Yata’s 2017 Anime Year in Review / Top 10

Another year’s here, another year’s in the rear-view mirror. Even though my 2017 personally ended up less stressful than the previous few years, I still wouldn’t argue the notion that this past year was overwhelming, pessimistic, and frustrating.

…well, except for anime. I ended up watching more anime this year than I had in long time, and a lot of it was fantastic! From airing titles alone, I completed roughly 40 series and attempted around 30 more. Add to that a handful of superb movies and for me this year was anime’s best in recent memory in terms of both quantity and quality.

Whether you have a casual interest in anime or you breathe this stuff like oxygen, someone seasoned in ani-culture or someone completely oblivious to it, my goal with this spoiler-free 2017 Anime Year in Review is to give you a concise guide to everything I checked out from the past year and supply you with just enough background for you to determine whether or not you might dig each title. Obviously my opinions are subjective to my own personal preferences, and keep in mind that this is the one time each year where I really double down on the stuff I loved and hated. If you liked something I despised or vice versa, do not view any of what follows as a personal attack. It’s just my quick, probably oversimplified thoughts.

So here’s how we’ll do this. Instead of ranking every single show, half of which I didn’t even finish, we’ll leave the detailed, numerical spots to the top 10 and sort everything else by tiers of similar quality. Starting with shows I dropped after just an episode or two, we’ll work our way up from the most atrocious offerings to the most tolerable. After that comes the completed titles, using the same “worst to best” approach. I’ll also highlight some anime films that came out/I saw this year before rounding this off with more in-depth thoughts for my top 10.

Sound like a plan? I’m ready if you are. It’s not everything under the sun, but here’s what my 2017 in anime was like. Enjoy the walk down memory lane.


STUFF I DROPPED:

SOMEHOW LESS CHARMING THAN A TRUMP TWEET: CHARRED, INEDIBLE COVFEFES

(L-R) Hand Shakers, Sagrada Reset, Lights of the Clione, Eromanga-Sensei

Look, I co-run an anime blog. I know the reputation of this medium and I’ve long since made my peace with being blown off by some people who think all anime is subversive trash. It’s not true, obviously.

But then I stumble across shows like these and start second-guessing.

I’d tell you the plot to Hand Shakers, but there isn’t much point in that since the show is such a mess it legitimately gave me and many other brave souls nausea. Its week in the limelight quickly came and went after anime fans everywhere simply tried to see how far they could get without cringing or vomiting, and awkward bondage scenes didn’t help either.

A slight step up from that, I didn’t want to puke from Sagrada Reset, just punch a hole through my laptop screen. Supposedly about some kids who get into sci-fi shenanigans in a town where everyone has a mundane superpower, most of the characters just expressionlessly waxed nonsensical philosophy with one another. Its dialogue resembled something akin to what an alien tasked with mimicking human interaction would try writing. In other words, Sagrada Reset looked like it couldn’t possibly in a million years actually tell a convincing or coherent story.

I admittedly didn’t get far enough into Lights of the Clione to say it suffered from the same problems, but it seemed to fall into a similar rut with a brutally bullied girl as its main focus. And that short may have been soulless and crass, but it ain’t got nothin’ on Eromanga-Sensei, a shameless re-hash of incest rom-com writer Tsukasa Fushimi’s previous hit OreImo. I’m no pure-hearted saint, but I do have some standards, and even I couldn’t be led into that one.

OUT OF THE FRYING PAN, WE BOTH KNOW WHERE THIS IS GOING

(L-R) The Saga of Tanya the Evil, Masamune-kun’s Revenge, Anonymous Noise, Blend S, Love Tyrant

Unlike those first four abominations, I held a smidgen of hope after trying all these titles, granted you’d probably need a microscope to locate it. The Saga of Tanya the Evil supposedly ended up being a mockery of its own premise, though after seeing a shrimpy man in a young girl’s body lead a magical WWI-era German fleet on a rampage through the countryside, I promptly gave it a pass.

Not to be outdone, Masamune-kun’s Revenge starred two of the most mean-spirited protagonists I’ve seen from any anime this year, and it didn’t even involve war…unless you count a deep, painful grudge between vain high-schoolers a war. Again, did the show follow their path to redemption? Probably, but fuck watching those kids for more than a minute at a time.

Speaking of edgy teens, can I interest you in the Hop Topic-certified (probably) Anonymous Noise? It’s got ugly CG, even uglier 2D, and a girl who wants to sing in a rock band, except she traumatically breaks down to the first note of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

Me? I only break down at the first note of Blend S’ opening theme song. After it became a viral meme, I gave the kink café show a one-episode chance, and it quickly blew it with sluggish writing, a generally lifeless cast, and overall creep vibes. The exact opposite, Love Tyrant was a brash adrenaline rush and…well, no, it was still pretty creepy too, but in a “how did this exaggerated harem cryogenically freeze itself from the mid-2000s and rear its ugly head now?” sort of way.

EVEN PEPPERIDGE FARM DOESN’T REMEMBER THIS BATCH

(L-R, top to bottom) Fuuka, Hinako Note, Urara Meirochou, Dive!!, Two Car, Clean Freak! Aoyama-kun

If there’s any praise I can give the previous anime listed, it’s that they were all so poor I was at least able to recall them by name. The same unfortunately can’t be said for this bunch, all of which I forgot about while compiling my first draft of this recap.

Unremarkable rom-com? Fuuka. Unremarkable moe-blob slice-of-life? Hinako Note. Some bastardization of a cute girls doing cute things show with really strange fanservice? Urara Meirochou has that covered. And of course, there’s the trifecta of aggressively on-the-nose sports shows, Dive!! (about divers), Two Car (about sidecar racers), and Clean Freak! Aoyama-kun, which…yeah, it’s about a clean freak named Aoyama, you got it. He plays soccer too, though apparently that wasn’t important enough to throw in the title. All these shows are probably watchable, but good luck remembering anything more about them than what I just told you.

