The Best and Worst Anime of Spring 2017by The Anime News Network Editorial Team,
The Spring 2017 anime season saw sequels to some of the biggest anime of this generation - Attack on Titan and My Hero Academia - alongside some incredibly promising newcomers like Re:CREATORS. Now that the season is wrapping up, we asked our crew to tell us their best and worst anime of the Spring season - don't forget to share yours in our forums!
Don't forget, we're doing it all again in just 24 hours: the Summer 2017 Anime Preview Guide begins July 1st, 2017 only on Anime News Network!
Best of the Season: Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul
This should be an easy one, with spring 2017 featuring an anime version of one of my favorite things ever put to paper. Unfortunately, God hasn't been in his Heaven for a while as far as Berserk adaptations are concerned. So instead of thematic depth and philosophic musings, I'm going with the series that saw me in gleeful anticipation every week – Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul. With its great sense of comedic timing, thrilling action scenes and endearing weirdoes (with Rita being my character of the season), Bahamut managed to blend screwball comedy elements with Hollywood adventure movie tropes in a high fantasy world populated by demons, self-aware zombie hands and girls who turn into dragons when they're horny. From the high-energy, stylized OP to the wonderful jump-and-run ED, MAPPA proved that quality source material doesn't matter, competent execution does. Like its heroine, Bahamut is a joyous whirlwind of swashbuckling fun, and I'm delighted we still have half of the season left to look forward to.
Runner-Up: Sakura Quest
As the runner-up to Rage of Bahamut, Sakura Quest saw me equally engaged in its protagonists' much more down-to-earth struggles. The show offered – and will hopefully continue to do so – everything I've come to appreciate over the years: a setting far away from Tokyo and high school, a cast of relatable, adult characters, and the ability to transform the small and mundane into something extraordinary, with lovely character designs, a keen eye for human quirks, and the willingness to embrace sentimentality with a loving wink. Sakura Quest loves its characters (heroines and the quirky ensemble) and their town, making it easy to love in return.
Worst of the Season: Berserk (2017)
Berserk 2017 not only failed as an adaptation, but very much in its own right. Not because of the much-lamented subpar CGI, which was every bit as ugly as people say, but because it insisted on breaking with well-established rules of cinematography and editing for no reason apparent other than to cause confusion and alienation. In a way, I suppose they succeeded. While the camera spinning wasn't quite as nauseating as last year, very few scenes were allowed to find their rhythm due to obsessive panning and dissolving instead of simple, clean, and ideally even motivated cuts. Afraid of stillness both visually and aurally, few of Kentaro Miura's beautiful compositions that made it into the adaptation were long enough on screen to create any emotion whatsoever. The score won't stay in my mind for individual tracks or the moments they were used, but for its deafening omnipresence and subsequent fading of impact. I don't think a bigger budget would've saved a production so severely lacking in every aspect. Berserk is better than this, and it deserved better.
Best of the Season: Re:CREATORS
This series joined the DanMachi spin-off as my most highly-anticipated series of the season, and it was easily my favorite coming out of the Preview Guide. Nothing that has happened over the course of its first 12 episodes has even come close to changing that, as week-in and week-out it was the series that I looked forward to the most and the one that I never found myself short on things to talk about. But it isn't here just because of a personal love fest; I genuinely think it's at least among the season's best in qualitative aspects, too. To be sure, its action scenes weren't stellar in execution, and there were places where it bogged down a little in its conversations, but the overriding factor for me was its conceptual expanse. It has taken a great premise – that characters from the worlds of anime, manga, light novels, and games are coming into the “real world” where they can meet their creators and each other in one massive cross-genre cross-over – and handled it in a surprisingly thoughtful manner so far. In the process it has produced neat character relationships, some interesting character growth, and reasonable extrapolations on what might happen if, say, the star from an idealistic magical girl world encounters a reality where problems can't be solved so simply and directly. It also introduces the season's best new bad girl in the delightfully wicked Magane.
