Anime. That wonderous creation that allows members of reality to take a break and wonder; “What would it be like if I could travel through time…and then blow it up?” It doesn’t even have to be that complicated, perhaps one simply wishes to witness a touching story that sees two star crossed lovers come together and make it work. Or, should romance lie beyond your collection of interests, simply watch a monster fight someone whose strength allows them to punch a building clean in half. That being said, each year bestows upon the world a very particular set of series, some which fall to obscurity and others who remain within the minds of viewers for time undetermined. 2016 was of course no exception and a select few of its offerings lie below…
AOTY – ERASED
There was no anime like ERASED in 2016. None dared to be so bold. None could follow the level of brilliance it achieved and few even tried. Tomohiko Ito may be more popularly known as the man who directed Sword Art Online, but his true crowning achievement of the art form, his magnum opus in many ways is ERASED.
In a year that was in many ways a write off, filled with one forgettable anime after the next, ERASED stood among the crowd as something decidedly different, something that didn’t cater to trends of the time, something that genuinely seemed to be made for the creative reward more so than the financial one.
Every once and a while a series like this slips through the cracks that is so defiantly anti-establishment and creative that it leaves a lasting impact that will be remembered years down the line. Series like Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gurren Lagann, Samurai Champloo and Eureka Seven, which remain iconic anime years or even decades after release. ERASED will go down as one of those medium redefining anime series.
It is wild to think that ERASED begun way back in January of 2016 yet no other series that came out through the rest of the year could match its power, cinematic style, complexity, emotional impact and the unforgettable story it had to tell. ERASED is an anime that will stand the test of time. Years from now will look back on 2016 and this is the anime we will be talking about, it was a game changer in every regard and an example of the anime medium at its finest, that is why it is SnapThirty’s Anime of the Year recipient for 2016.
Reader’s Vote – Re:Zero – Starting Life in Another World
Best Animation – Mob Psycho 100
The beauty of animation is that it is just that, animated. There are many series throughout the year that had beautiful city skylines, vibrant colours, stand out character designs and fluidity in motion. There aren’t many that manage to do all of those aspects, Mob Psycho 100 is one of them. A very unique case, Mob Psycho was born from a somewhat crudely drawn web comic by ONE (you may remember that other little known show from the same person: One Punch Man). This crude, simple art style is a far cry away from what is put on by studio Bones, the studio behind anime such as Full Metal and Space Dandy.
Within the first 5 minutes of the show you are taken on a whirlwind journey of vibrant colours, vivid animation and movement that seamlessly blends amongst the characters. As Mob (in ??? mode) slaughters through a myriad of evil spirits with both ecstatic designs and bright, overpowering colours. These colours are juxtaposed by the almost monochrome silhouette of Mob. Following a title card it cuts to a simple drawn, odd looking background colour. This is something Mob Psycho’s animation does well. The anime keeps the designs of ONE in play whilst still amping up the quality. The animation in most walking parts are simple to match the subtlety of the story, with jarring, hyper detailed faces spliced within, making the simply designed characters come to life with the vivid backgrounds. However all this gets turned up to 11 in episode 3 and consistently improves until the end of the season, in specific regards to the action scenes.
Similar to other scenes, the action scenes play into the story and characters of the show as much as they stand up on their own. The enemies Mob faces are often bright and vivid whilst being horrid and grotesque at the same time. The main star of this, however, is Mob himself. The Animation keeps the quality consistent throughout the action scenes, at a level that makes everything in motion flow seamlessly. When it comes to Mob, they animation manages to convey his raw, chaotic power perfectly and in a way that conveys an unbalanced power that is to vast to imagine. That is the key to animation, character designs and backgrounds tend to play a part but to be able to tell a story in motion alone, is a true feat of strength. One that requires 100%
Best Soundtrack – My Hero Academia
Though it may not be the first series you’d think about when it comes to supporting music, given the more tender series that made 2016 their home, there is a simple reason why My Hero Academia’s backing track stands out so strongly: Heart. Though the corny interpretation of this still rings true, given the series’ entire “believe and succeed” shonen premise, there is a second, more physical meaning. When the action peaks and heroism abounds, the music of My Hero does everything in its power to get your heart pumping. When a character throws themselves into the fray, you feel the frenzied energy that carries them, when they succeed against the odds you embrace their victory wholly and when they begin yet another heroic speech you feel their conviction.
To put it simply, whilst it may not be the most intricate or musically varied soundtrack to ever grace the ears of anime viewers, it is certainly one of the most powerful, because it succeeds in making the audience feel exactly how they should during any given time. And that’s awesome.
Best Protagonist – Izuku Midoriya (My Hero Academia)
In the line of anime protagonists, the meek, unsuspecting hero is certainly well represented. Thus, a meek, unsuspecting hero must truly perform to stand out amidst this group, something that Izuku Midoriya does daily.
