For better or worse, Summer 2017 is finally at an end and it’s time to name the winners and losers of it. This season made it pretty easy to distinguish the must watch series from the don’t touch with a ten mile stick series. From the ones that I completed, there really only seemed to be two that I’d say were a must watch and a few that might catch the interests of certain people. The list is in no particular order except for Best of Season, so the anime at the bottom of the list is not the worst one of them all. In fact, most if not all of the series on this list are worthy of being watched, but whether or not you should watch them is a different story. Some people will find some series more appetizing than others, but if there’s any anime that is a must see, it’s “Best of Season.” This is less a ranking of series from Summer 2017 than it is me just commenting on the series that I watched this past season. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get into the awards.

Best of the Season:

Made in Abyss

If there was any anime I’d say not to judge by its art, it’d be Made in Abyss. The art style makes it look like some kind of children’s anime when in actuality, it’s a very mature anime with a fresh subject and a gorgeous fantasy world. I’ve seen some people compare it to a Ghibli anime with its general scenery and love for nature and I’d say it’s a fairly apt comparison. It’s Ghibli-esque in its imagination of a world where a cavern of unfathomable depth, rightly given the moniker, The Abyss, is home to creatures of various sizes and natures. Every inch of the abyss is filled with wonder and mystery, beckoning people to explore it despite the dangers that lurk within it.

I have to admit, I was fairly hesitant to begin this series mostly because it seemed like it was a bunch of no names or untrustworthy people coming together to do an oddball anime, but I’ve never been happier to be wrong. First, let me just express how amazing– and I really mean amazing, the music is. The music was done by Kevin Penkin, who is an Australian music composer (mostly for video games). He’s essentially a no-name composer to me and probably to anyone who watches anime because he’s only been a part of a total of four anime, with three of them being, for lack of a better word, complete and utter shit. I could listen to this soundtrack on repeat and have goosebumps the entire time. There are seldom, few times where the music matches an anime so perfectly and this is one of those few times. From beginning to end, Kevin Penkin made the most immaculate soundtrack that was possible for this series.

Let me also take this opportunity to praise the anime on how well it balanced the excitement and dangers of exploration. I was probably just as fascinated as the main characters at the mysterious but beautiful depths of the abyss as they descended through it. Although I think one could make the argument that it starts off a little slow, it’s but a very minor convenience that anyone who has finished the anime will agree with. For some anime, getting to the end is the reward. For Made in Abyss, from start to end, it’s a reward in and of itself.

 

For Better or Worse, the Story that Never Ends

Owarimonogatari Season 2

At this point, I’m not sure what to think of the Monogatari series. When it hits home runs, it belts them to the moon. When it doesn’t, it’s just a bunt that gets to first base. Owarimonogatari Season 2 is somewhere in between the home runs and the bunt. It maintains the same level of humor that we all come to expect from the Monogatari series, the same Shaft animation quirks, and the same eccentric characters that make the series so beloved.

But when is enough enough? I felt that when watching Koyomimonogatari and the first Owarimonogatari. It’s not that the Monogatari series has ever been bad per se, but when they’ve been serving you nothing but three star meals and they suddenly put a microwave dinner in front of you, you’re left wanting. Luckily, Owarimonogatari Season 2 is for the most part a three star meal. It begins to wrap up a lot of unresolved plots while retaining everything that made people like the Monogatari series in the first place.

If you’re already invested in the Monogatari series, you might as well do yourself a favor and watch the second season of Owarimonogatari. Just like the majority of the Monogatari series, it’s a fun ride and not one that is easily forgotten.

 

Call me Morton, ‘cuz I’m salty AF

Jigoku Shoujo: Yoi no Togi

Nothing says low effort more than having 5 original episodes before shifting into using old episodes from the first seasons for the rest of the show. If any of you young’uns remember Endless Eight, this is what it felt like. Every week, I’d just watch and skip through the episode to see if anything was new. Every week, I’d be praying that they’d stop with using old episodes in a supposed new season of the show, but from episode six until the last episode, episode twelve, it was just full recycled episodes.