Runner-Up: Tsuki ga Kirei
This was a much harder choice, as there were a few other series worthy of consideration here. Despite a weak start, the second season of Saekano got very good in its later stages as it started dealing with bigger and more serious issues, and Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul was always lively and entertaining, though it fell a bit short of the original. Attack on Titan season 2 was the best of the season if you only look at its peak moments, as it paired its great intensity and stand-out visual moments with some wonderfully savage twists, but I had the same problem with it that I always had with the first season: it had an annoying tendency to drag things out and overplay its cards. Contrarily, Tsuki ga Kirei remained low-key throughout but consistently delivered a charming, quality story about two young lovers gradually sorting their way through the first romantic relationship for each. I very much appreciated its purely serious and thoughtful approach, and the more light-hearted shorts that most episodes ended with, which showed what various minor characters were involved in on the romantic front, were a great complement for the main story.
Worst of the Season: Armed Girls Machiavellism
I initially had Granblue Fantasy the Animation here, as that series bored me so much that I gave up on it at the halfway point, but then I remembered this waste of time and space. I was very unimpressed with the first episode but still decided to give its second episode a try. Big mistake, as it may have actually lowered my opinion of the series. I never did watch more, so maybe it eventually got better, but its first two episodes made a very poor impression. Honorable mention here goes to Sagrada Reset, whose first episode was one of the single most boring anime episodes I've seen in ages.
Best: Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan has always scratched an itch for me by being in the vein of those edge-of-your-seat TV dramas, the kind where your favorite character could die at any moment and change the color of your remaining week. But what Titan has to offer beyond that is its gorgeous animation and a level of pulpy melodrama that's unrivaled by anything I've ever seen in live action. One of the things that modern action anime has been perfecting is a zone of heightened excitement where you feel like your blood is on fire, and this show is beautiful example of that.
Season 2 feels like an experiment to see if there can be a show where basically every single episode feels tailored made to make me fall head over heels. It's a perfect mixture of horror, action, and weirdness that makes me weak in the knees, from the introduction of the mysterious Beast Titan to the recent season finale which was Wit and Production I.G's adaptation chops at their best. This show, more than most, feels like a force of nature that would have found a way to exist one way or another––even if there weren't human hands around to make it. The fact that this show gets to be as dark and weird as it is, and still function a fist-pumping roller coaster that connects with a mass audience, is something special in my eye.
Runner up: My Hero Academia
I'm nothing if not predictable and as much as I'd like my top two to include some variety, this is the honest answer. Two heightened action series, and both sequel seasons no less. Saturdays these past three months have been a wild ride where I've been watching two competing all-time favorites back-to-back. When the Midoriya vs. Todoroki episode aired, I was sure My Hero was a done deal as my favorite show of the season, if not the past few years. The fact that it's only the runner up is nothing to sneeze at.
Studio Bones’ work on this show aims to usurp Hunter x Hunter 2011 as the go-to example for what people demand out of these long-running series in animated form. The designs pop and the music sings, and the level at which it nails those hyper-emotional scenes is unlike anything I've ever witnessed. I'd dare to say something along the lines of “My Hero Academia might be simple, but….” to justify its quality, but that doesn't really sum it up. If a show makes me feel something this intense and fresh, then it's already way ahead of me.
This is a show that I was introduced to through the memes, and then eventually understood through osmosis, and then found myself actually watching out of morbid curiosity. I probably don't need to explain why this one's a horror show, but I did find it interesting enough that even when you remove its unambiguous, pedophilic nature, it's still a black hole of entertainment. Behind the sleazy curtain is a story about the magic of writing light novels, with the main character getting into personal competitions with his peers over who can write the most interesting story at increasingly superhuman levels. I love stories like that, but I hate this one. I'm sure there exists someone out there who can sell that romantic affection for light novels, but this show just stands as another example of how insipid they can be. I was embarrassed on characters’ behalf. Again, that's this show's problem even when the main character isn't perving over his 12-year old step-sister. Bad show.
