A bit delayed, but it’s finally here. If you were interested in how the series from last season stacked up, you’re gonna love this list. Before we get into it, I just want to say that some of the series on here might have started in a previous season, but I count them as a series of the Winter season since they ended in it and it’s not fair to judge a series until it’s over. This basically is in reference to Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen and God Eater. Also, if a series that aired Winter 2016 is not on this list, that means I either dropped it or did not watch it at all. There are some series that I didn’t watch, but Mareep did, so look for his Winter 2016 review sometime in the future if you want an opinion on those. For the most part, most of the series that aired in Winter 2016 are here, so finding an anime you watched shouldn’t be too difficult. As a final note, the next list (Spring 2016 preview) will be released once the majority of the series have 4 episodes out because it’s easier to judge an anime after its first 4 episodes have aired. Now that we’ve gotten that all out of the way, let’s get into it.
Best of season
Boku dake ga Inai Machi (Erased)
I don’t think anyone can deny that this was the best show of the season. It did everything an above average anime could do while also adding a unique story device into the mix. Even so, while every one was salivating over the series, I don’t think there was really that much reason to. While Boku Dake ga Inai Machi was certainly a good series, it just happened to come out in a season where everything was just so mediocre that it looked good. It’s like having someone ugly standing next to someone average looking. There are many inconsistent or just straight up too convenient events and characters in the series and even more parts that just feel awkward and not fully thought out.
When the series started, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but soon enough it showed me that it was a time traveling mystery anime with the goal of having the main character, Satoru, clear his name of murder. It was an interesting run with an extremely obvious ending because there is literally only one person it could have been with all the hints they were throwing at the viewer. But even if the end was predictable, it was the run that was interesting and enjoyable. Seeing adult Satoru in child Satoru’s body interacting with his other child friends was always good comedic relief in both a good way and bad way (mostly good though). Whenever he kept forcing himself to snap back to reality to remember that he’s an adult almost falling for a child was funny.
The animation and sound were definitely one of the better aspect of the show. Asian Kung fu Generation lends their talents to the show’s OP which is a real treat and the BGMs aren’t anything to sneeze at either. The animation wasn’t stand out in terms of quality but more in the way that the camera was used. It was very cinematic and was perfect in tense scenes as well as more light hearted scenes. Most anime fumble when trying to get the right camera angles, but Boku Dake ga Inai Machi gets it right almost all the time and it makes all the difference.
I’ll definitely go into deeper detail if I get around to writing a review for the show, but Boku dake ga Inai Machi was the landslide favorite of last season and I think you owe it to yourself to find out why if you haven’t already.
5. Dagashi Kashi
In my best of 2015 list I wrote in Dagashi Kashi as one of the series I was looking forward to the most and while I wasn’t entirely disappointed by the way it turned out, it wasn’t nearly as amazing as I thought it’d be. What started as a slice of life with elements of epicurean tendencies towards Dagashi ended up being basically more of the same just with progressively less impact as the show went on. By the end, it just felt like a drag to watch even though it did have several good moments in the last few episodes.
4. Hai to Gensou no Grimgar
Hai to Gensou no Grimgar is probably one of the better trapped in an alternate reality series out there, but not by much. Let’s start with the things it gets right. First, the reality of killing. Usually in other virtual reality/trapped in an alternate reality anime, monsters are just expected to die and give gold just like in the video games we play. The hero’s are in the right all the time and they can get money by defeating monsters. In Hai to Gensou no Grimgar, the same base is there. Kill monsters, get money, get more experience, rank up, fight harder monsters, get more money, get even more experience, etc. But the party realizes what it means to kill. The monsters they’re killing are fighting for their lives, trying desperately not to die just like the heroes themselves. Going into battle means risking your life– it really is a battle of life and death. Hai to Gensou no Grimgar really presses that idea onto its viewer not too unlike Sword Art Online where if you died in the game, you’d die in the real world as well. The difference is that Hai to Gensou no Grimgar feels a lot more real because it doesn’t look like a virtual reality. The monsters don’t burst into a pile of gold, they bleed out and die. Picking up items especially vices have to be done manually, that means cutting off parts of the body to take as a vice. Skills are physically taught, not just learned by pressing a button. Everything has more gravity to it in the series making it much more exciting to watch.
Also, the animation is beautiful. It’s a very unique style that mimics the art of the light novel making it seem very picturesque. This is mostly seen in the backgrounds rather than in the characters, but that’s perfectly fine. This way it feels like the characters are actors on a painted stage which suits the anime. The songs used in the anime also will get no complaints from me though they won’t get too much praise from me either. The BGMs weren’t remarkably good or bad and the OP and ED were basically the same (average).
