Shadow’s Six – The Best Anime of Spring and Winter 2016

I know, I know… it’s September, we shouldn’t be talking about Spring anymore… but here we are. I’ve finally finished the last of my Spring and Winter anime reviews, so it’s time for us to do our semi-annual anime wrap-up!

Winter and Spring gave us a plethora of unremarkable anime, which has made it easy – for the most part – to recognize the gems among them. It’s easy to tell an amazing show when all you see is mediocrity, afterall. So what we have here are those standout shows. The ones that rose above the rest, cast off the cloak of mediocrity, and did something special.

Erased-Tree

6) Hundred

Picking #6 was a surprisingly hard decision because, quite frankly, there were a few options that were all almost good enough to make this list. After spending a while agonizing over which one deserved it the most, I settled on Hundred for a couple of reasons. First of all, I loved the concepts used for the show’s arsenal of magical equipment, the Hundred themselves.

The weapons were interesting and covered a wide array of styles – both standard and unusual – but what made the Hundred really special to me were the number of non-weapon Hundred. It was great to see that the world’s creators thought of these tools and realized that this type of thing would be used for more than simply fighting, and provided some examples of other methods that it could be useful.

Hundred-Concert

The other key reason was the show’s presentation. The sound design was very strong with several interesting pieces that caught my ears and a few that even made their way into my regular music rotation, and a lot of great ambience. The visuals, as well, were very suitable and kept everything coherent with smooth animations, fitting visual character design, and great explosions. The last one is almost inarguably the most important.

5) Aokana

Aokana earned its place in #5 by being the only sports anime I’ve ever wanted to watch. Okay, that’s not the only reason, but it certainly says a lot. Made from an adult visual novel, I expected scant clothing, poor writing, and barely developed characters who existed simply as foils for our main character to be attracted to. None of the above apply to Aokana. And that’s a good thing.

Aokana-Visuals

Aokana was a positively gorgeous show, with some of the best visuals I’ve seen in a while, and it made me wish that Flying Circus and Grav-Shoes were real. I’ve always envied birds… and now I envy Aokana’s cast because of how good of a job the show did at really selling the joy and the experience of flight. Let’s face it, flight is hardly a rare thing in anime, but few really focus on it as a key part of the experience – it is usually just something taken for granted. Aokana used a relatively strong cast and great animations to really show off just what it meant to fly in that world, and it hooked me for that more than anything else.

4) Kiznaiver

Here’s where the real troubles started for me… Any of the top 4 could almost be substituted on any given day for any other others. In fact, while drafting this list, the order frequently changed based off of my mood that day. In the end, I settled on Trigger’s insane jaunt into the psychology of pain: Kiznaiver.

Kiznaiver-Cast2

Kiznaiver is an absolutely fascinating show. It’s a bit of a slow build, but the characters are incredible and the story is fascinating – as long as you can put up with a bit of insanity. Much like Kill la Kill when it first came out, Kiznaiver is a show that you will almost certainly struggle to understand, but as you watch it you’ll become engrossed in its unique take on themes not often tackled in tv shows – anime or otherwise.

3) Erased

I’d like to start by thanking the creators of Erased for finally figuring out how to make an anime mystery that isn’t pure horror but also doesn’t suck. Don’t get me wrong, I like horror mysteries, but I also like more contemplative mysteries… and Erased finally has filled that void in my life.

Erased-Adult

Unlike most of the mystery shows I’ve watched over the past few years, Erased did everything I want from a mystery. They used strong characters to push the mystery forward, provided adequate clues and leading information to help push me in the direction of the solution, and kept the mystery element of it all logical. It never felt like the story was only possible given information I didn’t have.

2) The Asterisk War: Season 2

I feel a little bad having Asterisk War in here again given its high placement in my last anime Shadow’s Six, but the second season – even standing alone – was good enough that it justifies a high placement here. The Asterisk War is fast becoming one of my favourite shows overall due to a very strong cast, a commitment to developing the entire cast (not just the protagonist) and amazing visuals and action.

AsteriskS2-Flames

Asterisk’s second season made itself stand out by giving its cast the time to shine more – both in and out of battle – and by really amping up the action. The action was, in every way, a step up from the first season and some of the best that anime has to offer, and the visuals were – as always – utterly stunning. It also continued to amaze me how much time was spent giving side characters their own elaborate fight scenes. In fact, I think my favourite fight scenes in this season all involved Saya and Kirin, whose disparate styles work to counteract each others’ weaknesses in a fantastic way.

Also, it’s hard not to love Saya. She’s adorable, she’s funny, and she has big guns. What more could you ask?

1) Re:Zero – Starting Life In Another World

I am in love with Re:Zero. I cannot give this show enough credit. It really is a show that has the best of everything. It has a stellar cast, whose personalities just continue to grow and develop. Despite being a harem show, our protagonist doesn’t fall into one of the standard ‘harem lord’ tropes and is actually a really fascinating character. His perspective on things really helps to tie the show together and keep it moving because this is a show that could have easily gotten dry and repetitive without the right cast supporting it. The ‘saved game’ style of storytelling could have led to a lot of going over the same things again and again without a main character who was willing to take advantage of the opportunities given to him.

ReZero-Fairies

The show combines humour and amazing visuals to help alleviate the darker moments of its story, which helped to make it far more bearable than it might have otherwise been. You see, this is a dark show. One of it’s greatest strengths is the way it continues to balance despair with lighter emotions, something that I always like to see. But make no mistake, the despair is very real and you will feel for our protagonist, for he has a hard road ahead of him.

It’s hard to really pick out just a few things to talk about in this, because every facet of this show is amazing… characters, visuals, soundtrack, voicework, storytelling, pacing. It just hits all the things I look for in a show, and that’s why it eked its way out above the rest to hit #1 on this list.

 

Were there any shows you thought deserved mention on this list that didn’t get it? What are your thoughts on the shows above? Feel free to chime in with your own lists, or your own thoughts on my list, in the comments below!