It’s time once again, friends, for the AniTAY Recommendation Collaboration Bonanza, Fall 2017 Edition this time! My fellow AniTAYers and I, Gugsy have selected what we think are the best titles to watch this season, and why we think so. Hopefully, you’ll find a thing or two that piques your interest. I’m your host this time (come back Exile, this is much harder than it looks!), and you’ll have to excuse our lateness. The holiday week here does a number on everyone, myself included.

We’ve yet again, changed our format for this collaboration. Gone is the separate section for Amazon Strike shows; those are now mixed in with everything else. And after much consternation and exasperation, yes we’ve decided to add in a Where to Watch section (apologies to our non-US readers). All Netflix shows are once again excluded, due to being illegal to watch outside of Japan. For shows that have been recently released in the West, hopefully we’ll have an author give us their thoughts in a separate review.

Our final and biggest change that we’ve made is that we are not including any sequels in this list. Let me repeat this: There will be no sequels included in the following list. My rationale is this, if you’ve watched and enjoyed the first season of a show, you will 99% of the time also enjoy the second season. So before you go into the comments and complain “WHERES FOOD WARSSS”........

.... oh no

... here it comes

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If you want a list of those sequel shows, you can find them here.

With those guidelines down, let’s not waste anymore of your time. Here are our selections for the anime to watch.

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The Ancient Magus’ Bride

Written by: Krakken_Unleashed

Genre: Slice of Life, Magic, Fantasy

Where to Watch (US): Crunchyroll

Spoiler-free Synopsis: Chise Hatori, an unloved and depressed orphan who has seen strange monsters all her life, sells herself at auction to the highest bidder in an attempt to find a place where she will be wanted, even as a trophy. However, when she is bought by the horned, skull-faced Elias Ainsworth, Chise finds herself the apprentice, and nominal bride of the inhuman mage, who welcomes her into his world full of faeries, magic and wonder.

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Why You Should Be Watching: In an era where magic and fantasy stories are a dime-a-dozen, it can sometimes feel like the inherent wonder and majesty of the concept is all but gone, replaced with a mechanical visual ruleset of spells that do little more than shoot lasers and cause explosions. The Ancient Magus’ Bride bucks this trend by aiming for a much different, older aesthetic of magic and wonder. Based on the pagan faerie traditions of pre-Christian Europe, AMB revels in the strange, beautiful, unsettling and inhuman type of magic that is found in the the traditions of the English countryside. It has an archaically old-school style, one the show matches with a ponderous editing style which allows the audience to immerse themselves into this olde world.

However even without the magic this series still holds charm. The same strange, unsettling yet also beautiful undercurrent the magic of the series has is also present in the character dynamics of the series. Chise and Elias’ relationship is anything but ordinary, and yet the heartfelt honesty of their growth beyond their own emotional insufficiencies is an equally beautiful thing to witness as the immaculate backgrounds or the elegant magic is. Anyone who enjoys classic Fairy tales, Arthurian romances, old Disney, Narnia or Harry Potter, should definitely try this series out.

Recommended By: Grex, Koda, Krakken_Unleashed, Nomadic Dec, Requiem, Ryoma Nagare, Shade, Stinolez, The Messiah

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Garo: Vanishing Line

Written by: Nomadic Dec

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Action, Mystery, Tinges of Horrors.

Where to Watch (US): Crunchyroll

Spoiler-Free Synopsis: Sophie’s brother is missing, and her only clue is the phrase, “El Dorado”. While tracking her brother, she encounters Sword, a fabled Makai Knight, sworn to protect their home of Russell City from the Horrors dwelling within. With Makai Alchemists Luke and Gina, Sword is eradicating these embodiments of people’s worst thoughts. However, the number of Horrors in Russell City has been increasing, and the cause seems to be the enigmatic El Dorado…

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Why you should watch?: There is a notable visual aspect of Garo: Vanishing Line that differentiates it from previous iterations: the series familiarises the audience with its city setting. This is intentional, for the quiet still of a darkened street evokes a fear of the unseen lurking in the shadows. In Vanishing Line, there are Horrors lurking in those shadows. Imaginative designs aside, Horrors have always been terrifying due to their psychological roots as manifestations of people’s vices and flaws. By showing the cityscape, Vanishing Line implies a societal source too, whereby people succumb to its omniscient oppressiveness. Therein lies the great tragedy of Horrors, and why the deeds of the Makai Knights are steeped in melancholy.

