2017 wasn’t exactly the best of years. Hatred won out over tolerance in almost every place in the western world while in third world people contiune to die by the numbers every single day. And that’s just the social aspect as 2017 was also a year in which many countries were struck by environmental disasters.
Thankfully Japan seems to have done fairly well this year and if it didn’t it certainly didn’t affect the anime industry as 2017 was quite possibly the best year of anime we’ve had since 2007.We got more unique and refreshing shows than all of the previous years combined and thankfully I had the time to catch a fair amount of them.
But before we get to the good bits, I absolutely cannot talk about this year without mentioning the biggest disappointment I’ve come across in anime.
Worst Anime of 2017:
Rage of Bahamut - Virgin Soul
Gernre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Number of episodes: 24
Rage of Bahamut – Genesis is one of my favorite anime of all time. An immensely fun, lighthearted fantasy romp full of cool, extremely well-animated action that also got its character drama just right and handled some interesting themes, not to mention a truly epic story that keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. This sequel series, however, is a pedestrian slog devoid of any real tension and has weak villains, endless repeats of the same unfunny jokes and incredibly sloppy dialogues. Though by far, its worst offense is how it handles its main characters who either get no development whatsoever or get an arc that utterly ruins their character and goes against everything that defined them in Genesis. While the general consensus on this show is that it was a lackluster sequel to a great series, for all I care this franchise can die in a fire after the irreparable damage that this sequel did to it.
Phew! Got that off my chest. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t feel a little cathartic. If you enjoy my bitching about this show I recommend checking out my full review on it in which I completely rip the show apart in slightly under 2000 words:
Now finally onto the good stuff! And ho boy has there been some excellent anime in 2017! Unfortunately, because I watched so many anime this year and so many of them were great I wasn’t able to fit all the shows I wanted to talk about into a single top10 list. So before I start with the list proper, here’s a bunch of shows I definitely recommend checking out, that unfortunately didn’t make the cut:
And now finally I unveil...my top 10 anime of 2017!
- Re:Creators (action, adventure, shonen)
- Blood Blockade Battlefront – Beyond (action, adventure shonen)
- Attack on Titan – season 2 (action, fantasy, shonen)
- Berserk – season 3 (action, fantasy, seinen) (only watch if you can look past bad animation)
- Mobile Suit Gundam – Iron Blooded Orphans - Season 2 (sci fi, drama, action, seinen)
- The Dragon Dentist (action, fantasy, shonen)
- Altair – A Record of Battles (action, adventure, fantasy, shonen)
- Scum’s Wish (drama, romance, seinen)
- Welcome to the Ballroom (drama, sports, shonen)
10: Sakura Quest
Genre: drama, comedy, slice of life
Studio: P.A. Works
Number of episodes: 24
A series focusing on four twenty-something social misfits moving from Tokyo to the small town of Manoyama with the intent of helping the local population with reviving the town. Sakura Quest takes an honest look at societal and psychological issues through the lens of a lighthearted slice of life show. It’s a show that aims to target a wide demographic and goes through many different themes and tones in the process. But in the end, it came out an undisputed success. Full of terrific character arcs that never devolve into cheap melodrama while also taking an in-depth look into the workings of a small town that’s on the verge of disappearing.
While this year’s Welcome to the Ballroom perhaps handled the inner journey of its lead protagonists with a little more care and attention Sakura Quest still ended up being a far superior show for doing so much more than just that. Displaying biting social criticism and an innate understanding of the human psyche while also being a genuinely funny comedy that had me bellyhooping constantly. Add to that some very strong visual direction, a beautiful color palette and excellent storyboarding and editing and you have a show that’s funny and highly entertaining but also deeply meaningful and made with a love and care that’s evident from every frame of animation. Smart, beautiful and at times utterly hilarious Sakura Quest is bound to be an immensely rewarding experience for anyone willing to check it out.
