Welcome to Megalomaniac’s Anime Awards 2017! This is my first attempt at doing awards all on my lonesome - though I have been involved with the UK Anime Network Awards for a number of years - so bear with me while I find my feet.
I’m starting these awards now because I felt that this year, in particular, there were some great series which deserved more recognition but were, for various reasons, somewhat sidelined. Some were on lesser known streaming platforms, some weren’t as well marketed as they might have been, and some just didn’t sound all that good.
What qualifies me to make such judgements? Well, not much really. I’m the Anime Editor over at the UK Anime Network and have been reviewing Anime for about 4½ years at this point, so if nothing else I’ve seen, written about, and read about an awful lot of anime.
With the introductions out of the way it’s onto the awards themselves, and first up is Best Anime Series 2017
Best Anime Series 2017
The best Anime series of 2017, this could be a streaming series which aired from Winter 2017 to Autumn 2017 inclusive or a UK physical (DVD/Blu-ray) release (or re-release).
This has been an interesting year for streaming series in particular. With new service HIDIVE beginning to air a lot of Sentai Filmworks shows, which would have previously found a home with Crunchyroll, even poaching a few from the venerable streaming service. As well as the plucky young newcomer debuting both streaming giants, Amazon and Netflix, have been continuing to delve further into anime.
Our first runner up is…
3. Little Witch Academia
Synopsis: Akko enrolls at the Luna Nova Witchcraft Academy. She’s not the best student, but her bright attitude is the key to her and her friends’ success.
This utterly charming series can be found streaming in its entirety on Netflix. It is family friendly, gorgeously animated, and thoroughly entertaining from start to finish. Fans of Studio Trigger’s more outlandish previous efforts, such as Kill la Kill, will find a big change of pace here. Little Witch Academia is a much more refined and restrained series than the studio’s previous output might indicate them capable of. This is a series the whole family can enjoy, and it’s one that deserves to see popularity far outside of the usual anime circles.
Second place goes to…
2. Recovery of an MMO Junkie
Synopsis: Morioka Moriko is 30, single, and a NEET. She has dropped out of the real world. Searching for a safe place, the place she ended up… is the online world!! In this online game, Moriko starts a new life as a handsome young man with silky hair named Hayashi. However, she’s an obvious noob and ends up dying numerous times when a lovely girl named “Lily” lends her a helping hand. Meanwhile IRL, she ends up having a shocking encounter with a mysterious handsome salaryman named Sakurai Yuta. After meeting him, the real world starts to change and starts affecting her online world as well?!
This series was one of the big surprises of 2017, and can be found streaming on Crunchyroll. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t sound all that great from the synopsis does it? But this series handles its subject matter so well that it can’t fail but win a place in your heart. The main characters are lovable and relatable, and let’s face it who wouldn’t want to follow in Moriko’s footsteps by quitting a their stressful and miserable working life to spend their days playing video games? The only real plot hole to be found here is how on earth Moriko manages to afford such a lifestyle change?
What really makes this series stand out is the delicate way it handles the characters emotions and inter-character relationships, especially things like Moriko’s issues with self-confidence and how it affects her real life relationships (or lack thereof). This is very much an adult series, not in the blood, gore and nudity sense often associated with anime, but in the mature sense of the word. The characters deal with very human issues and emotions, which will be all too recognisable to many of us, especially those who are of a similar age to the series’ protagonists. It is that depth and realistic portrayal of emotion which which wins Recovery of an MMO Junkie a spot here.
And the winner is…
1. Land of the Lustrous
Synopsis: In the distant future, a new immortal and genderless life form called Gems populate the Earth. The 28 Gems must fight against the Lunarians, who attack them regularly to abduct them and to turn them into decorations. Each Gem is assigned a role, such as a fighter or a medic.
Being only 300 years old, Phosphophyllite is the youngest of the Gems and has no assignment yet. They want to help to fight the Moon Dwellers, but are too weak and brittle for battle. One day the sensei of Gems, Kongou, assigns them the task of creating a natural history encyclopaedia.
A series that didn’t really get the love it deserves, largely by virtue of being streamed on HIDIVE. This is despite sites such as Anime Feminist covering the series in great detail. HIDIVE is a service still in it’s infancy, which doesn’t seem to have made much headway here in the UK. This is largely a problem of their own making, by pretty much ignoring UK users in announcements and communications, but that is a story for a different article…
Land of the Lustrous follows the trials and tribulations of Phos (Phosphophyllite), who begins as an utterly useless and, frankly, annoying member of the Gems but grows massively through various hardships and misfortunes. The series’ story is a deceptively simple one, but it is in the characters where Land of the Lustrous really shines. Each individual is, well, individual, they bring their unique skills and personality to each issue facing the Gems.
Life is not easy for the Gems, who face being captured, shattered, and turned into jewellery by the Lunarians on a regular basis. They have to fight for their survival and this leads to some truly spectacular battles. The series is animated in CG and, while this would normally sound alarm bells for many anime fans, Land of the Lustrous is beautifully animated. The fight scenes in particular are spectacular, boasting fast, fluid, and rapid action sequences which would be the envy of any action series. But this is no mere action series, there is a great deal of depth, and even comedy, to be found here. Making Land of the Lustrous the must-watch anime series of 2017.
