Top Five Anime of 2017

This post has been delayed for far too long.  That I waited until this year to watch some of the best shows from last year contributed to the delay; though, laziness stands as the primary cause.  It is remarkable that four of the top five were aired on Amazon and that one streamed on Netflix.  Most of my anime is viewed by way of Crunchyroll, which often errs on the side of quantity over quality.  (Not a bad thing if one wants a more complete experience of each season.)  I have the impression that Netflix and Amazon have more resources to either contribute to making or culling the crème de la crème from each season’s lineup.

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Having said that, I wish that I could have included a show streamed from that pillar of the online anime community.  If this list had been made in January, I would have included a couple of them.  And so, let me list a couple of them to begin with as honorable mentions:

  • Recovery of an MMO Junkie ★★★★
  • Aho-Girl ★★★★

The likability of the cast of characters in Recovery of an MMO Junkie rated off the charts.  Aho-Girl was simply the absolute funniest anime from last year, but it’s hard for a comedy to compete with more serious productions.

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That the show in fifth place for 2017 has a rating of four and a half stars speaks to the quality of anime last year.  The top five from 2016 would also have held this distinction if I had watched Ajin when it aired.  Other than this year and last year, I have to go back to 2006 in order to find a top five rated so highly.  If you’re curious, my top five from 2006 are Code Geass, History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi, Utawarerumono, The Third: the Girl with the Blue Eye, and Black Lagoon.  The Year of Our Lord 2006 certainly counts as a godsend for anime fans!

Hakuoro and Karula

If only the sequel had been in the ballpark of the original.

If 2018 gives us similar quality, I might have to say that we’re in another golden age of anime–just as people described anime in the early 2000’s.  I want to write a post about how anime went from a golden age (2001-2009) to a slump (2010-2014) from which anime has been recovering since 2015.  I am rather curious to see whether my perspective matches that of my dear readers.  In particular, I want to see how the year one became an anime fan (2003 in my case) and how one’s three favorite genres (action, fantasy, and comedy) influence one’s perception.

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Anyway, let me get on to the top five of 2017!


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5) Land of the Lustrous ★★★★ 1/2

This anime offers a very sympathetic heroine in Phos.  (I know: the gem people technically lack a sex.  But, it is impossible for a sexual species like ourselves to portray personhood without sexuality.  It’s impossible to imagine Phos as belonging to a category separate from womanhood.  Knights of Sidonia also attempts an asexual character with Izana Shinatose but cannot escape portraying her as an adolescent male until Izana transforms into a woman.)  Then, Land of the Lustrous manages to create an immersive fantasy world despite being spare and empty.  A very Buddhist aesthetic in the anime makes one call the series a myth rather than a fantasy.  This helps Land of the Lustrous to come across as a very unique production.

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The plot follows Phos as she emerges from her existence as the the most hapless and dependent in a large family of gem people to becoming a useful and independent member of this society.  That she starts this process in her 300th year sends the message that it is never too late to better oneself.  The other important message is that, no matter how much outside help one receives, only you can realize your inner aspirations.  The headmaster, Kongou, gives Phos various jobs in his attempt to make her useful.  Nothing works until mentoring by Antarcticite helps focus the desires Phos already had.   Phos gradually replaces the weak parts of herself with stronger materials so that she can become the warrior which she always wanted to be in her heart of hearts.

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Overall, this was a beautiful, moving, and meaningful anime which only lacks closure and a tightly focused plot.  Any of my dear readers who have not watched this anime needs to give it a try, especially if you love fantasy.  I very much look forward to the next season.


Onihei 9

4) Onihei ★★★★ 1/2

Six months ago, this stood at the top of my list for 2017.  Samurai tales brought me into anime, but these have become few and far between.  In terms of TV anime, the last good samurai anime to come out was Mushibugyo back in 2013–unless you want to include Gintama as a samurai anime.  This anime might fall in that genre, but Gintama combines so many genres that it’s hard to keep up with them: comedy, science fiction, parody, fantasy, drama, etc.  So, I hesitate to call Gintama a samurai anime–as much as I love that long running series.

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Onihei itself derives from a series of historical novels written by Shotaro Ikenami.  Our hero is the head of a police force specialized in investigating arson and robbery, and we are treated to plenty of action and crime drama.  The Japanese love using crime stories to examine a person’s motivations and inner self, and Onihei comes as an excellent example of this tradition.  The complex and deep characters in this anime are a pleasure to watch.

