Another great year for anime! It's our sixth year of Crunchyroll Favorites so we'll be sharing what we loved most with another three-part series on the highlights from the past year! Part One is anime and manga released in 2017 by our newswriters, features contributors, and staff, so let's get into it!
PETER FOBIAN (@PeterFobian)
Land of the Lustrous: I discovered the first volume of the manga at Kodansha’s booth at Anime Expo and read it three times through before the convention was finished. Ichikawa’s panel compositions and the world she created are absolutely riveting and studio Orange did a tremendous job adapting the work to 3D animation. Through these alien gem creatures Ichikawa is digging for the root of human nature, peeling away our superficial layers like an onion. We haven't reached the center yet, but there have been plenty of tears...
Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju: I loved the period drama of the first season of Rakugo and the second season brings it home with one of the most intense personal narratives I've seen. Ever. We’re treated to the conclusion of a story spanning 50 years as Bon’s tragic past shapes his interactions with the next generation of his craft and the future of their niche form of theater hanging in the balance. Some of the scenes will never ever leave you as long as you live. Rakugo shows you all the pain and beauty, the fear and love, that make up lives which these performers pour into their work.
Eccentric Family: An anime that’s difficult to describe, revealing the secret supernatural world just beyond notice but every bit a part of the unique culture of Kyoto. The eccentric family is the Shimogamo clan of tanuki who often find themselves at the center of otherworldly politics. This series spent much more time on Yasaburo’s brothers and gave us a new perspective on the mysterious and fickle Benten. The climax left us in an odd place but the experience of this season was unforgettable, with highs among the floating pleasure ships of the fire festival and lows reaching into the depths of hell.
March comes in like a lion: The first season of this personal drama following a young shogi prodigy carrying the burden of chronic depression deeply resonated with me and the second season hasn’t missed a beat, delivering what may be the most heartbreaking subplot of the entire series. Every cloud has a silver lining, as rallying together against tragic circumstances begins to break down the barriers Rei built between himself and others. Beautifully animated by SHAFT, this series has been a pleasure to follow.
In This Corner of the World: There are movies that you have to hold yourself together through and movies that don’t leave you the leeway to do anything but shatter into a million pieces. Five years in the making and painstakingly researched to ensure historical accuracy in every single frame. It’s dedication to realism ensured a story of both tragedy and humor, with a laser focus on the small injustices that war commits against the common people. The transition from comedy to tragedy is so insidiously slow, by the time you notice it's already too late.
A Silent Voice: I was lucky enough to discover both the manga and the anime this year. For a high school drama, A Silent Voice may be one of the most ambitious stories I’ve ever read, fearlessly and compassionately tackling tremendous social issues with a story told from the perspective of someone who has both committed and become the victim of immense cruelty. Accepting you will never experience certain joys of life and seeking redemption for stealing them from others is the heart and soul of this story.
The Ancient Magus Bride: I can't overstate how deeply touching I found this manga. Chise's journey from empty pessimism to empowerment is fascinating and fulfilling. Seeing her learn to find joy in life through helping others and, through their interaction with her, finding a way to value herself is immensely compelling. Her empathetic joy when helping others find happiness is palpable and her resultant overcorrection to an indivdual who is recklessly altruistic feels genuine and organic.
Made in Abyss: Not quite the immense narrative experience of any of my other top picks, Made in Abyss nevertheless makes it into this list for the spectacle of the series. A beautifully conceived world presented with all the care and beauty of a Ghibli production with wonderful additions like nightmarish creatures animated by Koh Yoshinari in his signature style, giving them the feeling of being out of place. Learning more about this immense pit is a fascinating experience with a few scenes of such intensity or tragedy that you’ll be thinking about them for weeks.
Happiness: One of the newest manga by Shizu Oshimi, the creator of Flowers of Evil. This is one of my favorite finds of the year, beginning with a premise similar to Tokyo Ghoul but taking it into the darker direction I was hoping for in Ishia’s work. Oshimi uses a dreamlike style to articulate the vampire’s perception of the night and impressionistic images to describe their thirst, creating a wonderfully surreal and disturbing experience. The most recent volume completely pulled the rug out from under the story in the best way.
