Lystria’s Favorite Anime of 2017

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Hello my readers!

So it has just occurred to me that in my 5 years of running this blog, I have yet to ever post a rankings for my favorite anime of every year! And I have to ask myself: why have I been evading this topic? I literally do a list on my personal Facebook account for my friends to see every year, only for them to either ignore or slam all of my choices– oooohhh…

So here’s the deal. As 2017 comes to a close, I will publish my list of my 14 favorite anime that have aired some time this year. Why 14? Because 14’s my favorite number. No other reason. Bear in mind, these are my choices, and I respect that your top favorites are going to be different from mine. You’ll probably notice that I haven’t reviewed a lot of these yet, and that’s fine. They’re on my to do list. Think of this following list as a series of mini-reviews to tide you over before I take a much larger glance at some of these gems. You can find all of these and more on Crunchyroll!

Without further ado, these are my picks for my favorite anime of 2017!

14. Kemono Friends

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Starting off my list is the surprise sensation that became a cult classic overnight! Before I address the performative review that I had done for this series, I need to address why this phenomenon has gotten fans and critics alike up in arms this year. Despite its light-hearted tone with a dark reveal of a post-apocalyptic world build, the biggest thing that most people detest about this series is the rendering of its low-budget CGI. And if you are one of those many, many fans who despise it on that alone, sorry that you’re not in on the joke!

Kemono Friends has a colorful cast of a lot of different animal species as girls, and honestly, it really had no business to be as fun or serious as it turned out to be, especially once you consider that the entire anime is based on a mobile game! But for what it’s worth, it is a lot of fun if you’re into anime that’s so bad, it’s good. I mean, I am!

13. The Royal Tutor

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I’m gonna be frank with you: I didn’t expect to like this show so much. The lifestyle of the elite and wealthy has always left a sour taste in my mouth, which is why a lot of my reviews that cover them are met with sarcasm and absurdity, or I just don’t talk about them at all. Having said that, I was surprised that the titular character, Heine von Wittgenstein, is actually the opposite of that, and has become part of this royal romp out on a technicality that I will discuss in a future review of the series as a whole.

As an educator myself, a lot of the strategies and values that Heine professes onto the four princes are… exaggerated at best… but highly effective when your main goal is to teach students something for them to remember for a lifetime. That’s not always an easy task, especially when even school anime appear to be completely devoid of teacher characters.

I suppose since I double as a philosophy blogger, you’d expect me to comment on Heine’s parallels to the real life Ludwig von Wittgenstein, to which I say… I haven’t read enough Wittgenstein to know what his full platform is, but based on the little things I know about his Philosophy of Clarity, I think there might be something to work with there. Otherwise, The Royal Tutor brings its own unique philosophy to the world of anime that I think is ripe for discussion. In the meantime though, Heine is a total badass! That is all.

12. The Ancient Magus’ Bride

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I wouldn’t exactly call this an “obligatory” choice, but given the polls of the populace the world over, this is the only series on my list of 14 here that has caught nearly every anime fan by storm this year.

Fantastic world builds, stunning visuals, a seemingly endless roster of mythical creatures and magic, The Ancient Magus’ Bride was a hit before it even aired! But what I really like most about it is the magus himself, Elias Ainsworth. For a sage-like guy with the power to do so much that even his mundane tasks use magic, he still kind of has the wonder of a child. That’s probably why Chise has taken a liking to him so much, because let’s be real: he’s kind of a dork. Of course, Chise is also gaining a lot of magical insight as well, and rapidly it seems. But because I have a self-imposed rule that I don’t review anime until at least a full season has passed, you won’t be hearing back from me about it until next season! Probably.

11. Garo -Vanishing Line-

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Have I seen anything else from the Garo series? Not yet. Does that prevent me from liking this show? No. And I really hate elitists who think that you can’t watch a series unless you consume every last bit of the prior stories and spin-offs just to catch all the references!

