2017 was like most years in anime: a lot of crap, some amusing but forgettable shows, some pretty good shows and a small number that seem like real classics. The surprising thing is that in retrospect the number of “classics” seems unusually high. Less surprising is that most of the remaining good ones are sequels.
It seems that it’s more or less a requirement for experienced anime bloggers to complain that the current season and the current year are the worst ever, a far cry from the glory days of the past. I’m pretty sure that 5 years from now bloggers will be bemoaning the dreadfulness of the 2019 season, as compared to the glory days of, say, 2014. Each year brings us a mountain of crap that is quickly forgotten, plus a few shows that people will remember fondly and even rewatch in future years.
So as usual in my annual review I will mostly ignore the shows that failed (and especially those that didn’t even try) and focus on shows that provided solid entertainment and may have some chance of being remembered fondly in future years.
Outstanding Anime of 2014
Season 2 of Mushi-shi (Crunchyroll) is a rare example of an anime that aims to be high art. There is no middle ground here: such a show always seems to end up either great or unwatchable. Fortunately this one continues to hit the “great” mark.
Nagi no Asukara (Crunchyroll) (started Fall 2013) had some slow moments but looking back I can’t think of any other show in the past year that affected me as strongly. What starts out looking like a whimsical fairy tale turns into a powerful work of high fantasy.
Hoozuki no Reitetsu (Crunchyroll) is a fine piece of work: a sharp-witted comedy with great artwork. (I’m talking about the drawings themselves. In terms of animation it’s fine but not striking.) If you are at all interested in Japanese folklore you should check it out.
You shouldn’t be intimidated if you don’t know too much about traditional Japanese folklore. This is not one of those anime comedies where you won’t get any of the jokes unless you are immersed in Japanese popular culture. In fact, many Japanese viewers don’t know all that much about traditional folklore, so the writers are careful to fill in enough context for each character that you can usually get the point of the joke. Continue reading →
So far my second-favorite anime of the new season is Hoozuki no Reitetsu (“Cool-headed Hoozuki”) (Crunchyroll). This probably won’t appeal to everyone. It’s one of those shows that’s full of references to Japanese folklore, mythology and classic anime. I don’t get all the references even though I’ve been studying this stuff as a hobby for years. Still I find it pretty funny.
This is a comedy set it Hell, but it’s not a particularly dark comedy, just kind of offbeat. It doesn’t dwell much on the tortures of the damned. In any case this is the Japanese Buddhist hell, which isn’t supposed to be forever. (Though it may last a long time since the wicked don’t usually reform themselves easily.)
It’s a short set-piece comedy. Each episode consists of two 12-minute stories. Continue reading →