While I didn’t watch nearly as much anime I have in years prior, the cream of the crop from 2017 ranks among the best I’ve ever seen in anime.
As like last year, before I start the top ten list I feel it’s only appropriate to list a few honorable mentions. However unlike how many classify their honorable mentions, mine here are reserved solely for the many great anime I wanted to watch but for one reason or another, never found the time to actually see them. If you’re looking for my actual honorable mentions, they’re being used as the picture right above me. As for the anime from 2017 that I haven’t seen but want to we’ve got Scum’s Wish, Onihei, Kakegurui, Juuni Taisen, Just Because!, Girls Last Tour, and Recovery of an MMO Junkie. Those are shows I will hopefully find the time to watch later but if there’s another series you love that didn’t make this list, I probably didn’t see it. Like I said up front, I didn’t watch much this year, pretty much every series I saw is included in this post, minus a few short run series and Hand Shakers (which is terrible). So without further ado, let’s start the list!
If only to further illustrate how little anime I’ve watched this year, I’m putting on a series that I’ve only seen half of the episodes released in 2017. The second season is still ongoing, having started last cour, but I’ve only watched the first two episodes of that season. I did however, manage to catch the entire first season, and I personally thought the introduction and focus on Shimada helped make the later episodes among the best in the series. Not only did the series continue to showcase some impressive visual flair like the featured picture but it gave us a character arc to attach to, one that also influenced our main character (Rei’s) own story. My memory of this show is a bit too hazy to delve into further depth but following Rei’s life through the cruel world of professional journey and see him makes strides past a depression filled life remained enjoyable and I look forward to resuming season two in the near future.
If you’re looking for a show that highlights depression, someone inflicted with it and continually making ways out, that focuses both on a professional career of shogi and a slice of life, with several distinct visual set-pieces and Shaft-ism (for better or for worse) then March Comes in Like a Lion can be viewed on Crunchyroll. I’d personally suggest watching til episode five before ultimately making a decision, as that episodes explores Rei’s backstory (let’s just say, it’s not a pleasant one) and it was when I first felt truly invested in the series, I believe it serves as the starting point for the most interesting source of drama in the series as well. Of course if the series didn’t work for you at all in the first few episodes, sticking around probably won’t change your perspective but if you’re on the fence (perhaps the comedy isn’t to your taste, a common criticism that I agree with) then I would recommend seeing through until at least that episode before calling it quits.
You probably don’t need me to explain this one. While this season certainly wasn’t the cultural phenomena the first one was and the four-year wait between seasons probably did more to deter its impact on a crossover scale, it’s still a property that’s highly well-known if nothing else so it’s appearance on any top list is probably a little expected. Anyway, I was never really blown away by Attack on Titan like many ways, my impressions of the first season was that it was a well-executed thrill ride but not much more than that and honestly I was losing a lot of my interest in the second half. The second season however provided more highlights for me. Whether it be through a massive reveal that’s more memorable for how it was revealed than the reveal itself, or through it’s more concentrated character exploration on Ymir. Another thing I thought was really improved, was the action. There’s a lengthy period of time where our cast of characters have to deal with Titans without the use of the gear, leading to a lot more tense atmosphere and interesting tactics to deal. It’s not mind-blowing strategies or anything, but it did make the action a lot more gripping for me personally. I will say that the season ended on a sour note for me, it reached the point of absurdity that has just rendered me unable to take the material seriously. Regardless, I will be watching three when it comes out and I just hope that doesn’t take another four years.
I don’t think there’s really any need for me to try recommend a series as ubiquitously known as Attack on Titan, but for consistency sake, if you want an engaging thrill-ride full of people Spider-Man’in around to combat giant titans with some interesting executions then you can watch Attack on Titan on Crunchyroll. The dub is probably available on Funimation and Netflix might still have Attack on Titan, I’m not hundred percent sure on that. Attack on Titan’s first episode starts off on full-blast so that should be enough to convince you but if you’re still on the fence, episode four, particularly the ending, should have you sufficiently hooked if the series is ever going to hook you.
