There was a surprisingly large number of shows I wanted to include here and I even bumped up what was originally the top 3 to top 5 just to have a couple more – it all just goes to show what a good year this was for the medium. That’s not to say there wasn’t a LOT of bad shit, but the number of outright fantastic shows was unbelievable and felt like were a decade back in time yet with all the modern advances in the industry helping push things even further. It’s a weird way to word it, but it felt like we had a lot more anime feeling anime this year than we’ve had in the past several combined.
5. Mobile Suit Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans
Gundam Orphans isn’t actually finished yet, so I’m putting it at 5th place. This year had a lot of great stuff and I could have just not included this, but what we’ve gotten of it in the half we’ve seen? Fucking fantastic. This is easily the best Gundam series in, well, maybe ever honestly – but as I’ve openly admitted before I was never hugely into the franchise. I can’t fucking stand most of the older titles aside some of the Zion mech designs (but the shows as a whole were total fucking trash) and really the only one I’d say is better than “alright” would be 08th MS Team. So, I’m aware I might be alone in feeling this way, but Iron Blooded Orphans for me is the BEST thing this entire franchise has ever pushed out. It takes all the conceptually good aspects of the series and actually executes them properly for once instead of fumbling around like it’s retarded predecessors. Mari Okada’s writing talent mixed with Nagai’s almost unbelievable directing skill proves, yet again as they seem to like working together, to be a true “match made in heaven”.
The action is top notch and yet it’s used intelligently and spaced out instead of turning this into an action series, the politics are interesting, actually thought out, important, and used in a very important way, and the character drama – Okada’s favorite thing to focus on – is incredibly well put together in both subtle and very in your face ways. Orphans finally reaches that perfect mix Gundam has always tried to have yet never delivered until now of all these elements without any being half-assed. On top of that we also have the heavy and unique aspect of a story entirely about child soldiers, as well as dealing with the emotions and moral issues that brings along with it. I also really love the mech design so far, the Barbatos is really cool and the choice of going with a huge mace instead of guns or energy laser sword things was fucking great (albeit he’s seemed to have traded it in for a sword recently) and made a lot of sense for the reality of what’s going on (big armored things fighting – much like knights – would do better to use blunt weapons). The Graze and that frog-looking over-armored fat-zaku-esque thing are both cool too.
4. Rokka no Yuusha
Rokka was a huge surprise for me, it was promoted as a mystery set in a fantasy world with the twist being “there is at least one traitor among us and trying to kill us”. That alone hooked me in without much effort, it sounded great and really interesting, it all hinged on whether or not the show treated us as part of it in terms of not telling us information we’d be lacking otherwise – a common issue with ‘mystery’ stories in film, television, and anime wherein you know the culprit or are given hints you SHOULD NOT HAVE. Rokka avoided that, in fact it kept me not only unsure of who it was until the final reveal, it had me guessing nonstop and continually hashing out why it HAS TO BE x or y character and then the very next episode – or even literally the next scene – realizing there’s no way it’s them, then by the next episode wondering if maybe it is them after all. My trust in these characters was never solid or long lasting and I never felt anyone was safe with anyone else. Hell, the only character I never once doubted was one who outright said “I’m here to kill all of you” from the get go, otherwise even THE MAIN CHARACTER was someone I considered as a possible suspect at one point or another.
Then, oh, surprise! Not only do we have a traitor, but after a few episodes the ENTIRE SHOW ends up as one single locked room mystery that takes place in one central location they’re all trapped in. It gave not only a unique story for us, but a perfect one for what it was trying to achieve. By being stuck here the characters all have legitimate reasons for being the way they are, including very suspicious things they may do or say, because they’re all incredibly tense and desperate to blame someone. Without being stuck, without the reason they’re stuck being how it is, and without the traitor in our midst, the entire concept would be broken – and if any of that wasn’t handled perfectly it would have failed as well, luckily this felt like it executed it perfectly.
This is a show with one of the most solid actual mysteries I’ve ever experienced in any format both in the actual question at hand and the way it works out episode to episode never giving you too much information and yet giving you exactly what it needs to to manipulate you entirely every step of the way. There is absolutely no way you will feel certain in who the traitor is even up till the very last moments before it’s fully revealed, and that felt really fucking good. It’s doubly fun if you have someone to watch it with and try figuring it out together and discussing your theories.
