The Best Anime You Missed in 2016

By Kotaku on at

By Meghan Ellis

With the last of this year’s anime coming to an end – and a few long, dark weeks before the Winter 2017 season starts – now is the ideal time to catch up on the best of the rest: the anime you missed in 2016 because you were too busy watching star-spangled figure skaters put on a surprisingly good show.

Since nobody wants to spend 6+ hours a day during the festive season in front of the telly watching bad anime (don’t try this at home), I’ve put together a list of shows from throughout the year that might have slipped under the radar, or needed the sweetener of a few good reviews before they’d be worth a watch. All of the shows below are available to watch on at least one streaming service for your 7am-with-mince-pies pleasure.

Winter 2016 Anime: January

If anyone can remember all the way back to the grim days of January ‘16, they’ll have noticed that the Winter season followed the recent trend of poor quality shows with a few diamonds thrown in to make sure we don’t just pack it all in until summer. If you spent your time watching the fascinatingly experimental Ajin or psychological mystery Erased, you might have missed the following contenders for an afternoon of entertainment:

Dimension W

12 episodes
Debut Winter 2016
CG by Orange, animation by Studio 3Hz
Streaming on FUNimation

Dimension W makes the list not only for the sick dance moves of main character Kyoma but also for its understated attempt to mesh together classic sci-fi with modern worries. Set in a wonderfully cryptic future of technology and its relationship with politics and capitalism, I really enjoyed how the plot widened towards the end of the series. That said, it tried to bite off more than it could cram into 12 episodes, losing just enough coherence to make Dimension W a good show that could’ve been a great one.

Rainbow Days

24 episodes (around 10-15 minutes long)
Debut Winter - Spring 2016
Production Reed
Streaming on FUNimation

On the fluffier end of the spectrum from the season’s big hitters, Rainbow Days is the perfect holiday anime. It’s put together in a short story format, and it gleefully dismantles everything that’s “in” this year on the pretty boy side of things. There’s definitely enjoyment to be had in how close Rainbow Days skirts the line between parody and playing it straight, and if the comedy isn’t your thing, then at least the stereotypical main characters can give you some insight into what’s hot in the anime world right now.

Spring 2016: March

Hot on the heels of a disappointing winter season, Spring ‘16 had so many worthy contenders that for the first time in a few years it became a pretty good idea to police the number of shows you watched at once. If that meant picking up the grim and gory Re:Zero and Kabaneri over the beautiful mysteries of Kiznaiver and Bungou Stray Dogs, now’s your chance to catch the slower paced shows of Spring.

Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto

12 episodes
Debut Spring 2016
Studio Deen
Streaming on Crunchyroll

This anime is… one joke taken very, very far. Sakamoto is a high school student who can do no wrong, in a very literal sense. The tagline for the show is a “perfect boy doing perfect things”, and the show’s whole premise, for almost five hours of animation time, is to stretch the limits of perfection into complete absurdity. What’s maybe even more surprising is that it works. If you like to your comedy on the surreal side, then watch an episode or two of this and it’ll keep you in a good mood through the most boring of festive family visits.

Summer 2016: July

If you’re like me and summer holidays meant you missed a good chunk of the cream of the summer crop, now’s the time to catch up on the alternative hits of the season. With a fair number of shows that started well and didn’t quite live up to the hype (pointing a finger at Berserk here and its poor handling of a great legacy) there’s nevertheless a few gems that you may have overlooked while enjoying the mad Mob Psycho 100:

91 Days

12 episodes
Debut Summer 2016
Shuka
Streaming on Crunchyroll

91 Days watches less like an anime from a relatively new studio and more like a love letter to everything great about old-school crime thrillers. For those anime fans who appreciate what animation can do with cinematography, 91 Days is a delight of intrigue, character building and character breaking, much of it wordless. With a story based around revenge and ever-increasing, claustrophobic stakes to achieve that revenge, maybe this one is best left until your least-favourite relative has gone home after the holidays...

Orange

13 episodes
Debut Summer 2016
Telecom Animation Film
Streaming on FUNimation

It’s very hard to translate the kind of emotion that romantic manga provokes onto the TV screen. Orange comes close, with a story of high school friends reuniting and opening a time capsule, sparking off a chain of events leading to the avoidance of a teenage suicide. While the middle section slides dangerously into melodrama, the beginning and end are fantastically bittersweet; coupled with the light touch of a supernatural element, Orange is probably one of this year’s best romantic anime.

Autumn 2016: October

There is a lot going on the Autumn 2016 season, and most of it is confusing (kind of like the rest of the world over the last few months). Aside from the abundance of second-seasons and shorts aimed at children, Gakuen Handsome exists and it’s scary to think that it was shown on television, even in Japan. As mentioned above, if you’ve been too busy watching Yuri!!! on Ice and swooning over sensual skating, you might have missed these:

March Comes In Like A Lion

22 episodes
Debut Fall 2016 - Winter 2017
Shaft
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Technically March Comes In Like A Lion isn’t finished until later in January, but if you’ve not caught creator Chica Umino’s latest tale of gentle battle before now, then seriously consider catching up over the Christmas break. Whether you’re familiar with the central game of Japanese Shogi or not, the dreamlike animation and relatable struggles between passion and past make for a very engrossing adaptation.

Drifters

12 episodes
Debut Fall 2016
Hoods Drifters Studio
Streaming on Crunchyroll and FUNimation

While you don’t need to be a martial history buff to fully appreciate Drifters, you’ll certainly savour the show’s excellent twisting of international military history if you can recognise the cast on first glance. With famous faces ranging from from Oda Nobunaga to Joan of Arc, Butch Cassidy and yes, Adolf Hitler, Drifters throws together the best and worst figures from history into a never-ending battlefield. A definite must for fans of Hellsing and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, or any anime that doesn’t pull punches when it comes to fight scenes.

With the new season coming in January shaping up to be lacklustre at best, there might even be time to catch everything worth watching in 2016 before next year’s anime scene takes off in earnest.