#1 – Boku Dake ga Inai Machi
Maybe there was just slightly more doubt as to what the final post of the year was going t0 be in 2016 vs. the last couple of years, if only because there are shows left off the Top 10 list this year which could plausibly be argued to be ones I might consider for the #1 slot. But I think most of you who follow the site knew I was going with Boku Dake ga Inai Machi once the #2 spot as confirmed yesterday. And while it was a close call, it’s one I’m totally convinced is the right one in the end.
Boku Dake is a funny sort of series in its relationship with the viewing audience. In the end it’s still regarded overwhelmingly in the positive (it’s #50 all-time on MAL, for example) but there was a definite backlash against it for the concluding arc. I’m in the same position now as I was in my series finale post – I’d like to talk about the ending and how it compares to the manga’s, but I really can’t because some of you will hopefully read that someday. And it’s hard to explain why I think the anime ending works without delving into its similarities and differences with Sanbe Kei’s original ending.
In the end, I think A-1 Pictures (who remain the only studio to feature on every LiA Top 10 list) – behind the outstanding director/writer team of Itou Tomohiko and Kishimoto Taku – did remarkably well in preserving the substance and impact of the original ending within the constraints they were working under. 12 episodes was an awkward number for Boku Dake ga Inai Machi – not enough to comprehensively adapt the manga ending (that would have required 3-4 more eps) and too many to use the logical intermediate stopping point. The questions Sanbe asks – and answers – in his ending survive in anime form, but some narrative shortcuts are taken to get there. C’est la vie – a lot of folks dislike the manga ending to begin with but I think that’s mostly because it breaks with manga convention so totally.
Irrespective of all that, Boku Dake on the whole is a masterwork – a great adaptation of one of the best manga of the 21st Century. I was thrilled when this anime was announced because I do consider the source material a classic, but the anime actually improved on it through the choices it made. For example, the way it communicates the experience of the adult Satoru being in the child Satoru’s body through the use of internal narration and cinematography. The casting and music was superb, and while there were a few inconsistencies with the visuals, on the whole Erased was the most beautiful A-1 series since… Well, since I can remember, really.
It would be no exaggeration to say that there were two episodes of Boku Dake I’d rank among my all-time Top 10 anime episodes (a list which I get more requests for than any other), and another couple that wouldn’t miss by much. It’s all brilliant, but the arcs involving Kayo are obviously the most conventionally dramatic, and they provide the series’ highest emotional crescendoes. And the relationship between Satoru and his mother (both when he’s a little boy and a fully grown man) may be my favorite mother-son bond in all of anime or manga – and Sachiko my favorite Mom. She’s a marvel of blunt, fearless and quietly heroic parental love – and in Satoru those heroic qualities manifest themselves too.
Boku Dake ga Inai Machi is yet another example of anime and manga using fantasy to enlighten reality – to explore issues of familial love, control, self-doubt and pathological evil. While there are supernatural elements at the heart of the narrative the story itself is grounded in the bedrock of real emotion. It’s a love story, a thriller, a romance, a comedy, a tragedy – because life itself is all those things. In my view it offers one of the most thematically and stylistically complete experiences in anime history, and even in a solid year like 2016 it’s my clear choice as anime’s best series.
#2 – Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
My life would have been a lot easier if I’d just called Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu a split cour and ranked it on the 2017 list. But that would have been inconsistent with the rules I’ve tried to apply even-handedly from the start, so I didn’t do that. I’ll talk about the reasons why my #1 series is what it is tomorrow, but it’s no stretch to say that it was a tough decision – Shouwa Genroku was a truly great series and figures to be a strong contender for a high placement in 2017 as well.
The essence of this series is time, I think. It’s every bit as much a character as Sukeroku or Kikuhiko, and its presence is always felt profoundly – especially as it applies to Kiku, who feels the weight of it more acutely than anyone else. Rakugo Shinjuu makes a bold choice in giving away the ending of the first season in the first episode, which takes the series solidly into Greek tragedy territory.
