Entertainment

The Best Anime of 2017

Best Anime of 2017
Fate/Apocrypha | A-1 Pictures
Fate/Apocrypha | A-1 Pictures

All caught up? Read our list of The Best Anime of 2018.

Anime is a rich creative medium that's constantly yielding unique experiences. It's a blessing and a consequence; not only can the demand be detrimental to creators, but the high output makes it near impossible for fans to keep up with everything. With the year coming to an end, there’s no better time for a rundown of the best new anime of 2017.

The year has brought us sequels to both colossal properties like Attack on Titan and My Hero Academia and critic darling along the lines of Rakugo and Eccentric Family. Even Pokémon got an immensely refreshing new series in the form of Sun & Moon. But to keep this list as accessible as possible for those looking for a curated list of new anime, we’ll be leaving sequels aside. On a similar vein, and since theatrical distribution of anime is still quite tricky, this will be limited to series available for streaming. All that said, please enjoy this collection of outstanding 2017 anime. And don't forget to read our list of the Best Anime Currently on Netflix!

WorldEnd: What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us?
Satelight x C2C

20. WorldEnd: What Do You Do at the End of the World? Are You Busy? Will You Save Us?

Director: Junichi Wada
Series composer: Akira Kareno
Character designer: Tohru Imanishi
Animation Production: Satelight x C2C
Why it's great: In WorldEnd, humanity has been all but wiped out by giant beasts. The remaining anthropomorphic races live on floating islands, relying on "Leprechauns," the women who possess the ability to fight back with the world's ancient weaponry. Our protagonist, Willem, is put in charge of a group of Leprechauns, which leads to the exact tale you’re probably imagining. The big narrative twists in WorldEnd are blatantly telegraphed, but its strength lies in the central relationship, which is questionable and honestly shouldn’t work, but the series pours its heart into taking it seriously. The series crosses the finish goal with such tremendous momentum, proving series director Junishi Wada, is a name to look out for.
Available on: Crunchyroll, Funimation (dub)

Restaurant to Another World
Silver Link

19. Restaurant to Another World

Director, series composition: Masato Jinbo
Character designer: Keiichi Sano, Takao Sano
Animation Production: Silver Link
Why it's great: Western Cuisine Nekoya is a perfectly standard restaurant during weekdays, but on Saturdays, they close down to regular customers and invite in the denizens of a parallel fantasy world, which leads to individuals from all sorts of magical races wandering into the restaurant. The show's structure is formulaic all the way through: even as important events happen -- such as training a dragon who could accidentally end all life -- every episode attempts to present a couple of different delicious-looking recipes that are sure to please the extravagant customers. As the show progresses, clients grow acquainted as they would in a standard bar, all the while the establishment gains curious new employees, too. Cooking anime is a well-established genre that usually relies on amusing exaggeration, the series remains understated; even as political instabilities are dealt with, adversary species come into contact, and interpersonal relationships develop, it all remains pleasantly calm. Both for its cast and audience, Restaurant to Another World is just a warm place to return to -- where you’ll grow hungry staring at animated food.
Available on: Crunchyroll

Little Witch Academia
Trigger

18. Little Witch Academia (TV)

Director: Yoh Yoshinari
Series composer: Michiru Shimada
Character designer, chief animation director: Shuhei Handa
Animation production: Trigger
Why it's great: It started as a short film within a government program to train new talent, then gained enough of a following to warrant a sequel supported by Kickstarter. Now Little Witch Academia is a hit on television and Netflix -- though in the form of a soft reboot, which makes it perfectly approachable. Little Witch AcademiaTV follows Akko Kagari right as she arrives at the prestigious Luna Nova Magical Academy for witches, where she comically struggles to learn magic. The early episodic adventures capture that delightful Saturday-morning cartoon feel, made even wilder by the animation style, all while staying thematically cohesive. The intentional parallels between the decaying magic world and the state of hand-drawn animation might not be obvious to those who aren't up on their industry news, but Little Witch AcademiaTV's celebration of dying traditions can be extrapolated to many other cases. While the loss its creators means the show never quite captures the magic of the original short, and the second half of the season focuses on a messy plot marked by the appearance of a main antagonist, if you want a fun witches cartoon, you can hardly go wrong here. And if you haven’t seen the unreservedly wonderful original short film, it’s never too late!
Available on: Netflix