FOR FUCK’S SAKE, YATA, GET ON WITH IT

(L-R, top to bottom) Onihei, 18if, Konohana Kitan, Elegant Youkai Apartment Life, The Royal Tutor, The Laughing Salesman NEW

All in good time, be patient! If it’s any consolation, we’re finally at the level of “probably tolerable but not really for me” shows, stuff I think at least someone out there might respond kindly to.

If you like Japanese period dramas with swordfightin’ police, Onihei seemed salvageable. Dig arthouse-y psychological thrillers? 18if appeared intriguing, if inconsistent. Fancy some cute girls with fox ears working at an inn? If so, Konohana Kitan aims to please. Elegant Youkai Apartment Life didn’t really establish much of its own personality, but fans of chilled-out monster shows like Natsume’s Book of Friends may find something worthwhile in it.

What little I saw of The Royal Tutor was mildly silly too, a series about a bunch of rotten princes belittling their short, stoic teacher. They probably wouldn’t have gotten very far in the universe of The Laughing Salesman NEW, a reboot of a 60’s manga where a devilish businessman lures unsuspecting people into soul-stealing traps and expects us to laugh along at their misery. It’s admittedly executed well and tells its stories with confidence, but the messages at its core were a relic from another (more heartless) social era, so that one swiftly ended up in my trash bin too.

THE PART WHERE EVERYONE GETS REALLY MAD AT ME

(L-R) Inuyashiki, Kino’s Journey (2017), Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu, Re:Creators, The Idolm@ster Side M

For better or worse, almost nothing I’ve mentioned thus far was actually hyped up or widely watched during the seasons it aired. This is where that sort of changes. Body horror sci-fi Inuyashiki piled on the edge a little too hard for my tastes and to me the 2017 return of Kino’s Journey felt like a sheepish imitation of everything I heard was laudable about its first season.

The anthropomorphic swords of Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu weren’t up my alley despite studio Ufotable’s pretty art, Re:Creators’ heavy reliance on otaku meta-humor just didn’t vibe with me, and I admittedly wanted to check out The Idolm@ster Side M at the last minute, but after its prologue and first episode, I just didn’t see myself finishing it before year’s end. I generally don’t have much interest in the idol phenomenon anyway and this effort didn’t click with me quick enough to make me reconsider my feelings towards it either. Someday…

I TRIED SO HARD, AND GOT NOT VERY FAR BUT STILL SORTA FAR

(L-R) Gabriel DropOut, Fastest Finger First, Restaurant to Another World, WorldEnd, A Centaur’s Life

And before we jump into what I completed, there’s this limbo zone of shit I actually continued for a fair number of episodes before discarding. Gabriel DropOut was cheeky and fun for a little while, but its repetitive, predictable devil-angel gags grew old quicker than I’d hoped. Fastest Finger First initially sold me on its competitive trivia game shtick, but its bland cast also wore on me after a few weeks.

Restaurant to Another Worlds two-part mini-stories about fantasy universe denizens discovering human food was kind of neat at first, but it just became more and more monotonous by the episode. Ditto for WorldEnd: What Do You Do At The End of the World? Are You Busy? Will You Save Us?, whose utterly ridiculous name remains the most memorable thing it had going for it. Still, it managed a stunning pilot episode, which was also the only reason I stuck around with A Centaur’s Life for more than a week, as that one quickly devolved into an aimless, tedious, and often incoherent production with dreadfully inept political “commentary.”

STUFF I COMPLETED

IT JUST TAKES SOME TIME: I MAY HAVE FINISHED THESE, BUT YOU PROBABLY SHOULDN’T

(L-R, top to bottom) The Reflection, Children of the Whales, Love and Lies, Welcome to the Ballroom, Grimoire of Zero, Kakegurui

Worst anime I finished this year? That’s a toss-up between The Reflection and Children of the Whales. The Reflection at least didn’t promise much: with stilted animation and a run-of-the-mill superhero premise, this production felt like the Stan Lee comic it probably should’ve been, unfit for twelve weeks of shoddy animation. Children of the Whales, meanwhile, was certainly original and looked beautiful, but it couldn’t tell a compelling tale to save its life, with awful narrative turns and gratuitous violence dictating the lives of an outcast ship’s inhabitants on a sea of sand.

The concept was great, but it didn’t build anything out of it, a problem shared by Love and Lies, a harem in which some milquetoast boy with a passion for burial mounds ends up torn between his childhood crush or a marriage partner the government assigned to him. I’ll spare you the middling: in the end, he chooses both, satisfying absolutely nobody. Even though it looked great on the surface, Welcome to the Ballroom was also a consistent disappointment, taking a unique sport (competitive ballroom dance) and failing to imbue its characters with charm or the activity itself with any semblance of passion.

Considerably more tolerable (though still just the best of the worst), the fantasy adventure Grimoire of Zero was barely held together by its strong core romance and let down by nearly every other one of its superfluous elements. Kakegurui takes the cake though: its sexually-charged gambling provided a fun popcorn ride, albeit far from a well-written one, poorly-explained wagers seriously hindering the drama’s pull.

IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RIDE: LUCKY SEVENS

(L-R, top to bottom) Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul, Interviews with Monster Girls, The Ancient Magus’ Bride, Urahara, Gamers!, Scum’s Wish, Neo Yokio, Kemono Friends

If you had told me back in August that Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul (which for about 75% of its run was an absolute blast of a fantasy series) would end up this far down the list, I’d have probably called you a heretic and tried to have you executed. Wait, scratch that, that’s what the show’s antagonist would’ve done. “Oh, but his genocide was for the good of humanity, he was a good guy all along!” Fuck that, no thanks. That the rest of BahaSoul still evens its shitty ending out speaks to just how fun it was for months on end before imploding in its homestretch.

But that negativity is alone here, as we’ve finally reached the point where I’d recommend any of these shows, even if not super passionately. Interviews With Monster Girls was a charming and humorous high-school slice-of-life about demi-humans, the ongoing The Ancient Magus’ Bride (final verdict coming next year) is a plenty watchable title about a young mage searching for self-worth, and Urahara was an artsy take on the artistic process itself wrapped up in a bright, magical girl show exterior. Gamers! was a love triangle gem containing surprisingly mild gamer-dom and a shitload of silly situations. For romance fans who want something a bit more serious, there’s Scum’s Wish, an uneven ride that explored and ultimately decried relationships way more toxic and explicit than you see in your average anime rom-com. An overstuffed middle arc aside, it was an ambitious and successful adaptation.