There are a lot of reasons to love this series, starting with the impeccable direction of Omata Shinichi (I wonder how he chooses which name to apply to which job?). His narrative instincts are spot-on, and while Deen will rarely be confused with Bones or Production I.G. in terms of animation, they are capable of real beauty – and it seems that Omata-sensei tends to be involved in the shows that achieve it. Tokyo over the decades comes alive in this series (The main setting is in Kagurazaka, mere blocks from my Tokyo apartment, so I may be biased in favor).
Perhaps more than any series this year, though, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu relies on its cast to succeed. Most especially Ishida Akira and Yamadera Kouichi, who play the twin pillars of the first season. Each of this men is a veteran seiyuu by any standard, but it’s rare for them (especially Ishida, who’s still much-coveted for trope-driven roles) or anyone else for that matter to be given this sort of material to work with. Each actor must bring a huge range of emotions to their roles, on-stage and off. Yamadera does a remarkable job of projecting Sukeroku’s youthful bravado despite his own age (he’s 55) in one of the most vibrant and electric performances of the year. And it’s a revelation to be reminded of just how subtle and brooding Ishida can be when allowed to stretch.
All of the top five series this year are very different, but they all represent a reason to cherish anime as an art form. The tonal and thematic diversity of it is what sets anime apart from Western animation, and that’s why it’s so agonizing to see that diversity on the wane in recent years (with 2016 being a seeming aberration of that trend). There’s no reason Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu couldn’t have been a live-action instead of an anime – but then, there’s no reason Picasso couldn’t have taken photographs of Guernica instead of painting it. Shouwa Genroku truly is anime as art, and as long as there’s room for this sort of expression in it, anime has a chance to survive as a relevant medium.
#3 Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari
As is my custom when including just-concluded series in the year-end Top 10 list, I’m not going to write extensively about Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari here. After all, you’ve got 1400-plus words from me that were just written last weekend if you want to know what I think about it. But rest assured, placing it this highly in an above-average year like 2016 is an accurate reflection of the high esteem in which I hold it.
If I’m honest, my initial take was to rank Udon no Kuni fourth, just behind Mob Psycho 100. But the finale was such a tour de force that I felt the series as a whole needed to jump up a notch. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more effective conclusion for an ongoing manga series – it had poetry, pathos and a feeling of closure. This was an emotionally powerful show from day one – I can’t remember another one-cour anime making me tear up as often as Udon no Kuni did. But the finale really pulled out all the stops – in a week of great and emotional final episodes, it topped everything that came before it.
Like all the series in my top 5, I could make a case for ranking Udon no Kuni as the top series of the year. It’s really minute differences at this point – I don’t think this series put a foot wrong in 12 episodes. Perhaps it might be called a show of modest narrative ambition, but Udon no Kuni is incredibly authentic and perceptive. It achieves emotional profundity on so many occasions because it captures so many elements of the human experience (especially that of young adults, especially in modern Japan) so accurately. It isn’t going to succeed commercially but I’m thrilled that this wonderful story was given the chance to unfold on-screen.
#4 – Mob Psycho 100
To be honest I ground on this spot for quite a while. In fact I allowed myself the possibility of changing my mind right up to the moment I sat down and started typing, because I wanted to make sure I felt right about the direction I chose – and in the end, went against the direction I’d been leaning for most of my deliberations.
Mob Psycho 100 wasn’t always the #4 show in this list – in fact, I would say it was a candidate for the top series of the year, which should tell you how close the top four spots are (this is the closest-packed top 5 since I’ve been doing these lists, in fact). MP100 is a pretty remarkable achievement, all things considered – if anything separated it from the shows above it, it might be a couple of episodes that were just a bit less stellar than the rest. I hate to even ding it for that, because I think director Tachikawa Yuzuru intentionally chose to start the series with an atypical episode and in effect, punk new viewers are exactly what Mob Psycho 100 was going to be. And it worked (perhaps a hair too well).
