Greetings, everyone! We’ve got one show wrapping up for the year late, so if you’re just here for the best of the year, skip down a couple sections.
Hozuki’s Coolheadedness 2 #13 – The end of the year is crunch time in Hell, not only because of the usual slew of paperwork. It’s a Japanese New Year’s tradition to go to a temple and make a small offering, generating tons of work for the spirit world. The pressure is getting to even Hōzuki, pushing him into an all-caps rant about the inability of Japan to take some freaking time off. It is not possible to overstate the irony of this message airing in the very week which regular TV anime usually skips.
Anyway. This week’s celebrity mythology appearance consists of the monk Ikkyū, who was an actual historical person, and Jigoku Dayū, who may or may not have been, but who I kind of hope was because she sounds like an awesome lady. Here’s the story of Jigoku’s enlightenment, if you’d like to know more.
So the New Year festivities close out with much drinking, and a reprise of the theme song from the first season, and the paramount king of Hell making a Vulcan salute. Aww, I can’t stay mad at this show for messing up my nice tidy end-of-year post if it’s going to give me that. Best of all, it’s not over yet, and you can bet this will be back in the lineup after its hiatus.
Okay, here we go with the best anime of 2017. For prospective Hugo voters, I’ve included directors, writers (“Series Composition” = head writer, more or less), and studios. If there’s some other anime you’d like to nominate, I strongly recommend the Anime News Network encyclopedia. Look for the “Animation Production” credit to get the primary studio.
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: 18if episode 7, “And Now There Are None”
As a series, 18if was uneven and ultimately disappointing. But along the way, it had some spectacular highs, and one of those was the best episode of television I’ve seen all year, regardless of language, genre, or production medium.
“And Now There Are None” would have been a decent enough just as a tale of childhood friendship and loss. But layered with current events, mashed up with L. Frank Baum and Kurt Vonnegut, filtered through Chinese philosophy, and rendered in a visual style utterly unlike typical modern anime, it is something truly special.
Even if you aren’t much of anime fan, if you read no further in this post and never check out my recommendations again, please watch this one thing at least. It’s a mere half-hour of your time; it’s available for free; you don’t need to know anything about the rest of the show; and it truly deserves to stand alongside with the best sf has produced in 2017.
Episode script and director: Kōichi Chigira
International streams: Crunchyroll (US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa); VVVVID (Italy); bilibili (Asia); FUNimation dub (US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand)
#3: Attack on Titan season 2
The best thing Attack on Titan has ever done was to take its hero out of the spotlight for a while and let much more interesting characters take over. This season also benefitted from much improved pacing, making it a wild ride of revelation after revelation. Eren is taking over again in the next story arc, so I don’t know if this show will ever appear in my best-of-the-year list again, but props for making this part absolutely the best it could be.
Some knowledge of the first season is necessary, but you have my permission to watch the first few episodes of that season, then read some spoilers and skip to this part. It’s that big an improvement.
Studio: Wit Studio
Chief Director: Tetsurō Araki
Director: Masashi Koizuka
Series Composition: Yasuko Kobayashi (based on a manga by Hajime Isayama)
International streams: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa); FUNimation (non-delayed dub for US, Canada, UK, Ireland); VRV (US); AnimeLab (Australia, New Zealand); Wakanim (Canada, France, Belgium, Monaco, Switzerland, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Nigeria, Sénégal, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique); VVVVID (Italy); Anime on Demand (German-speaking Europe); bilibili (Asia)
#2: Saga of Tanya the Evil
The best character I’ve come to know this year is Tanya Degurechaff, ruthless military child prodigy in an alternate magical 20th century Europe, relying on her memories of her former life as a Tokyo businessman. She’s just nasty enough for you to cheer when her latest scheme to get a cushy appointment well behind the front lines falls through, and just sympathetic enough to keep you watching as she tries again. Ever seen Blackadder Goes Forth? Imagine if Blackadder had superpowers and an ongoing argument with God.
The show itself also walks a fine line, sober enough not to trivialize the horrors of war, but staying far enough out of the darkness to be entertaining. There’s a lot more to the series of books this is based on, so I hope we’ll see more of Tanya’s story animated in years to come.
Director: Yutaka Uemura
Series Composition: Kenta Ihara (based on books by Carlo Zen)
#1: The Eccentric Family 2
The Eccentric Family was my pick for the best sf TV anime of 2013, so reuniting most of the team behind it for the sequel all but guaranteed it was going to be one of my favorites this year. But if anything, it has surpassed the first series.
There’s the same art which makes nearly every frame a delight to behold, and brings a cluttered, lived-in Kyoto as much to life as any of the characters; the familiar characters, but with new depth and fullness as they are forced to confront that life is not static; some great new ones; and there is still an expert mix of comedy and drama.
At the time The Eccentric Family 2 aired, the original Eccentric Family had become unavailable for streaming to much of the world, but it’s back on Crunchyroll now (and still available on ADN), so most of you can enjoy the whole story straight through.
Studio: P.A. Works
Director: Masayuki Yoshihara
Series Composition: Ryō Higaki (based on a novel by Tomihiko Morimi)
Some miscellaneous end-of-year thoughts:
- Couple of the year: Ymir and Christa, Attack on Titan. Yes, I’ve seen warnings from people familiar with the manga that we shouldn’t get too attached to them, but just looking at what is available onscreen at this moment, they are the best.
- Disappointment of the year: Kino’s Journey, because it would be unfair of me to pick Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul when I was able to bail out at the halfway point. (People who watched the rest report that it carried through with the bad choices it was hinting at and then some.)
- Pleasant surprise of the year: Chronos Ruler. I expected exactly nothing of it until seeing the last few seconds of the premiere, so getting a solid midlist-quality story with some entertaining trope reversals was a huge win.
- Show I am most impatiently awaiting more of: Land of the Lustrous.
In the coming year, I hope for many things. I hope that Amazon will come to its senses and dismantle Anime Strike. Failing that, I hope it will at least not be inflicted on the rest of the world. I hope Netflix starts to honor its alleged principle of not making people wait, and starts simulcasting the anime it picks up rather than consigning it to a black hole until all the buzz is gone. I hope for anime fandom to catch up with the cultural moment where we start believing reports of harassment enough for victims to do more than just make anonymous accusations on Tumblr, before that moment goes away.
Most of all, of course, I hope for a lot of good anime. Happy New Year!