Best Anime of 2017

Looking for something new to watch? Here are 15 of the best anime of 2017, any of which might very well become your new obsession

The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.

Don’t you just hate it when you’re at a party and everyone’s discussing Kill la Kill and you’re unable to jump in? What about when you’re in the elevator at work and people are discussing the latest Attack on Titan development? Or when your Uber driver wants to make small talk and naturally reaches for the low hanging fruit of Neon Genesis Evangelion and you just have to quietly look at your shoes?

Okay, so anime’s presence might not be at that level quite yet, but its popularity only continues to grow. With more and more impressive series coming out every year, it can sometimes be exhausting to not only keep track of what’s out there, but what’s actually worth the effort. Rather than drown in all of this new content, as 2017 comes to a close, now’s the time to grab our life preserver. For both the obsessive anime fan and those entirely new to the form, here are the 15 best anime series from 2017 that demand your attention.

Best Anime of 2017 - Hand Shakers

15. Hand Shakers

What’s It Like? Battle Royale meets The Amazing Race meets Hand Holding

How Long Is It? 12 Episodes

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Where Can I Watch It? Crunchyroll.com (sub only), Funimation.com (sub and dub)

If the phrase “extreme hand shaking” riles up your adrenaline and launches your excitement level straight to the moon, then boy do I have a show for you! Okay, there’s a lot to unpack with this one. A boy named Tazuna encounters a girl named Koyori who is fast asleep. In a sort of Sleeping Beauty—but with hands—scenario, Tazuna’s hand is drawn to hers and then things start kicking into gear. Tazuna and Koyori are suddenly transported to a world known as the Ziggurat and learn that they are of a special group of people known as Hand Shakers.

What do Hand Shakers do? Their purpose is to battle the other Hand Shakers with the ultimate prize being the right to confront God and get a wish granted. If that weren’t enough, the special powers that are awoken in each Hand Shaker are called their Nimrod. Plus, if Tazuna and Koyori are ever not holding hands for too long, they begin to experience physical pain. So yeah, this show’s a lot of fun.

Admittedly, Hand Shakers might not always stick the landing with its storytelling, but it’s a show worth jumping into because of the utterly gorgeous animation and art style that’s in play here. This thing is a marvel to watch, with the animation and music giving all of the fights extra emphasis. If you only watch one anime about extreme handshaking this year, make it this one.

Best Anime of 2017 - Onihei

14. Onihei

What’s It Like? Kung Fu meets Parenthood

How Long Is It? 12 Episodes

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Where Can I Watch It? Amazon Prime’s Anime Strike (sub only)

Onihei might technically be a historical anime set in 1783 during the Edo period of Japan, but the concept of justice that the series deals with is evergreen. Onihei follows Heizou Hasegawa, the so-called “Demon” of the blade arts. Hasegawa’s job is to dole out justice to the thieves, arsonists, and criminals that run amok in the area. There’s a maturity and elegance present in Onihei that helps elevate its material, almost making it feel like an anime from out of the ‘80s or ‘90s. There’s also a stunning jazz soundtrack that pairs up with all of the swordplay remarkably well. The show does an effective job at building this world that’s held together by code and honor, as well as the consequences when those things begin to crumble.

Trying to describe this series inevitably doesn’t do its precise voice justice. All you need to do to get on board with this show is take in one of the show’s frenetic samurai sword fights with its sprawling jazz scores. It might not be the flashiest anime of the season, but this one might genuinely surprise you. If you were a fan of Rurouni Kenshin, then you’ll be a fan of Onihei.

Best Anime of 2017 - Gabriel Dropout

13. Gabriel DropOut

What’s It Like? American Gods meets Degrassi

How Long Is It? 12 episodes and two specials

Where Can I Watch It? Crunchyroll.com (sub only)

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Gabriel DropOut is the very best sort of silliness and you’ll be better off for accepting its absurd point of view into your life. While “angel anime” might be a trigger for some, this series strips that concept down to its barest halo and wings and really just plays with the morality issues involved with heaven and hell. The series pushes forward the idea that once angels graduate school in heaven, they land down on Earth in order to better understand the workings of the planet. Gabriel Tenma was heaven’s prize pupil, yet when she gets down to Earth, she becomes obsessed with video games and adopts a life of complete sloth.

