Arasan – [Twitter]
Episode – Mob Psycho 100 #8, ERASED #2, Naruto Shippuden #476 & #477, The Great Passage #1
Featuring a lengthy action sequence with amazing work from the animation team, Mob Psycho #8 is the clear winner for being the best-animated episode in the current year. The bold and rough line art courtesy of animation supervisor Yoshimichi Kameda helped enhance the visual energy of the action scenes, similar to his supervisory work in last year’s One-Punch Man episodes. It also helped that meme superstar animator Yutaka Nakamura showed up to deliver his trademark flashy action animation, and who doesn’t like that?
Show – Mob Psycho 100, Flip Flappers, Occultic;Nine, The Great Passage, Sound! Euphonium
Mob Psycho 100 is the undisputable animation juggernaut among TV anime this year. Much like 2015’s One-Punch Man, Mob features a lineup of young and talented animators but unlike the latter show the excellent animation is backed up with good directing and appealing art direction which makes for a more complete package. The aforementioned episode 8 and Ken’ichi Fujisawa’s episode 5 are the show’s best episodes with the latter featuring an uncredited appearance by the legendary Norio Matsumoto and an impressive showing by young animator Hiromitsu Seki. The show’s use of Miyo Sato’s talents for making paint-on-glass animation was a nice touch, introducing a rare form of animation to anime viewers.
Movie – Your Name., Kizumonogatari 1 & 2, Garo: Divine Flame
Time to retire the jokes about Makoto Shinkai’s movies being pretty pictures with no good animation, Your Name is a well-made movie featuring a line-up of animators that one would expect in a Studio Ghibli or Production I.G. movie. With the likes of Masashi Ando, Ei Inoue, and Kazuchika Kise supervising the animation, the movie frequently serves cuts of nuanced character animation. Notable scenes include a running sequence by Hiroyuki Okiura, an emotional scene involving the main duo animated by Norio Matsumoto, and an interesting “dream” sequence featuring fancy effects animation.
Directing the second opening for Studio Pierrot’s Twin Star Exorcists, Shingo Yamashita had high standards to follow up with given Yasuomi Umetsu’s work on the preceding opening and he certainly did. The opening showcases Yamashita’s signature approach to digital processing, with his usual fondness for orange hues and meticulous lighting. A number of up-and-coming web gen animators were brought on-board, including Miso, Shun Enokido, and Hiromitsu Seki, who did the best action sequences.
Animator Discovery – Huang Cheng Xi
An up-and-coming animator who is now affiliated with Studio Pierrot, Huang looks poised to be the next young ace working on the Naruto franchise especially following Naoki Kobayashi’s departure from the studio to go freelance. His work in episode #463 of Naruto what first caught my eye, with a scene reminiscent of Hiroyuki Yamashita’s at first. Since then, Huang has taken on more challenging cuts and shows promise and an animator adept at animating characters and martial arts sequences. His cuts tend to have characters move with believable yet slightly exaggerated sense of weight even in action scenes which is what I like to look for since that’s not something commonly found in anime action scenes. I hope to see Huang handle more martial arts-based action in the future, be it for Naruto or other projects.
Recommendation – Your Name
Watch Your Name, I highly recommend it if you wish to join the internet shitposting discussions about a very hyped anime movie and you’ll get some cred for being one of the cool guys who watched a potentially Oscar-nominated or even winning anime movie before most Americans and Europeans did.
Animeblue – [Twitter]
Show – Naruto Shippuuden
The big sakuga series have been covered on the blog already, and the lesser known ones are likely to be featured in other people’s entries, so I’d like to take this opportunity to take up my mantle as the Naruto king and give it a mention as it had a relatively strong year despite its tighter schedule. Naruto featured a handful of well-directed episodes this year; not only did Osamu Kobayashi’s deliver, but Toshiro Fujii proved that the new generation have what it takes to carry the torch, too. There was plenty of beautiful layouts and shot composition to be seen in these episodes, especially those by Tsuru, Murata and Kobayashi. Animation-wise, the priority seemed to lie in low key, yet powerful scenes as opposed to all out spectacles.
The series seems to be retaining this level of quality as it moves along with Chiaki Kon at the helm, too, thanks to the efforts of people like Shingo Okano, Imakii, Yabuno, and Youko Suzuki.
The Great Passage and Occultic;Nine.
Episode – Naruto Shippuuden #476-478
2016 has been a feast when it comes to outstanding episodes, but the three that impressed me most were the ones that depicted Naruto and Sasuka’s climactic finale battle. Technically two of them weren’t as incredible as we’d hoped for considering they weren’t finished in time for the broadcast, but they still delivered beautiful layouts and great animation in spite of that. What impressed me most though was the shot composition; not only did they express the characters’ thoughts perfectly and allow the viewer to immerse themselves further, they also allowed for each animator’s passion to shine through as well. That goes double for these two scenes, I’d say.
