Another year, another top 10 post. This year, a lot of the anime I watched was stuff that didn’t actually air this year (whether it be catching up on semi-recent seasonal stuff or just backlog shows), so I wasn’t exactly spoiled for choice when writing this year’s list. It’s also why there’s a conspicuous absence of the second season of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu after gushing over the first season last year, because I’ve simply not got around to watching it yet. Nevertheless, this list is still full of stuff I’d happily recommend. As always, a Japanese airing or home-media release is the only qualification required for The 2017 Top 10 Japanese Cartoons that were Pretty Okay.

Interviews with Monster Girls

Demi-chan wa Kataritai / 亜人ちゃんは語りたい

Pretty sure I’ve said this exact line myself a few times in the past.

Starting out with a show-stopper. I don’t rank these lists, but this show might be my favourite of the year, for no other reason than I simply connected to it in a way I never have with any other show. Unlike with other shows about monster-girls, you know, the boobalicious ones with actual snake ladies and centaurs and spider girls and whathaveyou, the ones here are… mostly normal. Every “monster-girl” in the show is basically just a metaphor for various conditions, disabilities and social anxieties, and how they deal with them in their everyday lives. Being diabetic (that is to say, someone who is mostly “normal” but not quite), I related to the show in a very personal way, something that I’ve never done with any other show.

The show’s overall message of being comfortable with yourself, as well as accepting what makes people different, while not particularly deep nor heavy-handed, is nice nonetheless. Interviews with Monster Girls is ostensibly a cute-girl-slice-of-life show, so obviously won’t be in everybody’s wheelhouse, but certain people will be able to get something out of it they wouldn’t from most other shows, and for that, I absolutely commend it. For a show about “monsters”, it ends up being very human.

Miss Kobayashi’s Maid Dragon

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon / 小林さんちのメイドラゴン

Just a dragon and a salarywoman getting drunk in the woods, nbd

From Kyoto Animation, the masters of pretty TV anime, their latest is a little different from their more recent output: it’s an adaptation of an property they don’t own, and the visual style is more stylised and cutesy compared to the more realistic looking shows they’ve become known for in recent years. Our protagonist, Kobayashi, is a twenty-something office worker who, one night, got fucking wasted, strolled into the woods, discovered a dragon exiled from its own realm and offered for it to come live with her. The next morning, naturally remembering none of the previous night’s adventure, Kobayashi is greeted by a massive dragon outside her apartment, that promptly shape-shifts itself into a cute, busty girl in a maid outfit… with horns and a tail. The dragon, Tohru, took Kobayashi up on her offer from last night and decides she wants to be her maid.

What follows is a comfy, supernatural-laced slice-of-life show, which, when younger dragon Kanna joins the fray, is primarily focused on the strange but lovely little family unit that Kobayashi has found herself in. KyoAni‘s penchant for cute comedies is shown in full-force here, and is absolutely recommended if that’s the sort of anime you’re into. The opening and ending songs are also hella catchy.

Little Witch Academia

Akko’s stupid, dumb face is the best.

From those lovable bozos at Studio TRIGGER, Little Witch Academia is basically just Harry Potter: The Anime. Except, if Harry were a cute Japanese girl, and also a total idiot with no magical prowess whatsoever. Atsuko “Akko” Kagari decided she wanted to attend Luna Nova Magical Academy after seeing a magic show as a child. She struggles due to her non-magical background compared to her peers from prestigious magical families, but if nothing else, she has a bottomless well of determination and manages to make a bit of a name for herself regardless… though mostly because she’s a bit of a dimwit who keeps finding herself in ridiculous situations. The first half of the show is a mostly episodic affair, before the main plot kicks into gear proper during the second half.

A full TV show borne from the two short films TRIGGER had made previously, it retains all of the charm of those while offering a more meaty character and plot experience afforded by the increased runtime. Due to its setting and subject matter, LWA is probably the most un-anime anime on this list and also completely family-friendly, something you could show to almost anyone who enjoys a good, lighthearted adventure.

Made in Abyss

Don’t be fooled, this isn’t all cute fun and games.