I think it’s fair to say that adapting any work by the mangaka ONE presents an interesting set of challenges. His art style is unique (and unlike One Punch Man, Mob Psycho is not filtered through the intermediary of a well-known artist like Murata Yusuke), and his storytelling unconventional. While I think Tachikawa-sensei would probably excel at the helm of almost any series, pairing him with ONE was a stroke of genius by Bones. These are two men with distinct and wildly creative perspectives, and Tachikawa merges them beautifully here. MP100 was the visual standout of 2016 for me, hands down.
More than that, though, Tachikawa clearly embraces the essence of Mob Psycho in this adaptation. His prior work was of course his own creation (Death Billiards/Death Parade) but he and ONE seem to be on the same wavelength. Mob Psycho is one of the most humanistic series you’ll ever see – an unapologetic battle between the forces of decency and humility and those of selfishness and lust for power.
Mob Psycho is also arguably the most interesting metaphorical anime take on early adolescence since FLCL, and in Mob offers up a thoroughly believable and (frankly) moe lead. The web of relationships that winds through the series is complex and subtle, and of course it offers up a breakout character where we might least expect one in Reigen – who’s not only much more than he seems, but one of the most interesting adult male characters in anime in years. Even early on, before we really get to know him, ONE and Tachikawa (note that the latter changed the chapter order considerably to help communicate this) make sure we see that there’s a very genuine bond between Mob and Reigen, and the entire series is really built around that bond.
Bones is the shit, plain and simple – and so is Tachikawa, who’s now produced masterpieces for both Bones and Madhouse. I think he’s the most exciting young talent in anime along with Matsumoto Rie, and I’m anxious to see where his career takes him. I hope, of course, that one place it does is more seasons of Mob Psycho 100, and there are solid indications (including Bones’ president Minami Masahiko’s cagey answers at Anime Expo and the symbolism in the final eyecatch) that this is in the works. The first season sold pretty well (not as well as OPM, but of course it’s not unusual that an author’s better series sells less than his lesser – though in this case still excellent – one) and I think the chances are very strong that we haven’t seen the last of Mob and Reigen in anime form.
#5 – Orange
Now we’re at the point of the list where the only real question is placement. I’ve known since my earliest deliberations what the top 5 shows of the year were going to be, but it’s probably not an exaggeration to say that all of them were contenders for the top spot at some point in their run. For sure, as Top 5’s go this one is more tightly packed than most.
Orange, at its best, was one of the most emotionally powerful anime experiences of my life. I’ve heard all the charges against it – emotionally manipulative, illogical, passive main character. Frankly none of them hold much weight with me. And as with Watamote, I suspect one’s definition of realism is colored by whether or not they’ve dealt with depression in their family or close friends (or themselves).
Orange is another one of those series that uses magical realism as a device to explore the human psyche. Whatever you think of the conceit it’s built around, it’s an effective mechanism for character drama. Orange is a perpetual tug-of-war between possibility and regret (it even carries the metaphor so far to include a literal tug-of-war). Emotions are a roller-coaster from week to week as each side rises to ascendancy, only to be eclipsed in the next episode. It’s also a musing on the power of love – not the selfish, possessive kind but the kind that makes us do something for another person without hope of gain for ourselves (or perhaps, the contrast and conflict between them).
Here’s how I see it. Anime has become so obsessed with irony that any series that plays it straight emotionally is dismissed as manipulative and (God help us) “melodramatic”. Orange is a dinosaur in that sense, and I’m very glad it exists. It gives us characters who are flawed, weak (some more than others) and asks us as an audience: will we judge them, or try to understand them? Will we sit in our Herman Millers and laugh at them for their poor decisions, or realize how difficult it can be to do the right thing – even when you know the easier thing will lead to a bad result?
