The Best and Worst Anime of Fall 2016by The Anime News Network Editorial Team,
The Fall 2016 anime season is winding to a close, and that means it's time to pick our favorites – and least favorites! Below, our Daily Streaming Reviews team has assembled their choices for the best anime of the last 3 months, along with a runner-up choice, and their pick for the worst show of the season. Once you're done perusing their picks, head on over to our forums and tell us yours!
Curious about the best anime of the entire year? Once you've had your fill of Christmas cheer, mosey on back to Anime News Network on Monday, December 26th for a week-long celebration of the Best Anime of 2016. Then, around January 6th, get ready to start all over again with the Winter 2017 Anime Preview Guide!
Best of the Season: Yuri!!! On Ice
Being a big fan of both the director and the premise behind this endeavor still didn't prepare me for how much Yuri!!! On Ice was going to light up my heart at this chilly time of year. Not only was this show tremendously entertaining and heartwarming, it found new ways to surprise me with each insanely ambitious new episode. Surely not every episode would have (multiple) skating routines in it, there's no way the animators could keep up with that! And yes, sometimes they couldn't, but there were up to six choreographed routines week after week regardless, with constant global changes of setting packed with intimate detail to keep you on your toes.
But there's no way the show's persistent homoeroticism would be anything more than the standard market-level appeal for fujoshi attention, right? Once again, Yuri!!! On Ice went above and beyond by exploring a relationship between its two leading men that was not only explicitly romantic, sexual, and devoted on a level where their potential engagement and marriage is treated with complete normalcy, but also complex enough to avoid easy melodramatic romance clichés or tawdry yaoi stereotypes. The show encouraged its viewers to not only want Yuuri and Victor to succeed as professional athletes, but also as lovers whose unexpected comeback relied entirely on the power of their love.
Yuri!!! on Ice successfully married its powerful message of how love, regardless of gender or nationality, allows us to conquer our biggest trials with a terrifically accessible sense of humor and showmanship, creating world-class entertainment that speaks to just about everyone without compromising its bold ideas. When I first heard the show's opening theme blaring "we were born to make history!", I thought it was kind of a lofty statement to make for a fluffy anime about ice skating, but just like its titular hero, this unassuming little powerhouse was hiding levels of potential that nobody saw coming.
Runner-up: Haikyu!! 3rd Season
When I first heard that this 10-episode season was going to cover just one long match, between our underdog starring team Karasuno and the supposedly undefeatable giants of Shiratorizawa High in one last qualifying match to reach the National Championships, I thought it was going to be painfully padded out. After all, Haikyu!! has proven itself to be a cash cow well worth milking with a passionate and faithful fanbase. Even if this match was beefed up to a best three-out-of-five tournament between the two teams, there's no way that ten straight episodes of the same characters duking it out in the same school gym with no respite wouldn't get tiresome, right?
I could not have been more wrong. Right from the show's incredibly striking opening theme (easily the best one the show has ever had amongst a heap of other strong openings), Haikyu!! Parte Tres outdid not only its past seasons, but basically ever other shonen sports anime I've ever seen in one outstanding regard: perfect tension. Most sports anime have to rely on frequent cutaways and commentary from spectators to break up a smattering of major plays in the show's matches. By necessity, sports anime are more like watching a teen character drama than an actual sports match.
Haikyu!! has always had the strengths of the former, but this season embraced the strengths of the latter with ten straight episodes of an immaculately animated volleyball game that really felt like watching a legendary sports match play out in real time. It's just not possible for most anime productions to execute sports material in a way that rivals the experience of live-action reality, but with Production I.G. helming a hit property, Haikyu!! fans got the rare opportunity to bite their nails over every little play and twist of fortune on the court, alongside the show's well-established strong character writing. The buildup over the course of this match got so insane that every new smash to the credits felt like a slap in the face, until the ultimate cathartic payoff in episode 10. As pure edge-of-your-seat entertainment, Haikyu!! season 3 rose to the top of the heap in a season already stuffed with quality.