The Promised Neverland: Probably the most tragically underrepresented title in Shonen Jump, The Promised Neverland finally had a physical release to allow us to read past the first three chapters available on VIZ’s website. It has all of the clinically exact scheming of Death Note set in a story not unlike a German fairytale. The children of an orphanage set in an idyllic countryside discover a dark purpose behind their home’s happy facade. Describing too much willl run the fun, but this manga has some panels that make your heart stop after turning the page.
MILES THOMAS (@MilesExpress999)
Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju: I don’t think it’s unfair to call Rakugo Shinju the most compelling drama I’ve ever seen in any medium. Season 2 had a lot to live up to, but luckily for us viewers, [spoilers] Sukeroku and Miyokichi would not be truly dead until Kikuhiko died as well [/spoilers], allowing the story to evolve with the times and its new cast without abandoning the relationships that made me call the first season “perfect" as well.
The Eccentric Family: While there’s some part of me that’s sad that I went into 2017 with a pretty good understanding of what my two favorites would be, the rest of me is very very very happy to have gotten a second season of The Eccentric Family. The pain, the joy, and the unending sense of family from the first season are back in full force, an accomplishment I thought would be impossible without the framing from the first season…but I guess I’ve underestimated this gem twice now.
In This Corner of the World: Though this film was not originally released in 2017, this was the year it got its Western release, and I would have absolutely included it last year had I gotten the chance. In This Corner of the World is on my shortlist of animated films that use the medium to create something more real and lifelike than any other medium could provide, and uses this power to tell a desperately heartbreaking story that’s heightened by the movie’s slice-of-life elements.
Kino’s Journey ~Life is Beautiful~ The Animation: The first Kino’s Journey was one of the pivotal series in my life as an anime fan - it helped me overcome my disdain for episodic series, opening my eyes to the beauty and skill that go into crafting a narrative tightly restricted by broadcast time slots. I’ve seen a lot of commentary about how this show doesn’t capture the magic of the original, but having rewatched the first season recently, I can’t disagree strongly enough - the new aesthetic may not have the storybook feeling of the first edition, but the stories are just as good or better, with one or two notable exceptions aside. A Kino’s Journey that holds a candle to the original in terms of its parables would be one of my favorite anime of the year…but one that can sometimes exceed it is absolutely worthy of the top of my list.
Saga of Tanya the Evil: While she was reviewing my list (her top picks are Land of the Lustrous and ACCA, for those curious), my wife was most surprised about this inclusion, particularly its spot so high among my favorites. Of everything on my list, Tanya is probably the most “anime” of them all…but that’s exactly why I love it. Tanya doesn’t really dwell on tropes, not exactly. But everything that Tanya *does* do feels exclusive to the world of anime, from its obsession with the minutiae of battlefield strategy to its…small young girl protagonist. And Tanya loves these things with intense conviction, and because of that, I do too.
Made in Abyss: For as many series as there are with an adventure at the center, I’ve found few that actually capture the spirit of adventure. Made in Abyss’s greatest strength was just that: the slow but satisfying sense of progression, the exploration of the unknown - this was a real adventure, the kind so enthralling that it’s usually the backstory before the “real story” begins.
ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept: I never expected that my competing interests of the intricacies of government bureaucracy and Natsume Ono would ever share the screen, but here we are. ACCA is a weird one to watch and recommend due to its pacing and general vibe - you’re not going to want to binge this, and for me at least, it demanded a certain mood from me as a viewer - but if you’re willing to give ACCA a little of yourself, it’ll give you far more back in return.
Girls’ Last Tour: I don’t have much to say about Girls’ Last Tour. It makes me happy. It’ll make you happy too.
Princess Principal: When I saw the PV for Princess Principal, I had no personal expectations for the title. Neither the steampunk aesthetics nor the character designs held much interest to me, and even though I adore pulpy spy stories as a rule and had fallen in love with Director Masaki Tachibana’s previous effort, Barakamon, this gave a more similar vibe to Studio 3Hz’s underwhelming Dimension W than anything else. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My fondness for Princess Principal is simple: it was the most fun I had watching anime all year long. It was stylish, it was sensational, it made me buy into every character beat and silly storyline, and I am ready for more.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: This slot has rotated between Sakura Quest, Land of the Lustrous, My Hero Academia, and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, but I had to go with KyoAni’s charming domestic comedy. Out of all the anime I’ve watched this year, this made me feel the most vulnerable, the most charmed, the most satisfied after every episode. Some people have Hallmark Movies, some have Chicken Soup for the Soul, but I have Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and I would never want to give it up.
