2017 Anime Year in Review

2018 has begun and what an incredible Winter season it’s been already. This is easily on track to be the strongest season since Fall 2016, which is really welcome after last season.

[ Standard disclaimer: Spoilers! Lots of spoilers! ]

All of the following are loosely grouped in tiers: Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3, Tier 4. Click on a title to jump to the comments.

Completed or Airing
01. Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho [ 9.75 / 10 ]
02. Yurucamp [ 9.25 / 10 ]
03. Slow Start [ 8.5 / 10 ]
04. Citrus [ 8.0 / 10 ]
05. Marchen Madchen [ 7.0 / 10 ]
06. Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san [ 6.5 / 10 ]

Shorts
n/a

Previous Year Pick-ups
n/a

Dropped
Mahoutsukai no Yome [12 ep] – I may well still change my mind and pick this back up, and if Winter weren’t such a phenomenal season I’d probably stick with it longer just for the sake of having something to watch. But Winter is outstanding and I just haven’t felt any desire to catch up on this since the season started. So it’s probably more honest to just call this dropped now. It’s ~fine~ I guess, but just doesn’t have much that I connect with on an emotional level, and I find the way a lot of scenes are directed to be a bit blander than I think the material warrants.
Pop Team Epic [1 ep] – While I’m fascinated that this ridiculous viral marketing-fueled very-meta oddity exists, it was downright excruciatingly intolerable to actually try to watch.
Toji no Miko [0.08 ep] – Actually only lasted about two minutes. Some shitty CG monster and shitty CG character action scenes, goodbye.


Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho 99% import
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“It’s like anything could happen. Like I could make anything happen! The scenery that surrounds me every day is changing at a dizzying rate.”

It cannot be overstated how good Yorimoi has been through three episodes. I don’t just see a potential anime of the season, or even of the year. I see the potential to be one of the best shows of any year. A Yorimoi that’s as good over the next ten episodes as it’s been over the first three would easily beat out any show from 2017 and for that matter any show of 2016 not called Flip Flappers. While I don’t want to count these penguins before they’re hatched, I really am that impressed by and invested in Yorimoi right now. I’ve always loved Ishizuka Atsuko, enough that she’s one of the few directors I know by name, but this right here feels like her masterwork.

Whether it can deliver on that lofty potential remains to be seen, but thus far it’s been a flawlessly beautiful coming-of-age adventure. From the opening scene onward, everything screams “seishun!” Yorimoi’s gift is that it’s completely unembarrassed to lean into the reckless, romanticized youthful passion of four girls who have each ended up chasing the same ridiculous dream for very different reasons. Shirase seeks her missing mother with single-minded determination, and what she’s found is someone who, for once, believes in her ability to get it done. Mari seeks to overcome a risk-adverse, overly-cautious personality that’s put her life on a lethargic autopilot, and what she’s found is precisely the goal (and the girl) that stirs up that that passion in her. Hinata seeks something that’ll let her stand out, that’ll make her more than just another unknown face in an anonymous crowd, and what she’s found is just the quirky group of girls she can be proud to call herself a part of. And Yuzuki seeks the first genuine friendships of her life, seeks people who like her for who she is and not for her minor child celebrity status, and what’s she’s found is exactly that.

Three episodes have delivered three emotional climaxes most shows would kill to pull off even once. Episode one had Mari’s fateful decision to show Shirase she was serious about seeing this adventure through. Episode two had the breathtaking chase through Shinjuku. Episode three had Yuzuki’s dream sequence and happy breakdown when she realizes that Mari and the girls really have come back for her. And each time Yorimoi has had a perfect sense for when to kick in the insert song and ED song, heightening the moment even more.

So now the cast is assembled, their spot on the expedition is secured, and… what awaits? I don’t know, but this opening arc has done an impossibly good job of setting up the story, the mood, and particularly the character relationships. The four girls have developed an immediate group intimacy I’ve not seen since perhaps Urara Meirochou, and the richness of their interactions is going to be the fuel that keeps this adventure going. I absolutely cannot wait. [3 episodes]

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Yurucamp 99% import
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Pure iyashikei (think Aria) isn’t a particularly common variety of slice of life but when it’s done this well I sure wish it were more common. In a remotely fair season where Yorimoi wasn’t busy blowing my mind every week, this would be an easy AOTS.

