Popular Anime of 2016 I Didn’t Like

flip flappers header
I started doing this kind of post around the same time last year, when I realised there were at least a small handful of new season shows that plenty of bloggers raved about while my own feelings were, at best, only lukewarm. While I don’t necessarily think my tastes are wildly different from any other anime blogger out there, it gives me a chance to talk about those titles released over the past year that didn’t push quite the same buttons for me. (And besides, since I’m saving my annual anime wrap-up until spring as usual, I gotta talk about something while everyone else is releasing those 2016 best-of posts, right?)

Needless to say, this post isn’t intended as any sort of criticism of peoples’ choices in anime. I’m not even saying these anime are bad per se – they’re just shows I didn’t seem to like as much as a lot of other viewers. So if you watched and liked any of these yourself (and I’m guessing plenty of you did), rest assured I’m not bashing you or your personal tastes.

Bungou Stray Dogs (Spring)

bungou stray dogs
Just for the record, I’m focusing only on the first season here since I never saw anything of the second. And you know what, I think I probably would’ve liked this show a lot more had I watched it when I was younger. It’s pretty, it’s angsty, and there’s a certain expressive weight to it that does indeed still appeal to my inner 15-year old. Unfortunately, said emotional weight is seriously undermined by a tendency to throw in flippant one-liners and repetitive comedy routines just when I was ready to get emotionally invested. Basically, the tonal whiplash put me off – although even if it hadn’t, the melodrama is laid on a bit too thick given that I’m now in my late 20s and no longer writing terrible poetry while listening to Linkin Park. Like I said, my teenage self probably would’ve been all over this. Tedious suicide jokes and jarring tonal shifts aside, I did see glimmers of a decent enough story here; it’s just that it’s overshadowed by poor writing. One of these days, I’ll find an action anime I actually like again. It’s just too bad that despite technically being a seinen title, Bungou Stray Dogs reads far more like a stereotypical shounen.

Flying Witch (Spring)

flying witch
This show ended up being both less and more than I wanted it to be. On the one hand, I assumed before watching that it would be moe as all hell, in that annoyingly cutesy yet slightly disturbing (i.e. targeting the male audience hard) kind of way. And it isn’t. There’s no fanservice or heavy audience pandering and the main character isn’t some moeblob with zero personality. In fact, every character is perfectly fine – no assholes, no creeps, and no teenage heroine with all the mental faculties of a 5-year old and jarringly high-pitched vocals to match. (You’d be surprised how often this is a concern for me.) Flying Witch basically struck me as a less charming version of Kiki’s Delivery Service, and normally I would have been so there. After all, nobody likes slow-paced, supernatural/slice-of-life anime more than me, especially when it’s set in rural Japan. And yet strangely, I was bored throughout the entire thing. Maybe it was that Flying Witch came out in a season already rich in the light-hearted comedy and slice-of-life department, or maybe the story was just too slow even for my tastes. I never did quite put my finger on it. All I know is that I never got any real sense of connection. It was a perfectly sweet and heartwarming series that, for whatever reason, left my own heart out in the cold.

ReLIFE (Summer)

relife
I do have to wonder whether or not ReLIFE would have gotten anywhere near as good reviews if it had been released week by week like every other show rather than all at once. Would people have been as frustrated as I was by a premise that’s potentially interesting, but that ultimately fails to deliver on anything much different from every other generic high school drama/romcom anime? I didn’t dislike ReLIFE, but I almost wish I had. At least then, I wouldn’t have felt let down by the fact that it never managed to go beyond the usual character archetypes, love triangles, and age-old romantic misunderstandings that seem to occur in 90% of all high school-orientated titles. Instead of choosing to fully engage with its own base plot, the series uses it as barely anything more than window dressing for your standard teen drama, showcasing characters and events that could be part of literally almost any other series of the same genre. Sadly, while the glimmer of something a little deeper and more complex is definitely there, it’s mostly overshadowed in favour of the general hijinks and inoffensively bland storytelling I’d hoped to avoid seeing, and I couldn’t help but mourn the wasted opportunity. Oh well – there were a couple of decent gags, I guess.

