2017 was like a buckshot for my anime-viewing pleasure. A lot of genres had a lot of really good (and really bad) shows. Though, it was more good than bad since all of the best anime are from varying genres. For me, 2017 was a year of exploration away from my typical favorite genres. Rather than stick to the same kind of shonen, magic, or fighting shows, I began to explore shows that use to totally pass under my radar. While I certainly wasn’t able to completely watch every show I wanted to (eventually I’ll watch ANCIENT MAGUS’ BRIDE), I definitely watched more than usual. Because of this, I regret not being able to put every single deserving show I’ve seen this year on this list.
The Top 10 Best Anime of 2017
These are the top 10 best anime that I feel either broke trends or perfected them. Many don’t follow the typical anime stereotypes, and many have concepts that are totally new to the anime world. When selecting anime for this list, a huge consideration was put into how enjoyable they were to watch and if I had seen something like them before. There are a lot of great anime that are woefully similar to other shows, and that can often detract from my perception of their quality. But, in any case, these 10 are anime that caught my eye for one reason or another. They’re all shows that I loved, and many that I hope to see multiple seasons of in the future. So, without further ado, let’s start the countdown!
10. AKASHIC RECORDS OF BASTARD MAGIC INSTRUCTOR
AKASHIC RECORDS is significant to me because of the subtle change it made to a mostly standard formula. Anime about magical schools usually plays out something like this: A mysterious transfer student abruptly arrives at the academy and, after displaying ridiculously overpowered abilities, he singlehandedly defeats the school’s top student. Then, he amasses a harem of classmates and defeats every enemy with an increasingly insane power. AKASHIC RECORDS shifted this in two ways. One, it used a new teacher rather than a student. And two, that teacher isn’t really all that powerful, just unconventional.
The story follows Glenn Radars, a former magical soldier turned substitute teacher. Unlike the standard wizard protagonist, most of Glenn’s students can beat him. Where he shines is his creativity with magic, shifting spells and understanding the theory behind the magic. He teaches his students to learn that theory rather than just recite incantations. As multiple crises face the school, Glenn’s teaching and strong spirit become instrumental to everyone’s survival. As a series, this break from conventional storylines made AKASHIC RECORDS a standout for me and a certain top 10 best anime pick.
9. INTERVIEWS WITH MONSTER GIRLS
This particular school comedy brings an interesting concept to an otherwise normal high school show. In INTERVIEWS WITH MONSTER GIRLS, a small percentage of people can be born as half-human, half-monsters. While they were originally referred to as “demi-humans”, younger people have coined the term “demi” instead since it sounds cuter. The story follows four demi girls at Shibasaki High School: an energetic vampire, a compassionate dullahan (think headless horseman), a shy snow-woman, and a succubus teacher.
Their biology teacher, Takahashi Tetsuo, is one of the few people who treat demis like anyone else. Most high school students treat demis like weirdos and don’t really understand their conditions. A lot of myths about vampires, for example, are totally fabricated. Hikari Takanashi, the vampire student, won’t die if she eats garlic or turn to stone if she’s out in the sun. She does, however, dislike the taste of garlic-heavy foods and overheats easily.
Takahashi wants to understand the powers and unique abilities demis have and learns about them through a series of interviews. What makes this show heart-warming is how pure the relationships between Takahashi and the demis are. Not only do the students become great friends, but the entire school begins to open up to them once Takahashi does. It’s an entertaining story of outsiders finding friends and learning to be their unique selves. On top of that, it turns what are normally supernatural monsters into normal people who have to account for their monster traits in their daily routine.
This school anime comes with plenty of games and a romantic twist! All the characters in this anime are super into video games, but all for different reasons. Some love the competitive nature of first-person shooters, while others like strategy. Regardless of what their interests are, all five main characters are connected in one way or another. In addition to that, there are plenty of love triangles amongst them. Keita Amano, a shy type who keeps to himself, simultaneously has a girlfriend, a love interest from his favorite game, and a girl he doesn’t even realize he’s perfect for. This isn’t uncommon amongst Keita and his classmates; all of them have a variety of real and misunderstood relationships that cause hilarious drama and hijinks.
I relate to the misunderstandings all throughout GAMERS. High school is confusing as hell, and romance only complicates things. I found myself nervous alongside the characters of this show, and I was rooting for my favorite couples. GAMERS is able to mix together a steady stream of comedy with real connections and development. That’s super rare in anime nowadays, making it a personal favorite on this best anime list.
