When it comes to releases that landed in 2016, Sentai Filmworks had a lot of things on deck during it. This year saw the debut of titles like Rin-ne as more Takahashi material finally started coming out – and not from Viz Media – along with classics like To Love Ru Darkness 2. We had some really good classics picked up from Clamp School Detectives to Vampire Princess Miyu in its original form. There were a lot of solid mid-range titles out during the course of this year too, such as the various Hakuoki properties and more titles like Non Non Biyori Repeat and The Perfect Insider. And we had more ongoing volumes of Space Brothers that really worked well for me. The top titles in my mind, however?
Shirobako: Anime about making anime is nothing new but the original two-cour series Shirobako took it to a whole other level. With it feeling even more about the business than usual and really paying attention to the details of it all, it delivered a really engaging piece as we follow the team and all those involved trying to get the job done on their latest show with a crunch hitting and then focusing on creating something new and all the tension and pressure that comes from it. It’s the kind of show that should be a must-watch so people understand just how much goes into creating what they enjoy – or deride.
Tonari no Seki-kun: When it comes to just plain weird comedy, Tonari no Seki-kun delights me like no other. With episodes that clock in around ten minutes or so, it focuses on Yokoi wanting to do well in school but sitting next to Seki, a kid who brings in the strangest of things and makes incredible things happen with them all while the teacher never notices – him, at least. She gets noticed plenty and put in trouble, which has her trying to either get away from him or get him caught from episode to episode as he builds volcanoes, plays elaborate chess games, and more all under the cover of the person sitting in front of him.
Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun: One of the more amusing new shows of the year that saw release, Nozaki-kun gives us that delightful story with the girl who loves a guy who is oblivious to her. There’s a lot of fun with manga, deadlines, and being helpful involved in all of it and it leads to some really great moments. Having the lead one of the most popular shoujo manga creators of the day and being male isn’t really subversive but it was for a lot of actual fans at the time. The show is beautifully animated with a lot of great characters to it that makes it a delight to follow through all its twists and turns.
Azumanga Daioh: One of the most delightful series of the early 2000s found itself rescued with a new release in complete form, Azumanga Daioh manages to be that near-perfect series in how it captures the ridiculousness of schoolgirls and their curiosity while taking it to weird and mind-bending ways from time to time. Done more as a series of shorts and vignettes with no real overall storyline, you’re able to connect with so many interesting characters and their stories, to find just how much you relate to so many of them, that you’re left feeling as satisfied as a cat laying on a hot rock sunning itself on a summer day.
My Love Story!!: Unconventional romances are a dime a dozen when it comes to anime but the majority of the time the characters themselves are pretty normal. Here, big guy Takeo has fallen hard for Suna and is all in on wooing her over, hoping for help from his best friend Makoto. Takeo is the big but gentle giant type who can also open a can of whup-ass when he needs to and it’s fun watching him and Sun connect just from the physical differences. But there is an immense amount of heart here and some subplots with other characters and their hearts that helps to lift all boats. It’s one of those wonderful series that knows its lane and sticks strongly in it with fantastic results.
Cross Ange: I tend to love shows that anger people because it raises the red flag of something that’s either doing something horribly wrong or something that goes against a larger view of how entertainment should play out. Cross Ange has some really rough material in its first few episodes with what our lead goes through but it uses that to build upon what comes next in this world with dragons, scantily clad women, and a kingdom within the grasp of a coup that’s close to going through. It’s an original series with some really creative mecha designs and dragon designs that allows it to run hard and just try different things that don’t always work in order to entertain.
When They Cry: Another license rescue, this series was one of the bigger welcome ones with a Blu-ray release for the first time included. This property had languished for too long and getting it back – and eventually more – took me back to those dark and disturbing days watching the mysteries unfold. With a bit of repetitive aspects to it, the real focus is on how many ways it can kill its cast creatively – and brutally – and still hold onto the audience. I’ve still got dark memories of that first viewing and then getting to revisit it in binge-able form here before moving onto seasons I hadn’t seen.
Log Horizon 2: As much as I enjoyed the first season of this property, the second one is where I got into it more. The shift to focusing more on surviving and long-term plans to make this world work was definitely engaging and interesting to watch and it blended in more characters well while taking a bigger view of the whole concept. The whole trapped in a game thing is an interesting idea but this one went more for the intellectual side with pragmatic planning being part of the focus and looking at the long game that’s involved in it. It gave us some good battles and fights, and evolving NPC characters as well, and helped to build something really interesting.
Photo Kano: I’m a sucker for some good relationship drama and rom-com material and Photo Kano definitely scratched that itch. Focusing on Kazuya as he got a really high-end camera with which to take pictures, he ends up getting close to a group of girls who in turn end up liking him more once they really get to know him. While there are some amusing moments in how the photography is used in show, the reality is that it’s a good character drama dealing with the whole “young hearts beat fast” concept and how quickly they can become interested in someone in a really all-consuming way.
Cobra – The Animation: With the series released previously elsewhere on DVD, the rescue itself was welcome but we also got the show in high definition, which was a huge win. Not too many shows are made like this even today and this one, not that old when you get down to it, captured the intent and style of the old works wonderfully well. The whole thing felt so out of place amid all the modern shows that its backward ways delighted and it simple crudeness and vulgarity at times combined with its sexuality just worked wonders in reminding how quickly some things can change when it comes to what gets made into anime these days.
Chris has been writing about anime, manga, movies and comics for well on twenty years now. He began AnimeOnDVD.com back in 1998 and has covered nearly every anime release that’s come out in the US ever since.