The very final two minutes or so of the finale after the mystery is concluded did sour it quite a bit, but it was more of a shitty tie-in to make you interested in buying the source material – however it didn’t have any meaningful impact on anything or obscure any of the story so I didn’t think it was enough to mess up the show for me as it was like a commercial tacked on at the end. It was enough to keep it out of my top 3 though, I just can’t pretend the entire show up to then was not one of the most entertaining, immersive, and fun rides of the year purely because they tacked on an advertisement in the 120 seconds or so.
3. Baby Steps 2
The AOTY from last year luckily returned this year with another season and it definitely earned itself a spot in the top 3, honestly I really wouldn’t feel bad putting it as the AOTY again either. However, it’s here at 3 because I think overall I enjoyed the next two just a bit more. Something about Baby Steps is just really special, I know a lot of things about it I love the hell out of but there’s something above it all that adds this irresistible undeniably wonderful feeling to it that you just can’t find anywhere else.
Everything I said last year still stands, it all either continued at the same top quality or got even better. The romance aspect especially took a huge step up, in fact it went further than many romance anime are even willing before their final episodes. Not only are Natsu and Ei finally officially going out as a couple, but we get to see the moment it happens and it was really sweet, cute, and perfect for what’s been going on the past season and a half-ish. At the same time the tennis is of course as great and surprisingly enjoyable as it was the first time around and the matches even more intense and exciting than before. I love it, I really do, and the only bad thing I can say is that Natsu ends up promising a date after the tournament (with her finally boyfriend~) and we never actually get to see it, as the show – again – is focused on the tennis and the season just didn’t have enough episodes left to finish the match, go to a date, and conclude everything for now.
2. One Punch Man
A satire of shows I fucking hate that also ends up unironically being them in some ways along the way. Hmmm. What’s this doing here? I actually had very little interest in even picking this show up to begin with and went in to the first episode reluctant and expecting to drop a fat shit all over it. Instead, well, here it is as the runner up for my top anime of the year and something I will definitely remember in the years to come. One Punch Man is something hard to really explain what makes it so fucking cool and fun, but it boils down to hot-blooded HAM-as-fuck action mixed with a lot of great comedy and lovable characters. It’s witty, smart, knows what it’s poking fun at very well, and yet manages to surpass just being a parody or satire and becomes it’s own impossible not to enjoy crazy over-the-top story about the world’s biggest badass who doesn’t give a shit about BEING the world’s biggest badass.
I very highly recommend this to absolutely anybody, even if these types of shows are not your thing, as this very much transcends the genre it’s making fun of and becomes one of the most hilarious and awesome things possible.
Jitsu wa Watashi wa
With comedy that is undeniably on par with some of Gintama’s best episodes, romance that is compelling, touching, and incredibly fun to watch develop, and a cast without a single person that’s less than fantastic in it, Jitsu wa Watashi wa, or “Actually, I am…”, was the perfect show for me (aside the actual title being one of the worst of all time). It has everything I love, executes it all at the highest quality possible, and is one of the most enjoyable shows I’ve gotten to spend my time with in years. It took me back to 2005 or so, everything about it from the art and design choices to the actual writing and character types, and even the OP and ED which both felt like they were from a decade ago in style and sound (not to mention the ED sounding a whole lot like Rapbito who isn’t even really around anymore) felt like seeing an old friend again even though I had never even heard of it prior. It’s not nostalgia for some so-called “golden age” or anything retarded like that which make me love it so much, it’s just that in being so familiar to a time period where much of my favorite shows were coming out and such it gave me a really wonderful reminder of what it is that made me fall in love with anime to begin with. I’ve been into the medium since I was 8 or 9, far before those years, but it’s when anime like this were the most abundant that I realized how truly fantastic this entire medium is. This and Danmachi (which probably should be on here instead of Rokka) both gave me that same fantastic feeling that I haven’t had in a long time.
Beyond that though, the show is just perfect at everything it’s trying to be and released with perfect timing when there was a lull in this type of show in general. The art is really crisp, vibrant, and super consistent – it also features some of the most hilarious facial expressions ever. The music is great, there is one very stand-out song that has variations of it used throughout once per every episode with vocals and all – essentially the main theme – that I really love. The voice acting is perfect to the point that as far as original audio, I’d probably put this in the top 30 voice casts overall. The story is thoughtful, can evoke all sorts of feelings throughout at will, and keeps you invested from the very beginning – and the comedy is fucking hilarious and has the PERFECT timing at every turn.
Jitsu is one of my favorite all time comedies, favorite all time rom-coms, and has some of my favorite all time characters and voice actors. There was just something about this series that made it feel like one of the most perfectly crafted shows I’ve ever seen and one of the most enjoyable experiences anime overall has to offer. Plus, it has Aizawa so there’s that too.