7. INUYASHIKI: LAST HERO
INUYASHIKI has possibly the absolute saddest exposition of all time. This is the sort of show that flows under the radar for a lot of fans. Combining action, emotional development, and some decent philosophical plot, INUYASHIKI forces viewers to consider a basic question: What does it mean to be human?
The show begins by showing some of the absolute worst of humanity. Protagonist Ichiro Inuyashiki’s family treats him like a worthless old man and barely tolerates him. Those around him are selfish, rude, and generally unsympathetic to the plights of others. One day, Ichiro Is told (rather curtly) that he has terminal cancer with only months to live. He questions whether his family will even give a damn, and wanders the city stricken with grief over his impending mortality.
This anime creates a lot of raw emotion in only a few short scenes. There’s a lot of work put into the animated the faces of certain individuals in the show. That means every grimace, scowl, or frown is intense and powerful. Beyond that, Ichiro (without revealing too much from the story) is strangely granted a robotic body and incredible power. He has to find a way to maintain his humanity while using his inhuman power to fight evildoers and figure out what happened to him. This creates a perfect mix of action scenes and a story that constantly maintains heavy emotion, making it a difficult to stop watching.
TSUKIGAKIREI is one of the best anime examples of ‘slow and steady’ to date. It encapsulates the classic awkwardness and heart-pounding nervousness of early romance and spreads it across an entire series. This is a concept that is incredibly simple and basic, but TSUKIGAKIREI achieves it to such an extent that it makes for a great anime. Azumi Kotarou and Mizuno Akane are somewhat typical students, but they have personalities that clash and mesh at varying times. They get to know each other through a series of encounters that seem like nothing more than pure happenstance. But, that enough is plenty to spur their interest in one another.
What really makes TSUKIGAKIREI a favorite is how relatable and straightforward it is. It’s never entirely clear what the best move is in a relationship, and making simple decisions takes a lot. When I watch this show, I imagine myself in middle school, stressing over every little thing and just trying to make the right choices. For anyone with any memories of trying to get close to someone, TSUKIGAKIREI will be as much a super entertaining anime as it is a trip down memory lane.
5. ATTACK ON TITAN Season 2
ATTACK ON TITAN was one of the best anime, and my favorite anime, years ago. Season two was only an improvement over the early episodes. Humanity is trapped within several giant walled cities by titans. These monsters, beasts several stories tall, exist only to kill and devour humans and pose a constant threat to the survival of the species. In season one, main character Eren Yeager discovered he had the power to shift into a titan and used this power to assist humanity. Season two ramps up that pivotal discovery by revealing, even more, secrets regarding titan shifters and the status of the lands beyond the walls.
ATTACK ON TITAN is as much a show about staying human as it is fighting titans. In the face of scarcity, poverty, and danger, people do pretty awful things. At our core, we all have an innate desire to preserve ourselves, and that feeling is front and center in this show. As the show reveals more and more about the world, we learn that there are many, many, layers of conflict within humanity. There are feuds amongst the military, major class battles, and traitors in every corner. I love ATTACK ON TITAN because it brings a level of mystery that I had never seen before. Every new revelation was a hint closer to an increasingly complex and incredible truth. I found myself craving the story so much, that I audibly groaned when the last episode of the season aired and immediately binge-read the manga.
4. MISS KOBAYASHI’S DRAGON MAID
This is the best anime to watch for something cute with jovial music and fun scenes. MISS KOBAYASHI’S DRAGON MAID was one of my first non-shonen favorite anime. The series follows Tohru, a dragon hailing from a different world, and Kobayashi, a young programmer. Kobayashi is very much the standard busy adult; she works often, enjoys evenings out, and often arrives home completely exhausted. After Kobayashi drunkenly saves Tohru, the dragon develops affection for her. Tohru’s presence adds domestic life to Kobayashi’s routine, and her love creates a deep relationship between the two of them.
The series focuses a lot on the complexities of integration, with Tohru having to juggle her discomfort with the human world with her love for Kobayashi and desire to be a bigger part of her life. Kobayashi is typically passive, so she has difficulty even engaging in a relationship. On all fronts, characters have to put effort into being a household unit, and that journey is incredible to see.
This anime is high on the list for elevating the traditional ‘slice of life’ anime. It portrays domestic life in a way that allows individual characters to make real improvements to themselves. By mixing intimacy into household life, MISS KOBAYASHI’S DRAGON MAID captures elements of a love story amidst everything else. Additionally, they become closer to one another and have plenty of lighthearted moments. The show has a great soundtrack, cute and colorful animation, and a story that makes for easy and addicting watching for any anime fan.
