2016 Anime Year in Review Part III: Wrap-up

In many ways, this is exactly the opposite of the post I wrote last January.

2016 was a pretty crap year, all things considered. It took David Bowie and Carrie Fisher, and gave us Brexit and Donald Trump as President-elect. The planet got inexorably warmer and the polar ice cap inexorably smaller. About the only way 2016 didn’t suck was in sports and anime, in fact. The Cubs finally won the World Series after 108 years, and Leicester City completed probably the unlikeliest miracle in sports history.

At the start of 2016, I was writing about a mediocre anime year ending, but what looked like a very promising one beginning.  Now I’m writing about a very good anime year ending, and what seems to be a depressingly bland and safe one getting started.  The good news is that 2016 did indeed turn out to be a winner.  But that highlights the bad news, which is that the impressions one gets at the start of the year tend to be more accurate than you’d think.  We already know an awful lot of what’s going to happen in anime by this stage, and for ’17 the picture being painted isn’t a pretty one.

The anime revival in 2016 wasn’t grounded in anything revolutionary – it was mostly the industry getting back to what really works.  Manga adaptations dominated the Top 10 as they always do, though we did see two original series break through, which is certainly encouraging.  We also had a light-novel adaptation break into the Top 20 for the first time since 2013’s Hataraku Maou-sama (S2 when?), though on balance the relative paucity of LN adaptations in 2016 was one of the reasons it was a better year.  Sadly their numbers are increasing substantially in Winter/Spring 2017.

Taking the lists as a whole, it’s not hard to see where the particular strength of 2016 was. In some years the first 10 is strong, in some years the second – but in 2016 it might just have been the third. It’s a good if unexceptional Top 10, but 11-20 is really strong – there are 5-6 shows there that just feel like top 10 series. And there are ones that didn’t make the list of all that were heartbreaking to leave out. While it had its share of elite series, where 2016 really shone was in depth of really good ones.

Genre-wise, while some things never change – Seinen accounted for 45% of the list (I’m splitting Orange between Seinen and Shoujo, since that’s how the serialization played out) – it was a pretty eclectic year on the whole. That fits the notion that 2016 was strong – thematic and genre diversity has been on the wane in anime. Josei and Shounen were represented in the Top 10, and Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge represents the usual genre-defying nature of its publication, Gangan Online.

Here’s the breakdown on the Top 10 list:

By Season:

  • Fall 2015: 1
  • Winter 2016: 2
  • Spring 2016; 3
  • Summer 2016: 3
  • Fall 2016: 1

By Studio:

  • Bones: 3
  • Deen: 1
  • A-1 Pictures: 1
  • Telecom Animation Film: 1
  • Shuka: 1
  • 8bit: 1
  • Silver Link: 1

As I expected, it was the year of Bones, with 30% of the top 10 list and 4 series in the Top 12.  But it’s still only A-1 that’s found a spot on the list every single year I’ve done one – they manage to produce at least one standout anime every year, at least so far.  Madhouse definitely had a down 2016 after one of the best years ever – hopefully they can rebound and crack the 2017 list with ACCA.  This year’s list featured 8 studios for the first time –  a welcome to debutantes LIDENFILMS, Telecom, Shuka and 8bit.

By Source Material:

  • Manga: 8
  • Original: 2

Very nice to see original series crack the list with 91 Days and Concrete Revolutio.  Manga will probably always dominate these lists, but 25% of the top 20 coming from other sources is a decent showing for 2016.

With all that said, 2017 has a lot to live up to. There will be good shows, for sure – but if it ends up being one or two per season, that’s not much to hang your hat on as an anime fan.  Summer and Fall are going to have to carry a disproportionately heavy load if 2017 is going to be salvaged (Ballroom e Youkoso being announced for Summer is a good start).  Summer being a strong season is a growing trend in anime (believe me, it didn’t used to be that way) but 2017 is going to have to be way more back-loaded than typical or we’re in for a rough anime year.

2017 is going to have a tough time measuring up to 2016 on the theatrical front, too, as Shinkai Makoto’s Your Name took the Japanese box office by storm before setting out to conquer the world. Kyoto Animation had good success with Koe no Katachi, and Hara Keiichi (the greatest anime director almost no one inside anime or out has heard of) is getting Oscar buzz for Miss Hokusai.  And let’s not forget Friend of LiA Michel Dudok de Wit’s rightly-praised collaboration with Ghibli, The Red Turtle, which is also a strong Oscar contender.