Despite watching anime for years, Maid Dragon was actually the first series by Kyoto Animation I’ve ever seen, and it was pretty solid introduction. Perhaps the most impressive element of the series was how well animated the product was all throughout, while never in lengthy bursts, several ‘action’ sequences were impeccably well animated, and always felt like a special treat in a series that really didn’t require such visual spectacles. That aside, Maid Dragon at its best was a very charming and heartwarming series focusing on the continuing integration of dragons into human life. The negatives for me mainly lie down in some repetitive humor. For example, I found Saikawa’s joke amusing in the first episode but every subsequent appearance only got a little more annoying, especially since the joke doesn’t contain any variation. Far worse however was Lucoa’s relationship with Shouta. While that did have levels of variation, along with just being uncomfortable, their inclusion in the series being just comic relief hurt the series overall theme. Every-other dragon that’s paired with a human features some growth in their relationships (usually expressed through the dragon’s side), and those scenes highlighting those are consistently among my favorites, however Lucoa’s relationship with Shouta never even attempts this. Unlike the other dragon/human pairings, it’s only ever played for comedy. While I wouldn’t go as far to say they undermine the series core message or anything, this does mean that opinion on their relationship is dependent entirely on whether you find their joke funny, there’s nothing else to latch about them in contrast to the others. So your mileage may vary but I never found them funny in the first place, and they show up constantly. Regardless, it’s only worth pointing out those flaws here now because the other relationships, particularly the ones with Kobayashi, are really well-done.
If you’re looking for a charming slice of life about family, told through dragons integrating into human life, with consistently high production values, Maid Dragon is available through Crunchyroll. The first episode should be enough to tell you exactly whether or not the series will be for you, but if you’re on the fence about that just give the second episode a try, as it introduces another character who according to the member favorites on MAL, is easily the best character in the series. I’m guessing for her moe-ness.
Well this is an interesting one. The main element that sticks out to me about ACCA is its laid-back atmosphere. No matter how grand the scale got, how high the stakes got, or even just how life-threatening a situation was the series never betrays that chill tone. It’s a pretty odd experience for that alone but the series also has a few other peculiarities, like how dedicated it is to exploring the delicacies of each nation’s food. I haven’t really watched any anime explicitly about food like say Food Wars, but I’ve heard more talk about bread in ACCA than I think the other three hundred plus anime I’ve seen combined, and it’s a plot point if memory serves. That aside, I enjoyed seeing all the different districts that Jean has to inspect, the various cultures represented and how the landscape and personality of the districts influences it’s citizens is rather interesting to watch, even if that aspect ends up overshadowed by the series over-arcing narrative. And that narrative is good and thankfully, finished by the end of the twelve episode run, leaving nothing unresolved, which is something I can really appreciate with anime’s tendency to leave a story uncompleted. Only other things of notes are the cool character designs and color palettes as well as the unfortunate note that I didn’t find the series as emotionally gripping as intellectually. The only episode that I felt some form of attachment to was the one detailing Crow’s backstory and I do personally blame the chill tone on my lack of personal attachment though I wouldn’t sacrifice that laid-back atmosphere since it was the most interesting aspect of the series.
If you want to watch chill political thriller with a side obsession on food then ACCA is probably only option available and you can stream it over on Crunchyroll. It’s a bit difficult for me to figure out what a good watch til point is with this series, I think episode one despite featuring some clunky exposition is probably a safe bet though it definitely improves from that point. I would suggest the first two episodes, especially if the first episode leaves you on the fence. If you hate the first episode, I doubt anything in the rest of the series will change your mind.
How the mighty have fallen. Since this site didn’t exist back in the 2015 I haven’t made a proper top ten list but spoiler alert, Kekkai Sensen would’ve easily topped that list. And 2015 was no slouch, as both Death Parade and Noragami Aragato are stiff competition, not to mention the more popularly touted series like One Punch Man or JoJo kicking around. And granted if that season had aired this year, it would’ve topped at two max, there’s still no denying that Kekkai Sensen & Beyond for me is more like Kekkai Sensen Minus. It contains many of the attributes of the last season I liked so much but it just lost all the elements that elevated the source material into one of my favorite series out there. Gone was Rie Matsumoto’s frenetic directorial style and the over-arching thematically dense plot-line that made the original season an instant classic for me.
But of course, the series is still listed at number six so it’s not like the loss of Rie Matsumoto left Kekkai Sensen & Beyond an unwatachable mess. Takayanagi’s more conventional approach still worked, albeit it was less effective for me, and I the collection of chapters selected here were really appreciated, having read the manga I was pretty upset that several of my favorite chapters were skipped and even if I have my issues with some cut content, it was still nice to finally see them adapted. And a more straight adaptation of Nightow’s manga meant the series got to explore the rest of the cast, Chain and K.K.’s episodes in particular were fantastic, with the latter’s being the season highlight. The episodic adventures were still entertaining, and the finale while it couldn’t match the first season, was fitting and one of the highlights. I also really liked the season tendency to conclude big climatic battles to softer songs, whether they be kinda ballads or more heavenly pieces, it always made those segment stand out far more.