Honestly, this Fall season was so good that for the first time in a long time, I didn't find myself "irony-watching" anything! The worst show I was following was Occultic;Nine, which I didn't really feel like tearing apart for this seasonal roundup. The alpha and omega of that show's problems are that the story is cringingly incomprehensible, and none of its other positive attributes can salvage that. It's mostly a shame, and I don't really want to pick on O;9 for its tragically ambitious failure, so I decided to shotgun the first several episodes of a show I knew would be bad to write about instead. Of course, I had to pick the one with the most amazingly terrible title and logo, and I'm happy to report that it did not disappoint.
Bloodivores has the dubious honor of being the least awful coproduction from Creators in Pack made primarily for the Chinese market, but that's really not saying much. Its production values and direction are absolutely dreadful, with some of the worst animation and most baffling storyboarding I've seen in any anime, and that's before you get to the ridiculous storyline. Bloodivores begins with the classic vampire-persecution premise, quickly turns it into a survival game/prison island premise complete with explosive dog-collars, and then transforms that into a conspiracy thriller with shifting perspectives and mysterious victims of child experimentation. It moves too slowly and employs too many uninteresting clichés to work as a so-bad-it's-good gem, but it's so unbelievably dumb that it certainly has its moments. For instance, vampires with superpowers are called "hemomancers," with powers that range from totally changing how gravity works to inexplicably spitting dozens of swords from their pores.
Bloodivores tries surprisingly hard to be every edgy supernatural comic book thing under the sun, but it never really succeeds at being watchable. At the same time, it's at least more watchable than Reikenzan or Hitorinoshita, so maybe these Chinese co-productions will result in something decent one day! It definitely hasn't happened yet though. Sorry, Bloodivores.
Best of the Season: Yuri on Ice
Yuri on Ice attracted a lot of well-deserved attention for its eye-catching skating sequences and its compelling central relationship, but the reason I'm placing it at the top of the heap is much simpler: it's a damn fun show to watch. It's bursting at the seams with creative passion, and it really feels like someone enjoyed putting it together. That abundance of energy makes it easy to get wrapped up in the story, so much so that there were several occasions where I felt genuinely annoyed by the prospect of having to wait a week for the next episode. Any series that can inspire that kind of eagerness in its audience has to be doing something right.
This show also does something that I consider to be the mark of a well-written sports story: it asks the viewer to spare a thought for the hero's opponents. Sure, Yuri needs to succeed in order for the story to move forward, and it feels good to see him do well. Even so, the other skaters’ moments of defeat are depicted with a sense of sympathy, and I found myself wanting to see each character skate to the best of his ability. Rather than human-shaped roadblocks placed at regular intervals along the hero's path, the cast of Yuri on Ice is full of well-developed characters with stories of their own.
Part of my brain really wanted to pick a more insightful series like Girlish Number or March Comes In Like A Lion for this spot, but it's impossible to ignore the extent to which Keijo exceeded my expectations. For a title that so openly embraces fanservice as the central pillar of its appeal, it's a deceptively well-crafted show. It's brazenly ridiculous on just about every level, but there's no denying that it's good at what it does. It's the rare fanservice series that's still entertaining even if you don't have the slightest interest in animated busts or buttocks.
Between its writing and direction, Keijo actually managed to make me care about the absurd sport it depicted. Even as I laughed at the characters’ wonderfully insane special techniques, I was always eager to see how each match would play out. It turns out that likable characters and a simple underdog story can be compelling even when everyone's trying to use their butts to knock one another off of a floating platform. In a genre that's long been infamous for generic characters and disposable stories, Keijo is a welcome breath of fresh air.