If you haven’t checked this one out, Garo -Vanishing Line- follows the likes of Sword and Sophie in Russell City, as they fight off Horrors that plague the city and go on a quest to find the mysterious realm of El Dorado. Sword himself comes from a league of Horror-fighting badasses who protect the city, while Sophie is a teenage orphan in search of her big brother. The animation detail of this series is incredible and the creators definitely did their homework in capturing a diverse, American aesthetic. But my favorite parts of this series are the growth of Sword and Sophie as they form (at least so far) an unbreakable bond with one another.

Just as Sophie is looking for her missing brother, Sword lost his own little brother in the past. Both of them have lost someone important to them in this war against the Horrors, this unlikely pair do become surrogate brother and sister when they need it most. Again, this series appears to be ongoing, so this won’t be the last time that I will be revisiting it.

10. Sengoku Chojyugiga

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Satire, warriors of the Sengoku period, and the art style of Japan’s national treasure, Chojyugiga? What can possibly go wrong!

I have already written a review of this series, and yeah, I made a mistake in saying that it’s based off of wood block prints. Nope (that will be corrected)! This is in fact based on scroll art, and the original was not even about the Sengoku period, or warriors for that matter. That means that this anime is, in its own right, an original work! But given the history of the art form, the time period, and the humor of the here and now, this is a very creative anime from an historian’s perspective after all.

And if you thought that a Japanese national treasure is revered for being one of the purest forms that Japanese culture has to offer, let me remind you of a Japanese sense of humor. While my original review does have some mistakes that I have to correct, the fact remains that Chojyugiga was always meant to be interpreted as a satire on elitist Japanese society, namely of Buddhist priests of the late Heian period!

9. Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club

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I honestly would be surprised if anyone actually saw this series, let alone like it. But believe it or not, Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club did have a warm reception in Japan early on this year, and for good reason. Minakura’s story lies in a group of like-minded girls coming together to reform their school’s Cycling Club, an adventurous bunch that had a proud history of shaping the school that they have come to know and love today! Minakura takes a pragmatic approach to the aspects of cycling as a sport, as well as what students do to form a club, and build upon their community through such interests. The series also doubles as an informative block for those who are interested in cycling for recreation and traveling to Kamakura prefecture as well!

Minakura was a lot of fun to watch, and a lot of the instructions and strategies that the girls take off with have given me ideas for what it means to build a community around the school environment. And seeing how I am a teacher, that kind of stuff is especially important when you want your students to love what they learn. I most certainly do!

8. Kino’s Journey -the Beautiful World- (2017)

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If you’re one of those fans who refused to watch this, just because it doesn’t capture the personality of the 2003 version, I don’t care. And neither does the original creator apparently, if you watch his afterword in episode 9!

What this remake does differently from the original ultimately makes up for what got me into the series in the first place, and that is the philosophy that goes into the world-building aspect of everywhere that Kino travels. I haven’t done a review of this series yet frankly because I kind of want to explore every episode individually, something that I have yet to do for any anime series, because each country, each adventure, has a lot to say about the social and political philosophies that make up this series. I will be taking care of that soon enough, and no, a scientifically-driven review of this series (you know, that stuff you see on MAL) means nothing to me. When I review this, we’re going to do this right and talk philosophy!

Oh. And Kino’s a girl. Not that it matters though, because throughout her entire journey, gender is incidental.

7. ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.

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I love a good noir anime every now and then. But what I can’t stand is when other fans watch it unexamined, because our conversations pretty much go nowhere.

Given the tensions of 2017’s (and presumably 2018’s) socio-political climate, the topic of government corruption and how to actually run entire nations in a post-colonial world will indefinitely be up for hot debate, and every now and then, it’s good practice to examine how exactly we plan to move forward from there. And if there’s anything that ACCA and other shows like it have taught me, it’s that sometimes even the most idealized forms of action aren’t so clear-cut when you’re faced with reality. That being said, I don’t think it’s impossible for us to make small changes to make this world a better place. But it is going to take a lot of work.

