Now that 2016 is wrapping up, it’s time to look back at the year in anime.

Anime, as a visual medium, is far more than “writing” or “storytelling.” We watch animated drawings play out on a screen and they elicit emotional responses from us. The timing, framing, motion, and representation of these images are variables that completely change our impressions. We care about the story and characters because of the way they are depicted, with expert artistic skill.

With that in mind, I asked myself, what were some of the most visually impactful sequences? What images remained in the mind, long after the TV is shut off? Here are a few of the best that the year had to offer.

Macross Delta, Episode 13: the Macross Elysion firing sequence

Macross has always been a playground for young talent, and the latest sequel in the long-running franchise, Delta, is no exception.

Digital studio UnknownCASE is behind many of the CG elements in the series. They were also extensively involved in the production of Shin Godzilla. The particular shot around twenty minutes into this episode, where the gigantic spaceship Macross Elysion rises from the water in humanoid form and spectacularly fires its main weapon, is absolutely phenomenal. Even though most of the shot is 3D CG, broken down frame by frame, you can see the time-honoured 2D traditions of effect animation embedded within the brief two-second sequence. The tension inside the gun builds up and is released in a bright flashing arc of light for a single frame. The camera shakes a little in the subsequent frames from the shockwaves released and we get the full reverb from the flash expanding outwards, raising the water behind the ship as the giant gun “recoils.”

After a brief shot of the target taking on damage, the following shot of the Elysion is a low-angle perspective, looking up at the giant machine as the sunbeams refract the light through the water droplets falling from the arms, as if to imply a halo.

Anime and tokusatsu, Japanese live-action special effects movies, are historically linked, and this year with Shin Godzilla they have been reunited at last. This second shot of the Elysion here appears to borrow very heavily from classic kaiju films, where enormous beings rise up from the water in slow-motion in exactly the same way. UnknownCASE knows exactly what they are doing here.

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Currently, five of the nine monthly-scheduled volumes of Macross Delta are out on Blu-ray and DVD, with the next volume out on December 22. The discs include official English subtitles.

Mob Psycho 100’s ending sequence

Mob Psycho 100 is the latest of ONE’s creations to be given the full television series treatment, and it is a great example of animators running wild.

Looking at the work that went into each, any one of the trippy ghostbusting sequences or the scenes of hyperactive, wall-crashing violence could be eligible for best animation direction. However, I have to cheat a little and nominate the ending sequence for the job.

The sequence was devised by a talented young artist by the name of Miyo Sato, who created the clip using “paint on glass” animation. It gives the visuals a certain texture which is very organic and mercurial. She was also in charge of several of the more surreal shots in the actual show.

The rotoscoped, relatively realistic motions of the characters coupled with the clever use of color in a strange, shape-shifting environment are elements which are juxtaposed well to combine familiarity with oddness. This seems to also encapsulate the theme of the show well, which makes it perfectly fitting for an end title sequence.

Do yourself a favor and check out more of Sato’s work at her website here. It’s fantastic and really original. It certainly gives Mob Psycho a unique flavor.

All twelve episodes of Mob Psycho 100 are available to stream on Crunchyroll now.

Any of the figure skating sequences from Yuri!!! On ICE

The BIG one. If you are a fan of animation, it is a great time to be alive! Yuri!!! On ICE is a gift to animation fans like no other. There has never been an animated series quite like it, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s really, really difficult to plan, block, direct, and animate these sequences realistically.

I know that in my first Yuri!!! On ICE article, I made comparisons to the famous supokon genre of animation, where sports events, mostly team sports, were the focus of attention and characters would grow and mature as they hone their skills. In the process they learn about responsibility, honor, glory, the virtue of hard work and tough discipline, and other such life lessons. Then, I was philosophizing about the thematic content of the show… Now, I would like to really point out the main attraction and what sets this apart from other series.

In supokon, exaggeration is the order of the day. Captain Tsubasa kicks the soccer ball so hard that it often elongates into an ellipse, for example. Yet we still believe we are watching soccer. However, that same suspension of disbelief cannot be applied to a performance sport such as figure skating. The beauty of the performance is everything. It is the very essence of the sport. While there is a lot of deforming and exaggeration happening in the images of the characters in many scenes of Yuri!!! On ICE, you will notice that it is always at the house, or at the rink-side, or anywhere but on the actual ice itself.

Careful manipulation of camerawork, intricate choreography, and the skills to put all of this together with animated drawings is indeed a monumental task, and quite a challenge for director Sayo Yamamoto and the studio, Mappa, to have taken up.

So to do this within the limited framework set up by the standards of the Japanese animation industry is nothing short of astonishing. And, it is a further testament to the utility of the Japan Animator’s Exhibition project by Studio Khara as a testbed for proof-of-concepts. Yuri!!! On ICE but it probably would not have been realized as an anime series without first having had the animated short Endless Night, which served as a pilot, of sorts. Endless Night was basically a music video with magnificently animated figure skaters, also directed by Yamamoto, which seems to have set in stone the core of the team and techniques that would bring Yuri to television.

For example, the choreography for both Yuri and Endless Night was handled by Kenji Miyamoto, a former skater who became the Japan Juniors champion at age seventeen. It is not only his job to come up with unique movements for each of the skaters in the show, but also to make their distinct personalities come through in the choreography.

Another member of this “dream team” is Junpei Tatenaka, a key animator who also worked on both. The official Yuri!!! On ICE Twitter sometimes gives us glimpses of his work-in-progress animations:



I found this to be highly impressive. So there you have it, my top three animated moments for this year. It was a tough choice, but I would love to hear any that you feel are worth a mention!

Yuri!!! On ICE Is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

[Update 12/13: Originally this article incorrectly implied that Yuri!!! on ICE originated from a manga. This error has been fixed.]

Comments (2)
  1. Hi. Thanks for that ENDLESS NIGHT video and some of the basis for YOI. I do wonder, though, is YOI based on a manga? You see, the sentence “You see, Yuri!!! On ICE may have begun life as a manga, but it probably would not have been realized as an anime series…” makes me believe there was. At least the way it’s worded gives the reader the idea there is a manga out there. I’m not finding anything on either ANN or AnidB to prove that.

    • I agree, the wording is misleading. Thanks for catching that. The article has been updated and I apologize for the confusion.

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