So as I said before, 2016 was a lackluster year for anime, but 2017 on the other hand, perhaps as a cosmic reward for how terrible the year was in general, was a great year for media and entertainment in multiple mediums. A bunch of good games, tons of great movies, pop music that... okay, pop was at best average that year, but hey, the anime was pretty damn great. Even though Anime Strike (RIP) ate everyone’s breakfast every season, 2017 nevertheless delivered a ton of great stuff, from a surprising number of groundbreaking series, to a bunch of movies that we in the States missed out on in the previous year. This is was actually a year where I contemplated making this a top 10 list with five honorable mentions, but given how this is already mid-January, I’ll just stick with what I have already determined. With that out of the way:
Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond
I think this might be the first time on one of my lists were a previous show was downgraded from a top 5 position to the honorable mentions. Well, downgraded is a bit too harsh, because this is still a fun, thoughtful, and beautifully animated show to watch. It’s just... I’d say it doesn’t quite have the novelty of season 1. As I talked about in a podcast I did with a few other aniTAY authors (which you unfortunately will never hear because all the recording equipment somehow failed... that’s 200 minutes we’ll never get back...), the thing that really drew me into the first season of BBB was that it had, I swear, one of the best anime-original arcs I’d ever seen, with the story of the Macbeth twins and their overarching arc. Heck, I even singled that out as one of the key reasons why I made season 1 one of my top 5 anime of 2015. Beyond though, sadly, doesn’t quite have that extra bit that’d push it into the top 5 list for 2017. It’s still a great show, but it’s just not as groundbreaking as the previous season. Regardless, this is definitely something I highly recommend if you’re somehow still on the fence about it, thanks to great character centered episodes, wonderful animation, and a fantastic sense of humor that’s grounded, whilst happily jumping into the pits of insanity.
I’m as surprised as you are. I tried watching this when it started airing, and while it did have its moments, I called it quits after five episodes. Then in December I gave the dub a chance, and by gods it somehow won me over. Really, this is one of those few times where the dub just blows the sub out of the water, thanks to great performances that actually caused me to burst out laughing a few times, and a script where you can tell the people writing it know exactly what kind of humor is called for, and that they’re having tons of fun with it. Definitely a pleasant surprise, and while I can’t say it’d do wonders for people who can’t stand high school romance or love triangles, if you’re someone who enjoys a good, fun dub, then you have to this one a shot.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid
I’d best describe this as an anime that just loves being an anime. Every bit of it, from the OP and ED, the animation, voice acting, writing (well, most of it, anyway), and those quiet thoughtful moments it works for and earns, all demonstrate this is a production that enjoys being what it is. Even though it’s something that I can’t quite say I love, I definitely couldn’t wait to see each episode as it aired earlier this year, and while I have reservations on the fanservice and... somewhat uncomfortable relationships that centered on the younger characters, those weren’t deal breakers for me (although they are what knocked this down to the HM section). I can’t say for sure if this will become a classic or not, but it was definitely one of the shows that dominated 2017, even if just for its cuteness and overall ability to suck anyone in at first glance, and it rewarded viewers with occasional looks into what it means to have a normal life that is actually pleasantly rewarding.
Let me explain: this is supposed to be bad. But in a way that I wasn’t expecting, and what turned out to be a guilty pleasure sort of way. When people think of enjoyably bad anime, their usual go-to is stuff like the hyper violent schlock from the 80s, back when distribution companies would spend next to nothing to license the cheapest stuff they could get their hands on. But my idea of enjoyably bad anime though is the poorly adapted and dubbed crap back from the 80s and 90s, when writing was terrible, good voice direction was just a gleam in the eye of hopeful fools, and the acting was on par with stuff like The Room. And Neo Yokio can definitely be described as The Room of anime: that right mix of people with no talent being involved, a crazed visionary behind the wheel, and yet somehow you can tell some thought was put into it to make it distinctive, and the end result is fun enough to be watchable. Out of its mind? Yes. Memorable? Most definitely... although god help us if we get more of this...
If humanity is still around in the next few years, people will still be analyzing this show even then. This just missed out on cracking my Top 5, and I’d say this more than anything is a testament to how good this year was for anime, since I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show period that looks at teen sexuality and relationships in this way. While many took notice of it solely because it was the first notable casualty of the Anime Strike paywall, I’ll always remember it as a show that managed to be both twisted in its ideas on love, romance, and sexuality, and yet... it was somehow quite logical about it all. People’s dissatisfaction with others and in themselves, how they each managed to get past personal hang ups, and how each of the so-called scum all work to become more respectable people. I feel like talking about it would both give too much away, while I’d also wouldn’t be able to talk about it in a manner that does it justice, so if you haven’t seen it, well... there’s nothing (legally) stopping you anymore, now is there?
As I said before, Your Name was my overall pick for Best Anime of 2016, but in case you missed that, I’m listing it again as an honorable mention for 2017. And if you want to see my thoughts on it, here you go (again).
