Top 10 Most Promising Anime of Winter 2016

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As with all seasons of anime, you may hear many claim that Winter 2016 is the fall of anime. “This season is the worst,” some may say. However, I’m here to tell you that there’s some great shows to be had this season. So many, that it didn’t take long to fill this list of the Top 10 Most Promising Anime of Winter 2016! A diverse genre list that may not match everyone’s taste, but if you’re willing to keep an open mind, there’s plenty that may shock you. Let’s dig in shall we?

BBK/BRNK
Bubuki Buranki
Streaming: Crunchyroll

bbkfeatAt first glance, Bubuki is a tough sell. Thanks in part by its full CG look and sometimes oddly shaped character designs. Thanks to its cel-shaded look and incredible art direction around the characters and action, it seems to manage to pull itself up with more pros than cons in the end.

Buried underneath this conflict of visual choice is actually a very fascinating world that begs to be given a gander. A floating city that houses sleeping doomsday giants, a family whose mother seems destined to keep them in check, and a broken society below that throws blame to the mother when things go south.

After things collapse for the son of said mother and he’s forced to live on the surface, he’s constantly hunted down by its odd dictatorship to punish him for the “crimes” of his mother. Then, things get a bit odd but interesting as he unlocks one of several parts with his new-found allies to control what seems to be a giant machine that they must work in unison to control.

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
Hai to Gensou no Grimgar
Streaming: Funimation, Hulu

grimgarashfeatNow, I know what you’re thinking “Another Sword Art Online clone baaarf!” but stick with me here. Grimgar takes a group of random strangers, from what we assume is modern times, and has them wake up in the middle of a fantasy-medieval world. However, they have no memory of their past selves. Add to that, they are forced to make a living hunting beasts for food.

That’s where Grimgar gets interesting. Not only is it a well told “Fish Out Of Water” scenario, but it also doesn’t sugar coat anything. Remember those classic JRPGs where you slay a goblin and immediately get the victory music and gold? That’s not really the outcome here. The weakest of foes are brutally taxing and death always feels like an option. Then there’s the acknowledgment of how these beasts desire to live as well; humanizing them in a way. It gets brutal and very violent at times.

Mixed in with this nature is a beautifully rendered world of almost water-color vegetation and townscapes. Even the character designs are attractive and pleasing to look at… when they aren’t in peril and your heart is breaking over their sorrow. It’s just a great start for a show, and sadly something many will skip due to their preconceived phobias of “Trapped in a Game” scenarios.

ERASED
Boku dake ga Inai Machi
Streaming: Crunchyroll, Daisuki, Funimation

erasedfeatIt’s safe to say that Erased has captured the eyes of anime fans and critics alike. Landing itself as one of those titles that everyone believes could become a classic. Honestly, who’s to blame them? Coming from the Noitamina block that is known for delivering unique and often artistic shows rather than the typical fluff anime is known for. Then there’s the director who has worked with Silver Spoon, Death Note, Summer Wars, Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

Even if you don’t know the pedigree behind it, the results are instantly noticeable as you jump into this world. Casually sweeping its viewer into the life of a man with an odd circumstance. Every now and then, an unexplained event happens to him, causing him to replay a brief moment again. Searching frantically for whats out-of-place, he can prevent a tragedy from happening. Like, for instance, a driver who loses control and hits a child.

However things get even more interesting as it begins to dive into the childhood of the main character. A spree of child kidnappings, the death of a classmate, the charges placed on a man he believed was innocent. It’s a gripping story from the get-go and it never sugar coats this reality of abuse, neglect, redemption, grief, and murder. All enhanced by the very beautiful and often artistic direction they take with character positioning and shot angles.

If you watch no anime this season, at least watch Erased. It’s sure to be the show you’ll not want spoiled. The amount of twists, turns, and chances for spoilerific social media is guaranteed.

Dimension W
Dimension W
Streaming: Funimation, Hulu

dimensionwfeatMany are calling it the Cowboy Bebop of 2016. Though with a lack of a jazzy style and other elements, I’d lean more towards the Darker Than Black influences if anything. But I guess the connections remain in the adaptation writer and the fun use of wires to fight and traverse.

Diving into the world of Dimension W is part of the fun with this title. Entering the future world that has achieved unlimited power sources from a new “W Dimension,” we join a coil-hating illegal coil hunter named Kyouma who finds himself stuck with a coil powered robot named Mira who seems to show human emotion. Things get even more interesting as we soon discover some of the more darker sides to this new dimension and the illegal coils.

It’s a ride that provides excellently delivered action, visuals, and even clever writing. Interactions between the stone faced Kyouma and his new awkward robot partner doesn’t seem to be letting up. What’s even more interesting is this being Funimation’s first project they are sitting in on a production committee for. Oh, and did I mention the OP is fantastic?

Prince of Stride: Alternative
Prince of Stride: Alternative
Streaming: Funimation, Hulu, Daisuki

princeofstridefeatAdmittedly, I’ve never been a fan of sports anime. It’s not that I dislike them, I just never actively seek them out. So with that said, it’s a given that Stride is quite an anomaly for me to jump into and I can’t really say I’m at all upset over that. That’s because Stride provides me quite a few things to make it a worthy investment. Speed, Sound, Impact, Suspense, and Style.

Following the newly revived stride club of Honan Academy, we look on as the broken team seeks out their individual goals. Some are part of the remains of the past legendary Honan stride team, some follow in the shadows of past legends, some seek new experiences, and some just get dragged along. With each of these goals come the personalities and conflicts that make for an enjoyable chemistry. Though, I won’t claim that the character interactions and drama are hitting any solid points just yet.