Jigoku Shoujo is one of my favorite anime series of all time. Even though the second and third season were not as enticing as the first season was, it was still an overall reputable series that I’d recommend everyone watch. When I heard that it was getting a fourth season, I was beyond excited. I was anxious to know how they’d continue the story from where it left off. Now I wish that they just left the series dead. They would’ve been better off just making it into an OVA if they were going to make OVER HALF the anime be recycled episodes from the first two seasons.

Every week I’d tune in just to find out, hey, it’s ANOTHER full blown episode from a previous season. I thought that maybe at the very end this would all amount to something, but guess what? It didn’t. Surprise! It meant nothing at all! Absolutely nothing! I don’t even want to call this a fourth season because it was basically a glorified recap of absolutely nothing. The first five episodes were great, but when the rest of the series is nothing but rehashed material (which I suspect they didn’t even bother reanimating, so it actually has the same quality as when it first aired), that’s not an anime I would ever be happy about watching.

 

It’s all fun and games until you forget how to end an anime

Gamers

Gamers was one of the series that I got cautiously hyped up about because, similar to School Rumble, it was very reliant on misunderstandings, but with gaming as a premise. It might sound very matter of fact, but the series will be more enjoyable for gamers than it will be for people who don’t game. There are a ton of references to games and different philosophies that gamers will understand and get a kick out of.

That being said, Gamers relied on misunderstandings a bit too much. It was basically Game of Misunderstandings at a certain point where the phrase “You know nothing, Jon Snow” applied to every single character.They all had their poorly conceived notions of who likes who and how the person they liked was secretly in love with someone else. At times the situations that these misunderstandings birthed were funny and at other times very repetitive and face-palm worthy.

However, by far, the worst part of the series was the “ending.” If Jigoku Shoujo didn’t already win “saltiest of the season,” I’d give it to Gamers. Episode 11 should’ve been where it ended. It was a perfect ending where all the characters were at the start line of a new point in their lives. If the anime ended anywhere, it should’ve ended there, not at episode twelve which felt essentially like a filler.

After watching episode twelve, I’m convinced that they thought they only had to make eleven episodes and then decided to throw a filler at the end. It was nothing but a fan-service episode that had a poorly written script and barely played on any of the chemistry that the main characters built up the entire series. If I had to rate the last episode by itself, it’d get a failing grade. Think of all the cliches in the world and then add pointless arguments and commentary– you have episode twelve. What, did they just forget to fill their hot spring quota? Did they forget that they wanted to do a vacation episode? Whoever arranged episode twelve to be there should be ashamed of themselves. That’s not a way to end this anime or any anime in general.

Overall, Gamers is an enjoyable anime that I’d recommend to fans of series similar to School Rumble, people who like gaming, and people who like romance comedies. Just believe me when the series really ends at episode eleven, not twelve.

I like my protagonists like I like my cheerios, plain

Youkoso Jitsuryoku Shijou Shugi no Kyoushitsu e

This award goes to the monotonous speaking main character of this anime. While the anime itself was fairly average, the protagonist barely felt like he was a main character until maybe the last few episodes. For lack of a better explanation, the anime really felt like it was a light novel anime. What I mean by that mainly has to do with the characters and the setting. School setting, very eccentric characters, harem set up, and a near omnipotent/omniscient main character who has one visible flaw. In this case, the main character, Ayanokoji Kiyotaka’s flaw was his void of emotions. Every line he speaks is in a monotone and he doesn’t seem to have any interest in anybody else. The series injects snippets here and there that try to allude to why he’s like that and it is for the most part sufficient enough especially with the end of the anime painting a little bit clearer of a picture of who he really is.

While most of the anime was just everybody goofing off and trying to not get trodden on by their “superiors,” it was entertaining to see the same underdog story play out every week but not enough for me to really recommend it as a must watch anime. If I were to make a recommendation off the last few minutes of the anime, I might recommend it, because that was what I wanted to see the entire series. It’s what I wanted to know and a very exciting plot point that I think will make the series more interesting.