And then there’s the pseudo-“anime” (it was produced by Studio Deen and Production I.G., it counts) Neo Yokio. Written by Ezra Koenig and starring Jaden Smith, the Adult Swim-primed tongue-in-cheek commentary on wealth through the eyes of an elitist kid navigating an even more elitist society was brash, meme-able, and looked like a group of only 10 or so people worked on it. That last part also describes Kemono Friends, an extremely low-budget zoo mystery adventure about the power of friendship that took the anime community by storm for how it over-exceeded all expectations. I wasn’t as blown away by it as most people were, but it was nonetheless a charming, kids-friendly story. Hell, even the actual animals liked it!

Rest in peace, brother.

EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING WILL BE JUST FINE: WHOLESOME SEASONAL FODDER

(L-R, top to bottom) Kado: The Right Answer, Alice & Zouroku, ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept., Princess Principal, Tsuki ga Kirei, Recovery of an MMO Junkie

None of the shows in this section were highlights of their respective seasons, but they also didn’t disappoint. I’m sure some people are already bolting out of their chairs from the inclusion of Kado: The Right Answer here, and I’ll admit its final act was a tonal curveball, but I found its central quandary, pondering what we would do if an alien came to Earth and offered us the tools to unravel space-time as we know it, absolutely fascinating.

Alice & Zouroku is also sure to raise some eyebrows, but if you can get past the routinely messy production, it’s a warmhearted take on mental illness and isolation in children…with interdimensional travel and secret government agents. You know, the good shit. If you’re looking for something overtly political that doesn’t defy the laws of physics, ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept. is a fabulous, artsy slow-burning drama and spy thriller wrapped into one, while the exhilarating Princess Principal is basically a Victorian steampunk Totally Spies, and just as fun a time as that sounds.

If all of those seem a bit too crazy for you though, there’s always Tsuki ga Kirei, one of the most wholesome, down to earth, and adorable middle-school romance anime I’ve ever seen. And if you’re a little beyond that phase of your life but still want the lovey mood, Recovery of an MMO Junkie was also delightful, a show about a 30-year-old shut-in’s chance romantic encounters in her online social sphere.

EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT: THE SEQUELS

(L-R) Attack on Titan Season 2, Food Wars: The Third Plate, Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond, KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World! 2, New Game!! (Season 2)

Like every year, I won’t be excluding exceptional sequels from my Top 10, but the rest fall here, and they’re conveniently more or less on par with one another. Attack on Titan Season 2 is the least noteworthy of the bunch for me, mostly because I just don’t feel too invested in the franchise anymore, but it made for an entertaining enough two-night marathon. Less Eren never hurts, and in general I liked its wider focus on some of the side characters.

A step up from that, Food Wars: The Third Plate’s first cour failed to shine as brightly as the series’ other two seasons, but it still brought forth some glorious foodporn and exaggerated narrative developments worthy of expansion in its upcoming second half this spring. Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond was one of my biggest wild cards, and I feared previous director Rie Matsumoto’s departure from the project might lead to its downfall, but instead it made itself comfortable as a more episodic, comedic counterpoint to the show’s more dramatic first season.

The title of Most Improved Sequel comes down to a tie between KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World! 2 and New Game!! (Season 2) though, both of which had widely-praised 2016 runs but didn’t shine for me until this year, the former really ramping up its comedic hit ratio and the latter doubling down on its compelling workplace competitiveness. A few even better sequels will come up later, but their respective first seasons were already great—it was these last two titles which really rose to the occasion in do-or-die time.

YOU WOULDN’T DOWNLOAD A COMET: MOVIES

(L-R) Napping Princess, The Dragon Dentist, The Night is Short – Walk on Girl, Your Name., A Silent Voice

Before we get to the honorable mention TV series, I think we’re far enough up the list now to throw in the movies. From a narrative standpoint, Napping Princess was the weakest of the lot I saw, but I’m a sucker for good family dramas, lucid dream sci-fi elements, and cross-country chase sequences, and boy did it deliver on those fronts. The Dragon Dentist was technically a pair of roughly 45-minute specials, but combined it added up to one very visceral film-length abstraction which I’ve already proudly written a ton about, so check that out.

No less dizzying but way more light-hearted, Masaaki Yuasa and Tomihiko Morimi’s return collaboration (the two had previously directed and written The Tatami Galaxy) with The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl was an empowering ode to spontaneity, set over the course of a wild night in a college area of Kyoto. It’s wacky, loud, and a total hoot, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you really should. I didn’t get the chance to catch Yuasa’s other 2017 effort Lu Over The Wall or the late-2016 war tale In This Corner of the World, but I have a hard time believing anything could’ve beat The Night Is Short… for the spot of my favorite anime film of the year.

That said, in addition to In This Corner, two of the most critically-acclaimed anime movies of all time came out in Japan the year prior, and after I finally caught them as they made their way to American theaters this past April and October, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name. and Naoko Yamada’s adaptation of A Silent Voice. With jaw-dropping visual beauty and enough narrative gut-punches to make even the most callous of souls shed a tear, these two films may not be flawless, but they deserve all the praise they’ve received and then some. Personally, it was also an absolute pleasure to go to each showing with friends who enjoyed them just as much as I did, something I’d never had the chance to do before this year. Of all the ani-things I did in 2017, those memories stick out as the most meaningful.

OKAY, SERIOUSLY, WE’RE ALMOST THERE: HONORABLE MENTIONS

(L-R) Little Witch Academia, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, Juuni Taisen: Zodiac War, Kubikiri Cycle, Just Because!

And last but not least, let’s give a round of applause to these wonderful honorable mentions! If this year were any weaker, some (maybe even all) of these could’ve snuck into the top 10, and I’d wholeheartedly recommend anybody who skipped them to rectify that.