RENE KAYSER (@kayserlein)
Interviews with Monster Girls: One of the series I didn’t really expect to mean anything for me at the start of the year turned out to be one of my favorites. While I was skeptical at first (the only major monster girl show in recent memory had been a raunchy harem, after all), I was quickly drawn in by its message of acceptance and understanding each other through open dialogue. Combine this with smart tackling of tackling cultural prejudices by substituting them with mythological beings and you get a show whose heart really displays the benefits of simply listening to each other some more.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: This one’s a easy pick for most of us, I assume. Not only is Kyoto Animation home to some of the best animators in the industry to begin with but what we’re getting here is simply breathtaking in its earnestness. Providing the perfect blend of cute, silly and the little bit of seriousness it needs to really hit you, Miss Kobayashi is really the perfect guide on How to Date your Dragon. (Also, how could I refuse Kanna a spot on this list?)
My Hero Academia: A show I wasn’t really interested in at the start. We didn’t get it on CR here in Germany, so I skipped on the first season back in the day - but oh boy, do I regret that! Talk of the Tournament Arc got me interested to finally check the series out and the way it handles its characters and plot so completely new and outright earnest fit my personal taste so well that I got out to buy all manga volumes the Monday after my binge weekend. Sometimes, you just do have to give in to the hype … people might know what they’re screaming at you about~
The Ancient Magus’ Bride: It’s hard to give a definitive judgment on this adaptation of Kore Yamazaki’s manga since it hasn’t finished airing yet - but what we did get until now has simply been magical (yes, it’s the easy pun. Let me have this!). Its source material was already wonderful but the anime not only adapted it perfectly, it outright improved on it with fantastic direction and the best soundtrack anime has gotten all year. This will be a show we’ll talk about many years down the line, I am sure of it!
Dragon Ball Super: I wasn’t expecting much since the buzz at the start of the show had been low (mainly due to them retelling both recent movies) but once we got past the first two arcs, DBS gave me what I never knew I wanted: A combination of the fights of Z and the silliness of the original Dragon Ball. It doesn’t have the intensity of the Cell saga, but certainly got me back in front of my TV each weekday like I used to during my school days.
KARA DENNISON (@rubycosmos)
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: Before this series came out, I had no idea I needed a dragon maid harem show in my life. Unexpectedly silly and adorable in all the right places -- and I might be Miss Kobayashi. I can neither confirm nor deny. Please give it a try, even if your first instinct is that it’s not “your style.”
The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Several of this got to see this at Crunchyroll Expo, and we were wowed by everything from the story to the animation to the unique score. I especially loved the dig into English folklore, something I don’t often get to see done well in anime.
The Laughing Salesman: It’s dismal, cynical, and extremely dark. So of course I loved it. The return to the classic, Doraemon-styled series was a weird and wonderful watch. The jazzy opening by NakamuraEmi is never leaving my playlist.
Interviews with Monster Girls: This was another unexpected hit. What looked like a harem series turned out to be a wonderful metaphor for living with disability. As someone who suffers from several pre-existing conditions myself, I’ve pointed to specific episodes as ways to help my friends understand things I go through. This deserves much more attention than it ever got.
Anime-Gataris: What if Otaku no Video but with lots more girls? The off-brand anime titles and passionate love of the genre are the best things about this show. But I love the character designs, the self-effacing humor, and the music. Oh, and Neko-sensei. Of course.
Kino’s Journey: The return to Kino’s adventures was done just right. I was a big fan of the earlier series, and there’s always a bit of worry when you see a new version of something you loved. But it was like coming home and seeing that your room’s been left as it alway was. Comforting and a bit weird, just the way I like it.
WILHELM DONKO (@surwill)
Tsukigakirei: What at first glance might’ve looked like a plain teenage romance story, turned out to be quite the refreshing surprise. Tsukigakirei broke with some often annoying genre conventions, and really managed to tell a genuinely charming and well-constructed story about adolescent love, which surely many of us found highly relatable. The anime is one of the few actually exploring all of the difficulties and hardships a young couple has to face during their first relationship. While the show’s animation was a bit wonky at times and didn’t fully hold up, the backgrounds were always beautiful to look at.
In This Corner of the World: A visually stunning movie with an inspiring story about a young woman who always tried to keep a positive outlook on life, even during the most horrible times imaginable. The movie’s highly accurate depiction of Hiroshima and the nearby port town of Kure during the times of war will surely leave no-one indifferent. I first got to watch it on a flight to Japan, and it had such a strong impact on me that I just couldn’t get it out of my head for the whole duration of my trip.