Worst of the Season: Scorching Ping Pong Girls
While I sampled far worse while working on the preview guide, Scorching Ping Pong Girls was the biggest letdown out of the shows that I kept up with for at least part of the season. I didn't mind that the series seemed unsure of what it wanted to be in its first episode, but after four weeks I got tired of waiting for it to decide. It seemed trapped in an awkward middle ground between cutesy comedy, mild fanservice, and a relatively serious sports story. Even with an intriguing rivalry between its main characters, it just couldn't build up enough steam to hold my attention. It might have picked up in later episodes, but you can't reasonably expect the audience to stick around after four weeks of blandness and indecision.
Best of the Season: Flip Flappers
This fall was a very strong season, but for me, the top choice is easy. Flip Flappers began as an inventive but seemingly episodic series of fantastical adventures, and eventually grew into a stirring and remarkably well-composed story of family, identity, and love. Graced with beautiful art design, engaging characters, and some of the most consistently sharp visual storytelling I've seen, it ended up being a far more ambitious and poignant story than I'd expected. Whether you're following it for its constantly evolving take on Cocona's lonely existence or simply enjoying its myriad Pure Illusion dreamscapes, Flip Flappers offers a rich and satisfying package.
Runner-Up: Sound! Euphonium 2
Euphonium's second season definitely wasn't as strong as the first, which in part comes down to the source material - having already adapted a fairly self-contained narrative, this season at time felt like it was scrambling for conflicts. But the execution of those loose conflicts was still a wonder to behold; highlights like the premiere, fifth episode performance, and Asuka arc defied description in their beauty of animation and tightness of focus. And plenty of this season's base material was strong, regardless - contrasting Kumiko against Asuka Tanaka ended up doing wonderful things for them both, and fleshing out Taki's character lent a sense of overall purpose to the band's trials. Euphonium is still a very impressive show.
Worst: Izetta: The Last Witch
Having watched every basically every premiere for the preview guide, it'd be easy for me to pick a simply poorly conceived or executed show for my “worst” slot (and if you want that, my answer would probably be either Long Riders or Magic-Kyun Renaissance). Instead I'll stick to shows I actually watched a fair amount of, and among those, Izetta definitely disappointed me the most. The show started off with a strong platform for either war or character drama, but fell into lazy storytelling contrivances and out-of-character episodic shenanigans shortly after. There was a good show in Izetta, but it could certainly use a few revisions.
Best of the Season: Haikyu!! Season three
Haikyu is the sports series that finally hooked me. As someone who was so bad at sports she wasn't even picked for the team and just sort of stood there awkwardly in gym class, I expected to just keep on gliding through life kind of liking the odd sports anime, like Taisho Girls Baseball. And then Haikyu happened, and with each subsequent season, I love it more. This most recent with its excessively descriptive subtitle is the best of the bunch so far, even without factoring in my increasing fondness for the series. In only ten episodes it did what many other series can't accomplish in twenty-four: it developed each character further, added in new players and made them real people rather than just “the other team,” and had a mixture of action, humor, and plot that kept the whole thing moving with no downtime whatsoever. It even managed one of my pet peeves, fight/game narration, without making it about hearing rather than seeing the action. That the action was beautiful and dynamic almost without exception (poor Nishinoya had some awkward-looking moves and landings) just felt like the icing on the cake.
For me, though, really what was the most impressive was that the reason I kept watching wasn't just because I wanted to see them win because Karasuno was “my team.” It was because I cared about the characters as individuals. Everyone had been steadily developing over the previous two seasons, but the care and detail used to continue that for almost all of the players really impressed me. Perhaps this was best seen in Tsukishima, whom I didn't really like previous to these episodes. But like with Kageyama and other difficult people in the story, this season gave him his due, explaining beyond his complicated relationship with his brother to give us his complicated relationship with himself. Watching him lay down his quills and try to work with the rest of the team was rewarding, and seeing him succeed even more so.
To make a long story short, this was my favorite show of the winter season because to me it was the whole package: engaging story, developed (and developing) characters, background music that enhanced the action, and beautiful animation. If a series about cleaning sewers were done this well, I would probably love it just as much.