Of this lot, Little Witch Academia is deservedly the most acclaimed, a journey of a young witch-in-training who refuses to let her drought of talent get in the way of her dreams. Inventive, flashy, and one of the most Western-friendly anime in a long time, it pains me to leave LWA this low, but don’t let something that arbitrary discourage you from giving it a shot. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid was also revered with good reason: Kyoto Animation’s unmatched knack for comedic timing and strong direction came in clutch here, elevating a goofy collection of skits into a truly exceptional one that also stressed the importance of family and compassion.

The love-him-or-hate-him light novel author Nisio Isin also had two new series of his adapted this year, the uncharacteristically action-packed battle royale Juuni Taisen: Zodiac War and Kubikiri Cycle, a series of OVAs whose murder mystery paved the way for the writer’s trademark longwinded dialogue and psychological interrogations. Those clearly won’t be for everybody, but Just Because! has wider appeal, a slice-of-life with a delightful cast that brilliantly captures that low-key, bittersweet “I’m about to enter ‘the real world’ and nothing feels right” mood. It might be anime’s most realistic take on that awkward transition in a long time, honestly.

And at last, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. My top ten anime of the year of our Lord, two-thousand and sevente-

I CAN FEEL THE DEPRAVITY IN MY PANTS


Pffffft, sike. I couldn’t possibly put Seiren in the top ten, but…where else could I put it? It’s not actually good, but it’s not exceptionally bad either. Most accurately, it’s so middle-of-the-road that it supersedes its own averageness. A lot of media is only what you make of it, and here at For Great Justice, we made Seiren a personal sensation, a building block of the site’s lore for how it achieved a staggering sense of unreality that left us speechless. The show is basically three four-episode arcs in which its unassuming protagonist Shouichi Kamita finds himself with the hots for a different girl: the aggressively flirty Hikari Tsuneki, the gamer girl Toru Miyamae, and his childhood friend Kyouko Touno. The stories aren’t even linearly related with one another, each involving the same cast set in separate timelines. In other words, it took the visual novel route in animated form, and like a visual novel adaptation (though it isn’t one), the romances themselves aren’t particularly convincing or special.

But Seiren’s charm isn’t in its actual plot or characters, it’s in its overall presentation, its distillation of the most tiresome anime rom-com tropes and its exaggeration of mundane events to the point that almost every line feels like it could be an inside joke. In this regard, Seiren turns its blandness into something truly memorable: it has a weird fascination with deer, euphemisms, and insanely niche kinks, and it isn’t shy about them. After a while, I started to feel like the whole thing was one giant gag—a gag that did its best to nudge me in on the action—and while I wasn’t entirely there with it, I was closer to understanding it than I feel like I should’ve been.

I’m not super strict when it comes to rating anime, but I at least feel like I know where I should rank something 99% of the time. Seiren is a rare exception, a series I greatly enjoyed and whose merits I can’t actually quantify, for it is worth nothing and everything at the same time. All I can say is that if you let it, its depravity might make a begrudging fan out of you too.

Might, but probably not.

And that’s really all the buildup. Here are my top 10 anime of the year. Dub status refers to English-language dubs and licensing status/legal streaming status refers to American licensing/streaming deals. All info should be accurate as of this article’s publish date, though bear in mind corporate deals like these are always subject to unexpected changes.

THE TOP 10

#10 – TSUREZURE CHILDREN

Studio: Gokumi
Director: Hiraku Kaneko
Episodes: 12
Based on: 4-koma manga series by Toshiya Wakabayashi
Legal streaming sites: Crunchyroll, Funimation
Licensing status: Licensed by Funimation
Dub status: Dubbed
Alternate name: Tsuredure Children

WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Tsurezure Children’s source material and adaptation are an anomaly in this top ten. Its episode length is roughly half that of a normal TV anime’s and it’s based off a 4-koma manga, which is essentially the Japanese equivalent of the four-panel newspaper comic strip. Each episode is then split into another 3 or 4 skits with a revolving door of protagonists, most of whom show up more than once, but rarely in consecutive episodes. As such, Tsurezure Children’s not really “about” any single one of them, but their collective adolescent experience, following a cast of 20-some high-schoolers and their crushes and relationships.

WHY I LIKED IT
Short answer? It’s absolutely hilarious. Tsurezure Children is a comedy goldmine. From rambunctious slapstick to understated, dialogue-heavy exchanges, its sense of humor is diverse and well-honed. Few anime have ever consistently made me laugh several times per episode, and this is one of them.

Its appeal runs even deeper than that, though. As a bundle of stories about relationships, many of which are its characters’ firsts, the show treats everyone’s insecurities with a great deal of respect. Most of the situations these folks find themselves in are witty or strange enough on their own without needing to get aggressive. But Tsurezure Children also doesn’t try to paint every single one of its relationships as pristine; there are a few where one partner exhibits unhealthy, clingy tendencies and a couple rare moments where things escalate without consent. And thankfully, the series understands that these are not jokes but legitimately harmful to somebody’s boundaries and sense of trust. It portrays the mistakes for what they are and when their perpetrators realize what they’ve done, they seek to make amends. Sounds serious, I know, but nothing’s too threatening and the fact that Tsurezure Children can handle this deeper characterization side-by-side with lung-bursting comedy and not feel insensitive is impressive.

ANY CAVEATS?
Though Tsurezure Children‘s cast is handled remarkably well for its size, that size is a double-edged sword, because with only one cour of 12-minute episodes to work with, not every couple receives equal screentime. Some promising characters are seen early then never again. Others disproportionately pop up in almost every other episode. And even as late as the finale, Tsurezure Children’s still introducing new additions. That finale doesn’t feel like a true conclusion as a result, but understandably so. With several more manga collections’ worth of material to adapt, this animated version of the franchise is but a sample platter of its charms.

FINAL REMARKS
I haven’t delved into Tsurezure Children’s manga yet, but only because I’m holding out hope a little while longer for a second season. Any show whose primary downside is “there’s not enough of it” is a good show indeed, and Tsurezure Children capitalizes on its best characters and a wealth of hilarious reactions to stand out as one of the best anime comedies of the decade.