The new Gabriel goes about life more concerned about microtransactions and timed gaming events than the fate of good and evil. Enter Raphi, Vigne, and Satania, another angel and two demons who pal up with Gabriel in an effort to get down to the bottom of humanity. Much fun is derived from the constant undercutting of typical angel/demon stereotypes, and these four characters getting in each other’s cases and trying to make one another commit good or bad deeds. Gabriel DropOut hurls jokes at you with chaotic fury while offering up a fun, new take on an idea so old that it’s literally Biblical.

Best Anime of 2017 -  EIDLIVE

12. ElDLIVE

What’s It Like? Brooklyn Nine-Nine meets Star Trek

How Long Is It? 12 episodes

Where Can I Watch It? Crunchyroll.com (sub only), Funimation.com (sub and dub)

Anime dealing with outer space are always a treat, with elements like alien and planet designs allowing shows to really highlight their creativity. ElDLIVE looks at typical teenager, Chūta Kokonose, whose life all of a sudden gets a lot less typical. Kokonose has been hearing a voice in head since he was a small child, but after encountering an alien called Chips and being recruited to be a member of the ElDLIVE team, he learns that this voice is actually a Montalien inside of him, named Dolugh. ElDLIVE are a space police force whose job is to make the universe a safer place by rooting out alien criminals that are hiding on Earth. The aliens and ElDLIVE members operate with a special power known as SPH (Space Pheromone), which allows Kokonose in steady contact with the alien within him. Kokonose’s “aw shucks” attitude towards all of this is juxtaposed nicely with fellow teenager and ElDLIVE member Misuzu Sonokata, who’s much more seasoned at her job.

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Every episode introduces some new absurd breed of alien with the show featuring polished visuals that make its fun concept even easier to take down. While ElDLIVE does skew more to the comedic side of things, it’s still not averse to getting dark and putting characters through grueling trials, giving it a nice balance, too. Besides, any series that has a character that’s an anthropomorphic moon named Méliès clearly has its sense of humor in the right place.

Best Anime of 2017 - Little Witch Academia

11. Little Witch Academia

What’s It Like? Harry Potter meets The Magic School Bus

How Long Is It? 12 episodes

Where Can I Watch It? Netflix (sub and dub)

Trigger is one of those animation studios that whenever they take on a new project, it’s something that you want to put on your radar, regardless of its topic, because it’s going to end up being one of the most beautiful anime of the year. Little Witch Academia started off as a film (and a sequel), but the property has seen such popularity that a television series exploring the world of Luna Nova was made a priority.

Little Witch Academia follows Akko Kagari, a witch superfan who is excited to be enrolling in the esteemed Luna Nova Magical Academy. Not only that, but Akko comes from a non-magical background making her enrollment at Luna Nova a bit of a double-edged sword.

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A lot of this show is about celebrating the beauty (and responsibility) of magic, but there’s also much charm in the fact that Akko is not good at magic. You’re following a character that struggles to even ride a broom properly, not some pro. Akko also has a good group of varied witch friends to bounce off of with their banter being a fun aspect to the series as well. Little Witch Academia tends to avoid serialization and larger story arcs, which gives the show a nice boost of freedom where every episode is something completely different. One week can be about a dragon. Another about a renegade skeleton looking for his lost love. There’s much less urgency with this show, but it’s a pleasant, beautiful looking anime that will sneak up on you in other ways.

Best Anime of 2017 - The Ancient Magus’ Bride

10. The Ancient Magus’ Bride (Mahoutsukai no Yome)

What’s It Like?  Corpse Bride meets Chronicles of Narnia meets Jane Austen

How Long Is It? 12 episodes

Where Can I Watch It? Crunchyroll (sub only), Funimation (sub and dub)

This anime is seriously weird stuff, but it hides a truly elegant, romantic story underneath its gothic nature. The Ancient Magus’ Bride is pretty much a more extreme version of Beauty and the Beast, but instead the Beast is a terrifying antelope skeleton and Belle is his slave-wife. That’s this show in a nutshell, when a young girl with latent magical abilities is sold off to the foreboding skeleton mage.

This premise seems like it could be pure nightmare fuel, and in many ways it is, but the series creates a very fostering, teacher-pupil relationship between the two. The girl gets introduced to a series of stunning worlds (one of which is an island entirely of cats) and becomes more learned and self-reliant in the process. This isn’t a show about this girl being helpless to her master’s beck and call, but the two are very much equals and the lessons learned are extraordinary in nature. The Ancient Magus’ Bride presents the most unusual “love story” of the year and its unique vision makes it something all people should give a shot.

