Let’s end the Seven Days of Anime with a bang. Thank you for those who read this year’s posts from beginning to end.
I finished over 60 shows including shorts and I can say the year is just as good as 2016 if we ignore that awfully bad Winter 2017 season. Taste is subjective so you may find some of my picks disagreeable, yet I personally think that’s the beauty of differing thoughts anyway.
Without further ado, let’s begin exploring the best of Anime last year.
- Nana Maru San Batsu (Summer 2017)
Surprise! I had a last minute swap between Just Because and Nana Maru San Batsu on the basis that this improved so much in its second half. It is a quite feat when Made in Abyss was getting visceral but my heart is already hooked to these quiz idiots. That unfortunate pantsu shot in the first episode aside, Nana Maru San Batsu is the most innocuous show in the list yet is extremely addicting thanks to its intricate rules of competitive quiz bowls.
Best Comedy: Gamers! – Do not underestimate the power of misunderstanding as proved by Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun. Gamers! is a hopeless show that happened to be deadly hilarious thanks to the antics of these lovable idiots. It is nice seeing walking clichés but are slightly tweaked that they become refreshing to see every week. God – are gamers really that dense when it comes to love?
Honorable Mentions: Miss Koyabashi’s Maid Dragon, Kono Subarashi Sekai ni Seifuku wo! Season 2, Tsurezure Children
- The Eccentric Family Season 2 (Spring 2017)
Well, I said this was a disappointing sequel but never did I mention that it was not a good show on its own. The Eccentric Family S2 continued to show the beauty of Kyoto while seamlessly incorporating the folklores that made the place more interesting. A pet project of PA Works, it is a modest success and I hope more animes like this are produced in the future. On a side note, damn, I still hate Tenmaya and I wished The Eccentric Family S2 focused more on the nuances of having a family.
Most Improved: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend flat – Considering that I think that the first season of Saekano is the primary reason why Noitamina lost its appeal to the adult demographic, I am glad to eat these words as I finished its drama-heavy and substantial second season. It is kind of weird that I associate the sequel to Honey and Clover than your regular Light Novels thanks to its focus on the main theme and how pressure can break relationships. Uwa… that was kind of scary seriously.
Honorable Mentions: Nana Maru San Batsu, Netjuu no Susume
- Tsurezure Children (Summer 2017)
Three fourths funny and a fourth heartwarming, Tsurezure Children showed how awkward high schoolers can be in a span of 12 minutes per episode. I swear to God I died multiple times laughing how unfortunate are these teens in terms of finding the right timing for their significant other. Or with their not-so-formulaic approach to trash shoujo tropes you have seen in the history of the medium. This is one of the best shorts in years, and I found this even better than She and Her Cat thanks to the chance it was given to explore the mini-arcs of these hilarious characters.
Best Romance: Hitorijime My Hero – Okay, stop raising your eyebrows as I picked this over strong entries like Scum’s Wish, Tsuki ga Kirei and Netjuu no Susume. Shounen ai is presented as cartoonish in most animated series and often suffered from godawful production values. Hence, it was a miracle that Hitorijime My Hero got a decent treatment and presented a serious take on these relationships. I still stand on the fact that it was two episodes too long (which could be used to remove all traces of the My Boyfriend part) but you got main characters who have motivations other than the harassment and the sex.
Honorable Mentions: Miss Kobayashi’s Maid Dragon, Netjuu no Susume, Scum’s Wish, Tsuki ga Kirei
- Tsuki ga Kirei (Spring 2017)
From the gag-laden Tsurezure Children, we proceed to the sole original show in this list and was able to present how middle school kids act and think, and do so without getting too insular. Damn, it was not that ambitious like the Wandering Son but that was not the point of Tsuki ga Kirei anyway since it was a modest love story about two awkward teenagers. I was happily contented with the bittersweet ending that the show gave, and the ending rolls happened and I got drowned in a load of feels right after. What a good way to induce catharsis to your watchers.
Best Drama: Scum’s Wish – I intended to give this to Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu but I realized that the show can be cold at times. I mean, that was one of the best shows in the decade for me yet the raw emotions of Scum’s Wish got me in the end. Maybe I have a penchant for unrequited love so that’s it.
Honorable Mentions: Descending Stories: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, Just Because
- Kekkai Sensen and Beyond (Fall 2017)
Kekkai Sensen and Beyond proved that 90’s style episodic shows still work as long as you have a good story of the week to tell. Thank God for humanizing the Libra in the sequel and also for sticking the comedy to the maximum without having a goddamn convoluted plot this time. The final two episodes elevated Beyond from equally good from its prequel to superior in all ways.
Best Action: My Hero Academia Season 2 – I think I said before that Madhouse could have given this shounen flick a better treatment. Then I saw this season and I think Bones should animate this forever if they can. The thing is, if you can mix slick animation while the audience feeling the mood you should evoke, that is a big plus in my book. Which brings us to the fifth best show for the year…
Honorable Mentions: Kekkai Sensen and Beyond, Land of the Lustrous
- My Hero Academia Season 2 (Spring 2017)
Again, who cares with original stories when you executed a clichéd show so good that you are enjoying the ride as well? My Hero Academia is what shounen shows should be, and I am glad this is getting sequels after sequels. Adorkable characters, extremely good fight scenes and even pacing made the second season a must-watch for modern anime lovers. Plus Ultra!
Best Slice of Life: Girls’ Last Tour – This is one of the strongest offering from this genre in years although its consistency may have played to some of its boring parts. However, this what Kino’s Journey should be like in 2017. Prioritize the ambiance, then let the characters do the talking after. By doing so, Girls’ Last Tour managed to present an oddball post-apocalyptic scenario with a disturbingly happy tone.
