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:
- Fall 2015: 1
- Winter 2016: 2
- Spring 2016; 3
- Summer 2016: 3
- Fall 2016: 1
- 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.