The downfall to Hai to Gensou no Grimgar is its predictability, voice work, and pacing of episodes. Even though Hai to Gensou no Grimgar goes off the beaten path with its ideas of how to play with its genre, the events that happen are far from being new. Every episode feels like it was copied from somewhere else and it’s really easy to see how the episode begins and ends with minimal information. The voice work isn’t bad but not amazing. Sometimes the characters just don’t have enough emotion in them making the scenes less powerful than they should be. This is only made even more apparent by the large amount of silences between characters especially in the last few episodes. It felt like there were more unnecessary silences between the characters than there was dialogue. All this being said though, Hai to Gensou no Grimgar was still one of the best anime of this season and I wouldn’t stop anyone from watching it.
3. Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo (Konosuba)
There always is that one series that is miles above the rest of the self-proclaimed comedy series, and Konosuba is that anime. Starting from episode one, viewers could tell that it would be one of the funniest anime of the season and the best part is that while comedy anime usually fall off as the series go on, Konosuba was consistently funny for its entire run. Even though it was basically a harem/ecchi and I hate harem/ecchi, its comedy was high enough quality that the harem/ecchi took a back seat or just worked in conjunction to the comedy to bolster its effect. The comedy was only heightened by the voice acting which was 100% on point. Every voice actor fit their respective character perfectly making the series really come to life and just become that much more funny. One of the only thing I could really criticize the anime on is that the jokes were somewhat predictable at times and it had a very loose story that didn’t really come together even in the end. The other thing I could criticize it on is that there was little to no character development. Even in the end, it felt like we basically learned nothing about the characters except for their exterior traits as well as their generic personalities. If you’re looking for a decent comedy from this season though, Konosuba will be the anime you want to go for.
2. Durararax2 Ketsu
After so many seasons of setup, Durarax2 Ketsu finally gets shit done and when it does, it’s fast and hits hard. If you’re like me and stuck around until this season of Durarara, you’re well compensated and rewarded for doing so. While I think the anime could have ended slightly better, everything in between was what fans have been wanting to see since the beginning. Durarara also keeps its amazing soundtrack and animation while adding some new songs to the mix in the form of a new OP and ED. I have absolutely no complaints in regards to these areas, though I will still criticize some parts of the season that just seemed to drag on for no apparent reason. Because of that a lot of the tension in the episodes was lost and some episodes lost the wind in their sails. I also think it started getting a bit crazy with how many characters there were and how they were all trying to fight for screen time. Overall, Durarara handled it better than other anime, but still ended up making it feel difficult to keep up. In the end though, Durarara was one of the best of the season and I’d highly recommend it for anyone who’s held off on watching it. I don’t think it’s quite worth it to wade through the past seasons to get to this one if you haven’t watched any of them yet, but if you’re caught up with the exception for this one, what are you waiting for?
1. Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen
You can see my full write up on Itsuwari no Kamen here, but just know that when stacked up to the other anime of this season, it definitely shone through as one of the best of the season. It trumped the majority of the series in terms of animation, sound, and characters making it a no brainer for top 5 of the 2016 Winter season. For further details on Itsuwari no Kamen, you can go to my review on the anime.
5. Heavy Object
The series is basically a typical JC Staff anime. It has all the elements of moe, comedy, romance, and trying too hard to be something it’s not. It tried to be a clever series with a likeable cast of characters just trying to pull off the supposedly impossible. The only problem is that while in regular JC staff series this ends in 12 or so episodes, this goes on for 24 episodes. The hardest to stomach part of this show is the dialogue between the character. It’s trying to be as clever as Niso Ishin’s writing, but ultimately isn’t even close at succeeding. The dialogue is just so forced, it’s sometimes painful to sit through and the worst part is, they’re always talking and trying to say clever things. If the biggest part of your show is just uninspiring and difficult to stand, you’re definitely doing something wrong.
The story is pretty cool at first because it’s a David vs. Goliath story where in a relatively possible future, Goliath is a giant metal war machine and David is just a regular human. But then it gets really repetitive and boring. Even when they try to spice it up by adding the gray areas of war to it, they ultimately just default back to having the main characters be in the right and them coming out on top. What was once a David vs Goliath story basically becomes a rigged match between man and what now seems to be a flimsy cardboard box.
So what does Heavy Object get right? The battles between the Objects are pretty cool and there are some pretty clever scientific tricks that they pull that make you respect the characters slightly. The animation is also generally pretty above average, so Heavy Object has a leg up on other series in that regard. Heavy Object is overall better than most anime, but not amazing by any means.
4. Sekkou Boys
I never expected this series to be as funny as it ultimately was. For a short series, it had a star-studded cast which really helped make the case for it to land in the “average” section instead of the “worst” section. It’s really surprising that a show about stone busts of Saint George, Medici, Hermes, and Mars, would work so well. Granted, the last few episodes were definitely forced in an attempt to end the series, but the other episodes just have moments of comedic genius.
