The day has come. The latest episodes of Girlish Number and Shuumatsu no Izetta both knocked it out of the park. At this point it's pretty pointless resisting the fact that these two series, once they've fully flowered over the course of all twelve episodes, are going to be great anime worthy of my rankings.
However, even though I knew these shows were great, I couldn't help but feel they were still worse than Schwarzesmarken, which by inference means Schwarzesmarken must also be a great anime. As a result, it too was promoted to my great anime rankings, or else the other two never would've been able to get in.
The three shows couldn't be more diverse, spanning three different worlds, genres, and themes. But they all share the qualities of excellence. They have something meaningful to say, their art is gorgeous, the plot holds together and the characters are reasonable, understandable and relevant to our own hopes and dreams, troubles and fears, strengths and weaknesses. Even better, all three seem to be complete-in-themselves shows that will be over in just one cour. No lasting regrets for these shows, you get the full catharsis.
I feel for Schwarzesmarken in particular, it boldly treads into an intellectual space that most other media has avoided, the evils of communism. It's certainly the only anime that tackles the subject. This is an important message that needs to get out. There's been too much whitewashing of communism, especially in the western press, and this series serves as a valuable counterweight to that. I am not talking about the theoretical ideology, which Ayn Rand does a great job lampooning in Atlas Shrugged, I'm talking about the real lived experience, the historical reality of just what communism was in this world, which We the Living expressed well, but few Americans have ever read. This anime may be an easier to digest lesson on just how bad things were than weighty tomes like Solzenitsyn's.
The reason I love Shuumatsu is similar to my fondness for Kotetsujou no Kabaneri. Or as we like to call it stateside, Choo Choo Train no Trans-corpse. The art and animation are just so beautiful, it's obvious the budget for this series is stratospheric. It's a joy just watching the show even it were on mute and you had no idea what was going on. Then you put in relatable characters with heroic ideals and have them fight for each other, and suddenly your heart is melting and racing for them throughout their rip roaring adventure. It may be an easy formula, it may have been done many times before, but that doesn't make it a bad one. It's done so often because it works so well.
Girlish Number is similar to Sore ga Seiyuu, but has noticeable differences. Sore ga Seiyuu liked to concentrate a lot on the process, nitty-gritty industry details, and used the characters more often as the butt of jokes than as real people. They were tour guides useful in meeting industry figures and going behind the scenes, not people in themselves. Girlish Number focuses more on the characters, and makes them more realistic and fleshed out as a result (even the art style is much more realistic). There's a lot more nastiness and flinty edges to these girls, which is what you'd expect. Girls love to barb people verbally (or just inside their own heads) and put each other down, it's like breathing to them, and there's nothing wrong with that. Girls having standards is what keeps the gene pool clean. Sore ga Seiyuu looks like some planet the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man has conquered, everyone is altogether way too nice.
That being said, just because I know these three shows are great series, it's still impossible to determine how great they are. I have yet to rewatch Schwarzesmarken (it's not fully out yet in blu-ray), and I obviously misjudged it the first time by not ranking it in the first place. The other two shows haven't even fully aired yet. As such, for now the three shows will just be conveniently placed as 184, 185 and 186 in my rankings. Once more information flows in, maybe they'll move up a little bit higher, but for now just reaching the rankings is fine.
With three new shows reaching my rankings, all of which originated in 2016, this year in anime has officially surpassed last year, with 43 great franchises providing new content, compared to 2015's 41. There's still more to come, too, like Kin-iro Mosaic's new oav. 2016 is just plain dominating. There may come a year where anime fails, where good shows flee and boredom sets in over the world, but it is not this year.
Meanwhile, 2017 is looking to be great too. Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru is getting a second season, half of which is a prequel covering the light novel (Washio Sumi, which I've already read, and am happy to see upgraded to an anime rendition), and the other half a sequel covering what happens next in this post-apocalyptic, seemingly hopeless world. Just because the girls were healed doesn't mean the threat in outer space has ended, and somebody has to take up that burden if the world is to stay protected. I'm curious to know what possible solution they have in store. My ranking of Yuuki Yuuna has been gravitating upwards for a long time, so getting this second season doesn't mean I'll rank it any higher than before. This will simply justify how high it got in my rankings in the first place, it's pretty convenient that way.