To celebrate the new year, let’s talk about last year’s anime.
It feels a little strange that this is the case but of these five only one is a show that didn’t JUST finish airing, I thought at first that maybe I was just not remembering well enough but I’ve gone through everything I watched this year and I’m pretty certain this is what came out on top for me. The whole year was filled with really great stuff every season but it ended on an even better note than it kept to throughout the year I suppose.
Sorry for it being late, I’ve been dealing with a lot of health problems as well as mental fatigue. I’ve always done my best to get these out before the new year begins but oh well.
Yuki Yuna wa Yusha de Aru – Washio Sumi no Shou
I’m one of those people who was a fan of Yuki Yuna’s original season because I’m not a retard who thinks Madoka did literally even one thing that wasn’t already a common trait in many mahou shoujo for well over a decade before it. Yuki Yuna had bad timing and I’ll admit maybe they were hoping to get Madoka fans, either way I don’t care, it was a more honest take on what the genre has done plenty of times and didn’t pretend to be something it wasn’t. It was a darker mahou shoujo with a serious story and it never tried to fool the audience or rip off anything so directly – it was it’s own thing and it knew what “it’s own thing” was and executed it well. I liked it a lot until the absolutely retarded ending episode which is supposedly fixed up in the sequel portion of this season (I haven’t gotten to finish it yet but that’s what I was told). Speaking of – yes, I’m specifically referring to the prequel arc when referring to this in the top anime of the year way. Not that I dislike what I’ve seen of the sequel, but it just seems pretty good while this 6-episode prequel arc (in the sequel “season”) was fucking great and well beyond my expectations.
Washio’s story is so much more meaningful and important than that of Yuki Yuna’s but only if you know Yuki Yuna’s story because what is actually one of my favorite things about the original series – Yuki Yuna isn’t actually the lead character even in that one. Well, she’s the “lead” but the main STORY character was always Washio/Togo without really any doubt we just happened to see that story unfold through the eyes of Yuki Yuna. Now with this prequel arc we finally get to see Togo’s original life as Washio Sumi; who she used to be as a person, the way she lived, the day-to-day of her life, her friends, her fights, and what the fuck happened back then to damage her so deeply that she ended up trying to kill herself in every way she could attempt the moment she remembered it all. This arc kept to a smaller scale due to only having 6 episodes total yet it managed to tell such a stronger and almost bigger story through having a tighter focus on Washio, Gin, and Nogi, and really zooming in on Wasshi’s personal experience through it all.
Don’t get me wrong, this prequel has a shit ton of really fun, silly, and hilarious moments – it does a perfect job, even better than Yuki Yuna did, of balancing comedic and slice of life elements with this serious and screwed up story. Washio’s ultra-nationalism and weird history/military-otaku aspect is also doubled here in the most fun of ways to the point she and Nogi at one point put on a dance and song routine for kids as the National Defense Masks as nothing but pure propaganda purposefully to brainwash the kids into becoming equally massively nationalistic and it’s just great.
It not only is great on it’s own, but as a prequel it changes so much about “Togo” in Yuki Yuna as well. They did a good job in the original show at explaining her and all but it’s so different being there for it than just hearing short bits about it. The more of this franchise comes out, the more obvious it becomes that this is a story about Washio going through terrible tragedies over and over again and carrying the weight of survivor’s guilt every time it happens as she is never the victim because everyone around her always keeps her safe when she can no longer fight – and they do so by throwing themselves into the face of death in her stead. This kind of story is easy to fuck up, but I feel like the whole of Yuki Yuna up to now has done it fantastically well – even the really stupid ending of the original feels more justified with the perspective that the prequel gives you on the overall story.
Aside Wasshi though, Gin and Nogi are also fantastic elements in this prequel – especially the former. Gin is basically a prototype Yuki but way cuter (albeit I have to admit she loses in voice – Yuki Yuna’s voice is one of the cutest out there because it’s just so goddamn weird) even more tomboyish version and has even more of the rambunctious and kind nature to her than Yuki does.