Ultimately though, until the last few minutes, the story has to be carried by the side characters because the main character isn’t enough of an enigma or enough of a source of entertainment to really keep viewers engaged. Instead, the series tries to throw waifus and cliched situations at the viewers to keep people coming back for more. If I were to give it an analogy, it’s like your parents taking you to the pool, but they keep you in the shallow end of a pool in an attempt to introduce you to swimming. The only thing is, you know how to swim, so you’re just sitting there while you can see everyone else having fun.

It’s inevitable since this is just an adaptation of the beginning of the light novel series so it makes sense that it’s keeping its cards close to the chest, but it didn’t change what the anime ended up being like. It felt predictable and generic despite boasting a large cast of characters with a slightly different setting than most people are used to.

 

What’s gambling without gamble-crazy girls

Kakegurui

Admittedly, I only started this anime because Hayami Saori was the main character and the main antagonist was Sawashiro Miyuki, but it was a pretty fun anime until… it got kind of stale. The gimmick of Kakegurui is the same as an anime like Saki. It takes something relatively normal and adds intensity to it and high stakes, consequently making it over the top and (hopefully) more entertaining.

While Kakegurui was fun for the first few episodes, at its core, it’s just about gambling… and the main character basically always wins. Even when she loses, she’s winning. They always make it seem like “hey, this time she might ACTUALLY lose” and at a certain point, you know she’s just going to win anyway. For an anime that desperately tries to prove that gambling is only fun because the winner is never predetermined, it did a pretty shitty job of showing that.

I get that some times, she’ll use a person’s own cheating strategy against them and she’ll win because of that, but seriously, come on. Every person who faces the main character cheats and NONE of them expect to get found out. They’re all like, “heh, she might have gotten that other person, but they won’t get me.” Of course, she figures out their trick every time and wins by using their own cheating strategy against them. This repeats every episode until the very end.

It was a show about gambling, but there was no unpredictability after the pattern they chose to go with was revealed and used repeatedly until the very last episode. I’d recommend the show to anyone who’s a fan of the voice cast, but otherwise, it’s a show with little to no value in terms of plot and perhaps slightly above average in enjoyment.

 

Bananas, Panties, Idiots, Weirdos, and Tomokazu Sugita

Aho Girl

This anime will basically be a hit or miss depending on your taste in anime. It’s the typical manzai style with a tsukkomi/boke but with more over the top situations and characters. Some people might be turned off by the back and forth between the characters since it is typically the same type of comedy over and over again with the main girl, Yoshiko, getting punched in the end. The series works out pretty well mostly thanks to the chemistry between the characters and some of the more imaginative situations that they get into. There were some times where the manzai style comedy just felt very stale, but in my experience with the anime, it was more than not a great laugh. The comedy was even more potent thanks to the voices backing the characters. I’ll admit that some times I felt like Tomokazu Sigta felt out of place, but those instances were rare and few. If you’re looking for the best comedy of the season, it’s Aho Girl.

 

Moe Filth that I secretly like

New Game Season 2

New Game might be a moe, 4-koma series about game making and rely heavily on the girls acting in cute ways, but it’s a surprisingly enjoyable series. It doesn’t go too deep into game making, but it does a decent job of showing the difficulties behind it while making you want to cheer on the characters. But, of course, all the reasoning in the world won’t change that the series is just moe bait. I’ll admit, it got me, hook, line, and sinker. Even so, I’d say it’s one of the better moe series because it feels like there’s actual story progression and character growth. If you were a fan of the first season, watching the second season is a no-brainer.

 

A much more low energy Yozakura Quartet

Sagrada Reset

Sagrada Reset was a very strange anime. At times it was very interesting and other times it was just unbearable to watch. Most of the series lived or died with the story, but I think what made the series so imbalanced was the dialogue. The dialogue was often very dry and lacking in passion. It didn’t help that all the characters acted if they were on Xanax or something. 60% of the series was calm talking, 30% was emotionless talking, and 10% of it was actually emotional talk (with like 1% of that being arguing). I’ve seen more exciting conversations between monks talking about what they’re going to eat for breakfast.

