The weakest superhero ever. A psychic who tries to keep his mental abilities under wraps. A hapless exile who keeps getting do-overs. A group of randos who feel each other’s hurt. And a whole dynasty of pretty puppets. These are the characters we’ve encounter in anime this year. As we look back on 2016, these are the shows that made the biggest impact on us. Please, consider our picks, and let us know if you concur.
Who’d have ever figured that one of the most striking series of 2016 would be a puppet show? Long gone are the days of Captain Scarlet. The entire genre has seemed like a joke since Team America. Well, that’s why Gen “the Butcher” Urobuchi operates on an entirely different strata of creativity. The man who demolished Sailor Moon with Madoka Magica and put everybody’s brains in jars with Psycho-Pass spun an epic Chinese swashbuckler worthy of the Romance of Three Kingdoms here. That he did it with some of the daintiest dolls ever is all the more remarkable. May this string-pulling saga make puppetry a permanent part of programming.
Mob Psycho 100
The mysterious cartoonist One proved he was no one trick pony this year, following up One Punch Man with an equally offbeat yarn about the disaffected and ultra powerful. In fact, the two series proved to be fascinating companion pieces. In the former, we experienced the existential malaise of a superhero who’s so mighty the whole notion of fighting evil seems arbitrary. Here, we get the opposite, as the all-powerful Esper “Mob” intentionally operates beneath his potential so he can just live like a normal Joe (and nobody’s head will have to explode). In the whole history of funny cartoon slackers, this fella offered us the most compelling reason to under-achieve.
If only we all were transplanted to some fantastical pocket world while walking home from the drug store. Subaru’s adventure is the very definition good news/bad news. After befriending a cute elf girl in this parallel universe, he gains the ability to reverse time–but only when he’s killed. It’s a bit like Edge of Tomorrow (albeit in a completely different setting), letting the chronal-loop premise have much more room to get into deeper intricacies. And cuteness, of course.
With an alum of both Kill La Kill and Rage of Bahamut at the helm, you knew this one was going to be a sharp, brisk, and nearly indescribable ride. Strumming on a few of the same chords as Sense8 and Dark City and in the brash fashion so signature to Studio Trigger, this show follows a small group of people in an entirely experimental city. What point are its architects trying to prove? Well, if everybody’s pain were shared communally, would that be what ultimately leads to peace and harmony among humans? This series explores that philosophical question in a fashion that’s at once fun, idiosyncratic… and even moving?
My Hero Academia
Those searching/wishing/hoping for a new title to take a seat in the “Holy Shonen Trinity” might not need to look at any further. Like, Mob Psycho and One Punch Man, this series’ view on superheroics lingers on all its power dynamics. What would it feel like to be the one “norm” in a school for metahumans? Izuka has just such bad luck, and that makes him an underdog all the easier to root for–especially when he’s saving the “supers” who’ve bullied him. Just good ol’ fashioned shonen adventure here.
We’d honestly be surprised if you didn’t disagree with some of our choices. Surely, you’ve got picks of your own. Go on and list ’em in the talkback.
Image Credits: Studio Bones, FUNimation, Kadokawa, Pili International Multimedia, Studio Trigger
Featured Image Credit: Pili International Multimedia