Sunday, January 21, 2018

My Favorite Anime of 2017

I review anime over at Diabolical Plots and naturally watch a number of shows over the course of the year. In the final installment of my annual entertainment round-up, I'd like to cover the TV anime I watched in 2017. I decided to remove any sequels (since people generally don't jump in the middle), but allowed a single prequel since it does not require watching any prior material, rounding the number of series out to ten.

Anime listed are not ranked, but presented in the order I watched them. As before, my top three picks of the year are marked with an asterisk (*).

Saga of Tanya the Evil *

Saga of Tanya the Evil could have gone horribly in so many ways with a little girl soldier protagonist and all the German World War I imagery, but it actually works, hilariously so, to the point that I've decided to pick up the translations of the original novel series. Tanya remembers her former life as a cutthroat middle manager in corporate Japan and has no qualms about bringing all that knowledge to bear in her country's war. Her constant feuding with the higher power that condemned her to her new existence is a highlight of the show.

ACCA 13-Territory Inspection *

I wasn't sure what to expect of ACCA. It's definitely not going to be for everyone, but the slow burning intrigue and the ages of the cast are an anomaly in anime. If you love whispers of conspiracy without seeing evidence of the conspiracy itself, ACCA has a lot of that sort of atmosphere, where many characters are feeling each other out without any proof that there are enemies to be found. Jean Otis is a difficult to read protagonist, but it works in his favor, as his poker face is what allows him to play the role he's dealt.

KADO: The Right Answer

KADO is worth a watch for a peaceful first contact situation from a non-American perspective. For that, I'd recommend it. The alien is not as alien as he could be, but he comes in peace offering humanity wonders with no apparent strings attached. He compares it to giving food to a hungry person. If he has more than he can use, why wouldn't he give it away? KADO starts with excellent questions like those and I like that our viewpoint characters are mostly negotiators, but the series doesn't come together in the end and the climax is rather nonsensical, which is a shame since the premise was so good.

Classroom of the Elite

I watched Classroom of the Elite during a slow season when I otherwise would probably have skipped it. Kiyotaka appears to be nobody important, the sort of guy who fades into the background, but he's not, and the school he goes to isn't either. Rather it's a merciless competition between classrooms just for students to stay enrolled, but the graduates are supposedly set for life. There's some really good scheming sometimes, but as a whole there are better shows.

Chronos Ruler

This was also a slow season watch about an organization with powers to fight time eating monsters. If you liked D.Gray-man and need something to hold you over, it's worth a look because it wears its inspiration on its sleeve, but every time it comes up with some potentially devastating character development it manages to shoot itself in the foot with an easy solution. And that's a shame because it has some really good ideas that just don't get the showcase they deserve.

Fate/Zero

Fate/Zero was a retro-watch for me. It came out in 2011-2012 and is generally regarded as one of the best of the Fate series. I agree with that, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I'd been led to believe. Being a prequel, no prior knowledge of the Fate series is needed and in fact, people even suggest watching it before the ones later in the timeline in order to fully appreciate them. It has some really good modern day mage warring going on, but if you're a female viewer you're probably going to notice that the show tends to be excessively cruel to its women and girls, particularly as motivation for its men.

Pumpkin Scissors

This was another retro-watch from 2006-2007, and unlike Fate/Zero it really shows its age in the pacing and how it uses filler episodes. I think this could have been a lot better series since it covers the recovery effort after a war and the effects on the soldiers who served in it, but it has a lot of silliness and fluff. While I won't say there's no place for such things, I'm disappointed that we didn't get further into the conspiracy plot that's hinted at the end of the series and we never really learn the full history of the Invisible Nine and what happened to them (since survivors of those units seem few and far between).

Recovery of an MMO Junkie *

MMO Junkie is a delightful rom-com between a couple of gamer nerds that happens both in and out of game. The writers really know how online gaming works, so there are visual gags involving crafting, going afk, and so on, making the show feel like it could really be about the people the audience hangs out with online. The romance itself is a little contrived in that Moriko and Yuuta happen live so close together that they can have a meet cute outside of game, but aside from that it's a lot fun.

Juni Taisen: Zodiac War

Juni Taisen is a battle royale between twelve combatants themed after the Chinese zodiac who, for the most part, have super powers. It's fairly bloody and violent, though the worst parts are censored. Each episode typically covers a different character's personal history and reveals why they entered the tournament. Ideally because the POV keeps changing, preventing the development of a main protagonist, the winner should be a surprise, but it's fairly guessable if you know the zodiac, which most of the original Japanese audience will. It's not a bad watch as some of the fights get creative, but it's definitely about the journey more than the ending.

Code:Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~

This was not as good an adaptation as I'd hoped, since Code:Realize was one of my favorite games in 2016. The adaptation works as its own stand alone, the plot is coherent and understandable, but it lost a lot of its heart along the way. Rather than shoot for a more general audience, the studio opted for a more conventional otome approach. There were some smart changes made to condense and adapt Lupin's route to the anime, and the show doesn't shy away from protagonist Cardia's ability to melt anything she touches, but a lot of the banter was removed so we get less of a feel for the characters. Cardia is also more passive than she is in the game, which is a shame since a lot of fans liked her specifically because she was more proactive than most otome heroines.