The snow has melted, the flowers are budding, and the Winter 2017 anime season has finally passed. This season was, well, lackluster. While it had a few standout shows, very few packed the punch of previous seasons’ bunch. The ones that were good weren’t good because they were bombastic or attention grabbing, but rather that they were smart or sweet. This left the whole season feeling like it lacked oomph. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Here are my best and worst anime of Winter 2017!
Out of all the anime I started at the beginning of the season, only one kept drawing me back each week to watch. Now, I realize “best” is not nearly as quantifiable as worst, and a lot of my decision came down to personal preference over anything. That being said, I couldn’t help but put Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid in my number one spot! This anime is nothing if not the purest example of charming. The character interactions between each of the dragons and their chosen humans kept drawing me back for each episode. It was so fun watching Tohru try to get Kobayashi to care for her. I loved seeing a cute relationship blossom between Kanna and Riko. Most of all, I loved the simple partnership of Fafnir and Makoto, a nerd friendship done right!
While Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid excelled most in storytelling, it surpassed expectation in all other fronts. I loved the color palette and backgrounds, all a watercolor-like image of perfection. As shown above, the reaction-based animation was also golden, which contributed a lot to the comedic scenes. It gave the scenes a cause and effect reminiscent of Warner Bros! I honestly cannot wait for the new season to arrive.
There were a lot of others that can be placed up here. Konosuba was wonderful as always. Saga of Taunya the Evil was a great take on the standard war anime. The Ancient Magus’ Bride was outstanding, though it still only has two episodes. But, for me, the anime that stole the season was definitely Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid! Come for the comedy, stay for the endearing character moments!
Let’s be honest. There’s a lot of bad that floats under the radar each season. Countless boring, uninspired shows go completely unwatched despite their best efforts to be horrible. And yet, just one was actively bad. The gem was Handshakers!
Sponsored by Animate, a huge anime chain store in Japan, Handshakers had quite the backing behind it. From the stills, it looks glossy and beautiful (except for the one I put above), with saturated pastel and neon colors dancing back and forth. As for the show, though, the color work is pretty much the only thing good about it.
The first thing anyone watching would notice is that the animate is mostly done through CG models with 2D anime skin. This makes watching it a chore to say the least. While I am not one of those people who says “all anime CG=bad anime CG,” there has yet to be an example that I have seen that looks better than a sub-par 2000’s video game cut scene. It can be done well… Handshakers just isn’t the place to prove it.
To be fair, the animation does get better as the story progresses, smoothing out significantly and looking better rendered. The ending fight scene, despite boring fight choreography, was aesthetically nice. They actually did manage to more seamlessly incorporate the CG, using it instead for just the weapons and the backgrounds, which made it less painful to sit through.
One component that maintained its consistency in pain was the writing. More specifically, the writing was boringly unoriginal. (Which honestly causes me more pain than a poorly written script. At least those I can laugh at!) Essentially take Fate Stay Night or Pandora Hearts but have the characters hold hands. Ta daa! We have your new marketable product [trumpet noise]! Even beyond that, the conflicts were unoriginal and the characters trite. Handshakers is just another example of a show that thinks character quirks are a good substitute for an actual character.
Despite the advertising push and a significant amount of critical praise, Handshakers was an uninspired mess. While I do feel a little bad tearing apart something that was clearly a passion project of an indie studio, I do not understand where the praise it has garnered has come from. I do appreciate risk-taking in media, particularly when much larger studios currently dominate the anime market, but taking a risk and being indie doesn’t excuse the anime from being bad.
Most of the good anime was not new. While my best was an original and charming take on slice-of-life anime, most of my follow-up winners were ones that were already successes before. Konosuba, Little Witch Academia, and others were already great and didn’t need to try anything new to appease their fans (though they certainly earned the fans they have gotten). Come next season, I’m hoping there are more new properties that pack that punch of sweet, sweet originality the anime scene so desperately needs.