Inner Guardians really are. How did they protect Princess Serenity in the past when all they’re able to do is unleash one attack before being knocked down and overtaken by the Outer Guardians? Also – I am not here for Uranus and Neptune’s new transformation music. There is absolutely nothing like the epic instrumental we got in the ’90s. Crystal’s leaves a lot to be desired. Overall, if you’re a big Sailor Moon fan…give season 3 a try. It may save Crystal for you.
Eh. I think I’m going to have to try the manga out, here. Kae Serinuma is an overweight girl with a deep voice and glasses that is a self proclaimed fujoshi – meaning, it’s all guys, all the time…with each other, not with her. Everything is about boys’ love and yaoi and pairing even her classmates together. When her favorite character dies, she stays in her room, in bed, depressed for an entire week. When she finally gets up…she somehow lost all of her weight and her need for glasses, as well as her deep voice. Now, all the boys that teased her are fighting for her affections. She’s become the ultimate shy feminine schoolgirl icon and they all love it. Kae, not so much; she’d rather envision them dating each other. The concept is funny but annoying at once, but it wasn’t that that turned me off from this anime. It was Kae herself. Her loud voice became obnoxious and grating on my ears, and I wasn’t a big fan of her “fat voice.” Your voice gets deep and creepy when you’re larger in size? Huh. Just listening to her and how she handled her experiences at school and on dates was enough to stop me in episode 4. I have yet to try again with the remaining episodes. I may give it a second chance, and if that fails…manga time. Because then I can just read it, I won’t have to hear her. If fandoms annoy you on social media, Kae may turn you off from Kiss Him, Not Me entirely.
I am so glad I found this anime. I will write a full review of it on its own in a future post because I loved it so much, but for a short summary: Yuru Yuri is a slice of life anime with no point, no plot. It follows the Amusement Club consisting of middle schoolers Kyoko, Chinatsu, Yui, and Akari, and their friends in the student council, Ayano, Chitose, Himawari, and Sakurako. As the title suggests, there is some yuri here – but it’s easygoing. Yuru Yuri translates to “easygoing yuri” or “easygoing girls love.” The girls have their crushes and their slightly pervy thoughts and comments, but it’s nothing extreme in the slightest. It’s just there. Although… Akari’s sister, Akane, worries me greatly. Chinatsu’s obsession with Yui is funny but makes me worry, too – in an amused way. Each episode is relaxing and just goes about their daily lives at school, hanging out after school, or visiting each other on weekends. There is no drama, no incidents, no giant climax nor battle nor hardship to endure. It’s simply friends enjoying their time together. It’s sweet, carefree, and a lot of fun. The music is incredibly catchy, and I found myself binge-watching all three seasons within the span of a few days. Season 3 ended in the end of 2015, so my fingers are crossed for more of these silly girls and their everyday ordeals.
THE ANIME I DIDN’T KNOW I NEEDED. This is easily my #1 anime of the year, and I am still in pain even though it ended a few weeks ago. Everything from the animation, to the in-between animation fails, to the music, plot, main characters, side characters, everything…captured my heart. Yuri!!! On Ice tells the story of pro figure skater, Yuri Katsuki, and his journey to redemption in what he thinks is the last year of his career. His skating idol, Victor Nikiforov, becomes his coach and we’re taken on a whirlwind of an adventure watching Yuri mature in his talent and in his self confidence, but also with his feelings and emotions. A friend of mine called Yuri!!! On Ice the most mature handling of a gay relationship in anime, and I have to agree. It wasn’t in your face fan service, it was slow, gradual, stabbing my heart and exploding my soul with anxiety feelings that blossomed more and more with each episode. The words “I love you” were never spoken, but you just knew. And it wasn’t just about Yuri and Victor. You grew a love for each and every skater and wanted to see them all succeed in the end. From Yurio the 15-year-old prodigy making his senior debut, to Christophe and where are your clothes??? but he captures your heart while he skates, to JJ and his incredibly annoying JJ STYLE of skating that you end up loving anyway, and even more. This is an anime with a lot of heart and thought that won over professional ice skaters all over the world. If you take anything from this list, take Yuri!!! On Ice. Do you know how much merch I’ve pre-ordered? I’m destroyed.