She also pays a far bigger price for it in what is easily one of the most powerful moments in the last year of anime and maybe one of the best final sequences for a character in anime in awhile, ending in the most moving and suitable way it could with her dying the most well deserved and classically heroic way – on her feet. And to make it sting that much more, the show doesn’t end there, nor does it skip over things like the funeral. No, you have to see the entire fucking aftermath, see her family after they get the news, see all of it and go through it all alongside them.
Shoukoku no Altair
Imagine if Arsland wasn’t fucking garbage and wasn’t written by a terrible writer who tripped onto a fluke with FMA. If you can somehow manage that, better yet – if you can’t imagine such a thing – this show makes it so you don’t need to anyway.
Altair is very realistic, very clearly based in some obvious history (Ottoman Empire vs Holy Roman Empire), and does a great job with all of it. The cast is fantastic as a whole and Mahamut, the MC, also breaks a lot of conventions about leads in these types of shows that are almost always filled with pacifists. While he carries some of their views with him – such as hating war and killing (and with good backstory reasoning for it), he’s a soldier and a leader regardless and doesn’t shy away from killing his enemies, encouraging inter-family murder to put who he needs in power (whoever will help his country more) into that seat, and has even charged into a battle multiple times now carrying the head of the enemy’s leader after lopping it off so as to destabilize their forces. But that’s the thing, this isn’t a gory show, nor is it edgy, this type of thing only happens when it’s sensible to do it for a tactical advantage – not to be cool, not to be ‘badass’, not to pander to teens or to show gorey shit. It never glorifies the violence but is still inherently very violent.
And, while Mahamut will do thosee violent things it’s all in the name of intelligent tactics and honestly while the show is literally called “A Record of Battles” it’s primarily politics mixed with war to accomplish those political goals – the anime has a lot of talking, a lot of negotiations, and a focus on that side of war, though it also has plenty of action. That action, however, is just as well thought out, realistic, and tactical rather than a more easily thrown together clash of violence and one battle typically takes a few episodes to get through. The killing also has the effect you’d expect it to have on everyone involved, from random soldiers to Mahamut himself which it handles really well and doesn’t continually shove in your face to remind you “WAR IS BAD REEE” because actually one of the main themes of the show is that war IS bad but it’s also absolutely necessary to stop more death later. One of the best moments in the show even comes from that exact thing coming up between Mahamut and another equally ranked general-type who are working together on this and him accepting that the only way to stop a malevolent empire is with a benevolent one – one that Mahamut must help create through killing and subversion.
Don’t worry, there’s also some fun to the show that it balances well without making any of the serious stuff feel less legitimate for it at all. I just mean don’t expect some bleak dark hardcore super serious thing because that doesn’t sound nearly as enjoyable as this ends up being.
Overall, every episode is really interesting and complex but not ever convoluted or nonsensical, aside some of the language that takes a little while to get used to (pasha, kulak, etc) everything about it is so well thought out and presented so perfectly that you’re never lost even in the sprawling political landscape of the war effort – instead you’re enthralled by it.
I think it’s interesting that one of my top anime of the year is about a sometimes cross-dressing muslim boy killing my ancestors. Won’t be seeing any liberals loving a show about the crusades though.
Magical Circle Guruguru
Guruguru is just excessively fun and enjoyable. It’s a blatant parody of Dragon Quest and classic JRPGs in general and it executes it all in masterful fashion. Think “Hero Yoshihiko” but anime instead of live action if you’ve seen it – and with less LITERALLY DRAGON QUEST than that given that is just outright a DQ parody and this is plenty on it’s own beyond JUST a parody especially as things get going – but it never loses that aspect or forgets about it. It’s really just so much fun and there’s so much comedy that nothing else has tapped into yet that’s executed brilliantly, and felt like such an exciting and wacky adventure. The artwork and sound effects work brilliantly to bring even more comedy to it.
On top of everything though are the main two leads, the hero and Kukuri. The hero has a name but much like Kukuri I don’t fucking remember it at all. Both of them are so fantastic though, the hero is a retarded kid and Kukuri is this really just mega-sweet ultra-cute smushy lovable girl and they play off each other very well. Then you throw in old man North North, the engineer/inventor friend, and the massive supporting cast and you get never ending goofs from a never ending rotating door of goofballs. The jokes are, as I’ve said, so many of them are so original which just makes them even more funny because it’s not the 300000th time you’ve seen a JRPG joke about smashing pots in people’s houses and them not caring, instead you get stuff like the GOT NOTHING fairies and a disgusting old man.