Best of the Season: My Hero Academia
I enjoyed the first season of My Hero Academia, but I definitely didn't expect the show to up its game so thoroughly in its second season. The sports festival gave the series an opportunity to develop its characters through the heat of competition, and the writing seized that opportunity in a big way. Where I had previously found this cast of aspiring heroes merely likable, this season left me emotionally invested in each of their individual stories. By carefully crafting matchups between characters with compelling backstories and motivations, this season tugged at the ol’ heartstrings in a way that its predecessor rarely did.
Despite venturing into heavier and more emotional territory, My Hero Academia also retained the exuberant energy that has always made it a fun series. While you could certainly argue that other shows in this spring season were objectively better, this was the one that kept me coming back every week as soon as a new episode went up. When strong character writing and impressive animation are combined with an earnest approach to the idea of heroism, is it any surprise that the result is an absolute blast to watch? Bring on the next story arc.
Runner-Up: Sakura Quest
Sakura Quest didn't really click for me until partway through the season. Its studio connection to Shirobako worked against it in my eyes, and I kept waiting for it to follow that show's lead by telling me something meaningful about an industry that I already found fascinating. Instead, it stuck with the relatively slow and mundane business of promoting tourism in the middle of nowhere. I eventually found that the key to enjoying it was to let go of my expectations and give Sakura Quest room to do its own thing. Once that happened, I found myself increasingly charmed by this rural workplace drama.
Where so many stories zero in on the dreams and aspirations of our teenage years, Sakura Quest operates in the endless slog of adulthood that follows after high school and college. Some of its characters have lost sight of their ambitions, some have taken detours away from their dream jobs, and others have spent so long trying to achieve their goals that they can barely tell if they're still making progress. These struggles lend the series a very human feel and make even the little victories seem worth celebrating. Think of it as an older and wiser slice of life show, one that trades in the usual blind optimism for an outlook that's more realistic but still a little bit hopeful.
Worst of the Season: Yowamushi Pedal New Generation
I didn't end up watching any true stinkers past their first episodes this season, but I did sit stubbornly through an old favorite in the midst of a big slump. I had hoped that the new incarnation of Yowapeda would build up some momentum once the Inter High race started, but that wasn't the case. Too much of it has felt like the reheated leftovers of last year's race, clearly familiar but somehow lacking the flavor of the original dish. The good news is that the last couple of episodes have finally managed to capture some of the old magic. Perhaps there's some light at the end of the tunnel, but I've been stuck in the dark for too much of this season to know for sure.
Best - Natsume Yūjin-Chō Roku
After six seasons, this show that blends Japanese folklore with interpersonal drama has lost none of its charm. Just when I think there's nothing left to know about Natsume, his gluttonous cat guardian, and his friends of both the spiritual and secular realms, powerful tendrils of mystery and character development pull me right back in. With so much of the story behind us, it still doesn't feel like the plot is dragging, but rather picking up the pace by dropping precious hints about Natsume's ancestry interspersed with new dramas in the present day. Amidst it all is the pleasantly unpredictable specter of yokai chaos. Season six showed that Natsume Yūjin-Chō Roku still has some new tricks up its sleeve, experimenting in two different episodes with an atmosphere that skews far more creepy than calming, especially when it comes to the masterfully executed “Nitai-sama” one-shot. One of the best elements of season six was the way it toyed with plot elements that I thought were already set in stone. I originally thought the exorcist Natori was trustworthy, but this season threw a wrench in by hanging Natori's eventual discovery of the Book of Friends in the air. I thought that yokai seemed to recognize Natsume because they mistook him for his grandmother, Reiko, but that's brought into question when a yokai says with authority that the person who reminded him of Natsume so many years ago was definitely male. I thought this well would be drying up so late in the show, but it turns out that the deeper we go, the more we discover there is to explore. And considering it happens in such a pleasant small-town environment that I can't wait to escape to each week, my biggest issue with this show is that an eleven-episode season is much too short.