If you’re looking for a chaotic series of misadventures in one of the most vibrant settings in modern anime history, that initially tie into a stronger thematic piece about relationships and normalcy before switching gears to a slice of life about the main cast of characters then Kekkai Sensen is available on Crunchyroll subbed and Funimation dub, both options are solid though I prefer the sub. The first episode of the series is a pretty convincing selling point for the series ultimate strengths though it wasn’t until the second episode that I was personally really invested into the series so maybe until then. As for Beyond, since there’s only a slight recurring narrative (and one that really doesn’t add much but a sense of continuity, you could unless lose those added bits and not miss anything), it’s entirely possible to just skip around there but if you’re questioning whether you should stick around, I’d give it just two episodes as well, as I don’t think Beyond’s premiere is particularly strong.
My Hero Academia’s second season was a marked improvement over the first, no longer with any of the pacing problems present in the former, but most notably the story-telling just got a lot sharper, with a greater expanded focus on developing other side characters. The Festival arc that begins the season is easily the highlight of the entire series so far, providing a series of the most intelligently crafted challenges yet, each which are satisfying explored through the various strategies employed by the participants involved. But most importantly, the character development for Todoroki was a highlight in anime all year, and arguable the climax of his development and arc, the episode “Shoto Todoroki: Origin”, is arguably the best episode all year, anime or otherwise. This is all because at it’s core, My Hero Academia expresses the shonen beating heart better than just about any other series in the market. I don’t know if its possible to execute the shonen template any better than My Hero Academia does, and this will undoubtedly be showing up in my top ten lists for years to come at this rate.
If you haven’t watched My Hero Academia yet and want to see shonen done right, you can find over on both Crunchyroll and Funimation, subbed and dubbed. Much like Kekkai Sesnen, I prefer the sub though the dub is also solid. Much like last year, I’d give the series the first two episodes before deciding on it. The first episode only covers half the first chapter of the manga while the second covers the latter half, so it only makes sense that both episodes are required to hit the selling point. That will expose its beating heart and should be a good indicator of whether or not the show will be for you.
Tsuki ga Kirei is simply put the best romance anime I’ve seen. Not only does it get to tell a complete story which features constant development throughout the course of its twelve episodes rather than saving that for the finale, but it nails giving the relationship proper perspective. What I mean by that is this, Kotarou and Akane are distinct individuals, with their own hobbies and friends. Both people exist outside of the relationship, and we spend time with both of them without the other, witnessing as they pursue their own goals but this doesn’t mean the relationship takes a backseat. Actually seeing how their relationship ends up influencing their own lives is one of the most satisfying moments of the show, as well as how they manage to express common ground and comfort in each-other despite the different fields they’re into only made my connection to their relationship stronger. It felt like watching two individuals coming together, more natural and realistic than what I’m use to. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that my favorite aspect of the anime was actually Kotarou’s relationship with his mother.
If you’re looking for a really well-executed, complete, romance story then I’d highly encourage you to give Tsuki ga Kirei a try over on Crunchyroll. Episode one should be enough to determine whether or not you’ll be able to get into the series, I can imagine the amount of adorable awkwardness involved with middle school relationships might be a turn off for some.
Land of the Lustrous is a milestone hallmark anime that in years to come, I feel will be reflected upon as a true step forward for the medium. The incorporation of CG into anime isn’t anything new, it’s been around for a while and there have been several shows heavily utilizing CG in the past, look no further than Netflix’s own library of anime. But Land of the Lustrous is special, if you’ve heard anything about this series it’s undoubtedly how beautiful it is, not just as a CG anime but as an anime period. This is probably (with only the number two on my list providing competition) the best looking show of 2017 and has basically succeeded in changing my entire opinion on the future of CG in anime. The dazzling color selection, the well-integration of traditional 2D animation, the dynamic camera work in all the action sequences, Land of the Lustrous is a constant delight to look at from beginning to end.
But it’s far from just a visually appealing series, it takes more than a pretty face to wind up this high on my list. Land of the Lustrous is also a fantastic character story, with Phos’ arc throughout the season being a highlight of the entire year, and one of strongest character arcs all year. If I watched enough new series to do a “Top Ten New Anime Characters of 2017”, Phos would most likely top that list, with relative ease only having one real competitor as of right now. And while Phos’ development is the highlight, the story itself is incredibly fascinating. Not only because of the various inter-personal relationships between the various gems, Phos and Cinnabar as well as Bort’s and Dia’s being my favorites, but because of the unique world-building and intriguing mystery, lore, and backstory presented throughout. Throw in a fantastic score, and a series that perpetually outdoes itself, with just about every episode being better than the one preceding it, and you’ve got yourself a strong contender for anime of the year most years. To be honest, once the Winter arc had come and gone, I was worried that deciding the order of the top three was going to become incredibly difficult, unfortunately the finale episode broke the streak of constantly improving episode. While the series makes several noble attempts to provide a sense of closure within the finale episode, the ending couldn’t help but fall flat to me and with no second season on the horizon as of yet, it was hard to not feel a little deflated leaving Land of the Lustrous. It turned what was going to be a nine into an eight for me, hopefully a second season will be announced in the near future but even if it’s not, I’d still recommend watching this series, if only to be dazzled by what CGI can really accomplish in the right hands.