Fate/Apocrypha
A-1 Pictures

17. Fate/Apocrypha

Director: Yoshiyuki Asai
Series composer: Yuichiro Higashide
Character designer: Yukei Yamada
Animation production: A-1 Pictures
Why it's great: This one's a new take on the Fate/ franchise with a distinct flavor. The series revolves around the premise of historical heroes being summoned in a war as "Servants of 7" classes, warriors who possess powers that allow them to defeat pretty much everyone else and be granted a wish. The setup is usually a bit of an excuse to have ideologies clash against each other more often than their swords do, but Aprocrypha is much more straightforward: with twice the Servants and half the talking, it’s a hectic all-out war with people constantly beating up each other. Factions quickly stop mattering as amusing chaos ensues. The series isn't entirely shallow -- there's a recurring idea that the heroes are unhappy with the idealization of their legends -- but the focus goes to the action first and foremost. And as it turns out, it’s quite good at that! Following the central character Sieg, a homunculus that aims to lead a life of his own, the show is a canvas for young digital animators to go wild, offering grand spectacle that fits the messy, large-scale war. Fate/Apocrypha is a decent entry point to the franchise, as well as a refreshing iteration for those who want something new out of it.
Available on: Netflix

Alice & Zoroku
J.C. Staff

16. Alice & Zoroku

Director: Katsushi Sakurabi
Series composer: Fumihiko Takayama
Character designer: Kazunori Iwakura
Animation production: J.C. Staff
Why it's great: Locked in a research facility, Alice, a young girl with the supernatural power to bring her imagination to life, breaks out and meets the grumpy-yet-kind-hearted Zoroku, a wise old florist. The first arc of the series could mislead you into believing Alice & Zoroku is more of an action-heavy series, but it soon settles into a much sweeter family story; Alice is isolated from society before being adopted into the family of the lone grandpa and his teenage granddaughter, who shower her with love that feels very genuine. Parenting anime are becoming fairly common, and despite the fantastical premise, Alice & Zoroku is one of the most sensitive. Sana’s existence is outlandish, and yet the show manages to make her act -- and learn -- like a believable kid. She’s childish, she makes mistakes, but it’s always transparent that she means well. A title that starts as if it were a ridiculous action show ends up finding its greatest success on a very mundane, personal level. As those who enjoyed last year’s Flying Witch surely know, that happens to be series director Katsushi Sakurabi’s forte.
Available on: Crunchyroll, Funimation (dub)

MAGICAL CIRCLE GURU-GURU
Production I.G

15. Magical Circle Guru-Guru

Director: Hiroshi Ikehata
Series composer: Hisaaki Okui
Character designer: Naoyuki Asano
Chief animation director: Fumi Yamada
Animation production: Production I.G
Why it's great: Hero Nike and ultimate magic apprentice Kukuri star in a charming remake of early RPGs. Originally published in 1992 and granted an anime a couple years later, it was quite the surprise to see Magical Circle Guru-Guru receive a new adaptation meant to cover the whole series -- and an inspired one at that. We know that revisited properties don’t have the best track record, but not only did it nail the gaming quirks better than ever, it sidestepped anime's rigid aesthetic trends with looser, more cartoony art than its '90s equivalent. A mix of tender moments with scatological and even suggestive gags makes it feel like kind of a relic of the past, but it will quickly worm its way into your heart.
Available on:Crunchyroll