There are some issues with Orange, no doubt – like people, anime aren’t perfect. Telecom Animation started out with some of the loveliest visuals of the season, but their budget/scheduling problems were quite apparent in the second half of the series. A couple of themes were a little repetitive. But on balance, this was an incredibly deep and powerful series. Ironically given how the otaku community mocks Orange and shows like it, this (like Watamote) is the essence of literal moe – the urge to protect the characters on-screen. How wonderful it would be to share life lessons with kids and actually have them listen, to avoid the pain you can see is coming. But in Orange as in life, there’s just no substitute for experience – even if the adult trying to guide you is yourself.
#6 – 91 Days
If the 2016 Top 10 list started off as a parade of exemplars on how to do a good manga adaptation, these last two entries are an equally good lesson on how to do a great original series. I don’t have a preference – adaptations of manga we love can be incredible experiences, but there’s a lot to be said for the artistic freedom of a series custom-fit for the screen.
Shuka, the studio that split off from Brain’s Base (and took much of their top talent with it) has had an uneven start to life, but I think 91 Days is the series that really put their stamp on anime. There are a few uneven spells in the production (including a midpoint recap episode) but on the whole, 91 Days is a stylish and handsome piece of work. The look is radically different from what we usually see in anime – but then, so is just about everything else about this show. In the hands of the outstanding writer Kishimoto Taku (whose stellar career in anime had previously been limited to adaptations) and director Kaburagi Hiro (one of the most under-appreciated geniuses in the field, with Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun and Hoozuki no Reitetsu under his belt) 91 Days was a masterwork of storytelling that put most of the medium to shame.
More than a conventional anime, 91 Days is a homage to the classic American organized crime story – from the golden of of Hollywood and the likes of Howard Hawks to Scorcese. Most of all it recalls The Road to Perdition – which is of course based on the legendary 1970 manga Lone Wolf and Cub (Kozure Ookami), so perhaps there’s something to a full circle quality to this series. As with most great mafia stories there’s a strong element of the Greek tragedy to 91 Days, a sense that we know how everything will end (and that it won’t end well) and the real drama comes from seeing how we get there.
Many anime try and capture an American cinematic style, and most either intentionally or not come out with something that feels very much a Japanese person impersonating an American accent (Baccano! is an example of a series that very successfully does this on purpose). I’m hard-pressed to think of one that so successfully looks, sounds and feels like a Hollywood film as 91 Days does. There are so many little details Kishimoto and Kaburagi get just right, and it doesn’t hurt that the bones of Kishimoto’s story are a rock-solid foundation to build on. This isn’t just a random take on a mafia story, it’s a damn good one – and it’s compelling from the first 10 minutes (which is the best opening half-episode of any anime this year) to the final frames.
Those final frames are controversial, and it’s not surprising. Ambiguous endings are pretty common in Western stories of this type, but I can count on one hand the times anime fans have responded well to them. But I felt then – and still feel now – that this was the right way to end this story. You can imagine many possibilities, but the point of 91 Days is that what should have happened is irrelevant – we don’t live in that sort of world. As you’d expect 91 Days was a commercial failure, as the shows which end up on my Top 10 lists almost invariably are, and there’s certainly no indication of anything remotely like it on the docket for 2017. I sincerely hope there remains a place in anime for series like this one, because it’s the thematic and stylistic diversity of the medium (so under threat at the moment) that for me makes it a unique and irreplaceable art form.
#7 Concrete Revolutio
If you’ve been following my writing this year, I suspect you have a pretty good idea what the top 5 series on my list for 2016 are (though not necessarily the order – join the club on that one). That means the real drama is in these next two picks – because as much as they reveal who’s made the list, they’re also going to reveal who hasn’t.