If you want to see an absolutely beautiful CGI series with a strong character focus supported by a unique story structure and world-building, Land of the Lustrous can be viewed over on Amazon Prime. Now while I’ve recently been pleased to only recommend a viewing stop point of about two episodes for most of this list, I unfortunately have to dial the number back up to about four episode. The initial premise presented isn’t very interesting to many and I’ve heard more than one person highlight episode four as the point where they actually got interested/invested in the story. Considering that’s the first episode where we get true insight into the unique lore of the series, I’m not surprised, so I would definitely recommend sticking til episode four before writing this series off. At the very least, you’ll get some pretty gorgeous visuals along the way.
Made in Abyss at it’s best, is simply magic. From its gorgeous background art (depicted above, the series filled with highly detailed background art that alone puts it as a contender for best looking anime of the year, albeit some of the background locales aren’t necessarily as interesting as what’s displayed about) to the wondrous score by Kevin Penkin which certain tracks alone, specifically Hanezeve Caradhina, could make entire scenes among favorite of the year. The production qualities on this series were immaculate, like the monster designs, consistently drawn slightly askew from the regular characters to foster them leaving a more distinct impression in that uncanny valley way. I really wanted to point that out because several times to accomplish this effect I feel like several series would just resort to using CGI which to me always just broke immersion from the story, since the clash in styles was so apparent it usually just made it obvious I’m watching a production. Compare that to the more subtle ways in Made in Abyss, these monster ape things being my favorite. They way they only have an outline surrounding their body shade instead of any of the content within and how pronounced their outer-border is in comparison to the others in the series. The clash in slight ways that make their appearance all the more memorable and while that’s my favorite instance, that isn’t the only one.
Production values aside there’s still a lot to appreciate, the titular Abyss itself namely. Made in Abyss sports one of the most captivating worlds I’ve ever experienced in fiction and the Abyss itself is an integral character. It just naturally carries such much intrigue and mystery within its own design, inhabitants, and peculiarities (the curse of the Abyss), that I’d be thoroughly willing to watch others explore it without all the narrative purposes that only further propels my desire to learn more about it. Thanks in large part to the Abyss, the series absolutely manages to capture the allure of adventure. Exploring it with the extra incentive is nice though, and the series concluding arc is an emotionally devastating character arc that I really loved. Even though that series doesn’t have a proper conclusion to it, the final episode managed to center on an excellent dramatic hook that managed to leave me satisfied by its conclusion though thankfully we have a season two on the horizon. And while the series never made me actually cry, it was one of the most emotionally brutal rides I’ve experienced. Episode ten in particular. Still, I love the series for that, it’s not an experience that I’m going to forget for quite some time.
To be honest, entering 2017 I fully expected my number one series to have an easy time claiming it’s throne but Made in Abyss really gave it a run for its money. So what ultimately caused it to fall short at only number two (though that is no small feat, this series is still amazing)? Well, for starters the series sense of levity isn’t great, often falling into some of the most basic jokes you’d find in many anime, and at it’s worst was cause for concern. In the case of the former, bad cooking jokes made several appearances in the show but on the latter, child nudity (whether visually shown albeit obscured or just referenced verbally) was not ignored as a ‘comedic tool’. The anime (I hear the manga is a different story) never sexualized those scenes, to me they seemed clearly framed for comedy though I wouldn’t be surprised if these scenes were more problematic for others. To me they were mostly just eye-roll lame humor. The other issue I have is that Riko as a main character wasn’t very interesting and the series was at it’s worst when they placed her center stage. Thankfully, it’s an infrequent occurrence and didn’t do much to distract from my enjoyment. As I said, these two caveats to a series I absolutely adored.
If you’re looking to experience a once in a lifetime anime with phenomenal productions values, an intricately developed and alluring world, which embodies the spirit of adventure with a dash of emotional turmoil then you owe it yourself to go over to Amazon Prime and watch the first episode. If the first episode doesn’t work for you, then I’m fairly certain the series won’t work for you. And even if you don’t intend to watch the full series, I do think the first three episodes, are worth watching. Not to imply that the series is all downhill from there, my favorite episodes are the last few, it’s just that those three episodes tell an excellent prologue and the first episode at least, is something special.
