Originally Published on The Fandom Post.
Anime is good. I’m not exaggerating when I say that 2017 is the best year for anime since I started watching seasonal anime in 2014. There have been a ton of great shows, including one that made it to my all time favorites. I wish I could highlight everything, but top ten lists tend to work best when there are ten entries. Before I start with the list proper, I want to quickly mention Little Witch Academia, The Ancient Magus Bride, Suka Suka, ACCA, Girls Last Tour, Fate/Apocrypha, and Recovery of an MMO Junkie as anime that didn’t quite make the list, either because they were edged out by the competition or because they’re not yet complete. In any case, here are (in no particular order), my top ten anime of 2017.
Fate/Stay Night Heaven’s Feel Part 1: Presage Flower
As the only route of Fate/Stay Night that hasn’t been adapted, Heaven’s Feel had a lot of hype going in. Hype I can confirm was warranted. Fate is perhaps best known for its action, but what struck me about Heaven’s Feel was the foreboding atmosphere. The previous routes kept a relatively similar structure, a structure that Heaven’s Feel purposefully ignored. Outside of the gorgeously animated action scenes, Heaven’s Feel kept things suspenseful by actively subverting expectations from the previous routes. Major characters were quickly eliminated, while minor characters from other routes suddenly took the spotlight. The bulk of its character work is yet to come, but this film was so engrossing and unsettling that it was more than enough to get me excited for the next entry in the trilogy.
Konosuba Season 2
On a lighter note: Konosuba. Season 2 of Konosuba perfectly lived up to the expectations of season 1. As parodies go, Konosuba is far more concerned with making the audience laugh than making any real statement about the genre it’s mocking, which is just fine in my book. Every episode had me laughing the entire time, whether from Darkness’ absurdly masochistic fantasies or Aqua’s reaction faces. By grounding its humor in the characters’ personalities over random quips, Konosuba is consistently funny even when the characters in question are intentionally unlikable. The way they’re unlikable together actually loops around and makes them sort of likable. That sounds pretty silly, but Konosuba’s a pretty silly show. As comedy anime go, there are very few contenders to challenge Konosuba for funniest show of the year.
While it didn’t get as much attention as some of the other shows here (thanks Amazon), Princess Principal was one of the most consistently entertaining anime of the year and exactly what a spy show should be. Set in an alternate history steampunk London, Princess Principal is a largely episodic series about a group of spies. Most of it is episodic, which actually works in the anime’s favor by allowing it to give different characters the spotlight in different episodes. Different episodes highlight different characters’ skills, and the best ones show how they work together to accomplish various spy missions. There’s not a ton of depth to it, but there doesn’t need to be. The core cast has a strong dynamic from the start, and the different missions are distinct enough to always feel fresh. No matter what kind of mission it is, the clever spy antics and lighthearted humor guarantees that there’s never a dull moment in Princess Principal.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid
While Konosuba is my pick for funniest show of the year, that doesn’t diminish Maidragon’s quality in the slightest. Maidragon is laugh out loud funny from start to finish, perfectly understanding how to use its “lesbian dragon becomes a maid” premise in a way that’s always funny without being stupid. Excellent comedy isn’t all it has to offer either. Beneath the silly jokes and general cuteness, Maidragon is a surprisingly heartwarming show about the families we find for ourselves. Kobayashi and Tohru’s relationship is never clearly defined as romantic or platonic, but it doesn’t need to be. It can be read both ways, but what matters most is that (along with Kanna) they’re family. The three of them were all lonely people who found each other and somehow ended up making their own family. Few comedies are able to balance gags and serious character development so well, so doing so earns Maidragon’s spot on the list.
Made in Abyss
Few anime have ever captured the same sense of adventure and foreboding as Made in Abyss. With its unique fantasy world, creative locations, and constant menace, Made in Abyss was enthralling from start to finish. The Abyss is so endless that there’s always a sense of discovery when Reg and Riko reach a new layer or encounter a new monster. At the same time, there’s always a vague feeling of unease, like this is a journey nobody’s coming back from. As they go further and further down, Riko and Reg discover that the Abyss is a real threat to their lives and come close to dying far too many times. What cements its place on this list is the conclusion, a heartbreaking mini arc that’s both an adequate conclusion and a strong sequel hook. Whatever the case, Made in Abyss was a one of a kind experience that’s earned its place on the list.