Born to a world of superpowers lacking any of his own, Midoriya is your standard fare “dreams and determination” archetype. However, what makes Midoriya unique in this regard is is utter acceptance of his hopeless situation. Rather than the obliviously jolly characters who usually carry this mentality, Midoriya is only too aware that his hopes are highly improbable at best. So from the get go we are presented with a character whose own introspection has developed their mentality, providing the audience with a hero who does not emotionally begin at zero, even if their story does. Combine this with the expected moments that prove his true heroic intent and the fact that each victory is treated as a lesson, as opposed to an end, and you’ve got yourself a protagonist who strives to move forward throughout their own story and succeeds.
Also he can punch things really hard and it’s cool.
Best Antagonist – Yoshikage Kira )
Life is hard. A life full of strife, turmoil, and hardships is even harder. Sometimes a man just wants to live a quiet life. Is that so evil? No. How about murdering an unspecified number of defenceless woman? Alright, that second one is pretty evil. But still a man who loves art, enough to become physically aroused by it can’t be that bad, right?
Enter Yoshikage Kira. The main antagonist for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, Yoshikage Kira is a serial killer who was given a Stand, Killer (Deadly?) Queen, with the ability to blow stuff up without a trace. Its second ability, Sheer Heart attack, has no weaknesses. Then he also gets a third ability, Bites The Dust, which can wipe out his enemies for saying his name, travel back in time, and has Auto-Res.
Yoshikage Kira is a man that truly wants to live a quiet life free of strife. He exudes charisma and manages to fight back against the odds every time. With a strong compulsion to kill that is polarized by his wish to fly under the radar a compelling character is created that still makes you feel empathetic toward his plight, despite all of the… You know, murder. He manages to keep the Duwang Gang off of his toes for the majority of the series using his cunning intellect and ingenuity. This intellect, coupled along with his powerful abilities, lead to a charismatic, imposing figure that at times feels genuinely worrying to those watching. Add in and interesting design and a macabre, suspenseful theme (that truly can go with anything) and you are left with the kind of antagonist that manages to be one of the best characters in a series that has perfected the art. Yoshikage Kira is a powerful, explosive force to be reckoned with, comprised of Gunpowder and Gelatine, like Dynamite with a laser beam. He is guaranteed to blow your mind- anytime!
Best OP/ED Sequence – Great Days (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable)
You’d have to be living under a rock to be both an Anime fan and NOT know about the series JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Adding to that, the rock would have to be sealed fairly tight for you to not know about it’s most current and, funnily enough, it’s most popular part; Diamond Is Unbreakable, which stretched across 2016 ending it with one hell of a bang. The Anime adaptation of Hirohiko Araki’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is well-known for not only it’s strange storyline and even stranger characters, but also the music that accompanies each and every episode. As the series has continued, the music has only gotten better and better with the most recent opening sequence set to the tune of Karen Aoki and Daisuke Hasegawa’s “Great Days”; an opening song/sequence combination that not only gear viewers up for what’s to come, but also continuously introduced them to the Anime’s setting, the character’s within it, it’s overall vibe and, the most important aspect, that hope is always just around the corner.
The “Great Days” opening sequence also did what I consider to be a great feature of any Anime opening, which is that it changed with the flow of the story. With several different versions depicting changes that coincided with that of the story, it both delighted and astonished audiences every single week regardless of the degree of change. The most notable of these versions is the “Bites The Dust” edit wherein which the sequence alongside it’s music is reversed in a strange and ultimately haunting way.
“Great Days” is a fantastic song that fit with the “bizarre” motif of the series, whilst also coming across as instantly likeable, with the same able to be said about it’s accompanying visuals. “Great Days”, despite the other opening sequences that featured across Diamond Is Unbreakable, IS the opening that defined it, and while both “Crazy Noisy Bizarre Town” and “Chase You” were fantastic ways to open up a bulk of this series’ episodes, nothing compares to that of “Great Days”.
Best Song – Re:Re (ERASED)
Sometimes you just hear a song and it just stays with you. Such was the case with Re:Re: by Asian Kung Fu Generation, which was used as the opening theme song for our Anime of the Year recipient ERASED.
Not only does the song perfectly capture the feel of the series, it is a banger of a song all of its own. Asian Kung Fu Generation may very well be one of Japan’s greatest musical acts of all time and it is songs like Re:Re: that really solidify that claim. It is an ear worm of a song that even now writing this I am humming the tune of it.
It is a powerful song that evokes feelings of nostalgia in a way that is hard to describe, it hits you and sinks into you with every beat, there is no other anime song this year that left such a lasting impact like Re:Re:, it is just plain and simply an instant classic track that you simply cannot forget.
What a year it was. From heart wrenching mysteries, to adrenaline pumping adventures, to that one series that introduced a character whose power revolved around melting people into cubes…and was also a hyper intelligent rat. Okay, so anime isn’t exactly a sensible practice, but damn is it fun. Plus, it just keeps coming out each year. Talk about lucky.