We’re highlighting each anime season with a mini-version of our end of the year awards. We hope this helps cap-off the season with a splash (and helps us remember all of the great things we watched by the time the end of the year rolls around). So without further ado, our picks for the best of summer 2017 . . .
Best of the Best
Tsuredure Children by Studio Gokumi I was delighted by the antics of this light-hearted romantic comedy which hopped around to multiple couples’ stories. Sweet and simple to outlandish and bizarre, every situation was unique, and each character brought their varied personalities to the table. I didn’t enjoy every pair’s dynamic, but the 15-minute format meant the series moved on quickly. I found myself really wanting more episodes of Tsuredure Children.
Restaurant to Another World by Silver Link Fantasy has always been a part of anime and manga. It is a genre that lends itself to comics and animation quite brilliantly. But the trend that has become super prevalent is the ordinary dork being transported to the video game fantasy world. Whenever something like that idea becomes over saturated in the market you will see titles that either try to subvert, invert, or upend the trend. I can’t say for sure that Restaurant to Another World is a response to this prevalence but it acts as a breath of fresh air either way. In this series the fantasy world inhabitants come to our world. But they don’t send their milquetoast losers to the modern world to find romance and adventure. (I may have inadvertently inspired a new light novel premise and for that I apologize.) They come for a more important reason: to eat delicious food. Brilliant!
Restaurant to Another World takes the somewhat placid concept of iyashikei food anime and adds the punch of the fantasy world to make it a little more vibrant. Watching a congenial chef cooking delicious meals that help people with their situation is great. Adding elves, dwarves, dragons, and lizard people makes it amazing. The fact that it is all food from the human world makes the food more relatable. You know how delicious a katsudon or a chocolate parfait is but the fun comes in seeing faeries react to crepes or a vegan elf sampling a tofu steak. Even ordinary food like cookies or potatoes can be shocking to the denizens of the other world thanks to modern ingredients and cooking techniques that the inhabitants of a European styled fantasy kingdom would not know of.
I also admire the care they take in world building. While they occasionally do some info dumps and expository moments, for the most part, they try to explore the world more through the context of the costumers which leads to a lot more passive dissemination of lore. It lets the food and characters take the center stage while letting the nerds like me still get esoterica we love. Sadly they have not touched on magical systems yet but that is what you save for the second season.
Also, I really like how the series connects together all of the cast members. They start by introducing a core set of customers that don’t really have major associations. Then they slowly add characters related to the originals while also creating or revealing ties between all of them. It both adds to the world building and enriches the characters at the same time while giving you information at a controlled pace. It is a smart way to teach the audience while being super entertaining.
It is fantasy fun and food. If you don’t see the appeal in that I’m not sure we can be friends. Just remember NEVER watch this show on an empty stomach.
Mordred from Fate/Apocrypha Look. Aesthetically Mordred is just Artoria Pendragon with a ponytail who wears daisy dukes as casual clothing. But I picked her for more reasons than just her appearance. I’m not sure anyone believes that but I will try to make my case anyway. You can judge for yourself if I picked her for legitimate reasons or if I just have a horrible Saber basis. (It’s probably both but let’s do this thing anyway.)
If you did not know any better you might assume Mordred and her master Kairi Shishigou were the main characters of Fate/Apocrypha. For the first few episodes they get a good deal of development and cool moments. Sadly it turns out they are only secondary characters but it says a lot that Yuichiro Higashide used them to sell the series to readers of the original books and then brought out the real main characters. I know there are a bunch of people who are super sad they just did not keep the focus on these two.
Mordred is brash, cocky, flashy, and takes absolutely zero bullshit from anyone. She lives for herself and damn anyone who wants to get in the way of that. She could not be any more different from her more reserved and deliberate dear old dad if she tried. This also speaks volumes about her complex relationship with Artoria. At first, her contempt for the King and the Round Table is palpable. As time goes on her far more complex feelings towards her parent becomes much more apparent. Mordred has equal measures of respect and affection for Artoria as much as her darker and more easily seen resentment. It gives her a fascinating complexity that draws you into the character.
Mordred also has a great fighting style. Unlike the refined grace of her father and many of the other Servants in the Great Holy Grail War she has a far more down and dirty style. She does not have an air a gentle chivalry that is supported by quick and elegant swordsmanship like you normally see with Knight of the Round Table. She is a tavern brawler who uses power and aggression to overwhelm her opponents by any means necessary. She will throw a vulgar kick or a bit of well-timed sand in the eye to back up her powerful if somewhat unbalanced swings. She is using the armed version of the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts.