The overarching plot for Sagrada Reset was interesting enough, but I just had so many problems with the main characters and their interactions with each other, that it became a chore to finish the series. The main offender of this were the two main characters, Asai Kei and Haruki Misora. On the one hand we have a very methodical and composed guy in Kei. On the other hand, we have emotionless and subservient Haruki whose raison d’etre becomes serving Kei. Most of the series is actually just Haruki trying to figure out what to do to make her more “pleasing” to Kei.

The climax of the series was interesting but it felt very subdued just like the rest of the series. A nuclear war could’ve broken out in the series and it still would’ve felt very subdued because that was just the way everyone in the series acted and the overall tone of the show. I think Sagrada Reset is an overall average anime since it does have a relatively unique plot and has decent animation. However, Sagrada Reset falters in its flat characters and lack of engaging storytelling.

 

Hanasaku Iroha v.2

Sakura Quest

Sakura Quest is essentially Hanasaku Iroha v.2 for several reasons. One, like Hanasaku Iroha, a city girl is thrust into an unfamiliar environment with a hidden beauty that she has yet to realize. Second, she eventually tries to help revitalize the place that she’s staying at because it’s dying out. Third, it’s P.A. works, so you know that it’s gonna be the same shit. Of course, I mean ‘shit’ in the most respectable way. I wouldn’t call either Hanasaku Iroha or Sakura Quest a waste of time or bad series by any means, but they’re just so bland. They feature a relatively annoying main character who has to constantly be carried by her supporting cast.

The plot of Sakura Quest was simple, but littered with great interactions between the characters which is one of P.A, Works’s greatest strengths. While the overarching plot of the series might not have been anything to write about, the things that always bring me back to P.A. Works’s anime are the characters and beautiful settings. While I’m seldom ever impressed by their main characters, their side characters are always fun to watch as they interact with one another. They always bring out the more memorable moments of the show whether or not the main character is in the shot.

Sakura Quest is by no means even close to being a “must watch” anime, but if you enjoy P.A. Works’s anime and Hanasaku Iroha, then you’ll probably enjoy Sakura Quest as well.

 

All the breaks to catch up on animation still won’t make you a good anime

Re:Creators

Re:Creators started off pretty interesting and then just progressively got less and less interesting as the show went on. If it weren’t for the above average animation, god like music from Sawano Hiroyuki, and some interesting side characters, I probably would have dropped it after the first few episodes.

A little context on the title for this anime’s award. The anime took several breaks “to catch up on animation” and even had a recap episode. Even with the extra weeks for the animation, it’s pretty strange that the end product was still not that impressive. They even explained themselves in some of the episodes in a “fun” way being like “hey, look at me. Do you know how hard it is to animate me with this strange outfit and all this hair?” I understand that breaking the fourth wall was kinda the gimmick of the anime (except, they were literally breaking the fourth wall with fictional characters traversing worlds to the world of their fictional creators), but you don’t need to explain yourself in an anime. If you’re going to spend time to animate an apology, use that time to animate an actual scene of the anime.

Steampunk/Spying gone wrong, gone moe, gone sexual

Princess Principal

Princess Principal is an anime about spying where no matter how many times I think about it, none of them were really good spies despite being hailed as elites. Maybe it’s just because I watched something like Joker Game, but their spying seemed to only work because their opposition was completely incompetent. So, if the spying was poorly done, then what was done well?

Voice work and the setting were probably the most impressive aspects of the anime. The setting of the anime was intriguing because it took place in an almost steam punk place called Albion that was on the brink of a revolution. It’s unfortunate that more of their technology isn’t shown off aside from the C-Ball, a mysterious mechanical orb that gives its user the ability to release themselves from the shackles of gravity.

If anything, the show mostly focused on the characters coming closer together which built up to its grand finale that resulted in… absolutely nothing. The most interesting thing about Princess Principal wasn’t its plot, a grab for power between different factions, but just some of the missions that the girls go on. There was one mission in particular that I almost watched again because I liked it so much. If I based the entire series off that one episode, it probably would’ve been at least one or two points higher on my list. Unfortunately, these episodes were rare and few and the series mostly just defaulted to its moe roots.