I especially like Jean Otus’ entire persona in this series, as this no-nonsense representative of the bureaucracy who pretty much turns out to be true-blue proletariat all the way. But I also can’t help but admire that Mauve has a lot of responsibilities that she handles really well, given the circumstances that she was given. Do I think that what they pull off has any chance in happening in real life? Meh, too many factors to consider. But does an exploration of the possibility merit a sense of hope for us marginalized citizens? Absolutely!

6. Urahara

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I had way too much fun watching this series. I laughed. I cried. Pretty sure I squeed once in awhile, too! What starts out as a sci-fi, magical girl thriller about 3 girls from Harajuku blasting an alien invasion, turns out to be an inspiring tale about friendship, creativity, and what it means to be part of the stand-offish Harajuku subculture.

Urahara is cute on the surface, but deep in its narrative is an unapologetic take on the tropes of “anime for girls,” particularly when even the best shōjo projects are ultimately spear-headed by the male majority. Urahara in some respects demonizes clichés like being friends forever or being an original individual person, which from a metaphysical standpoint, you know that I am totally salivating over! But more on that when I get a chance to rewatch and review the entire series.

Long story short though: Urahara‘s production team was dedicated in telling this original story their way, one that puts girls in a positive light, as told from an exclusively girl perspective. And they nailed it!

5. The Eccentric Family, Season 2

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So I have this cringeworthy anime review of The Eccentric Family’s first season, back when it aired in 2013. While the series on the whole remains as one of my personal favorites of all time… let’s just say that my defense for it in writing has yet to have been communicated properly.

The Eccentric Family returns where it left off from the first season, only this time, you can add tengu clans and demons to the mix of political strife in Kyoto! But dramatizations as they may be, the truth about how each of these social groups of humans, tanuki, and tengu combined aren’t exactly as clear-cut as you might think.

Of course, my favorite part about this season came from the much-anticipated budding relationship between Yasaburo and Kaisei which has always been odd from the start (have you checked the anime title? There’s a lot of that!), and this part of the series does deliver in making it as complicated but still a lot of fun. Blood of fools ftw!

4. Tsuki ga Kirei

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This series gave me so much trouble, I had to write two reviews just to clarify my feelings for it! And yeah, I get that romance anime is not going to be for everyone. In fact, despite how much I cover the genre on my blog, the fact remains that I kind of have a love-hate relationship for it.

Tsuki ga Kirei remains high on my list of anime for the year not necessarily for its entertainment value. If you ask me, I actually didn’t enjoy it that much because a lot of the lovey-dovey scenes that everyone else talks about are things that I seldom can relate to, even at my age. But what it did for me was leave me vulnerable to a world of romance that truly doesn’t hold back, and surprisingly, I found myself finding what I needed most in the third wheel Chinatsu instead!

If you must know where my romantic life is at the moment, the answer is “meh.” Since my reviews of it, I’ve been on maybe one date and closed my online dating app. Twice. Romance isn’t exactly a rosey thing for me, and Tsuki ga Kirei reminds me more about the trials and tribulations that come with relationships than it does glorify them. But to me, the most tender parts of a romance have remained the same to me, and that is its fragility. If you ask me, Tsuki ga Kirei puts that aspect of love front-and-center, and that, to me, is how romance really is.

3. Sakura Quest

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Of all the shows that I have featured on this list, this one has the most in terms of notes I had to take while simulcasting it. And honestly, the main reason you haven’t seen a full review of it from me yet is because I’m still unpacking all of it!

Sakura Quest is a story about 5 young women who tell different versions of the town of Manoyama from their unique, individual perspectives. Manoyama is a small town that once was a sprawling tourist trap that has since become a rough place to live, as its citizens get older, and people are moving out fast! But in their quest to revive this place that they each call home, the girls and other citizens put their heads together to make Manoyama a lively place that is appropriate for its residents in the here and now.

A lot of personal feelings and thoughts on this series’ social commentary have gone into my first viewing of Sakura Quest, and for that, it does make for a powerful series that speaks volumes to the effects of late capitalism across multiple generations in a well-written and entertaining manner. However, it is partly because the issues that Sakura Quest faces are so real that I couldn’t make it my No. 1 for the year… at least, not yet.

