Hey all. General Tofu here, and I’m back from the dead! For our December monthly round-up, we decided to do things a bit differently. 2017 has been a bit of a dumpster fire in some respects, and we really wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate some of the great things that came out of this year, including both shows we enjoyed, as well as posts we wrote and are pretty proud of. For brevity’s sake, we each have selected three shows each that aired this year (and one that didn’t) that we highly recommend, as well as three posts from our blog this year that we want to signal boost a bit, so help us ring in the new year with some good anime recommendations and some sweet Aniblogger content!
Kuzu no Honkai
Kuzu no Honkai (or Scum’s Wish, as I’ll call it) is undoubtedly one of my favorite anime of 2017, hands down. The initial premise of two teenagers using each other as surrogates for the people that they are actually in love with was absolutely fascinating to me, and as we talk about in both our Winter 2017 Wrap-Up podcast, as well as my post about question of the scumminess(?) in enjoying Scum’s Wish, there are so many deep levels to this show with regards to its surprisingly complex exploration of adolescent (and adult) sexuality, connection, and intimacy. What at first seemed like an interesting hook for a show in what seemed like a fairly barren season turned into a show I absolutely could not stop watching, and had me on the edge of my seat waiting for each new episode. It’s honestly a much more frank and honest exploration of how different people approach sexuality in so many divergent ways, whether to please themselves, others, or to chase a self-satisfying end, and I genuinely loved (almost) every moment of it. It is certainly not always a comfortable show to watch, and the challenges that it puts on us as the viewer is really one of the aspects of this show that makes it the most worth watching, to me. It’s an absolutely incredible show, and if you can watch it, I can’t recommend it more to you.
Kobayashi-san Chi no Maidragon
I’ll admit, I had reservations about Kobayashi-san Chi no Maidragon (or just Kobayashi-san) going into the Winter season of this year. This was not because it didn’t look good or anything; the PVs were great, the characters seemed lively and fun, and the animation was gorgeous. I just didn’t think that it was going to be a show of any real substance. Thankfully, I was quite wrong. Kobayashi-san proves to be a show about much more than it seemed initially, ending up being a sometimes belly-laugh-inducing show that included a very nuanced, endearing representation of a queer couple (depending on your reading of the show), some of the very real difficulties of living with PTSD, and overall an absolutely heartwarming look at the idea of family as who you choose to be family. This is not to say that every episode is going to include some heavy workings, and that this show is not one to just burn through for a fun time – there is much of the show that is incredibly lighthearted and just a blast to watch. For me, it sometimes approaches the levels of comfy that Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge reached for me (and that is some high praise, in my book), and each episode includes some hijinks about Tooru and the other dragons coming to understand life in the human world, and coming to love this world and one another in it. All around, it’s just a deeply enjoyable ride, and I would recommend this to pretty much anyone.
Nana Maru San Batsu
Nana Maru San Batsu (or Fastest Finger First, or 7O3X) was, by all accounts, an absolute surprise for me in the Summer season this year. I initially passed over it at the beginning of the season, because at the time, the idea of a quiz bowl anime really didn’t sound appealing or even remotely entertaining. It probably wasn’t until about halfway through the season, after Owningmatt’s recommendation in our Beginning of Summer podcast, as well as just sheer curiosity, that I got around to watching it, and it was the best choice I made that entire season. 7O3X, in many ways, encapsulates much of what I enjoy about sports and shounen/seinen anime into a singular, odd package. The lovable, passionate dorks of the Buzo quiz circle, as well as those of the other schools that compete in the shown quiz bowl meets, all have such a degree of gusto, camaraderie, and (if you’ll excuse the pun) genuine inquisitiveness that seems to be magnified from the usual fare of other shows within its genre, and this really came to me during a time in my life where I desperately needed much of these things that the show pulled off during its run. Talking about a show about quiz bowl and trying to get into the nitty-gritty details of the plot seems a tad excessive (because god knows I hardly remember a fraction of the questions asked, etc.), so I would just say to you that if you’re looking for a spirited, laid-back change of pace sort of show to coast through, absolutely give Nana Maru San Batsu a go.
