Roving Thoughts archives


The best N anime that I saw in 2017

Yes, I know. It's practically the end of 2018, and here I am writing about my 2017 'best N'. This is a rather delayed entry, and unlike last year's best N it's not because I have conflicted feelings; I just got lazy and let it slip and slip and slip. Not writing things is easier than writing things, after all.

Because this is significantly delayed, I probably have a somewhat different perspective on 2017's shows than I would have had in January or February. The passage of time always changes my feelings about shows; some of my immediate enthusiasms fade, while other shows rise in my estimation. Of course this also makes an immediate end of the year view suspect, because I will be writing it only weeks after the fall season shows finished, with hot enthusiasms still running, but a full nine months after the winter shows did, with cooled and more distant reactions. But so it goes. Perhaps writing 2017's best-of so far from the end of 2017 has given me a more even perspective on everything.

As usual for these retrospectives, this is what I consider to be to be the best or most enjoyable things that I saw in calendar 2017 (regardless of when they were made or released). As is now standard, my general rule is that only shows that have actually ended count because you never know what eye-rolling things a show may finish up with. Conveniently for me, this still excludes March comes in like a Lion, which finished in 2018. While March had a nominal season end in 2017, in terms of the show as a whole it was just a pause.

(See also the winter, spring, summer, and fall retrospectives.)

More or less in order, but I'm not going to categorize exactly how good I feel these are:

  • Land of the Lustrous: A stunning show in very many ways, both in the presentation and in the story itself. Ultimately it was the story of how Phos changed and was changing, and perhaps how all of the gems were moving from their long stasis. See my fall retrospective for more words and hand-waving about this very memorable show.

  • Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid: This was both a funny comedy and a heart-touching show about (found) families. It never forgot to be funny, but it also never forgot what the show was quietly really about. As a show about families, it was also quietly about the changes and accommodations you make when you form a family, which is not a common message.

    (As an extension of that, it was also sort of about how you fit yourself into friendships and a broader society around yourself.)

  • Kemono Friends: At one level this was not an amazing show, although it was a very good one once you peeled back the superficial surface story; it had a bunch of quietly great characters (some of them painfully real), very solid world building, excellent use of incluing, and so on. At another level, Kemono Friends was the magic of anime. It transmuted what should have by all means been dross into spun gold and in the process showed everyone how unimportant many conventional aspects of anime ultimately are in making a great show. Welcome to Japari Park, now and forever.

  • Made in Abyss: This was a generally excellent show (albeit with some questionable aspects) with an absolutely stunning last third that was terrifying, heart-wrenching, peculiarly beautiful, and ultimately optimistic. In at least two episodes, Made in Abyss managed to achieve the kind of genuine emotional power and impact that very few shows can even approach. People who watched Made in Abyss will not be forgetting this piece of music any time soon.

  • Girls' Last Tour: As a whole this was a quiet, beautiful, and sometimes heartbreaking little gem, where our duo of blobby characters in deliberately scratchy backgrounds delivered quiet meditations on life. Perhaps I should love it more than I do, but as a whole it is a little bit too much of a downer to live in my heart that way. As the title says, this is the last tour through a ruined and desolate world, however beautifully presented and however touching, and however many things the show finds in the ruins.

    (Partly as a result of what GLT is fundamentally about, I can't really imagine rewatching the show as a whole. Maybe little nice moments and scenes, but nothing more.)

On the edge, if I'm being honest:

  • The Dragon Dentist: This little two-episode OVA probably flew under many people's radar, which is a mistake. It packed a lot into its short run, including a bunch of fun stuff, a quiet optimism, and a genuine sense of heart. Oddly, one thing that elevates it quite a bit in my regard is the opening of the second OVA, but that's something that I can't explain without spoilers to people who haven't seen the show.

    (This is on the edge because it doesn't quite stand out and stick in my memory as the other shows do, but at the same time it's much more than merely ordinarily good.)

Old things I watched that impressed me:

  • Iria: Zeiram the Animation: This is a fun six-episode OVA from the 1990s with a distinctly different feel from modern anime, including in its settings and its character designs. I wish we had more of its distinctly different SF feeling in modern anime; modern SF anime designs and settings are generally pretty predictable and thus somewhat boring. Iria is entertaining enough to watch for that alone, and it's worth watching to see what we could have if people wanted to do it.

