Well, 2016 is officially over, and that means it’s time for Anime Maru to post its annual Top 10 Anime list! (Remember, anyone who posts a year-end list before the year is over is a dirty liar!) This was frankly a spectacular year for culture in general, but especially anime. We know you’re all dying to see what our picks are, so without further adieu, here’s the list.
#10. Your Name: Formerly more of a niche director, Makoto Shinkai broke onto the blockbuster scene with his new hit movie Your Name, which retains the feel of his prior work while greatly expanding the scale, creating a film that nearly everyone can appreciate. The film has broken the top 10 highest grossing anime and Makoto has been nothing but humbled by his film’s success. Honestly, in many years Your Name would have gotten the #1 spot, but 2016 was such a landmark year in anime that it’s going to have to settle for #10.
#9. Ace Attorney: You know, when they first announced this anime, I’ll admit I was skeptical. Could MAPPA really recreate the tension and comedic tone of the original games while taking out the interactivity? The answer was a resounding yes, as it not only recaptured the feelings I felt when I first played the games but also added to the experience with fantastic direction and some great scenes that captured and expanded upon relationships of the story’s cast. Rumor has it they’re planning on adapting Apollo Justice’s arc next, and while the material may be weaker I have no doubt Watanabe Shinichiro will be able to improve the experience like he did here.
#8. Berserk: After 18 years, Berserk is finally back, and what a return it was. We finally got a proper adaptation of Black Swordsman arc, taking the show back to its roots and adapting the original manga almost panel for panel with gorgeous animation. The main reason why this show’s so low on the list is because we’re so early in, I can’t wait until we get closer to catching up with the manga and seeing all the fantastic material once Guts gets off the boat.
#7. Hunter x Hunter: Okay, I know this show started in 2011, but can we just talk about how great it was this year? Ever since Madhouse rebooted the series they’ve done fantastic work, but ever since 2014 when we got into the Dark Continent arc it’s just been incredible. Still, as much as Madhouse deserves credit for their great adaptation the real hero is Yoshihiro Togashi, whose continuous hard work and dedication to making his series great has cemented it as indisputably the best of Shonen Jump’s Big Four. Seriously, maybe the dude should take a break!
#6. The Elation of Haruhi Suzumiya: Let’s be honest, while Kyoto Animation’s other work is great, we’re all excited whenever they adapt more Haruhi. This season adapts novels 21 to 25 of the ongoing novel series, finally getting into Haruhi and Kyon’s college years, and it does a great job of balancing their ongoing relationship and their supernatural adventures. Honestly, there’s not much to say here, the Haruhi series continues to be as popular as it is for a reason.
#5. Spice and Wolf V: After five fantastic seasons, the tremendously high-selling anime adaptation of Spice and Wolf finally reaches its conclusion. While seasons 3 and 4 were great, season 5 really stepped it up with its adaptation of the final “Coin of the Sun” arc and epilogue, with beautiful character animation and atmosphere that drips from the screen. This is likely the best that Spice and Wolf will ever be, but I’m still excited for the already announced spinoff anime starring Holo and Lawrence’s daughter.
#4. The Endless River: Obviously this was a great year for adaptations, but when it comes to original material there’s no one better than Gainax. Never content to sit on his laurels and just remake content like Neon Genesis Evangelion that propelled him to fame, Hideaki Anno has continually put out hit after hit, each one creating a new and compelling world. Still, he’s made few shows better than Mugen no Kawa, which beautifully explores memory and loss through the extended metaphor of a flowing river of time. Still, the reason the show is so great has a lot to do with his collaborator, Hiroyuki Imaishi, who brings manic energy and spirited animation to Anno’s more thoughtful character studies. We can only hope that the two faces of Gainax collaborate more in the future.
#3. Yotsuba&!: Many thought that Kiyohiko Azuma would never agree to a Yotsuba adaptation, but honestly, who could say no to Hayao Miyazaki himself? With the full force of Studio Ghibli’s theatrical level animation behind him, Miyazaki approaches Yotsuba with the love of anime and understanding of youth that he brings to all of his work, perfectly capturing the innocent and uncynical feel of the manga. Sadly, Miyazaki has announced that he plans to retire next year, a shock given his uninterrupted passion for anime, but he says that it’s time to leave the industry to the next generation, who he feels is more than qualified to live up to his legacy.
#2. Goodnight Punpun: It takes a great director to place above Miyazaki, but in this case it’s the combination of two great directors. I certainly didn’t think that Yuasa Masaaki could work alongside Akiyuki Shinbo and Studio Shaft so well, but when they’re given material as great as Goodnight Punpun the result is an absolute masterpiece. The combination of animation styles perfectly captures Punpun’s fractured mindset, and the show manages to pull out every emotion from the original manga and amplify them through perfect direction.
#1. The Other 2016: But of course, who could possibly take the top spot but Satoshi Kon himself? In this frightening film, Kon imagines a dark alternate timeline in which the Twin Towers were leveled by a terrorist attack in 2001, creating a worldwide unrest that prevented the 2004 World Peace Talks from ever occurring and all diseases being cured. The world he creates is so fleshed out that it feels like it really could have occurred, and the idea of living in that world is truly terrifying. Satoshi Kon is truly a genius, and I can safely say that if he weren’t alive and working for the past 5 years, anime might very well be entirely shit now.