As my recommendation for what I watched this year but wasn’t actually airing this year, I decided to go with Haibane Renmei, a deeply odd show about fallen angels from the creator of Serial Experiments Lain. Haibane Renmei is definitely not a show that is going to be for everyone – just listen to our podcast about it. The show is definitely a slow burn – the story of the show’s world slowly unfolds bit by bit with each episode, letting us get to know our protagonist Rakka and the rest of her haibane ilk, as well as some genuinely fascinating tidbits of world building. When I say it is a slow burn, though, think of a flame that was cross-bred with a turtle (we’re talking about angels here, so that’s not so weird), and you get a sometimes incredibly sluggish development of events to the point where you might feel as though the last twenty-odd-minute episode has gone on for the last hour. That said, the mythos that the show develops around the haibane and the world that they inhabit is incredible, and some of the heartbreaking stories that the show manages to thread are well worth your time. If you’re looking for a fairly cerebral show that might be over half as old as some of you who may be reading this (it did air in 2002), definitely pick up Haibane Renmei.
Posts I Done Did and Liked In the Year of Our Lord 2017 Here They Are Right Below This
For a variety of reasons, all pretty not great, not fun reasons to have, I didn’t get quite as much content out this year as I would have liked to. To heap more garbage on myself, not all of it was quite up to the standards I would have liked to have set for the posts that I put out for The Backloggers. That being said, there are a few posts that I deeply enjoyed writing in 2017, and for the most part, they all genuinely unintentionally came at time sin my life this past year where they really resonated with me on a deep, cathartic level, in some senses. Anyway, I’ll try to keep some of that commentary track to a minimum, because that’s all up in my dome and y’all are here for anime, not my life’s story, but I hope you enjoy these posts, regardless!
As I explain in the post itself, I absolutely adore Sakura Quest for myriad reasons, none more so than the fish-out-of water story of a young twenty-something in an economy and region with a garbage job market trying to find her place in life. I don’t see that theme going away for me any time soon, but this was especially potent for me around the time I wrote this. A weird move to a place that felt like was in the middle of nowhere that I was almost entirely unfamiliar with to chase a job, among other reasons, made me resonate with Yoshino on a spiritual level as I watched the show that season. I had been thinking a lot about my home of Appalachia, specifically the West Virginian aspect of the region, at the time, and it really struck me how much the conflicts for our cast of characters in Sakura Quest mirrored those struggles that many of my friends and I went through years back (and, to be frank, some still do today). This particular post was kind of a selfish one in that even though I was certainly writing it for the blog, I was primarily writing this for myself as a sort of catharsis, I suppose.
Anyway, I’m pretty happy with this post in that it both gets across some of my favorite elements of Sakura Quest while simultaneously explaining why this show in particular resonated with me on such a deep level. On some level, it’s a piece that I feel as though I would want to revise, especially in light of recent events bringing me back to ol’ Mountain Mama, but I’m happy with this piece, regardless.
As a bit of a departure from the previous piece, I wouldn’t say that I had quite as much of a deeply specific connection to the works that I was writing about for this particular post – I haven’t gone to a culinary school, or traveled to Rome to wreak vengeance on my deadbeat mom who abandoned me for a hot Italian guy, or worked at a restaurant that serves incredible food to elves and lion-men and such. But the genuinely mouth-watering food in Isekai Shokudo, as well as some of the very family-oriented story arcs in the show, stirred a heck of a lot of nostalgia up in me for the food culture of my old home, and I was hungry to write about food (I’m not even remotely sorry about that one). Isekai Shokudo, Shokugeki no Souma, and Ristorante Paradiso are three very different shows about food, and in watching all of them in fairly close proximity, the way in which food was utilized for narrative purposes in each work was (and still is) fascinating to me. This was definitely a fun one to write, and it stirred up a lot of good memories about some down-home soul food.
I know that this particular post is one of our episodic posts, and that they don’t necessarily exude as much specific draw and personality as our own individual posts about topics of our own choosing tend to have. Actually thinking about it, we started doing the episodic posts this year beginning with Youjo Senki, which is bananas to think about, since that seems like ages ago (and frankly, the hellscape that is 2017 did seem like an eternity, so that’s not really surprising). I’ve really enjoyed writing these episodic posts, but I feel like, in large part of a number of nebulous issues I alluded to previously, I never really got into a great rhythm for these things. I guess it’s somewhat appropriate that my last episodic post of 2017 was one where I felt like, in retrospect, I found a pretty solid foothold in terms of a good writer’s voice, or rapport with myself, I guess.
Basically, I like what I said and how I said it in this one, and I’m pretty damn happy with it. For sure give this one (and the rest of our Just Because! posts) a read.
