Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Best and Worst Manga and Anime of 2017 and Most Anticipated Manga and Anime of 2018
With the end of 2017 only one month and a few days away I felt it appropriate to write out my picks for best and worst Manga and Anime of 2017 and the titles I am most excited about that is being released in 2018. Also, note I have no worst Manga of 2017 as even the titles I was not exactly the biggest fan of I still enjoyed. The worst Anime, on the other hand, are all disappointments or showcase a level of incompetence that is staggering, to say the least, but more on that in the article proper. Also, note I'm not including movies or Second Seasons of series. So no In This Corner of the World, Osomatsu-san 2nd Season or Himouto! Umaru-chan R as deserving as those titles are. Also, my Worst of 2017 list only includes series I watched to completion so I won't be including series I dropped without finishing as I think it's unfair to list a work I did not finish as one of the worst things of 2017. While my Best of List includes series that as of today's date have yet to finish but I feel confident that the quality will not dip and I'm simply placing my seal of approval on them. with that preamble out of the way onto the list with explanations proper. Best Manga of 2017: #1. Land of the Lustrous by Haruko Ichikawa: This title with as strange and sometimes confusing as the first volume's narrative structure was. It found it's voice in volume three taking the story of a post-human and post-apocalyptic world inhabited by sentient gemstones and made it an impactful character study of meaning, loss, and what it means to have memory. As well as greater mysteries yet to be revealed. Combined with an art style that captures movement and shows Manga's ability, unlike any other medium to capture the flow of movement and thought on the same page. While also being able to engender honesty sympathy and emotion for a group of sentient gemstones as it would have been so easy for the series to plummet off into the uncanny valley and have the audience unable to understand the gemstones feelings. For writing such emotional and relateable non-human characters Ichikawa-Sensei deserves praise beyond the expertly crafted action scenes and the emotional tightrope of humor and melancholy the series walks. #2. Golden Kamuy by Satoru Noda: A two-fisted pulp action adventure story that I've taken to calling "the most Kazuo Koike thing Kazuo Koike never wrote". Is a meticulously researched study of the slowly dying culture of the Ainu the Indegiionous people of Japan. While also showing the after-effects of war and the growing industrialization of Japan. Golden Kamuy captures not only a sense of family with Sugimoto and Asirpa but also the heartless brutality of nature and man. The entire series is cast in a pall of death be it the death of Ainu culture and tradition or the state of seeming death the forgotten and shell-shocked veterans come back to in an now rapidly modernizing Japan. Casting an ethos of Fin de siècle in-between lovingly detailed battles between men and enraged bears in all its limb-rending and face-ripping gory glory. #3. Dreamin' Sun by Ichigo Takano: It's hard to say anything new about how much I love this series and it's sweet awkward heroine Shimana Kameko. Dreamin' Sun shines as an example of great emotional insight on the part of the title's creator. This is only more impressive due to the fact that this was the series that came out before the Eisner nominated Orange. While it may be tempting to go and look for rough drafts of the characters from Orange in this series. Everyone in Dreamin' Sun is so bursting with life, complexities, and little character moments that it is hard to have the time to do that kind of connecting the dots. As this story is so much it's own. An openhearted story that captures difficult life circumstance and new feelings in a way that while old it is more lived-in or authentic rather than one of cliche or tired repetition of hackneyed story tropes. #4. Generation Witch by Uta Isaki: More a collection of short stories than one long serialized story. Generation Witch is a series that simply oozes kindness and consideration for its characters. Even when one of its stories ends on a bittersweet note. This is one that has qualities that make it feel much like Dreamin' Sun. In a word a chicken noodle soup of a Manga that is simply fun to luxuriate in. A fictional world that has so much more humanity than sad to say our current world in reality in 2017 does. #5.To Your Eternity by Yoshitoki Ooima: This title is not last because it is loved least it is simply such an adventurous turn from what could have