Also the Fall 2017 Review because I don’t see a reason to do two posts on this. In the end, I finished 30 shows this year. I ended up dropping nine at various points in their run, including three from Fall season.
In lieu of numbered scores I’ve arraged the shows into a set of tiers. Inside each tier the order doesn’t matter, so shows will be listed alphabetically. Anything in the top two tiers is an unreserved recommendation, while the three tiers after those range from “really good” to “ok”. Only one non-dropped show is not recommended at all. So lets get this started.
What is even left to say here? Kemono Friends came out of nowhere to be a true contender for best show of the year. It’s premise was dumb, its animation was bad, but none of that mattered. The end of episode 11 should never have worked. Many shows have tried to do scenes like that and failed, because they didn’t earn them. When Kaban turned and smiled, in the face of certain, unavoidable death, it worked. The show earned that moment, she earned that moment due to everything that came before. Kemono Friends may not be the actual best show of the year, but it is the most surprising contender for that honor.
Kobayashi-san Chi no MaiDragon
Perhaps the most unusual choice for a Kyoto Animation adaption in years, MaiDragon turned out to be an enormous improvement over the manga. The manga is a perfectly fine gag manga, but the anime is a fantastic examination of relationships and family. The key, of course, is Kanna. Kobayashi and Tohru are a fun couple, and a series about their romantic misadventures would be amusing, but adding Kanna brings it to an entirely different level. Kanna is what makes them a family, her presence drives almost all the best and most touching moments. What a wonderful dragon daughter.
Love Live Sunshine 2
Its hard to believe, but Love Live Sunshine 2 is actually the best season of Love Live yet. Having a franchise put out its best work four cours in is almost unheard of, but here we are. Aqours’ journey was one of success and failure, and while the school has closed and the third years have graduated they aren’t letting that keep them down. The final episode was a joyous experience. Sure, there was sadness at failing to save the school and the third years leaving, but they don’t let that stop them from enjoying what they did do, and what the future still holds for all of them.
Senki Zesshou Symphogear AXZ
AXZ isn’t the best season of Symphogear, but its also not the worst, by any means. It settled into a nice groove and was a blast to watch. The new set of villains were fantastic, Cagliostro in particular always being tons of fun. The actual main villain was detestable in all the right ways, seeing him get punched out by Hibiki was extremely satisfying. It managed to explore Chris’s backstory a bit without being gross about it, and gave a nice satisfying conclusion to her arc thats been going since season 1. Also it was super gay all around.
Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou
A real last-minute surprise, but Shoshuryou knocked it out of the park. The story of two girls, traveling the ruins of a dying world doesn’t seem like the place to find uplifting stories, but it is. Chito and Yuuri may well be the last humans left alive, but that doesn’t stop them from enjoying their journey together and marveling in the wonders of the world. While not a romance by any means, their casual intimacy sells their relationship and how much they care for and about each other in ways many actual romance shows can only envy.
Alice to Zouroku
“Super powered children pursued by shadowy organizations” is a well worn anime genre, and a generally pretty mediocre one. Alizou on the other hand is fantastic, mostly by dispensing with the shadowy organization halfway through, but having it shut down by the government and its members arrested. A bold choice, if you may. So what Alizou really ends up being about is how one of these children, Sana, adapts to normal life while also dealing with the fact that she has nigh-omnipotent reality warping powers. The biggest conflicts are ones Sana makes for herself, as she navigates a world she doesn’t entirely understand, in part because of her backstory but also because, well, she’s just a kid and the world is a weird, scary place sometimes.
The most surprisng part of Konohana Kitan isn’t how explicitly gay the characters are (it did start out in Comic Yuri Hime, after all) but how well it uses its settings to tell meaningful and touching vignettes about life. Konohanatei’s explicit position as a boundary between life and death allows for some fascinating stories, about how people live their life, and how those lives affect others.
Hina Logi: From Luck & Logic
Easily the second biggest surprise of the year, no one really expected the spinoff of a bad harem action show to turn out to be a very fun show about a group of good friends attending a school for magical girls. Even though there is nothing for them to magical girl against anymore. The highlight of course though is the unexpected but greatly appreciated relationship between the two leads, Lion and Nina, which was explicitly romantic and ended with undeniable mutual expressions of love.
Houseki no Kuni
Going in, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Houseki no Kuni. What I got was a show about depression, self-harm and coping with loss. This was not really what I wanted but it was in fact absolutely excellent. The setting is imaginative the characters are memorable and the story is quietly devastating. On the other hand I sorta did want to see Phos actually make that encyclopedia.