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The depth of the characters help suck the audience into the story.  The animation tends to be very beautiful, though the anime cuts costs in notable ways: such as by placing faceless CGI persons into the background at various times.  The fight scenes were very well done.  Give this show a shot if you like samurai, mystery, or drama.


Children 2

3) Children of the Whales ★★★★ 1/2

Children of the Whales struck me as the best anime Netflix released in 2017.  As I sometimes do with Netflix anime, I watched the show in German.  This proved to be a good choice, as the thematic struggle of the anime concerned whether it’s right to punish descendants for the crimes of their ancestors.  Yes, one can easily apply this idea Germany; though Japan also has a tense relationship with its neighbors because of the war crimes committed during WWII.  Besides the theme, the avengers hail from “the Allied Empire,” which brings to mind the Allies of WWII.

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One might say that punishing the descendants for the crimes of their ancestors is obviously unjust.  But, not all people feel this way.  (Let me emphasize “feel” rather than “think.”  It is not reasonable to punish the grandsons or the great-grandsons for their ancestors’ failings unless these commit the same crimes.  The motives for such revenge lie in resentment rather than reason.)  Thus, activists push for group reparations by reminding certain peoples over and over again about their ancestors’ sins.  Others cannot disassociate the crimes of radicals from peace-loving members of a community.  The desire for revenge can be passed on not only from father to son but even across many centuries.  I can’t recall the last anime to deal with such a thing, but feel free to note some other titles in the comments.

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As for the nuts and bolts of Children of the Whales, the animation stood out as being spectacularly beautiful.  Plenty of action and exciting fights occur after the resentful Allies attack the Mud Whale.  The characters make up for their lack of depth by being very likable.  Certain villains, whether of the Allied Empire or Shuan–the leader of the Vigilante Force, stand out as being some of the most sinister and twisted characters of 2017.


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2) Made in Abyss ★★★★★

The first of the two masterpieces made last year.  A dear reader of this blog recommended Made in Abyss to me, and I did not take it up until the season was long over.  As many other bloggers talked about their favorite anime from 2017, Made in Abyss came up again and again.  So, I gave it a shot.  A part of me also wished to place this as my #1.  Yet, my absolute favorite holds a special appeal for a novelist like me.  You’ll see why shortly.

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Like everything on this top five list, Made in Abyss boasts some exquisite animation.  The great abyss on the border of our heroes’ town inspires the imagination with its perils and fantastic environments.  Fascinating, macabre, thrilling, and moving, Made in Abyss cannot but be a classic.

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Part of the reason I put this anime off lies in how grisly some of the situations are.  Then, the fact that children suffer all these horrors is very off-putting.  For example, it’s hard to watch a twelve year old attempt to save one of his peers’ lives by trying to amputate a poisoned limb.  And, the characters look younger than they are!  A very good tale, but not for the faint of heart.


Re Creators 1

1) Re: Creators ★★★★★

Re: Creators instantly connected with me.  Besides including a gorgeous redhead with divine proportions, the anime was about authors (of which class, I belong), their relationship to their characters, and the role resentment plays in twisting people’s souls.  Much of the richness of this anime derives from how it mirrors the relationship between God and humanity.  There is some interesting commentary on the Problem of Evil, as characters question their creators about why they have to suffer so much.  And, you might say that the anime reveals the ultimate cause of suffering to be separation from God, which we see in the suffering of the archvillain Altair.

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In the extreme resentment of Altair–resentment at a world without God and without meaning, reminded me somewhat of chapter six of Dr. Jordan Peterson’s* 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.  Essentially, some people can become so resentful and twisted that they hate existence itself and want to revenge themselves on Being.  Of course, Being Himself is God, and God is immutable and unchanging.  Since these vicious and resentful people cannot hurt God, they hurt His creation or His people–they imitate Cain’s slaying of Abel out of jealousy.  When people go down that far down the road of resentment, only God can save them.

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Despite having a diabolic personality, Altair’s suffering makes her a sympathetic character, and the viewer alternates between wanting her destruction and her salvation.  The compelling battle between our heroes and Altair is drawn out with interesting dialogue, moving scenes, and deep characters.  I loved the opening and ending song, and the soundtrack is superb overall.  If you have not watched Re: Creators, you need to give it a try.

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What were your favorites from last year?