been a safe carrier for its creator Yoshtoki Ooima. Instead of trying to replicate the formula that led to the deserved success of A Silent Voice. Ooima created a series that is based on fundamental questions of humanity in fact if you noticed all my choices for best Manga this year either have a theme of alienation or some kind of post-human or non-human character or setting. To Your Eternity shows the slow growth of a non-human sentient being. Throughout its first volume learning not only basic self-care but more complex emotions as well. With this, I feel Oooima-Sensei has cemented her place as one of the best new Mangaka currently being published in English. I can only hope this gets some sort of greater recognition as future volumes are released fingers crossed this will get an ALA Best Graphic Novels for Young Adults Award or an Eisner Award nomination in 2018. Honorable Mention: Girl's Last Tour by Tsukumizu: The Anime adaptation has been described by Youtube Anime Reviewer Anime Everyday as a cross between K-On! and the grim and existential Texhnolyze. Girl's Last Tour captures a truly alienating feeling with its backgrounds and world scapes combined a soft and fluffy character design. Making for a series that will have you smiling at simple everyday occurrences while also pondering grave existential questions in equal portion. Best Anime of 2017: #1. Land of the Lustrous: The Anime adaptation of my best Manga of The Year is also my Best Anime of the Year this is not simply a cold scene for scene shot for shot workmanlike adaptation of the source material the crew uses the medium of Animation to create a full textured world using almost primarily CGI except for a few hand-drawn scenes that give a deeper sense of warmth and emotion that while not impossible with CGI is harder to be expected. Combined with a wonderful grasp of lighting and the caustic given off by the gems. Yet for all of the beautiful backgrounds, fluid animation, and the wonderful musical score by Fujisawa, Yoshiaki as well as superb Sound Direction by Nagasaki, Yukio. It is the all-star voice cast that makes this so memorable for me from relative newcomer Kurosawa, Tomoyo as Phos to veteran Rie Kugimiya as Alexandrite. The amount of range and different tones and affectations the Seiyuu have to give to characters that can come off as at best sterile sounding and inhuman. Giving warmth to non-human characters. While the voice cast is what stood out to me the most. It is really the entire cast and crew that deserve praise for this effort. As without the direction, series composition, and other roles this could have very easily turned into a soulless "tech piece" with superb voice acting. Instead, this series builds upon the already sound source material that is Ichikawa-Sensei's Manga and makes it it's own thing and not merely a pale imitation of the source material. #2. Made In Abyss: This series reminded me of a comment I had heard about Film Director Lars von Trier in that he is a Director that enjoys hurting his audience psychologically. This could just as easily be said of Director Kojima, Masayuki who has given us some truly stomach-churning scenes of transformation along with the seemingly primordial monstrosities that wish to devour the main cast thanks to his Storyboards and the Animators. As well as with Sound Direction of You Yamada and the haunting soundtrack by Kevin Penkin add only to the forboding descent into the unknown titular abyss. While originally thought of by some as "Minecraft The Anime" and derided as Pedophiliac and only that by some detractors. Made In Abyss makes for a disturbing look into what seems to be at first glance a simple child's adventure story. Only to turn into battles for survival and uncovering the mysteries of the Abyss. While keeping a cinematic level of Animation quality and unflinchingly portraying the horrors that reside in the Abyss. At times profoundly uncomfortable and even tragic Made In Abyss has the most haunting ethos of any series this year. #3. Inuyashiki: An adaptation of the Manga by Gantz creator Oku, Hiroya this series while trading in the blood splattered Nihilism Oku is known for also chronicles the deeper existential questions of humanity and the consciousness of one's actions. While also pointing an accusatory finger at Modern Japan. Some of the best scenes are where our now robotic protagonist Ichirou Inuyashiki and antagonist Hiro Shishigami reflect upon their humanity. Or in Hiro's case how his lack of humanity has now led him to embrace a philosophy similar to the one Jouichirou Nishi espoused in the early chapters of Gantz. It's a chilling study in sociopathology made all the more chilling given the loving detail