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Best Anime of 2017 - Urahara

9. Urahara

What’s It Like? Project Runway meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers

How Long Is It? 12 episodes

Where Can I Watch It? Crunchyroll (sub only), Funimation (sub and dub)

Urahara is a strange little series that is more about style over substance. It follows a group of girls obsessed with Harajuku culture who find themselves in battle against an invasion of aliens who want to steal their adorable culture. It’s a weird idea that features things like a live-action talking tempura shrimp, but this anime still works even if you have no Harajuku knowledge. In fact, it’s genuinely surprising that this is an anime with a dub counterpart since it seems so intrinsically linked to Japanese culture. Then again, Dagashi Kashi also had a dub and maybe it’s a testament to just how popular Harajuku culture has become in America. Or maybe they’re just that confident in the animation.

When it begins it might feel like Urahara is just Harajuku fan service and “cuteness porn,” but the series surprises and whips out a compelling arc by the time that it comes to its conclusion. These plucky characters begin to turn into the very aliens that attack them and some real decisions need to get made. That being said, this isn’t an anime that you come to for its story, this is a show that’s a marvel to look at and every episode takes advantage of that and shows off in a different way. Urahara is far from the deepest series of the year, but it is the most beautiful.

Best Anime of 2017 - Saga of Tanya the Evil

8. Saga of Tanya the Evil (Youjo Senki)

What’s It Like?  Band of Brothers meets Big

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How Long Is It? 12 episodes

Where Can I Watch It? Crunchyroll.com (sub only), Funimation.com (sub and dub)

Saga of Tanya the Evil is basically one long grudge match between an Atheist and God. The anime throws a lot at its audience and tries to be many different things, which isn’t always a negative.

In present time, a selfish Atheist Japanese businessman is pushed in front of a passing subway. Curiously, time gets stopped by an omnipotent force known as “Being X,” before the businessman’s death. When the businessman refuses to acknowledge Being X as God, he not only transports the man into an alternate magic-friendly version of World War I Europe, but he also puts him in the body of a young girl, Tanya Degurechaff. Being X informs Tanya that if she dies of an unnatural death or fails to believe in him, her soul will go to hell for all of the crimes from her previous life. Stuck in this war-torn territory, Tanya joins the military with career advancement on her mind, planning to avoid the front lines of battle as much as possible. In the process, Tanya ends up becoming one of the most enviable, ruthless members of the military and begins changing the shape of history in the process.

The spiritual struggle that Tanya finds herself in as Being X continually tries to manipulate her (he makes it so her gun won’t fire unless she prays to him first) is one thing to love about the show, but the other is the action that goes down in this bizarre world. The military is headed up by mages that basically fly through the air and fire super-powered weapons with the aid of magic. The result of all of this are dazzling aerial battles that give Attack on Titan a run for its money, while mixing magic with history in the most bad-ass way. Its dub also kicks ass.

Best Anime of 2017 - Mr. Osomatsu

7. Mr. Osomatsu (Season 2)

What’s It Like? Community meets Mr. Show

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How Long Is It? 13 episodes, but still airing; likely 26 based on season one

Where Can I Watch It? Crunchyroll (sub only)

Few anime operate with such disregard for things like narrative or structure as Mr. Osomatsu. Fujio Akatsuka’s absurdist comedy originally hails from the ’60s, saw a revival in the ’90s, and then came back again in a big way in 2016.

Mr. Osomatsu stars the Matsuno sextupulets, who are all a nice collection of caricatures, with each segment transporting these irresponsible siblings into a new scenario. This allows the show to be fast and relentless with its jokes and Mr. Osomatsu becomes a show that’s impossible to predict. We highlighted Mr. Osomatsu’s brilliance last season, but it’s even more encouraging to see that the show is far from running out of ideas. This second season has pushed the show to work even harder with its ridiculous comedy and it’s still one of the funniest anime on television. This show is such an easy anime to digest and its segmented storytelling makes it a great thing to watch if you’ve got a few minutes to spare.

Best Anime of 2017 - Time Bokan: The Villains Strike Back

6. Time Bokan: The Villains Strike Back (Time Bokan: Gyakushuu no san Akunin) (Season 2)  

What’s It Like?  Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? meets Power Rangers

How Long Is It? 13 episodes, but still airing; likely 24 based on season one

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Where Can I Watch It? Crunchyroll (sub only)

Time Bokan is a super fun series that sees a boy get pulled into the future to work the 24th century’s Space-Time Administration Bureau to find the “True History.” Each episode sees the team visiting pivotal from figures—people that range from Thomas Edison, to Hattori Hanzo, to Santa Claus, to Babe Ruth—and learning actual real facts about these figures in the process. The show focuses on the more unusual, unbelievable details about these people from history and there’s actually a lot of fascinating information from watching this anime. It should be shown in schools.