GAMERS!
PINE JAM

14. Gamers!

Director: Manabu Okamoto
Series composer: Hiroki Uchida
Character designer, chief animation director: Tensho Sato
Animation production: PINE JAM
Why it's great: Gamers! defeats the trappings of romantic comedies -- usually misunderstandings, where characters somehow fail to get clear messages or just happen to walk into misleading situations -- by escalating the nonsense to levels never seen before. The show turns an annoying tendency into an asset by making its cast, a lovable bunch of losers, absolutely incapable of parsing reality. Its crew of socially awkward gamers and equally clueless popular kids keep getting the wrong idea about virtually all interactions in the show, in an endless chain of misunderstandings so outrageous that it’s hard not to smile at everyone’s ineptitude. By the end of each arc, the show builds a net of romantic relationships that no geometric shape can define -- not because it has too many sides, but because all characters have their own, entirely wrong understanding of what’s going on. It takes a few episodes to gain its ridiculous momentum, but if this approach to the genre sounds appealing it’s definitely worth sticking to it.
Available on: Crunchyroll, Funimation (dub)

Tsukigakirei
feel.

13. Tsukigakirei

Director: Seiji Kishi
Series composer: Yuko Kakihara
Character designer: Kazuaki Morita
Animation production: feel.
Why it's great: Tsukigakirei is an adorable love story that successfully captures the awkwardness of middle schoolers trying to date. Rather than big romantic developments, the core of the show are the little moments that define their relationship: delightfully uncomfortable silences, the mulling over a reply to a message he just received, and the rush of adrenaline that makes the protagonist, young aspiring writer Kotaro Azumi, punch his lamp cord as a LINE conversation heads in the right direction. Though the naturalistic approach sometimes becomes weirdly barebones direction – you better be ready for the camera to idly stare at very poor 3-D models of passersby – Tsukigakirei ultimately pays off through sheer sweetness. Relationship struggles at such a young age are childish and short-sighted, but the show will endear you to the characters and make you root for them with all your soul.
Available on: Crunchyroll

Princess Principal
Studio 3hz x Actas

12. Princess Principal

Director: Masaki Tachibana
Series composer: Ichiro Okouchi
Character designer, chief animation director: Yukie Akiya
Animation production: Studio 3hz x Actas
Why it's great: Princess Principal is a steampunk thriller set in Victorian Not-England, which has been split in two after a revolution: the remains of the Kingdom, and the Commonwealth created after the proletariat revolted. While that sounds serious, Princess Principal is a charming spy series, featuring a group of girls that should probably never be trusted with undercover missions, including the princess of the kingdom herself. As the girls become involved in an increasingly more complicated net of ploys and betrayals, the show's effective twists and turns will quickly hook you. But the plot is always secondary to the character work, each episodic piece told out of order to track the emotional flow rather than the events as they happened. Princess Principal's ending is far from conclusive and the season as a whole feels like the setup for a franchise, so maybe by telling enough people to watch it, we’ll get to see this ragtag group of spies change the world. For now, the only real downside to their adventures is leaving you dying for more.
Available on:Anime Strike, Amazon Prime on countries where that service isn’t offered.

Tsuredure Children
Gokumi

11. Tsuredure Children

Director: Hiraku Kaneko
Series composer: Tatsuhiko Urahata
Character designer, chief animation director: Etsuko Sumimoto
Animation production: Gokumi
Why it's great: Have you ever been frustrated at an interrupted confession scene? Tsuredure Children garners the energy of your exasperation in any such moments and uses them as a force of good. Set in a school with dozens upon dozens of clumsy blooming romances, the omnibus series picks up with couples who are bad at dating, couples who are too apt at dating for their own good, couples who are dating without even realizing, couples who thought they were dating -- just an endless array of different kinds of dorks in love. Only one thing remains consistent: everyone’s interactions range from adorable to outright hilarious, and often the both of them. Many setups would be maddening under normal circumstances, but the sharp dialogue and snappy timing of all vignettes make it a joy to watch.
Available on: Crunchyroll, Funimation (dub)