It’s sort of funny that I’m recommending this show as it’s one that I almost dropped at the beginning because of the director’s last involvement with Aldnoah.Zero, but I think this is direct proof that only similarities exist between directors and each project is different from one another. Re:Creators was a pretty ambitious work for its plot structure and overall story with varying levels of success of being able to tell the story it sets out to in an interesting fashion, but the story itself is a spectacle to watch to completion. There’s a lot to be said about the way that creators and fans interact with each other when creative mediums are involved and how characters in particular genres of works can view the world so differently from each other. Not to mention the soundtrack just blows my mind every time I hear it, as Hiroyuki Sawano has brought his best to the table with this one. It’s for sure one of my favorite original works of the year, and if you’re a creator of art or even just a fan, it’s an absolute experience to watch that I highly recommend.
Tsuki ga Kirei
Now this is a show that I thought could turn out to be pretty run-of-the-mill, but ended up being pretty much anything but that after episode 1 aired. Not many shows really go into some of the more intricate nuances and situations that happens when you’re involved in a younger romantic situation, and this anime just absolutely nails every single moment involving these awkward middle school kids falling in love. Some of the later parts of the show really show how complicated feelings can get when times get tough or other people get involved, which can sometimes lead to scenarios becoming a bit more dramatic than the show can handle, but it still manages to pull through strong in the end with its overall narrative. As far as romance shows go, it’s definitely the one of the year that everyone will be talking about for a long while.
Classroom of the Elite
There’s been plenty of shows about light novels this year; some ending well, some forgotten, and some that just seemed like standard light novel fare, but ended up being really interesting. Lots of the shows I’ve talked about thus far have been ones that have legitimately surprised me despite what I may have initially thought of them, but Classroom of the Elite takes this idea to the extreme. It’s something that seems like overly ridiculous and over-the-top, as many light novels with bizarre plots tend to do (which is why I keep reading/watching them and their adaptations, by the way). Classroom of the Elite prides itself though on not making itself entirely into a commentary about society and the class system as you might expect, although it does touch on both. Rather, it’s more of a clever mystery/thriller story that has some of those deeper aspects embedded deeper into its narrative. There’s a lot of unsavory moments within the show to go with this, as one might expect from anime about elite classes betraying each other, but it’s still a very enjoyable watch if you like those sorts of stories with some deeper ideas to contemplate as you watch.
For the last one, I have a bit of an older show that I recently got around to watching this year, and it has quite a lot to say about itself. I won’t go into great detail, but it’s one of those shows that has a lot to say about crime and the systems in place that tend to deal with it and it creates a discussion on how we as a society use those ideas to prevent and handle criminals and their actions. Not to mention the narrative behind some of the characters in this show to support this particular aspect is one that I quite enjoy on the whole. It has a lot of darker aspects to it because of its nature of dealing with crime, but if you can handle that, then this show has a whole lot to offer in terms of story and societal commentary. I’d consider it an anime staple at this point, and if you especially enjoy a dramatic story involving a criminal justice system and you haven’t seen this yet, then this should absolutely be something to sit down and watch when you can.
My Very Own Post Shout-outs
While this may have been the only full-length detailed post that I put out this year, I’m especially proud of what this piece did for me in particular. I’m glad that I finally got to write about one of Mari Okada’s shows, even if her involvement with the writing was only base level since it was a manga adaptation. Her works are probably one of my favorite styles of combining feelings with drama that really add an additional layer to whatever show she’s working on, and the connection is always so strong for me. Blast of Tempest is a great show to do that with as well, since there’s a lot to offer for all sorts of readers, but I really wanted to focus on the romance aspect for this article; something that other scrapped articles prior to this one tried to do, but ended up never coming out the way I wanted them to.
It’s also that both the show and this piece that helped me out of a slump of several scrapped posts, and I truly appreciate both of them so much. The topic of this post is something that I think is important to consider, and even was the basis of my idea for 12 Days of Anime this year as well. Society and how we are a part of it, or rather how we fit into our own parts of society, is so integral to our everyday lives, and this post conveyed exactly that sort of idea, using the strengths of Blast of Tempest as a foothold to give us something to think about in terms of our context in society.
If I had to choose one of my favorite 12 Days posts out of the ones I’ve written for the challenge, this one would definitely have to be my favorite. I wouldn’t say it’s my best work, but I think that’s fitting as the post is sort of like Animegataris itself; very fun, but a little scattered and confused, but you can tell that a lot of effort was put into it and there’s definitely something to get out of it. I wouldn’t compare my post on the same level of “meta” as Animegataris managed to mostly successfully do, but I definitely tried my best with the 12 Days of Anime challenge. Lots of posts ended up coming out very well, but this one is by far my favorite, if only because watching the entirety of Animegataris before writing this was a lot of fun and really sparked the idea for this article. I hope that the same level of fun and enjoyment came out of the post, and I hope that. if nothing else, that it helps everyone to keep a positive mindset leading into the new year.