One more note: the winner of the 2016 Top 10 contest is Laney, who was the only reader to correctly guess 9 out of 10 picks (though the one miss, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, was a big one).  The prize, of course, is a commission – a post on whatever series you choose (as long as I’ve seen it).  Laney, please let me know via the comments which show you’d like me to write about – obviously it’d be more interesting if it’s one I didn’t fully blog on the site.  Congratulations!

That’ll about do it for the 2016 wrap-up – our own “Oscars” will be following along shortly. As always, my sincerest thanks to everyone who reads and comments here at LiA, and especially those of you that help the site out financially. You make all this possible, and you make it worth doing.  May 2017 be a better year for all of us.







  1. H

    Technically GN isn’t an LN adaptation. It is a mixed media project conceived as LN, manga, anime and web comic at the same time. While the manga follows the same story as the LN, they act as a prequel to the anime which is 100% original story. So you may argue you had no LN adaptations in top 20 this year once again.

  2. l

    Thank you–it feels kind of cheap winning without Rakugo, but I’ll take it!

    Could I request a favorite show from 2008 that you haven’t covered on this site (to include its sequels)? Or is it easier if I just pick an anime?

  3. You mean a non-anime TV show? I hadn’t thought about that but if I’ve seen it sure, I’ll consider it. Try me.

  4. l

    Oops, sorry, I meant you pick an anime from 2008 that you really like that you’ve never covered here (although if you’d like to do a non-anime TV show, go for it). I’m looking for recommendations, and I haven’t seen a lot of anime from that year.

  5. I’d do that, sure, though it’s really much more of a prize if you’re the one who picks! What 2008 shows are you especially fond of?

  6. o

    Oh please choose Michiko to Hatchin, started in October 2008. Fantastic series that is one of my favorites. Would really make my day 🙂

  7. l

    Actually, it’d be a big prize for me because I’d rather hear about an anime that you really like that I haven’t seen, so that I can go watch it. I haven’t seen a lot of anime pre-2010 with the exception of 2007, so I thought asking for a 2008 anime would be a safe bet. Btw, I’ve seen anime from 2007 because you’ve done a couple of posts on that year. I watched TTGL, 5CM Per Second, and Seirei no Moribito because of your site, so thank you for that!

    I know that’s fudging the terms of the prize a little bit–I was cheating a little because I really value your recommendations. If it’s easier for you, I can definitely pick an anime–I’m thinking your choice of Honey and Clover, Cowboy Bebop, Gankutsuou, Revolutionary Girl Utena, or Neon Genesis Evangelion, if you’ve seen any of those shows.

  8. If I’ve seen NGE? ROFL! That’s hardly a necessary question.

    I’ll look over the 2008 list and see what strikes me – you’re right, I have written about 2007 a bit even though it was before I started the site (because it was IMO the greatest anime year ever, by a wide margin).

  9. l

    Haha, Eva I knew because I’d seen the Rebuild posts–I wanted to pick at least one show I knew you’d watched (and liked). But I didn’t realize you’d written about Gankutsuou, so I’m glad I asked!

    Thank you! Really looking forward to the post, whatever you choose.

  10. S

    If 2008 is the year, there’s no better series to blog than Kaiba. It’s not necessarily the best show of that year – though it might have been, if the ending hadn’t been so messy – but it’s one of Yuasa’s most ambitious works, which means there’s no shortage of discussion and analysis to be had about it.

    Time of Eve would be cool, as well.

  11. Laney is the only one I’m taking requests from, as they won the contest. And since they’ve given me the task of choosing something myself, that’s what I’ll do.

    My recollection of 2008 was that it was a pretty meh year for anime, and looking over the series list indeed it was. I have actually written about a couple of 2008 shows, but there are two that stand out which I’ve mentioned often but never devoted an entire post to (one started in 2007, but ended in ’08). I’ll decide which one I have a yen to write about and go from there.

  12. So Ghost Hound or True Tears?

    Scratch that, Chi’s Sweet Home…

  13. q

    Michiko to Hatchin, of course 🙂

  14. B

    I’ve been reading Ballroom e Youkoso, and boy, that is one good read. I’m glad that Production I.G. is the one working on this one. The anime adaptation could be quite something.

  15. Z

    Wait! What? BeY as an anime? How did I miss the news about that?


  16. N

    I miss Bowie a lot.

    Thank you, Enzo, for yet another year of passionate blogging. I don’t know how you manage, but I’m glad that you do.
    Trurth be told, I haven’t watched much anime this year, but I kept reading your posts just to know what I’m missing on.
    Keep it up! You’re an inspiration to us all.

  17. Wait till you have to sit through the pledge drive before you thank me! But I appreciate the thought, seriously.

Leave a Comment