Love Live! Sunshine!!: I’ve already poured too much time, tears, and money into this franchise, that I couldn’t have possibly left it out of my list this year. The second season is just as goofy, cheesy, and melodramatic as the first one was, and managed to further strengthen the bond of the already tight-knit idol group. I’m also glad that the show gave some of the characters I wasn’t so fond of more time in the spotlight this season. All of Aqours’ songs were already a significant step up compared to the Muse ones in terms of CG, but this season’s performances have been looking especially pretty. Yousoro~
The Eccentric Family: What a fantastic return! Finally seeing Yasaburo again, lazing around and being up to no good, really made me realize just how much I missed The Eccentric Family. I’m glad that we got to spend some more time in the show’s magical and whimsical rendition of Kyoto, in which humans, the noble tengus, and the furry tanukis all go about their daily lives, trying to coexist, and not end up in a hot pot.
Land of the Lustrous: I basically knew next to nothing about Land of the Lustrous going in, and while I figured from the trailers that the show would offer some beautiful imagery, a fantastic soundtrack, and a unique setting, I was simply not expecting these characters to be such utterly lovable idiots. Outside of the numerous action highlights, and the straight-up stunning backgrounds, this highly likeable cast of gemstones really turned this into one of my favorite shows of the year.
Gabriel DropOut: A show about fallen angels and good-natured demons attending a regular high school in Japan. That kind of absurd setup naturally leads to countless hilarious scenarios, skits, and plenty of running gags, which made this my favorite comedy of the year. Especially the dynamic between the vainly villainous future queen of hell, Satania, and the mischievous angel, Raphiel, made the show so consistently entertaining to watch.
NICK CREAMER (@b0bduh)
Rakugo: Following up on a stellar first season, Rakugo’s second half offered more of the thoughtful character drama and stirring performance setpieces that make this show so special. Rakugo’s second season was ultimately less tightly composed than the first, but still a wonderful time. I’m excited to see whatever its director Shinichi Omata cooks up next.
The Eccentric Family: Like Rakugo, the second season couldn’t quite live up to the strength of the first. Fortunately, even a slightly less good Eccentric Family is still one of the best shows around, offering a gorgeous magical realist vision of a Kyoto not so distant from our own. I will never get tired of watching Yasaburou and his strange companions navigate the many perils of duty, family, and pursuing a life well-lived.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: I really didn’t expect a show about a dragon who’s also a maid to be this good. Not only was Dragon Maid one of the strongest comedies of the year, and a beautifully composed show on the whole, but it also turned out to be one of the most poignant family dramas I’ve seen. Come for the goofy dragon shenanigans, stay for the cozy familial love.
March comes in like a lion: Whether you focus on the tail half of season one or the opening salvo of season two, March comes in like a lion delivered striking psychological drama, compelling sports action, and cozy family scenes all year long. Even if its visual execution was a little inconsistent, the fundamental strength of March’s dramatic material was just too consistent to ignore.
Made in Abyss: Fighting hard for the throne of most beautiful show of the year, Made in Abyss also excelled as a starry-eyed paean to adventure. The show’s titular abyss was such an intriguing mystery that every episode felt far too short, and I can only hope we’re soon able to continue following Rico and Reg into the depths of their fascinating world.
Just Because!: A painfully accurate evocation of the end of adolescence, the moment when you realize you’re not a kid anymore, but aren’t really sure what you are now instead. Its thoughtful characterization result in a romantic drama that sometimes feels too relatable to be enjoyable, offering one of the most well-observed character stories of the year.
Owarimonogatari: Monogatari’s final act has plenty of its own pleasures, but I find it most impressive for how well it ties together years and years of buildup material. The conclusion to Monogatari feels so right to this story that I couldn’t imagine it ending any other way. A fine conclusion to one of anime’s greatest modern sagas.
My Hero Academia S2: The second season builds on the great strengths of its source material to offer one of the best shounen action platforms in years. The show doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but instead iterates beautifully on a well-worn template, demonstrating that a Shonen Jump story told right is still a wonderful thing.