  • Crusher Joe is very 1980s. Both the movies and the OVAs are entertaining in the 1980s action adventure way; they were worth watching both for that and as pieces of animation history. There's a reason that the movie is kind of a classic (and it's not just the first animated appearance of the Dirty Pair, sorry, Lovely Angels).

I'm kind of cheating by not trying to rank these two shows against the current shows I watched this year, but both of them feel like such different things from currently airing stuff that it feels impossible to do a meaningful comparative ranking. Besides, it's my blog so I'm allowed to cheat if I want to.

From here on in, we're in the category of shows that I consider good but not necessarily memorable over the long term. There is no strong ranking between the shows, although there is a subdivision this year.

Good things I want to like more than I actually do:

  • Eccentric Family S2: There were plenty of things to like about this season but it hasn't stuck with me the way the first season did, and at this distance it doesn't feel essential. This is pretty much what I predicted in my spring retrospective, so I'm not too surprised. I still wouldn't mind seeing more Eccentric Family, though, as it was always enjoyable and I do like the characters, the setting, and so on, so I'd be happy with seeing them gallivanting around more.

  • Princess Principal: This was a genuinely fun show with a lot of good things all through it; it's definitely set a standard that many shows like it now fail to live up to. But, as I said in my summer retrospective, it was more of a prequel than a story, and in the end this means that it lacks some degree of impact.

  • Senki Zesshou Symphogear AXZ: This was a fine installment of the Symphogear experience, with a number of nice touches. But it's not really something that I could point to to sell people on Symphogear (and not just because it's building on everything that came before), which is kind of a pity. As a Symphogear season, at this distance from it it's ordinary.

Good shows that I no longer have strong feelings about:

  • Alice & Zouroku: On the one hand, this show was basically a treasure; it's a show that focuses on children and makes it work. On the other hand, while I have fond memories of it it's not sticky in the way that some other shows are.

  • WorldEnd: This is a rare show of its fundamental nature (by which I mean being a light novel) that made everything completely work, including its ending. See my spring retrospective for more words.

  • Knight's & Magic: This is the best popcorn show I watched all year, because it was so earnest and honest about what it was and what it was doing. It helps a lot that I have a weakness for stories of this nature, what one could call 'competence porn', and I don't mind giant robots.

Finally, honorable mentions:

  • your name: This is a perfectly fine movie and it's very well made, but I don't have strong feelings about it in the way that some people do. I certainly don't think it's stunning except perhaps in a visual sense, although it certainly has many nice touches and subtle details.

    (Part of my muted reactions to this are that I think I have a different reaction to characters forgetting what made them the person they were than most people do. See, for example, my reaction to the ending of Darker Than Black's second season.)

  • Kizumonogatari: The whole set of three movies was spectacular and beautiful and periodically affecting and sometimes terrifying. But, at the same time, it's Monogatari, which means that it has a bunch of aspects that are very distinctive and not necessarily always to my taste. I have divided opinions about Monogatari's quirks, for all that I keep watching it, and as a practical matter those quirks lessen Kizumonogatari's impact on me.

  • ACCA - 13-Territory Inspection Department: I really liked this back at the time (cf) and it still stands out as a show that is definitely about adults, but at this distance I've mostly forgotten it. Looking back I think that one flaw of it is that while mysteries get revealed, there is not really any character development (for all that there is a lot of fine character interaction and it has a great feel for atmosphere). Style is great, but apparently it can only make a show stick so much for me; what really makes something work is probably heart (all of which my top things of 2017 have in full measure).

(Although the last two episodes of Long Riders! aired in 2017, I consider it really a 2016 show and anyway I already talked about it in my Best N in 2016. The last two episodes didn't let the show down in any way.)

My notes say that I finished about 28 shows, OVAs, and movies in 2017, which is about what I finished in 2016 as well. As in 2016, I dropped any number of shows, including promising shows and sad letdowns. Looking at my records suggest that I didn't continue 22 things that I either sampled or actively tried to watch, including one show where I got almost to the end before deciding not to go on (that was Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond).

The highlights of 2017 rank pretty highly for me, at least at this distance from them. At least the first five in my list will likely stick with me for some time.

anime/BestNIn2017 written at 19:01:59; Add Comment

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