A new anime season has begun! As it turns out, in spite of last season’s incredibly tepid lineup, the reports of anime’s demise were greatly exaggerated. This season is looking to easily be the strongest of the year overall, and likely one of the best single seasons in the past several years. Offering phenomenal shows in a wide variety of genres, a strong mix of sequels, originals, and adaptations, and an absurdly deep bench, Fall 2017 looks to be one for the record books. After a season where my weekly diet was “Made in Abyss and Tsuredure Children,” it feels nice to actually have to pick and choose what I have time to watch.
As usual, my work on ANN’s preview guide has given me an exhaustingly full perspective on the season’s offerings, and so I’m here today to rank my selections from the highest highs to the lowest lows. I’ll be grouping shows by vague, perhaps even meaningless tiers, and trying to offer a brief summation of my overall feelings. All of these titles will also have links to the guide itself, so if you want my more extended and theoretically professional critiques, click on through and search for Nick Creamer. Let’s start at the top and run this season down!
Anime That Banish The Shadows In Our Darkest Hours
In a season that includes both beloved sequels and long-awaited adaptations, it was actually an anime original that thrilled me the most. Well, “thrilled” is perhaps not the right word – Just Because! is more of a slow burn, a thoughtful and steady glimpse into the lives of a few teenagers on the verge of high school’s end. The show’s excellent characterization is carried in large part through its well-animated character acting, and the slow build of this episode leads to a gorgeous crescendo marking the reunion of two old friends. The episode jumps from character to character with a unique nonlinear grace, and the overall production creates a vivid atmosphere of charged feelings and anticipation. If you’re up for a more subtle kind of character drama, Just Because! looks to be a phenomenal ride.
Falling somewhere at the far end of the genre spectrum, Juni Taisen’s first episode is unapologetic trash, a gleefully violent spectacle with a wonderfully over-the-top premise. Based on a book by Nisioisin, its battle royale premise is elevated through tight plotting, intriguing characters, and some truly gorgeous animation. This season offers a ridiculous bounty when it comes to action shows, but Juni Taisen is my easy favorite so far. If you’re game for a bloody, melodramatic thrill ride, Juni Taisen isn’t holding anything back.
And rushing right back to the thoughtful introspective stuff, Kino’s Journey is back and almost as good as ever. The original Kino’s Journey is one of my all-time favorite shows, offering a captivating mix of philosophical inquiry and Spice and Wolf-style journeying atmosphere, and this revisit seems to be solidly capturing the spirit of its predecessor. I’m not thrilled that Hermes is now animated in awkward CG, but outside of that, Kino’s Journey is one the most narratively creative and atmospherically effective adventures out there. It is wonderful to have this one back.
Anime That Are Suffused with Gentle Warmth and a Hint of Nutmeg
Idolm@ster has proven itself as one of the most consistently impressive idol franchises in the business, and SideM seems to be a fine credit to its family name. Its first episode is livened by strong characters and buoyed by terrific animation, offering a well-portioned mix of comedy, drama, and performance highlights. This is a great season for idol sequels, but so far, SideM holds the brass ring.
It’s the rare anime comedy that immediately grabs my attention, but MMO Junkie definitely fits the bill. Its mix of clever, occasionally barbed reflections on the MMO and NEET life kept me grinning throughout, and its characters already feel well-realized enough that I’m instantly invested in its potential romance. Mix that with a generally appealing art style and some great expression work, and you’ve got a solid recipe for a very fun romcom.
So far, The Ancient Magus’ Bride is proving to be an acceptable adaptation of a phenomenal manga. Its execution doesn’t exactly elevate this story’s material, but Magus’ Bride’s tale of found families and fantasy doesn’t really need much elevating. Magus’ Bride hinges on the kind of ominous magic you’d read about in folklore and old cautionary tales, where children are spirited away by the creatures of the forest. If it can execute on its material with grace, Magus’ Bride will be an excellent ride.
I know the ANN scoring trajectory doesn’t add up, but in retrospect, Land of the Lustrous definitely offered one of the most compelling premieres of the season. Its intriguing worldbuilding, surprisingly charming character acting, and great incidental details pull together to make it an altogether gripping post-apocalyptic narrative. From the yawning black chasm out of which these gems’ pursuers emerge to the body-horror terror of what those monsters do to them, there is a sharpness to this series that matches well with its clear creativity. I’m keeping my eye on this one.
Anime That Work Hard and Do Their Genres Proud
Next up among this season’s big sequels, Blood Blockade Battlefront’s return was a solid caper in all respects. The loss of genius director Rie Matsumoto certainly hurts, and the focus on Nightow’s lame comedy is regrettable, but Battlefront is still one of the most visually arresting and propulsive action shows around. This episode works hard to keep things exciting, offering a strong combination of standout animation, dynamic layouts, and distinctive music. If you loved the first Battlefront, you’ll probably still be very happy with this one.