*You may have read about this professor as being far-right, alt-right or some other brand of extremist.  But, Jordan Peterson is ultimately a psychologist who wants people to be happy.  He has been given a ton of speaking engagements and is embroiled in political controversy, but helping people to find their way to good and meaningful lives is his ultimate goal.  Philosophically speaking, he’s a Pragmatist.  (The only major philosophy to originate from America–which says a lot about American character.)  Politically, he ascribes to British Classical Liberalism (e.g. John Locke, Adam Smith, and John Stuart Mill) with its beliefs in individual sovereignty, individual rights, capitalism, democracy, and the separation of church and state.

In an absolute sense, Classical Liberalism falls on the center-left of the political spectrum.  Peterson is Canadian, but, on the spectrum of present day American politics, Classical Liberalism falls on the center-right.  (America’s political founding combined ancient English rights and laws with ideas from new liberal philosophies.  So, with this historical basis, many Americans who call themselves conservatives are classical liberals–conservative in respect to American heritage but liberal in respect to older European conservatism.)  Having described the sort of philosophies Jordan Peterson ascribes to, it’s easy to see that only someone with an agenda or immersed in a far left atmosphere–the kind where anyone right of Lenin is a right wing extremist–would describe Jordan Peterson as being of the same class as people who favor Fascism, Nazism, Absolute Monarchy, or Military Dictatorship.

 

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This entry was posted in Anime.

5 comments on “Top Five Anime of 2017

  1. Cytrus says:

    I have yet to watch most of your list, but some stray thoughts~

    Yay for Made in Abyss. I was probably of the people nagging you to check that one out. The amputation scene is definitely one of my favourites. It is certainly brutal and shocking, but this is not what cheap and gratuitous violence in other shows has us used to. Rather it is a natural consequence of the naturalistic approach the series offers, which is then used as a springboard to showcase the tenacity of life, both in Riko’s efforts to cut her losses short and her later convalescence.

    As for punishing descendants, well there is the obvious: “for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me” (one of many such quotes). But in human terms, while a child cannot take moral responsibility for the actions of a parent, they can often take responsibility in a material sense. You can’t enjoy a fortune built upon unlawful pillaging of others and be surprised when they come knocking for justice. In the case of Germany, their formalised and official plan of “total physical and cultural annihilation” of certain peoples and races brought about such destruction that no conceivable punishment or retribution carried out over a single generation could balance it (lest mass murders and levelling of whole cities were carried out in turn on the German side – the most primitive form of justice one may think of).

    As for anime examples dealing with this issue, there is Yatterman Night. Really surprising show that I won’t spoil, but around half the episodes are heavy and ambitious, dealing with the aftermath of war, totalitarianism and social injustice among other themes, while the remaining half are crude comedy skits, probably in homage to the old Yatterman.

    And while I will gladly read your “anime slump of 2010-2014” post, I imagine that kind of thing is entirely up to personal perspective. You have 2011 in the middle of that period, possibly one of the most spectacular years ever with Madoka, Hourou Musuko, Idolmaster, Usagi Drop, Chihayafuru, Steins Gate, Fate/zero, Nichijou and the K-On! movie among others.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Made in the Abyss is a great anime. I also felt that the gritty scenes were not meant to be gratuitous but fit a naturalistic approach. Very much looking forward to seeing how their journey continues.

      Concerning the punishment of descendants, I see it as possible in relation to a family. The quote you reference from scripture applies to fathers and their children up to four generations. The interesting thing about “the third and fourth generation” is that that tends to be the limit of human memory. When people married early, it was not uncommon to know one’s great grandparents. Now that people marry later in life, we tend to know our grandparents but not our great grandparents. The implication is that the children and grandchildren might be in a position to offer redress for old wrongs still in the realm of human memory. God does not despise repentance! Beyond the fourth generation, the descendants tend to be ignorant of their forebearers’ crimes and are therefore not liable–as with the inhabitants on the Mud Whale.

      There are cases in Scripture of God punishing nations for general criminality or sinfulness, but I cannot recall cases of Him continuing to punish nations over time except as fallout from the initial punishment. The nation of Israel needed to be punished because of how general wickedness was, but God still made room for exceptions:

      “Then the Lord called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side and said to him, ‘Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.’

      “As I listened, he said to the others, ‘Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. Slaughter the old men, the young men and women, the mothers and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark.'” (Ezekiel 9: 3-6)

      Thus, God can separate the repentant from the impenitent even within the context of the sacking of a city. Human beings, on the other hand, tend not to be capable of such nuance, because we don’t know enough to judge each individual of a nation according to their just deserts.

