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Crunchyroll’s biggest anime of the year isn’t the obvious choice

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Yuri on Ice might have crashed the site, but it doesn’t top the list

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Crunchyroll members worldwide were big fans of several different series this year, from a new season of classic action anime Berserk to the Brotherhood Final Fantasy 15 prologue series. But the service revealed which anime were 2016’s most viewed in each country, below, and the series that took the global top spot may be a surprising choice.

Crunchyroll

While Yuri on Ice, the ice skating romantic comedy that’s taken audiences by storm since its premiere this fall, nabbed the title of “most popular” in a number of countries, the majority of Crunchyroll’s audience fell hardest for Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World-, according to the streaming platform’s metrics.

“A casual glance at the map reveals what is an undeniable truth in the world of anime — Re:Zero is a big deal,” reads a post explaining the above geographical breakdown. “In Japan, in North and South America, in Europe, in the world over, Re:Zero was met with incredible excitement and chatter.”

The casual anime fan may not be familiar with Re:Zero, which ran for 26 episodes from April to September. The fantasy show stars a boy named Subaru, a shy boy who gets trapped in a magical world. His love of video games helps him power through the role-playing game-esque land — and some actual save points help him to stay alive.

Re:Zero has an active subreddit, and it’s a full-fledged franchise; there’s a manga, as well as several novels, from which this year’s anime was adapted. But when it comes to social media presence and sheer cultural sticking power, even Crunchyroll had to tip its hat to Yuri On Ice.

Yuri On Ice was recently named the most tweeted-about anime of fall 2016, with nearly 1.5 million posts about the series from Nov. 24-Dec. 14. Fans have praised Yuri on Ice for its unique storyline about a passionate young ice skater and his even more impassioned coach. (The anime’s romantic overtones make it an easy choice for fan fiction and art, which also helps.)

When we asked a representative for the streaming service — which saw 165 new anime premiere this year and has members in all six major continents — how Re:Zero bested Yuri on Ice as the biggest anime in countries like the U.S., Mexico and the U.K., timing was cited as the main reason.

“It's mainly a timing thing because the show came out later in the year,” a Crunchyroll rep told us. Yuri On Ice started in September, while Re:Zero began back in April. Despite the late start, Yuri On Ice still managed to win over places like Botswana, Hong Kong and Poland.

It’s also worth noting how the list of Crunchyroll’s top anime was calculated.

“The most popular anime in each country is determined here by the unique viewers for the show’s first episode,” the Crunchyroll blog explains. “In this way, an anime that’s run for 50 episodes over the course of the year won’t have too much of an advantage on the briefer 12-episode shows.”

Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World-
White Fox/Crunchyroll

Yuri on Ice lovers can take heart that Re:Zero’s first place spot ahead of it could just mean that more people watched Re:Zero’s first episode, which ran an extended 50 minutes. They’ll also point to how Crunchyroll crashed right before the premiere of the season’s last episode as emblematic of the show’s popularity.

“We see the larger obsession with [Yuri on Ice] as an example of anime’s continued infiltration into mainstream culture ... it’s another example of people who haven’t been traditional fans of anime getting excited about the content,” a Crunchyroll rep told us last week, just after the site announced that “significant excitement” for the finale had caused server problems.

“At its core, Yuri on Ice is an amazing show that speaks to its audience in an honest way about complicated issues like depression and anxiety and that has helped support its huge fan base.”

Whatever the case may be for Re:Zero’s number one spot, Crunchyroll’s list is an interesting — and surprising — look into what anime fans were into this year. Tumblr has its own, very different list of anime that maintained huge fandoms this year, offering yet another perspective. Yuri on Ice was the most popular new series to make the list on Tumblr’s “Fandometrics” blog, while Re:Zero is absent entirely.