Recovery of an MMO Junkie
Signal.MD

10. Recovery of an MMO Junkie

Director: Kazuyoshi Yaginuma
Series composition: Kazuyuki Fudeyasu
Character designer: Senbon Umishima
Chief animation director: Fumi Yamada
Animation production: Signal.MD
Why it's great: After reaching her thirties, Moriko Morioka feels no longer capable of dealing with her stressful corporate job and ends up quitting, seeking refuge in the online games that she loves. To really change things up, she plays as a male character, and quickly finds a party that warmly welcomes her. She becomes very attached to the beautiful Lilly... unaware that the player behind her is Yuta Sakurai, a man she ends up crossing paths with in real life as well. Their growing romantic relationship is unhealthily adorable, as is seeing a show that frankly admits that adults don’t really have their lives figured out either. If you’re looking for something more poignant, the show perfectly articulates modern worries like stressing over the gap between how we present ourselves online and our real-life persona, and the desire to be alone but not feel lonely that drives many socially awkward people to build relationships through the internet. The appearance of needless side characters could have threatened to offset its perfect balance, but the show regains its focus by returning to its wonderful central relationship, and stays strong until the very end.
Available on:Crunchyroll

ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.
Madhouse

9. ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.

Director: Shingo Natsume
Series composition: Tomohiro Suzuki
Character designer: Norifumi Kugai
Chief Animation Director: Gosei Oda, Kanako Yoshida
Animation production: Madhouse
Why it's great: Director Shingo Natsume is known worldwide as the man behind One-Punch Man, and to people who hadn’t followed his diverse career beforehand, this very laid-back political intrigue must have been quite shocking. As it turns out though, it’s projects like this that let him to flex his directional muscles the best.  When rumors of a coup d'état threaten to shaken the now immensely peaceful Kingdom of Dowa -- made up of 13 autonomous states with notoriously diverse cultures -- Jean Otus, an officer on the national body ACCA that sustains that current model, is tasked with investigating the case. ACCA allows you to soak into the distinct atmosphere of each state, mustering just enough tension to function as a thriller yet not getting in the way of appreciating your pleasant trip, gradually building up momentum in a masterful way that feels silent at first. It helps that renowned Studio Pablo was entrusted with painting all these different locations, making them all memorable enough to deserve setting an entire series in each one.
Available on:Crunchyroll, Funimation (dub)

THE IDOLM@STER: SideM
A-1 PIctures

8. THE IDOLM@STER: SideM

Director: Miyuki Kuroki, Takahiro Harada
Series composer: Yukie Sugawara, Yuniko Ayana
Character designer: Haruko Iizuka, Yusuke Tanaka
Animation production: A-1 Pictures
Why it's great: The Idolmaster’s grand return to anime brings change to the franchise: this time the focus is entirely on male "idol units," sub-groups of artists within the same agency that have their own branding, all formed by people who used to have other main occupations. A lawyer, a doctor, a pilot, footballers, teachers, convenience store clerks, a prince -- don’t ask -- there’s plenty of unique backgrounds within this group of people who now aim to become inspirational figures for the fans. The wide range of ages allows the show to tackle the theme of perseverance and embracing second chances from multiple angles, but in the end each episodic tale is just as heartwarming. The main iterations of The Idolmaster have always boasted of lineups of fantastic creators, and even though this production is more on the modest side, it fits very neatly into the universe they’ve built throughout the years.
Available on: Crunchyroll

Girls’ Last Tour
White Fox

7. Girls' Last Tour

Director: Takaharu Ozaki
Series composition: Kazuyuki Fudeyasu
Character designer, chief animation director: Mai Toda
Animation production: White Fox
Why it's great: Chito and Yuu, two laid-back kids, traverse the desolate remains of civilization in the most cheerful post-apocalyptic story you could imagine. All glimpses of the past hint at humanity wiping itself out in a never-ending war; from scattered weaponry to constructions built with austere military efficiency , the world's surroundings make the young survivors wonder why would people fight each other to begin with. On that bleak canvas, the girls paint simple messages of hope. A rare encounter with others, an evocative sight, or even something as mundane as being able to bake bread can brighten their day, and this show’s happiness is very infectious. Quirky situations evoke a real sense of wonder, as the director’s grasp on the atmosphere allows him to portray those scenes as majestic and quite silly at the same time. It’s not as if the series refuses to acknowledge their precarious situation, since they’re constantly scavenging for resources and you can never quite shake off the vague sense of danger, but it still manages to sell those little things as magical moments. The very stylized character designs set over more realistic gritty backgrounds embody this curious duality of this title, and the animation crew managed to imbue their close relationship with great physicality despite their exaggerated approach. Girls’ Last Tour is by all means the most casually uplifting show about humanity’s demise of 2017. And possibly of other years too.
Available on: Anime Strike, Amazon Prime on countries where that service isn’t offered.

