The Best and Worst Anime of Fall 2017by The Anime News Network Editorial Team,
Now that this fantastic fall season is finally winding down for the holidays, it's time to decide which shows were the best—and the worst. We asked our critics to pick their favorite, their runner-up choice, and their least favorite anime of Fall 2017. Once you're done perusing their choices, head on over to our forums and let us know your picks for the best and worst anime of the fall. If you're already itching to start recapping the whole year, our Best Anime of 2017 feature will launch on December 26th! Without further ado, here are our fall selections:
Best of the Season: The Ancient Magus' Bride
Since its first episode, this adaptation of Kore Yamazaki's acclaimed manga has been my standard for the season. Although other titles occasionally exceeded it on the quality of individual episodes, none of them had a greater cumulative effect or take Magus' Bride's place as my top-priority watch for the week, so I have no qualms about giving it the top spot. The series is hardly perfect, as I more commonly found its attempts at humor to be a distraction than an enhancement, but it otherwise delivers everything I could have asked for: faithfulness to the manga, dramatic visuals, and a sense of wonder that is all-too-commonly missing from shows featuring magic. I also found the protagonists and their stumbling efforts to grow both individually and toward each other to be engaging and outright charming. Kudos also for great supporting cast members like Ruth, the extensive use of obscure faerie lore, and committing to an old-school approach to magic.
This was an immensely tougher call for me, since there were a handful of worthy titles one step below Magus' Bride. I've gradually come to deeply respect Girls Last Tour, an exceptionally well-made series, but it was simply never as captivating as some of my other top picks. I marathoned the much-praised Land of the Lustrous near season's end, and it was certainly one of the season's best-animated titles, more involving in both story and character than I initially expected. Yuki Yuna is a Hero season 2 has been charging hard the last few weeks, but it needs a strong finish in its final episodes to cement a higher placing. That leaves Inuyashiki, which earns my runner-up spot for its truly stunning emotional efficacy despite also being the season's most disturbingly graphic title. It also delivers one of the most atypical protagonists in recent memory, the season's best villain, and potent social commentary into the mix.
Worst: King's Game the Animation
For a change, this wasn't a difficult pick. King's Game may not be the worst series I've ever seen to conclusion, but it's definitely the worst I've seen in 2017. Sure, Dies irae made an effort to descend to that level, as it delivered its own particular brand of awful in various weeks, but it wasn't as consistently bad, which makes the difference in the end. My complaints are probably the same as everyone else's: stupid characters, weak attempts at drama, clumsy over-the-top death scenes, and turning a potentially cool concept into a ridiculous hot mess. If I had to point to a single scene that epitomizes where the series goes wrong, it'd be the one where a girl calmly carries on a protracted monologue while on burning to death. Yeah.
Best of the Season: Recovery of an MMO Junkie
I had to ask myself if I loved this show for itself or because it featured a heroine in her thirties. Ultimately the answer was both. I love this show for its story and characters, but I really appreciate that Moriko is older than the average anime heroine, because these concepts are closely related – the story of Recovery of an MMO Junkie just wouldn't have worked as well if Moriko was younger. The plot largely relies on the fact that a woman in her working prime has left the corporate world. To most people, this just looks like she's given up – she doesn't like her job, so she quit. But we learn very naturally that there's more going on here as the series progresses. Moriko wasn't just unhappy, she was being taken advantage of. Her position in the company, coupled with her crippling anxiety, has made it impossible for her to continue for her mental health. Quitting was the only way she could maintain her well-being, and playing the bizarrely named “Fruits de Mer” (“seafood” in French) is her only safe outlet.
The series could easily have taken a much darker turn with this and been a strong show too, but Recovery of an MMO Junkie takes a more fun route instead. As Moriko slowly finds herself learning to interact with others in a real-life setting, her time as Hayashi in-game serves as a much-needed outlet. She becomes able to cope with Koiwai and Sakurai because she can interact with Lily in the game; Lily turning out to be the guy she's fighting a crush on is a perfect coincidence. There's a lot to be said for the way Moriko manages to slowly overcome her anxiety and become more comfortable living in the real world. Without being too blunt, the story generally encourages those of us who aren't always comfortable being social or perhaps have trouble saying no out of anxiety. It's only ten episodes (plus an OVA), but Recovery of an MMO Junkie really develops its characters and allows them to grow. Its talent for humorously nailing the painfully awkward interactions of the socially anxious is just icing on the cake.