It also isn’t afraid to get more outlandish in its presentation, like how the good guys and villains transform into giant beetle-shaped mechas for absolutely no reason at all. These giant, flashy emblems of action anime are entirely superfluous to what goes down.

This is actually the second season to Time Bokan 24, which started in 2016 and still had a handful of episodes air this year before the start of this new run, where the series rebrands itself with “The Villains Strike Back” and shifts its perspective to follow the show’s bad guys, The Nightmare Trio. This is an approach that works rather brilliantly for the show. Picture if Pokemon followed Team Rocket around for a season instead of Ash. It allows the series to have fun in new ways while it still follows the same premise. The show also relishes the opportunity in each episode for the “protagonists” to jump in and foil the villains by the time things are done. Failure has never been so entertaining.   

Best Anime of 2017 - Gintama

5. Gintama (2017) (Seasons 3 and 4)

What’s It Like?  Looney Tunes meets Samurai Jack

How Long Is It? 25 Episodes

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Where Can I Watch It? Crunchyroll (sub and dub), Funimation (sub and dub)

Gintama has actually been around, kicking, and subverting anime tropes all the way back to 2006. But 2015 introduced a sequel series with the same name that has been doing the anime proud.

Gintama follows a bunch of unusual warriors on their many adventures, some of which see these humble DIY fighters saving the Earth amongst other milestones. Gintama operates with a ferocious pace and will indulge in full-on parodies in the blink of an eye. It’s a series that prides itself in how much pop culture it can poke fun at. Final Fantasy VII, One Piece, Se7en, everything is fair game and yet it ties this referential sense of humor into incredible storytelling that can hit as hard as any serious drama. This season’s segment, “Life, Death, and Shades” is one of the funniest things that I saw all year, anime or otherwise. Another outrageous storyline sees a sentient sword using Gintama’s anus as a holster for an indefinite period of time and this goes on for several episodes.

2017 was an especially important year for the series as it featured two “seasons,” the “Rakuyou Decisive Battle Arc” and its “Slip Arc,” before the anime moves onto its long-awaited final “Silver Soul Arc” in 2018. The “Slip Arc” is something special because it consists of episodes animated from unused manga chapters chronologically taking place earlier in the series. This is a rather inventive idea for a show, but at the same time, it is a season of filler material and old filler material at that. Gintama has the sense of humor to make this work and repeatedly pokes fun at how this collection of episodes is basically an ode to failure and how they couldn’t maintain deadlines. At least when this show “fails” it means the fans get a whole extra season of hilarious content that’s allowed to be even crazier than usual since it’s disconnected from chronology.

Best Anime of 2017 - 91 Days

4. 91 Days

What’s It Like? Boardwalk Empire meets Revenge

How Long Is It? 13 episodes

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Where Can I Watch It? Crunchyroll.com (sub only), Funimation.com (dub only)

91 Days is that special sort of anime that is addictive as it is meticulous. The anime is set in the fictional town of Lawless, Illinois right smack in the middle of Prohibition. After brutally having his family murdered by the hands of the Vanetti crime family, young Angelo Lagusa goes into hiding for seven years. When he suddenly receives an anonymous letter telling him that it’s time to return and exact revenge for his family, he doesn’t think twice. What follows is a duplicitous tale that sees Angelo going undercover to infiltrate the Vanetti family and kill them all when the moment’s right. But the deeper Angelo gets, the more he begins to lose sight of who he actually is.

The series moves with a degree of thoughtfulness towards its subject matter as well as a compulsion to continually sneak the rug out from under you. By the time they actually yank the damn thing, you have no idea how you’ve ended up in this situation. It’s the sort of art film revenge fantasy anime that would keep Scorsese or PT Anderson’s attention. Plus, the action and animation are some of the best of the year and it’s one of the strongest crime anime in years. With so many anime seeing sequels and second seasons as of late, there’s something to be said for an anime that comes out guns a-blazing with a suicide mission. 91 Days is an anime like no other that will wrap you up in its mystery as if it was your family that was executed.

Best Anime of 2017 - The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.