to the murder scenes in some episodes. Walking a fine line between idealism and nihilism the series respects its audience enough to not make the series simplistic or preach at them. #4. Tsuki ga Kirei: An original TV Anime from Studio Feel (Mayo Chiki!, Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai!, and Oshiete! Galko-chan) chronicles the story of two introverted teenagers bookish and sensitive Kotarou Azumi and socially anxious track team member Akane Mizuno. As they begin to date and develop a relationship, this was a series that while sometimes hard to look at due to the CGI background characters. Had enough charm and warmth in the character writing to make up for the sometimes lacking technical execution. Making for a quiet and poignant look at the burgeoning feelings and tribulations of first love without sacralizing it. #5. Youjo Senki: The first work of the new Anime studio, Nut staffed mostly by old Studio Madhouse alumni chronicles the military exploits of Tanya Degurechaff a small pre-teen girl who has worked her way up the ranks of the Military. Only the seemingly malevolent little girl has a secret in that she is actually a reincarnated Salaryman being tested by God due to his lack of faith. Youjo Senki had the potential to be really offensive yet ended up being a rather interesting look at military strategy, speculative time travel, and capturing the very muck and blood of combat. Honorable Mention: Demi-chan wa Kataritai: Chronicling the quest of Teacher Tetsuo Takahashi to understand the titular Demi-Chans that are now his students this series captures not only how hard it can be for those with special needs to get or ask for help. It also shows the support that one can receive from others. Making for an overall kind and good-hearted series while also realistically portraying problems the various Demi-Humans face. A sweet slice of life with a little bit of social commentary making for a hidden gem. Best Character Of 2017: Diamond (Land Of The Lustrious): While 2017 had many great characters from the entire cast of Made In Abyss to Inuyashiki's titular protagonist the saintly office worker Inuyashiki Ichiro. For me the best character of 2017 had to be Diamond from Land Of The Lustrious be it the buoyant way the gem carries it'self the multi-layered line delivery of Kayano, Ai. To the epic fight in the episode Shiro. Diamond was a character that stole a lot of fans hearts and while not my favorite Gem. Diamond is the one that still stands out the most in my mind Best Voice Acting Male: Kohinata, Fumiyo (Inuyashiki): In his first major starring role Kohinata is able to capture the humanity and pathos of the down on his luck Inuyashiki while also making the audience care for a character that it would be able to see only as an object of condescending pity. While the few moments in which Inuyashiki releases his righteous fury on evildoers is impressive because Kohinata never has Inuyashiki lose his fundamental sweetness almost like being the righteous avenger against the Yakuza still pains him. Best Voice Acting Female: Kitamura, Eri Mitty(Made in Abyss): While Made in Abyss had strong vocal performances all around relative newcomer Tomita, Miyu as Riko deserves a brighter light shined on her. Kitamura as the sentient amorphous blob creature deserves this spot because other than a brief flashback. The role is mostly pained moans and unsettling gurgling noises all layered with a sense of deep sadness loss in a role that amounts to mere vocalizations. To break the heart of the audience with a character that only has minimal dialogue is impressive, to say the least. Best OP: "Don't" by Nakamura Emi (Warau Salesman New): A strange almost Jazz like delivery along with striking images and bright colors imposed upon a mostly black background made this a striking visual and audio spectacle to observe each week. Best ED: "Los! Los! Los!" by Aoi Yūki (The Saga Of Tanya The Evil) Aoi Yūki alternatively barking out and practically cooing orders over hard-charging drums piano and even a dubstep beat drop made this my best ED of The Year. Worst Anime of 2017 #1. Hand Shakers: Created to celebrate the Anniversary of the Animate chain of Anime goods and merchandise stores and produced by studio Go Hands. This is less an artistic statement of intent and more of a rambling discursive artistic suicide note. With nauseating overuse of photo effects painting everything in a patina of psychedelic colors that at times make the world look like it's covered in one of those color schemes used in tests used to check for colorblindness. Along with camera work that actually gave some people motion sickness in the first episode and a protagonist so bland and