Updated: Jan 25, 2018
2017 was a great year to be an anime fan. So many spectacular new shows and sequels appeared on the scene that it's hard to say which ones were truly the best. That said, here are a few that truly stood out of me.
5. Clean Freak! Aoyama-kun
Clean Freak! Aoyama-kun may seem like an unlikely choice for the #5 spot. It wasn't a show that met with critical acclaim, and it was a gimmicky slice of life series with no real plot - but it stuck with me after my initial viewing.
Aoyama-kun is about a soccer prodigy who is so afraid of dirt that he can't touch people, and has to spend hours cleaning every space that he enters. This obviously conflicts with the whole soccer thing, since the game is inherently dirty.
What's great about this show is that although Aoyama essentially has a mental illness, the other characters don't judge him for it. Yes, Zaizen grouses about how he's inconviencing the team in the first episode, but even he comes around quickly enough. Aoyama's obsession with cleanliness is a problem because it exhausts him, but the other characters see it as an endearing quirk, and in fact it's one of the reasons he's the most popular student in school.
How often do you get to see neurodiversity glorified in an anime? Hardly ever - but that's what Aoyama-kun brings to the (spotlessly clean) table.
4. Recovery of an MMO Junkie
Recovery of an MMO Junkie features a 30-year-old woman named Moriko Morioka who quits her corporate job to play video games full time. While this could be the start of a Welcome to the NHK style animated nervous breakdown, Moriko's story is actually a rom com. While playing an MMO as a male character, she meets an allegedly female player named Lily who she grows close to. As it turns out, Lily is actually someone she knows in real life. The show relies largely on coincidences, but they don't seem hokey or forced.
It's a genuinely cute show about a relatable protagonist who is trying to get her life back on track. It's not judgmental - Moriko isn't a bad person for quitting her job or relying on video games for social interaction - it's just what's going on right now, and it ends with her not totally solving anything, but working on it, and maybe starting a romance while she's at it.
3. Yowamushi Pedal: New Generation
I'm basically the biggest Yowamushi Pedal stan on Earth or any other planet. I love this show so much, I'll defend the parts I passionately dislike, like the utter lack of female characters, just because it's Yowamushi Pedal.
The show follows Onoda Sakamichi, a nerdy high school freshman who wants to start an anime club so that he can make friends, but who ends up finding those friends on the school's bike team.
While Onoda remains important in New Generations, Season 3 is more about developing side characters and introducing new ones. The new ones are just intriguing enough to pique viewer interest for Season 4 - particularly Komari, Midousuji's bizarre new friend blue-haired friend whose vore fetish makes Midousuji look normal. What really stands out, though, is the older characters who didn't see much action in Seasons 1-2.
One example is Terufumi Sugimoto, who in this season finally starts to understand how hard he has to work to be as good at cycling as he keeps telling everyone he is. He stops fooling around, puts in the blood, sweat, and tears - and fails to land a spot on the Inter-High. Junta Teshima and Hajime Aoyagi go through similarly heart-wrenching character growth - they had to learn to stop depending on each other, develop their own skills, and figure out how to be great when they aren't prodigies.
If you're not caught up on Yowamushi Pedal, now's the time - Season 4 premieres on January 8th.
2. Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju
Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju is one of the most artistically brilliant shows to come out of 2017 or 2000-anything. It's one of the few anime to depict a character's growth through a lifetime. Kikuhiko starts out as a young boy whose dreams of being a dancer have been crushed, not only by a leg injury, but also by the restrictions of his gender in 1940's Japan. He's apprenticed by a rakugo storyteller, and despite an initial lack of aptitude, he becomes a master - though ultimately a twisted and lonely one who wants to take rakugo with him to the grave. Kikuhiko makes powerful connections with others and then destroys them, and he pushes away relationships that ultimately heal him. Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju is a portrait of a deeply flawed man, who viewers come to love despite - and because of - his flaws.
1. My Hero Academia Season 2
Not seeing My Hero Academia is the anime equivalent of not seeing Star Wars. It was all over the Internet, and for good reason - it's phenomenal.
In Season 1, Izuku Midoriya meets his idol, a superhero named All Might, and works his butt off trying to master All Might's quirk, One For All. The season is a delight, but only if you dig Izuku's particular journey. Season 2 opens up the world, delving into his classmates at UA High, a school where powerful teenagers learn to hone their skills and become professional superheroes. It also begins to develop villains, professional, teachers, and vigilantes, and slowly starts to reveal the truth behind the mysterious ability that Izuku inherited. Over the course of the series, you fall in love with almost every character, except Mineta. Mineta sucks.
Season 3 debuts in April 2018, and personally, I'm on tenterhooks.
What's your Top 5? Let us know in the comments.