Vanishing Line also thrives on thematic visual symmetry to inform characters, even in the most crass ways. In the opening scenes, Sword is gleefully nestled in a woman’s bosom while motorcycling away. This contrasts with a Horror made of breasts that he just faced. It is a character moment, acknowledging his satisfaction in keeping people alive, his sense of relief, and, yes, that he is a boob man.

While the series visually bolsters strong characters (literally and figuratively), Vanishing Line has a methodical approach: the audience becomes accustomed to a character and their relationships before introducing another. Thus, the overarching story remains firmly character-based. This layering of the characters is effective in the quieter moments too, where conversations stem from contrasting sensibilities. With characters’ stakes established, viewers can sit in awe of the action, which takes place in the centre of the frame. This consistent shot composition keeps the quick cuts visually intelligible, while giving Garo the freedom to increase the impact and fervour of a sequence without sacrificing anything. This is masterful, detailed directing by Seong-Hu Park, and as a result, Garo is a stellar urban fantasy driving forwards at full-throttle.

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Recommended By: Grex, jonuiuc, Koda, Nomadic Dec, Requiem, Ryoma Nagare, Shade, The Messiah

Juuni Taisen: Zodiac War

Written by: RyomaNagare

Genres: Action, Ultra-violence, Battle Royale

Where to Watch (US): Crunchyroll

Spoiler-free Synopsis: Every 12 Years, delegates of the 12 most powerful crime syndicates engage in a death battle. Through chosen champions, dressed in Chinese zodiac motif, the winner of this battle will earn the right to have one wish granted. For this new iteration, we’ll have new recruits, as well as seasoned veterans, everyone will try their best, since only the winner can walk out alive.

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Why You Should Be Watching: The synopsis, might have you rolling your eyes, as it might sound simple, and cliched: but sometimes the beauty is on the delivery of the full potential, of a premise, as opposed to the infinite possibilities, of a more ambitious project. Junni Taisen delivers on its premise beautifully: the show perfectly captures the feeling of wonder, from early 90s ultra violent OVAS. Just like it was then, you’ll get to experience, a wonderfully produced violence carnival. Each and every one of the champions, is designed with great attention to detail, and everyone will get their time to shine, and have their backstory explained.

Visually the show has amazing animation, and great voice acting, the fight choreography is some of the best of the year, and every voice actor delivers their scenery chewing performance with such aplomb that you can’t help but cheer for all of them.

Most anime in this genre suffer from the fact, that the obvious protagonist has to win, here it is anyone’s game so grab a beer, choose a champion, and join us week to week, ito see who’ll die next because no one is safe bet. and with a writer like Nisio Isin, wouldn’t rule out everything as a red herring, and a final twist to close the show with a bang.

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Recommended By: Grex, jonuiuc, Koda, Krakken_Unleashed, Requiem, RyomaNagare, Shade, The Messiah

Recovery of an MMO Junkie

Written by: Protonstorm

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Where to Watch (US): Crunchyroll

Spoiler-free Synopsis: Moriko Morioka is a business woman who works long hours at an unsatisfying job…or at least she did, until she quit. Now, Moriko is a shut-in and spends her days absorbed in her favorite MMO, Fruits der Mer. She plays a 20-year-old male character named Hayashi and is a member of a guild. Over time, Moriko/Hayashi becomes close friends with one of her guildmates, a girl named Lily. However, neither of them know each other in real life, so Lily is not aware that Hayashi is actually an adult woman. After all, it’s impossible to know if someone is the same in-game as they are in real life. But what if Lily had a similar secret?