One of the more popular standout titles from this year, and with good reason. The setting is based in a city that surrounds a giant, gaping hole in the Earth, the titular abyss. The abyss extends a completely unknown length down into the ground below, though is roughly segmented into layers, each with their very own unique ecosystems and dangerous flora and fauna. More importantly however, is the curse of the abyss: ascending in the abyss has various psychological and physiological tolls on the body, worsening the deeper from which you ascend. It eventually reaches a depth where, escaping the abyss is impossible: the effects of ascending from the sixth layer are death or “loss of humanity”. The story centres on Riko, a young rookie cave-raider who, in the first layer, discovers a strange robot boy who she names Reg. The plot kicks into gear when news reaches the surface that Riko’s mother, a legendary cave-raider and White Whistle (raider ranks are based on the colour of whistles they possess) has made her “last dive”: she has descended to a layer from which return would be impossible. Riko and Reg set off on a one-way journey into the abyss to find her mother, dealing with the trials and horrors they encounter along the way.

Visually, Made in Abyss is a strong contender this year, with a somewhat cutesy art-style that belies its generally much darker nature and tone. Also accompanied by an absolutely stellar soundtrack, it’s no surprise that this show was one of many people’s highlights for the year.


Looks good, as far as CG anime goes.

Apparently not the first adaptation of Tsutomu Nihei’s stunning manga, this one is produced by Polygon Pictures, fairly well known at this point for producing full 3D CGI anime that doesn’t look like total ass, such as Knights of Sidonia (another of Nihei’s works) and Ajin, previously. The film does a pretty decent job of portraying the atmosphere and architecture of Nihei’s original work and while it isn’t the full story (there is apparently a sequel in the works), the movie ends at a pretty natural stopping point. The plot and world of Blame!, a massive, continuously expanding city is super interesting, though important details are tantalisingly sparse, leaving me looking forward to the next instalment. Maybe not one for you if you’re not into broody, mostly silent, badass protagonists though.

Also, Biomega adaptation when??

The Ancient Magus’ Bride

Mahoutsukai no Yome / 魔法使いの嫁

This derpy axolotl-sprit-thing is the cutest and I want one

Chise Hatori hasn’t had a particularly good life. As a Sleigh Beggy, she naturally attracts all sorts of spirits to her, not all of them good. After her father leaving, and her mother killing herself, Chise eventually also tried to commit suicide, but was stopped by someone who convinced her to sell herself into slavery, in the hopes of finding someone who would care for her, a choice she readily accepted in her deep depression. Eventually, she is bought for the princely sum of £5 million (this is another show this year set in Britain) by one Elias Ainsworth, the titular ancient magus. Rather than buying her for any reasons particularly untoward, he seemingly bought Chise for the intention to make her his apprentice; Chise’s natural spiritual affinity give her great magical potential. Thus far, the story has Chise learn magic and deal with encounters with the various spirits and faeries that inhabit the nearby, sleepy locales of the UK, whilst also learning to come to terms with and repair her damaged self.

Brought to us by WIT Studio, the folks that also made smash hits like Attack on Titan, the still ongoing Ancient Magus’ Bride is an absolutely stunning show, with some really enjoyable world-building and plenty of nuanced, enjoyable characters.

Your Name

Kimi no Na wa. / 君の名は。

is this real life??

The latest film from Makoto Shinkai, if you’re at all into anime and aren’t aware of Your Name, that must be a pretty large rock you’ve been living under for the past year or so. Making its way to the 4th spot of Japan’s highest-grossing films ever, it’s been a massive success both in as well as out of Japan. The film tells the story of Mitsuha, a schoolgirl living in a small, rural town in the mountains, and Taki, a schoolboy living in the heart of Tokyo, who suddenly find themselves swapping bodies for the duration of random days. Initially each thinking of their experiences as very realistic dreams, the two eventually realise what’s happening and begin to leave notes for each other. The films starts out with the comedic hijinks you’d expect from a couple of teenagers randomly swapping bodies, it eventually a shifts into a more serious and gripping tale.