      If you think about the case of Nazi Germany, Hitler came to power in 1933 after gaining 43% of the vote and using parliamentary negotiations to gain control of the government through being the largest minority. Fifty-seven percent of German voters were against him. Around this same time, Central and Eastern Europe were embroiled within a political war between fascism and communism. People were often claimed by the side they saw as the lesser of the two evils. In 1933, fascism would have looked much less evil than communism, since the Spanish Civil War, WWII, and the Holocaust were still in the future while the evils of Bolshevism had been laid bare since 1917 and communistic revolutions had shaken Europe since 1848.

      Aside from the knowledge problem and individual/familial innocence, the Germans were punished harshly during and after WWII: about seven million dead, loss of territory, loss of power on the world stage, and occupation and subjugation by foreign powers. You might say that they got off light in comparison to what they inflicted on other countries and peoples; but, the guilt borne by each German of that time is unequal. Some were true believers, some supported their country rather than the ruling party, and some tried to oust Hitler or even helped the Allies or persecuted minorities. When it comes to whole countries, we must leave judgment to God (Deut. 32:35). The most guilty have already been judged and executed at Nuremberg or have died in exile.

      Yatterman Night sounds like an anime which I need to check out. Thanks for your recommendation!

      Like

      • Cytrus says:

        Medieval, your blog isn’t a political one, so I won’t go on too much about this, but 80% of the German casualties you mention were war casualties. When you start a war, you better expect your soldiers will also die. (A very good reason not to start a war.)

        Compared to that, about five and a half million of my people were murdered outside (!) of any war effort. Meticulously planned mass extermination, and the dead bodies were reused for soap. With almost every family where I live able to point to how the war affects them to this day, it’s hard to just shrug and pretend things were evened out.

        As losing German forces retreated from Poland, their tanks and flamethrower divisions kept on destroying buildings out of spite and in accordance to the total cultural annihilation plan they concocted. Our capital looks kind of funny here and there, but that’s because half the city was gone by the time the Germans were driven out.

        Individual German people need not take moral responsibility for that. In most cases, that would be emotionally and morally impossible and wrong. Doesn’t change the fact that to this day billions are going into rebuilding what Germany destroyed, and the responsibility for that lies squarely with the country.

        Like

      • Yes, I try to avoid politics as much as possible; though morality and politics can cross over. In the case of reparations for historic wrongs, being an American probably influences my opinion to a degree. Mexican, black, and American Indian activists say that we owe them something for events which happened over 100 years ago. To my mind, we already do a lot for these races, and asking for more sounds like a scam.

        German war crimes against Poland is rather different because people who went through those awful events are still alive. A few of those who committed the war crimes may also still be alive, despite the Nuremberg trials, efforts to catch war criminals afterwards, and summary executions of German concentration camp guards and SS soldiers in the last days of the war. I bring up certain things the German people suffered–justly–during and after the war. I might have added Allied countries using German POWs and civilians as slave labor in the years following the war. Germany has also paid some reparations to Poland and other countries, though not equal to their destruction and which can never equal the loss of life. All this death, privation, indemnity, and dishonor counts as the Germans’ just deserts for what they did.

        But, I do think that we are on the same page: “Individual German people need not take moral responsibility for that. In most cases, that would be emotionally and morally impossible and wrong.” That is the problem. It is very easy and just to punish a country for evil deeds shortly after the fact. When a significant amount of time has passed, it becomes much harder to justify. And, I have to believe that some of the war damage left over must be laid to the tyrannical administration and bad economic ideas the USSR imposed on Poland between 1945 and 1989.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Cytrus says:

        Yes, so since you know that part of history, you shouldn’t be too surprised – after Uncle Sam left us and other east Europe countries in the loving care of the USSR (the other force that invaded Poland and started WW2 in agreement with Hitler), there was no freedom that would allow those issues to be raised for almost half a century. That’s part of the reason that they still feel fresh and unaddressed.

        But as you have already noted, we’re on the same page in terms of individual morality, whatever the political aspects. And Yatterman Night is that kind of story – it starts with a denial of the past by the descendants of wrongdoers. But it ends up with the realization that even that denial was unnecessary, as what you are is up too your own work and choices, and cannot be inherited.

        Liked by 1 person

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