Inspired by the fantastic folks over at Sakugablog, I decided to create my own list of sakuga shows/episodes/moments that I absolutely loved this year. It was a stellar year for anime, in most regards. Production was up, and animator wages and shortages are still highly problematic, but all in all, there was so much new talent, and so many fantastic productions, that it was easy to just get swept up in it all and enjoy this medium for all of the things that it does so well. Animation, of course, being one of them.
Keeping to the format used by them, here are my picks:
I don’t know if it is very well documented at this point, but Masashi Ishihama is one of my favorite directors. His repertoire of visual tricks is right up my alley on every level. Dark and moody, with a focus on shadows and unsettling imagery. It all fit extraordinarily well in a show about a mass murder mystery. Other than the brilliant visual direction, as this is primarily about animation, the animation in this episode is top of the line for a TV series as well. Many cuts seemed to be entirely animated on the 1s, with unbelievably detailed character animation. As a whole, Occultic;Nine was probably my second favorite technical production of the year, and this episode was a standout within it.
KyoAni is so consistently perfect on most technical fronts that it can be easy for me to forget them when doing a list like this. It’s just expected. But episode 5 of Euphonium 2 was spectacular on a new level. Including a full musical performance with highly detailed and accurate character animation and musical instruments. It’s not to be missed.
Best Show: Mob Psycho 100
This was, without a doubt, the most technically perfect production of the year, as far as I’m concerned. It may not have had the same aesthetic appeal as KyoAni’s similarly brilliant Sound!Euphonium 2, but, like Yuzuru Tachikawa hinted at before the airing officially began, it was absolutely a box full of fun surprises every episode, and all of it so meticulously planned, and consistently executed, that I can’t possibly give this spot to anything else. A moment in Mob Psycho that wasn’t a highlight was very rare indeed. Yoshimichi Kameda has been my favorite animator since I first started paying attention to this aspect of the medium a little less than 2 years ago, and his work on this show only solidified that more-so for me.
Best Movie: Kizumonogatari
Other than being literally one of the best 2/3s of a movie I have ever seen as a narrative, Kizu is also just pure eyegasm. Unlike the still-heavy TV series, Kizu is all about motion. Simultaneously a hilarious cartoony comedy, and a heavy, emotionally draining drama, the visuals do much of the heavy lifting here. Elevating what I already thought was a perfect novel, into something even more impressive through the power of animation.
Best OP: Yuri On Ice!!!
There were so many strong openings this year that it took me quite a while to settle on just one for this spot. In the end, YOI’s brilliant OP managed to stand above the rest by coupling utterly jaw dropping iceskating animation, undoubtedly the best in the entire show, along with likely one of the best opening songs of the year as well. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, Haven’t you heard? I’m Sakamoto!, Dimension W, Twin Start Exorcist’s 2nd OP, and Flip Flappers were all fantastic runner ups for me as well.
Best ED: Dimension W
Regardless of how much I adore the song, and I do, even with no audio at all, Dimension W’s ED is brilliant. Other than this, and its similarly awesome OP, nothing about this show was was very good, but I sat through the entire thing solely for each of them, even so. Ryouma Ebata is an excellent character animator, with probably the most distinct and also maybe the best walk cycle I’ve ever seen, and it’s instantly recognizable here, if you’ve followed his work at all. On top of that though, he absolutely nails the action choreography and timing as well. All in all, one of my favorite EDs of all time, not just this year.
Animator Discovery: Megumi Kouno
As this was only the second year that I’ve been following sakuga in any capacity, it wasn’t hard to come up with prolific and talented animators that I wasn’t familiar with at the beginning of 2016. In the end, I chose someone who has been around for quite a few years already, but was new to me this year, and played a very important roll in the industry this year as well: Megumi Kouno. Her work as the sole key animator on Shelter was simply beautiful.
If I had paid more attention this might not have been quite as big of a surprise to me as it was, given that the director, Yasuhiro Irie, also helmed the one and only Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, but by all accounts it seemed like it would be a fairly low resource show, and I was certainly not at all expecting the plethora of wonderfully dynamic and expressive animation and the absurdly good effects that we were treated to each new episode. It was actually rather incredible really.
I have yet to actually see The Great Passage, but I have watched most of the cuts on sakugabooru for it over and over and one thing is certain, The Great Passage is a character animation showcase the likes of which only Sound Euphonium and Occultic;Nine, can compete with this season. I am looking forward to seeing all of that gorgeous animation in context in the near future.
Recommendation: Flip Flappers
While not exactly the animation powerhouse that I was expecting and hoping for, Flip Flappers was, nonetheless, a beautiful show, with plenty of standout and breathtaking pieces of animation that made me excited to sit down for it every chance I got. It also carries strong central themes and narrative depth and uses its visuals to convey them wonderfully. It is more than worthy of a watch, and if you are a fan of visual story-telling and animation, you will certainly have plenty of fun with Papika and Cocona as they explore Pure Illusion.
And that’s it for me. I was incredibly busy over the last few months, and unfortunately unable to do nearly as much reading, writing, and general social media as I like, but I still found time to watch quite a few fantastic shows. While this year sucked for me in most areas, it was a pleasure to be an anime fan. Hopefully there isn’t some kind of correlation between my well-being and the quality of anime we get every given season. lol