Yurucamp’s selling point is its willingness to let nothing happen for a while as the girls just sit and soak in the stillness of nature. Other times we get to sit back and watch Rin make camp for a few minutes, which is oddly compelling. But there’s plenty of great character interactions to be had too. Aoi, Chiaki and Ena are still somewhat on the periphery (Ena is pretty amazing, tho) but the dynamic developing between Rin and Nadeshiko is more than enough to keep me going.

Yurucamp has been great about giving Rin, who is more often than not our point of view character, a lot of depth. She’s playful when nobody else is looking, she’s got a sense of humor, and she’s also aware of (and worries about) the way she comes off to other people when she chooses alone time over being with a crowd. It’s something she’s conscious about and wants to change, and Nadeshiko ends up being the perfect girl to help her effect that change. For her part, I was quite happy that Nadeshiko managed to be respectful of Rin’s loner personality, while also clearly reading Rin’s signals and knowing that it’d be fine to invite herself along too. Nadeshiko may be a bit of an airhead archetype on the surface but she’s pretty good at reading Rin, at the very least.

And that moment where Rin switches to calling Nadeshiko by her given name at the end of episode three (maybe the first time she’s referred to her by any name?) says it all. Solo camping just became couples camping. [3 episodes]

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Slow Start 99% import
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This is about as traditional a Kirara cute girls doing cute things show as it gets… but that’s what I live for, so I’m obviously on board.

What really stands out is the sheer visual energy the excellent production infuses all of its characters with, particularly Tama-chan. This is a beautifully animated show with lively character acting all over the place. I mean just look at this, two straight minutes of fluid gestures, exaggerated comedic motion, amazing facial expressions, detailed hair motion and fabrics, even some nice smoke effects because why not? And almost the whole first two episodes have been a visual treat like this.

It’s not just action shows that benefit from detailed animation. Slice of life shows can make excellent use of it to bring their characters alive and express their personalities. And a slice of life show is, above all else, the personality of its characters. Slow Start is a delight so far. [2 episodes]

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Citrus 50% import
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I think I covered my feelings about Citrus pretty well in these comments, so I won’t repeat all that word for word. But I will add that after seeing episode two, I’m all the more convinced that this adaptation is the real deal. I’m as surprised as anyone that I’m liking this show so much, because I was definitely in the “Bleeeeh, couldn’t you have adapted, like, anything else?” camp when it was announced. And hell it’s not like I’ve changed my mind on that, but even from the beginning when I was expressing frustration over the announcement (especially since it was paired with the irredeemable Netsuzou and around the time Kase-san pulled the “lol it’s actually just a music video!” on us) I still had this feeling that a really good adaptation could make the material work. But what were the chances of that happening? Pretty much zero, surely!

…Wait. What? It’s happening? The first two episodes have been downright excellent, both in terms of being well produced (it’s successfully adapted Saburouta’s pretty style to animation), but also in conveying Mei’s actions to the audience with an appropriate mix of horror, condemnation, sympathy… and sure, some titillation. It’d be silly to deny it’s trying to have its cake and eat it too, to an extent. But far, far less than I would have expected. The team behind this genuinely wants to adapt Citrus in the best way they can, and goodness they’re actually succeeding. I don’t know if they’ll keep it up, and there’s only so much bad behavior from Mei that even a melodrama can justify narratively. But getting decent chunks of story on a weekly basis is an immense improvement over the two-months-per-chapter crawl the manga was working with. Next challenge? Seeing if it can make the Matsuri material not annoying… that’s going to be a major test.

