Another year, another set of anime, some of which were bad.
As was the case last year, my list of worst anime is smaller than my one for top anime, and, as last year, it is due primarily to the fact that I don’t persist in watching shows that I find genuinely terrible. I also wanted to limit it to those shows which were quite bad rather than those which were merely disappointing or mediocre. If you’re hoping for any controversial picks this time, you may wish to look elsewhere. I’ll be hitting up everything that made neither the bottom nor the top second.
For clarification, with the exception of the first season of Bungo Stray Dogs, of which I watched ten of the twelve episodes, these are all shows which I completed.
Kiznaiver wasn’t such a bad show for the first few episodes, and there are still some things I liked about it (such as the visuals, and Nico), but this was a rare show that genuinely pissed me off. I’ve already gone on at length about how I felt about the whole thing with Maki and her backstory, so in that regard I’ll simply note that I don’t find 1950’s lesbian pulp storylines particularly charming in a work from 2016. Even if I could set that aside, the show went sideways in messy fashion in it’s second half, re-directing its attention toward the least interesting members of the cast and likewise toward a question (what is the whole Kizna System anyway and what is going on with it?) that was one of the least interesting ones it could’ve addressed. Top it all off with a facile lesson that most people have cottoned onto by the age of five (wow, other people have feelings, too!), and kick aside the argument the show was going for all along (friendship is really important!) in favor of pairing people off romantically, and what is left is a total waste of time.
1. Big Order
If Kiznaiver had some decent components, though, Big Order was the show which serves as 2016’s example of a complete failure of a show. Big Order was a bit stupefying in just how terrible it was, and I tuned in each week wondering how it would manage to top itself – which it always did. Points for consistently managing to remain surprising? It had sister-fucking, it had eye-gouging (there’s a joke somewhere in here about this being a modern-day Oedipus), it had abrupt and confusing time-skips, it had super powers that waxed and waned by dictate of the story, it had a character who was basically a thirsty and gay version of Minene from Future Diary, it had master plans that were impossible to follow, it had even more sister-fucking, it had pregnancy via ribbon-grabbing, and it couldn’t decide sometimes if it wanted to be a dramatic action show or a comedy. Honestly, Big Order was Future Diary through the looking glass, but bad. You should totally watch it.
And, in somewhat chronological airing order, all the rest:
Schwarzesmarken – Folks I knew who watched this hated it, but I found it to be perfectly fine if not particularly noteworthy. I think if the setting hadn’t been so unique, I would’ve found it far less interesting, although they didn’t make as much of the setting as they could’ve. There were definitely a few items that were so anime it hurt (the imouto especially), and one thing toward the end was quite maddeningly silly, but on the whole I liked it decently enough.
Sekkou Boys – A great short that was genuinely funny, largely because the staff committed wholly to its central conceit. I would really love to see more of this.
Tell Me! Galko-chan – Surprisingly charming.
This Boy is a Professional Wizard – Another solid short. Feel like we got lucky in getting two stories of adult men in love this year. Loved the visuals, which, of course, director Soubi Yamamoto is known for. I’m hoping that this is a sign that she’ll get another shot at directing for TV.
Tabi Machi Late Show – Wildly inconsistent. I loved the first episode, in which a young man ends up deciding to go off to study cooking in Italy after apprenticing under a woman who had done so herself, but the remaining three episodes didn’t hold a candle to it. I especially disliked the second episode, which seemed like one of those allegedly “yuri” manga one-shots wherein two girls behave incomprehensibly but we are expected to understand it as homoerotic. Bleh.
Haikyuu! Season 2 – I felt this sense of disappointment throughout the first half of this season, having enjoyed the first season immensely. It was probably inevitable that after the intensity of the tournament which season one ended in, stepping back to practice and training would feel like that, but I still felt let down. The final match against Aoba Johsai was a great pay-off, though, and there was a lot of solid character work which went on throughout.
Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress – A gorgeous-looking show that nevertheless left me pretty cold. I could never quite get into it, so when the true villain finally showed up and started doing really stupid things, I couldn’t really be dismayed. Did anyone else think he looked like he’d been plucked from one of those early 90’s yaoi OAVs? He could’ve pretty easily been the lead from Zetsuai 1989.