Best Anime Film 2017
The best anime film of 2017, this could be a theatrical release or physical (DVD/Blu-ray) release (or re-release) during the 2017 calendar year.
We’ve had a pretty good year for film releases here in the UK, especially in theatrical form. No longer do you have to make a yearly pilgrimage north - to Scotland Loves Anime - in order to see anime on the big screen. Films such as Masaaki Yuasa’s family friendly Lu Over the Wall and the ever popular Sword Art Online have seen screenings nationwide.
Our first runner up is…
3. A Silent Voice
Synopsis: A new girl joins a primary school class. Shoko is a shy, immensely vulnerable girl who is disabled - she is deaf and has trouble speaking. Her arrival annoys a boy in the class, Shoya, who starts bullying Shoko, with the support of some of his classmates. The results of this persecution are terrible, for both Shoya and Shoko. Five years later, the former bully Shoya is now a teenage pariah, tormented by his memories of what he did. He’s even thinking of suicide. Then he meets Shoko again, who seems able to forgive him for what he did, and he tries to make amends for his past actions. Shoya also makes new friends, and he even starts reconnecting with his childhood classmates. But can the wounds of the past be healed so easily?
First up is a film which has had both a theatrical run and a physical release this year thanks to Anime Limited, and what a film it is. I reviewed it for the UK Anime Network and gave the film a whopping 10 out of 10, that it is only third on this list speaks volumes of the quality of anime films made available this year.
The exceptional way in which A Silent Voice deals with difficult subjects such as bullying and suicide is second to none, you simply will not find a better treatment of such subjects in any film animated or otherwise. The animation is similarly exceptional, with Kyoto Animation really excelling themselves - by taking a slightly more stylised approach than their usual fare - and perfectly realising this striking coming of age tale. The only black mark against this film for some is that it can be a difficult watch at times, but that is no real criticism at all.
Second place goes to…
2. Perfect Blue
Synopsis: Mima Kirigoe (Junko Iwao) has a bright future ahead of her when she leaves the chart-topping pop trio “CHAM!” to pursue an acting career. When a role in a violent crime drama courts controversy and a bizarre blog starts detailing every aspect of her life however, Mima begins to fall apart and her associates start turning up dead.
Stalked by madness amidst a whirlpool of fear and a dangerous dance of reality and delusion, Mima is left helpless and riddled with self-doubt in a world where innocence is lost and dreams become nightmares.
I’m not entirely sure this a fair inclusion, as it isn’t just one of the best animated films of all time, it’s also one of the best psychological thrillers full stop. Perfect Blue had a limited theatrical run for it’s 20th anniversary, hence it qualifies under my stated criteria. This is another film which scored the maximum 10 out of 10 over at the UK Anime Network when Andy Hanley reviewed it. It is a film which deserves to sell much better than it has done during it’s 20 year life, and to be known much more widely too. It is probably held back somewhat by being an animated movie, but that is also what allows Kon to play such wonderful tricks on the viewer. It is that rare thing, a film that will keep you guessing and which will keep you in suspense, right up to the point it is finally ready to reveal itself. And what a spectacularly good finale it is. If you have any interest at all in thrillers then this is a film you will love.
And the winner is…
1. Night is Short, Walk on Girl
Synopsis: Gracefully yet violently, The Girl with Black Hair (Kana Hanazawa) swirls through the abstract Kyoto night a joyful tempest. Blowing through pub crawls, festivals and book fairs, her youthful glee infects parties of increasingly eccentric characters, but amongst the debtors, existentialists and the God of the Old Book Market, can she be convinced “coincidental” encounters are fate and will she notice the Senpai (Gen Hoshino) in pursuit of her love?
Whether the hands on your clock move fast or slow, Night is Short, Walk On Girl.
Masaaki Yuasa’s known for his stylistic animation and quirky take on comedy, and with Night is Short, Walk on Girl he turns both up to 11. I had the great pleasure to see this film at Scotland Loves Anime, and the film brought the house down - the whole theatre was crying with laughter. There was even a movement to try and get the film to win the prestigious Golden Partridge award, despite not qualifying for the award’s strict criteria (it had premiered elsewhere in the UK).
Yuasa’s trademark stylised animation is there in spades, but with an added fluidity and dynamism over his previous works. The whole film was animated in Flash, which is something of a swear word to most Web Users, but here he makes the medium shine, with each and every frame dancing to his tune.
The comedy on offer here is riotous, this is a film that will have you in stitches. There are so many tones and levels of comedic content stuffed into this film that it can’t fail to make you smile, from base toilet humour to python-esque surrealist humour, this film has it all. There’s even an utterly ridiculous and supremely funny musical interlude stuffed in there for good measure.
Night is Short, Walk on Girl wins on the basis that it made me smile more than any other film this year. In-fact it made me smile more than any new film has for a very long time, and that is no mean feat.
That’s 2017 over and done with, it’s 2018 tomorrow and there will be a whole host of new anime on the way soon. Everything highlighted here is well worth seeking out and watching, and some will likely see a physical release sometime in 2018. So, even if there’s nothing else worth watching in 2018 some of 2017’s best will probably make a reappearance.
Happy New Year!!!