Now, I did say that Animegataris was my favorite post, but I did especially want to talk about this one as well for a few reasons. I mentioned some of this in the thoughts Twitter thread when this post was released, but I think it’s important to mention again. This post ended up going through 5 rewrites before I found how I wanted to say what I wanted to say, and that’s probably not unusual or outstanding in any way, and it definitely has no bearing on the show’s quality or thematic elements either. It was just a very difficult show to talk about in this context, as all the previous attempts were as the show was airing, which brought about all sorts of negative feelings about the show from lots of various areas in the community. Negativity for the show which I never fully understood, as the criticisms the show was getting never really held up, and ended up consuming most of the takes of the articles that I did.
I’m very proud to see the concept of identity coming out so clear in this post, and seeing the fruits of my effort was very satisfying and was definitely the easiest 12 Days post to write for the entire challenge. I can’t encourage everyone to watch Masamune-kun or read the manga, but I think it’s important to at least give it a chance, despite what you may have heard about it from others in the community. The “identity” that I talk about in the post is such a strong underlying theme of the show working as its main narrative element that it’s impossible to not think about when watching this show. I hope that this post came out as clear in the telling of this type of narrative as it did for me when I watched the series, and I hope that you enjoyed the post discussing those themes.
This series was like a mash-up of some of my favorite things: Strong female characters in an alternate steampunk world with tons of added intrigue straight out of 20th century history, all blended together in an action-packed but well-written package. While episodic for the most part, it’s works in this show’s favor. The cast is so strong that it’s a ride to see how they react when placed in different situations each episode, and the interactions between all the characters are fantastic to watch as they develop together along the way. Plus, there are enough quieter and more emotional moments put in to really feel and care for each character and their personal struggles. Even the “story told out of order” style didn’t detract and instead added to the intrigue as the audience gets to piece together the whole picture like an actual espionage mystery. This was a surprise hit for me and I could not have been happier after waiting the whole week for another adventure with these awesome spy girls.
Recovery of an MMO Junkie
MMO Junkie is just so good. I usually search out one or two comfy shows for the season so I have something to wind down with after the more drama and action heavy stuff. I came for comfy and got so much more. For one thing, the main character is just so atypical, being a 30 year old woman instead of some 16 year old high schooler, and her personality and way of speaking is very unique rather than trying to fit with a particular trope. Plus, while I still question how she was realistically able to financially sustain her NEET lifestyle, the protagonist has very real issues that she works through throughout the series that really spoke to me. She has reasons behind her anxiety and self-doubt and her ability to work through these with a supportive cast of online and physical friends was a joy to watch. Plus, give me any well-written romance and I will always sing its praises to high heavens. I am way more of a junkie for that good lovey-dovey than this woman is for MMOs. Definitely check this one out.
Land of the Lustrous
I’m still processing everything from this show to really give a good hook for why everyone should watch it but I think that in itself speaks volumes for what this show is able to accomplish. On the obvious side, this may be the first of its kind in that not a single frame of this CG show looks bad. The creators went to extreme lengths to make this show look good and hot damn did they deliver. And because of its unique platform as a 3D show with 2D masking, Land of Lustrous is able to do effects and ideas that are extremely unique to itself. From the translucent elements of each character to the horrifying and yet beautiful moon race that emerges from mandelbrot sets in the sky to the constant dismantling and reforming of this race of livings gems, each effect and idea I don’t think could have been done literally any other way and still have been as successful as what was pulled off here. The sound design is gorgeous as well, with amazing music and awesome folly work that, for example, was detailed enough to give each character a lightness or heaviness to each gem’s footsteps, which helps cement just how strong or weak their bodies are.
The story is such an interesting mystery all to itself, while also allowing for both natural world-building and an amazing character progression for our main character as well as a few other important ones on the cast. Plus, it’s a joy to see such a positive use of non-gendered characters and I hope that this can be expanded on in future shows, with more gender fluid ideas when it comes to main characters, hopefully not just with a nonhuman cast. I fully believe this show will go on to be not only a hit from this past year but a staple for animation and unique animated storytelling for years to come.