Because of course it’s Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju. It was my favorite anime last year and the second season was even stronger than the first in my opinion, so this was essentially guaranteed to steal the top spot. For as much praise as I’d given Made in Abyss, and to a lesser extent Land of the Lustrous, let me make it perfectly clear that had Rakugo not stumbled a bit in that last episode, neither of those series would’ve likely came close to matching Rakugo. If you’ve already seen the show and want to read my extensive analysis on that scene, you can read that here. Considering it’s the most consistently viewed blog post I’ve released, you’ve likely already read it but I’m getting it out-of-the-way here because it did make an impression on my opinion and because I’m not interested in dwelling in the negatives with Rakugo.
Simply put, Rakugo Shinju is a modern masterpiece. Every element of the craft is expertly executed, and there’s not a single element in its construction that I wouldn’t position as one of the best in not only anime, but television in general. In terms of characterization, the series brought us Bon/Yakumo/Kikuhiko, who is one of the most fully realized characters I’ve ever seen. Basically granting us a chance to view most of his life, this multi-generational story showered up with his nuanced individual development and various relationships. He’s not even my personal favorite character, certainly the most well-explored of the cast, but the other characters in the cast are also all great. Yotaro, Sukeroku, Miyokichi, and Konatsu are also expertly defined characters with satisfying arcs that play out throughout the series. Matsuda is also pretty great, though mostly as consistent force of kindness throughout the run, and there’s a few other supporting roles who get a surprising amount of depth. The story telling itself, aforementioned stumble aside, is impeccable. A multifaceted masterpiece that manages to cleverly tie together the past into the present, allowing for some of the most poignant scenes in the medium, using the art form at its core to help express the stories of the individual characters in meaningful ways. The OST is something I feel is often over-looked in Rakugo discussions, which is a shame because it’s brilliant. It beautifully compliments each scene, and the power of the tracks absolutely highlight the tone making the emotional scenes resonate even stronger without ever taking over the scene (a key example is the final scene in the penultimate episode [side note, that scene is already up there with my most re-watched scenes]). The direction is absolutely captivating, animated Rakugo should by all accounts be a boring affair are incredibly entertaining thanks to mixture of the visuals utilizing several interesting shots and cuts in order to easily track the story, and the amazing voice acting. The performances by all the cast are excellent, having to perform Rakugo is no easy feat and Akira Ishida’s performance as Bon/Yakumo/Kikuhiko in particular is one of the all-time great. The art and animation are also fantastic, occasionally you’ll get a few derp faces from background characters but it’s hardly worth complaining about when the series also contains a sweeping 360 shot, which I shouldn’t even have to describe how impressive that is in a non CG series.
But all that was detailing the broad strokes of why the entire series ranks as one of my all-time favorite shows so what in particular makes this season stronger? The story this time around is less tightly scripted and meticulous than the first season but it makes up with that through strong emotional catharsis. If the first season was the story of the tragedy, Descending Stories was about the recover. Seeing both Konatsu’s and Yotaro’s own growth was great but the true meat of the series was centered around Bon/Yakumo/Kikuhiko and there are so many scenes either directly involving this fatalistic old man or just surrounding the drama in his past that were so heartwarming, sad, devastating, and/or poignant. Culminating in the penultimate episode which while I did have some issues with at the start, the amount of emotional catharsis it provided by the end easily sealed it as one of the best episodes I’ve ever seen.
All of Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is available to watch over on Crunchyroll and even though the show’s appeal is more niche, I still highly recommend the series. The first episode, which is an hour-long, should be enough to tell whether you’ll like the series or think it’s utterly boring. I wouldn’t let the Rakugo scenes, which again I absolutely adore, deter you since I do know a few people who don’t enjoy those but still like the series. After episode one, the first season is mostly composed of a backstory and I also know at least one person who didn’t like the first episode but started getting in it once the flashback got going so if you’re on the fence, I’d give it another two or so episodes. The series constantly improves from there, finally becoming a full-blown masterpiece around episode eight I want to say.
If you haven’t seen any of the shows featured on this list, let me know what you think if you decide to check any of them out. Rakugo Shinju is clearly my favorite but there are several different shows here with different appeals so hopefully something will be to your liking. And as I said up top, I didn’t watch much more that extends past this list so if I haven’t mentioned your favorite anime of 2017, let me know in the comments.