nondescript that he makes Kirito from Sword Art Online feel as if he was written by Dostoyevsky in comparison. Not to mention the horrendous one note secondary cast from the Class President who is romantically interested in her Tsundere little brother to the legal Loli Office Lady. The series never try hard enough to be considered failure it simply is one that finds new ways to become even more visually revolting and narratively stillborn. Calling this an artistic abortion would mean there had been some life in this dead shambling zombified chimera of a series. Truly the worst thing I have seen all year. #2. Re: Creators: This series was nothing but wasted potential with a competent director in Ei Aoki and what looked to be a fun metatextual story from the hands of Black Lagoon Mangaka Rei Hiroe. Instead, this devolved into a string of badly choreographed twists overly long fight sequences and an anti-climactic defeat of the villain that robbed said villain of any narrative importance. Instead, it ended up feeling like someone just took Cold Steel The Hedgehog and turned him into a hopelessly brokenly overpowered Anime girl. Not to mention that it all feels like some incomplete half of a story by the time it is over. While being guilty of some worst sins of Anime screenwriting. Things that Fate/Stay Night is rightfully criticized for being overwritten has become kind of truism but that franchise is at least going for some kind of grandeur. Even if in the second season of Unlimited Blade Works the attempts at profundity sound confused or nonsensical and in some instances became Memes but I digress. Re: Creators characters simply never shut up long enough for the audience to form their own opinion about anything instead the writing has the feeling of being like Nisio Isin at his worst. Consider this a waste of potential that had flaws some were unwilling to see due to wanting to be on the crest of what looked like the next big thing. #3. WorldEnd: An adaptation of a Light Novel series with an interminably long title this is a series that is bound and determined to manipulate an emotion out of the audience be it through the music the use of child voice actors the protagonist's "sad and tragic" backstory. Yet all of this pales in comparison to the fact that by the end of it this series felt like a glorified commercial for the original Light Novel series. making all those attempts to gin up sympathy for the doomed children in it rings hollow and as cynical attempt by a corporation to advertise it's product. #4. Hajimete no Gal: An unfunny and at times try-hard to be offensive sex comedy that keeps returning to a diminishing well of bad pedophile jokes and "men sure are perverted am I right" wink and nod kind of humor. Not even mentioning the dub that while it injected some life into the otherwise stiff and lifeless Japanese performances, ended up inadvertently setting off a tempest in a teapot on social media. While design and animation wise Hentai from the 90s has better animation and character design. This is a series that will go on to the slag heap of bad Romantic Comedy series along with Indian Summer and Eiken. #5. In Another World With My Smartphone: A ridiculous harem power fantasy that makes for a great study in how not to write fiction. With a protagonist that is probably the laziest example of a "Mary Sue" I've seen in recent memory. The only reason this ranked so low is there is no real challenge in criticizing this series at least something like the works Sakae Esuno can be entertainingly bad in a way that In Another World With My Smartphone can never hope to accomplish and you know a series is bad when I am saying the mind behind Big Order and Future Diary is a "better" creator. Dishonorable Mention: Saiyuuki Reload Blast: The last gasp of a long thought dead franchise in an attempt to extort money out of its remaining fan base of Fujoshi and franchise completists. I liked the original series but this had none of what made the original series enjoyable. Instead, it all feels paint by numbers caper of the week storylines with nothing of any real note and simply retelling stories that older fans already know while grinding the current timeline's plot to a halt to hold the hand of newer fans in a way that feels frankly insulting to the media comprehension skills of newer viewers. Most Anticipated Manga of 2018: #1. Fire Punch by Fujimoto, Tatsuki: Set in the future of a world that is nothing but bleak perpetual winter thanks to mysterious empowered being called The Winter Witch. Live two young orphans Agni and Luna who have the ability to regenerate body parts and supply their village with “meat” taken from their own bodies.Until the village is