Concrete Revolutio, like the previous three entries, wasn’t an easy call for the Top 10 – not because it’s not deserving, but because so many others shows were too. ConRevo is also the most flawed series on this list, I would say – it took a little while to find its footing, and it had a few missteps along the way. But it’s here, another feather in Bones’ cap, and in the end there was just no way I could leave it off. Simply put, there wasn’t another series in 2016 that was as creatively ambitious and relentlessly imaginative as Concrete Revolutio. The sheer scope of what Mizushima Seiji and Aikawa Shou pulled off here was truly remarkable.
In some ways, ConRevo reminds me of Space Dandy in that it represents Bones’ unequalled willingness to take risks, to challenge the audience, to mine a wide swathe of visionary talents to creative a diverse sensory and intellectual experience. Aikawa’s master plan here is almost unbelievably complex – a series of leaps back and forth across time, a seemingly endless tangle of superficially unrelated plot and character threads which were all tied up in the end. Along the way he and Mizushima penned a love letter speculative fiction – to American and Japanese comic book heroes, to science-fiction, to fantasy, to Shinto mythology and Judeo-Christian alike. It also did something very rare in anime that Aikawa is especially inclined to do, and that’s take dead aim at the Japanese political establishment and fire both barrels.
If there’s a problem including Concrete Revolutio on this list, it’s only that it’s a tough show to describe in words. I had great fun writing about it, but damn, it was hard. You know I love character-driven series, but ConRevo (while it has a great cast) isn’t so much character or even plot-driven, but idea-driven. That’s an incredibly uncommon thing in anime and there’s are reasons for that – it’s damn difficult to pull off and it almost never makes money. ConRevo explored so many ideas over the course of its two cours (it was eligible for the 2016 list because it was a true split-cour series) – the desire for heroes, the grey abyss between the spheres of what we see as good and evil, self-reliance and dependence on others. It’s an intellectually dense as any anime in years, and richly rewards anyone with the patience to watch and listen closely to what it has to say.
Concrete Revolutio isn’t a perfect series, but its misses are from over-reaching, not from playing it safe – and there aren’t many of them at that. It’s a model of what a great studio should be doing – using the profits from its more commercial series to fund works which reward its creative staff and elevate the medium of anime itself. Bones had a fantastic 2016 and no series is a better example of why they’re arguably the best studio in the business than this one.
#8 – Shounen Maid
I suspect that of all the series that make this list, Shounen Maid is going to be both the most personal and the most divisive – the “bracket-buster”. In part that’s because it’s going to spark the inevitable question “What is he leaving off to make room for that??” Believe me, that question is not lost on me – I do think about it in a year as strong as this one. But if you take it as read that there are at least 4-5 series that are gut-wrenching omissions from my top 10, I kept coming back to one thing – when I viewed every series in terms of enjoyment and personal impact, there was no way I could not include Shounen Maid in the Top 10.
I freely admit I love the story with Shounen Maid – sure, the story within the series itself, but also the fact that it was almost universally disregarded and disrespected, almost utterly ignored. Hell, it was often mistakenly identified as an adaptation of a hentai doujin with a similar title. But for those few of you that chose to give it a chance, you saw that it was both light and entertaining and deceptively deep. It’s another one of those simple yet profound human stories I’m always going on about, and another example of a manga adaptation where the anime managed to improve on the source material.
In point of fact, even I – and it’s no exaggeration to say that I was probably this show’s strongest English-language advocate – underestimated how good Shounen Maid would be. I knew the manga (which is sadly stalled at about 20 chapters translated) was excellent, but I wasn’t prepared for how deep and subtle the anime would be. Shounen Maid is all about subverting expectations – of characters who are so much more than they appear to be, of situations that are far more layered and conflicted than they appear. I’m convinced mangaka Nakamura Yoshiko is intentionally toying with her audience by teasing at what seem to be tropes, only to completely upend them. But this series isn’t simply better than expected – it’s legitimately outstanding in its own right. You’ll find few that more expertly depict loneliness, insecurity and neuroses than Shounen Maid.