Coming up with a list of my favorite anime every year and ranking them has never been an easy task, and as each series matures over time, I do find that things I thought were amazing in one year are forgotten over gems that I ranked slightly lower over time. But I’m getting ahead of myself when I do a kaleidoscope review of stuff I’ve written for my 5-year anniversary coming up in the next couple of days!

Speaking of things that need to be covered in retrospect…

2. Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū: Descending Stories

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If you’re wondering how the Hell a sequel series that I haven’t even reviewed EVER on this blog has somehow made it to the No. 2 spot on this list, your guess is as good as mine, because I actually did watch (and absolutely love) Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū when it first aired last year! But where the first season sets up the tragedy that befalls the rakugo house of the iconic Yakumo and Sukeroku, “Descending Stories” picks it up with the narrative of the next generation!

Not gonna lie. I may have fallen in love with Konatsu’s performance in this series, so you’ll be hearing a lot about that when I get to reviewing both of this series’ seasons in full. Having done a lot of research in humor and even attending a rakugo performance in real life, the biggest draw for me was the style and inflection that the characters in this series use to tell classic and modern comedy routines in rakugo style, sometimes done more than once by different actors, and even more so by the same actors as they age.

But what I did like most about the series was how it carried out the somewhat classical mysticism behind what it means to be a rakugo actor, as being one isn’t as easily attained as just studying the form as an outsider. Lots of Japan’s national art forms are held exclusively by persons with very specific titles as masters of their craft, and yes, that comes with a lot of problems as these art forms seem to “die out,” even though their artisans are treated like gods (more like tragic gods, but I’ll save that for the full reviews).

As an anime critic going on 5 years, I do more than just talk about stuff that I like or dislike. To me, weighing my opinions on such a lucrative scale is child’s play to me. You can fault me for being an elitist that way. But even so, anime criticism to me is a lot of fun, and sometimes, you discover that your opinion of it is ultimately superseded by the amount of thought and dedication that goes into this mass medium that we have come to love as fans and critics.

But if it were up to me, my favorite anime from this year is one that I have loved since its inception, and on a personal note, it is one that I can be both a critic and a fan.

1. March Comes in like a Lion

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So have I reviewed this series yet? Yes and no. I did make my first impressions about the first season clear on my birthday earlier this year, knowing that a second season was on its way for the Fall, and it will continue as we enter 2018. The characters, the rough visuals that expresses the feelings implored by the story, the parallels to Shōgi, the silly cats, the drama of an adopted son to an antagonistic father and sister, and a possible romance that has budded in more recent episodes, March Comes in like a Lion finishes strong in a year where I seldom had time to really enjoy anime when reality slaps me across the face before I can immerse myself in any of it!

I really love the energy that comes out of March Comes in like a Lion. It’s complicated, sure, but the emotions that run throughout it all do feel very real, and it becomes even more important to feel those out when you are feeling depressed, anxious, and feel like the world has collapsed all around you. In the first season, I felt that anguish through Rei Kiriyama the most, and now, it’s the center of Hina Kawamoto’s narrative that they both share. But rather than relish in despair, what I find is that Rei and Hina reflect on their conflicts with each other, so that they both don’t have to take on the burdens that they face on their own.

When you’re faced with that unrelenting feeling of depression, sometimes you don’t understand what’s going on, or how to get out of it. And even more so, it’s hard to trust others when you’re constantly told to rely on yourself– and yes, self-care is very important in these types of situations. But the strength that I found in March Comes in like a Lion is that these negative emotions that we think are ours alone aren’t exactly unique, and some loved ones who are open enough to express them with you and vice versa can become powerful allies in that terrible conflict we call Life. As this series continues, Rei has found some wonderful allies in his Shōgi club, his teacher, the Kawamotos, and especially Hina. Hina has also found some wonderful allies in her friends and family too.

What are your favorite animes of 2017? Do you agree with my choices? Or do you think I’m a fool for liking stuff that everyone hates? Let me know what you think!

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