TGRIP’s Top 5 Anime of 2017:
5. Konosuba 2
The first of two shows that managed to go from an honorable mention from last year to a full on top 5 entry for this year. Like I said before, Konosuba season 1 was a show that eventually clicked for me, but it still took a while before I started fully enjoying it, and it took watching a few video essays for me to fully get what it was going for. By the time season 2 rolled around however, I knew exactly what was going on, and found myself enjoying the show much, much more the second time around. The purposefully bad animation, pitch perfect voice performances and comedic timing, world building that works well without you noticing; Konosuba 2 is a show that’s been tuned into a well oiled machine. Not sure I can say much more without ruining the jokes, so I’ll end this hoping that we get season 3 in the not too distant future.
4. My Hero Academia 2
And the other show to graduate from the TGRIP school of honorable mentions (pun intended? You decide!). Like Konosuba, this was a series I enjoyed well enough last year, but this season is where the flaws were mostly ironed out, and the continuation came out swinging, thanks to a superb [deep breath] TOURNAMENT ARC, and a training arc that’s actually quite good now that I really think about it. MHA deserves the title as The Savior of Shounen, not by reinventing the wheel, but by honing it into a well made show about people improving themselves in various ways, and actual heroics while taking a good hard... well, not a full look, but a glimpse at a system that perhaps has perverted heroics in a way that might be causing more harm than we once though (I cannot wait to see where season 3 goes with this). Regardless, this is a well animated, fun show full of characters to root for, tons of development from said characters, great fight scenes and scenarios, and for people like me who worry that superheroes are starting to run out of ideas, this show is a godsend.
3. Made in Abyss
Definitely the one show here guaranteed to be a future classic. “If a Miyazaki movie was horrifying”; that was my box-quote when I was halfway through this show, and by the final episode I couldn’t find any other way I’d describe this series. This is a show that’s emotionally devastating in a way few are, where you know a knife is aimed right at your heart, and yet the knife time and time again finds a way to boomerang around you, stab you through the back, twist itself... and yet you still want more. Despite a slow patch in the middle of the season, Made in Abyss has earned a place as one of the all time great fantasy series, thanks to animation that doesn’t cut a single corner (seriously, when was the last time you saw a series that didn’t use CGI when it could have?), characters that have that right mix of mystery yet familiarity, and a world that constantly surprises you with amazing creature designs, environments, and almost wantingly horrific ways where the abyss can maim and kill people. Few shows period are simultaneously this painful and beautiful.
Yeah, this... this is my favorite show from this year. Not the best, no, but one of the ones where I couldn’t wait to see each and every episode, and definitely the one I became obsessed with the most. This was due more than anything to the concept that I absolutely adore, and selfishly want to see done in more places, be it sequel series, or perhaps an entire new subgenre of reverse-isekai shows of fictional characters finding themselves transported to our own world. Either way, this was a fun show for me on a personal level, as someone who constantly consumes creative media, while also being a person who has an inkling into the creative process; what it means to create characters, to have them live through stories that you make... to see that entire process flipped on its head, even when executed imperfectly, is a helluva thing to watch. And that’s what this series was; imperfect, but a hell of a thing to watch. Great music (if you think any other show had a better OP this year, sorry, but you are wrong), great action, themes and philosophy that at times bites off more than it can chew, but nevertheless ending with a climax that made me sit back and think about what it means to write supposedly fictional characters, and that whole creative process. It was probably pretentious at times, and the second half was slower than it should have been, but Re:Creators is still my favorite anime of 2017, and in all likelihood will become one of my all time favorites.
1. Land of the Lustrous
If you pressed me, I’d best describe this as the show that achieved that middle ground between Re:Creators and Made in Abyss, as a show that I both genuinely love, and one that’s really effing good, if not an all time great. It occurs to me that I’m saying this about a 3D anime, which I would normally have huge reservations about, but I’d like to think of that as a testament to how truly incredible this show really is. This might actually be a case were the 3D animation is the only way the material can be as good as it could possibly be, and to top it off, it does actually use 2D animation in places where 3D just wouldn’t be the best option; this is a show were the people making it know exactly what they’re doing. And not just in the animation department.
The distinctive character designs, pacing that might feel on the slow side yet never looses you, characters that all look and feel fleshed out, a world that has a simplistic beauty to it while making you want to know more about it, character dynamics, relationships, and development that is some of the best I saw all year, and one of my favorite characters in the entire medium, Phos. They might just have one of the best depictions of character development I’ve ever seen in any show, starting from being just a lovable slacker, to someone who finds a goal but isn’t sure of how they want to achieve it, to someone who develops great abilities but doesn’t know what to do with them, to enduring personal loss that leaves them cold and detached, to ending up as someone with real abilities, and who now knows what they want to do with what they’ve learned and earned throughout the whole show. To go from fragile and listless to a determined badass... that’s an incredible journey, and Land of the Lustrous does it astoundingly well. Outshining the source material, one of the best characters of the year, and my overall pick for Best Anime of 2017.
This has been TGRIP, wishing you a (belated) good 2018. Above all else, Resist, and Rise.
TGRIP is a film student studying in Portland, OR. TAY’s resident Xbox and racing game fan, he also (part time) reviews and does opinion pieces on games, movies, television, comics, and anime. He also runs his kinja sub blog Work(ing Title) In Progress. You can follow this third person narrating weirdo on Twitter @Dennis_wglasses, and his Gamertag on Xbox Live is “Aventador SV”.