Runner-up - The Royal Tutor
I love when a show throws a bunch of big personalities in a room together and lets their clashing motivations figure out the plot. That's exactly what happens in The Royal Tutor, the story of four larger-than-life princes and their diminutive new instructor. This is a show that veers between extremes—from goofy chibi art to sober bishounen portrayals; from silly, inconsequential subplots to parables about class privilege and personal responsibility; from a tearful opening song to a wacky ending theme about searching for one's princess (with a live-action dance sequence to boot!); from the importance of running a kingdom to the inherent deliciousness in a chocolate tort. Between these two poles, The Royal Tutor finds a happy medium in a show that doesn't take itself too seriously. For those of us who are commoners, there's something silly and irresistible about the lives of the rich and famous, and there's definitely some of that voyeurism going on here. Like with Ouran High School Host Club, we see the day-to-day lives of the very wealthy through the eyes of an interloper from a very different background, and it certainly adds a lot of the show's humor. But just like Haruhi, The Royal Tutor Heine is able to see these princes for who they are beyond their facades and make them into better humans. This juxtaposition between reality TV wealth and real character growth leads to a show with both entertainment value and substance to spare. As the palace intrigue only continues to build, I'd be thrilled if they'd announce a second season.
Worst - STARMYU 2
Keep in mind that my worst pick is never the worst thing airing, just the worst thing I still thought was good enough to watch all the way through. Of course, it says something about me that I can claim not to like STARMYU, and then proceed to watch two entire seasons of it. I'm a sucker for musicals and also for club/sports anime, and the way Yuta and his friends put their all into it is deeply endearing, even if I have a tough time telling them all apart. After my severe season preview of this show, a trusted friend told me to give it another try, and I did. The voice acting alone almost made me a convert. And then… the ending was just so deeply convoluted that it ruined the magic for me. Without spoiling it, I'd like you to imagine a musical in which the lead role is played by multiple people. Not only that, but one of the actors was still learning the role backstage minutes before going on—even though an understudy already knows the lines. It's not that it's unrealistic—realism certainly isn't the point of musicals. It's just such a selfish conclusion for this show in particular, one whose cast regularly claims that every decision they make is for the audience's benefit. (And the audience, shown as an overwhelming female gaze in any crowd shot, is hard to ignore.) At its best, this can be a relaxing, if bland, show about friends working toward a shared goal. But I can't stop thinking about a conclusion that put its protagonists’ personal feelings over all of their previous talk about duty and sacrifice all in the name of their quickly cast-aside “the show must go on” principle.
Best: Attack on Titan Season 2
It's Titan. Of course it's Titan. It was always going to be Titan. What's probably more impressive than the long-awaited second season of Attack on Titan being good is that it's just as good as everyone hoped it would be, and then some. After stewing for nearly four years of hype, there was some merited concern that Wit Studio would not be able to bottle the same lightning they had with the series’ original run, but then those fears were put to bed just in the first episode. The show picked right back up where it left off without missing a beat, and jumped right into its trademark winning formula: Harrowing, intense action scenes punctuated with compelling intrigue and shocking left-field reveals. Nothing could have prepared me for the sight of the Beast Titan or hearing him speak; that spectacle brought me back to why I got so sucked into this show in the first place.
And if the season's short run didn't get the chance to actually reveal anything else about that mysterious new menace, it jam-packed in enough juicy new developments to keep me just sated until the show returns next year. For me, the big breakout element of this season was Ymir. The show took her from a third-string supporting cast member in the previous run and heaped so much development on her until she was practically a co-protagonist with Erin this season. Ymir's initial surprise transformation is one of the well-orchestrated highlights of the season, and all the drama that spilled out over the rest of the series stemming directly from that really pushed the show from great to outstanding. About the only problem with Attack on Titan Season 2 exceeding expectations so overtly is now the bar is even higher for Season 3!