3. KONOSUBA Season 2
Plain and simple, KONOSUBA is one of the funniest anime I’ve ever watched. After dying in the normal world, Kazuma Satou was given the choice to either go to heaven or be reborn in a fantasy world. He picked the obvious choice and was sent into an rpg world of magic, knights, and quests. Season one did a lot of explaining involving the structure of the world, its rules, and the various classes of characters. Just like in a video game, people can be priests, mages, knights, and thieves. The skills available differ across classes and can be as useful as banishing the undead or as pointless as creating tiny jets of water.
What makes KONOSUBA hilarious is the almost pessimistic laziness of the characters. They might jokingly abandon each other to certain death or crack jokes in the face of unbeatable foes. Rather than try to improve negative traits, the show capitalizes on them for comedic effect. Kazuma, for example, is extremely self-serving to the point where he’ll abandon others or prioritize himself. This sort of reversal is a major parody of traditional anime protagonists.
Generally, a hero would sacrifice anything just to save a few people and his team supports him through it all. Kazuma, on the other hand, would abandon someone while his group either poked fun at him, indulged in masochistic fights, blew everything up, or all of the above. The show is self-aware to the point that jokes can be either show-specific or just mocking anime in general. Because I could barely stop laughing watching this show, it was a clear choice as the third best anime.
2. MY HERO ACADEMIA SEASON 2
Without a doubt, the best second season of an anime I’ve ever seen. MY HERO ACADEMIA (if you’ve somehow not heard of it) takes place in a world where superpowers are commonplace. About 80% of people are born with abilities known as quirks. A lot of quirks are pretty much your typical superpowers (like telekinesis ), but some are pretty extreme. People’s physical appearance can even resemble an animal like a frog or raven. MY HERO ACADEMIA season one introduced us to Midoriya Izuku, a boy born without a quirk who acquires one and enrolls in UA Academy. He slowly begins to learn ways around the drastic bodily toll of using his power and meets plenty of friends in the process.
In season two, someone found a way to jump over the already high bar set by the previous episodes. UA Academy holds its very own annual sports festival, allowing the show to be structured in a way that shows off every existing character and some new ones. What makes this season especially incredible is the character development and backstories. Super-powered kids often have tragic pasts, and the world of heroes and villains isn’t always so black and white. Once Midoriya and his classmates begin to go toe-to-toe with real villains out in the field, they learn the risks of their future profession.
MY HERO ACADEMIA finds a way to integrate amazing fights with development by letting characters mature in battle. For some, they have to get used to using abilities they swore never to, while others have to learn that revenge doesn’t always work out. This anime shows that kind of progression better than any shonen anime I’ve ever seen. Obviously, making it the second best anime of 2017.
1. MADE IN ABYSS
MADE IN ABYSS—the number one best anime of 2017. It has a story that feels a lot like a video game. Within a town called Orth is a giant hole in the ground of seemingly infinite depth called the Abyss. There are seven known layers of the abyss, and each has progressively formidable monsters and dangers. Once you descend into the hole, rising back afflicts you with a variety of curses. Early layers only cause mild nausea and dizziness, so kids are capable of mining in the upper portions. Lower levels have significantly worse curses. Ascending mere feet might completely obscure your senses while you shake in pain and vomit blood.
The part of MADE IN ABYSS that got me to keep watching was the incredibly detailed world, but the characters made me a real addict. Protagonist Riko is an orphan who believes her mother, one of the most legendary Abyss explorers, is waiting for her deep in the Abyss. She happens to meet a boy named Reg during one of her dives. Reg, however, is not exactly human and is equipped with robotic abilities like extendable arms, strength, and a powerful laser.
Based on the characters and art style alone, the anime seems lighthearted and cute, but it’s one of the darkest stories ever. This is not a story with a happy ending to every episode. It brings in heavy, raw emotion and desperation for survival not often seen in some of even the most classic, best anime. That combined with a rich story, hauntingly beautiful soundtrack, and great characters make it the best anime of 2017. For me personally, it is my absolute favorite series after years of watching anime.
Bring on the New Year!
There you have it, my top 10 list of the best anime of 2017! It’s been an incredible year for anime, but that’s no reason to not look forward to more. 2018 is sure to have even more incredible series and plenty of awesome moments. So, more of the best anime are sure to arrive soon!
Have any favorites that didn’t make the list? Let us know your top 10 in the comments below!
Featured image screenshotted from Crunchyroll.