It’s January again. 2016 is over, winter break is (sadly) done and, most importantly, the winter anime season is starting. I was a little hesitant about this season since not a lot of premiers sounded interesting, but we’ve still got quite a few good shows here. I’ll be doing this list like my previous reactions, but this time I’ll be including plot summaries and mentioning shows from last season that are still airing. As usual, I can’t/won’t watch everything, but here’s what stood out to me this season.
One Piece Film: Z is a hard act to follow. It was an excellent shounen movie that was very popular in the One Piece fandom, so it only makes sense that Gold would be compared to it. The big question going in is always going to be “is it as good as Z?” The short answer: not quite, but that doesn’t really matter. Gold may not be quite as good as Z, but it’s still an excellent movie.
It’s been quite a year. Aside from everything that’s been going in the real world (and there’s a lot) this is also my first year blogging. I’d thought about it occasionally, but never actually done it until May. Now it’s been a solid seven months and I’m still going. I hope to still be doing this when it’s time for my top 10 anime of 2017, but who knows how things will be then. Anyway, now I’ll be listing off my top anime of this year. I just have a few rules for this list. I won’t be ranking these anime at all since (with a couple of exceptions) it would be too hard to decide what goes where. I’m also only including anime that has both started and ended this year (so no March comes in like a lion). Finally, I’ll be including any anime that I think is good enough to make this list, not just TV shows. I’m also only including anime that I’ve seen from start to finish for obvious reasons. There are a couple of shows that I haven’t seen yet that I have a feeling would make this list otherwise, but there’s no point in speculating. Now that that’s out of the way, on to the list!
Spoiler Warning: The following contains major spoilers for One Piece
Everyone knows that flashbacks are never the best part of a story. At best, they give crucial information that sets up and explains the actual story and characters. At worst, they come off as wasting time. Either way, flashbacks aren’t known for being good stories by themselves. None of this applies to One Piece. In One Piece, flashbacks frequently accomplish their usual goals, but also provide some of the best parts of the entire anime. One Piece has had a lot of flashbacks, but for this article I’ll be focusing on Robin’s backstory, which is by far the most memorable and contains all of what makes One Piece flashbacks so great.
Warning: The following article contains major spoilers for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
It can’t be understated how influential Madoka Magica was on the magical girl genre. It didn’t invent the idea of “magical girls but dark” but it certainly popularized it. Since then, there have been plenty of anime that have taken influence from Madoka, some good, some not. The existence of Madoka means that Magical Girl Raising Project risked coming off as just another Madoka ripoff. Thankfully, it wasn’t. It was an Akame ga Kill ripoff. I’m joking, of course, but the two have a fair number of similarities, and not in a good way.
Mokoto Shinkai’s been a huge name in the anime community lately. Scarcely a week goes by without some news about Your Name. breaking some record or opening in a new country. While Your Name. is the only Shinkai anime to get any kind of mainstream attention, it’s not the only great Shinkai anime. Back in 2002, Shinkai made an OVA called Voices of a Distant Star that I’ll be looking at today.
Warning: This editorial contains minor spoilers for Naruto and One Piece.
Out of the many genres in anime, there’s one that’s undoubtedly the most popular: shounen. The term shounen means something like “young boy” and is used to refer to anime and manga directed at adolescent and teenage boys. Shounen series are primarily action based and outdo nearly everything else in anime and manga in terms of popularity. Some of the biggest hits in anime history have been shounen; Naruto, One Piece, Dragonball, Fullmetal Alchemist and Fist of the North Star were all shounen. In this piece, I’ll be looking at some things shounen should do or avoid doing to be good. None of these points are absolute and most apply to storytelling in general, but they’re all strengths and weaknesses common in shounen.
Very few anime directors can even come close to matching Hiyao Miyazaki’s fame. Even people who know nothing about anime know about Miyazaki’s work, and for good reason. His films are the perfect combination of quality and accessibility and vary from good to outright amazing. Princess Mononoke is definitely the latter.
The following article contains major spoilers for every show mentioned. Read at your own risk.
Character deaths can be extremely impactful in both anime and fiction in general. If done right, they can be the most emotionally moving scenes in a story and can signal a major shift the plot. They’re also very easy to do wrong. To be clear, I don’t mean minor character deaths or random villain deaths. When I talk about death scenes, I mean scenes for significant characters that are at least intended to leave an impact. In general, a character’s death should matter at least as much as the character did. Otherwise it risks feeling unearned if overdone or unsatisfying if underdone.