Just Because!
PINE JAM

6. Just Because!

Director: Atsushi Kobayashi
Series composer: Hajime Kamoshida
Character designer: Hiroyuki Yoshii
Animation production: PINE JAM
Why it's great: Just Because! is a hard sell. While on paper it’s another romance series, half the show passes without many developments in that regard -- or many events in general, truth to be told. Eita Izumi returns to his hometown, where he meets old acquaintances and becomes the catalyst of small yet meaningful changes. His journey is a laid-back, melancholic look at the boundaries between adolescence and adulthood, more tangibly set in an urban setting than right about any other anime. The series' thorough approach to acting is remarkable; even as the production struggles to keep up with their ambition, the staff do their best to illustrate all the minute daily life actions that convincingly turn its cast into actual people. The interactions between them all feel equally real, and it’s hard not to be charmed by a group of friends that feels like they truly enjoy hanging out together. Just Because! has quietly become one of the big surprises of 2017.
Available on:Anime Strike, Amazon Prime on countries where that service isn’t offered.

The Dragon Dentist (TV)
Khara

5. The Dragon Dentist (TV)

Director: Kazuya Tsurumaki
Script: Ohtaro Maijo, Yoji Enokido
Character designer, animation director: Shuichi Iseki
Animation production: Khara
Why it's great: A war-ridden world where humans have made a pact with dragons, which are used as almighty tools of war in exchange for... dental hygiene? Quite the unique way to explore concepts such as our purpose in life, inevitability, death, and fate itself. The Dragon Dentist was originally the opening salvo for the Animator Expo project, an ambitious anthology of short films that allowed creators to put together ideas that would likely never have been funded otherwise. It’s no secret that director Sayo Yamamoto was testing ideas for the megahit Yuri on ICE when she helmed a skating music video, but studio Khara’s very own Kazuya Tsurumaki took a more direct approach and remade his original piece as a much longer, double TV special. The interesting themes of the original are kept, as well as its impressive sense of scale, wrapping it up with a sweet personal story and adding neat action sequences. There’s clear shades of Evangelion around the ending, aesthetic and otherwise, so it should also serve as a distraction if you’re getting tired of waiting for the next installment of Rebuild. Don’t get me wrong, though: this is definitely worth it on its own right.
Available on: Crunchyroll for many European countries, Blu-ray release available otherwise.

Kemono Friends
Yaoyorozu

4. Kemono Friends

Director: Tatsuki
Series composer: Shigenori Tanabe
Animation director: Yoshihisa Isa
Animation production: Yaoyorozu
Why it's great: The tale of Kaban and her anthropomorphic animal friends searching for the truth of where she came from is the most unlikely success story of the year, and perhaps in anime as a whole. The animated take on what was essentially a defunct IP only got traction online because people found its abysmal production values amusing; the clumsy 3-D animation was floaty, the models clipped through the world more often than not, and the entire package made it obvious that it was put together by a small crew of basically indie creators. The joke turned on them as people kept getting drawn into its mysteries and quickly were charmed by the character interactions. Kemono Friends would essentially be a pleasant show for kids were it not for the fact that it aired at 2am, but it also surprised its viewers with very intriguing post-apocalyptic world-building. The Kemono Friends phenomenon is impossible to understand unless you experience the show yourself, so I’ll have to keep encouraging people to do so, and it’s hard not to root for such a sincere work of love that turned out well against all odds.
Available on: Crunchyroll

