Me in 2018.
Sooooo I haven’t posted much this year. To those of you who are still checking my blog periodically, I can only say – thank you for your dedication, and I’m sorry that it outstripped mine this time around.
As a reminder, I normally either do a top 5 or a top 10, and whether it’s one or the other itself depends on how strong of a year it was and also on how much anime I managed to watch. I do this as I prefer to have a top list that really made me think and make tough decisions about it. This year I watched 16 shows to completion, and half to three-quarters of another 3 shows. I think it was a pretty strong year on the whole, as the best shows were genuinely unique and succeeded beyond being merely novel, but there was also a fair gap between the best and the shows I liked but which weren’t great or even good, so I went for the shorter top list option. Having said that, I also included something ATROICIOUS in my top list, so, uh, I guess consistency isn’t necessarily my winning point?
5. Vatican Miracles Examiner
Before this aired, I assessed that either this would be a decent, pulpy mystery series, or that it’d be complete crap but my kind of complete crap. And you know what? It was the latter, and I loved every inch of its terrible soul. I even found its very light homoeroticism charmingly old school! Believe me, me at fifteen would’ve loooooved this. And me in my late twenties also looooved this! Its like if Supernatural was about a couple of Catholic priests, had very questionable sound design decisions, and was filmed in a dirty sock. It won’t get a second season, but I’ll still spend the next five years fervently hoping it does.
4. Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu Season 2
Not quite as good as the first season (Yotarou and Konatsu’s relationship as a romantic one really wasn’t convincing until well after they had a kid together), this was still a very good show, and it had probably the best episode in the series. The revelation that Kikuhiko is as much of a storyteller in his own personal life as he is on the stage was one of those moments where I was totally taken by surprise even as it made absolutely perfect sense. The twist in the final episode was an unfortunate item to be tossed into the mix, but it remained just ambiguous enough that I’m going to mark it down as not true, although I understand that it soured things for a lot of folks. Still, the entire series is well worthwhile, especially for anyone weary of the usual anime fare.
3. Saga of Tanya the Evil
This is a show that certainly garnered its fair share of controversy given its willingness to utilize some of the visual trappings of the Third Reich (and it’s worth noting that the Studio NUT quietly changed the coloring of the uniforms a few episodes into the show perhaps because this was a bit too much), but it hardly was the celebration of fascism some seemed to be hoping for. Instead, Tanya the Evil was, in roughly equal measure, about the titular officer being repeatedly punked out by a vengeful god, and a critique of the cut-throat amorality that corporate culture rewards. I was very skeptical of the whole “salaryman-reincarnates-into-alternate-world” angle, but it was used here in a manner that strengthened the story being told rather than as a convenient method of self-insertion.
2. Made in Abyss
Another show which inspired controversy, as it more or less was known as “that loli guro show” prior to its airing, I feel more than amply rewarded for taking a chance with this one. While I can’t recommend it without reservations, as the material can be quite stomach-churning, I would argue quite strongly that this isn’t a case of grim and gory for the sake of titillation. This is a difficult tale about kids getting way more than they bargained for but which nevertheless leaves an optimistic note in the telling. A second season is on the way, but even if there weren’t, this is genuinely a masterpiece.
1. Land of the Lustrous
Land of the Lustrous just slightly edges Made in Abyss, and I will admit that it is entirely possible that this is recency bias. Nevertheless, Land of the Lustrous was a truly unique show that was also arguably the first anime TV series to make fully effective use of CG technology. Watching Phos grow, often due to unexpected consequences of dubious schemes they undertook, was often painful but always enthralling. I’m hopeful that a second season may be in the offing, but even if one never materializes, that will not in any way detract from what we did get. If you’re only going to watch one show from 2017, this is it.