Kemono Friends: Rising from the humblest of origins in terms of both project genesis and creative resources, Kemono Friends somehow turned out to be one of the best stories of the year. Offering a consistent combination of comfy slice of life, surprisingly sharp comedy, and subtly strong scifi, it ultimately overcomes its rags-to-riches reputation by virtue of its consistent, no-caveats-required narrative excellence.
Land of the Lustrous: Combining deliriously active CG action with phenomenal art direction, great psychological drama, and intriguing worldbuilding, Land of the Lustrous may offer the most altogether impressive package of any show this year. From its comedy to its characterization to its philosophy to its fights, Land of the Lustrous offers something for everyone, excelling in every single thing it tries.
THOMAS ZOTH (@ABCBTom)
GARO -VANISHING LINE-: Bringing the dark atmosphere and stylish action of GARO to a very New York City-like setting and multiracial cast and the results are much more up my alley. The series is only halfway complete but I feel comfortable in saying the series will deliver all the way. And best of all, you don’t have to be familiar with any other Garo series to jump in: The connections between series are reminiscent of Final Fantasy’s shared mythos of designs and motifs.
Made in Abyss: This series is almost universally celebrated now, but when it was first announced, those familiar with the manga spoke in whispers about how brutal it was- and those fans weren’t wrong. But Made in Abyss earns its impact by crafting a breathtaking and terrifying world. None of the shocks are cheap- they’re earned, and the TV series edges up against a near theatrical level of craft. Not to be missed.
Land of the Lustrous: One of the first 3DCG anime to earn my grudging respect, Lustrous is noteworthy for other reasons. It’s based on a brilliant, compelling manga that mixes horror and preciousness in a strikingly unique way. Main character Phos is a terrible brat, but she is a terrible brat for all of us sinners. Sakuga purists might be tempted to pass on this due to its CG animation or facile comparisons to Steven Universe, but this would be a terrible mistake. Another must-see in a stunning year.
Anime-Gataris: An amazingly patient anime. The premise teases that the anime club that stars in the series is ignoring an impending apocalypse, but the anime merely hints at larger phenomenon slowly, giving you a funny, updated Genshiken for a more internationalized anime audience. The latest episodes show that the writers do intend to deliver on their insane narrative promise, and the series looks headed for a metafictional explosion the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Samurai Flamenco. I am thrilled and love every minute of this series.
The night is short walk on girl: I was fortunate enough to see this at the AnimeFest premiere in Dallas, having not seen Tatami Galaxy, an anime from the same original author. My enjoyment was not hurt in the least, and I was treated to a fantastic night of sights and sounds that brought to mind comparisons with Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer, one of my favorite anime ever. It’s a fantastic experience and one I hope US audiences are able to see with a license and theatrical run ASAP!
Goshogun: the time etranger: A fantastic, bizarre existential horror film from the director of the Pokemon movie franchise. Loosely based on a mecha series, pilot Remy Shimada finds herself in a foreign land, in a country ruled by a suicidal cult… but really she’s comatose, struggling for life after a near-fatal car accident. A bizarre and somewhat hammy mix of action, horror, childhood flashback, and relationship drama, there’s really no other film like this. Kudos for Discotek for bringing this passion project on Blu-ray.
JOSEPH LUSTER (@Moldilox)
My Hero Academia: No single show got me as unabashedly hyped up on a weekly basis as My Hero Academia did this year. I haven’t been keeping up with the manga, which is something I aim to fix soon, but for my money BONES has done a better job than most in bringing shonen action, drama, and heart to explosively colorful life.
Made in Abyss: I was kind of wary going into this series, especially since the character designs did absolutely nothing for me. Any doubts were quickly washed away as I got sucked into a harrowing, and occasionally upsetting journey into unexplored depths. Despite the direction in which our plucky protagonists are headed, the staff at Kinema Citrus managed to hit some real highs along the way, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Attack on Titan: The wait for Attack on Titan season 2 was more colossal than any of its towering terrors, so how could it possibly live up to all the excitement? That’s what I thought until I got a few episodes in and found myself enamored by the twists and turns all over again. A few of the big reveals are pulled off in unconventional ways that I think we’ll look back on even more favorably in the future.
In This Corner of the World: It’s been years since I watched a truly stirring anime film, and Sunao Katabuchi’s In This Corner of the World totally fits the bill. Equal parts gorgeous and heartbreaking, this is one of those movies you shouldn’t hesitate to show to your anime-adverse friends or family members.