3. God Eater
God Eater finally comes to an end and still doesn’t exactly deliver. Surprisingly though, it wasn’t horrible. There were some episodes especially the one about Lenka’s past that were actually gripping while the rest of it was just deus ex machina shit with Ufotable quality animation. Basically the series was just another standard game adaptation with Ufotable backing them up on the animation. Ultimately, Ufotable was not able to carry the series to a higher quality show (proving that animation isn’t everything), but they did make the anime more enjoyable than I thought it would ever be.
2. Gate: Season 2
I have a lot of problems with Gate, but it is still one of the better shows to have come out. I really dislike how the show is basically just glorifying and sugar coating what war would really be like in this hypothetical situation. The entire show is basically like a plug for the JSDF and nationalism with moe on the side. It’s like going through a “Learn by Manga” book except you’re learning about the good side of the army. That being said, it still was pretty fun to watch mostly because of the characters. The cast has real chemistry with each other making every scene much more enjoyable than it would have been otherwise. I’d recommend the second season of Gate if you’ve seen the first season and wanted more.
1. Ao no Kanata: Four Rhythm
I definitely liked this series more than other people probably did, but I think there’s just as much to like about it as there was to dislike about it. The things that got me into it the most though were the simple but exciting matches of Flying Circus (even though that’s a dumb name for a sport) and the voice acting. The matches were made better due to the anime’s relatively strong grasp on mixing CG with regular animation. There were times that the transitions between the CG and regular animation were flawless, but other times when it was just painfully obvious when they switched between the two. My favorite aspect of the show was the voice acting though. I know I say this all the time, but the characters really came to life with the voice acting. The voice acting was always on point and made each character more memorable.
What made Ao no Kanata weak as a series was mostly the way the series progressed. It was very generic and rushed making it easy to predict the general gist of what would happen, but also difficult to follow because they would rush through episodes to make more time for some of the Flying Circus matches. The generic nature of the progression of events was really the biggest thing that held it back from being a stronger series. I think it probably works better in its original visual novel form because it has a lot more space to work with, but in its 12 episode constraints, it was stuck not knowing what to really do with the time given to it. I wouldn’t openly recommend Ao no Kanata to the general public, but to those curious, I think it’s worth a try.
Worst of season
Remember that in this section, it goes from best to worst with “1” being the best.
12. Divine Gate
Shameless promotion for a mobile card game that barely represents the game at all. In typical cash grab fashion, Divine Gate has a loose plot with no real good ending. The only reason it really exists is just to promote the game it was adapted from and it really shows. It barely feels like as much effort was put into this show as into other ones. While I think the animation was definitely decent, the other areas were just so weak, it didn’t matter at all. Divine Gate is without doubt the weakest of the bunch and it’s easy for anyone to see.
Hyouka meets Hibike! Euphonium. Honestly, if this isn’t a cluster fuck of identity crises I don’t know what is. Decide on one thing to be. It’s really hard to believe that you can just get that good at playing music just by you telling the viewer that you can. It’s even more difficult to believe that this random ass kid can solve mysteries that no one else has been able to. Never mind the fact that the love triangle is so forced that they had to make the main character gay just to throw in a quick “pull the rug out from underneath you.” Haruchika was always one of the things I struggled to watch every week because it was just so poorly done. I’m glad that it’s over because now it can’t hurt anyone anymore.
10. Saijaku Muhai no Bahamut
Once you’ve seen one harem/ecchi, you’ve seen them all. Saijaku Muhai no Bahamut has one thing that’s slightly different and that’s that the main character is basically the former prince turned into a lapdog to work for the new monarchy that usurped his family. Other than that, it’s the same story that you can see in any other harem/ecchi especially inifinite Stratos, Unlimited Fafnir, or even Hundred from the current Spring season. There was nothing special about the series and just nothing able to separate it from the masses.
It might not explicitly be labeled as Muv Luv, but don’t be fooled because it is. I honestly don’t understand how the Muv Luv visual novels/novels have such a huge following if the anime adaptations are always this shitty. Possibly trying to not waste money like they did for the previous Muv Luv adaptation, they shortened it down to 12 episodes but actually ended up with a worse quality product than their previous series somehow. This can be attributed to the extremely poor story telling and pacing of the story. You’re supposed to care about humanity being on the verge of being extinct. You’re supposed to care about how East Germany and West Germany refuse to work with each other. You’re supposed to care that the secret police are killing and torturing people while plotting to take over Germany. But it’s impossible to care because the series is just so bad. All you’re focused on is waiting for the series to end. In the end, Schwarzesmarken marks a new point on the scale of bad quality anime.