New Game 2 is probably the best example of a slice of life show building on already established characterization to mine new sources of drama and development. Nene’s growth is probably the clearest example of this in action, but Aoba also benefits from this a lot. Hopefully this won’t be the last we see of the girls of Eagle Jump, they have a lot more stories to tell. Also Hifumi needs to kiss Aoba already jeez.
Another big surprise, Pripri really managed to overcome a lot of obstacles to become one of the most memorable shows of the year. Its hard to say what is most notable about it, the anachronic episode order, the lack of interest in its overarching plot or how it tied many disparate elements together to provide a satisfying conclusion that resolved almost no existing plot threads.
Action Heroine Cheer Fruits
Locodol but for tokusatsu stage shows seems like an odd pitch but it got made and its actually pretty good. Its got some structural weirdness where the first episode basically lies to you about who the main character actually is (hint: its not Ann or Mikan), but once it settles into its groove is consistently enjoyable. The cast is large but distinctive, and they bounce off each other in satisfying ways. Also big props for having a girl who uses a wheelchair but not making her disability into a big dramatic thing. She just uses a wheelchair, sometimes a cane, and people don’t make a big deal out of it.
Still shocked at how good this was, you’d think that a show with four characters, each of whom has exactly one joke would get old, but it doesn’t. Somehow they managed to keep it feeling fresh even when you knew exactly what was going to happen, because it was the only thing that could happen given their personalities.
The idea of a restaurant that once per week opens up to random locations in a fantasy world is clever, and the show does a great job capitalizing on the concept. There is no real overarching plot, just a series of vignettes where we meet a character or group of characters, learn a bit about them and their situation, through the food they order at the restaurant. Over the course of the show you can start to piece together how this fantasy world works, and it all makes sense. Also Aletta is a cutie, please protect her.
Kira Kira Precure a la Mode
I haven’t really talked about it but I’ve been keeping up with Kira Kira Precure since around the middle of its run. Its really quite good! Much better than its premise would lead you to believe. Its managed to be significantly darker than a lot of recent Precure series, while still keeping with its sweets and baking aesthetic. And of course having Yukari and Akira as a real, not subtext at all couple is amazing. There’s only a few episodes left, then Hugtto Precure starts in February. Which…might be good?
Made in Abyss
This is lower on my list than on most people’s, though I still think that it is an incredibly good show. It does an amazing job at selling the dangers of the Abyss, while also making it clear why people like Riko would risk their live to explore it. Its main problem is that sometimes it revels a bit too much in the suffering of the characters, and particularly in episode 10 and the final episode it veers into exploitation in ways that I find a little uncomfortable. Still, great show that is well worth watching if you are ok with that sort of thing.
The only reason Nyanko Days isn’t SS Tier is that the episodes were only 90 seconds long. If they’d been full length it would have been the greatest show ever made. Anyway, cute show about a girl who owns three cats, only the cats are tiny girls who get into trouble. Super cute.
Shuumatsu Nani Shitemasu ka? Isogashii desu ka? Sukutte Moratte Ii desu ka?
The only show I watched which featured a heterosexual romance. It wasn’t bad! In fact, it was actually quite good. Also tragic and sad, but good. It had strong worldbuilding that sold its idea of coming after the sort of event you might see at the end of a fantasy novel or JRPG. The Fairies were an interesting idea, and tragic in their own way, but made for compelling characters. Would be nice to get another season, since the story is still ongoing, but even what we got was quite satisfying.
URAHARA is one of the messiest shows of the year. Its direction and storyboard are amateur in ways you almost never see with TV anime. It frequently tries to do interesting things with framing and shot composition but has a lot of trouble pulling it off. Though this makes it better than some shows which are competently done but have no imagination or desire to make things seem interesting. Anyway, URAHARA is messy but worthwhile. Its fundamental message about the nature of creativity and the drive to create things yourself is important and something rarely touched upon in media.
Urara was a fun show in general, but its best part was definitely how much the four central characters cared for each other. They had a mutual intimacy that is hard to match, and makes trying to pair them up seem almost cruel, they need to be together as whole group to really be their best. This was also the central theme of the show, only by working together could they all succeed in their goals. Would love to have more, as they journey together to become Urara.
I really wanted to like this more than I did. It wasn’t bad, by any means, just not really as good as it probably could have been. Its hard to pin down the exact issue, since it seems “Love Live but with Bands” should be fairly easy to pull off. I think its partially that it meandered in the middle for a while, and the final conflict ended up not being very compelling. Also learning later that there were other bands that seemed even more interesting that the show could have been about kinda dampens enthusiasm. I’d watch more if its made, but I don’t feel invested in it the way I did with Love Live after its first season.