Speaking of them individually, #478 acts as a solid demonstration of Tsuru’s mastery over the arts, to the point where some believed his work towards the end was actually CG. Meanwhile, #476-477 are simply a showcase of Yamashita’s sensitive directing in all its glory.
Ken’ichi Fujisawa’s Osomatsu-san#18
Movie – Kizumonogatari movies, Garo: Divine Flames, Kimi no Na wa
Opening – Twin Star Exorcists OP2
It’s not quite as creative as the last OP he did, but Shingo Yamashita and his webgen buds delivered another wonderful OP in spite of that. One that shows Yamashita’s superb grasp on photography, too.
Naruto Shippuden OP#19
Another classic OP from Tsuru, this time with three different variations, the last of which was one big trip down memory lane
Kuroko no Basuke Winter Cup Highlights OP
Kazuto Nakazawa was too busy to work on the OP for this compilation movie, but that wasn’t a problem when Keiichi Ishida stepped up to deliver some incredibly cool animation in his place.
Ending – NARUTO Shippuden ED#36/38
Two EDs featuring good character acting and action animation, but what makes them stand out amongst the big boys for me is how they illustrate Fujii and Kobayashi’s understanding of the arts.
Animator Discovery – Huang Chengxi
“Discovered” probably isn’t the right word to use when talking about Huang Chengxi, it’s more like he caught my attention this year thanks to his recent work on NARUTO. What caught my attention is how he dramatically improved in a couple of months under the guidance of Hiroyuki Yamashita, to the point where characters actually feel like they have weight to them instead of moving pose to pose. A nice example of this is the scene people thought Hiroyuki Yamashita was responsible for due to it featuring all of Yamashita’s staples.
It will be exciting to see where his animation goes from here.
Unexpected Animation – Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru
Hmm… My vote for this definitely goes to Hirofumi Okita. He’s mostly known for his comical character acting, but his work in Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru – episode one, to be specific – was simply breathtaking. The framing and use of camera are fantastic in and of themselves, but what impressed me most was how he was able to make the viewer feel like they were the cameraman following the action themselves.
ibcf – [Twitter]
Episode – Mob Psycho 100 #01
I believe that an episode’s level of animation quality is directly proportional to its average of funny faces per minute (ffpm). By this measure, Mob Psycho episode one is the year’s clear winner. I knew this show would be something special as soon as I saw Reigen’s face stretch and contort in fits of nervous energy. The rest of the episodes were indeed terrific, but there was nothing quite like that first impression I got of the lovable con man.
Show – Mob Psycho 100
There’s nothing else this year, or the past many years, that can really compete in terms of sheer quality and quantity of movement. The animation is just so well-realized and fun to watch. It’s got great character acting, great effects, great experimental techniques; everything a sakuga nerd could hope for. And then it has an unbeatable A-list of talent firing on all cylinders, including Yoshimichi Kameda, who is probably my current favorite “funny face” cartoon man. In short, this show kicks ass.
Movie – Kizumonogatari: Tekketsu-hen
Kizumonogatari Part I is the only anime film I’ve seen from this year, so it wins by default. However, that’s not to say it wasn’t impressive. Scenes like Aragi wandering into a murder of crows and accidentally self-immolating are hard to forget. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such convincing animation of a man on fire (I wonder if they used live-action reference). It’s not just the flames themselves — you can feel the searing heat and pain from Aragi’s panicked movement, gorgeously animated by Genichiro Abe. And then there’s that almost unbearably tense sequence where Aragi first meets Kiss-Shot Acerola-etc. It benefits from Tatsuya Oishi’s audacious direction, but this time it’s got insane character animation to match too.
OP/ED – Flip Flappers ED, Mob Psycho 100 ED
The Flip Flappers ED is one of the best-designed credit sequences I’ve seen in years. It’s simple, memorable, and the song and animation are as catchy as hell. You can’t go wrong with Kiyotaka Oshiyama’s bouncy cycles. However, my pick for this year has to be Miyo Sato’s paint-on-glass animation for Mob Psycho — unbelievable! Has that technique ever been used in a TV cartoon before? I can’t think of any other show that’s dared to pull something like that off.
Animator Discovery – Lan
Chinese animator LAN is the unsung sakuga hero of this season. As both the chief animation director and star animator of To Be Hero, he’s put in an astonishing amount of high-quality work for the show, rivaling that of the best Japanese cartoons. I love his liberal use of smears and his willingness to combine funny character animation with effects. Witness his scenes of the paranoid chicken in episode 2 — hilarious expressions and poses!
Unexpected Animation – Yasunori Miyazawa @ Flip Flappers #06
That scene caught me totally off guard. It was only a couple of brief shots, but in that space he managed to squeeze in more feeling and personality than the rest of the show’s animation put together. His loose, impressionistic depiction of domestic strife is genuinely scary and works perfectly in the context of the episode.
