Top Ten Anime of 2017

That fabled time has come once again. With four full seasons of anime on the books, it’s time to mark out the true all-stars, the cream of the crop, the shows we just might remember in spite of our recency-mad fandom culture. I normally preface posts like this with a glib assurance that rankings don’t really matter, art deserves to be engaged with in a manner more meaningful than relative evaluation, and thus this whole ordeal is a hopeless exercise. That all remains true, but at the end of a year that’s offered plenty of things to be cynical about in the real world, I’d rather end this introduction on a note of honest positivity. Rankings aren’t bad things. Not only are they fun to read, but to people who actually haven’t spent countless hours poring over the year’s better and worse selections, rankings can genuinely help point people in useful directions. On top of that, simply celebrating the shows I love is one of my favorite things about criticism, and what’s a better venue for pure celebration than a list of my recent favorites? So let’s put the critical knives aside, and appreciate how good some cartoons can be. Here’s my Top 10 Anime of 2017!

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Why It Works: A Monogatari Art Exhibition, Part One

Today on Crunchyroll, I’m embarking on another two-parter, this time cataloging the shifting art design of Monogatari. I’ve collected so many damn images of this series that at this point, it’s fun just to sift through my own personal galleries, picking out the best representations of all of Monogatari’s myriad visual styles. This article only gets through the Oishi Monogatari material, but there’s certainly more than enough to dig into there!

Why It Works: A Monogatari Art Exhibition, Part One

Owarimonogatari Season Two – Review

At last, the Monogatari franchise comes to something resembling a close. We’ve already got confirmation of a ridiculous surplus of arcs still to come, but as for the story of Araragi’s adolescence, this is pretty much it. Owarimonogatari somehow managed to bring this sprawling narrative to a legitimately satisfying end, something I couldn’t help but marvel at throughout my review. This wasn’t my favorite set of Monogatari arcs, but I’m still very happy to see the show end strong.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my notes below.

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Summer 2017 Season Preview

At this point, I’ve kinda accepted that season previews are more or less useless. Alright, that’s a bit harsh. As a way of pointing out promising staff, or a breakdown of the merits of source material, they definitely have their uses. But gauging shows based on their premises is basically pointless, and a first episode is a far more useful predictor of quality than pretty much anything a preview can tell you. I’m gonna be frank with you – I’m writing this preview mostly because I have a slavish dedication to routine, and also because readers just kinda seem to like them. I hope those reasons sound reasonable enough!

All that said, we’re sticking with my usual format here. I won’t be breaking down every single show that’s coming up – I’m just gonna be highlighting the shows I actually have some reason to be excited about. I also won’t be offering synopses, which are easily available elsewhere – instead, I’ll be focusing on the specific reasons I think some show has a shot at being good. With all that qualifying and justifying behind us, starting with my top choices, let’s preview some shows!

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Owarimonogatari, Part Two – Review

Today I return to Owarimonogatari, for the inconsistent but ultimately satisfying Shinobu Mail. Stuck at the end of a broadcast run and crunched by SHAFT’s generally over-ambitious scheduling, Shinobu Mail definitely suffers in the visual department, but it’s still a very rewarding arc in terms of character and theme. Some of the peaks of this arc count among the franchise’s peaks in general, Kanbaru’s argument with Shinobu and Araragi’s phone call with Senjougahara among them. Even in a less consistent arc, it’s hard to keep this series down.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my episode notes below.

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Owarimonogatari, Part One – Review

The Monogatari review train continues today, as I return to the Ougi/Sodachi-focused stretch of Owarimonogatari. Looked at in total, these arcs feel a little awkwardly placed in the narrative, largely because adding a character like Sodachi is both disruptive and a return to a long-abandoned Monogatari format. But Sodachi’s a reasonably compelling character in her own right, and only getting Ougi’s introduction now is actually some pretty great storytelling – though this is her first chronological appearance in the story, it feels like the natural progression from the times we’ve seen her before. I kinda doubt Monogatari will give us a clean conclusion to Ougi’s narrative, but I guess we’ll have to see what the end of the final season brings.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my notes below!

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Top Ten Anime of 2015

And so, another year of anime winds to its end. There have been surprises and disappointments this year, and my ultimate list doesn’t really look much like what I’d expected to find, but in the end, anime is anime. At the beginning of this year, I was looking forward to crowning two of 2014’s better series – Your Lie in April and Parasyte. Unfortunately, both of those shows kinda lost their way in their second halves, which was sad for everyone. Later on, at the year’s halfway point, I was again excited about my end-of-year list – I already had a good seven or eight shows I felt were top ten-worthy, and was beginning to think this would be a year to rival 2013. Unfortunately, the year’s second half only really gave me the last couple shows I needed, and so here I am, recognizing just enough shows to fill out a full list. This year didn’t end out quite as strong as I’d hoped, but ultimately I probably shouldn’t complain about any year that featured enough shows to fill a list plus honorable mentions.