I only now realize that I noted in my series review post (which was my last of the Spring) that this series, Boku no Hero Academia and Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge were all packed so closely together that at the time I couldn’t rank them – and coincidentally, they’ve ended up as the first three shows on this list. I’d still say there’s very little between them, as different as they are – each was wonderful in their own way. What Shounen Maid brings to the table that perhaps no other 2016 series besides Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari does is an unerringly accurate take on family and relationships, on the emotional bonds that tie us together – and those series also share a welcome focus on the essential kindness of the human spirit. Shounen Maid will, I think, be fondly remembered by a select few long after series that were far more popular in the moment are forgotten by all. It’s a series of substance and empathy, and one of my favorite shows of 2016.
#9 – Boku no Hero Academia
It was a great year for Bones, no question about it. In terms of consistency they may be the best in the business, they’re committed to hand-drawn animation even for action, and they have arguably the most ambitious and forward-thinking marketing vision in TV anime. When Bones does well it’s a good thing for anime – and when we see Bones announced as the studio for an adaptation for a beloved source material, fans are justifiably pleased.
That was certainly the case with Horikoshi Kouhei’s Boku no Hero Academia, which Shounen Jump insiders have been touting as the next big WSJ franchise almost since it was given a serialization. With several tentpole franchises coming to an end and Hunter X Hunter mired as ever in hiatus Hell, Shounen Jump needs to take great care with its next generation of star series – and that’s exactly what they did with BnHA. They gave it to one of anime’s platinum studios, and limited the first season to one cour to avoid burning through the source material too quickly. You can always tell which franchises Shueisha really values by how their anime adaptations are handled, and that care is apparent with Boku no Hero Academia.
There were risks in going with a one-cour first season, because BnHA starts slowly for an action series. It’s character-driven by genre standards anyway, and it takes its time with the mythology and origin story – time well-spent and absolutely vital. I was a bit worried that some of the audience might lose patience early on and indeed there was some grumbling, but Bones and director Nagasaki Kenji stayed true to Horikoshi’s vision and told the story the way it was written. Boku no Hero has so much going for it – a great protagonist and supporting cast, a uniquely Japanese take on American superhero genre canon – and by the end of the season, all of that had become unmistakably clear.
It’s fair to say the best is yet to come with Boku no Hero Academia. The manga gets better and better, more action-oriented but no less driven by its characters. Bones, as always, delivers the sakuga big-time when it comes to the set pieces but gets the small moments (especially in the relationship between Izuku and All Might) just right too. BnHA sold pretty well on disc by shounen standards, and the manga continues to grow its sales to powerhouse levels. Does that mean we’ll see a long-term, comprehensive anime adaptation? I suspect it does, but I’ll always worry until I see that next season announcement.
#10 – Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge
Make no mistake – this year’s Top 10 list is a tough one to compile (and the second 10 is no easier). There are really about 15 shows which feel like top 10 picks to me, and whichever ones I leave off, it’s going to hurt. So this seems a good time to reiterate that my Top 10 list is my Top 10 list. It’s a list of my favorite anime, and not an attempt to compile an absolute list of the objective top 10 anime of the year. I try to balance objective quality with pure enjoyment, yes. But ultimately it still comes down to one thing – my opinion. And one of the things I have to do is try to divorce my list from hype – because hype can influence critics strongly, whether they want to admit it or not (so can contrarianism, though – which is another trap I have to try and avoid).
With that said, Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge is my choice for the precious #10 spot. And rather than feeling like a stretch in any way, my take is that in an average year it would certainly place even higher. Silver Link took a manga I already loved, and they made it better. They fleshed out the simple and minimalist manga background art and created one of the most beautiful high schools in anime (based on a real one, apparently). They chose the perfect music, cast the perfect seiyuu. They added clever visual touches throughout, including some of the best eyecatches of the year, and nailed the OP and ED.