Aiming squarely at the “comfortable, atmospheric slice of life” strike zone, Konohana Kitan nails its goals with splendor to spare. Its story of a young girl making new friends at a distant inn feels pretty familiar, but it elevates that story through beautiful background art and occasional touches of fantastical whimsy. If you’re looking for a cozy slice of life, Konohana Kitan is the place to be.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a less cozy slice of life, Girls’ Last Tour nails that quiet, contemplative tone that the genre’s heavier entries do so well. Following two girls as they search for food and supplies in the aftermath of a great war, it manages to both respect the solemnity of the setting and offer consistent charming moments in spite of it. The show’s first episode didn’t necessarily give us a full picture of this story, but its intriguing storytelling, solid dialogue, and strong character acting have me ready for more.
And bringing up the rear of the major sequels, Sunshine!!’s new season is off to a simply reasonable start. This first episode leaned far too heavily on weak drama and canned character bits, but Love Live’s fundamentally excellent eye for comedy and consistently strong visual pacing still kept things entertaining. And with the first-episode faux-conflict doldrums over, I’m guessing things will only get more entertaining from here.
Look, I don’t know who of you out there can seriously claim you wouldn’t want to be spirited away by a devilishly handsome Arsene Lupin. Code: Realize’s first episode is one of the strongest visual novel premieres I’ve seen in a while, offering a daring heist by a gentleman thief, some very reasonable character development, and an often beautiful steampunk aesthetic. Whether it leans on its romance or its somewhat absurd narrative, there is a solid platform here.
Anime You Could Certainly Watch if You Watch Too Much Anime
In technical terms, Vanishing Line’s first episode is actually very impressive. It’s got some wonderfully rough animation, the direction is on point, and the story moves quickly enough, even if the characters are very flat. But tonally speaking, Vanishing Line is one of the most abrasively macho man, “boobs and bikes are the best” experiences I’ve seen in a while. If that’s your scene, go wild. I’ll be heading in the other direction.
Though it’s competing against some pretty serious idol champions, WUG’s new season actually started off with a perfectly respectable premiere. The performance scene at the end was a total mess, but there was lots of nice character acting leading up to that, and the show’s generally somber tone definitely helps it stand out. If you’re looking for a third idol show this season, here’s your pick.
UQ Holder’s first episode is a perfectly passable adaptation of a pretty so-so manga. Having read at least as far as this season will likely get, I can unfortunately confirm that UQ Holder simply isn’t very good – it’s Ken Akamatsu running on neutral, rarely achieving the creative action and dramatic heights of Negima. But as textbook shounen go, it’s perfectly all right.
Speaking of textbook shounen, Black Clover is basically the “you can copy it, but make sure you change it so the teacher doesn’t know” of Naruto, Fairy Tail, and all those other stories that are actually the same story. Its aesthetic execution is actually very strong, but the show is held down by the fact that its protagonist is an intolerably aggravating loudmouth. Please stop shouting, annoying young hero.
Anime-Gataris has “charming” going for it, but that’s about it. The show’s comedy is generally too basic to really earn many laughs, and the biggest appeal of this episode is how well it captures the reality of being a big anime nerd hoping to find other big anime nerds. It’s a likable show, but in this god-season, likable just ain’t enough.
Anime That Hurt You Without Knowing, Clumsy Souls That They Are
If you love old super sentai warriors and don’t mind a production that looks like a Tekken character intro cutscene, Infini-T Force may be exactly what you’re looking for.
TsukiPro has the questionable honor of being the fourth-best idol show in a season that features the return of two of the best idol franchises in general. I’m sorry TsukiPro, it was never meant to be.
BLEND-S is a comedy that isn’t really funny in any way, and that is pretty much where we’re at as far as the list goes.
Just as BLEND-S nails “comedy about cute girls without any good jokes,” so does TWOCAR pin down “sports drama about cute girls without any satisfying sports drama.” Things are really cooking now!
I am furious that a show with a premise as gleefully stupid as “sengoku battles reimagined as fights between werewolves and vampires” has the nerve to be this boring. Half Dynasty Warriors and half Twilight, this show somehow ends up being far less than the sum of its parts.
Anime That Know Exactly How Much They Are Hurting You
As far as aggressively stupid and poorly composed death games without any redeeming features go… shit, I forgot where I was going with that sentence.
If you can get past the obnoxiously terrible direction and amateurish free-associative writing, this show is actually pretty cute!
EVIL OR LIVE has exactly zero redeeming qualities, which means it’s only better than two other shows this season, somehow.
This show is so horrible that I have to assume it was deliberately aiming for the bottom of this list, which means I can’t possibly validate it by letting it win. Screw you Sister’s All You Need, you get SECOND to last place.
Alright, I think we’re through here. Cool, cool. Cya next time!