Runner-Up: Infini-T Force
I have moments when I think I might be the only person who loves this show. And I really do – it was a tough call between my best and runner-up because of how much I've enjoyed Infini-T Force, and that still doesn't leave room for me to talk about the second half of Altair: A Record of Battles. But the series won't have finished airing by the time I've written this, and a lot is riding on how the finale plays out. The story reminds me of games I would play as a child – my sisters and I would have Rainbow Brite and the My Little Ponies team up to fight Skeletor. When a mysterious bad guy is destroying parallel worlds, the heroes of four 1970s superhero shows all come together in our world to stop him. Fittingly, the bad guy has what he thinks is a perfectly noble reason for his actions – he's trying to prevent the death of his daughter Emi.
Obnoxious as the disaffected teen Emi can be, her attitude does make sense – as far as she knows, her only living parent abandoned her when she was a little girl. She's somehow figured out that she can't die no matter what she does, so now she's working out her anger and depression by taking stupid risks she knows won't pay off. This means that our heroes are there to save Emi from herself just as much as they're trying to save the universe from her dad, a job that Ken from Gatchaman takes very seriously. This is where the show stumbles a little – I'm honestly not sure if their relationship is meant to be parental or romantic. Fortunately the overall feel of the series manages to retain the perky 1970s tone while still indulging contemporary angst, which makes it a lot of fun to watch. With suspicious character design choices (Damian) and a couple serious visual issues resulting from the 3D graphics (mostly Takeshi's greasy hair), Infini-T Force doesn't always look great, but it's always a lot of fun with some heartening themes.
Plus there's Friender, Casshan's robo-Doberman. Friender is a good boy.
Worst: Sengoku Night Blood
Picking a “worst” is always tough for me, since I feel like I should have seen all of a series before damning it. I've only seen most of this one, but I can safely say that it's the worst thing I've watched in a while. This is mostly because there are just so many characters – Sengoku Night Blood presents blank-slate heroine Yuzuki with no fewer than four groups of hot supernatural men lusting after her magical blood, and all of them are named after Sengoku era warlords and their retainers. I'm not good with names at the best of times, but these guys want me to take names I already associate with different characters and apply them to generic vampires and werewolves? The sheer number of guys vying for Yuzuki's blood, er, heart, is just overwhelming, and little is done to differentiate between them, visually or otherwise.
It doesn't help that Yuzuki herself is a non-character. Granted, she may have fared a little better in a season that didn't also include Cardia from Code: Realize, a heroine who began as a blank slate but grew over the course of the story. Yuzuki simply accesses what appears to be the isekai app on her phone and finds herself in an alternate Sengoku period with an annoying white fox/tanuki thing to explain stuff to her. Apart from her apparently magical blood, there's nothing about her that's interesting or special, so it strains credulity more than usual that the guys are falling all over themselves to win her. Simply put, no matter how many special ending themes Sengoku Night Blood gives us, it's an overstuffed paint-by-numbers reverse harem – confusing to watch and ultimately forgettable.
Best of the Season: Land of the Lustrous
I will admit that I haven't fully caught up with the series, but even the first half of Land of the Lustrous was beautiful, compelling, and entertaining enough to earn the show an easy spot at the top of my list this fall. The story of Phos and their fellow sentient-gemstone warriors is fascinating and heartfelt, wringing a surprising amount of suspense and mystery out of its setting, an Earth that has been twisted over thousands of years into something altogether strange. Phos, the show's plucky protagonist, is a standout in a cast filled with charming and diverse characters. Their enemies, the Lunarians, are the kind of wondrously surreal threat that I can immediately get behind, a foe that manages to feel alien in a world that's already populated with sentient octopus creatures and anthropomorphic rocks. On the strength of its premise and ensemble cast alone, Land of the Lustrous would be a winner even if it were a traditional 2-D anime.
However, the show's real draw is its obscenely lush and fluid 3D animation. Having always been skeptical of any anime that relies too much on CGI, Land of the Lustrous arrived this year to prove that not only is its CG an asset, it's a fundamental part of what makes the show work. Not only does the technological assistance let the show cut loose in some insanely gorgeous and well-choreographed action sequences, it allows for an expressiveness of character that goes a long way toward making Phos and their allies so likable and compelling. Thanks to the skill of Studio Orange's production staff, subtle body movement and idiosyncratic physical tics are present in every scene of the show, in ways that simply wouldn't be possible with traditional 2-D draftsmanship on a television budget. Against all odds, Land of the Lustrous' confidence in its CG production turned a great show into an astounding one, and I can't wait to spend more time in its gorgeous and deadly world.