#9 – MY HERO ACADEMIA 2ND SEASON

Studio: Bones
Director: Kenji Nagasaki
Episodes: 25
Based on: Manga series by Kouhei Horikoshi
Legal streaming sites: Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu
Licensing status: Licensed by Funimation
Dub status: Dubbed
Alternate names: Boku no Hero Academia 2nd Season, HeroAca

WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Izuku “Deku” Midoriya was born without a Quirk in a world where a majority of people command some sort of superpower. Through a chance encounter, Deku’s hero All Might bestows him with the super-strength of One For All and he’s accepted into U.A., the #1 high school for prospective full-time heroes. My Hero Academia’s generally enjoyable first season aired in spring 2016, but its 2-cour sequel this year really ramped up the excitement and allowed the franchise to come into its own as one of the most popular anime of the decade.

WHY I LIKED IT
For better or worse, My Hero Academia’s first season was a by-the-books superhero shounen. Solid fundamentals and an endearing cast (the grape who shall not be named aside) were enough to get me to tune in for a second one. And I’m so glad I did, ‘cause with a lengthy, competitively friendly tournament arc that handed the spotlight to tens of other wonderful characters and a collection of deeper personal conflicts in MHA2’s second half, this sequel improved upon every ounce of promise its predecessor had. What’s more, as someone who wasn’t around during the years of the shounen Big Three (Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece) and never really cared for them after the fact, it was a joy to live alongside the hype of an ongoing shounen masterpiece in the making.

ANY CAVEATS?
Well, first there’s the obvious: this is a sequel, and my recommendation is irrelevant if you haven’t seen its first season. I suppose its villains aren’t the most intriguing individuals either, and there’s still occasionally room for improvement in regards to the adaptation’s pacing, but even then, both those complaints are considerably less of a problem than they were in HeroAca’s first go.

FINAL REMARKS
If you haven’t seen any My Hero Academia, I highly recommend you give the franchise a whirl. Whether you’re a fan of action, drama, or comedy, there’s something in MHA for you, and this second season is a noteworthy refinement of its successes. A third season is slated to come out this spring too, so hop on before you fall too far behind!

#8 – SAKURA QUEST

Studio: P.A. Works
Director: Souichi Masui
Episodes: 25
Based on: N/A, anime-original
Legal streaming sites: Crunchyroll, Funimation
Licensing status: Licensed by Funimation
Dub status: Dubbed
Alternate name: N/A

WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Recent college grad Yoshino Koharu is trying her best but just can’t land a job in Tokyo. The only offer that comes to her is a spot on the tourism board of Manoyama, an aging, economically-challenged small town in the sticks. See, Manoyama tried creating “The Kingdom of Chupakabura” as an attraction, and now the desperate tourism board needs someone to play the role of its Queen. They weren’t even looking for Yoshino specifically, but with nowhere else to turn and vague memories of going there as a kid, she accepts the year-long stint, a few other young women joining her along the way as she and the tourism board try to make Manoyama profitable again.

WHY I LIKED IT
I was jobless myself when Sakura Quest first came out, and that immediately warmed me to Yoshino’s struggle. But this show isn’t about her desire to find a place of belonging alone, it’s about Manoyama as a community. My own hometown is also strikingly similar to Manoyama: it’s got a declining CBD surrounded by some residential neighborhoods and farms, slowly being taken over by chain businesses, and it was even recently voted the “most boring” town in my state. It’s fared better in recent years, but one thing I noticed early in Sakura Quest struck close to home: Manoyama’s a town by definition, not in practice. Most of its residents only wanted to be left alone and rarely brought outside revenue in, much less actually tried to bolster the town’s well-being outright. And they certainly didn’t like their village idiot and a bunch of millennial outsiders telling them what they should do differently.

As a result, Sakura Quest’s first half was frustrating and depressing. Yoshino and the Tourism Board wanted to help Manoyama, but they couldn’t figure out a way to satisfy everybody’s wishes. Even worse, many of the Manoyamans were disinterested or skeptical about change, however small. But through a series of failed promotional stunts and community exercises, they warmed not just to the board but also each other. Sakura Quest’s two stories—the girls’ personal ones and the town’s road to recovery—are inextricably connected, and as they each find themselves in a much better place than they did a year ago, they also feel like they have a home to share their happiness in. It doesn’t build that inviting space out of thin air—the work getting there is grueling and slow—but that just makes the reward taste so much sweeter. As a result, it also speaks true to what living in a tired community feels like, why it’s limiting, and the realistic hurdles anyone hoping to make it better faces. The characters themselves were a lovely, diverse bunch (Sandal-san is my favorite character of the year, in fact), but that’s just icing on the cake.

ANY CAVEATS?
I can’t overstate enough just how numbing the first half of this series is. On the characters’ behalf, it’s a string of constant disappointments, and few of the individual characters truly come into their own until around the halfway point. Sakura Quest’s art is also rather muted for a P.A. Works show, which is fine to convey the dusty, forgotten nature of Manoyama at first, but the character animation also suffers at points as a result.

FINAL REMARKS
The slow build is absolutely worth it if you’re patient though. Sakura Quest’s rural revitalization addresses an ongoing dilemma within Japan, but even if its specific premise doesn’t strike a chord with you, there’s a good chance the girls’ individual paths towards self-discovery will. It’s an uneven watch for sure, but it always strides with a heart of gold, and in the end, that’s what comes out on top.

#7 – OWARIMONOGATARI 2ND SEASON

Studio: SHAFT
Directors: Tomoyuki Itamura and Akiyuki Shinbo
Episodes: 7
Based on: Light novel series by Nisio Isin
Legal streaming site: Crunchyroll
Licensing status: Licensed by Aniplex of America
Dub status: Not dubbed
Alternate name: N/A

WHAT IT’S ABOUT
The Monogatari series (of which this is the bajillionth installment, new viewers cannot start here) follows a boy named Koyomi Araragi as he “saves” various strangers from apparitions reflective of their mental hang-ups. In Owarimonogatari 2nd Season, the supposed end of it all, he confronts his own thought processes. Saying any more than that would stray into spoilers, so I’ll do my best to remain vague here.