It is also worth noting her amour is damn cool. The way her helmet slides into the main body of her suit is a ticket into this spot all on its own.
Ririko Oribe from Sakura Quest Ririko is the most reluctant member of the group trying to revitalize her hometown. She is introverted and introspective, and an eccentric who loves the paranormal. Her relationship with Manoyama and her grandmother is complicated. She has never left Manoyama, but only because she just hasn’t found the strength to do it. Over the course of the series, Ririko not only starts to find that strength, but is also able to stop hating Manoyama and her place in it.
Sakura Quest by P.A. Works I wasn’t always pleased with how this series progressed, but the ending felt very right. Sakura Quest does in the end do an excellent job of not fixing all the problems and wrapping everything up with a bow. This is about a town in decline and the struggles of small town life, there is no 100% solutions to these problems. There are a lot of missteps along the way and plenty of misunderstandings each of which filter in to a surprisingly moving and heartfelt ending.
Ninja Girl & Samurai Master by TMS Entertainment With 52 episodes Ninja Girl & Samurai Master had become a staple of my weekly schedule. Each episode is short but rewarding so it was easy to keep up with. So I was a little saddened to see that after a year the series finally came to the point where there will not be a new episodes for a while. Since the manga is still on going and Nobunaga still has far to go with his journey to conquer the islands of Japan. Since so many more anime are able to take a break and still come back after a year or two it is easy to see Ninja Girl & Samurai Master getting a second season down the line. Since it is going out with hopes of sparking a follow-up it needs to end in a place where you feel an arc has ended while still begging for a followup.
With the warlord’s former alley Azai Nagamasa convincing Nobunaga’s beloved sister to stay with him it causes Nobunaga to fall into a deep depression. Despite being a bit of a space case Kichou is able to snap him back to his more confident self. It feels like a good character moment for Nobunaga while teasing the next big battle in history. You know there is much more story to go but it seems a strong place to take a break. I really look forward to seeing how they deal with the defeat and death of Nagamasa and how it effects the everyone in Nobunaga’s army. Also it will be great to see Chidori doing what she does best: being a ninja on the battlefield.
Most Delicious Food
Poodle-themed Chocolate Cake from Kirakira☆Precure A La Mode When Akira’s little sister visits the patisserie, she helps bake up a doggie chocolate cake! So basically it combines two of my favorite things.
Curry Bun from Restaurant to Another World The best food in Restaurant to Another World is not only sumptuous but it also ties into the story of the person eating it extremely well. It helps both halves of the show build on each other becoming greater than either part. One of the stories accomplishes this is the story about Kuro and the curry buns.
Kuro is a black dragon who becomes a waitress at the restaurant after falling in love with chicken curry. Being an immortal death dragon she is not one inclined to normal human interactions. As an example, when she starts working at the restaurant she constantly uses telepathy to communicate with everyone. Even in the magical world, this is considered an oddball and unnerving thing to do. But working at the restaurant eventually opens her up to new experiences which she learns from. When she tries the curry buns she finds a new way to enjoy her beloved curry. This also helps her learn about her coworkers and start talking to them vocally when appropriate.
Plus curry buns are super delicious so seeing them for a whole episode is wonderful torture.
Best Couple (Real or Imagined)
Takurou Sugawara and Chizuru Takano from Tsuredure Children Takano is a clueless, gloomy trumpeter and Sugawara is the upbeat soccer player who falls in love with her. Many of their conversations are dizzy with misinterpretation thanks to vague word choices. Sugawara tries valiantly to tell Tanako how he feels multiple times but she just doesn’t get it. However, all is not without hope as Tanako begins to open-up as the series goes on. These two were very simple and sweet.
Sarah Gold and Heinrich Seeleman from Restaurant to Another World Sarah Gold and Heinrich Seeleman are two characters who would never normally interact in an intimate manner. They live extremely far from each other and have vastly different lives. Sarah Gold is an explorer who looks for treasure and mysteries hidden in the world and Heinrich Seeleman is the noble knight of a completely different kingdom. While Sarah’s profession might occasionally bring her into the same general area as Heinrich they probably would only interact in the most cursory of manners so they would almost certainly never get to know each other. But the Western Restaurant Nekoya gives them a chance to talk outside of the normal rules of society.