Runner-Up: Konohana Kitan
Even a greenhorn to iyashikei anime like me can tell that Konohana Kitan is something special. The show revolves around Yuzu, a foxgirl who's as kindhearted as she is klutzy, and her life working with a cast of equally adorable foxgirls in the mystical hot spring inn known as Konohanatei. While the premiere episode's emphasis on fanservice didn't get the show started off on the best foot, it didn't take long for Konohana Kitan to prove itself as the season's most emotionally rewarding hidden gem. The series takes traditional Japanese folklore and mixes it with all the best flavors a slice-of-life show can offer, even tossing in some heavy yuri themes for good measure. While I would have liked the show to go further with its unsubtle hinting at same-sex romance, the cast has such irresistible chemistry that I can't help but forgive Konohana Kitan its flaws. Yuzu is supremely cute, and the surly Satsuki makes for a perfect foil (and obvious romantic partner). Other characters, such as Ren and Natsume, have just as much personal and romantic chemistry, and it helps that the show's stories always give them something funny or adorable to do.
When it isn't trying to make you laugh, Konohana Kitan is equally adept at tugging its audience's heartstrings. To spoil any of the series' best standalone episodes would be criminal, but suffice to say that several episodes in the season manage to weave tales that are as devastating as they are uplifting, and most of them manage that feat in fifteen minutes or less. With 2017 being such a rotten time in so many ways, it seems like a minor miracle to close out the year with something so genuinely loving and sweet. If you haven't given Konohana Kitan a chance yet, you owe it to yourself to spend some time washing away the stresses of the world with Yuzu, Satsuki, and the rest of the girls at Konohanatei.
Worst: Juni Taisen Zodiac War
I went out of my way to avoid the truly terrible-looking shows of the season, like A Sister is All You Need, so Juni Taisen gets this spot by default as the only series I watched this fall that I didn't enjoy. While Juni Taisen is far from the most terrible thing I've had to sit through this year, it's easily one of the most frustrating viewing experiences I've had. The other bad anime I saw were decent enough to declare their awfulness from the beginning (see Hand Shakers), but Juni Taisen managed to string me along for weeks before revealing just how fundamentally flawed it really was. At first, Studio Graphinica's adaptation of NisiOisin's original light novel revels in its ludicrous cast and top-notch premise: a bloody battle royale throwdown featuring absurdly over-the-top warriors who represent the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac. This is a story that practically writes itself, but unfortunately it doesn't take long before Juni Taisen begins to buckle under the weight of its own self-indulgent mess of a script. What could have been a fun and charming throwback to the ultraviolent OVAs of the '80s and '90s just turned into a shoddily produced mess. For every good episode, there were just as many duds. While some of the fighters, such as Tiger, Monkey, and Rat, were interesting and compelling figures, most of the Zodiac Warriors came across as lifeless tools who merely existed to serve as mouthpieces for the show's overwrought themes. What hurt Juni Taisen most was how much potential it had to be good, and how much the series squandered the fantastic setup it had been given. NisiOisin's peculiar take on the battle royale genre may have worked for some viewers, but it absolutely did not work for me.
Best of the Season: The Ancient Magus' Bride
Loving the manga predisposed me to enjoying the anime, but the anime still surpassed my expectations this season. Though often slow-paced and thus probably not every viewer's cup of tea, The Ancient Magus' Bride is a character-driven story that takes place in a world imbued with magic. It's set in modern times, but the cozy English countryside cottage, forest, and magical places the characters travel to give the series an almost timeless quality. The visuals are often outstanding, particularly whenever someone is using magic, though admittedly, there's little action to speak of. The Ancient Magus' Bride gives off relaxing feelings just like iyashikei anime, even though there are supernatural elements. The relationship between Elias and Chise is not without controversy among viewers, but it harkens back to the stuff of fairy tales like Beauty and the Beast—and Elias treats Chise much more kindly than the romantic hero treats the heroine of that tale. There's real affection there—more on Chise's part than Elias' at first—and that's especially fascinating considering Elias' monstrous form. Though The Ancient Magus' Bride doesn't pit the main characters up against diabolical villains each episode, it draws viewers into its enchanting world week after week.