WHY I LIKED IT
As much as I appreciate the Monogatari series, I’ve never been a diehard fan. It’s one of those franchises I’m rarely in the mood for, but if I can just force myself to start, I always get sucked in. Gotta reward its consistency if nothing else, and Owarimonogatari 2nd Season did good on the show’s promise to dissect Koyomi’s savior tendencies from the inside out. It featured a superb reveal of a character’s true identity, tied off a few loose threads from other subplots throughout the series, and true to its name, finally felt like a proper conclusion. Many of Monogatari’s arcs fizzle out like the chapters in an ongoing narrative they are, and it was incredibly fulfilling to see it seal the stamp with firmer finality on its main character’s development.

ANY CAVEATS?
For anime’s standards, Owari 2 looks wonderful. For Monogatari standards, it definitely could’ve dared to come up with a more original visual identity, but not every arc of the show warrants that, I guess. I’ve never been a fan of Koyomi and Mayoi’s brand of banter either, and there’s a bit of that in this installment, but just as Owari 2 is an encapsulation of everything about Monogatari, it’s befitting that my occasional pesky nitpicks with it remain too. Also, I think it goes without saying, but you need to watch hundreds of episodes worth of Monogatari to ascertain the full gravity of what happens here. I found that worthwhile and many others did too, but this franchise is one of the most divisive out there, and I cannot promise that you will take kindly to it.

FINAL REMARKS
I definitely did though, because even a poor season of Monogatari tends to be pretty satisfying, and this one truly capped off the franchise’s main story with grace. Some extra material will be coming our way in 2018, but Owari 2nd Season gave me all I really needed to feel like my time with Koyomi and co. was worth it.

#6 – MADE IN ABYSS

Studio: Kinema Citrus
Director: Masayuki Kojima
Episodes: 13
Based on: Web manga by Akihito Tsukushi
Legal streaming site: Amazon
Licensing status: Licensed by Sentai Filmworks
Dub status: Not dubbed
Alternate name: N/A

WHAT IT’S ABOUT
On the island of Orth, there exists a giant chasm referred to as the Abyss. Orth’s society revolves around it: prestigious Cave Raiders risk dangerous trips in and out to bring back the riches it hides and are revered as local heroes if successful. One day while roaming about in the Abyss’ shallowest layer, 12-year-old Riko discovers a humanoid, amnesiac robot named Reg and carries him back to the surface. Not long after, the two are made aware of a letter from Riko’s mother, Lyza, who instructs them that she’s waiting at the Abyss’ bottom…which no one has ever returned from. The pair then sets off to meet her, risking life and limb as they descend without permission.

WHY I LIKED IT
Made In Abyss is ridiculously well-rounded. Its worldbuilding is the most obvious highlight, with rich folklore, breathtaking scenery, and traces of a conspiracy always lingering just out of sight. Those strengths are audibly evoked in Kevin Penkin’s score too, which for me is handily the best anime OST of the year and dramatically elevates virtually every second of the show. Then there are the characters themselves: Riko and Reg are a joy to follow around, the former a brash, overconfident leader and the latter an enigmatic and powerful but timid foil. The creatures and fellow adventurers they meet in the Abyss are just as weird, the people no less concerning than the wilderness. Made In Abyss is a constant ride.

ANY CAVEATS?
Now I’ve tried my best to make Made In Abyss seem like the generally enjoyable adventure it is, but there’s an undercurrent of despair in this show and it rears its head hard during the last few episodes. Some people were really thrown off by it, but I don’t feel like anything shown is too tasteless or excessive, only reinforcing the potentially-deadly consequences of rummaging through the Abyss. Still, if blood and suffering are huge turn-offs, you might want to second-guess this. The main characters also have a dumb fascination with waste and sex organs, but then again, so do most tweens, and they are of that age.

FINAL REMARKS
I would also mention the series’ inconclusive ending, but thankfully a second season of Abyss has already been greenlit, and with the cliffhangers this show brought forth, I can’t wait to see the story continue. Made In Abyss is an enveloping experience. If you love happy-turned-grisly adventure series, this is a classic in the making.

#5 – LAND OF THE LUSTROUS

Studio: Orange
Director: Takahiko Kyogoku
Episodes: 12
Based on: Manga series by Haruko Ichikawa
Legal streaming site: Amazon
Licensing status: Licensed by Sentai Filmworks
Dub status: Not dubbed
Alternate name: Houseki no Kuni

WHAT IT’S ABOUT
On an island inhabited by sentient, immortal, humanoid gemstones, Phosphophyllite (Phos for short) is a young, weak, and generally obnoxious wannabe-warrior with little to do. Their master Kongo tasks them with writing an encyclopedia, which leads Phos on a mission of self-discovery as the gems battle the enigmatic Lunarians and start losing some of their own. Phos soon realizes that sacrificing their personality might not be what they really wanted, and there’s more to this society than they ever knew.

WHY I LIKED IT
I can almost guarantee you’ve never seen an anime quite like Land of the Lustrous. For one, it’s Studio Orange’s big break, making a name for CG in a way that far outshines any other CG production in recent years. It doesn’t compensate for its 3D feel because it thrives with it, compiling shots and scenes that would be nigh-impossible to animate traditionally. The cast’s inhuman quality makes Land of the Lustrous a prime show to flex this with too, as the gems’ twiggy, crystalline construction by default feels like something alien. The show’s shot composition is also incredible, emphasizing space with a vibrant array of hues bringing out the landscape’s beauty. LandLust is a ceaselessly incredible thing to look at.

And it’s just as gripping as a story. At first, Phos’ sarcastic wit (brought to life by voice actress extraordinaire Tomoyo Kurasawa) is the best thing the show has going for it. But not long after, the universe’s rich, enthralling lore and darker undertones make Land of the Lustrous one of the most thrilling adventures in anime all year. Phos’ arc of growth constantly presses forward, but not always positively—they lose limbs, memories, and allies along the way, and by the time the show ends, though they end up treasured and competent, they also feel traumatized and alone. The gradual build to that point in turn raises some fascinating questions about utilitarianism and leaves the audience to its own conclusions.