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Why You Should Be Watching: Despite being a show about people playing an online game, Recovery of an MMO Junkie is a surprisingly fun romantic comedy. “Anime about people playing an online game” seems to be a summary for a lot of action series nowadays, but Recovery of an MMO Junkie instead uses the online world as a background for developing relationships between real-life (in the anime) characters. It’s a well-known fact that MMOs are full of people who roleplay or at least have slightly different personalities online. Online communities are chances for people to shed real-life burdens and interact with people they would have never met otherwise. Recovery of an MMO Junkie is aware of this and uses this setting to great effect. Moriko is frustrated with her life, and thus she creates an online persona for herself who is free from her responsibilities. As Moriko grows closer to other players through her online persona, her relationships with them (and especially Lily) deepen as well. However, even our online personas are products of our real-life selves, and as the show progresses Moriko’s life outside of the game complicates her online relationships. The result is a heartwarming and entertaining romantic comedy that transcends the online/real-world barrier.

Recommended By: Grex, Gugsy, Koda, Protonstorm, RyomaNagare, Stinolez, The Messiah

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Kino’s Journey -the Beautiful World- the Animated Series

Written by: Koda

Genre: Adventure, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Slice of Life

Where to Watch (US): Crunchyroll

Spoiler-free Synopsis: In a world with more nameless countries than people can count or even keep track of, a mysterious traveler named Kino journeys from country to country on their Motorrad, a type of sentient and talking motorcycle, named Hermes. Kino and Hermes only spend a brief amount of time in each country, as Kino lives by a personal philosophy that one can see all they need to see in a country in just three days.

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Why You Should Be Watching: Since the first series’ debut in 2003, Kino’s Journey has been one of the most heralded franchises in anime. Chief among the reasons for its continued praise has been its excellent use of episodic storytelling that puts it in league with other high acclaim anime franchises such as Mushi-Shi. Much like the aforementioned supernatural thriller, Kino’s Journey is a masterwork of philosophical and morality-based stories. This new rebooted take on the Kino’s Journey series is no different, offering us with some excellent tales where we are left wondering if the characters made the right choices, and even if there is such a thing as “right” or “wrong” in the given situation.

Though this season has also taken on more action-heavy tales than the first series did at this point, it still makes for great entertainment, especially since it allows Kino to show just how deceptively badass they are. We also get a greater emphasis on recurring side characters in this version of Kino’s Journey than we did in the first. Another reason Kino’s Journey is so highly praised is its positive portrayal of a character of a non-binary gender nature. Kino eschews identifying as either male or female in place of just being “Kino”. The series itself puts it best when it says “Kino is Kino”, and this new series thankfully maintains that amazing, though unfortunately rare, aspect.

Visually this new series of Kino’s Journey gives the show a desperately needed artistic upgrade as one of the biggest hurdles that the first series faces is it looks extremely dated by today’s standards much like many of its contemporaries from the time. Thankfully another strong aspect of the franchise has survived the transition between series, and that is the incredible variety in the locations Kino and their fellow travelers go to. One episode might give us a country that looks like an Old West town while another might take place on a floating city that is high tech but in dire need of repairs. While the first Kino’s Journey anime is always going to be a strong recommendation, this new series is the perfect place for people who want to follow Kino’s much beloved travels to jump in.

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Recommended By: Grex, Koda, Requiem, Shade, The Messiah

Just Because

Written by: RockmanDash12

Genres: Romance, Drama, Slice of Life

Where to Watch (US): Amazon Strike

Spoiler-free Synopsis: It’s mixture of the new and old for Eita Izumi as he finds himself transferring back to his hometown at the end of high school life. What awaits him isn’t quite what he had expected. Enter the familiarity of his past catching up to him, as well as the unfamiliarity of both old and new friends and the old and new feelings associated with them.

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Why You Should Be Watching: While it’s easy to dismiss this show by the premise alone, Just Because has more to show than its description. The show’s strengths aren’t related to the premise but how the show represents it’s story and the world. Written by the author of The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, Just Because is a show that feels incredibly real, perfectly capturing the feeling of uneasiness and lackadaisical freedom that comes with the end of high school as well as the feeling of a new group of friends coming together. The show shines at the little nuances and because of its attention to detail and how it deals with representation, Just Because portrays realistic, enjoyable and engaging situations instead of the forced drama we’re used to. It is reminiscent of another series from this year Tsuki ga Kirei that also managed to portray very realistic high school life and romance, rather than the cliched drama that we are normally used to in anime. It manages bring back fond memories to those of us who have experienced those feelings that this time in one’s life is filled with, and is a really enjoyable watch. While this might sound like it’s rather dull, it’s very much a compelling watch and is one of my favorites so far in this early season ... too bad it is exiled to Amazon Strike, and has some production issues.

