Funomena Picks: Best of Anime 2016 | Part I

Yes, for whatever reason, ATMA & Funomena is still alive and kicking. I also got into the elites’ club by being featured on the ThatAnimeSnob Reddit board. Truly an honour.

2016 was a horrible year (yes I’m one of those, deal with it) that was unfashionably kind to me as a blossoming anime fan and…maturing adult (somehow, these two do go hand-in-hand for me). I got myself a new (and first) decent-paying job, I started collecting anime, music and film merch like crazy. I watched too much anime.

Granted, I skipped over a lot of potentially great titles due to my lingering illness of being unable to finish what I enjoy (you know…for fear of having no more of the thing I like left to enjoy), but I daresay I watched enough to get a decent grasp on how much of a good year 2016 was to anime.

Now then, let’s start the count-down. (Note: after last year’s experiment, this year’s awards will be a slightly downsized in some areas of streamlining’s sake.)


Best of Anime TV: Visuals

*Only shows that I’ve completed or checked out partially (e.g. put on hold for a dub or Blu-ray release) will be qualified for consideration in this section.

Background Art & Atmosphere, Object & Setting Design (Aesthetics)

5. New Game | Fujiwara Yoshiyuki

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Peg most of the credit here to sheer cuteness. It has been a while since I enjoyed a show so much, purely because of its character designs. Last time it was Gochiusa, though that show also had the benefit of having outstanding atmospheric and object design, plus that always pleasurable injection of charming cuteness and relaxing vibe.

New Game’s idealized vision of a game production company didn’t provide much asset in terms of enhancing the show’s ability to flaunt creativity in its settings, but man did I love those character designs…

4. Flying Witch | Katsushi Sakurabi

Flying Witch is genuinely pretty to look at. For a show that unabashedly flaunts its Iyashikei genre, a cup of lemon-scented green tea is the perfect compliment for its vibe.

3. Myriad Colours Phantom World | Tatsuya Ishihara

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Oh screw you, the opening sequence of episode one had some of the most creative landscape texturing and object animation/render I’ve ever seen in 2010s anime. Not to mention how much of a marshmallowy delight the Naoko Yamada-directed episode was, and how the bouncy and cute Alice in Wonderland vibe gels perfectly with the nonsensical atmosphere of the show in general.

2. Sound! Euphonium 2 | Tatsuya Ishihara, Naoko Yamada

horriblesubs-hibike-euphonium-s2-09-1080p-mkv_snapshot_20-56_2017-01-11_23-02-08

So I get to talk more about Eupho again.

Sound! Euphonium 2 was every bit a worthy sequel to the 2015 masterpiece. Its bewildering habit of finding enough characteristic levers to pull on every single one of its main and side characters, and making them utterly likeable, relatable and mercilessly human certainly didn’t go anywhere. Adding to the already endearing core cast of Spring 2015, the second season astoundingly ended its performance by imprinting almost every side character into my very being. I was entranced.

Hardly done, the impeccable production values of this TV series remains ever so unprecedented for its medium: nostalgic and intricate lighting that infused with detailed background and object designs to create a variety of atmospheric moods that are…you guessed it, almost completely unmatched by any other TV anime that aired in 2016.

1. Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash | Ryousuke Nakamura

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I guess it’s the narrative value of Grimgar’s performative aesthetic that convinced me that ultimately, it should be the one to take home the gold. Beyond the fact that the show looks bloody amazing from just a surface visual sense, Grimgar legitimately utilises its aesthetics to their maximum potential.

My take on the background and setting design of the series very much came from a personal perspective that tries to examine the reason behind such inspired artistic rendering. But if you want to truly bite off some worthy retrospective jerky on the show, I wholeheartedly recommend Pause and Select’s analysis of Grimgar.