9: Children of the Whales
Genre: action, adventure, fantasy, shojo
Studio: J.C. Staff
Number of episodes: 12
A fantasy action show from the director of Your Lie In April and Occultic;Nine. Children of the Whales takes place aboard the “Mud Whale”, a moving island floating on a sea of eternal sand. The inhabitants of the Mud Whale are divided by the “marked” and “unmarked” The marked population are people capable of using the powerful magic known as Thymia. However, the cost is that they rarely live past the age of thirty. One such “marked” is Chakuro who acts as the record keeper aboard the Mud Whale. One day the mud Whale comes across another island where Chakuro meets a girl named Lykos. Little does he realize at the time that this meeting will plunge the Mud Whale into a war that will claim many lives and will change the fate of the Mud Whale and all its inhabitants.
If you’ve been pining for a fantasy adventure series in the traditional mold then this is your show. Boasting a cast of original and likable characters and a story that, while not necessarily the most, is definitely epic in every sense of the word. The show also tackles some compelling thematic material while slowly expanding its unique setting and giving us some deeply moving character drama. Children of the Whales is a show rife with sharp dialogues and huge twists that constantly pull the rug out from under you and keep you questioning the nature of this world all the way to the end. It also gave us a romance that, while perhaps a little cliche, did not feel ham-fisted or forced in any way.
The show’s unique visual style might not be to everyone’s liking but personally I consider it one of the best looking anime I’ve ever laid eyes on, and besides its unique artwork the show also has top-notch animation
With a compelling story, gorgeous visuals and a fantastic soundtrack, Children of the Whales makes for an incredible ride I highly recommend taking.
8: Kado - The Right Answer
Genre: sci fi, drama, thriller
Studio: Toei Animation
Number of episodes: 13
From the director of Gargantia comes a sci-fi drama about a negotiator who’s abducted by an interdimensional being to lead the negotiations between him and Japan.
This show came and went without barely any buzz. That is a crying shame because it was fantastic. Offering a highly intelligent sci-fi narrative filled to the brim with incredibly complex philosophical and sociological themes as well as fantastic character drama with one of the best female leads in anime to date.
Kado sets out to challenge your views on the world and how you perceive it with its fiendishly clever story, full of massive twists around every corner. It’s a series that will doubtlessly unleash strong emotions within the viewer and will definitely keep their brains spinning for quite a while. But what the viewer will be thinking and feeling is left entirely upto them by the show and therein lies its genius. It does stumble in certain places particularly leading upto the grand finale but throughout its run it remains a subtle, nuanced and highly mature sci-fi romp that gives us a much more grounded take on what would happen if extraterrestrial beings were to land on earth. Focusing on communication rather than action it still nevertheless succeeds as a highly entertaining series that explores a vast variety of themes yet never tells the viewer what to think.
But Kado is more than just a philosophical thinkpiece. It’s also an edge of your seat thrill ride that keeps you guessing from start to finish. The show does go through a rather dramatic change in tone and content just past the halfway point that kind of changes the entire nature of the show. Understandably not everyone was okay with that at the time but personally, though I do have my gripes with it, I feel a series that dares to innovate and surprise all the way up to the end is a better show than one that’s complacent with what it is and never aspires to be anything more than what it already was from the onset. Kado transcends genre boundaries to become something utterly unique, unlike any show I’ve seen to date. It’s the kind of anime that made me remember why I love the medium so much in the first place.
7: Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt - season 2
Genre: sci fi, drama, thriller, action, seinen
Number of episodes: 4
The one year war is over and Earth and Zeon are now experiencing an uneasy truce, but a new militant religious faction known as the South Sea Alliance threatens to undo everything and plunge the world into chaos yet again.
A good sequel offers more of the things that made the first one great while also adding something new to the mix. This is exactly what season 2 of Gundam Thunderbolt does. Retaining the incredible production values of season 1 as well as its gut-wrenching exploration of war and what it does to the people fighting in it, yet at the same time putting greater emphasis on character development and social criticism. Thunderbolt’s cautionary tale of intolerance, radicalization and misplaced nationalism feels more topical now than ever. Yet, unlike its predecessor, season 2 of Thunderbolt is also surprisingly upbeat at certain points as it leads its characters through moments of great happiness and deep sadness. Regardless of whether they come out better or worse, the character of Thunderbolt – season 2 feel like genuine people rather than cardboard cutouts meant to be moved around in the story like pieces on a chessboard.
Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt is a story about xenophobia, social inequality and violence that’s unlike any other Gundam show or really unlike any other space opera currently on tv. So if you’re not watching this show I highly recommend you remedy that.
Genre: thriller, espionage, action
6: Genocidal Organ
Runtime: 109 mins
Easily one of the best films of the year and one of the best anime films of all time. Adapting Satoshi Itoh’s nearly 400 page novel into less than two hours of animation must not have been easy but director Shukou Murase succeeded with a film that’s every bit as brilliant as the book that inspired it.
The story focuses on Clavis Shepherd, a special forces operative tasked with tracking down John Paul, a private security contractor who’s responsible for instigating multiple genocides all over the world.
This film might, at first, come across as pandering to the lowest common denominator with its high amount of sex and violence but make no mistake; this film is a class act through and through. A feast for both the eyes and brain that will leave you stunned and mulling over its themes long after the credits have rolled. It also boasts the single best English dub of the year with an Emmy worthy performance by Josh Grelle as the intellectual yet ruthless Clavis Shepherd and a perhaps even more impressive performance by relatively new voice actor Ricco Fajardo as John Paul. The villain who’s barely ever on screen but whose presence always looms large over the story. Fajardo absolutely nails every line he has and makes sure that despite his limited screentime, John Paul is a character you’ll not soon forget. Lastly, Ian Sinclair is brilliant as Shepherd’s trusty sidekick Williams. Always there to make a snide remark or a witty joke to alleviate some of the tension in the first half. Then when it’s revealed what person belies that easy-going exterior, he’s intensely captivating.
With pitch-perfect pacing, unrelenting tension and action sequences that will simultaneously blow your socks off and make you feel a little uneasy in the stomach, not to mention an absolute masterpiece of a dub, Genocidal Organ makes for a fantastic capstone to the already incredibly strong Project Itoh film trilogy.
5: The Ancient Magus Bride -
Those Who Wish Upon a Star
Genre: adventure, fantasy, shonen
Number of episodes: 3
Combining fantastic writing, full of genuinely funny and well-timed humor, incredibly strong character drama and a cast of complex and memorable characters coupled with gorgeous artwork and stunning animation and a brilliant soundtrack. Really my only complaint with this show is that it ended far too quickly. And the follow-up tv series kind of remedies that.
This OVA series that kicked off The Ancient Magus Bride anime is an epic fantasy tale in its own right that first gave us a glimpse into the magical world full of wondrous beauty and imminent life-threatening danger that manga-author Kore Yamazaki created and as the start of the incredible journey of recovery for one of the most sympathetic yet complex characters in anime, it is an absolute must watch.
4: Land of the Lustrous
Genre: adventure, fantasy, seinen
Number of episodes: 12
Taking place on a fictitious island inhabited by androgynous Gem-like beings, the story follows Phos as they go on a journey of inner discovery.
With Phos, this show has given us one of the best protagonists of all time. But even without them, Land of the Lustrous is a mesmerizing show that combines a highly complex plot with incredible animation, making for easily one of the best shows of the year. The only reason this isn’t higher on this list is because of its extremely sudden finale that doesn’t resolve any of the storylines nor answer any of the questions the show has raised over its run, making for a really unrewarding ending to an incredible story.
Make no mistake though, this show is the very definition of the phrase “the journey is more important than the destination” and what a journey it’s been. The show constantly shifts back and forth between a mature storyline with some very dark thematic material and a whimsical fantasy adventure full of innocent wonder without ever tipping over the balance to one side or the other.
It’s not for the faint of heart and definitely not suited to younger audiences, but for those looking for a mature, intellectual and highly engaging fantasy adventure filled with fully fleshed out and memorable characters this is something absolutely worth checking out.