Recommended By: Grex, Gugsy, Nomadic Dec, Protonstorm, Stinolez, The Messiah

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Inuyashiki

Written by: ShadowHaken

Genres: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi

Where to Watch (US): Amazon Strike

Spoiler-free Synopsis: Inuyashiki Ichiro is an average old guy: he has a family he takes care of, a normal job and a fairly boring life. Sadly, this boring life does come with its problems: He is not respected by his wife and children, he is less and less useful on his job, and to make things worse, he has been diagnosed with a fatal disease and has little time left.

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One day, he and one other get struck in an explosion made by alien visitors, these extraterrestrial beings, following their protocols decide to rebuild both Inuyashiki and the young Hiro using the technology they had at hand. In the end both people are reborn with extraordinary powers; the question now is what do you do when such tremendous gifts are given to you?

Why You Should Be Watching: While Inuyashiki, like the author´s previous work Gantz, uses a lot of shock factor, in Inuyashiki it is well implemented; what I mean with this is that while shocking stuff happens the development and retribution that one receives after it happens it is quite satisfactory. At the same time Inuyashiki questions what it is to be human, comparing what one does against what one should do. It also compares old values against the newer ones. All of these things are reflected, rather than in a monologue or as in your face, but in the actions of both the principal actors of this series.

As an example of this comparative, the young Hiro is a fan of One Piece and he conducts himself more like a hero of a modern shounen: a person who cares about his friends and family deeply and loves them dearly, but still with some selfish goal or a new possibility have opened in front of him towards a new future. Therefore he will fight against anybody who might hurt his beloved ones or is an obstacle against his goal. Such actions are seen under a noble or good spotlight, although sometimes such actions might hurt others. Inuyashiki, in contrast, conducts himself more like a 70´s Shounen Hero, like a classic hero fighting for what it is just and against a cruel and selfish reality, on an endeavor to make this world a better one for everyone, fighting against injustice and the selfish villains who destroy anybody who might interfere on their goal. He has his family, although like those classic super heroes they are relegated more on the side of things since the hero is too occupied fighting against injustice and helping others. This and other questions are shown by seeing the actions of both Inuyashiki and Hiro and how their paths will cross between them.

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Recommended By: Grex, jonuiuc, Protonstorm, RyomaNagare, ShadowHaken, Stinolez, The Messiah

GIRLS LAST TOUR

Written by: Requiem

Genres: Sci-Fi, Adventure, Slice of Life

Where to Watch (US): Amazon Strike

Spoiler Free Synopsis: What was once civilization is now desolate ruins. In this bleak landscape travel two girls, Chito and Yuuri, in their nifty Krattenkrad- sort of an armored motorbike with tank treads. They wander from place to place amongst what remains of a civilization they only know about from stories, looking for food, fuel and parts to continue their journey, all whilst having encounters, conversations, and the occasional crisis. The world may be (mostly) empty, but they’ve got each other.

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Why You Should Be Watching: Girl’s Last Tour is a fine example of “more than the sum of its parts.” It hides complexity in its simplicity. At first blush, it’s low key slice-of-life about two girls and their travels. And it is! But it’s more than that as well. While Chi and Yuu look for food, scavenge supplies, and make their way across a post-apocalyptic(or possibly, a post-post-apocalyptic) landscape, their conversations and observations about life bring poignancy to their seemingly simple activities.

GLT moves at a deliberate pace, but it’d be unfair to call it slow; it can best be described as lyrical. Not a lot actually happens in each episode, but everything that happens is meaningful. The show’s biggest strength is the atmosphere it permeates; you get drawn into its world and the bittersweet, melancholy tone it creates- the girls seem to be frequently enjoying themselves, but the world is still foreboding and there’s still that creeping sense of dread that something could happen to them anytime.

Helping create this atmosphere is stellar animation that mixes fairly realistic backgrounds with the somewhat chibi-fied designs of the main characters. Sound design is also a standout here, making the world feel real. Another strength is the two leads themselves; Chi is the practical one, studious and good with machines and Yuu is more carefree and simple, but is a crack shot with the M1 rifle she always keeps near. They’re uncomplicated but endearing, much like the show itself.