Bungo Stray Dogs S1 – I watched the first two episodes back when it aired and dropped it, but enough people were chattering happily about the second season that I ended up looping back. I kept watching in hopes of discerning something in it that matched the hype I was seeing, but when the credits rolled for episode ten, I realized that I just didn’t care enough to discover what it was that thrilled people in season two. I find the tonal shifts jarring, the “humor” unfunny, and the characters uninteresting. There were too many other shows this year to keep wasting time.
The Lost Village – What a divisive show! I personally loved it, although not quite enough to get it into the top five for the year. Although there was a lot of shouting about how stupid it was, I genuinely think that this was a show that had a lot of criticism for modern Japanese society insofar as, at the very least, mental health, conformity, and sexism are concerned. I do still like the idea of Okada and Mizushima getting wasted each week while meeting to decide what to do next.
Space Patrol Luluco – The middle portion of this show was a serious drag even if the rest of the show was good. We could use some more shows about shitty first loves that recognize that they’re telling a tale about shitty first love. My favorite part, though, was probably the ED by Bonjour Suzuki, who did the OP for Yuri Bear Storm in 2015. She seems like a really good fit for Trigger shows.
Macross Δ – This just missed my top five – in an extended list, it would’ve come sixth. Genuinely loved the cast, and I found the main romance both convincing and rather sweet. I was impressed that they did such a good job with Hayate, who started off as pretty obnoxious yet was developed into a character one could easily root for by the end. The main villain’s reveal of his plan was pretty underwhelming, and I really resented how it felt like the show kept trying to force Kaname into the role of the romantically bereaved despite having not been romantically interested in the deceased, but neither of these sunk the thing for me. I actually even liked some of the music, which was pretty shocking considering that I’m the type who fastforwards through the concert scene in idol shows. And did I mention how much I loved loved loved our lesbian couple? Damn, now that was a great touch.
Sailor Moon Crystal III – The change to a new director did wonders for the Sailor Moon reboot, and SMC III was honestly exactly what the fanbase had wanted all along out of a more faithful adaptation of the original manga. I guess Toei knew that there’d be no going back if it trod like a bull in a china shop upon anime’s lesbian royalty. I also want to give credence to the change in character designer, as I think the newer designs worked better for animation than the ones used for the first two story arcs did. Looking forward to seeing the Black Moon arc animated.
Pan de Peace! – I only watched this because I was baking a bunch of bread and wanted to watch something I didn’t have to pay a huge amount of attention to. Pretty standard 4koma stuff, but with girls who love bread so much it turns them gay. I suddenly really want some bread.
Love Live! Sunshine – This proved surprisingly decent. I found the original Love Live anime to be pretty bland and boring stuff, with characters that kept largely to archetype and a complete and utter lack of tension to the proceedings. Sunshine delivered a much livelier, more rounded cast that in turn made its fairly run-of-the-mill storyline much more engaging. Amazing what a good cast can do, huh? I found the repeats of some of the plot points pretty irritating, mind you, but the irritation flowed in a backwards direction, if that makes sense – I’m annoyed that the superior Sunshine didn’t get to do them first since they did them better. And the way it all concluded was a pleasant surprise. If you like idol shows but skipped Sunshine having found the original lacking, it’s worth giving it another go.
Izetta, the Last Witch – I wish this had been even just a little bit better, buuuut I did enjoy this shitty show about two awesome girlfriends who save Europe from not-Nazis. That seems like a pretty good description of the show. But, uh, yeah, this was probably the definition of a mediocre show. The tendency to have at least, almost like clockwork!, have between three to five reallllly bad shots in each episode undermined the small bits of drama and suspense that the show did manage to work up. There were a lot of other issues, but this one was often the funniest, as people suddenly had Ditto faces during Very Serious war conference scenes. Izetta was not a good show, but I liked it.
Gi(a)rlish Number – Flubbed it in the final stretch. I enjoyed what utter trash Chitose was, but when the reason for her problems was her own laziness and arrogance, it was hard to really feel for her plight. (I also thought Nanami was horrifically, agonizingly irritating.) I did quite like what came before it, though, and, admittedly, Chitose did had to shape up or ship out.
Gakuen Handsome – Anime was saved in 2016, and it didn’t need that dingbat Yamakan to do it. All it needed was Gakuen Handsome. Thank goodness for crowdfunding.