It has so much to it though that, while it’s definitely a comedic parody adventure it feels like it earns it’s way past just being called a parody. It’s some of the most just plain fun I’ve had watching a show since Garupan was airing and it earns that through a lot of ingenuity on a level I’ve rarely experienced. I know it’s essentially a remake of a much older show of the same name and I’m not sure how much of it is identical, but either way Guruguru is one of the cutest, most hilarious, and most creative things of it’s kind.
Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond
BBB&B is the sequel to the same title without the & Beyond part, but at the same time it’s a complete rethinking of the formula that the original took a shot at. Season 1 was very convoluted, hard to follow, kind of badly paced, and was just overall a confusing mess – albeit VERY fun and I really did like it a hell of a lot with the exception of the like 2 month long wait for the finale that kept being pushed back. It was a good action filled wild as fuck and stylish ride though and had really fun characters – the fact it’s another creation by the man who penned Trigun is super obvious especially in the cast’s nature of being lovable, incredibly charming, and fucking strange yet very human (even those that aren’t).
Season 2 decided to drop the over complicated story angle and focus on what stood out the most which was those characters; this time around the show takes on an episodic nature with each episode tackling another situation for one of Libra’s members and a feeling much more reminiscent of Trigun’s adventure albeit all in one wild locale instead of the sci-fi pseudo wild west. They also turned the style dial up by a mile.
Being episodic didn’t just make for more exciting or fun one-off stories, but obviously helped a lot at developing the cast and also shining new light on them. Most notably Chain and the sniper lady – the latter being one of the best episodes in the season as it’s just this story about her trying to balance being this special forces elite sniper while also being a mother. The one time they did go into an arc it was only two episodes, but they made sure it paid off by making it about Leo and Michella and making an absolutely fucking awesome finale with it, including one of the most emotional and easily the COOLEST fucking sequence in the show. You’ve got Leo doing so much to defend his little sister (who is slumped down in a huge puddle of her brother’s blood) against a fucking divine being as long as he can even while being torn to shreds – followed by his whole built up “family” in Libra showing and showcasing just how goddamn badass you can make an overpowered character become when you pull the old “it’s personal” card by powering them up tenfold once it’s no longer “just a job”, though to make it cooler Klaus doesn’t say a goddamn word over the insert song while he does it.
In fact, nobody does, and the entirety of the audio aside the song just stays muted for the massive destruction that unfolds from one single attack. I very badly wanted to make this the scene of the year but I just couldn’t.
My only real complaint? Not enough Femt, I really missed his wild Joker-style antics – at the very least I appreciate that they both started and ended the season with him basically having a cameo and causing a ruckus. Aside that this entire season of the show was fucking great and I can’t help but hope they make more – especially in this style. Libra is a big group, there are plenty of characters to work with that didn’t get a focus this time and Hellsalem’s Lot is a clusterfuck of weird shit going on so there’s definitely an abundance of easy to use ideas.
Anime Of The Year
Tsuki Ga Kirei
I really loved this show a shit ton, hell, I even cried – and I don’t mean “I teared up a little” I mean I was legitimately crying from the ending, and I don’t really have those kinds of reactions to fiction almost ever. ESPECIALLY not for happy endings. But it was such a beautiful ending to such a pure loving story that it just sort of happened. It was the end credits sequence that got me, I just didn’t expect it to show us so much at all or for it to really matter as much as it did to me.
Tsuki ga Kirei can boast that it’s the first legitimate romance to have just the cutest fucking scenes of these two clearly autistic characters (come on, the girl goes to school with a fucking squeezy-plushie of a potato-monster to squish in public when she’s nervous which is almost always) being sweet on each other over LINE including the ever-infamous dog ear/nose instagram filter everyone used the past couple of years and coming out just seriously so goddamn adorable every time – and “every time” is quite often as a lot of their conversations are done through chat messaging because they’re both extremely awkward and shy turbo-autismos. In fact the show places a lot of focus on what “modern romance” is for kids these ages now with the advent of cellphones and chat/text programs, and how those relationships play out differently in a different time than one your or I might be familiar with, yet it doesn’t damage the nostalgic feeling at all.