Runner-Up: Gintama (Porori Arc)
Fans of Gintama spoke of the handful of unadapted manga chapters for years after the producers of the anime made the decision to jump straight into the serious end-game arcs a couple of years back. Even after the series took a long break, then came back to adapt another serious arc before going on hiatus yet again, these chapters remained unadapated. Since some of these chapters featured characters who bit the bullet in the serious arcs that took place chronologically afterward, it seemed less and less likely viewers would ever get a complete adaptation of the manga. Then again, this is Gintama, which has never shied away from breaking the fourth wall. Sure enough, before launching into the final arc, Gintama came back to adapt all (or almost all—as of this writing, it's unclear) of the skipped manga chapters. Continuity means little in a world of talking alien swords, giant Titan-esque boyfriends, and overly large idol groups out to steal singers' fans through less-than-savory means, but this season has been a great reminder of the irreverence that makes these characters so much fun to spend time with. While some of the season's storylines were stronger than others, all had a humorous bent that proved necessary after so many “end game” episodes. It's not the best season of Gintama, but it's the season fans needed right now.
Worst: King's Game the Animation
The death game genre hinges on high-stakes moments fraught with tension, but King's Game's attempts to achieve such moments continuously fall flat. Though the show scores a point for the reveal that one of the main antagonists is someone unexpected, it's a very early reveal and their actions are so over-the-top throughout the rest of the series as to be laughable. When the main character tries to get to the bottom of the supernatural happenings holding this class hostage, the pseudo-scientific explanation is so bizarre, it would have been more logical to just explain it away with magic. The art frequently goes off-model, taking away what little emotional impact the various deaths have. That said, the series was in so-bad-it's-funny territory, so I watched it until the end.
Frankly, there was a metric buttload of quality anime programming this season, and narrowing all of it down to a top two was more difficult than it's ever been before. So I decided to make things easier on myself by excluding two otherwise incredibly excellent series that still have a lot of story left to tell: The Ancient Magus' Bride and Land of the Lustrous. They're among the best of the season, and you should definitely watch them, but I figure I'll be talking even more about these stories in 2018, so I wanted to focus on a couple other great shows that may be bowing out from the spotlight this year instead.
Best of the Season: Girls' Last Tour If you were a big fan of the 2003 adaptation of Kino's Journey and felt let down by this season's rather flat remake, look no further than Girls' Last Tour for a show that captured the essence of Ryutaro Nakamura's more meditative vision for Kino's. Chii and Yuu's little adventures through a snow-covered post-apocalyptic warzone basically had me by the heartstrings from episode one, and the series only grew more thoughtful, beautiful, and painfully adorable as it went along. As a tone exercise alone, Girls' Last Tour is incredibly nuanced and clever, but even beyond its immersive production and pacing, its story offered a wealth of ideas to discuss through the smallest natural dialogue exchanges between the girls, never resorting to soapboxing or monologues to convey its powerful thought experiments on religion, sacrifice, cultural memory, and even the simple power of music that can be found in nature. And far from being a dirge, every episode is executed with a terrific sense of humor that brings a stunning degree of light and hope to a world where most of humanity has exterminated itself. I mean, it has an opening theme where the girls moonwalk and dab. It sounds sappy, but this is the kind of all-audiences navel-gazing that leaves you with renewed appreciation for the gift of life, week after week. Absolutely give it a shot.
Runner-up: Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond I really was worried coming into this season that director Rie Matsumoto's absence and a significant changeover in lead staff would sully this sequel's chances to lift my spirits the way the first season did two years ago. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded, and while Beyond definitely lacks the jaw-dropping ambition of its predecessor, all the Libra characters I know and love got much more of a chance to shine through this season's more ensemble focus, with the occasional big action blowout like the Desperate Fight in the Macro-Zone two-parter thrown in for good measure. You can't underestimate Yasuhiro Nightow's contribution to what made BBB great either, and his irreverent action sensibility, killer creature designs, and refreshingly humanist sense of cartoony humor gave this sequel its heart under Bones continually excellent production work. While I don't love it quite as much as season one, it was definitely just as entertaining, and I can definitely see fans of the source material preferring this lighter ride. And hey, Matsumoto did come back to do the ED animation, whose excellent DAOKO x Yasuyuki Okamura song I may have looped around eight thousand times.
