Several years ago when my dream shifted from teaching others how to write to creating something of my own to share, writing about anime started as a way for me to keep my chops sharp. No writing session was without music—I needed it to focus and get into my flow of thought. Much of the music I listened to back then remains with me to this day, though I have added to the playlist over the years. If you have the time, I encourage you to listen to the works I link in this post.
We’ve finally arrived at the end of the series, and I’ve chosen Sakura Quest to lead us into the next year—not because it was the best of 2017, or even necessarily my favorite. Sakura Quest had its ups and downs. There was a time where I was worried the plot wasn’t going anywhere. With enough failures, and never ending communication, Yoshino grew along with Manoyama and found a new purpose in life. That’s the message I want to take to heart and relay to you now: learn from the mistakes of this past year, speak openly with the people around you, and strive to improve in the future. Whatever your belief, I wish you a wonderful holiday season and new year.
Prior to watching Wandering Son, I had already noticed the past few years’ change in approach towards gender identity. I hadn’t given it much thought other than agreeing that if ‘he’ wanted to be seen as a ‘she,’ then who was I to disagree? Using the requested pronoun wouldn’t hurt anybody or inconvenience me, even if in my mind I still considered ‘she’ a ‘he.’ Nitori and Takatsuki helped me realize that my approach needed to go beyond the surface. Instead of just going with the flow, I should delve deeper and see how my own actions are only a drop in the ocean of human equality. Their characters, complex and conflicted, work alongside a strong script and aesthetic to tell a story questioning exactly what it is we’re made of.
You didn’t think I was going to write 12 Days without referencing one of the best series of the year, did you? There is no participating in the event without Land of the Lustrous (Houseki no Kuni), which from the opening scenes established itself as a classic in the making. Everything from writing to visuals somehow improves with each episode, building upon the canvas in a steady and masterful manner. There are countless ways to discuss Land of the Lustrous, but one that has stood out to me from the beginning is the massive space occupying the frames of this show.
Almost a year has passed since the second season of Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju aired, and even now the show stands among the top with the best of 2017. The sequel was not to be outdone by the original season, which focused largely on the past, and spent much of its time contemplating the role of rakugo from present to future. One of the story’s champions for progress can be found in the complicated character of Konatsu.
The near-constant stand up comedy in Girls’ Last Tour owes its success to the convincing personalities of its two main characters, Chito and Yuuri. As straight man and funny man, the girls give the viewers a unique perspective on their lives in a world nearly devoid of any other humans. In a way, their seemingly opposing outlooks mirror the very place they inhabit; as empty the spaces and dire the search for sustenance are, Chi and Yuu still manage to entertain one another and see the good things in life, as shown in the snapshots from their camera. As the viewer, we know we should be worried about them running out of food and fuel. What would happen if one of them became deathly ill, or injured? What if they run into someone far less kind than the ones we’ve met thus far? The danger always lingers, as does the compulsion to keep moving onward and upward.
When I was a child, I latched onto any book I could get my hands on. My genre of choice was fantasy, particularly anything based on Celtic and Gaelic mythology. Some of my favorite authors included Lloyd Alexander (The Chronicles of Prydain), T.A. Barron (The Merlin Saga), Susan Cooper (The Dark is Rising), and, of course, J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings). They each wielded their magic with aplomb, weaving narratives that bewitched my senses and promised a journey of my own someday.
These days, I read far less than I used to or would like, and when I watch anime, most of the fantasy is based on Japanese mythology. When The Ancient Magus’ Bride appeared before me, I felt an instant jolt of nostalgia and affection. Its familiar setting and language brought me back to my childhood, where I imagined going on that adventure promised me so long ago.
I can’t think of a single success story as surprising as Kemono Friends, an anime that aired at the start of the year and quickly stormed through the anime community. I pride myself on an open mind when it comes to anime—I try to give every series the benefit of the doubt no matter my reservations about the art or genre. Somehow Kemono Friends slipped past my net. It wasn’t until I saw the hype on Twitter and many of the blogs I read that I realized I had almost missed out on something special. So I set out to remedy my mistake, and tried the first couple of episodes. The story didn’t seem remarkable, and the CG animation and art were an eyesore…but I kept watching. I wanted to visit the next area with Kaban and Serval. I wanted to meet more Friends. Before long, I realized I didn’t want the story to end. Japari Park had become real.
I still remember a lot of the feelings I had back in middle school and high school. I tended towards embarrassment, yet liked attention just enough to get me in the good graces of others. I wanted my teachers to praise me, students to envy me, and boys…well, they were a whole different area altogether.
Some of my favorite books are geared towards older children and young adults. Though they span a wide range of topics and styles, they do have one thing in common: they evoke a sense of authenticity. The young characters sound and act their ages, usually. If they take more mature or jaded views, there’s always a good reason for it. Tsuki ga Kirei (as the moon, so beautiful), an original television series that aired in the spring, shares this precious trait. Azumi and Mizuno act like the middle school kids they are, reminding me so much of what I was like at that age.
When Little Witch Academia made its entrance first in 2013 then later in 2015, I never expected that I would someday consider the characters and their world to be one of the most satisfying experiences of 2017. In much the same way that Made in Abyss showed us a terrifying and exhilarating new kind of fantasy, Little Witch Academia took familiar conventions of magic and presented them in a masterful blend of old and new worlds.