Frame Arms Girl
This was an extremely silly show about a girl who becomes the mom/girlfriend of a set of sentient plastic model kits. Somehow this works out much better than it ever reasonably should, probably because Ao is a complete dork. The Frame Arms Girls themselves are also a lot of fun, with distinct personalities that play off each other in entertaining ways. Highlights being Baselard and the Materia sisters. One of these days I need to actually build that Hraesvelgr Alter kit I got…
Hinako Note was a perfectly serviceable but not spectacular entry in the Cute Girls Doing Cute Things genre. Its hard to come up with things to say about it, the ED was really cute, in particular. It has some questionable aspects, like the teacher who’s a 10 year old with F-cups, which is like…why did you do that. Otherwise, it is, as I said, fine.
Youjo Senki almost certainly should not be nearly as good as it actually its. The premise is dumb and it is entirely possible for it to give all the wrong messages yet…it works. Tanya is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad person and the show makes that extremely clear. You are not supposed to like Tanya. You may enjoy watching her succeed and fail, but she is at all times horrible. It is one of the best shows at depicting how war twists people into monsters, but also showing that some people, like Tanya, are just monstrous anyway.
Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho
Easily one of the best traditional fantasy anime in recent times because it doesn’t have any Japanese boys sliding in from modern times, or acting like its all running on RPG rules even if its not actually supposed to be a game. Its just…a story about fighters and wizards in a fantasy world. And thats enough. Zero is a really fun character to follow, and Mercenary is a great foil for her. And her for him. It also does a surprise reveal of a character’s gender that isn’t used exploitatively and doesn’t result in the character suddenly radically changing their appearance or how they act. Which is neat.
Centaur no Nayami
Definitely the biggest disappointment of the year, though the fact it got animated at all is a minor miracle. Unfortunately not every show can get the treatment it deserves, and Centaur no Nayami was worse served than many other mediocre adaptions. It really needed a strong staff with a good vision for what the manga was about and how to bring it to animation. It definitely did not get that at all. Its not a total loss, some segments were pretty fun and it managed to capture Hime’s fundamental Himeness very nicely. Also the ED song was fantastic.
Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-bu
In contention to be the most average show of the year, honestly its hard to even write about it because its hard to remember much. It was just, a perfectly fine show about a bicycling club at a high school.
Could have been a lot better, but also could have been way worse. Re:Creators kinda averaged out to being “perfectly ok”. It had some interesting things to say about how stories are made and how people interact with them, but it ultimately didn’t manage to build up its final twist properly so it kinda fell flat, despite being a thing I’d probably really like. Worth a watch, with some good action scenes, but ultimately just ok.
Sakura Quest could maybe be a tier higher, but while it has some great stuff in it, there is also a lot that drags. Its nice seeing two cour shows still get made, but it feels like they only had a cour and a half of good episode ideas, so a quarter of the show (concetrated early on) is pretty mediocre. Its ultimate message is pretty good, that there are no silver bullets to the problems towns like Manoyama face. By the end of the show, things there are better, but still not great, and maybe never will be. But just trying is its own reward.
Actually no, this is the most average, generic show of the year. There is nothing interesting this show did that it didn’t turn into completely uninteresting pulp. It couldn’t even be bad enough to drop. It was just…average, in every way.
I’ve already discussed some of the ways Netsuzou Trap is bad, and there are many, many more. Just, don’t watch it. Don’t read it. Ignore it. It doesn’t deserve anyone’s attention at all.
Cinderella Girls Gekijou
Too many segments of the girls fawning over Producer-san, and not actually funny most of the time anyway.
Demi-chan wa Kataritai
Decently interesting concept marred by the terrible decision of making all the girls interested in an adult male teacher.
Maybe you shouldn’t take the premise for an Aikatsu filler episode and try to expand it to cover an entire TV series.
Kino no Tabi
I like the designs better than the original, but it just wasn’t as thematically cohesive, and I lost interest after about episode 8.
Little Witch Academia
Maybe I just don’t like Trigger at all.
Twin Angel Break
Not bad, just lost interest about half way.
Decent premise ruined by horrible, horrible lead characters.
Wake Up, Girls!
Looked terrible and wasn’t actually interesting at all.
So the current season of Yuuki Yuuna is a good example of how some shows don’t need Prequels or Sequels.