It was a tough call to give this one to Re:CREATORS at this juncture. I was already predisposed towards this new series given the pedigree of the people behind it (Hello, I'm a shamelessly huge Rei Hiroe fan), but after a bombastic introductory episode, Re:CREATORS slowed down just a bit more than I liked. The talking points of explaining the story's situation seemed to go on just a little bit too long at times (yes, Meteora is specifically an expositional character, but that gag only goes so far) and while there was action and developments punctuating these stretches, they all happened in fits and starts. What compelled me to keep going with the show was that when it did get going, it REALLY got going. The multi-character brawl in episodes 6-7 (once it got past all the talking) was a sight to behold, and it was all bolstered by probably the best soundtrack of the season.
But while all that was just enough up to a point, Re:CREATORS still seemed to lag just a bit, struggling to find a big moment like the one the whole first episode had been. That moment finally arrived in Episode 10. The series brought in all the little details and concepts and theories that had been sprinkled throughout all that infodumping and created a moment that I'm still not sure why it emotionally resonated so strongly. “Hero gets powered up by Twitter likes” should be the damned silliest turning point for a plot ever, but in the context of this series, seeing Selesia's writer Matsubara pour his soul into empowering his creation and sharing that with the world for her own sake was unlike anything I've seen in a series up to this point. Selesia's momentary fan-fueled power-up was a game-changer for the show, one that delivered on its promises from the beginning. Capped off by a brilliant meta-troll from memetic menace Magane, this episode was the turning point for Re:CREATORS, which cemented it as the best non-Titan thing I was watching this season. I can't wait to see where the second half goes.
Worst: Hinako Note
I can quite enjoy these little slice-of-life moe shows when they're done well (Looking forward to the second season of New Game!), so it having some interesting concepts and me being a drama nerd myself in high school, I was kinda looking forward to Hinako Note. My hopes were dashed pretty quickly. After a scatterbrained dancing opening that seems ripped straight from 2004, this cute-girls-doing-cute-things genre fallback reveals itself as a dull slog. It moves at a glacial, uninterested pace (these high schoolers don't even go to high school until Episode 3!) and any ‘jokes’ are just the same singular character quirks repeated ad nauseam. They aren't terrible interesting quirks by the standard of the genre either, being bits like ‘is really shy’ or ‘likes to dress as a maid’. There's no flavor or value here, it's the anime comedy equivalent of eating paper. Which is appropriate given that one of the characters has the quirk of eating paper.
What really pushes the whole exercise from ‘mediocre’ to ‘unfortunate’, however, is the animation. Switching to stylized or super-deformed character styles is done for effect in a lot of anime, but Hinako Note's character models shift proportions ridiculously inconsistently. They go from full-sized detailed looks to little chibi blob people to several steps in between all in single scenes, sometimes with multiple characters drawn in multiple styles in the same frame! It's a bizarre look that's simply disorienting to the viewer. On the other hand, maybe I should thank Hinako Note for its artistic whiplash, since sometimes that bizarre presentation was the only thing keeping me from nodding off during an episode.
The Best: The Eccentric Family 2
This season's top tier were all so good and so close in quality that it's legitimately tough to pick a single favorite. Basically, all three of The Eccentric Family, My Hero Academia, and Tsuki ga Kirei were all-stars, and though I've had complaints with all of them, I can't really complain about any season that has three shows I like that much. But if I truly have to pick a favorite child, I'd say The Eccentric Family still reigns supreme.
The Eccentric Family's second season has definitely been a meaningful step down from the first - it's repeated a few too many plot points, and lacks both the thematic cohesion and consistency of highlights of its predecessor. But even a less-perfect Eccentric Family is still a great show, defined by vivid characters, beautiful art design, and wonderfully whimsical storytelling. Our errant tanuki Yasaburo has a unique and charming rapport with basically every single member of Eccentric Family's cast, and highlights like his battle with the Friday Club or trip to hell kept this season engaging and full of surprises. Even the cast's new additions have thoroughly bolstered the show's appeal, with both Gyokuran and Nidaime fitting gracefully into the existing crew. I'm always happy to watch more Eccentric Family.