As expected of Shinkai’s works, Your Name is absolutely fucking gorgeous, with both the rural and urban locations shown in exquisite detail, though I will admit that his previous work, The Garden of Words is still his best looking in my opinion, though that’s somewhat to be expected due to being well under half the length of this latest offering. Short of anything by Studio Ghibli, Your Name is probably the most notable anime film for a good while, so you probably owe it to yourself to give it a watch.

A Silent Voice

Koe no Katachi / 聲の形

Sometimes, you just want to punch a young schoolboy in the face.

The second production from Kyoto Animation on this list, this time a feature film and while not quite on the same level of hype and success as Your Name, A Silent Voice is definitely one of the standouts from this year. Directed by the young Naoko Yamada (K-on!, Tamako Market), who is quickly becoming considered one of the greats in her industry, the film deals with the type of heavy topic seldom dealt with seriously in anime: bullying. The film centres on Shoko, a deaf girl, and Shoya, the boy who used to bully her in primary school. The early scenes of the film, set during their early childhood at school are fairly powerful, incredibly hard to watch without getting very angry at the characters making Shoko’s school life a living hell. It’s equally impressive that the film manages to make the audience accept Shoya’s sincere attempts to redeem himself as a young adult, who had become crushed under the guilt to the point of suicide.

As expected of a KyoAni production, particularly one with a theatrical budget, A Silent Voice is a looker (though, some of the post-processing effects could stand to have been toned down a little). I eagerly await to see what’s next from the aspiring young director.

Girls’ Last Tour

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou / 少女終末旅行

Though the character art is very simple, there is some stunning background and shot composition here.

Girls’ Last Tour is the story of Chito and Yuuri, as they explore the post-apocalyptic ruins of a civilisation that was ended because of… who knows what? That doesn’t really matter. Society is long gone, but our two protagonists aren’t. Super atmospheric and fairly slow-paced: a combination I’ve come to enjoy a lot as of late. Armed with just some basic supplies and their trusty Kettenkrad (a WWII era tractor-truck-motorbike-vehicle thing), they continuously push forward on their journey through a massive city built on multiple layers. The show shares many similarities with simple, cute, slice-of-life shows, but also likes to get a little introspective and philosophical, with the girls often having conversations on such topics as: what is a god to someone who has little to no experience with societal concepts like religion? A particular favourite of mine is episode 9, where the girls meet a cool little robot bro and a cute little fish, which prompts musings on what it means to be alive and the meaning of “empathy”.

The show is brought to us from White Fox, know for shows such as Steins;Gate, Katanagatari and last year’s Re:zero, the former two of which are big favourites of mine. Girls’ Last Tour is a show with a lot of nice, lighthearted moments, a lot of amazingly poignant ones, and plenty of others that are a combination both. A little shout-out to the ending animation as well, which is entirely animated by the author of the manga the show is based on, and in the same style. It’s great. This show is great. It’s a shame a lot of people will discount it due to the inclusion of roughly 0.2 seconds of dabbing featured in the opening…

Recovery of an MMO Junkie

Netojuu no Susume / ネト充のススメ

This pretty much exactly mirrors my own monitor setup

I don’t have a whole lot to say about this one. Visually, it’s average at best. MMO-anime are also dime-a-dozen at this point. However, MMO Junkie is good because it’s a sweet romance show that not only has some real progress, but also starring characters that aren’t high-school students! That’s a novelty in and of itself. You’d be hard-pressed to find many (or any) contemporary shows whose protagonist is a thirty-something woman.

MMO Junkie is the first production I’ve even heard of from its studio, so I’d be iterested in seeing whatever it is they so happen to tackle next. Anime could certainly do with a few more comfy romance shows that are a little bit removed from can’t-spit-it-out highschool kids.

And so, those were the best animes what I watched this year. Nothing too surprising or out of the ordinary. Like I said, I didn’t watch a whole lot of stuff from this year: in fact, if I remember right, I only watched a single other thing that wasn’t on this list. My on-disc backlog is also starting to reach frankly ridiculous levels of large, so there’s a very real chance that this list next might be clipped down from ten entries. It might not even be the same format, it could very well end up being simply “best anime I watched this year”, regardless of when they were produced.

See you in 2018!