And I actually do have an honorable mention, one I honestly feel a little bad not including on my list proper. Although not all its sequences were equally strong, Studio Khara’s Animator Expo definitely deserves a mention – you might have heard of it just because of Me! Me! Me!, but the whole thing is full of wonderful, creative little vignettes. If you’re interested in the visual potential of anime, or just want to see some cool short-form pieces, Animator Expo is a can’t-miss experience. The third season is still available online (here’s a particularly good one), so I’d definitely check that out. I should also probably mention One Punch Man, since I get the feeling not mentioning it means it will dominate the comments. Yes, I watched it, and no, I didn’t think it was that great. Strong animation, but everything outside of that felt pretty mediocre, and so you won’t see it here.

But that’s all preamble. You guys are here for the top shows, and top shows you will have – shows from a wide span of genres and creators, shows to thrill and shock and make you cry. Every year in anime brings new treasures, so let’s buckle in and run down the best in one more year of Japanese cartoons!

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Fall 2015 – Week 12 in Review

I don’t tend to enjoy writing negative stuff. If I can make some kind of upbeat game or challenge out of it, like I did when writing about Strike Witches or Dragonar Academy, it can be pretty okay – but when it’s just a grim reporting of disappointment and failure, continuing week after week, that’s just the saddest kind of writing. I like being enthusiastic about stuff, and sharing that enthusiasm with people, and lately it’s been feeling like my week in review posts are just too dang negative. But like all good critics, I’m going to remain confident the problem isn’t with me, it’s with the media. I’m just watching too many bad shows! I’ve got bad shows I’m watching on contract and bad shows I’m watching on faith and mediocre shows I’m watching for their occasional glimmers of greatness. If not for all these bad shows, everything would be fine.

So yeah, I’m looking forward to next season. The only show I’ll really be sad to see go is Owarimonogatari, and that one ended so well that I can’t even complain (plus hey, Kizu’s on its way). Other than that, this shambling collections of rejects and ne’er-do-wells can just shuffle on into the past, and we can embrace a whole new collection of anime hopes and dreams. Plus I’ll be posting my top ten shows of the year about a week from now, and it doesn’t really get more positive than that! This cloud shall pass, but for now, let’s take a somewhat skeptical look back at this week’s shows and RUN ‘EM DOWN.

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Owarimonogatari – Episode 12

Owari is done and Owari is good. It honestly took until this episode for me to really feel that Owari was on par with second season, but yeah. It’s there. Maybe we didn’t get an entire Kaiki arc or Medusa Nadeko, but Sodachi’s story was wonderful, and these last two episodes have been overwhelmingly good. Such great conversations all through this episode, with characters ranging from Senjougahara to Kanbaru to even Yotsugi getting great little bits. Even Araragi was excellent in this arc, demonstrating some of the most consistent growth and true strength of character he’s displayed all show. This season was another triumph, and I now feel even more confident in Monogatari succeeding all the way to the ending. It continues to demonstrate why it’s one of my favorite shows.

You can check out my supersized review over here, or my notes down below!

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Fall 2015 – Week 11 in Review

This week in anime wasn’t the best, I’m sad to say. My reliable favorites were reliable-to-great, but… well, there are only two of those. And everything else kinda let me down. I feel like I’ve more or less set myself up for disappointment this season – instead of accepting that it’s a bad season and relying wholly on backlist shows to get me through, I’ve basically just assumed a handful of shows are permanently in “dud episodes” and keep feeling disappointed when they consistently prove their dud episodes are actually just their normal episodes. It’s no way to live, frankly, and I don’t actually know if next season offers any escape – considering how tentative my excitement is for basically everything on my preview list, it seems pretty likely that Monogatari and Iron-Blooded Orphans will be next season’s best shows, too.

But I don’t mean to depress you. Even if this week’s shows were bad (and even when it comes to what I was reviewing for ANN, they were), that doesn’t mean I don’t have stuff to say about ’em. And hey, not every show tripped on its face – in fact, Owarimonogatari pulled off an episode that I’d probably count among the best of the year. So let’s put on a brave face, assume a stiff upper lip, and contort your muscles in any other way you feel appropriate as we RUN ‘EM DOWN.

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