Honorable Mentions: Netjuu no Susume, Nana Maru San Batsu
- Land of the Lustrous (Fall 2017)
Say, I know I loved Ajin for its story but never for the visuals. Then you got Land of the Lustrous, a CG show which blew all my low expectations away from week to week. A dystopian series about androgynous crystals, Land of the Lustrous embraced the weird and gave it a fascinating story that may sound dumb on paper, but the actual plotting made it excellent. Damn, whoever thought the concept about the Lunarians deserves an award for creating an antagonist more terrifying than the Titans. Seriously.
I wish the story stopped at the end of an arc, than in the midway of it and the pacing could be faster in some spots. Yet Land of the Lustrous is a hallmark of ambitious concept laden with experimental animation. And it worked.
Best Villain: The Lunarians (Land of the Lustrous) – Land of the Lustrous should be remembered more than just Phos nor the awesome CG animation. The Lunarians are seriously creepy – more like an abstract form of zombies ready to attack you anytime. And boy they do come in swarms. On the other hand, I guess the uneasiness also comes from the fact an appropriate music was played just when they appear.
Honorable Mentions: Titans (Attack on Titan), Rabbit (Juuni Taisen)
- Made in Abyss (Summer 2017)
Made in Abyss is what Madoka Magica could be like if it was given a Kyoto Animation treatment. You got moe-looking kids and extremely beautiful artwork then a dark twist about the abyss shattered whatever idyllic about the show. Similar with Land of the Lustrous, this is a coming of age story only told in a psychologically disturbing manner since Made in Abyss used prepubescent kids instead of immortal gems. The only reason I put this above that is because of Nanachi and Mitty. Damn, whoever did not feel anything about the last two episodes is freaking stone cold.
Best Male Character: Yakumo (Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu) – This one is an easy win actually. Last year awfully lacked charismatic (Reigen and Suwa) and polarizing (Subaru) male characters so what left is the guy with one of the most complex stance in the anime medium. The dude wants to bring rakugo with him on his deathbed but also loved the artform to death. He also told he hated everything now he grew older but is also fond of Yotaro and Konatsu. Old man, make up your mind!
Honorable Mentions: Yamada (Sangatsu no Lion), Mugi (Scum’s Wish), Rabbit (Juuni Taisen)
- Scum’s Wish (Winter 2017)
From psychoanalyzing characters to writing this off as porn, Kuzu no Honkai made a statement and it ensured the anime community heard its message. High school drama does not have to be rosy, PG-safe and have likable characters to be considered great. I adored its guts to show how frail we are and how we are in need to be connected with others, and how often we fail to solve problems in a straight way. Scum’s Wish is a manifesto that humans are complex creatures and even high school kids have interesting philosophies – even if they aren’t exactly family friendly.
Best Female Character: Jabami Yumeko (Kakegurui) – The girl was insane and the girl is not actually an overpowered character since she actually lost to some of her matches. What I loved about Jabami is her risky but calculated train of thought, and also her ability to win fights that were obviously rigged in favor of her opponent. Lastly, the girl has some awesome reaction faces that I constantly used them for my posts.
Honorable Mentions: Phos (Land of the Lustrous), Nanachi (Made in Abyss), Hanabi (Scum’s Wish), Tanya (Saga of Tanya the Evil)
- Descending Stories: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (Winter 2017)
“Something this good can never end,” Yotaro said in the final moments of the cathartic sequel of one of my all-time favorite shows. I remember crying for a full minute as the credit rolls as I realized that Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu may be the last show where the anime industry actually prioritized art over commerce.
Oh, I loved how the climax was the most calming part of this complicated sequel but no less than gave a cathartic resolution to Yakumo’s character. While more emotionally distant, Futatabi-hen is the more accomplished on the Shouwa Rakugo series. Yotaro became a fine rakugo storyteller, we saw Konatsu mellowed out and form her family and Yakumo continued to be as one of the best male anime characters of all time.
Rare are shows about a dying artform but rarer are shows that were given a chance to completely tell that kind of story. Coupled with that are complex characters who I can call humans, and events which are no less than dramatic than its first season. I wish I could tell you how good Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is to you but I am afraid I cannot give the series a justice by doing so. Let me just say that this is a one-of-a-decade experience and you should watch it regardless of your genre as an anime fan.
Best Production: Land of the Lustrous – Welp. Picking this segment was really hard since you got a bunch of runners up worthy of this title depending on your perspective. Miss Kobayashi’s Maid Dragon is a product of consistently good animation courtesy of Kyoto Animations, Little Witch Academia is what Trigger when it is experimenting animation techniques, Katsugeki! Touken Ranbu is a product of seamless integration of CG and 2D artwork and Made in Abyss should be renamed as Wallpapers in Abyss thanks of Kinema Citrus’ ability to create jaw-dropping backdrops.
My basis for choosing Land of the Lustrous is due to its ability to remove the stigma that any CG anime is a bad anime. While Seikaisuru Kado and Inuyashiki may have suffered through this medium, the show did not. Instead, it used the flexibility of CG animation to create disturbing images and awesome animation. Phos’ evolving character design would not have impacted the audience so much if not for savvy CG animation techniques.
Honorable Mentions: Made in Abyss, Miss Kobayashi’s Maid Dragon, My Hero Academia Season 2, Little Witch Academia, Katsugeki! Touken Ranbu
That concludes my end of year post. Damn, that was a good year in anime. Let’s join together again and watch whatever Japan churns this 2018. See you!