Runner Up: Classicaloid
I know there were better written, better put together shows this season, but there really weren't any others that consistently made me happy like Classicaloid. This madcap romp of a series, featuring reborn classical composers all “renting” (in the absolute loosest sense of the word) room in Kanae's fabulous music-themed mansion, both lampoons and honors the composers and their works, and if I could have lived without seeing my favorite composer become a moe idol, I'm glad I didn't have to go any longer without experiencing a gyoza-obsessed Beethoven, which I never knew I needed. The bright colors and giddily bizarre modernizations of the composers’ great works, the inexplicable spoonbill Hachie, and the weird powers of Muzik all combined to make something that made very little sense but was nonetheless utterly enjoyable. Apart from the fact that my world will now be incomplete until I can own a Beethes figure, Classicaloid just generally made me happy and was something to look forward to each week. For that I can even forgive the fact that it revived my sisters’ and my terrible composer joke from high school, which I shall leave you with, because if nothing else, it's probably what predisposed me to love this show:
Sister 1: I'll be Bach!
Sister 2: I'll be Haydn!
Sometimes a lame joke and a bright color palette are all it takes to make you happy. Thanks for that, Classicaloid.
Worst of the Season: Kiss Him, Not Me!
I know that the book is almost always better than the movie/show, but that rarely makes it any less disappointing. Junko's manga series Kiss Him, Not Me is among my favorites – it's silly, pokes fun at all the right tropes, and takes time to develop each of the characters, albeit not very much. But its anime adaptation glosses over a lot of that development in favor of re-ordering series events for reasons I can't quite figure out – the island storyline would have been much better had it been left after Mutsumi's character development, as in the original – as well as making some questionable vocal and visual choices. Yes, I'm talking about Kae's “fat voice,” which very nearly ruined the entire show for me. I can cope with the losing-weight-cures-bad-eyesight, because that's a trope in nearly every teen movie on the planet, but the rest of the way the anime treated Kae pre-weight loss smacked of fat shaming, and I don't find that acceptable, much less funny. (As a note, I haven't heard the dub, which may fix the issue.) Kae's real-world fujoshi tendencies also come off more obnoxiously in the anime than the manga, which again may be due to the addition of voices, but is also an effect of taking out all of the character work in favor of cramming more storyline into a limited episode count. Essentially the show excised a lot of the detail that makes the manga worth reading and played up Kae's weight and hobby too much. The book doesn't always have to be better than the movie or show, but it's series like this that give that old chestnut its shine.
Best of the Season: Keijo!!!!!!!!
If I was choosing this based on “favorite” instead of “best” then Izetta: The Last Witch, which was far and away my favorite title of the season, would belong here. As much as I love that series, though, it has significant flaws, and I never felt it fully achieved its potential. Keijo!!!!!!!! does. In fact, if anything it vastly exceeded it, more so than any other series in 2016. (And that's saying something, given that there were numerous series this year which turned out way better than expectations.) Its concept was absurd and it gave every indication that it was going to be just some trashy fan service show, so it actually turning out to be both good and tolerable even to those who normally don't like fan service shows is nothing less than stunning, and that feat deserves acknowledgement. It accomplishes this by taking its ridiculous concept and playing it absolutely straight in a shonen sports format, hence somehow turning matches involving women in swimsuits using their boobs and butts to knock opponents off of a water-based Land into a legitimate sport. A lead protagonist who's impossible to dislike and some great battle scenarios also help, but the biggest treat is its endless succession of wonderfully inventive, often sputter-worthy special moves, including some jaw-dropping parodies later in the series. There may technically be better series out there this season, but you'll be hard-pressed to find one that's more purely entertaining to watch.