ANY CAVEATS?
The gems shatter pretty often, and though I’d never call it “gorey,” there’s certainly an element of that throughout Land of the Lustrous that might make the squeamish squirm. The show’s also not truly over – there’s a ton of material from the manga left to adapt, and few of the series’ plot threads are actually wrapped up in these 12 episodes. But its finale still satisfies thematically, and with the popularity it amassed this last fall, I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a second season sometime soon.

FINAL REMARKS
Without giving away too many details on Land of the Lustrous’ overarching plot, I can promise you that this show will give you a ton of emotional whiplash and leave you on the edge of your seat. Its craftsmanship as a production is also practically unparalleled with any television anime from 2017, taking CG anime to new heights and breathing life into a totally unique universe.

#4 – THE ECCENTRIC FAMILY 2

Studio: P.A. Works
Director: Masayuki Yoshihara
Episodes: 12
Based on: Novel by Tomihiko Morimi
Legal streaming site: Crunchyroll
Licensing status: Unlicensed
Dub status: Not dubbed
Alternate name: Uchouten Kazoku 2

WHAT IT’S ABOUT
In The Eccentric Family’s first season, the shape-shifting tanuki Shimogamo family learns the truth about their patriarch’s death at the hands of a group of humans called The Friday Fellows. Third Shimogamo son Yasaburou has a bit of a crush on one of their members, a cold beauty nicknamed Benten, and also takes care of an elderly tengu professor, Akadama, who taught Benten his ways. In The Eccentric Family 2, Akadama’s son, the Nidaime, returns to town, reigniting a grudge that Yasaburou and the Shimogamos get caught up in yet again.

WHY I LIKED IT
The Eccentric Family is one of my favorite anime of all time. Its quirky cast, stunning art, and heart-wrenching story were a joy to revisit across several re-watches, and my excitement for a sequel was only equalled by my fear that there might not be anywhere natural to take the story. For all intents and purposes, The Eccentric Family’s first season capped off its central conflict perfectly—it didn’t need a continuation, and more worryingly, to create one at all, it would need a new set of antagonists that could stand alongside the still-active Fellows and a few other shadowy figures as worthy enemies. Furthermore, it couldn’t backtrack and rob the cast of what made them such a lively, enjoyable bunch to begin with.

And it somehow succeeded. The Eccentric Family 2 builds off the background details of its first season with a slew of new developments, all of which feel organic and in-character. Its finest moments touched all areas of the franchise’s wide tonal reach. There were tasteful reprisals of events from season one, plot twists I should’ve seen coming from miles away, and adorable moments of downtime. Most importantly, The Eccentric Family’s effortless worldbuilding and mastery of mood were a constant, even among side characters and scenes of low-stakes ambling.

ANY CAVEATS?
Though I’m building The Eccentric Family 2 up as a worthy successor, there are two catches inherent in that. First, it is a sequel, and no, you cannot enter the franchise here. Nor should you anyway, because The Eccentric Family’s first season is still ultimately the better story. This addition is a blast, and its conclusion is fulfilling enough, but it certainly rushes a couple last-minute incidents.

FINAL REMARKS
One of the show’s primary messages is that “a fun thing is a good thing,” and The Eccentric Family 2 was more fun than it had any business being. It expanded upon the first season’s world, cast, and themes without retreading too hard or spinning its wheels in place. I sure as hell don’t take that for granted.

#3 – MARCH COMES IN LIKE A LION (SEASON 1)

Studio: SHAFT
Directors: Kenjirou Okada and Akiyuki Shinbo
Episodes: 22
Based on: Manga series by Chica Umino
Legal streaming site: Crunchyroll
Licensing status: Licensed by Aniplex of America
Dub status: Dubbed
Alternate names: 3-gatsu no Lion, Sangatsu no Lion

WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Rei Kiriyama is a professional shogi player. He’s also only 17 years old, with his biological family dead and ties with his adopted family strained. An outcast at school, living alone, and deeply depressed, he slowly recovers over the course of March Comes In Like a Lion, befriending his counselor, some shogi rivals, and a caring family of sisters who lend an ear and help him find a bit more confidence in himself and peace with the world around him.

WHY I LIKED IT
As someone with clinically-diagnosed depression and anxiety, March’s depiction and understanding of mental illness is uncomfortably true to my experiences. And I’m lucky enough to have had a loving family from the start—Rei is trying to find one from scratch. There are occasional moments of levity throughout (an element controlled better in its ongoing second season), but most of this first season of March is drab and dark. Rei’s narration cuts straight to the soul and his totally baseless guilt prevents him from embracing help quickly. For me, March’s biggest pull is easily my relatability to Rei during his deepest ruts and how sympathetic I feel when he rebounds.

I mentioned the show’s depiction of all this too, and that deserves special elaboration; Studio SHAFT’s pastel-like visuals bring out beautiful contrasts of light and shadow, with a painter’s eye for striking color compositions. March’s urban, riverside setting provides a lot of great background material too, and its character designs, while retaining a very SHAFT look to them, are distinct, something extended to the show’s overall feel.

This is a delicate, painful series, and it only starts to look optimistic towards its end. Even then, it doesn’t sugarcoat the realities of daily living with mental illness or suggest that there are easy solutions to these deeply entrenched internal battles. Rei grows a lot over March Comes In Like a Lion, but he doesn’t exclusively get better—it takes several dips and climbs, failures, successes, and neutral experiences for him to learn. With a cast as multifaceted as March’s, there are plenty of opportunities for him—and us—to keep learning too.

ANY CAVEATS?
For me, March’s gutting lows are part of its appeal, but if you can’t enjoy visceral, depressing media, you might want to steer clear of this one. On a fundamental level, March doesn’t really get anything wrong though; there’s the rare moment its strict 2 to 3-chapters per episode adaptation method backfires, but they’re an exception to a near-flawlessly effective norm.

