The Best Characters of 2016

by The Anime News Network Editorial Team,

JACOB CHAPMAN
Best Character: Subaru, Re:Zero

There's no right way to pick the "best character" in one single anime, much less out of all anime from an entire year, so when faced with this challenge, I decided not to select the character I had the most affection for this year (which would have felt almost impossible), but the character that most defined the entire anime they came from and viewer reactions to it. So love him or hate him, I had to go with Subaru from Re:Zero. I honestly think that if Subaru was not such a perfect encapsulation of a noxious, sensitive, self-absorbed chuunibyou who's truly good at heart but mostly terrible in action, (so it's a good thing he gets to redo all those actions eternally!) Re:Zero would not be even 1/10th as popular or deeply discussed as it was. Thanks to his polarizing personality, I didn't always enjoy Subaru's presence, but he remained the entire reason I kept watching the show, because there was a raw honesty to his depiction that every awkward nerd can recognize in themselves. I guess if you're going to trot out the old isekai light novel premise for the millionth time, it's a good idea to commit to the question "What would an actual otaku who reads a ton of light novels really do in this situation?" Whatever else Re:Zero set out to do, it definitely accomplished its mission of reaching into Subaru's guts and turning him inside-out for everyone to see, inspiring me to write an entire essay about his character, even if I didn't care much for the show around him.

Theron Martin

Best Character: Nozomi Kaminashi, Keijo!!!!!!!!

Keijo!!!!!!!! did vastly more right than probably anyone expected, but one of its brightest spots – its main protagonist – is easy to overlook. I doubt the execution could have worked as well without being anchored by Nozomi, as her completely-uncynical exuberance, dedication to the spirit of competition, and inviting personality (not to mention a winning smile!) make her impossible to dislike and the walking epitome of what it means to be a serious Keijo competitor. She's easily one of my favorite heroines of the past few years. One Honorable Mention here go to Betelgeuse, the Archbishop of Sloth from Re: Zero, who is in a league of his own when it comes to insane characters. Others go to Yatorishino Igsem from Alderamin on the Sky, who is the year's most visually arresting character, and Kyubey knock-off Fav from Magical Girl Raising Project, who is the year's biggest bastard even in a year stocked with worthy candidates for that title.

JAMES BECKETT

Best Character: Yuri “Yurio” Plisetsky -  Yuri on Ice

Aka “The Other Precious Ice Skating Cinnamon Bun”. If Victor Nikiforov and Yuri Katsuki are their series’ beating heart, then Yuri Plisetsky is its soul. A wellspring of angst and unbridled passion, Yurio is a wonderful foil and rival for Yuri, often times overshadowing his counterpart with some of the shows most impassioned and visceral performances. Plus, his relationship with his grandfather is literally the most adorable thing in anime history. Who would have thought so much emotion could come out of a grumpy Russian boy enjoying some pirozhki?

REBECCA SILVERMAN

Best Character: Osamu Dazai, Bungo Stray Dogs

Over the course of the show's two seasons, Dazai goes from a bad suicide joke to the actual heart of the show. His influence is what drives Atsushi and Akutagawa and his mere presence or existence facilitates half of the plot developments. There wouldn't be a story, much less the finale of season two, without Dazai, and that fact that he himself shows great development as a character as we learn about his past only makes him more impressive.

ANNE LAUENROTH

Best Character: Kikuhiko/Yakumo, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju

As my contribution to this list is turning more and more into me gushing over the greatness that is Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, I'll try to be brief. A wonderfully complex protagonist, Kikuhiko was the icing on the cake of this year's already outstanding character drama. Caught between the expectations of society and desires he can't act upon, we witness his discovery of art as a way to find and express himself in a way he never thought possible, until the stage becomes his only refuge, condemning him to live a life he never wanted, trying to preserve the haunting memory of a feeling he lost a long time ago. His arc is tragic and powerful, but the best of all is: It isn't over.

NICK CREAMER

Best Character: Raito Shiba, Concrete Revolutio: The Last Song

I'm a sucker for characters who believe in an almost religious ideal of justice, and I'm a sucker for tragic heroes, so Raito Shiba is pretty up my alley from the start. The Last Song's very first episode embodies what is so compelling about Shiba: having shifted from unerring belief in the government's justice to a general pursuit of a better future, he finds himself unable to bear the contradictions inherent in our incompatible desires for the future, and ultimately sacrifices his own social consciousness just to be a more unconflicted icon of justice. Shiba is simultaneously an icon of cynicism and hope, embodying Revolutio's complex approach to politics while emphasizing its clear desire for a better world.

ROSE BRIDGES

Best Character: Haruta Kamijō, Haruchika

Okay, maybe I just wanted to talk a little about this series from winter that nobody seemed to love as much as I did. I really, genuinely, did adore its smartass co-protagonist, though. Haruta isn't the nicest guy, and can be pushy and annoying when it comes to his vast knowledge. Still, he's dependable in solving the show's mysteries, and a loyal friend and member of the brass band club. He's also a rare sympathetic and rounded portrayal of a gay character in a show where that's not the focus. There's just something soothingly familiar about Haruta if you were or befriended the obnoxious know-it-all in high school.

AMY MCNULTY

Best Character – Sakamoto, Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto

Although he has virtually no flaws to speak of, he never comes across as arrogant, nor does he particularly care about recognition. His constant desire to learn more and his perpetually cool demeanor serve as the catalysts for a myriad of amusing situations.


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