8. Active Raid
Active raid was another poorly executed anime that just ended up being something to throw to the wayside. The CG was reminiscent of Tiger and Bunny but instead of it basically being constant, it was sudden and inconsistently done. The animation wasn’t bad overall, but just inconsistent and average. The real problem with the series was the story which was just extremely flaccid for little to no reason. The story was from gripping, teetering between being boring and generic. Watching the show was definitely a chore and not one I would want to do again.
7. Mahou shoujo nante mou ii desukara
Fun concept poorly executed. The voice work killed the show along with the really boring characters. For a show about that basically broadcasts its plot, it has a hard time following it. Though there really aren’t any magical girl activities, half the time it’s focused around her being a magical girl and slowly liking it… so isn’t that the opposite of the title? (Title roughly translates to “Enough of the Magical girls”).
6. Ooya-san wa Shishunki
A very short series about a middle school girl being the landlady of an apartment complex. It’s stupid to expect any kind of quality out of these shows, but that still doesn’t excuse it for not being very funny or well paced. It’s difficult to really judge short series except in the context of the genre that they represent and as a comedy, Ooya-san wa Shishunki wasn’t that great.
5. Ojisan to marshmallow
A short series about a guy who loves Marshmallows. It’s cute enough, but very repetitive and shallow even for a short series. The “romance” in the series was fairly pathetic, but occasionally entertaining.
4. Oshiete! Gyaruko-chan
A cute anime that would probably appeal more to girls learning about their bodies since the anime is basically the girls dispelling various stereotypes about girls. It’s educational and relatively cute, but again, if you’re not a girl, you’re probably not gonna get too much out of it.
3. Musaigen no Phantom World
Ah, KyoAni’s newest failure. Who needs substance when you have Moe? There was probably actually one one arc that was touching and made the anime feel like more than just an excuse for fanservice. The other arcs just felt really pointless and forced. Musaigen no Phantom World follows the typical, unfortunate trend of KyoAni series, all flash but no substance. It was just another harem with basically nothing new. Every episode save for that one about Reina was just boring to sit through in addition to being tedious. It’s disappointing to have to label a KyoAni anime as this much of a failure, but that is what Musaigen no Phantom World is– a failure.
2. Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu
Basically Saenai Kanojo ver 2.0 except they have one more guy and an actual voice actress in their group. For those unfamiliar with my reference, Saenai Kanojo was about a guy who gathers a group of talented girls to create a visual novel based off of one chance encounter that he has. Shoujo-tachi is basically the same thing except the girl gathers the group because she wants to make a game. Basically what this means is that they’ll sprinkle in some knowledge about game making while really making the entire series about the characters, romance, and drama. That is exactly what the show becomes and while it’s not entirely surprising, certainly disappointing. At first, it seemed like with all the facts they were throwing out, it’d become a more realistic, sobering anime on how difficult the game creation process is, but it just becomes a generic harem series with the game creation process taking back seat. I will commend the show on the bombshell it dropped near the end but also reprimand it for how it handled it. I was really impressed by the twist, but then they go and fumble their follow up on it making the series end on a worse note than it could have. Maybe I just read it wrong, but Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu is just an anime that doesn’t know what it wants to exactly be, or it did and it really just screwed up at it– Either way, it really messed up.
1. Dimension W
Dimension W started out with me thinking it’d gun its way to top 5 of this season and now here it is sitting at the bottom. Why? Pacing problems, identity issues, and just overall fumbling in the story. The first few arcs of Dimension W were genuinely exciting and fun to watch, but as the series progressed, it tried to rush things and suffered greatly for it. The introduction of newer characters was a poor decision, trying to explain Dimension W further was a bad decision, and the way the characters changed was also not executed well. The series basically hinges on Kyouma, but he ends up being one of the weakest characters in the series which is a horrible sign for the series. The dynamic between him and Mira was also one of the biggest aspects of the show, but whenever they weren’t playing on that dynamic, the show somehow lost its charm while trying to pursue other styles. This is where its identity issues come into play. Up until they enter the final arc, Dimension W and coils were something that was an enigma to the user. But as the series progresses, it changes from a semi-mystery/action anime to an action anime with a really crappy villain as the final boss. I honestly think the anime would have been better off if it hadn’t created the final boss and attempted to explain Kyouma’s missing memories and Dimension W in a different way. The end product of their decisions is a sloppy, wasted potential of an anime that I am very disappointed in.
Favorite of the season
Ao no Kanata: Four Rhythm
You’re probably doing a double check of the title. Yep, this was in the “Average section” and yes, I don’t think it was critically an amazing anime, but I really did enjoy it. As I said above, I loved the voice acting and the animation for the series. More than Boku dake ga Inai Machi and Durarara, Ao no Kanata is the sole series that’s really stuck with me. It was a very enjoyable experience though relatively flawed and one that I wouldn’t mind repeating by rewatching the anime or playing the visual novel. I don’t believe the anime will be for everyone, but for me, it was my favorite of the season just in terms of enjoyment.