The Tatami Galaxy
And for my pick that didn’t release this year, here’s a show I had heard about in passing but oh man did I not know a thing about this descent into madness. This show is a ride in it’s animation, style, and story, and constantly loves to shake things up and suggest some very weird things for us to normalize so it can go ahead with even stranger ideas. I’m very glad to have seen this, however, because I fell in love with its charm and strangeness. There aren’t many shows like Tatami Galaxy and I think that’s what makes it all the more special. While I don’t want to give away much, as I think going in blind was the best choice for me, I will say the gist of this show is: A set of unique characters living at a very strange college explore what it means to live a fulfilled life while experiencing very existential ideas about time travel. That’d probably sum up. Yeah.
Honestly, this show easily became one of my favorite anime I’ve seen in recent years and I highly recommend watching it. Just be prepared to speed read because hot damn these characters can talk fast and there ain’t no dub in sight.
Hey, I made things at one time. Here’s some of ‘em.
Do you all remember when I used to make posts? Yeah, I should do that again. I’ll hopefully be in a lot better situation soon mentally and can jump back on my shiny steed to joyously ride off into the start of the new year. In the meantime, I wanted to look back on some stuff I did this past year that if you didn’t initially catch, I thought you might enjoy!
I’m pretty sure I’m in a minority in saying that I still dig Vocaloids. I’m not a crazy fan but as someone who loves music and music composition, the concept of an artificial voice program is just amazing. Voice is one of the hardest instruments to replicate because even the smallest thing wrong with it throws us into uncanny valley territory real quick. That’s what makes the best vocaloid artists out there so good as some have successfully fooled people on this front and made some great songs to go along with it. Plus, having each voice as their own character with a personality is cool. We can invent narratives and ideas for these characters similar to what Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett have done for the Gorillaz.
That said, I also really enjoyed the idea of the art exhibit that I talked about here, which forced the audience to come to terms with how we treat idols, virtual and physical, and what that means for us as consumers of music. While deconstruction has its own messy connotation in the Anisphere, as a tool, people can do very interesting things with it and pose clever questions. In this case, removing agency and lifting back the curtain to show who the puppet master really is in the case of virtual idols.
While I wrote this piece about mental health back in June, I feel like I’ve gotten a more personal understanding of that subject recently and thought it important to share this again. Psycho-Pass is an incredible show and anyone who’s a fan of cyberpunk or really clever sci-fi shows that love to delve headfirst into some philosophy would love it. That being said, while it makes tons of strides in showing the importance of mental health and the dangers of not staying up with it, Psycho-Pass also trips itself up on a few topics, in this case, the dangerously incorrect idea that psychosis is contagious. I was very happy with this piece when it came out (though I was nervously checking back on it every ten minutes in case I accidentally missed something and offended someone) and I was proud how much effort I put into researching this. I straight looked up some excerpts from medical journals, yo! It’s definitely the most work I’ve done and I think it shows. I’d love to go back to doing something like this again on another topic once I’ve gotten myself back on track.
I’ll end with my most recent post and if I’ll be honest, it’s a gush piece, less delving into a particular theme and more just nerding out about a graphic novel I love. Sunstone is definitely a lot of fun and with five volumes out so far with a sister series just starting up, it’s good long and comfy read if someone finds it up their alley. It’s also free online, though, the printed version is gorgeous and absolutely worth buying at a comic shop or on Amazon (Support artists and buy their things!) And while this is really just me being giddy, I have reason to be. The series is incredibly well-written with beautiful art to boot, and tackles a lot of issues when it comes to sex, relationships, communication, and positive representation on the spectrum of sexuality. I greatly enjoy sex-positive stories and more positive representations about the topic in general because I grew up with zero education on sex from schools and I was not alone in my side of the world. I’m thankful for good parents that educated their kids and allowed me resources to learn more or else who knows what weird-ass things I would think were true? This needs to change and stories like this are a good start, especially when they can be as funny, beautiful, and heartfelt as this series gets.
Heyo, Owningmatt93 here. Hope you all enjoyed 2017 despite all of the issues that the year threw us. With all of the good shows out there to watch, I hope that it at least made the year a bit easier to get through. If you didn’t happen to watch that many shows, I also hope that our recommendations at least give you some sort of idea where to start. There’s just so many good shows that this year had to offer and I hope that’s a good sign for 2018 in terms of anime. Hope you enjoyed the recommendations and some of our best writing pieces of the year as well (give them a look if you haven’t!).
As always, thanks for taking the time to read our stuff! You guys are wonderful and I hope you enjoyed the holidays as much as we did!