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Girl’s Last Tour is one of the most delightful, engaging shows of the season and a brilliant entry into the Slice-of-life category. Come along for the ride.

Recommended By: Grex, Gugsy, Nomadic Dec, Requiem, The Messiah

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Konohana Kitan

Written by: Shade

Genres: Fantasy, Slice of Life, Shoujo Ai

Where to Watch (US): Crunchyroll

Spoiler-free Synopsis: A fox girl named Yuzu begins working at a traditional inn called Konohanatei. The series follows her daily life at the inn with her co-workers and the guests who come and go.

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Why You Should Be Watching: Konohana Kitan is a slice of life series with fantastical elements that manages to weave bits and pieces of character narrative in-between. A big focus of the series is watching these girls bumble through their problems with work and personal relationships and solving them, but it also gives the spotlight to the various guests who have their own issues to work with.

The series strikes a nice balance between the two. Some of the episodes are fully dedicated to either a guest or a pair of the Konohanatei staff, while others will be split in two parts to showcase both. Each individual tale ends clearly and concisely on a satisfying note that makes you come back for more, along with our main cast’s adorable interactions and the breathtaking visuals.

Recommended By: Koda, Shade, The Messiah


Honorable Mention:

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Land of the Lustrous

Written by: Nan (with editing by Nomadic Dec), Dilkokoro

Genres: Science Fantasy

Where to Watch (US): Amazon Strike

Spoiler Free Synopsis: In the distant future bereft of mankind, twenty-eight anthropomorphised gems and their master, a Zen Buddhist monk, guard an Earth where nature abounds. The Lunarians, strange invaders who resemble deific statues of the East, wish to abduct the gems for use as raw material. Each Gem has a job best suited to their talents, except the youngest gem, Phosphophyllite, who wishes to help defend her home. This is a story of her struggle to find her role in the world.

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Why You Should Be Watching: Land of the Lustrous, is the most vibrantly colorful, cinematographically dynamic, and physically expressive show this season, illustrating the possibilities of 3D animation. It exemplifies the rapid progress that 3D animation has made in the last few years, while setting a high bar for any such production going forward.

Land of the Lustrous is not just a technical marvel, but a uniquely imaginative series: it uses the the scientific hardness of the real gemstones as the foundation for its story and characters. Phosphophyllite, referred to as Phos, is a naturally brittle mineral and considered the most worthless of the gems. Thus, they are chronically ill-suited to combat in terms of crystalline structure—to say nothing of temperament—as a simple fall will shatter Phos.

Phos’ grander ambitions of fighting and their physical incapability are the cause of their anguish and self-loathing. Phos is an earnest yet flawed character, frequently foregoing their tasks, while bemoaning the one that they do not. In this way, Phos becomes an effective conduit for examining and accepting our own inadequacies and thus their journey is a compelling one.

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This empathetic character study is fortified by snappy writing, a strong performance, and lively animation. Phos is funny and terrible in that way that we are all terrible and funny. Moreover, the characters shine in 3D, where body language and facial expression are conveyed with a richness one is unaccustomed to in traditional cel animation beyond feature-length productions. Overall, Land of the Lustrous is as lustrous as its title.

Why You Shouldn’t Be Watching: There has been much attention given to this series for its unique and creative visuals. The buzz surrounding the ambitious arthouse project has been a factor long before there was an anime in the works- the manga for the franchise left many split on what was groundbreaking and what was lacking. Despite the visuals that at are at time groundbreaking, there are noticeable holes in this series. There is almost so much attention placed on the vanities that every other facet of the package is underworked and without much substance. Characters lack any distinguishable characteristics or developments outside of a visual level, the story is an almost non-existent reheat of a magical girl story template, and even the ever-so cherished visuals can really take considerable stumbles. This series is uncomfortably vain and the extent of attention it deserves has already been surpassed by the flood of fan art and screen caps on social media. Look, but don’t touch this one.


Contributors in Alphabetical Order:

This article was a collaboration by several people of the AniTAY community on Talk Amongst Yourselves. You can join the fun by posting your own articles on Kinja with the Ani-TAY tag.

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