Worst: King's Game the Animation Now that I'm a regular contributor to This Week in Anime, I get the feeling I'll be doing a "what the hell is happening" breakdown of series like King's Game pretty routinely in future seasons. Since I laid it all out in that column, there's not a whole lot to add except that I'll no doubt be returning to the land of chocolate-pudding-people next year, if that "To Be Continued" threat at season's end is to be believed. Honestly, compared to legendary turds like Hand Shakers and Vatican Miracle Examiner, King's Game is pretty bland as far as R-rated first-draft edgelord nonsense goes. It's better to just experience its rare highs through other people's misery (Chris Farris' episode reviews are another great option) and spend your time watching the wealth of smaller great anime from this season, like Anime-Gataris, Konohana Kitan, Recovery of an MMO Junkie, or GARO -Vanishing Line-. Or you know, revisit Hand Shakers in secret for your hate-watch kicks. I won't judge.
Best of the Season: Land of the Lustrous
Who would have thought a mysterious world inhabited by an alien race of gemstones could be so relatable? What started out as an austere fantasy was transformed into a sincere coming of age story thanks to its unexpectedly lovable hero, Phosphophyllite. Phos begins the story silly, weak, and vain and slowly transforms into a strong and mature, but jaded protagonist. Even though Phos is 300 years old, viewers of all ages can sympathize with their struggles—from unrequited love, to grief over the loss of somebody close, to the dawning realization that their parent figure, Kongo Sensei, may not be the perfect person they always envisioned. These are all hallmarks of being human and growing up. The fact that it's an inhuman, immortal gem person going through these familiar, painful milestones simply makes it more interesting.
Phos' world is simple and featureless, but fascinating nonetheless. Phos and the other gems inhabit an island on which there is a school and nothing else, but there's mystery creeping behind every corner. The show's tension is precise and ever-present thanks to the continual threat of the Lunarians who hope to harvest the gems. Their encounters are rendered in the same meticulous CGI that makes this show fluid and glimmering—from the big stuff like battles fought from a sprawling aerial view, to the sunlight filtering through the gems crystallized “hair,” creating glittering reflections on their shoulders. For its beautiful visuals, its rich worldbuilding, and its taut, suspenseful plot, Land of the Lustrous is my pick of the season.
Runner-Up: Recovery of an MMO Junkie
As a 30-year-old woman, it's rare I get to watch an anime starring characters my age, and even less often that those characters are depicted with real vitality. Recovery of an MMO Junkie does just that with a charming cast of adult characters who are playful without being childish. This story is just believable enough to straddle slice-of-life with fantasy—it shows that real adults don't need to throw away their geeky interests at the same time that it serves as an escape. But the show's best feature is this: showing that characters don't need to be youthful in order to be compelling.
Another facet that makes MMO Junkie great is the way it explores gender politics by having its protagonist, Moriko Morioka, play a male character online. It's great to see how she is perceived by the other characters in her male persona, and to watch her fall head over heels for another player, Lily. Even though the romantic plot turns out to be extremely straight, it's a deliberate discussion of gender roles and how they invite us to perceive people in definitive, if often incorrect, guidelines based on how they present themselves. Despite this potentially serious subject, it's a humorous story in which characters' conundrums are never worse than avoiding awkward situations in the funniest ways possible. From Morioka herself to the ensemble cast, I only wished I could see more of everyone and I'm hoping this one gets a second cour.
Unfortunately, the show I had the highest hopes for was also the one that disappointed me the most this season. I fell in love with URAHARA's colorful fashion-infused designs and powerhouse opening theme, but style and music alone can't carry a show. And unfortunately, the story of URAHARA lacked substance—the character development happened too late if at all, the plot lacked pacing, and the storytelling was as simplistic as the art style was vibrant.
This was a story about friendship and creativity, but it had a hard time conveying either of those things. Other than its stunning backdrops, the show had a tendency to disintegrate into expository drabble instead of expressing events through visual storytelling. And though it starred three best friends—Rito, Mari, and Kotoko—it took more than half of the show to give us any background on how they met or why they like each other, and when it did it turned out they had all met just a few weeks before! Not a lot of foundation for such an unexpectedly familiar rapport. Any artist could relate to the struggles the girls express—like the concern that one's work isn't as original as one would like—but the same concerns are reiterated frequently, and “being creative is neat” is a good message but not robust enough for an entire show. If URAHARA were a painting, I'd hang it on my wall. But as an anime, it's a much harder sell.