Runner-Up: Sound Euphonium 2
And speaking of technically better series. . . I'm not sure that even Yuri on Ice (which I didn't watch) can match this one when it comes down to technical merits. Its animation especially in the performance pieces is gorgeous, but the attention to detail in animating body language is also mightily impressive, as is its subtle and not-so-subtle use of symbolism in the visuals. Characterizations and character interactions are also remarkably crisp, diverse, and involved for a series which operates with such a broad base cast, and there is some satisfying further character development. Despite all of that quality, I am ranking it behind Keijo!!!!!!!! for one simple reason: I had trouble maintaining enthusiasm for it. Given that I was the epitome of a “band geek” in my high school days, its failure to consistently resonate with me is a definite mark against it in my book. It was also fully expected to still be good based on its pedigree and first season, so anything less from it than what we saw would have been a disappointment.
Worst of the Season: Gakuen Handsome
Whether or not the concept is good is irrelevant here; the character designs, with those ridiculous chins, are so utterly hideous that even the mere 3:30 running time was a chore to sit through. Among series that I watched more than one episode of, Twin Star Exorcists gradually faded into irrelevancy over the course of the season due to its uninspired plot lines, to the point that I'm starting to fall behind and not sure if I want to bother to get caught up.
Best: Yuri!!! On Ice
It's difficult to find the words for just how hard Yuri!!! On Ice wrecked me this fall. I thought I was getting a slightly artsier take on your average sports anime; instead I got a romance between two characters with great chemistry. Victor and Yuri's relationship is amplified by the high stakes world of professional figure skating, making for a powerful, irresistible story and a must-watch for anybody who has ever loved another person with their whole heart.
Two elements set this story apart—the intensity of Yuri's emotional life, and the down-to-earthness of his personality. When we meet Yuri, he's a bit of an everyman, a “dime-a-dozen” Japanese figure skater, as he says. This makes his transformation into a confident, sensual medalist all the more alluring. A chance encounter with his personal hero, Victor Nikiforov, brings Yuri from the lowest point of his life—depressed, anxious, and down on his luck—to a new high, with a positive new mindset to back up the talent he clearly had already. The show gets more gripping when we realize that Yuri's infatuation is not one-sided, leading to a surprising love story that isn't done for laughs or the female gaze. Along the way, it's not only Victor who is entranced, but just about every competitor that Yuri meets. It shows that the real antagonist of Yuri!!! on Ice is Yuri himself, his uncertain, negative thoughts that were holding him back. It's hard to imagine a sports anime about world-class athletes that's this relatable, or that so compels you to hold your loved ones close, but this show does both. A beautiful, ambitious story with serious payoff, I think we will still be watching Yuri!!! On Ice long after the fall season is over.
I had my doubts that this show could live up to the hype its eight exclamation points imply. But as it quickly turned out, Keijo!!!!!!!! was masterful at going over the top. This show was not coy about its purpose as a fanservice engine. There were no pretenses, just puns and impossible derriere-focused fighting moves as far as the eye could see.
In the very first episode of Keijo, butt and boob imagery already abounds, from the school seal to the shape of clouds in the sky. From there, it just gets more and more ridiculous. At school, Nozomi and her friends play butt volleyball and study boobology. In races, as bouts are called, girls show off moves like “Titty Hypnosis” and “Buttack on Titan.” By the tail end of the season (pun intended), Miyata actually does an over-the-shoulder throw using only her erect nipple. This show could have been exploitative and awful, but instead it sets a perfectly entertaining tone by sincerely outdoing itself every week with even crazier butt-related action and even more colorful antagonists (“Ass Eater Nanase” comes to mind) to compete against. The plot—training, competing, and then training again—is nothing to write home about, but the more the show spiraled into impossible fantasy, the more fun it was to watch.
Worst: Long Riders
It's no secret that one of this sports anime fan's favorite shows is Yowamushi Pedal, the story of a boy's high school cycling club. So when I heard about Long Riders, it sounded like a level up. If sports anime starring girls wasn't rare enough, I was excited also that this show features women in college, which meant more potential for complex, developed adult characters.