If you were, like me, really skeptical of Citrus getting an anime, I can strongly recommend giving it a chance. I’m glad I did, at least so far. At a minimum, bashing on Citrus ain’t gonna make Kase-san happen any faster, so given the strong start I think Citrus has earned the right to be evaluated on its own merits and not dismissed because it’s not ::insert better manga here::. It’s certainly got some uncomfortable material and not wanting to deal with that is fine. But it clearly wants to go somewhere meaningful(-ish) with it, and I’ll allow an adaptation this solid the time it needs to make its case. [2 episodes]

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Marchen Madchen 15% import
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I should really watch another episode before commenting, but this one aired a bit late. Anyway, the first episode was pretty decent. Isekai series (assuming Hazuki spends the show in the world she stumbled into in ep 1) with a female lead are exceptionally rare these days. I’m also digging the Kantoku character designs, and it certainly is getting its shipping on early so that’s promising.

But what I liked most about episode one is Hazuki herself. I think it did a solid job selling the distinction between her loquacious and funny inner monologue and her socially awkward exterior, and my assumption is that her development through the show will be in coming to reconcile those two things and learn to communicate better with others. And that’s a character arc I am always down for, especially if she finds herself a nice other-world girlfriend to help her out along the way.

The show looks like it may be a bit fanservicey if that bothers you, but I was totally fine with how it played out in episode one. It was all in the service of some really solid comedy. Yeah, I guess I liked ep one pretty well. I don’t expect a lot from this show, and I’d almost bet money it’ll waste its last 2-3 eps on some Big Crisis that it doesn’t have the dramatic chops to pull off. But for now it just seems like a lot of fun. I’m rather looking forward to meeting most of the characters seen in the ED too. [1 episode]

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Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san 1% import
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The first episode was pretty fun, even though the long digressions about ramen are not particularly interesting to me. But it gave the distinct feeling of being a show with one joke: Yuu fawns over Koizumi, Koizumi ignores her and eats ramen. That’s fine for a premise but whether the show was going to survive more than a few episodes would depend a lot on how quickly Koizumi opened up and became a real character, not just a ramen-chugging machine who spouts trivia. I mean, I liked Yuu well enough but probably not enough to carry a show when Koizumi is giving her nothing to work with.

That started to improve in the second episode. Interestingly enough it’s by taking Yuu out of the picture that we finally got a little bit more out of Koizumi, and of course it helps to get some focus on Misa, who will probably be the best character if she realizes why she seems to care so much about why she wants Yuu to pay attention to her. Still, Koizumi remains the least interesting part of the show, and if it can’t get beyond Yuu stalking Kozizumi while she eats ramen then this series isn’t going to get anywhere. But I’ve got some faith that episode two represents a step in the right direction. [2 episodes]

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5 Responses to “2018 Winter in Review – First Impressions”

  1. Anonymous says:

    A bit surprised you’re not watching Mitsuboshi Colors.

    • MK says:

      Not on Crunchyroll IIRC.

      I haven’t been the biggest SoL fan in the past, but I’ve found myself watching many of that sort of show airing this season – Gakuen Babysitters, Yuru Camp, Place…Universe, Slow Start, and other slow-paced shows like Citrus, Violet Evergarden, CCSakura and KoiAme (the latter is my favourite non-sequel of the season.) Surprisingly I might actually have been enjoying this season more than Fall, I expected the opposite going in. Spring looks pretty packed aswell.

    • something something says:

      I would be, but I don’t watch stuff licensed by Sentai.

  2. AholePony says:

    Yeah it’s too bad about Colors, that series is cute as hell and probably my #2 of the season. All of my anime friends are ga ga over yuru camp and mild on Yorimoi but I’m 100% with you on that show. It has totally blown me away and that chase sequence is already burned into my brain as an all-time great due to the emotions that welled up when I watched it. I’m interested to see where they go with it, I wouldn’t at all be disappointed if they never even make it to their physical destination only to have reached their emotional destinations along the way.

    I hope you like episode 2 of Madchen, it was a cute follow up to the premier.

  3. Chipp12 says:

    Toji no Miko wasn’t thant bad actually and quite different from what was shown in the intro but oh well (though CG is still there so there’s that).

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