Runner-up: Tsuki ga Kirei
Following right on The Eccentric Family's heels, Tsuki ga Kirei was likely my pick for the “most perfect” show of the season. Outside of some regrettable CG background characters, there was basically nothing this show did wrong. Depicting all the joys and sorrows of adolescent love with empathy and humor, Tsuki ga Kirei's consistently precise framing made scenes of Kotarou celebrating a nice texting session or Akane choosing a birthday present feel both intimate and grand. The show was never afraid to shy away from the awkwardness of realism, letting conversations spin into aborted half-sentences and nervous glances in a way that never felt frustrating. If Tsuki ga Kirei were a person, I would have to give them a hug.
Worst: Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul
Finally, my pick for “worst” of the season isn't actually bad, but they basically never are. I generally just drop shows when I stop enjoying them, and though I could pick a “worst” from the shows I only watched one episode of (Eromanga-sensei or Akashic Records, if you're wondering), that doesn't seem like a fair pick. Instead, my pick is Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul. Virgin Soul wasn't actually bad, and I really liked new protagonist Nina, but its tight focus on a pretty simplistic racism allegory felt like a serious letdown compared to Genesis’ swashbuckling, world-trotting adventure. In a worse season I'd likely still be watching Virgin Soul, but with riches this bountiful, an underwhelming plot was enough to earn it the axe.
Best: Kenka Bancho Otome
I was out of the running for watching most of the top shows this season, never having gotten around to watching enough AoT, Eccentric Family, or Natsume's Book of Friends to be able to jump in, and I admit to avoiding shows that have great potential to be depressing, which wrote a few others off of my list. So where did that leave me, viewing-wise? In kind of an odd place for spring season, which made me give a couple of shows I might not have a chance.
The result? I ended up really enjoying Kenka Bancho Otome, a short I'd sort of pooh-poohed initially. Based on an otome game that was in turn based on a brawler, the series stars the hapless (but incredibly skilled) Hinako, who one day gets tapped by her long-lost twin brother (although I'm still not sure he's not making that up), the second son of a yakuza boss who is slated to start Shishiku Academy, the den of the worst thugs Japan has to offer. Since he's not a fighter and Hinata is (or is at least good at it), he makes her an offer she can't refuse, and the next thing poor Hinata knows, she's going by Hikaru and trying to beat the crap out of every boy she meets in order to maintain the family reputation. Naturally at least half of those guys are ridiculously attractive and busy falling for her whether they're aware of the fact or not. It's all just delightfully silly – from how hapless Hinata is to the canned personalities of the boys, to the events of episode eleven, where the entire school demands that Hinata strip in front of them to prove that she's Hikaru. Things only make sense on the surface, and in this case, that's not only acceptable, but a large part of the fun. Kenka Bancho Otome is well aware of its shortcomings in the plot department, and that makes it work as a light comedy. I haven't sampled the dub yet, but I'm really looking forward to rewatching this and seeing how English voices add to the humor.