Flip Flappers (Fall)

flip flappers
In some ways, Flip Flappers reminded me of Yuri Kuma Arashi – which incidentally also made it onto this same list in 2015. I actually liked Flip Flappers a lot more, but both shows try (and in my opinion mostly fail) to tell a cohesive story that showcases, above all, an exploration of budding female sexuality. My biggest problem with Yuri Kuma Arashi though was that it approached it themes with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Conversely, I think Flip Flappers tries too hard to be mysterious, and in the process turns its boldly distinctive and otherwise delightful surrealism into a deliberately evasive, narratively disjointed mess. The plot isn’t confusing so much as it is fragmented, and while I get how this could be pretty appealing to many a viewer, it only annoyed me more with each passing episode. There’s plenty the show does right, including the soundtrack and the arresting art style, but I only wish the series had more focus, more of a drive to tell one unified story instead of several great pieces of one. Compelling symbolism and a dreamy, often downright trippy atmosphere didn’t make up for the lack of integration for me. The only real consistency I did see going on were the reminders that the line between genuine exploration of budding adolescence and plain old titillation is a very fine one indeed. Credit where credit is due, I don’t believe Flip Flappers ever got sleazy, but it came pretty damn close at times.

Question of the post: Were there any shows released during 2016 that you didn’t like despite their general popularity? If not, how about shows you did like that very few others seemed to enjoy?

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18 thoughts on “Popular Anime of 2016 I Didn’t Like

    • Fair enough. I liked Osomatsu overall, especially that first episode, but admittedly it could be quite hit-and-miss. Mind you, I’m not sure I could think of any sketch comedy where I found all the gags entertaining. It’s a difficult subgenre to get behind in that respect, and comedy is already pretty subjective at the best of times.

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  1. Haha, I didn’t like 90% of the last year’s anime. I’m really fed up with all those uber cute girls, big boobs, drooling otaku guys, cheap romances and magic tricks. OK, I know most of the anime is aimed at teenagers but few years ago I could find more interesting and mature series.

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    • Aren’t we all. (Well, not Japanese viewers, apparently.) I actually think 2016 was a pretty great year for anime overall, but it was often a matter of panning for gold, as always.

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  2. I think ReLIFE definitely benefitted from allowing a binge watch. I wouldn’t have liked it very much week to week (I seldom to like those kinds of shows week to week), but I do enjoy a marathon viewing of something that is very easy to watch and doesn’t require a lot of thought.
    I also didn’t much like Flying Witch but that was more because I just found it too slow. Flip Flappers on the other hand was determined to undermine itself as it just never got to a point.
    Bungo Stray Dogs I kind of liked. There’s a lot of issues with it but I found it a bit of enjoyable nonesense most weeks.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on these.

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    • Oh goodness no. That was my no. 1 anime of the year. While it’s true that I sometimes don’t like anime that happen to gain huge popularity, that doesn’t mean I automatically dislike popular titles.

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      • Oh wow. I’m delighted to hear that. I’m currently obsessed with it, you see. Anyway, good post. So relieved to not see YOI in here. Keep on watching anime and blogging. Cheers

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  3. I didn’t follow Re:Zero-Starting Life in Another World, but that’s more because I’m too lazy to follow anything more than 12-13 eps (except or some rare cases).
    I know it was one of 2016’s popular titles in both Japan and the West, namely because of the MC’s stubborn prevailing against various adversities (plus the violent deaths that followed if he failed). Did you see any of it?

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    • I certainly know of it and its popularity, but no, I never did watch any of it myself. It seemed fairly likely from the synopsis and trailer that it wouldn’t be my kind of show.