Honourable Mentions

Amanchu | Kenichi Kasai, Junichi Sato

Tanaka-kun is Always Listless | Shinya Kawatsura

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Animation: Object, Background & Character Interactivity / Composition & Framing Polish

5. Sansha Sanyou | Yasuhiro Kimura

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The show didn’t need them. But for whatever reason, animation sequences that spike in fluid momentum are dotted all over Sansha Sanyou

4. New Game | Fujiwara Yoshiyuki

…Same thing goes for this one, too. But with more understandable…artistic interest. Apparently, animating things can get boring…so why not put more effort in cuts you enjoy working on (i.e. looking at)?

Oversimplification, I know. But one does wonder…

3. Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash | Ryousuke Nakamura

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Some very distinctive traits of Grimgar in terms of its usage of the metaphorical camera, are a collection of mannerisms that it utilises which elevates a sense of forward motion, as well as the framing of its very inward-focusing character animation. Establishing and medium shots of the show’s gorgeous landscapes are almost always complemented by slight but very deliberate pans. Not only that, parallax slider effects were also effectively utilised in slow camera pans and perspective zooms to achieve a sense of malleable depth in Grimgar’s world. A simple yet profound touch of detail.

2. Kiznavier | Hiroshi Kobayashi

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A touch of eccentric, Trigger-brand personality and a profound visual flare, Kiznavier manages to balance its impeccable character designs with a production team determined to inject life into those models.

Though less impressive were its various mundane background settings, when the show decides to flaunt its more creatively confronting disposition, the show rarely ceases to look absolutely astounding in motion.

1. Sound! Euphonium 2 | Tatsuya Ishihara, Naoko Yamada

No one. And I mean no one, can beat the KyoAni dream team at moment-to-moment snapshots of ambient motion and composing beautiful symphonies out of human mundanity. At the behest of a massive dramatic venture in a show that covers adolescent drama, the pursuit of passion and the ensemble dream of musical achievement, Sound! Euphonium 2 featured one of the most stunningly animated musical sequences in recent history, as well as an expected but no less impressive eye for passive detail in the small moments in life.

It is always a shameful disservice to the show for it to be described by yours truly in such a limiting real estate (not to mention with my limited vocabulary). But let it be known that I will forever be holding this franchise on a pedestal it very much deserves to stand on.

Honourable Mentions

Snow White with the Red Hair 2 | Masahiro Ando

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Bungo Stray Dogs 2 | Takuya Igarashi

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Animation: Action | Choreography, Composition & Framing Polish

5. Haifuri | Yuu Nobuta

I perceive this show as an unfortunate victim of being underappreciated for its technical achievements, as well as its sheer entertainment value. Though not particularly flashy, the effects and mechanical animation of the turrets, torpedoes, shell explosions and ship movements were fast-phased, delightfully physics-defying and thoroughly enjoyable to watch.

Haifuri is also not above showcasing some impressive first-hand combat sequences and character animation.

4. Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash | Ryousuke Nakamura

harunatsu-hai-to-gensou-no-grimgar-08-bd-1080p-flac911bb77e-mkv_snapshot_11-51_2017-01-25_23-18-24

In my linked article above discussing Grimgar in conjunction with Re:Zero, I spent some time detailing how the former show approached its action-centric aspects differently than a more run-of-the-mill entry to the fantasy/stuck in a game mega-genre: foregoing the usual extravagant indulgence of superpowers and flashy sakuga,  Grimgar’s technically accomplished action animation and sequences were instead focused on the psychological duels between sentient beings, who don’t want to die any more than their opponents.

The framing of the battles aimed to disclose the sheer weight of steel and magic against bones and flesh, and I daresay they achieved remarkable success on that front.

3. Scorching Ping Pong Girls | Yasuhiro Irie

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An under-the-radar hit for me. For some, the last 3-4 episodes were what finally convinced them that they liked the show. For me, it was that oh-so-generic (but so damn effective) cry-fest ending of episode six.

Again, design and aesthetic-wise, the show’s unpolished look and character models will remain debatable whether it distracts the viewer or not, but when it comes to animating actual matches…the dirty enthusiasm that it displays with its impact rendering really helps energising the environment.