Also they’re both so fucking cute together and might be just the most adorable couple I’ve ever seen.
There was so much about this show that I loved that I just can’t explain it all here because this isn’t a review (ended up feeling like one though) and I need to control myself, but damn near everything, it not literally everything, was just perfect and full of heartfelt emotion at every turn. It also manages to avoid so many cliches – especially with the main two. I mean honestly neither Akane nor Kotarou even feel like a main character which just boosts their believability as normal kids, and they both avoid cliches within the type of characters you’d expect them to be. Akane is shy as all fuck, soft spoken, and very awkward – yet she’s popular, is one of the star members of the track team, and is incredibly social. Kotarou is a little less far from what you’d expect but he’s still got regular amounts of popularity and even is participating in a huge festival in town as one of the most important elements – which belies his equally awkward and to-himself demeanor. Their characters being so normal yet awkward really makes them much more believable as humans too.
There’s also worth quickly mentioning some fun little side-stories going on after the ED each episode. My favorites would be the cute girl with the boy she’s leading on who, based on her mood, is or isn’t her boyfriend, and the silly shit with the teacher falling for a student. It’s just fun little side stuff to bolster the less important supporting cast and it’s done well.
Also just the way these kids, again so believably, tackle certain complicated problems without hesitation is so endearing and exactly how you are at this age. I love this person, I won’t let anything get in the way of that and that’s all there is to it – you don’t consider anything beyond that because none of it fucking matters, and the show manages to take on some situations (nothing dark or messed up, and no, not sex – one of the side-stories involves a lot of that as a joke aspect though) that other romances tend to have characters entirely ditch relationships for yet here they fight against it with all their might with a pure passion most people don’t have or end up losing as they age even if they did – but these two never let their love be overcome or taken away by anything.
When I finished this show, especially thanks to the last few moments of the final episode, I realized this might be my favorite love story right after Nana and Cross Game. Romance is my favorite genre and pretty much always has been, and Nana and Cross Game are my top 2 favorite anime of all time – not “some of my top” but my ACTUAL top 2, so that’s kinda saying something. Not that this is my third favorite anime of all time, it isn’t – but it IS my third favorite romance of all time at the very least. which puts it actually not that far away from the former thing either.
Nana is a fucked up and dark “realism to 11” type of romance and it hits home personally in extremely uncomfortable and even unsettling ways at time, but every bit of the writing, the music (and use of it), the seiyuu work, and the entire cast – EVERYTHING – is just inexplicable perfection in the most messed up of ways that creates one of the most bittersweet, beautiful, realistic in the most painful ways, and dark romances and character dramas in any form of fiction. Cross game is just as amazing and produces a similar amazing quality and incredibly emotional romance through a single tragedy and the way it changed the lives of the two who were left with the most important thing in their entire world gone forever.
Tsuki ga Kirei is the first romance series that is almost entirely without drama or anything overly serious, mostly nothing but this loving relationship and them trying to figure out what the hell they’re doing as kids in their first one, that managed to somehow capture something near the same incredibly powerful feeling of those two shows. There is some drama but there’s nothing severe, it mostly stems from jealousy, uncertainty, and the fact these are just kids trying to understand these feelings they have for one another and make their relationship (which starts very early on) work properly. It especially is aided by the fact these two really ARE such a realistic depiction of kids going through their first romance and, well, being kids at the same time. The show excels at that pure unfettered youthful look at love, somehow does it without being vapid and just fluffy clouds of sugar but simply feeling grounded in reality more than you’d expect, and it massively pays off in the end beyond what I ever could have expected thanks to the show itself being so damn good and to the ability it has to make you care so personally about these two.
Hell, just thinking about it again I am seriously actually tearing up quite a bit both from thinking about various specific bits from it as well as just remembering how much this show impacted me on such a personal level that still is with me now. I really loved this show in a way that I might make it sound I do for a lot of shows but SERIOUSLY actually felt with this for sure. This is really something truly genuinely absolutely special and something I can’t say strongly enough that you should watch it if you haven’t.
I can only hope 2018 brings anime as good as these along with it, I hope you all were able to watch a lot of fantastic stuff this year too.