Best of the Season: The Ancient Magus' Bride
Much like this season's other big hits, The Ancient Magus' Bride brought strong fundamentals to the table: compelling characters, artful storytelling, and top-notch visuals. Chise quickly proved to be a nuanced and charismatic protagonist despite her archetypal “gifted outsider” role, and Elias is one of the most intriguing anime characters I've seen in quite some time. This season's story arcs offered an appealing mix of intense emotional peaks and subtle narrative themes, creating an experience that was satisfying on multiple levels. The art and animation completed the package, boasting an impressive eye for detail in both familiar and fantastic settings.
Above all else, this show won me over with its nuanced and immersive take on the concept of magic. Instead of just using its supernatural elements as a means to a narrative end, The Ancient Magus' Bride presented a vision of magic that invoked a sense of genuine wonder. It covered a wide range from grand to humble, beautiful to horrifying. Coupled with a naturalistic presentation that avoided the dreary info-dumps that plague this genre, this modern-day fantasy world just felt right. Shows that can truly immerse a viewer in their fictional settings are rare, and ones that make you eager to dive in deeper are rarer still. This is world-building done right.
Runner-Up: Recovery of an MMO Junkie
This runner-up spot was almost too close to call, and any number of titles would fit just as well as Recovery of an MMO Junkie. While this romantic comedy had pretty ordinary visuals and relatively low narrative stakes compared to some of its competitors, its undeniable charm carried it through. This was a series that didn't feel like it was trying to launch a franchise or redefine a genre; it simply focused on telling the story it wanted to tell. That consistent focus served it well over the course of the season.
As it blended online gaming and romance, Recovery of an MMO Junkie did a lot of little things right. Its characters were older than one might expect in this genre, and that decision opened the door for more compelling backstories. This was a cast that felt believable in their roles, allowing the audience to relate to them without resorting to generic blank-slate protagonists. Even if I hadn't been through exactly the same situations as Moriko and company, it was easy to see pieces of myself in their varied reasons for playing games. The writing allowed the characters to set the pace, drawing humor and drama out of each situation in a natural manner. Warm and welcoming without ever feeling artificial, Recovery of an MMO Junkie was the perfect series to come home to after a long day.
I often find myself developing a kind of relationship with my streaming review shows, though the type of relationship varies widely from one title to another. In the case of Blend-S, I felt like the exasperated parent of a persistently underachieving child. This slice of life comedy was intensely frustrating in its inconsistency, displaying flashes of potential one week only to fall flat on its face seven days later. Its rare but enjoyable high points made it all the more vexing to watch so many episodes settle for being bland and forgettable. I kept hoping that Blend-S would get its act together, but it never really did. In some ways, a series that lets its potential go to waste is worse than one that never had any to begin with.
Best of the Season: Land of the Lustrous
This fall season has easily been the strongest of the year for me, offering satisfying shows in pretty much every genre I enjoy. But unexpectedly, in a season that starred fabled show returns, long-awaited adaptations, and works by some of my favorite authors, it was the strange CG Land of the Lustrous that I felt was the best of them all. CG productions have often seemed visually wonky in the past, but not only was Land of the Lustrous able to make great use of its gem characters to minimize the problems of CG character animation, it actually turned its art style into a consistent strength through its wild, dizzily spinning battles. And beyond the CG, the show's overall art design is phenomenal, offering consistently gorgeous gorgeous overall compositions and a clear, persistent mood of melancholy and longing.
Those visual strengths are ably matched by the show's dynamite storytelling. Whether it's the intriguing worldbuilding, constantly ranging narrative, or great character work, Land of the Lustrous' writing excels from basically any approach. Phos' desire to change themselves, and through doing so save their emotional mirror Cinnabar, is a deeply relatable thing, and Land of the Lustrous consistently offers sharp emotional reflections and heartbreaking moments of loss all through its run. Land of the Lustrous is easily my pick for top show of the season.
Runner-Up: Just Because!