Runner Up: The King's Avatar
My runner-up this season isn't technically anime, and like Kenka Bancho Otome, it really surprised me in terms of how much I enjoyed it: the Chinese animated series The King's Avatar. It definitely isn't as polished as it could have been, but it's a series I've found myself thinking about a lot after the fact. The story of a “retired” (read: basically fired) pro-gamer who rediscovers his enjoyment of MMORPGs, the plot follows Ye Xiu after he's forced by his professional gaming team to give up both his position as captain and the avatar he spent ten years building. At loose ends, he winds up taking a job at a net café on the night the newest server of the game he's been play, Glory, is opened, and bowing to the pressure of his annoying new boss, he creates a new character. The development of the story becomes caught up in Ye Xiu remembering how much fun he used to have playing the game, and using that to create a new group of players to go on raids with. He functions as a teacher to his new teammates and to himself as he gets back into playing, and watching his mood life as the series goes on was my favorite part of the show. I also really enjoyed his understated relationship with main female character Su Mucheng, and the fact that Ye Xiu had a legitimate reason to appear to be overpowered – you don't play a game professionally and then suddenly suck at it when you create a new character; you're going to look ridiculously skilled for your level. Even though I felt kind of ambivalent while actually watching, upon reflection, I find that I'm definitely looking forward to season two.
Worst: Clockwork Planet
Once again, I am forced to nominate a show that I only got through one episode of. Sure, Sword Oratoria has disappointed me, and if I could just give a “worst character” Lefiya would win hands-down, but even in its oddest adaptation moments, Sword Oratoria was more faithful to the intent of its source material than Clockwork Planet. (In terms of the manga, I should point out. I haven't read the novels yet.) From changing its competent hero into an inept fool to taking out a lot of the steampunk gear-centric artwork, Clockwork Planet felt less like an actual adaptation and more of a case of “vaguely inspired by.” Sometimes that's a good thing, but in this case it comes off as not actually respecting the source, and since that was decent, that makes this much less so.
Best – Attack on Titan Season 2
Even after years of fading hype and increasing levels of skepticism from the fanbase, It only Attack on Titan Season 2 one episode to prove that not only was anime's premiere pop culture juggernaut back, it was back with a vengeance. This shorter, 12-episode season was leaner, meaner, bloodier, and pretty much improved in every single way, and week after week it managed to topple my expectations and consistently delivered mini-masterpieces with its episodes. One week might deliver tantalizing clues to the nature of the Titans, and another might give us a moody detour into straight up horror movie territory. While a lot of questions were raised, many were answered as well – We met the mysteriously intelligent Beast Titan, we discovered the identities of both the Colossal and Armored Titan, and later episodes even dropped some clues regarding the unknown civilization that is responsible for birthing the entire Titan threat. Anything Attack on Titan's first season did, this season did better, and bloodier – so much so that I didn't even mind that many of the plots core threads and mysteries remained largely unresolved by the end of the final episode.
A key factor to this season's success is the fact that Eren, Mikasa, and Armin took a much-needed break while some of the show's underserved background characters got some time to shine. Sasha stole the spotlight in a standout in a wonderfully tense early episode revolving around her one-on-one battle with a hungry Titan, and Reiner and Bertholdt get plenty to do in the back half of the season. The absolute standouts of the year, though, have to be Ymir and Christa. These girls got barely any screen time in the show's first 26 episodes, but Season Two of AoT manages to rocket them to the top of the list of best characters. Ymir's tenacity and badassery rivals even Eren's, and her passionate relationship with Christa gives the story a kick in the pants while also providing the show (and the genre in general) some refreshingly frank and endearing queer representation. All of this is to say that I went into Season Two of Attack on Titan a skeptic, and I've come out a true, blue believer.
Runner Up – Re:CREATORS
One look at even just the Preview Guide description for this show, and I knew I was going to love it. Re:CREATORS takes the “otaku hero is transported into fictional fantasy world” cliché and flips it on its head, giving us a story where the fictional characters come to Earth, instead. Better yet, this isn't just an excuse to have a bunch of superpowered anime protagonists from across a multitude of genres duke it out – I mean, yes, there is plenty of that, but a lot of Re:CREATORS is about taking its own premise seriously, and dealing with how people would actually deal with an anime plot coming to life in the middle of modern day Japan. This makes for a much talkier series than some might have anticipated, but it is hard to fault Re:CREATORS for that when the conversations its characters are having are just so darned interesting.
