Welcome to the first entry of this blog and also the ceremony of the first “Anime was a mistake” Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence in Animation. While many people despise 2016, it was a marvelous year for Anime. This year alone we got not one but four trapped in another world shows. It was also a great year for groundbreaking series like the first Light Novel adaptation that sucked more than Infinite Stratos. We also got the first critically and popularly acclaimed gay sports anime, which of course I’m talking about Keijo!!!!!!.
With the dawn of a new season, I took my notes and decided to select my top three shows of last year. This selection was made out of the thirty-four shows I watched, which rounds approximately to more than ten thousand minutes of anime. Time that could have been spent on learning useful skills, but alas I can do no other. These shows are listed in order of enjoyment, and are available everywhere if you try enough. It wasn’t easy to pick a favorite, and probably other shows excelled in other categories such as sound design or the amount of Korean animation in them, but I’ll explain further why I choose them. And nothing more to say, let’s meet our winners
Disclaimer: When this review was written, I hadn’t seen “your name.” from acclaimed Miyazaki director, Makoto Shinkai. Apparently this is THE BEST anime from 2016 and invalidates any selection I’ve made. If I got to see “your name.”, it will automatically override any criteria, decision or preference I had about these shows.
91 Days (Studio Shuka)
Set during the Prohibition era, a time where Italian Americans spoke Japanese, 91 Days is mafia drama series that bring us a classic story of revenge. Angelo Lagusa is a man whose sole purpose in life is seeking revenge for the death of his family, perpetuated by members of the Vanetti family. Meanwhile the Vanetti family is struggling to keep his power and have to form an alliance with the Galassia, a rival family, represented with the marriage of the Don’s only daughter and the nephew of Don Galassia. If this sounds familiar, I think this show takes inspiration from other famous mafia works, such as The Goodfather and Goodfellas.
The strongest point is the relationship between Angelo and the son of Don Vanetti, Nero. We get to see the contrast between these two men on how they deal with regret and pain. Do we have to accept the faith that was inflicted upon us or should we seek retribution. While this show has lighthearted tones, it always gets back to its somber tone and remind us that mafia business were not a joke. No show is perfect and 91 Days is not an exception. One of the reasons I didn’t pick it as the best of the best is that after two great highlights in the middle the tone slows abruptly until the grand finale. 91 Days consists of twelve episodes and a recap, I recommend it, more so if you are fan of mafia stories, or even if you haven’t seen any it could work as a gateway for this type of drama.
Space Patrol Luluco (Trigger)
Five minute shows are often shunned because some believe it is not enough time to develop a compelling story, but Space Patrol Luluco breaks that preconception by bringing a coming of age romantic story to I think one of the most difficult genres to write and portray in any media, Space Opera. Luluco, our main character, is a normal girl who tries to keep her life as normal as possible, living in Ogikubo, a not so normal place where Earthlings and aliens cohabit together. As she keeps living her normal life, a series of events and encounters will throw Luluco into an adventure that will not only test her sanity but also to discover more about herself and the universe that surrounds her.
The core of the story revolves around Luluco’s first love. It’s often said that movies, shows and books fetishize love, and while this is debatable, we should not forget that in reality love is a powerful state. And more if we are talking the first time we experience it. Shallow, superficial, probably one sided and pathetic, and yet, it feels more important than the universe itself. Luluco’s travel across the vast space and alternative dimensions is not big enough to clear her mind of her feelings and why would it be? The show does a great job on showing the conflict between her inner monologue and actions that often times will lead her to erroneous conclusions. Justice is another important part of the show, as a running gag and also a reminder that love is not enough to be who you are and what you do.
Space Patrol Luluco also excels in its animation and its portrayal of different worlds is astounding. Studio Trigger has shown again and again that they are the rightful heir of the Old Gainax. But this is also one of the weakest points of the show, if you are not familiar with Trigger’s previous works (or even Gainax previous works) some of the episodes could be seen as nonsensical to the main story. Another setback for Space Patrol Luluco is the five minute format but not because it doesn’t tell a story but because it creates an universe so vivid and with a great number of possibilities that it’s a shame it could not be longer. Space Patrol Luluco consists of twelve episodes, no recaps and it’s my second favorite show of last year. Give it a chance and also try to see another Trigger show, most of their original works are great (Except Kiznaiver).
ReLIFE (TMS Entertainment)
The NEET phenomena is something that affects a great deal of the population, sometimes self-inflicted, other times involuntary, this could be perceive as the sign of a crumbling society. How can it be solved? ReLIFE bring us an interesting answer to that particular question: Be young again. ReLIFE is a slice of life science fiction story where our protagonist, Kaizaki Arata, a 27-year-old jobless man who fails at every job interview he had after quitting his last company is offered to be part of the ReLife experiment. The ReLife experiment consists in a drug that can change your appearance to 17-years-old and for an entire year, live as a high school student. The conditions are simple: You will be monitored all the time, no telling others about the experiment and at the end of the year everybody you knew o met your 17-years-old self will forget about you. And so Kaizaki’s high school life begins again.
This show won the best show of 2016 for me for many reasons, and it’s a shame that it got overshadowed by more popular shows during its transmission. Which could be attributed that ReLIFE was released in its entirety in one batch and not an episode every week. Regardless of that, the qualities of this show could be presented as the different meanings that title conveys and that’s what I’ll do.
It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and our first encounter with it is what define what path we will take the future. Part of growing up relies on how we cope with the harshness of modern life. Cope and endure, fight the system, get crushed by it, go with the flow or take advantage of it. There’s no easy answer and none of the previous one are entirely satisfactory. The case of Kaizaki is as timeless as any other, he fought for what he thought it was just and got nothing and lost everything. Or so we think. What we perceive for real life changes dramatically as time goes by and we don’t have enough time to grasp its entirety because before you know it, you are presented with another real life. ReLIFE treats this topic as an opportunity for those who were left behind to obtain a different outlook in their current reality.
Second chances are rare and spare, even more if they involve to rebuild our entire existence. If I knew what I know now when I was young, I’ll probably dismiss it because I didn’t listen to any advice, but others consider this possibility and apply it when they have children and want to protect them from dumb decisions. Kaizaki is no strange to how his high school friends feel because he was one of them and tries to help them, but he also learns that there are times where is better to get injured and learn that clear the path of thorns. The lessons he teaches to others are a mere reflection of his shortcomings and Kaizaki realizes just to be embarrassed about it. Such is life.
ReLIFE also benefits from having a colorful soundtrack composed of 90s J-Rock and J-Pop, giving the show a nostalgic tone which not only relies in a cheap appealing to good memories but to question what the audience really feels when travels back to their adolescence. This show works both as a tragedy and a comedy, having a bittersweet ending with a charming note that speaks for another part of growing up: The ending we get might be not the best one, but one that satisfy us. Highly recommended and if you already watched, do it again, you’ll discover more things that this show has to offer.
And so, the review ended. No characters were harmed while making it, and I expect you to keep visiting this site (even if it doesn’t have RSS). Thanks to my sponsor: Weebaudio dot com and the Flat Surface Foundation, keep it flat!. See you next season or whenever I feel the urge to write.