In terms of sheer number of series, I watched more anime than ever in 2016. There was just so much that caught my eye last year, ranging from popular releases like RE:ZERO to lesser known series like SWEETNESS AND LIGHTNING, and I was surprised by how many series I enjoyed. Though it was partially my fault for sticking with shows I would normally watch, when it came to writing my best TV series of 2015 list, I only had two real picks. So the number of 2016 anime I could even consider standing by for this list felt like a kind of revenge.

While there is a huge difference in overall quality between my top two picks and everything else, these are all anime that did interesting and moving things last year. Each in their own way forced me to think about the things I regret, how I treat the people I love, and where I want to go from here. And with any luck, you’ll feel even a fraction of that if you get a chance to check them out.

7. KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress - Mumei, Ikoma

No, it doesn’t do anything better than the series it takes so many elements from, ATTACK ON TITAN. Nor do I think it does much from a story perspective that makes a lot of sense. Still, I enjoyed KABANERI OF THE IRON FORTRESS a lot. It’s animated beautifully, has a wonderfully emotional soundtrack, and the action is amazingly choreographed, even though as Digibro commented, it’s a little too focused on the “Rule of Cool.” As far as the characters are concerned, expect to think Mumei’s awesome, that Yukina can bend steel, and not much else. 

Available on: Amazon Video.

RELATED: In addition to great anime, 2016 also had a number of awesome anime openings! Check out my favorites of the year.

6. NARUTO: SHIPPUDEN

Naruto- Shippuden - Naruto, Sasuke-

NARUTO is infamous for its filler episodes, and they seemed more persistent than ever in the final stage of the Fourth Great Ninja War. If you could get past that, though, watching the series was particularly thrilling last year. A lot can probably be attributed solely to all the years of build-up, but that doesn’t change the excitement I felt on a week-to-week basis, waiting to see all these big moments I almost never thought I’d get to. On top of that, the series delivered the usual: surprisingly emotional scenes, striking moments like the one above, and great action (though Sasuke and Naruto’s final battle didn’t have the impact I was hoping for).

More than any other series I’ve watched, I really feel like I’ve been there since day one with these characters. I’ve loved seeing them struggle, train, and fight over the years to become the people they are now. Though it’s not like they’re going anywhere — SHIPPUDEN hasn’t ended yet, and BORUTO: NARUTO NEXT GENERATIONS starts this April — I’m going to miss this one a lot.

Available on: Crunchyroll, VIZ.

5. NEW GAME!

New Game - Suzukaze Aoba

I was a bit worried going into NEW GAME!. Though I knew I would enjoy a series about a video game company with only female employees, the design of main character Aoba Suzukaze made me think she was going to be annoyingly cute. I mean, just look at the above image. Thankfully though, this was not the case. While her friend Nene definitely falls into this category, Aoba is incredibly likable. She’s cute, but she’s also hard-working, and I loved seeing her get better at her job with each episode.

NEW GAME!’s supporting cast, meanwhile, is just as fun. Aoba’s colleagues are unique, friendly, and supportive, and like Aoba herself, they all take their work seriously. They aren’t afraid to be critical of each other when mistakes are made, but in a later scene, they could all be gathered in the middle of their workstation eating snacks. The series could have done without its occasional fan service, and as my colleague Schane Flowers said in her Top 10 list, more age diversity at the company, along with a more comprehensive look at game development, would have been welcome. But NEW GAME! is still a light and enjoyable series that you should definitely check out.

Available on: Crunchyroll.

4. ORANGE

Orange - Suwa, Hagita, Naho, Takako, Azusa, Kakeru

ORANGE is an uneven series. Its characters, though endearing and funny, are often frustrating. And the series runs a bit too long. But of all the anime I watched in 2016, it delivered some of the most powerful moments. There’s something so deeply moving about seeing this group of friends unite to save someone they love. They don’t know if their efforts will be in vain, if this part of their future is fixed, and many of them are already struggling just to navigate young adulthood. But for their friend and future selves, they’ll do anything — no matter how many tries it takes.

Available on: Crunchyroll.

3. RELIFE

ReLIFE - Kariu Rena, Kaizaki Arata, An Onoya, Oda

Aside from the questionable ethics of sending a de-aged 27-year-old man back to high school without telling anyone, RELIFE is a special series. Having the perspective of someone who’s been out in the real world highlights all the little things we took for granted during high school. And seeing Kaizaki change the people around him, as well as come to terms with the reason he became unemployed, is touching and sweet. Not only that, the series is hilarious, especially when love enters the picture.

Available on: Crunchyroll, Funimation.

2. ERASED (BOKU DAKE GA INAI MACHI)

Erased (Boku Dake Ga Inai Machi) - Kayo, Airi, Satoru's Mom (Sachiko)

ERASED is an intense and emotional experience. From the moment Satoru travels 18 years into the past to save the victims of a serial kidnapper in his hometown, the series is dominated by a feeling of unease. Where is the danger coming from? Can Satoru really change the past? Even if he can, will he make it out alive? I found myself so deeply invested in these questions and their answers. As it was in ORANGE, the idea of someone doing everything they can to save someone else is inherently powerful, but ERASED goes a step further. Not only does it show a 10 year old boy shouldering this responsibility (even though he’s mentally 29), it focuses on how one of the victims, Kayo, changes as the season goes on. She warms up to Satoru, becomes more confidant, gets to know what it’s like to have friends. At a certain point I remember thinking, “even if he doesn’t save her, it’ll be worth it,” and then trying my best not to cry again. The show does taper off in its final few episodes, but for the rest of the series, and for its heartwarming story and cute humor, ERASED is one of the must-watch anime of last year.

Available on: Crunchyroll, Funimation.

1. MY HERO ACADEMIA

Pound for pound, MY HERO ACADEMIA is the best anime I watched in 2016. The first season delivered great characters, intense fight scenes, and an underdog story I genuinely cared about. It’s typical for a shonen (manga or anime aimed at young boys) to have a character fighting against the odds that you want to root for, but in the powerless Izuku, you get a real sense of what he’s had to work against to keep his dream of becoming a hero alive. Not to mention his surprising and clever moves during action scenes were just so damn exciting. Factor in the amazing soundtrack that made me want to cry and run a marathon, and you have a series that everyone has to watch.

Available on: FunimationHulu, AnimeLab (AUS).

RELATED: Find out what other 2016 anime you should check out with Sabrina Pyun’s Top 10 list! 

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