What draws me most to the show so far is the stride itself. Watching a couple of matches and a few training sequences, the show manages to capture me in an odd way. The speed in the running looks great. The parkour they perform looks smooth. More importantly, the sound is outstanding. The squeak of the shoes, the impact of the bursts of speed, and the subtle drops of sound make for an exhilarating experience. If you have no desire to check out this series, at least give a match a quick peak. It’s good stuff.

Ojisan and Marshmallow
Ojisan to Marshmallow
Streaming: Crunchyroll

marshmallowfeatOh Iori.. you slay me. It may be shocking to see a 3 minute short make a list like this, but how can I deny such a cute show a spot when it’s a given that I’ll hit that episode the moment I see it each week. Put simply, it’s comfort food, adorable, and isn’t much to ask of you.

There’s this guy named Habahiro, and he loves his marshmallows. Then there’s this lady named Iori, and she loves her Habahiro. They both work in the same office but Habahiro is a bit clueless to Iori’s advances. So what better way to get the guy’s attention than to dangle some of his favorite marshmallows in front of him?

I’d venture to say that Iori is quite a bold lady, and it’s because of this that the show seems to continuously produce the chuckles. With such a show runtime, no one has an excuse not to at least check it out.

Norn9: Norn+Nonet
Norn9: Norn+Nonet
Streaming: Hulu

norn9featFrom the visuals and synopsis, my immediate thought of Norn9 is “Shoujo! Run!” Being from an Otome game, my fears aren’t completely baseless. However, the PV gave me a bit of a different story. Buried behind a cast of pretty boys was an interesting world that I was quite intrigued by. Plus, there’s thankfully a fair number of females to off-set the testosterone.

While the characters remain unexplored due to their desire to not show their cards to each other, the world still has me interested. It takes place on an aircraft that travels the globe (and time?) and picks up gifted children. Each has a special ability and none seem to want to reveal them to each other.

Then the plot gets a little thicker as it introduces a few elements to the plot that cause rifts. One being that the children would soon arrive in opposing countries and may have to fight each other one day. Then there’s the mole within the ranks that welcomed an outside attacker.  It’s visually pretty and has a world of potential.

Myriad Colors Phantom World
Musaigen no Phantom World
Streaming: Crunchyroll

phantommyriadfeatWhile it may not be winning any points with certain crowds thanks to its fanservicy nature, there’s no denying the sheer fun that is this show. It’s a colorful and visually pleasing show that mixes supernatural, school drama, clever comedy, and fun action into a package that only Kyoto Animations can dish out.

Leaping head first into a near future world, we meet a cast who are grouping up to take on cases of evil phantoms that are causing trouble. Phantoms, in this world, are quite real because mankind (through an accident caused by a company) are now able to see them. Cohabitation is an option, but not always an answer.

What’s great about Myriad Colors, besides Kyoto animations signature visuals that love eyeballs, is a mixture of well placed comedy and exposition. Even the most tropish of jokes (IE fall on chest grab) are fresh with absolutely silly results. It’s tongue-in-cheek and done well, even though I’m usually the first to groan at those kind of things.  Served on the side of that plate is hints of a bigger picture that I’m sure will deliver as I’m never really disappointed with Kyoto Animation’s works.

Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
Streaming: Crunchyroll

showafeatThis series is probably the most interesting of the season. Mainly due to its particular method of storytelling that may seem slow, but is very atmospheric. Placing the viewer into the Showa period of Japan to follow a young man, freshly released from prison, who desires to learn rakugo from a famous 8th generation rakugo performer.

What’s rakugo? It’s a one-man show where the performer sits on their knees and acts out a story that involves multiple characters that are depicted by a change of tone or a slight turn of the head. Never getting up and using only a fan and a cloth as props. The way this series makes this old form of entertainment so entertaining is a mixture of good characters and excellent portrayal.

Not only are you getting to know the characters, but you’re also getting a bit of insight into their struggle on the stage. The sweat beating off their head and body, the silence of the room, the simple but crucial body language. It’s all done excellently. A few of the performances are downright funny to boot. The series has all the makings of a title that can become one suggested 5 years in the future.

GATE: Thus the JSDF Fought There! Fire Dragon Arc
Gate: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri 2nd Season
Streaming: Crunchyroll

gatefirefeatWhile many of the second cour offerings (Snow White With The Red Hair, Gundam Iron-Blooded Orphans) are fantastic, GATE just has to be noted for this top list. Not only am I constantly engaged with the series, but it also seems to take the flag and run with it.

Taking off from the first season, our team is continuing their efforts to form treaties with the kingdoms already established on the other side of the Gate. Which is both a fragile, but also very bloody and violent task. The series continues to not sugar coat the violence of war, the ignorance of its leaders, or the collateral damage it causes.

I think that’s what I like most about the series. It really tests the acceptance of the viewer to a world with traits that might not settle with them. Prostitution, abuse, murder, human trafficking, POWs, PTSD, and more are touched on, and I feel it uses them in tasteful ways while never glorifying them. At the same time, it’s not afraid of having a little fun outside those elements to lighten the mood.

Take it or leave it, there is 10 titles that are throwing promise at you with no remorse! Granted, the genres may not meet your fancy, but if you give them a shot, there’s a chance something just might snag your sweet tooth. As I said before, the 10 wasn’t difficult to fill and there’s many others that have great promise as well.  But we have to cut it off at some point!  Have a show you’re excited about? Be sure to let everyone know in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading!

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Co-Founder of OtakuSpirit.com and Co-Host of the OtakuSpirit Animecast. A huge fan of anime since the early 1990s, consuming over 800 shows. While he's late to the collecting scene, he's found a lot of joy in filling his DVD/Blu-ray collection as well as collecting figures. Once a week, he posts unboxing and feature videos on anime goods to YouTube.