Tanaka-kun is a classic anime comedy – quirky, silly, loveable – yet also very smart and kind of deep. The cast of characters is uniformly great top to bottom, and they all get their chance to shine in the anime. The supporting cast is diverse enough that they allow the series to switch between a number of different comic styles, each of which it manages to excel at. And it all revolves around Tanaka-kun and his quest for the perfect idyll, which is (and I’m not joking here) very much a Buddhist journey. To take the classic animanga trope of the lazy teenaged boy and spin it so artfully was a work of genius by mangaka Uda Nozomi, and director Kawatsura Shinya lifts the entire presentation by a few notches in the way he utilizes what anime can do that manga can’t.
This is how adaptations should work – take what’s already a strong source material, and use the medium to make it even better. And it’s another example of Silver Link pulling that off, as they certainly did with Watamote. It’s a great way to start off this list – though it’s not the only show that I could have said that about, just the one that made the cut…
Honorable Mention – Osomatsu-san
OK, I’ll admit it – giving this slot to Osomatsu-san is a bit of a cop-out. In truth it very likely would have ended up on the Top 20 on its own merits, but there are already several shows whose omission from the list is going to be pretty painful. And given that this slot is traditionally reserved for the shows that don’t really fit into a conventional category but deserve some recognition anyway, I’m indulging myself – because Osomatsu-san sure doesn’t fit into any existing category in anime history.
The superlatives are so numerous and astonishing that it’s hard to know where to begin. #5 all-time in disc sales per volume at almost 65,000. The first series since 2000 (Love, Hina) to top the Oricon sales chart for two months in a row. And this is for a remake of a kiddie show from the 1960’s (it’s a manga adaptation) that’s already been remade once. It had some notoriety in its heyday (many famous people including John Lennon publicly mimicked Iyami’s “Sheeh!”) but even in Japan, Osmoatsu-kun had largely been forgotten – it was no Doraemon.
When Osomatsu-san was announced, I wasn’t even convinced it was going to be streamed or subbed. To say I completely missed the boat on this one is an understatement, but I don’t think anybody saw this coming. And truthfully, I still can’t totally explain it (and it’s not for lack of trying). I think, somehow, this series came along at exactly the right time and struck exactly the right chord with the anime-buying audience. It’s certainly appealed to female otaku, and has been unashamed to pander to that in hilarious fashion – but there’s more to this phenomenon than that. Somehow Osomatsu-san has managed to rather cruelly satirize the malaise that’s gripping the current “lost generation” of young Japanese while still making them feel good about watching it.
In the end, Osomatsu-san is just a very funny show. It’s not perfect, but then sketch comedy series always have hits and misses. But the good moments far outnumbered the bad, and the best moments (like Jyuushimatsu’s remarkably heartbreaking doomed romance and the most hilarious bits with Iyami and Dayon) were truly spectacular. We’ll be seeing more Osomatsu-san, of that you can be certain – it’s now not so much an anime as a cultural phenomenon.
A Refresher on Eligibility:
I’m going by the same eligibility standard I used for the 2012-2015 lists – that is, shows that finished airing in 2016 or split-cours that finished in 2016. Split-cour series which finish in 2017 are not eligible for this list, but series that ended this year and weren’t officially confirmed as split cour when they did are eligible. As ever, “split-cour” is an elusive term to define – I’m making Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu and Boku no Hero Academia eligible despite the sequels being announced before the end (or at the end, in Rakugo‘s case) of the first season, because they won’t air until three seasons later. So in effect, then, the only shows not eligible for this list are the multi-cour series that began airing from Spring 2016 onwards and are still airing into Winter 2016, or true split cours that will finish in 2017.
And as has become tradition, let’s do a little contest – I’ll take a commission from anyone that guesses the Top 10, in order. If no one does that, I’ll go with the closest guess. Guesses made by 0700 JST 12/23/16 will be eligible. Here’s the deal: I’ll do a writeup on any anime you choose that hasn’t been covered on LiA. The one caveat – I have to have watched it…