The past twelve weeks have had Sota and his motley crew of fictional heroes and befuddled artists and writers encounter scheming, sharp-toothed anime villains, the bureaucracy of a terrified Japanese government, and perhaps worst of all, Internet Culture. The fact that the show takes time to set aside flashy battles and actually explore the weird nuances of pop-culture and the multitudinous fandoms it spawns makes for a much more satisfying and entertaining product than a simple Battle Royale. There's still one more twelve more episode cour to go for Re:CREATORS, and I can't wait to see what this wonderful surprise of a show has in store for us next.
Worst of the Season – Clockwork Planet
I wrote about Clockwork Planet on a weekly basis for three months, and I've already forgotten about 90% of what happened in it. If that isn't damning enough proof of its mediocrity, I don't know what is. The premise of an Earth made entirely out of clockwork was ridiculous and flimsy enough as it is, but the show didn't do itself any favors by using that premise to prop up bland characters who lived out painfully cliché stories. Naoto was the kind of protagonist who was supposed to be endearingly dumb, but forgot the endearing part, and his robot maid companions were never able to outgrow either their ridiculous names or the fact that they existed primarily to be fetishized. The art was ugly, the scripts were a mess, and by the time twelve weeks had passed the show managed to end not with a bang, but a resounding shrug. I didn't hate Clockwork Planet, mostly because, after dealing with both Big Order and Hand Shakers, my standards have been irreversibly lowered. Still, watching and reviewing it every week was nothing but a chore, and that alone makes it the worst of the season.
Best: Attack on Titan
After so long a wait between seasons, Attack on Titan was in danger of not being able to live up to audience expectations. However, this season didn't have a single miss. Each episode piled on the action, and a number of episodes revealed twists and turns that would have been entirely shocking if I hadn't read the manga in the interim between anime adaptations. However, seeing those moments staged in the anime was still incredible. The moment Reiner casually divulges one of the biggest shockers of the series is especially memorable. The only drawback of this season is that it was just that—a single season. With so much more of the manga already out left to adapt, it's disappointing that the show couldn't have gone on for another cour. Still, if the smaller number of episodes resulted in higher-quality animation and tight pacing, at least we got a season that offered one pulse-pounding installment after the next.
Runner-up: The Royal Tutor
The Royal Tutor may not be to everyone's tastes, but with a lavish setting, frequent humor, and a plethora of bishonen designs, the series clicked with me. While there were some episodes later in the series that weren't as fun as the earlier ones, the show still, for the most part, managed to walk that line and not venture into the territory of implausibility and melodrama too often. In some ways (likely because the manga is ongoing), the show felt like it was just getting started by the time the last installment aired, but the likely-original ending suited the overall themes of the series adequately enough. I liked that each prince has a distinct personality and his own weaknesses that make him not quite fit to be the next king, although I do wonder at the fictional kingdom's rule that the best qualified heir will become king, especially when you take into account that the mysterious eldest prince not introduced until the very end is supposedly already perfect enough to rule. The eldest brother doesn't appear for long enough, either, considering how much different he seems from the other four boys and how we never see them interact with him. Basically, The Royal Tutor's biggest problem is that it leaves the audience wanting more.
Since I didn't watch as wide a variety of anime this season as I often do and I enjoyed everything I did watch, it's difficult for me to pinpoint the worst series of the season. However, as much as I like Berserk, even a mostly good season couldn't get past the often laughably bad animation. While Schierke proved a good addition to the cast in many ways, she also managed to hog the spotlight in far too many episodes. Then there's the about-face of Farnese, who's a considerably more likable character this season, but her conversion to the side of good only barely makes sense, even after learning her backstory. Even so, there wasn't a terrible episode in the bunch, and seeing Guts actually go Berserk in the traditional RPG sense at last was monumental, but the season still left much to be desired. The last episode even feels unfinished, like the animators finished one arc and then started another before bowing out for the foreseeable future. It's a must-watch for long-time Berserk fans, but I can't help but wish it looked better and had even more to offer story-wise this season.
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