FINAL REMARKS
None of these remarks are truly final: March Comes In Like a Lion’s second season is currently airing and will continue to through this March (total coincidence). That second season is still a fantastic time and could well end up on my 2018 Top 10, but it’s a brighter affair overall. Knowing there’s light at the end of the tunnel is nice, but this first season, the tunnel itself, is a truly phenomenal work of art.

#2 – GIRLS’ LAST TOUR

Studio: White Fox
Director: Takaharu Ozaki
Episodes: 12
Based on: Manga series by Tsukumizu
Legal streaming site: Amazon
Licensing status: Licensed by Sentai Filmworks
Dub status: Not dubbed
Alternate name: Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou

WHAT IT’S ABOUT
In a post-apocalyptic cityscape, two girls, the pragmatic, book-smart Chito and the spontaneous, carefree Yuuri traverse their ruined world in search of food, fuel, and meaning.

WHY I LIKED IT
As a show that takes place near the end of the world and primarily stars two bickering main characters, Girls’ Last Tour pretty much rides on its worldbuilding and dialogue. Thankfully, it also outshines virtually every anime from the last couple of years in those categories. Chito and Yuuri aren’t really a straight man-dolt couple, they’re more a philosopher and someone willing to go along with philosophizing if it lets them eat. Each make good and bad decisions on the duo’s behalf and it’s never the same person’s fault if something goes wrong. Their actual relationship—whether it’s adopted sisters, romantic partners, or simply friends—is never explicitly stated one way or another. The world around them is open to speculation, and so are they.

And speculate I did. In the universe of Girls’ Last Tour, there are no rules. Everything is questioned but next to nothing is threatening, allowing both us and the protagonists to linger on every little thought that enters their minds, from war to religion to technology to music. The way we tag along sometimes makes for a refreshing experience, others profound, but there’s one constant: the show always left me teary and contemplative. In a good way, though! There’s something to be said for art that invites the viewer along on its philosophical questions instead of lectures to them, and Girls’ Last Tour is very much the former.

ANY CAVEATS?
Honestly? None to the show’s detriment besides the occasional CG rendering of the duo’s Kettenkrad. If you don’t vibe with Girls’ Last Tour, it’s pretty much entirely due to your own preferences or nitpicks about genre and presentation. For the immersive, simple show this is trying to be, it’s essentially perfect.

FINAL REMARKS
Girls’ Last Tour is a wholesome, atmospheric watch, and its careful handling of a few last-minute twists cemented it as a personal favorite of mine. As we (well, in the Northern Hemisphere) approach the dead of winter, there probably isn’t a more fitting time to kick back and explore the remains of civilization with Girls’ Last Tour if you haven’t already. In almost any other year, this would be an easy #1. Either way, it’s the first of two 2017 anime to earn an elusive 10/10 outta me.

#1 – DESCENDING STORIES: SHOUWA GENROKU RAKUGO SHINJUU 2ND SEASON

Studio: DEEN
Director: Shinichi Omata
Episodes: 12
Based on: Manga series by Haruko Kumota
Legal streaming site: Crunchyroll
Licensing status: Unlicensed
Dub status: Not dubbed
Alternate name: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen

WHAT IT’S ABOUT
The first season of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu was an extended flashback into the troubled life of a rakugo master known as Yakumo. Back in the present day of this season, he’s got a budding apprentice nicknamed Yotarou and an adopted daughter and grandson under his belt who aspire to take the art form to new places too. Despite their efforts to keep rakugo relevant through the late 20th century’s cultural and technological changes, Yakumo’s frail body has left him morbid and lonely, mostly longing to join the loved ones he lost all those years ago.

WHY I LIKED IT
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu’s first season was a borderline masterpiece. Constantly evoking the stage art it revolved around, its presentation as an in medias res tale gave it an incredible, inevitable sense of dramatic irony. We got to see Yakumo’s home life, romantic encounters, and young adult tragedies as he and his rival Sukeroku fashioned two opposing modes of the art. The way rakugo performances are portrayed in this franchise feels uncannily real; the character animation and voice acting is incredibly meticulous and the historical base for its personal drama is captivating.

With Rakugo’s second half, the series branches into several other people’s perspectives as well. Its wider cast amplifies the first season’s strengths, and with a closer-to-home time period, it’s easier to feel personally invested in season two’s drama. Like most of the sequel entries here, saying much more would be both a spoiler for this season and its first, but Rakugo 2 sent me on a riveting, brakeless journey. It only accelerated the closer it got to its climactic point of no return, and in the process didn’t just tell the life’s story of one deeply broken man, but that of his family, colleagues, and the art he helped pass on.

ANY CAVEATS?
No. Okay, maybe there’s a scene or two in here that feels besides the point or dragged out. But they’re so few and far between that they don’t matter. Rakugo 2nd Season isn’t just the most effective use of time and space I’ve seen from anime in years, it actively justifies a few of the first season’s odd storytelling decisions. “Yata, this is the Caveats section.” I know, but…I just can’t think of any. Seriously. Rakugo 2nd Season is that in sync with its vision.

FINAL REMARKS
Rakugo’s scope is enormous and part of what makes the series such a stunning tale: it’s easy to say that the way we live leaves an impact long after we pass on, but it’s rare that any media, much less anime, has the writing and space great enough to convincingly pull that off. This one does, starting far beyond the capabilities of most anime and somehow only getting better. Like all good things, its time had to come to an end, but nine months after its finale, its gracefulness and weight left a mark on me that remains. After a so-so 2016, it revitalized my appreciation for this medium as well as for people’s commitment to the craft of their choice. It is one of the best anime I have ever seen and I will carry its meaning with me. Yotarou can have the true final word:


And that’s it for me! With all my 2017 writing finally done, I can look ahead to everything 2018 has in store for us. Before we get too wrapped up in the present though, what were your favorite anime of 2017? Agree with any of these picks? Leave a comment below or reach out to me via Twitter—I’m always up for a chat. Until next time (which should be in roughly two weeks for Winter First Impressions), this has been Yata of For Great Justice. See you soon.

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