L. O. L. What is this anime? Tumblr led me to its first season in 2015, and I was given the gift of a second season in 2016. Granted, it didn’t get at me like the first season did, but it takes you on an amusing journey that you find yourself unable to understand the entire time. The team is back along with their pink wombat friend, and their daily excursions to the onsen with their inane talks is still what you can expect in every episode. The stupidity of their conversations and how, somehow, their conversations become part of their daily battles against their new enemy is humorous. The new enemy, idol duo The VEPPer, are rather irritating at first, but you grow to love them by the end. Even their music is catchy and has you singing along without wanting to. A frustrating factor is Yumoto is still kind of the center and the focus, but it’s to be expected – I see him as a Red Ranger from Super Sentai or an equivalent to Sailor Moon, so of course the focus is him, of course he’s in the middle, of course he’s the leader with the special attacks. It’s expected. His denseness hasn’t changed, nor has his kindness toward his seniors or anyone else for that matter – including the villains. If you want to be confused and have a great time while respectfully poking fun at the magical girl genre…take a peek at the magical boys. And their perfectly magical costumes, oh man.
DREAMY. SIGH. Now, this anime originally came out in 1995, but Crunchyroll added the beloved ’90s series to its library in early 2016. Watching the opening play on a big flat screen TV in HD actually brought tears to my eyes the second the first note of the song played. I love this anime so much, before I even say anything: please do yourselves a favor and watch it. Middle school student Miaka Yuri hates studying and is feeling pressure from all sides with high school entrance exams coming closer and closer. She and her best friend Yui Hongo end up falling into an ancient world thanks to a not so normal book in the library, and the insanity and heartbreak ensue. There’s funny times, scary times, and times to make you cry. There is death and injury and love and…you will have feelings the entire time. After all these years, Miaka screaming Tamahome’s name over, and over…and over…and over… still gets on my nerves, but their love is so clear from episode one. I am a little cringey at the rape all over the second half of the anime. Semi-spoiler alert: with her new position of power, she has to stay a virgin to be able to win the battle against Seiryu’s soldiers. So what do they do? Try to make her not a virgin to kill off her powers. That bothers me still to this day, but it definitely adds to the emotion and the heartbreak and the intense pain the later half of the series has. Don’t let that put you off, you’ll see what I mean.
Free! Starting Days
Swimming anime, Free!, is one of my favorites. I didn’t expect a group of idiots swimming would get me, but it did. Starting Days is a movie that came out in Japan in December, 2015. It wasn’t released onto DVD/Blu-Ray until 2016, and was never released in the states. But thanks to my wonderful friends in Japan, I was able to borrow a copy and watch it, and wow. The movie follows Haruka and Makoto in junior high, during the time that Nagisa was in another school, they didn’t know Rei yet, and Rin was training and studying in Australia. Some familiar faces appear – Sousuke and Kisumi, and we get some new faces as well. The interesting part? I started watching the movie with no plans to care about the new characters. They clearly are never seen again – the two seasons of Free! never show them at all, so they obviously parted ways. Why should I care? Oh, I care all right. I care about these new characters a lot. After reading the novels that inspired Free!, and of course watching the first two seasons, you know how hard junior high was for all of them, emotionally. To actually see it was a stab in the heart. Haru’s pain is tangible throughout the entire movie, and it made me want to reach through the TV and shake him. The strength and bond that makes Haru and Makoto’s friendship so strong gets tested repeatedly, but it climaxes to a point where we see why they truly are parts of each other’s world, to be vague and cliche. Truth be told, I didn’t love Starting Days as much as I did the TV episodes, but I still enjoyed it. I can’t say for sure that I’d watch it repeatedly like I do the episodes, either, but I can see why it has popularity and an audience. I don’t want to spoil too much because this wasn’t subbed and put on Crunchyroll nor released in the states, but if you manage to have a connection or a proxy in Japan and get to see it…be prepared for feelings.