But this wouldn't be my worst pick if we got anything close to what I expected. Long Riders is your run-of-the-mill display of moe helplessness, made even more absurd considering that the main character, Ami, has somehow got to college despite not knowing how to manage money or develop the hand-eye coordination to avoid tripping over her own feet. As the series progresses, the other characters develop a motherly relationship with Ami, checking in on and supervising her. But this isn't the story of Ami developing her independence, it's more about her process of earning enough to buy not one but two bicycles and countless accessories. Unlike the joy of racing that Yowamushi Pedal's Onoda symbolizes, Ami shows the difficulties and the slog, from changing busted tires to taking on a second job to afford all of that pricey cycling gear. Since the season went on hiatus and won't technically end until spring, I can't be sure, but so far it's a show that's bland at best, and certainly not one that shows how fun cycling can be.
Best of the Season: Magical Girl Raising Project
Magical Girl Raising Project features mahou shojo who are primarily active at night—a stark contrast to traditional kid-friendly magical girl franchises. Like Puella Magi Madoka Magica, this series presents a darker take on the mahou shojo genre, although I recognize that it's not as aesthetically innovative or as complex as the modern classic. The show focuses on pitting the magical girls against one another with a Hunger Games-style brutality in a contest of wit, strength, and magical fortitude. Even though a large number of magical girls are showcased throughout the series, the producers do a commendable job of fleshing out nearly every character through believable, albeit melodramatic, backstories, so you actually feel the emotional impact of their deaths.
The series took just the right amount of time to reveal its true colors, initially presenting the magical girl setup as an innocuous competition among allies to see who could help the most people in their communities. Fav, the diabolically upbeat mascot in charge of keeping the girls informed, comes across as more callous and outright crueler than Madoka's Kyubey. Whereas Kyubey was simply logical and uncaring, Fav seems to delight in pitting his victims against one another. One of the most interesting aspects of the series was the reveal of which magical girl essentially became the antagonist after all was said and done; she evolved from a passive follower to a stone-cold killer who treats murder as a necessary, inconsequential means to an end. While the show often feels nihilistic and overly violent, the sympathetic characters, intriguing twists, and unique take on the magical girl genre combine to form a riveting watch.
Runner-up: Poco's Udon World
While I generally looked forward to Yuri!!! On Ice more each week, the episodes that showcased figure skating routines more than the character relationships tended to make my mind wander—which ultimately cost the series my runner-up spot. Ultimately, the honor went to Poco's Udon World. While it lacks the sakuga and flashiness of my third place pick, I found myself consistently entertained by its likable cast and relatable themes. Plus, seeing a show about characters in my general age bracket is a nice change of pace from the deluge of high-school-aged protagonists who headline most series.
While there are supernatural elements to the show (including the titular character), they're so low-key that you'd be forgiven for forgetting they're even there. Relative to its 12-episode length, the show takes its time in moving the central characters forward, and at no point do the sweeping life changes many of the key players undergo feel forced or out-of-nowhere. At the heart of the series is Souta's heartwarming (though complex) relationship with Poco, the tanuki-turned-human-toddler whom he initially regards as a pet but later views as an adoptive son. Souta completely upends his life to accommodate this little boy—but maybe Poco appeared in his life precisely because he needed that push to reexamine what makes him happy.
While I don't think NANBAKA is terrible, it's the most disappointing of the fall shows I continued to follow. I love anime comedies, and with its gag-rich premise, this (literally and figuratively) colorful show seemed like it would be right up my alley. It has its moments, but once the focus shifted from pure comedy to comedy-action-drama, most of the jokes stopped landing for me. I'm fond of Building 13's supervisor Hajime, who makes a first-rate straight-man, and the prison's love-struck warden, but the members of the escape-prone quartet who headline the series are too one-note to live up to their exaggerated character designs. While I prefer the comedy-focused episodes to the battle-heavy ones, I can easily see the initial “escape plan of the week” premise wearing thin if it had continued for too long. Given the sheer size of Nanba Prison, the setting itself seems ripe for comedic storytelling, but so far, the cast has spent little time exploring it. NANBAKA presents an outrageous scenario rife with over-the-top characters, but the strange tonal shifts and unrealized potential kept it at the bottom of my list.