My Hero Academia Season 2
Season 1 of My Hero Academia was already a strong, if slowly paced, shounen, but season 2 completely outclasses it. By greatly expanding on the supporting cast and giving them all stories and motives of their own, MHA becomes a much larger and more complete story. By learning more about everyone, there’s a strong sense of investment in the tournament that makes up its main arc beyond simply enjoying the excellent fights. Midoriya’s climactic battle with Todoroki wasn’t just a great fight; it was also a strong character moment for both of them as they fought battle that was as much mental as physical. Similarly, Midoriya’s growth throughout the season is a joy to watch. He was already a compelling character, so watching him mature over time is satisfying in a way very particular to the shounen genre. A large part of why MHA excels is because it completely understands the fundamentals of what makes a good shounen. Even if a lot of the basic plot beats have been done before, MHA brings so much enthusiasm that none of it matters in the slightest. If you want a textbook example of shounen done right, look no further than My Hero Academia.
Attack on Titan Season 2
After four long years, Attack on Titan finally returned to showcase why season 1 was such a hit. AoT has always had a way of drawing the audience in by making every scene heavy and intense. This style doesn’t work for everyone, but I found it enthralling and powerful. Unlike season 1, this season wasn’t just about intense battles against Titans (although there was still plenty of that). What season 2 added to that was a renewed emphasis on the supporting cast. Characters like Ymir and Christa, who were little more than background characters in season 1, became just as important as the main cast. The way it prioritized the supporting cast and their development gave this season more depth than the already excellent season 1. Combine that with some excellent action and horror, and you have Attack on Titan at its best.
Land of the Lustrous
In a medium where CGI is passable at best and neigh unwatchable at worst, Land of the Lustrous stands out by being absolutely gorgeous from start to finish. By combining the best strengths of 2D and 3D animation, Land of the Lustrous is proof that CG doesn’t have to be a detriment to a work. I would even argue that Land of the Lustrous looks better in CG than it would have in 2D. And that’s not even touching on its unique post-apocalyptic world and relatable characters. Phos is an instantly likable lead who only grows more likable as the show goes on. As they go through more and more hardship in their search for a purpose, Phos’ self-doubt and lack of confidence become more and more relatable. Phos grows and matures as the show goes on, and not always for the better. The contrast between Phos at the start and Phos at the end is striking and sad at the same time. Land of the Lustrous is a coming of age tale that understands that maturity doesn’t always lead to happiness. It’s good enough that it would probably be my anime of the year most years, and only loses that spot because this has been an exceptional year for anime. Regardless, Phos’ story has a lot more to tell, and I’m eagerly awaiting a second season.
While it isn’t my number one show of the year, Kakegurui is easily the most entertaining show of the year. It’s characters aren’t particularly complex, and the gambling is pretty gimmicky, but none of that detracts from how much fun it is. The anime pores so much insane energy into everything that it’s hard not to grin like an idiot every time Yumeko utterly destroys someone while looking like she just had sex. Dumb as that sounds, Kakegurui puts so much into every scene that it wins on simple entertainment value. It’s an anime in the same vein as Hellsing Ultimate: trashy, over-the-top, and relishing every second of it. Kakegurui isn’t particularly deep or intelligent, but it’s so much fun that none of that even matters. If you want mindless entertainment, few shows are better than Kakegurui.
As it aired, my opinion of Re:Creators only grew. It went from a cool action show, to anime of the season, to anime of the year, to one of my all time favorites. As a story about stories, Re:Creators perfectly understands the value and appeal of fiction in a way I’ve never seen before in anime. Re:Creators understands that, beyond simply serving as escapism, fiction can inspire people to be more. Fictional characters can serve as points of inspiration to us, can tug at our heartstrings, and can embody ideals we aspire to. All these ideas would already make for a great anime, but Re:Creators is also one of the best action shows of the year. The premise of fictional characters entering the real world allows for a huge variety of battles, from sword fights to mech fights, Re:Creators has a bit of everything. The fights find the perfect balance of cool and silly that you rarely see outside of anime. Where else would you see a female knight on a flying horse save a magical girl from a Stand user? With a core cast that embodies a variety of iconic anime archetypes without relying solely on archetypes, Re:Creators has strong hooks across the board. It’s fair to say that the plot itself was kind of messy, but all of its other strengths are more than enough to make it my pick for anime of the year.