2016: Top 5 Anime

By the numbers, I watched a lot less anime and read a lot more manga in 2016 than I ever have before. I could say a lot about the manga I read (Paradise Residence and Salty Road were amazing in some very unique ways), but with anime, you get a complete product in about 3 months or less. So here’s what I watched and really enjoyed.

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Summer 2015 Watch List

Though I’m still crappy at getting research done and that’s not likely to change in the near future, I have a little more time to myself now and I’ve actually been able to keep up with the Summer season. I’m enjoying it a fair amount, so I just thought I’d put up a quick list of which anime I’m really enjoying at the moment.

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Fun With Numbers: Anime as Manga Advertisments in 2013

The commercial impact of anime goes well beyond its disk sales. Manga may sell to more people, but anime is extremely visible, airing on TV (albeit often late at night) and propagating around the internet at a very rapid pace. This visibility very often can lead to an increased strength of the franchise in general, propping up sales of print material, figures, and any various other related goods. Sometimes, anyway. 2013 was no exception, and saw a number of manga adaptations have anywhere from minimal to explosive effects on the sales of their source material.

I collected the manga sales history, including thresholds for series which charted sporadically, on this doc, and plotted it below. Note that these sales are not total, but the total number reported in a roughly fixed time period. Comparing sales tail length is a whole other issue, and I’m trying as much as possible to compare like figures.

One important difference from similar breakdowns of 2011/2012 series is that here I’ve opted to use the total sales from a series’ first 2 weeks of release (the highest reported total in that time interval), to attempt to minimize the effects of a bad split in creating artificial variations. It’s still an issue either way, but the difference between 9 and 14 days is a lot less than the difference between 2 and 7 days.

Two important series-specific notes prior to the plots. First, Maoyu is plotted here, in the manga section, because the manga charts more consistently than the light novel did and, more importantly, has available data from both before and after the anime aired (the LN ended just prior to 2013). Second, I can’t parse impact for series that don’t have at least one volume which released after the anime began to air. I thus will not be covering Servant x Service here, though there is data available. I will cover it in an addendum post come September when volume 4 has been out for 2 weeks.

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Midseason Update: This Fall in Kaiji Quotes

In Fall of 2007, I was very much a beginner at anime. I’d explored the discount stores in my neighborhood and encountered some very interesting, engaging titles, but I wasn’t any kind of plugged in to what stuff was current. One series changed all that, basically on its own.* Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji was the complete package in so many ways; tense, human drama, a rich cast that skirted the line from likeable to detestably inhuman, tight direction, idiomatic yet pithy dialogue, and the best narrator in anime bar none.

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Those last 2 attributes also make the show handy for an alternate purpose; rampant quotation abuse! There’s a Kaiji quote for everything, and the Fall 2013 anime season is no exception. In celebration of the show’s free availability on crunchyroll, let’s break it down.

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First Reactions: Arpeggio of Blue Steel Episode 4

The core to the fun of the Arpeggio experience is the 80s-esque naval combat; multi-layered, adaptable strategies that focus on overcoming a big resource deficit with tactical mastery. This week saw that in spades, as Gunzou’s squad had to come out with a win in a 2-on-1 with their biggest gun out of the picture and only 6 effective shots left. What actually won the battle wasn’t the most innovative twist in the world, but sometimes that’s just the way it goes. The battle itself was a thrill to watch unfold, topping itself repeatedly with increasingly larger barrages of heavy weaponry while still not defying the universe’s physics and keeping the sense of fluctuating advantage that defines an engaging confrontation high.

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Sell Me in 20 Minutes: Arpeggio of Blue Steel, Non Non Biyori, and Unbreakable Machine Doll

I put myself on the record this August saying that Arpeggio might be the Those Who Hunt Elves of the modern era, with the potential to sell well enough to launch an industry trend. Only this time with all-CG animation instead of late-night TV timeslots. The CG is still a tad weak when used for big movements, or presentation that would be more exaggerated in a hand-drawn series, and it took me about halfway through the episode to get accustomed to. But once I did, there was very little not to love. Kishi Seiji is doing a good job of keeping most of the body language to more small, natural-looking motions and making every frame of that count. The big flourishes were, as expected, saved for the naval battle sequences, which looked mighty fine. The story, a large-scale ambitious beast and looking to create a sci-fi world without putting everything in space, also appears highly intriguing. I’m looking forward to seeing how the crew, presumably a Nadesico-style quirky bunch of doers, gels together as a group as the series goes on. I’ve got at least 3 weeks worth of interest in this one.

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Especially since these sub battles are going to be regular things

Oonuma Shin is sitting this season out, but one of the prospects at studio Silver Link got his crack at being in charge today. And the result was just as backgroundy as I could have hoped for. The intro was spiffy thanks to the scenery, and the rest of the episode carried on with a fun, slow pace with echoes of Hidamari Sketch and Yuyushiki. It’s getting 2 more episodes from me to see if it stays fun and consistent.

Speaking of typically one-director studios branching out, Unbreakable Machine Doll would be the only the second Studio Lerche project not helmed by Kishi Seiji. But it didn’t show much of a dropoff, and packed a mean punch with an early, fresh-feeling train action sequence. The steampunk setting seemed to offer some depth, but it turned out to be ostensibly just a battle academy series in the vein of Yugioh GX or Phi Brain, albiet with pretty action. I might have kept up with it in a less busy season, but right now I don’t see a strong appeal. Dropped.