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Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Fission Mailure Awards 2016: Anime.

Fission Mailure Awards 2016:

It's time for our fourth category, and the rules are the same as they have been for the past three: Anything which I reviewed in 2016 is eligible, regardless of the year it came out, along with anything that came out in 2016 that I didn't get a chance to review -- that last one is especially relevant in this case.

That about covers everything, so let's crack on with the three best and worst anime of the year, in my humble but also totally and objectively correct opinion which nobody is permitted to argue with.

3rd Best Anime of 2016: Digimon Adventure Tri: Confession.

Of course a Digimon Tri part was going to end up on this list. It would be foolish to expect anything else from me. I did have a bit more choice this year, though, as the franchise offered us two very different films: Determination, a laser-focused character-based film about Mimi and Jou; and Confession, an emotional film that was nominally focused on Takeru and Koushiro, but was really more just Takeru and ensemble.

Part of that is while Determination is arguably a more technically proficient film -- albeit one with a noticeably lower budget, which doesn't help its case much -- Confession affected me more deeply, not just because of its scriptwriting, vocal performances, and emotive soundtrack, but also on account of its clever use of pacing to build tension. That pacing breaks down a little in the last twenty minutes in a rush to get in the final plot point of the film, but you can't have everything, I guess.

3rd Worst Anime of 2016: Brotherhood: Final Fantasy & Garo: Crimson Moon.

I feel a little bad putting both of these on the list, because neither of them were necessarily unremittingly terrible. I actually even enjoyed Brotherhood so long as I could watch it in small doses (which is how it's intended to be watched anyway), and I liked as much as a quarter of Crimson Moon.

But they both suffered from some key problems. Brotherhood was a character focused piece that assumed we'd already be attached to these four characters who we didn't really know, and for the most part did a poor job of making us actually care about them. Crimson Moon, meanwhile, had a boring, badly animated, and often borderline incoherent first part, along with an episode that was meant to be funny but which creeped me out so much I had to stop watching.

Both of them could have been better -- although in Brotherhood's case, 'better' might mean 'not created and instead had its budget funneled into the game,' and in Crimson Moon's case 'better' might mean 'just Honoo no Kokuin,' -- but were ultimately sub-par productions.

2nd Best Anime of 2016: Yuri!!! On Ice.

I may have rushed to finish Yuri!!! On Ice, largely because from what I had seen, I had an inkling that it would warrant a place on this list.

While I've not reviewed the show yet, a lot of people have, and they've covered a lot of what makes it great, such as its attention to technical details and the fact that it's one of the only anime on television to take the step of having a canonical gay couple on it. What really impressed me about the series, though, and what I think ties all of its other elements together, is its pitch-perfect cinematography and mastery of tone.

The show is all about perception and expectations, and it manages to communicate those themes in the earliest episodes, not with heavy-handed exposition, but just by utilising contrasting character viewpoint shots, and by juxtaposing comedic moments next to more serious ones at key points in the narrative. It's clever, and while this show probably would have had a place on this list regardless, it's the aspect that really stood out to me.

2nd Worst Anime of 2016: Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress.

Kabaneri got off to a pretty good start, with gorgeous animation, a genuine flair for set piece battles, and an at least passably interesting concept involving steampunk, trains, and heavy metal zombies that it seemed were intrinsically tied to the Industrial Revolution on a thematic level.

It very swiftly went downhill as it was revealed that the writers didn't really know what to do with that concept. Characters began acting in increasingly baffling ways, interesting plot developments and ideas got shelved in favour of less compelling ones, and eventually the entire story was derailed into an odd and poorly fleshed out storyline involving social darwinism and the Shogun's son.

While the animation quality remained pretty consistent, that was about the only thing about this show that did keep a consistent quality -- the rest of it went downhill very quickly, and then seemed to just keep going.

Best Anime of 2016: The Boy and the Beast.

I had this one basically picked out in my mind as the best anime of the year since I saw it, and while I was open to something coming along and knocking it from the top spot, nothing ended up doing so.

Beautifully animated, with some stunning writing, an unrivaled command of pacing, some inspired cinematography, a lot of great voice-acting, and a brilliant soundtrack, The Boy and the Beast gets the same stamp I applied to Rogue One: A nearly technically perfect film. It's a fun action flick, a heartwarming story about family, and a pleasingly deep fantasy story, and it manages to juggle those different aspects very deftly.

Originally meant to just fill an empty slot in my schedule, reviewing this kickstarted me into a Mamoru Hosoda series of reviews, which I hold are some of my best work. It's an easy pick for best anime of the year.

Worst Anime of 2016: Orange.

I did want to like Orange, but it just didn't work out between us.

Maybe it was me, and the fact that I don't really like slower paced shows, and there was only so far the (usually -- there's a sharp drop in quality for a few episodes near the end) pretty animation could keep my interest. Maybe it was it, and the fact that it shot itself in the foot with a main character who was horribly indecisive and had no personality beyond that, along with a central romance that was boring and completely lacking in chemistry.

Maybe it was a combination of the two, along with the strange and badly thought out time travel mechanics, the slightly uncomfortable central plot conceit ('depression can be cured with love!'), and the over-reliance on cliches.

We may never know, but in a year where I admittedly didn't watch that many anime, it was easily the worst, and I wouldn't have finished it if I hadn't been doing it as an ongoing.

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