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid
Kyoto Animation

3. Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid

Director: Yasuhiro Takemoto
Series composer: Yuka Yamada
Character designer: Miku Kadowaki
Chief animation director: Nobuaki Maruki
Animation production: Kyoto Animation
Why it's great: The stoic Kobayashi is a 25-year-old programmer who feels tired all the time. She also happens to like maids. And so the dragon she once drunkenly saved takes the form of her literally and figuratively horny assistant. Through some miraculous power -- or rather, thanks to director Yasuhiro Takemoto’s skill -- that raunchy comedy setup evolves into one of the most heartwarming family anime, particularly after the two adopt their dragon daughter. The gradual establishment of a genuine sense of household makes the final arc that threatens that situation feel tense, and its ending very earned. Some risqué scenes are in poor taste and feel at odds with the goal of the show, but they’re an exception even amongst the smutty gags. Regularly funny, lavishly produced, and charming in a way that a show like this shouldn’t even be allowed to be, this is an excellent series with a very sweet message: it’s OK to be different. A family can be a woman, her homosexual winged partner, and their battery-powered dragon child.
Available on: Crunchyroll

Made in Abyss
Kinema Citrus

2. Made in Abyss

Director: Masayuki Kojima
Series composer: Hideyuki Kurata
Character designer: Kazuchika Kise
Animation production: Kinema Citrus
Why it's great: Made in Abyss’ immediate success comes down to its ability to make you want to explore a terrifying setting. The people in its world are inexplicably drawn into a giant hole populated by nothing but dangerous creatures and harmful phenomena, and due to the fantastic art direction and imaginative design work, so are the viewers. There, Made in Abyss becomes natural instead of hostile, building death into everyday aspects of life in the abyss. There’s no denying that the series is cruel -- perhaps a bit too much, since sometimes it’s hard to shake off the feeling that the author is just ogling at the suffering of children -- but it also manages to be powerfully uplifting. The final arcs mix the inherently rewarding discovery of this captivating world with emotional dynamite, managing to capture both physical and emotional pain like very few other shows. Definitely not for the faint-hearted and featuring its fair share of questionable material, but this is such a special anime that it’s worth the risk. Just beware -- no one leaves the abyss. At least, not emotionally intact.
Available on: Anime Strike, Amazon Prime on countries where that service isn’t offered.

Land of the Lustrous
orange

1. Land of the Lustrous

Director: Takahiko Kyougoku
Series composer: Toshiya Ohno
Character designer: Asako Nishida
CG chief director: Eiji Inomoto
Animation production: orange
Why it's great: In this modern myth, a group of genderless humanoid gems fight off the regular attacks of hostile Lunarians that attempt to abduct them to turn their remains into jewelry. It's a joyfully original concept from author Haruko Ichikawa, and getting further into the series reveals that they were very thorough in building out the world: from the countless mineralogy points that tie into the series to the fact that the characters wear black outfits in an allusion to mourning, as loss is deeply ingrained into their lives, it all feels like a cohesive setting despite being totally alien. Land of the Lustrous follows the misadventures of the immediately charming Phosphophyllite, the youngest and most brittle of gem, which isn't great in such ruthless settings. Through her eyes, the show deals with loss and questions what constitutes the sense of self. The tragedy has an uncanny ability to turn hilarious, even after shattering your dear ones and your heart while it was at it. Poignant, downright gorgeous, delightfully quirky, and honestly at this point you might as well stop reading and just go watch it if you haven’t done so already.

But since this is a point of contention in the fandom: does having a 3-D production as the crowning achievement of 2017’s Japanese TV animation spell doom for hand-drawn craft? Not at all. The industry isn’t at the point where appropriately expressive 3-D animation is feasible for TV projects -- as Land of the Lustrous’ staff very well know, since they keep relying on 2-D art for the show’s most delicate and emotionally charged sequences -- and even exceptional projects like this have obvious acting drawbacks. But it’s worth noting that this is a step in the right direction for the industry, as a series that tangibly benefits from choosing to take the 3-D route; the fittingly shiny presentation of the gem-people, achieved by carefully emulating caustics and reflections through digital effects, definitely earns it the title Land of the Lustrous. This show could have felt content with being an inventive and touching work, but it decided to be a significant achievement in this industry too. Not a bad choice to top a whole year of TV anime.
Available on: Anime Strike, Amazon Prime on countries where that service isn’t offered.

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