3: Inuyashiki - Last Hero
Genre: thriller, drama, sci fi, seinen
Number of episodes: 11
From the writer of Gantz comes a show about a guy with the mother of all middle age crises. Where a normal person would buy a Harley, Ichiro Inuyashiki became a cyborg superhero. The story of a man who, in the eyes of society, has failed at life is given a second chance and to rediscover himself as something he never dreamt of being is honestly one of the most exciting and exhilarating rides I’ve taken all year. On the flipside, we have Hiro Shishigami, a teenage serial killer who’s also a cyborg. He’s all cold and calculated malice, a stone-cold killer with a constant craving for fresh victims. But, beneath that terrifying exterior still beats a very human heart.
Inuyashiki: Last Hero is a tale that’s dark and violent yet surprisingly hopeful and at times heartwarming. Showcasing the very worst of society while also arguing that there’s good in every person, no matter how rotten they might seem.
Hiroya Oku’s unconventional storytelling coupled with Keiichi Satou’s inspiring direction makes for an immensely rewarding watch punctuated by many punch-the-air moments of awesome while also offering a mature story that defies genre conventions. This is an anime classic in the making.
2: Girls Last Tour
Genre: adventure, sci fi, seinen
Studio: White Fox
Number of episodes; 12
Gorgeous artwork, top-notch animation, an amazing soundtrack, a deeply thought-provoking story filled with complex philosophical themes, two highly endearing leads and genuinely funny comedy. This series about two girls wandering a post-apocalyptic wasteland has everything you could ever want out of an anime. Really my only complaint is that it didn’t last longer. Not that the ending was bad but I simply wanted more. Though that in itself is also a compliment I suppose.
Girls Last Tour is a triumph of imagination and original, intelligent storytelling. A show unlike any other that I know, I’ll be watching this a few more times. Not watching this is doing yourself a major disservice.
1: March Comes in Like a Lion - season 1
Genre: drama, seinen
Number of episodes: 22
Acclaimed director Akiyuki Shinbou’s latest work is also his best. A hauntingly beautiful story about coming to terms with past trauma and finding a purpose in life.
While my verdict on the entire series as a whole is still out with season 2 airing as of now but taken on its own, I consider this first season as the single best anime series ever made. An absolute masterpiece that transcends the boundaries of conventional storytelling to give us a gut-wrenchingly honest look at loss and childhood trauma but also at the beauty of everyday life. Focusing on seventeen-year-old Shogi protégé Rei Kiriyama, March Comes in Like a Lion is as much about how the memories of times past can haunt us to this day as it is about how forging new and happy memories can give someone the drive to keep going.
March Comes in Like a Lion is one of the most daring, thought-provoking, utterly engrossing and stunning looking series I’ve ever had the immense pleasure of watching and if you haven’t seen it yourself yet, I strongly suggest you go do that right now.
Now, since I’m not sure if I’ll ever get around to reviewing this show and if I do it won’t just be season 1. I’m going to do something completely unique that I don’t think I’ll ever do again and actually assign a score and rating to this first season alone. Mainly because it is the first time that I’ve given this score to any anime series. So without further ado here is my official score and rating for March Comes in Like a Lion – season 1.
I have no doubt that not everyone will agree with the entries on this list and I’m also sure there will be some mild outrage over not including certain shows (I don’t watch Hero Academia and thought Made in Abyss was just okay) But that’s why there are more lists to pour over from our other wonderful content creators. And if you still aren’t happy with any of the picks on this list, then consider helping out with this project next year. We’ll be more than happy to have you.
Thus ends my rant on 2017 and all the shows that made the year into what it was for me. Both for good and bad. Now onto 2018 which is already promising to be quite a year in terms of anime. While winter looks overwhelmingly underwhelming, spring is already ramping up to be a season to remembered and with luck, the rest of the year will follow suit. And if not…well…at least this list won’t be as long next year.
See You Space Cowboys…