12 Days of Anime concludes with a list of my personal favourites from the anime that have aired this year. If you’ve read my (French) seasonal reviews or my top anime list, you might notice some repeated content. Unfortunately, having written seasonal reviews and updated my top anime list this year, I don’t exactly have much new to say about some of these shows. Well, I’ll try not to bore you too much. Nevertheless, enjoy!
V: March Comes in like a Lion
March presents a boy suffering from isolation (with difficulty making friends), from depression, and who begins the series with his self-worth tied to his sport: all in all, not well. The show takes this relatable boy and, using self-contained episodes and arcs, demonstrates his slow, stuttering, yet unmistakable growth. The sudden transitions from solemnity to slapstick humour can be jarring, and it may take time to get used to the meandering style of storytelling that features frequent digressions into side stories (even right in the middle of a freaking schoolgirl bullying arc). But once I accepted that this was how March was going to tell its story, I was able to appreciate the good parts: the warmth of the Kawamoto household, the earnest friend that Nikaido is, the biting, at-times-uncomfortable portrayal of loneliness and depression, and the subsequent joy of seeing Rei slowly climb out of it. Overall, March is a very enjoyable watch.
IV: Sakura Quest
Sakura Quest tells a story of five young women trying to find what they want to do in life. Three of them have already failed to achieve their original dreams, while the other two have never thought of what they truly wanted to do.
These are relatable conflicts to many in this age group, and the series acknowledges that they do not have simple solutions. It’s nice to see each character challenge their preconceived notions and emerge at the end of the series wiser and more content. Yoshino puts her dream of working in metropolitan Tokyo on hold, works hard at the tourism board, then questions her idealization of Tokyo as well as the value of her current job. Maki, having failed to make it as an actress, finds that the small skills she learned from working odd jobs pays off, and also eventually rediscovers her passion for acting. I’ve written about Sakura Quest’s messages here.
To be fair, Sakura Quest took time to find its footing. The plot and the comedy of the first episodes were fairly average. However, the quality improved by the end of the first season and kept climbing to the end, each new arc allowing our protagonists to make steps toward maturation or revealing some sad beauty of a dying rural town. It didn’t quite hit the emotional heights of March or Girls’ Last Tour, but by the end I was glad to be watching it every week.
III: Girls’ Last Tour
Girls’ Last Tour is a show made of low key vignettes rather than a page-turner, and that is fine. The protagonists have an easy rapport between them, their stretchy character design is expressive and appealing, and the humour lands more often than not. Girls’ Last Tour allows the viewers to relax as these characters unhurriedly explore the world around them.
The show is also capable of landing fantastic emotional highlights. Kanazawa maps the land, Chito keeps a diary, and Ishii builds an airplane that may or may not work because it’s better than entrapment: they all do this to create a sense of purpose in a desolate world, to hold on to some shred of civilization, of sanity (note that Yuuri doesn’t need to do this because she is content with food). In addition, the show is also capable of pointing out moments of beauty if we stop to notice it: pattering raindrops create a symphony and lead to an angelic closing song, while a few beers and the moonlight set the stage for a carefree dance.
If I have one criticism for the show it would be the ending: as the mushroom-creatures ascend heavenward (a beautiful scene by the way), they foretell the end of the world, but Chito and Yuuri decide this is fine as long as they have each other. This was presented as a sort of emotional climax in their relationship, but, since they had such good rapport from the beginning, I kind of assumed it was a given. Nevertheless, Girls’ Last Tour deserves its place on this list for its emotional highlights alone.
II: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju S2
Rakugo Shinju, as a whole, is high on my favourite anime list, and the first season was my favourite anime of last year, with a beautifully tragic plot, conflicted and sympathetic characters, and a confident audiovisual presentation. The second season maintains the audiovisual confidence, and achieves quite a few highlights as the next generation slowly finds happiness (mainly Yotaro and Konatsu being so mutually supportive). However, for some reason or other, many of its emotional highlights (mostly Kikuhiko battling his depression) didn’t land as impactfully as I had wished. Maybe I was unconsciously chasing the high of the first season’s tragedy and therefore had my expectations set too high. Nevertheless, the second season Rakugo Shinju is a solid anime, and that’s kind of an understatement.
I: Little Witch Academia
I…hate to sound like a broken record. I’ve gushed about why I love Little Witch Academia in both French and in English. It’s optimistic, it’s goofy but heartfelt, and its message of inspiration is so powerful that the flaws of the show are of secondary importance to me. And make no mistake, it has flaws: Akko seems to develop backwards sometimes, forgetting lessons from previous episodes; the show’s message on Croix seems inconsistent, first introducing her as a morally grey proponent of progress in the show’s overarching tradition vs innovation theme, but then simplifying her motivations to a simple hunger for power mixed with jealousy; finally, what is up with the politicians and missiles that seem thrust into the story? Nevertheless, I can’t think of another show for which I awaited each week’s episode with such anticipation. For that, I think Little Witch Academia deserves first place in this top 2017 anime list.
Aaaand that’s a wrap! Thank you for sticking around reading my 12 Days of Anime posts. I will (hopefully) post my thoughts on the Fall Season in French in the new year. In the meantime, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and enjoy watching anime!
You can read about the 12 Days of Anime project in my intro post here.