WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE ENDINGS OF DANGANRONPA 3 AND ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM
Best Show: Mob Psycho 100
Well animated, well directed, and well written, Mob Psycho 100 was the definite show to beat for this season. I was never once bored throughout its run, and despite its crudely drawn character designs, Studio Bones managed to pull out all the stops in making this an attractive-looking show with some of the best fight scenes of this year. Even when some of them made some bad first impressions, I also found myself quickly taking a liking to its cast of quirky characters, especially Mob, who embodies a lot of positive characteristics that I wish more shounen protagonists displayed. If you can look past ONE’s…interesting art style, then Mob Psycho 100 is a show that I can easily recommend to anyone looking for a show with great animation, fighting scenes, well written characters, and a pleasing soundtrack.
Best Comeback: Natsume Yuujinchou Go
Natsume Yuujinchou is a rarity within the shoujo genre. It has a male protagonist, zero chances of any romantic relationships developing, and it’s a long running show that’s reached five seasons, a rarity not just for shoujo anime, but anime in general (unless it’s a widely popular long running shounen anime like Dragon Ball or Naruto). But there’s a reason for Natsume Yuujinchou‘s unfaltering popularity. It’s incredibly well-written, and even after several years of going through Natsume’s rural town and meeting new yokai, author Yuki Midorikawa always finds new ways to tug at the audience’s heart strings. It’s a sweet, pure (and I mean this in every sense of the word) series, and watching the first episode of this season felt a lot like coming home and being tucked in warm blankets and handed a warm cup of tea.
Biggest Disappointment: Rewrite
Key Visual Arts is well known for having the ability to turn your typical harem visual novel into something more, something with substance, as its previous entries, CLANNAD, Air, Kanon, and Little Busters! can attest to. Those shows had depth; they featured characters that could be sympathized with and likable protagonists who had their own stories to tell and had characterizations outside of the typical “random guy suddenly has all these girls falling for him for no reason” personality dating sim protagonists tend to get slapped with. Rewrite has none of these. It tries though. It tries really hard and ultimately fails. The animation quality is lacking, Kotaro doesn’t make for an appealing or likable protagonist like his predecessors were, and even after their back stories are revealed, the girls maintain their cookie cutter cliched personalities. Oh, and the girls’ uniforms are absolutely ridiculous.
Best Studio: Studio Bones
During this past year, Studio Bones never once let up on the quality that this studio is known for, even when My Hero Academia and Bungou Stray Dogs aired simultaneously. Every show they’ve adapted have been an absolute treat for the senses featuring gorgeous visuals, talented voice actors, and outstanding musical scores. They’ve managed to faithfully adapt the art styles for all of the shows they’ve taken on and brought these characters to life in the best ways possible. I definitely look forward to seeing more of their shows next year!
Worst Studio: Emon Animation Company
I recall sitting down to watch the first episode of Hitori no Shita Outcast…and then immediately dropping it after watching an opening that failed to get me even the slightest bit interested in the show. Emon Animation Company is unique in that it’s a collaboration between Chinese and Japanese animators. It’s also unique in that all of the shows its produced have been absolutely terrible. The animation isn’t bad, it’s passable at best. But what really makes the shows produced by this studio so hard to sit through is how bad the writing is. I had the displeasure of sitting through two of their shows this season. Bloodivores, a show with a story so terribly written that I actually started to feel sick while watching it. Cheating Craft, while not quite as bad, lacked anything in its first episode to convince me to keep watching the show. It also had some of the most terribly sung opening and ending themes I’ve ever heard. So thanks to those horrendous experiences, I now know for sure to stay far, far away from any shows produced by this studio.
Weirdest Popular Trend: Re-imagining Western Historical Figures
I could talk about how there are anime that turns historical swords into pretty boys, or how Donald Trump recently made a cameo in a children’s anime…Instead, I’ve decided to talk about this: re-imagining western historical figures in an anime format. Seeing historical figures in anime isn’t anything new. I’ve seen the Shinsengumi turned into pretty boys more times than I can count, Oda Nobunaga had three anime centered around him in one year, there’s a number of shows set in the Edo period that have historical figures make frequent appearances… But those are all Japanese historical figures. This year, however, saw more anime that featured authors, composers, and founding fathers that the western audience would be more familiar with. However, how accurately portrayed they are all depends on the show they’re in. If there’s one thing I can’t stop getting a kick out of, though, it’s hearing anime!Fitzgerald call everyone “old sport”.
Biggest Cliffhanger: Tales of Zestiria the X
Tales of Zestiria‘s anime adaptation ended in the spot where the plot really takes off in the game. It ends with the introduction of two key characters: a new party member and what will eventually be the final boss. Thankfully, ufotable has already confirmed that the story will continue in the winter 2017 season, but until then, anime only fans will have to wait for about a month longer until the end of Sorey’s journey. Here’s hoping the next cour will have better pacing.
Most Unexpected Ending: Dangan Ronpa 3: Hope Arc
Kodaka’s always been good at writing unexpected twists and the Hope Arc definitely delivered on that front. However, whether these twists were good or bad depends on who you ask. In this grand finale, we finally learn the fates of Hajime’s comatose classmates: SURPRISE! They’re all alive and well, looking exactly like they did about four years ago with minimal changes to their appearances. Kyoko manages to cheat death, Ryota is easily forgiven for nearly brainwashing the entire world, and Hope’s Peak Academy is rebuilt with Makoto as its new Headmaster. I still have mixed feelings about the way this ending was handled, but at the very least, we do manage to get closure for the Hope’s Peak Saga. Even if we may never know who the Thirteenth Branch Head is…Actually, no, I’m still upset about that particular plot hole.
Most Disappointing Ending: Erased
Erased tried to condense eight manga volumes into twelve episodes, resulting in poor pacing, plot holes, and the reveal of the killer being poorly executed. Erased started out strong with high production values and a wonder musical score courtesy of Yuki Kajiura. It had strong opening and ending themes rife with clever uses of foreshadowing and symbolism. It had a strong opening episode and some gorgeously animated scenes. For all intents and purposes, Erased should have succeeded as a mystery anime. But due to the aforementioned poor pacing, the writing quality starts to take a dip in the later half where the plot should have picked up but ended up progressively getting worse and worse. If you have any interest in this series, do yourself a favor and just read the manga.
Most Satisfying Ending: Assassination Classroom
The anime adaptation may have skimped out on a number of chapters that focused on the supporting cast, but the anime managed to one up the manga in one aspect: emotional value. Studio Lerche took full advantage of everything the manga adaptation couldn’t utilize during its emotionally charged final chapters: voice acting, music, and of course, animation. Watching Koro-sensei’s students tearfully bid Koro-sensei farewell became even harder to bear as an insert song that has the students’ voice actors singing their graduation song plays in the background; not at all helped by the way that they tearfully say “present” as Koro-sensei takes roll one last time. Jun Fukuyama did a masterful job, switching from his usual silly tone of voice to a more sombre one as he comes to accept his death and finally dissipates into a golden light, which makes for an even more tragically beautiful sight when animated.