2. Myriad Colours Phantom World | Tatsuya Ishihara

02UFO!
I had a lot more choices when it comes to a screenshot insert here. But I chose this since the angle and subject matter always cracks me up. (That’s a hella lot of pink…)

Ah…the black sheep of the Kyoto Animation herd. I probably enjoyed the show a lot more than most, since I was able to appreciate its few moments of subversive ‘twists’ on convention (my favourite example: the idea of a ‘spa episode’ where instead of going to the spa, the spa comes to you in the shape of a phantom.)

But no one will deduct points from its direction and polish in action sequences.

1. Tales of Zestiria the X | Haruo Sotozaki

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I will be honest. At times, I think Tales of Zestiria the X is a downright ugly show. In a combination of uninspiring shot compositions, stubborn unwillingness to experiment with more mundane character motion and a downright poor choice of digital filtering that only gave the show a cold, metal exterior that doesn’t feel at all inviting.

However, if one is able to overlook all that, when Zestiria takes the viewer to an action sequence, it’s impossible to deny the spike in craftsmanship. Not to mention those fleeting moments of grandeur, when the camera is bold enough to show the massive span of a hellish landscape, filled to the brim with opposing armies and flaming projectiles.

Honourable Mentions

Kiznavier | Hiroshi Kobayashi

horriblesubs-kiznaiver-12-1080p-mkv_snapshot_17-09_2016-06-26_13-46-23

Bungo Stray Dogs 2 | Takuya Igarashi

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Notable Omissions

Shows I either didn’t finish, dropped, or saved for later. I realise how bad this looks, but hey, note my condition: the inability to finish what I enjoy, for fear of having no more of what I like left to enjoy. Poetic, isn’t it?

ERASED
Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
Boku no Hero Academia
Concrete Revolutio 2
Mob Psycho 100
3-gatsu no Lion
Flip Flappers
Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

Fune wo Amu
Yuri!!! On ICE


Best of Anime TV: OP’s & ED’s

*Considers the entire package: Song number, visual quality & creativity, etc.

Perhaps the most subjective section of the lot: almost everything comes down to personal taste, technical recognitions and musical knowledge and preference: it’s hard to nail down what kind of songs or sequences grab me, but I think you can get a general idea of the type I dig.

Opening Sequences

5. ‘Shakunetsu Switch’ – Suzumegahara Chūgaku Takkyū-bu | Scorching Ping Pong Girls

4. ‘SAKURA SKIP’ – fourfolium | New Game

3. ‘Sharanran’ – miwa | Flying Witch

2. ‘SOUNDSCAPE’ – TRUE | Sound! Euphonium 2

1. ‘High Free Spirits’ – TrySail | Haifuri

Honourable Mentions

‘Reason Living’ – SCREEN Mode | Bungo Stray Dogs 2
’99’ – Mob Choir | Mob Psycho 100

‘Usura Koori Shinjuu’ – Megumi Hayashibara | Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu

*****

Ending Sequences

5. ‘Refrain Boy’ – ALL OFF | Mob Psycho 100

4. ‘You Only Live Once’ – Wataru Hatano | Yuri!!! on Ice

3. ‘Ka ha, tare doki’ – Kana Shibue | Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu

2. ‘Everyday Magic’ – Minami Shinoda, Eri Suzuki | Flying Witch

1. ‘FLIP FLAP FLIP FLAP’ – TO-MAS feat. Chima | Flip Flappers

Honourable Mentions

‘Little Adventurer’ – Sora Amamiya, Rie Takahashi, Ai Kayano | Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!
‘Vivace’ –  Tomoyo Kurosawa, Ayaka Asai, Moe Toyota, and Chika Anzai | Sound! Euphonium 2


Wonderful celebration, but wait, there’s more! Part II will be linked here when it is published in the coming days/weeks.

See you in the next one.

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