ISAAC AKERS (@iblessall)
Land of the Lustrous: I don’t even remember at this point what got me to check out the first volume of the Land of the Lustrous manga. Probably it was just an off-hand tweet. Whatever it was, though, I’m grateful – because this story, both the beautiful manga and stunning anime adaptation, is exactly the sort of thing I come to this subculture for. I won’t say it was made for me, as that always feels like a rather presumptuous statement, but gosh dang, Land of the Lustrous sure is exactly my kind of thing.
Alice & Zoroku: If you ask me, Alice & Zoroku is the most underrated show of the year, a simultaneously adorable, emotional, and ultimately important work that holds up children as the precious beings they are—capable of incredible empathy, possessing of stunning potential, and worth protecting, cherishing, and guiding. The show’s unflagging belief in this principle and its commitment to showing it in action brought me to tears time and time again. It was truly beautiful.
New Game!!: As a creator, the first season of New Game! hit me hard with its reflection on working in a creative job, the challenges that come with wanting to improve, and the difficult dynamics between fellow creators. The sequel season was somewhat less focused on these aspects as it explored other themes, but when it returned to them, it did so with incredible impact—and those powerful moments are the ones I’m going to remember most.
Knight’s & Magic: This show gets it. It gets the giddiness of loving giant robots, the way the desire to share the exhilaration watching these fictional machines spills out, and the positive effects a healthy personal fandom can have on others. It’s rare that we get shows whose primary charm is just how darn good-natured they are, but that is certainly the case for Knight’s & Magic. Combined with its love of giant robots, that made it one of my most-anticipated shows to watch all year.
In/Spectre: Based on a novel written by Kyo Shirodaira, the crazy mind behind titles like Blast of Tempest and Spiral, InSpectre is a curious blend of romance, urban fantasy elements, and modern day technology. All of the volumes that have been released in the States to date have been focused around one arc and display Shirodaira’s trademarks of intriguingly unique storytelling ideas, a fascination with quirky mysteries, and strong dynamics between the characters. It’s the rare manga that keeps me buying it blind, and I’m looking forward to what comes next!
CALLUM MAY (@CanipaShow)
Little Witch Academia: What originally started out as a short film to promote young animators has since become the most recognisable brand from the GAINAX veterans at Studio Trigger. It’s not the first of the Young Animators Training Project to receive further entries (Death Parade had that honour in 2015), but it is the most beloved. The original story had this simple narrative arc of Akko striving to be like her idol, Chariot, with her final achievement within the film being a replication of the magic she had witnessed as a child. Her story grows in complexity and the world expands immensely in the TV series, allowing me to dive into a world that I’ve been intrigued by for the past 5 years and introduced themes that clash complementarily with the first two films.
Made in Abyss: I’m a sucker for deep mysterious worlds and Made in Abyss had the deepest world in a show this year (PUN ABSOLUTELY INTENDED). However, even with a narrative that constantly intrigued and made me worry for our fragile heroes (one of them, anyways), the thing that constantly stole my attention was the atmosphere. With background art directed by former Ghibli artist, Osamu Masuyama and music by the genius composer Kevin Penkin, it became a difficult show to pull my attention away from. Masuyama embraces realism, not just in terms of adding detail, but adding it in meaningful ways that creates hidden narratives and beauty in the face of terror.
WorldEnd: During a time in my life where I was incredibly busy and struggled to keep up with even huge hits like My Hero Academia and Re:Creators, WorldEnd was the series that I stayed up until late at night to watch. Set in a world that clashes steampunk science fiction with a world that feels eerily similar to The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, it explores a strained romance between Ctholly and our protagonist Willem as he observes her battle from the sidelines.
NATASHA H (@illegenes)
Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju: When the first episode of the first season of Rakugo aired last year, I was blown away. It would continue to surprise me with its intricate character drama. Above all else, Rakugo is a story about people who tell stories - the importance of weaving this fabric between lives and passing down what’s left of us to the next generation. Season 2 raises the bar by focusing on that tale as we skip from the past and enter the present. It’s a show that features some of the richest and emotionally packed writing I’ve seen in years, aided with Shinichi Omata’s subtle but powerful direction.
Land of the Lustrous: Featuring philosophical themes on trans-humanism, existentialism, and Buddhism, the show is beautifully tragic and wondrous, reminiscent of one of my favorite animes, Casshern Sins. Not only that, but it boasts what’s most likely one of the best soundtracks of the year and has taken the potential of 3DCG anime to new heights. Land of the Lustrous is consistently surprising me, and Phos is a new favorite kind of protagonist, as unfortunately doomed as they are in their journey to find meaning and purpose.