My runner-up is something much closer to my usual wheelhouse, but still not a show I expected to love. Just Because! has turned out to be this season (and year)'s most reserved character drama, a subtly illustrated story about the urgent far edge of adolescence. Its ensemble storytelling brings us intimately close to all of its key actors, with the clear, grounded physicality of their hometown both allowing for creative storytelling and also underlining the show's generally terrific sense of atmosphere. Just Because! is one of those romantic dramas where I don't want it to end solely because I don't want to see any of these characters hurt. But the show is consistently, emphatically about endings, about the end of youth and the uncertain future beyond. As far as low-key character studies go, Just Because! is a terrific pick.
Worst: Kino's Journey - the Beautiful World-
As for my worst show, my general policy is to go with a show I actually followed for a while, since picking some monstrosity I only watched for one episode doesn't really seem fair. And among the shows I actually stuck with, I am very sorry to say it's Kino's Journey that is my choice. The original Kino's Journey is one of my all-time favorite shows, but the more I watched this new version, the more it became clear that Kino's underlying material was heavily reliant on the original staff to shine. From a meditative travelogue offering a variety of strange and open-ended philosophical questions, Kino's Journey was turned into a blunt instrument, a series of simplistic adventures seemingly more focused on compelling Kino to fire her gun than anything else. At times I wanted to shake this show, yelling at it that it was entirely missing the point of this material, even championing the opposite point. But all I could do was drop it, and drop it I did. I'm sorry, Kino's Journey - I was thrilled to see you again, but you are not the friend I once knew.
Best of the Season: Recovery of an MMO Junkie
I'm not generally a fan of romance series and I certainly haven't cared for anime about online games before. So it says a lot about the charming execution of this series that a simple love story about people playing an online RPG would grip me so effectively. Most of that is thanks to the characters, primarily Moriko herself. She's a thoroughly adorable and relatable lead, and her situation is presented frankly, never trying to wring too much tragic empathy from her self-imposed social exile, but always letting us get inside her head and understand why she's chosen this ‘wonderful virtual life’.
But Moriko and these other MMO Junkies also did something that all the previous Sword Arts and Log Horizons before hadn't; they illustrated the appeal of MMOs to me. By presenting the virtual world as a genuine entertaining escape, rather than some excuse for stumbling into adventure, the actors get to be much more relaxed and endearing around each other. Some may balk at presenting the game as a glorified chat room most of the time, but in this age where meaningful, enduring relationships can be forged via the internet, that simple set-up rings true. The relationship we watched unfold being an adorable one between two dorks who needed the game's format to push them together made expert use of that idea.
Runner-Up: Konohana Kitan
With all the sweeping epics making a name for themselves this anime season, maybe it's indicative of my own need for some relaxation during this notoriously busy time of year that my two favorite shows were decidedly cozy, low-key affairs. Of course, just because Konohana Kitan is relaxed doesn't mean it's unambitious. Indeed, this series triumphs in its ability to quietly illustrate concepts and emotions through its various fantasy-world parables. The show can spend whole segments setting the stage with an atmospheric rainy season or a silly slapstick Scooby-Doo ghost chase before it shows its hand at the very end and delivers an emotional gut punch every time. The cast of characters being more than just generic moe ciphers helps, as the show's yuri leanings let their relationships develop effectively. So whether you're watching the series tug on your heartstrings with episodic fantasy tales or giving you the warm fuzzies over wanting these fox-girls to just kiss already, the result is always that pleasant iyashikei tone. The Konohanatei hotel has become an appreciated place for me to stop by and relax every week, and I'll definitely miss it once it's gone.
Worst: King's Game the Animation
Was there any doubt? King's Game has made a notorious name for itself by failing almost every week, either by falling into the same poorly-executed patterns or by finding outrageous new ways to disappoint us. Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of King's Game is that it fails in spite of itself. Plenty of other series are bad because their premise was inherently flawed or it was produced with little effort. But King's Game started with a tried-and-true schlocky formula, the writer clearly wanted to make this story work, and those adapting it seemed to put thought into how to mix two timelines creatively. The problem is just that the end result shot itself in the foot at every turn. A simple second draft would have fixed problems like inconsistent characterization or needing to unload a victim's pathos at the last minute each time they get killed off. Presenting Nobuaki's first Game as a flashback within the series itself turned out to be a terrible idea that destroys the pacing and any chance at suspense. King's Game didn't set out to be terrible, but it collapsed due to sheer incompetence. As a result, I'm left with a bad series that doesn't make me feel anger or annoyance, but simply pity.
So what were your favorite series of the Fall 2017 season? Share them with us in the forums!
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