Best of the Season: Yuri!!! on Ice
I don't think it's ever been easier to pick an Anime of the Season. Fall 2016 had a lot of strong shows, but Yuri!!! on Ice was in a league all its own. I was hyped for this show when I just knew that it was going to be a sports anime about male figure skating. Not only is it one of my favorite sports to watch, but its director is Sayo Yamamoto, one of my favorite anime auteurs. I fell in love with her style on Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine and her ED animations for Space Dandy and Attack on Titan. Yamamoto generally creates female-centric, feminist-themed anime, and so I was eager to see how she'd deal with this change of pace. I especially wanted to see how she'd apply her very sexual, fluid style to a sports anime.
Yuri!!! on Ice is much more than just another sports anime. It's also one of the best portrayals of gay romance I've ever seen in the medium. It was thrilling to watch Yuri!!! on Ice blow through every cynical fan expectation, as we watched them move from winking and whistling at each other, to kissing, to even exchanging rings. I also loved the episode 10 twist, with Sayo Yamamoto upending our ideas about Yuri and how their relationship started.
I don't think I would have loved the show quite as much as I do, though, if it only gave us Yuri and Victor's romance. Some of the best moments in Yuri!!! on Ice come from its side characters, particularly the other skaters. Yurio is just as strong a co-protagonist as Yuri, and I hope that a future season focuses more on his family and emotional troubles. Christophe Giacometti was an oversexed goofball who served as a good foil to Yuri. I can personally relate to happy-go-lucky Phichit's Instagram addiction. Yuri!!! on Ice managed to give every one of those characters some form of interiority, even the overconfident JJ. My favorite story was Georgi's, giving Sayo Yamamoto a way to drop in feminist commentary even in a story about boys.
I didn't love every single narrative decision Yuri!!! on Ice made, and the animation struggled with how many skating routines it shoved in each episode. It's still my top choice with a bullet, feeling like the most complete artistic statement from anime this season. It had the most to say, it was the most emotionally compelling, it was well written and well directed, and it glided right up to the cutting edge.
I don't know if it was an overall better anime than Girlish Number, but I definitely had the second-most fun with Classicaloid. I am 100% the target audience for this show, as a classical music lover and fan of bishounen-filled comedy anime. It's another one I have been eagerly awaiting since it was first announced. So while other people's mileages may vary, I can't help but love this show—and it's a testament to Yuri!!! on Ice's near-perfection that it managed to usurp it for my top spot.
What I like the best about Classicaloid is that it makes its composer bishounen feel like new characters, without straying too far from historical fact. It's not that I have never enjoyed inaccurate composer biopics (I love Amadeus, and you can't get through a scene of that movie without pointing out some falsehood about Mozart or Salieri). But it is frustrating to see how little care media takes with composers, even compared to other historical figures. It's like they assume the audience doesn't care or know enough about classical music to be bothered. Luckily, Classicaloid has found the perfect formula that allows them to take creative liberties. The titular Classicaloids are modern reincarnations of these famous composers, but everything from their interests to their genders can be different. It can go completely wild, but then sets the record straight at the end of each episode. That's when Sousuke's blue iPad spits out info about the real composers' lives and music, and how they differ from the modern, Technicolor anime versions.
All that, and it's just really, really funny. Whether it's Beethoven's gyoza obsession, Liszt's vanity, or everybody blowing up the house when landlady Kanae asks them to clean, there is never a dull moment in Classicaloid. In this season, full of otherwise good, but poorly paced anime, that really counts for something. That's why Classicaloid is my runner-up for best anime of fall 2016.