Wow, how good was it to return to the world of Digimon. Now, I need to watch this over from the beginning because I fell behind and now there are way more episodes to follow up with. My first takeaway: Taichi is still an annoying brat. I still cannot stand him. Three years after Digimon Adventure 02, the story returns to the original characters that we were introduced to in Digimon Adventure 01. Weird timeline, right? After a long time apart from the Digimon and their world, the original eight Digi-destined are forced back into it thanks to an anomaly causing Digimon to be infected and cause distortions on Earth in the real world. Taichi takes this new battle hard, as their Digimon fighting the infected Digimon causes damage and destruction to their city, their world, and he finds himself taking blame and feeling guilty for it, not wanting to be a part of it. This leads to drama and problems with Yamato, and who didn’t see that coming? So how do we mix growing up with responsibility and infected Digimon? The original eight, plus a new Digi-destined friend in a girl named Meiko, have to figure it all out and figure out how to fix the anomaly…fast. The way this is airing is in long films in Japan, and in an episode-format on streaming websites. The fourth film, called “Loss,” will be out in February, 2017. I’ve got a month to catch up. Need a nostalgia punch to the face? Want to catch up with your Digi-destined friends? Watch this. Watch this now…punch Taichi later.
KYA. I just want to binge this all over. I finally watched this after seeing so much merch at Otakon 2015 and New York Comic Con 2015…and I am a happy clam. This is such a cute anime with a huge cast of characters and an amazing soundtrack that simply makes you happy. I’ve made it my mission to learn as many songs and their choreography as possible. Love Live! starts with introducing us to Honoka, Umi, and Kotori – best friends in their second year of high school, ready for more fun, more dreams, and more memories…until the horrible moment where they learn their school is going to be shut down if they don’t get higher enrollment. Honoka is devastated, and refuses to let this happen. What does she do? Plan to create an school idol group, inspired by the #1 most popular school idol group constantly being advertised in the area – A-Rise. It takes a lot of hard work, a lot of heartbreak, and a lot of fighting with the student council and other classmates, but eventually Honoka gets her dream group. Honoka is a sweetie, but she often frustrates me with how she acts before thinking and always puts so much stress upon herself and the group with her aspirations. They’re all good-hearted though, so I can’t be too mad at her. Each character’s personality compliments the rest of the group so well; there’s bound to be at least one girl you find yourself loving the most. Season one focuses on their beginning, starting the group, saving their school, and finally trying to make it to Love Live – the ultimate school idol competition. Season two, well…you gotta watch season one, first! And please do. “Start:Dash!” will win you over before you even know what’s happening.
I haven’t finished this yet. Actually, I’ve only watched one episode. All Out!! was the last anime I watched in 2016 before the holidays stole the rest of my time. Sports anime almost always have a certain fan servicey gimmick to them, so I was curious what the ‘rugby anime’ would be like. I’m amused already after only one episode. It’s the first day of a new school year, and we’re introduced to Gion Kenji – a very very short student who hates being picked on for his height. He ends up meeting Iwashimizu Sumiaki, his total opposite in height and personality. Gion is short and stubborn, angry and easily agitated. Iwashimizu is shy and quiet, timid and nervous, easily apologetic. They’re polar opposites of each other…so of course they have to join the rugby team together, right? Not so much. Iwashimizu’s got some sort of trauma and doesn’t really want to, while Gion is all about it and wants to learn and practice and play immediately – even though he doesn’t know how nor know the rules. I’m intrigued enough to try and binge this sometime soon, and we’ll see if the timing and flow of the first episode carries over well throughout the rest of the series.
…that was my 2016. I watched more than I thought I did! What did you guys watch? Or what would you recommend I watch? I’ve already got recommendations for Haikyu!, Uta no Prince-Sama, Dragon Ball Super, among others. What do you think? And what are you excited for in 2017? Fingers crossed for another amazing year!