torched by an invading army with Agni being the only survivor and turning into a literal human torch powered by hatred and thirst for revenge and unable to die and in a constant state of pain remembering only his hatred, desire for revenge, and loss. It has beautiful art but it makes Berserk look like Strawberry Marshmellow in comparison. I look forward to this one not only for its strong draftsmanship but also for the fact this seems like it could be the most depressing thing I've ever read and I've read Gundam Thunderbolt. No, but seriously much like how Golden Kamuy ended up being a shot across the bow for me. Fire Punch looks to have that same potential to be something that could impress those looking for dark pulpy action. #2. Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs by Miura, Tadahiro: which is about a homeless high schooler with supernatural abilities named Kogashi who ends up moving into a hot spring inn populated by supernatural beings. including his new roommate a friendly ghost girl named Yuuna along with other residents being an Oni, a girl possessed by a cat god, and a Zashiki-warashi. An enjoyably salacious Harem series that feels like it was written in the late 90s or early 2000s. Feeling like a cross between Love Hina and Early Shaman King. A harem romance series that has a bit of a Monster Girl flavor attached to it while also having a protagonist that feels equal parts helpful and haplessly stuck in poverty while trying to help his new friends. While honestly, the art is so cute it's hard to sexualize any of the characters not that it stops the fans though. If anything I can hope this is a fun romp that can focus on the girls equally and not end up feeling like the focus is on them because of a popularity poll. #3. Teasing Master Takagi-san by Yamamoto, Souichirou: The story of the titular Takagi and her quest to tease her classmate Nishikata and his stymied attempts to fluster her. It's a simple concept but it's effective and also seems to be the crest of a new wave of "cute girl teases male protagonist" series that seem to be gaining some sort of cult following on 4chan. Which is where I heard about this series first. In short, I'm expecting light comedy slight romance but overall an enjoyable series. #4. Pop Team Epic by Ookawa, bkub: Despite what some Trump supporters may think I believe this series getting licensed in English is the epitome Meme Magic. A collection of almost nonsensical Japanese pop culture, Anime, Video Game references, and nonsequiturs. Pop Team Epic is like Lucky Star if it were unhinged and violent. I can't wait for this series to come out next Fall and either gain a cult following or severely confuse a number of people. #5. My Boy from Takano, Hitomi: Chronicling the friendship and growing closeness of an adult Office Lady recovering from a bad break up and a timid, kindhearted, and an effeminate looking neglected boy who bond over there mutual interest in Soccer. Vertical Comics who have had no problem licensing controversial material be it the ultra-violent historical series Wofsumund or Keiko Suenobu's Limit. This, however, is a title that I can see generating arguments that generate more heat than light. Most Anticipated Anime of 2018 #1. Pop Team Epic: While this was supposed to come out this Fall it got pushed back to Winter 2018 and will be released in January. I sincerely hope this ends up being the Andy Kaufman style comedy of Anime. A sort of throwback to the absurd nonsense humor of Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo. #2. Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu: Die Neue These - Kaikou: This is the long promised and to some fans dreaded remake of the beloved Scifi Space Opera OVA. While cautious I do hold out some hope for the series although I doubt it will go into as much depth as the exhaustive 110 episode OVA series. I still want to support a new iteration of a formative work and not fear it simply because it is new. #3. Record of Grancrest War: Another swords and sorcery epic from Ryo Mizuno the mind behind Record of Lodoss War with the direction of Mamoru Hatakeyama (Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu and Storyboard (ep 1-2, 5, 11, 13) and Episode Director (ep 2, 11) of Arakawa Under the Bridge). With Kito, Akari as Siluca Meletes this has the potential to be an old school sword and sorcery tale the likes of which we haven't seen since the 80s and 90s. #4. Basilisk: The Ouka Ninja Scrolls: I liked the original hopefully the quality of the original will still be present in this sequel. #5. Hakumei to Mikoch: A slice of life series about the lives of what look to be female gnomes I can only hope this is as relaxing as it sounds.