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  4. I’m happy to see in this post that I dodged some bullets! Except Flying Witch. Lord I wish that had more plot or something go down because it’s so rare to see a show that doesn’t exploit the female cast left and right. ….Wow that’s so sad. I can’t believe how grateful both of us are when women aren’t leer candy in anime. That’s sick. No wonder Miyazaki is pissed at the industry. :/
    On the topic of Flip Flappers (good timing as I’m watching the last episode now), I gotta sadly agree at the chaotic nature of the production. The first few episodes were a hot MESS. Around episode 4 or 5 they seemed to figure out what they wanted to do a bit more, but even then the story and visuals were jumpy. At one point I had loaded an episode, watched five minutes, BACKTRACKED to the last one, watched a ton of ads so I could skip to the end JUST so I could find out if there was more after the credits because the episode I HAD been watching JUMPED so far ahead and I was LOST. I hadn’t missed anything. Their editing was just craaaaap. Or their direction. Or their scripting. Honestly I’m not sure who to blame on that one. Which is a real shame as one episode (can’t recall if it was 8 or 9) actually had some great questions brought up by the character on her sexuality. They were very realistic and really well done (when she had a fight with Papika and keeps running into other characters that look and act like Papika in the imaginary world). The whole thing was, sadly, mucked up by going a bit towards sexualizing the whole thing, but the questions were good. Too bad they couldn’t keep that up… Still I was surprised they managed that much considering how horridly the series started.
    On the topic of sexuality in anime, Yuri On Ice… I kinda feel like one of the reasons I felt a bit.. unenthusiastic on it by the end was because of the LACK of exploring those same questions. Yuri and Viktor are cannon, yet I constantly felt like they couldn’t actually be a thing realistically due to the vast power difference. Yuri looks up to Viktor SO much (even if age isn’t considered), so the relationship is just really uneven. If they make a season two, I’d actually want to see either both acknowledge that and go their separate ways OR the power difference needs to be addressed. And for that to work… well, Viktor would probably have to fall from his pedestal. Pretty hard too. It’d be messy. And, to be honest, I REALLY doubt the show will do either.
    Don’t get me wrong! I’m glad the show was brave enough to normalize gender role blurring and queer relationships. I’m just picky with my romances, I guess ;P

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    • “I can’t believe how grateful both of us are when women aren’t leer candy in anime.”

      I know. It’s a depressingly low bar to set. 😦

      I think if I had to put the majority of the blame on the editing, direction, or scripting for Flip Flappers then I’d probably go with the editing. I actually think the directing was pretty bold, which is normally a good thing, and I also think the scripting complemented the trippy visuals and atmosphere rather well. The main problem, as you point out, is that you get completely lost between episodes. At one point I was convinced that I’d somehow accidentally skipped an entire episode or it was erroneously aired out of order. Basically, a great show in so many respects that was ruined for me in terms of basic execution.

      I see your point about Yuri on Ice. I disagree with it (mostly because I think that while Yuri does indeed idolize Victor so much at the start, he stops doing that in later episodes), but I do understand where you’re coming from and why. The age difference is basically nothing (or at least, 4 years to me isn’t a lot), but power dynamics absolutely do matter. And likewise, I’d be glad to see this addressed if and when a second season is released.

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  5. The main problem with Flying Witch was the utter lack of conflict. I know that the Iyashikei genre is known for avoiding conflict of all sorts, yet one can’t really imagine human beings getting along so well–outside of heaven anyway. Sweetness and Lightning, another “calming” anime, came out the following season, and I enjoyed that one because the presence of mild conflict made it more realistic to how people act.

    I really enjoyed Bungo Stray Dogs, Flip Flappers, and ReLIFE, but they all have flaws to them. You might like the first four episodes of season two of Bungo Stray Dogs. It’s a flashback to Dazai’s time in the Port Mafia, and the quality of those four episodes is not only head and shoulders above the rest of that series, but even all the anime which came out in 2016.

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  6. Pingback: Popular Anime of 2016 I Didn’t Like | Afro Futurism

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