Worst of the Season: Nanbaka
I went back and forth on whether to put Nanbaka here. On the one hand, it never promised to set the world on fire. It's a zany bishounen comedy of a kind anime doesn't really make anymore, and that I was never that into even during their mid-2000s heyday. In its more recent episodes, it actually blew me away with its drama chops, as it delved into characters' darker backstories. Still, remember my complaint above about pacing? Nanbaka had some truly glacial pacing in the middle of this cour, which would have absolutely killed my interest were I not required to plug along for my reviews.
I'm talking about the New Year's tournament arc, which stretched several episodes out of what felt like a one-off. While some of the battles were fun to watch, they got repetitive fast, and didn't add nearly as much to the existing characters as I'd hoped. Instead, they introduced a bunch of new inmates that Nanbaka hasn't done much with since, with one major exception. Maybe just focusing on the battle that introduced Musashi, and shortening the other ones, would have worked. Instead, we had to sit through several episodes showing all the aimless hijinks in detail, and some unfunny jokes about the female warden's hopeless crush, before getting to the narrative meat.
It's been a wild ride covering Nanbaka, as it both surprised and disappointed me. That uneven nature is part of what makes it so difficult to follow as a show. It might not be the absolute worst of Fall 2016, but it's the weakest I watched to completion, so it's my pick.
James BeckettBest of the Season: Yuri on Ice Talk about a sleeper hit, am I right? I was actually late to the party on this series, though it isn't like the entire Internet wasn't blowing up about it on a weekly basis, so it was an easy show to miss. You can't blame me for taking most of the winter to actually take notice of Yuri on Ice's success! All kidding aside, Yuri on Ice has been the toast of the virtual town this season, and after finishing the first episode it was obvious that the series has deserved all of the praise being heaped on it week to week. Eleven episodes later, the shows greatness has been all but cemented. Seriously, this show has it all: Endearing characters, lush animation, not to mention nail biting underdog narrative, within which is nestled a tender and romantic core. Much has been made of Yuri on Ice's relatively groundbreaking LGBTQ representation, and rightly so, but it warrants noting that Victor and Yuri's relationship is a great piece of writing, period, queer or otherwise. Victor's brash sensibilities pair so well with Yuri's deceptive shyness, and seeing them grow as individuals and as a unit has been the highlight of the season. If you'd asked me a few months ago if an anime about competitive ice skating would have been the winner of the season by a country mile, I would have been skeptical. Having gone on this emotional, fulfilling journey with Yuri and Co., I can't see how it could have been any other way. Yuri on Ice is emotional and thrilling in equal measure, and it goes for the gold with such passion and conviction that it leaves every other show praying they can catch up.
Runner Up: Flip Flappers
The show that originally felt like a fairy tale hodgepodge of references and allusions became much more of a clear Evangelion knock off, and as much as I love Evangelion, Flip Flappers was much better off when it was being its own thing. At this point it's doubtful that the show will be able to stick the landing, though even if it stumbles in the end, nothing can take away the sense of wonder, awe, and dread those first handful of episodes evoked. It's too imperfect to be the best show of the season, but it holds a special place in my heart nonetheless.
Worst of the Season: BloodivoresThis was a surprisingly strong season, all things considered. Even messes like Occultic;Nine have been at the very least interesting in their failures, victims of high ambition colliding with inept production. Bloodivores though? Bloodivores just sucks. Yes, that was an awful and overused vampire pun, but if Bloodivores isn't willing to put in any effort, than neither am I. Namu Animation's take on a society clashing with a newfound vampire population is a tacky and uninspired smattering of tired cliches and genuinely garish animation, and there isn't much to say about it, other than you should absolutely avoid it. The characterization is trite, the drama tries way too hard, and the animation is too bad to make the action worth suffering through The show isn't offensively bad, but it does border on being offensively bland, and in a season with so much more interesting content to enjoy, that's as much a death sentence as anything.
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