Recommendation – To be Hero
Besides Mob Psycho, To Be Hero is probably the show that gives you the most bang for your buck animation-wise this year. It has a unique and refreshing style of drawing and humor, thanks to LAN and his crack team of smear/chicken/toilet water animation specialists. It’s a bit rough around the edges, but it also feels more personal than the big polished Japanese-made shows. Go watch it already!
Disgaeamad – [Twitter]
Episode – Sound! Euphonium #05
Last year saw Eupho take the best show award thanks to its backwards nature as a production that got better with time, culminating in some of my favourite pieces of animation that year. This year – while consistently excellent on a technical level – it hasn’t delivered quite as much for me purely on the animation front, though I’d be remiss to not praise episode 05 after it delivered a performance that lasted half an episode with no breaks whatsoever in-between; a feat that probably couldn’t be accomplished in the hands of anyone other than Kigami and KyoAni.
Show – Sansha Sanyou
Attributing styles to animation studios is typically a practice worth avoiding, but there’s no denying the existence of the Dogakobo aesthetic. Even in the absence of studio star Masayuki Nonaka – who’s still busy with an incredibly unfortunate project – Sansha was a return to form thanks to the presence of the up and comers willing to carry on the spirit of those who made shows like Love Lab and Mikakunin de Shinkoukei as stellar as they were. Not just them, either; Akira Hamaguchi opens (and closes!) the show with an impossibly fantastic burst of energy and motion, while Doga veteran Enishi Ooshima’s episode 04 further solidifies his position as one of the most talented people in the industry. For someone who’s always delighted to see Doga delivering, it truly was Sansha Saikou.
Movie – Kizumonogatari: Tekketsu-hen
Fate ensured that I couldn’t go see A Silent Voice, so between the two Kizu’s from this year, Tekketsu definitely won out for me. Nekketsu had a larger volume of animation to showcase, but the work of Aninari and GenAbe displaying a new side to his work are what ultimately made Tekketsu stand out more for me.
Opening – Twin Star Exorcists OP2
Yama is king. Kevin wrote about this OP already, so I’m just going to link it in a shallow attempt to cut down on my own word count.
Runner up: Konosuba
Ending – Dimension W
2016 was something of a weak year for Ryouma Ebata overall (by his standards, anyway), but he certainly kicked it off with a bang. Serve up some neat character animation and action, sprinkle some fantastic use of momentum on top, and you’ve got the recipe for Ebata’s 3rd year in a row as part of my Sakuga Bowl list
Animator (Re)Discovery – Ryo Araki [荒木涼]
Araki’s by no means a new discovery for me; he did receive a mention last year, after all. His work this year though – after separating from his mentor Tetsuya Takeuchi – has been nothing but stellar, and we’ve even reached the point where Takeuchi’s own work has started to resemble Araki’s. Last year I thought he was good, but this year really drilled home just how good he is.
Unexpected Animation – Ping Pong Sa- Scorchin’ Ping Pong Girls #10
Perhaps odd to say that it was unexpected considering the show had a number of highlights, but the almost minute long sequence of insane effects, impact frames and background animation at the end of Kururi and Koyori’s match put a certain action animator’s recent work to shame, and easily ranks amongst my favourite pieces of animation this year.
Recommendation – Shorts
2016’s helped further establish the idea of short anime as a place where creativity can flourish, giving the industry’s newest generation of animators the opportunity to stand out and make a name for themselves. That, coupled with the fact that they’re short, makes them something worth checking out with relatively little time investment.
Oh who am I kidding, go watch the Shelter MV right now because it’s really damn good.
First of all, I’d like to congratulate every single participant other than Arasan and myself on failing spectacularly at staying within the rough word count limit, especially the one who went over it by double the amount. You know who you are, you sombrero wearing [REDACTED]. Clearly a sign not to enforce one next year!
Onto brighter and better things though, it’s pretty clear how strong a year 2016 was when the behemoths such as Mob Psycho, Eupho and Flip Flappers didn’t dominate the nominations; we’ve been gifted with enough visual diversity to please pretty much everyone’s individual tastes, and for that we’re thankful. Plenty of new names have cropped up throughout the year to make the animator discovery section even more exciting than usual, too. Sometimes I wonder how this industry keeps raising so much new talent while simultaneously destroying them!
In terms of the sakuga “community”, strides have been made in increasing both people’s desire to observe anime from a more technical standpoint and to know about the inner workings of the industry in general. The launch of this blog has certainly been an influential factor in that, but we can’t say it’s been the only one, especially with the presence of both The Canipa Effect and Wave Motion Cannon in this very post. Slowly but surely things are coming along, so here’s hoping 2017 sees lots and lots of money from Patreon for us even better progress than 2016!
Support us on Patreon so that we can keep producing all this content and fullfill our next goals, as well as affording all server expenses. Those who contribute $20 a month or more will also be able to suggest some titles for us to extensively talk about like this. Thanks!