At first, like many of the patrons of the Nekoya, they get to know each other trying to sing the praises of the favorite menu item. While they start of fiercely arguing for their chosen dish they staring eating together more and more. By the end of the show, they are almost inseparable. They still insist on the superiority of their beloved vittles but they become constant dinner companions. I love to see those two kids get together due to their love of food despite the distance between them otherwise.
Best Ongoing Series
Magical Circle GURU-GURU by Production I.G This is the third time Magical Circle GURU-GURU has gotten a TV series. The show is a light-hearted and bubbly parody of Japanese Fantasy RPGs with a distinct focus on the stalwart Dragon Quest series. Nike and Kukuri’s bog standard template of a quest to stop the reawakened demon lord with an ancient all but forgotten magic gives them the perfect animation for a loving parody of the genre. It is a beloved classic that seems to get remade every decade thanks to having fun characters and solid timeless jokes.
The question for the average person who reads this blog would be “Should I watch this version or go back and check out an earlier version?” I would say there are some real merits to this new version.
Right off the bat the animation just looks newer while still retaining the original character designs. Since the overall design is rather simple there is nothing really lost. To older fans, the new animation is really neither a plus or a minus but it might help catch the attention of some more reluctant newer fans.
The real bonus is the “all killer, no filler” attitude. The original series was extremely dictated to bringing every page of the manga to life as well as adding filler material to give time for the ongoing manga to get ahead of them. While the series was fun it actually moved slower than its source material. This new version has all the benefits of hindsight. It streamlines much of the story while sticking fairly close to the original material. It can basically combine jokes to make them stronger, cut parts that dragged, and add some clever twists.
This 2017 version is basically the Dragon Ball Kai of Magical Circle GURU-GURU. That alone should be a super strong selling point. It takes a hysterical comedy and makes it even better. What more could you want?
Kirakira☆Precure A La Mode from Toei Animation The most delicious anime on television! We are getting towards the end and they haven’t started throwing super dumb villains at us which is a good sign. I’ve also been impressed that Cure Parfait hasn’t taken over the show.
Magical Circle GURU-GURU “Trip Trip Trip” by ORESAMA This series is a nostalgic 90s throwback and that extends to the opening. When I saw the first moments of it, I was heartily reminded of Slayers. The map leads you into the RPG world and then welcomed with bright colors and odd dancing. MCGG’s opening feels and sounds like the silly adventure it is.
Restaurant to Another World “One In A Billion” by Wake Up, May’n! A few seconds into the opening I instantly recognized May’n’s enchanting and distinctive singing voice. It told me one thing: Everything is going to be A-OK. The opening shows off a wonderful melding of the rich fantasy world filled with magic, monsters, and mysteries and the more mundane but delicious modern world filled steaks, pork cutlets, and desserts. The opening makes sure to have distinct scenes where each world gets to show off its unique splendor while having some key scenes where the worlds meet to emphasize the series’ greatest strength. One in a Billion also just works great as an opening. It has a great upbeat vibe mixed with some splendor to inform you this is a more energetic show than your standard healing food series. It whets your appetite for both the show and a good meal.
My Hero Academia “Datte Atashi no Hero” by LiSA Often times I praise openings and closings that capture the mood of their shows succinctly. But you can do more with this space than just being a thematic summary of the show. Especially with the ending of a long-running shonen show, you can use the space to do some fun experiments that are still true to the spirit of the show but go in some interesting directions. This ending of My Hero Academia imagines all of the main cast as fantasy heroes on a grand adventure. It really fun to see Midoriya as the standard young man called away from his humble village by destiny, Iida as the proper white knight, Uraraka as a kindly mage, and Todoroki as an aloof noble. Of course, Bakugou is an annoying barbarian probably played by a min-maxing munchkin. It still feels like a superhero story it is just in a world of wizards and warriors. It a great little departure from the norm that still feels resonate with its source.
Plus just being and ending it is almost impossible to wear out its welcome. It is just lots of fun. Maybe next time they can be pulp sci-fi heroes.
Magical Circle GURU-GURU “Magical Circle” by TECHNOBOYS PULCRAFT GREEN-FUND featuring Shoko Nakagawa The first few tinkling notes of this ending song make me feel contended. Unlike the opening, the ending feels like it is supposed to lull you out of the frenetic energy that the show buzzes with.