Just Because!: For a couple of months, I was starting to think romance dramas in anime were no longer my thing. I’m happy to say that Just Because! has proved me wrong. If all goes well, it could likely become one of my favorite romance drama animes of all time. Not only does it balance an incredibly realistic cast of awkward teens against the quiet and meditative backdrop of an urban setting, it captures that dramatic phase of finding what you want for yourself. There are no simplistic, overdramatic misunderstandings; no drawn out conversations; something incredibly rare and precious in a show about nervous teenagers graduating from high school.
Kizumonogatari III: I’m by no means finished with the Monogatari series, but I have the confidence to say that Kizumonogatari is one of the strongest entries in the franchise for me. The first two movies enriched two fundamental relationships that make up much of the TV shows, and the third closes the curtain with revelations that shake your perceptions of why these characters are the way they are. It’s a tragic tale from which Bakemonogatari arises, filled with stunning animation, moments of heartbreaking character development, and witty dialogue - a standard (but still fantastic) Nisio Isin tale.
Little Witch Academia: Space Patrol Luluco was my favorite TRIGGER show until Little Witch Academia came along and stole my heart. Akko Kagari is infectiously endearing and joyful to watch as she progresses from a stubborn and single focused person to one that manages to overcome her own shortcomings through hard work and determination. Little Witch Academia carries the TRIGGER spirit, but in an accessible way that I can easily recommend to people of all ages, whether they’ve seen anime or not.
SAM WOLFE (@_Samtaro)
Your Name: Your Name finally made it to U.S. shores this year, so that means I’m technically allowed to talk about it!
The film uses its fantastic premise to create moments where the audience can feel the raw emotion of being a hormone-addled youth in way over their head. It isn’t about figuring out the mystery of why Taki and Mitsuha are waking up in each other’s bodies, or why they didn’t notice some glaring details about their situation, it’s about missed connections, becoming an adult, and exploring the emotional depth of not knowing what it is you’re missing, but recognizing that it isn’t there. It may not have won over all audiences, but in my theater at least, when that pen dropped, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Land of the Lustrous (manga/anime): Simply put, nothing about this story should work; its setting is esoteric and vastly different from our reality, and yet despite that fact it’s great. The endearing cast, the haunting story, and the glamorous artwork kept me turning page after page until I was chomping at the bit for the next manga volume to be released.
Land of the Lustrous was also adapted into a beautiful 3D anime. In defiance of the naysayers who say 3D anime looks bad, Land of the Lustrous’ adaptation is nearly as flashy and stylish as the manga. I would invite anyone who thinks using CGI to create their anime is the kiss of death to watch this gorgeous show. If the visuals don’t hook you, it’s riveting story and passionate characters certainly will.
A Sister’s All You Need: Look, this isn’t what it looks like. Ok, it’s exactly what it looks like, but I didn’t pick A Sister’s All You Need as a favorite because of the imoto stuff. I could try to defend myself by saying that I like that it explores the creative struggle of being a writer in an increasingly commercial industry, or its emotional portrayals of dealing with failure, but I don’t think that will get me very far.
No, A Sister’s All You Need caught my attention early on because of something in the background: protagonist Itsuki’s monstrous board game collection. When I noticed my favorite board game (Avalon) on his shelf, I had to start asking questions. As it turns out, Japanese hobby chain Yellow Submarine was on the production committee for this one. In almost every episode the characters play a new board game, a real board game, that you can go out and buy. The Japanese website even keeps a running tally of board games shown in the anime. Moreover, its recently come to my attention that the beer they drink all the time, Outou no Shizuku, is also a real product, and has, in fact, quadrupled in sales since the show first aired.
That's it for Part One of our three-part series! Be sure to stay tuned for PART TWO: VIDEO GAMES! If you're still in the mood for past CR Favorites, check out the previous years' features here:
What were your favorite anime and manga of 2017? Comment below and share with us! Remember, this is a FAVORITES list, not a BEST OF list, so there's no wrong answers!
Peter Fobian is an Associate Features Editor for Crunchyroll, author of Monthly Mangaka Spotlight, writer for Anime Academy, and contributor at Anime Feminist. You can follow him on Twitter @PeterFobian.