3. The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. (Saiki Kusuo no Ψ-nan)

What’s It Like?  Saved by the Bell meets Look Around You meets Psych

How Long Is It? 24 episodes (or 125 mini-episodes)

Where Can I Watch It? Crunchyroll.com (sub), Funimation (sub and dub)

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The Disastrous Life of Saiki K has been one of my greatest anime pleasures over the past year and it’s partly due to how recklessly random the style of this show is. To begin with, Disastrous Life of Saiki K began airing as daily bite-sized four-minute anime installments that offered up glimpses into the chaotic life of secret psychic, Saiki. Then, after enough time had passed the series began to be packaged as a conventional 24-minute series that would bundle up five of these short-form episodes into one full-length episode. As a result of this, a weird schism in the community has formed regarding whether Saiki should be consumed in small doses or full-sized endeavors, but the show absolutely works regardless of which style you prefer.

There are a number of series to come along about psychics and everyday school life, but what makes Saiki stand apart from the rest is how invested it is in its own rules and mythology. The series builds up a truly unique set of rules for Saiki’s many abilities that you get acclimated with at a surprisingly fast rate. There’s such a clear joy for the world that’s been built here as Saiki simultaneously tries to get through the day drawing as little attention to himself as possible. Unpredictable psychic powers, constant cliffhangers, and an impressive list of side characters that you won’t want to leave anytime soon all make The Disastrous Life of Saiki K one of the most fun and creative shows to come out of the season. A second season has even been announced for early 2018.

Best Anime of 2017 - Masamune-kun’s Revenge

2. Masamune-kun’s Revenge

What’s It Like?  Love meets Alias

How Long Is It? 12 episodes

Where Can I Watch It? Crunchyroll.com (sub only), Funimation.com (sub and dub)

In what could essentially be titled “Spite: The Series,” this anime operates with the same level of plotting and suspense as some of the most intense series to air on the medium. However, Masamune-kun’s Revenge doesn’t deal with the mob, meth, or the city of Baltimore, but rather one bitter kid’s extravagant revenge scheme. And it’s some of the most addictive television of the year.

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Masamune-kun’s Revenge follows the story of Masamune Makabe, a chubby young boy who was one day viciously rejected by a callous girl named Aki Adagaki (she called him a “pig’s foot”). Ever since that moment, Makabe has sworn revenge against Adagaki, going as far as changing his name and devoting his existence to becoming fit and attractive. All of this is so Makabe can get back in Adagaki’s life, have her fall hopelessly in love with him, only for him to reject her and give her the ultimate comeuppance. As Makabe’s brilliant plan slowly gets underway and he grows closer to Adagaki, their relationship begins to change in interesting ways that implies that there’s something deeper going on between them.

Masamune-kun’s Revenge has a lot of fun toying with whether ice queen Adagaki is actually falling for Makabe, and even worse, if Makabe is actually falling for her. This anime delivers a good sense of humor, well-rounded characters, and a surprisingly deep amount of romanticism for such an apparently cynical show. All of the twists in the plotting keep Masamune-kun’s Revenge consistently entertaining and you’ll find yourself deeply entwined in how all of this comes together. Just when you think you’ve figured out where it’s going yet another bombshell will be dropped.

Best Anime of 2017 - Inuyashiki: The Last Hero

1. Inuyashiki: The Last Hero

What’s It Like? If Dennis the Menace and Mr. Wilson were superheroes/villains

How Long Is It? 11 episodes

Where Can I Watch It? Amazon Prime’s Anime Strike (sub only)

Inuyashiki is not only my favorite anime of 2017, but it might even be my favorite series of 2017. It’s that good. Right from the start it presents the sort of story that immediately gets your attention and lets you know that you’re watching something special. Inuyashiki is an elderly man whose family seems to hate him and are totally unappreciative of his existence. One night he goes for a walk in the park and some sort of alien explosion attacks the area. When Inuyashiki comes to, he appears to be a super powered robot with insane abilities. He uses these new powers to help those in need and even learns that he can heal and bring people back to life. Suddenly Inuyashiki has a purpose in life and watching him reawaken straight up made me cry on multiple occasions.  

A bratty teenager is also at the park when the explosion happens and he turns into the same robot that Inuyashiki becomes. This kid however is a psychopath and begins mass murdering individuals at an alarming rate. It’s terrifying how callous he is and what this power brings out in him. Some scenes are genuinely hard to watch and it doesn’t take long for him to become one of the most dangerous murderers that the country has ever seen. Suddenly Inuyashiki has a “rival” and the two are pit against each other in a bizarre, infinitely interesting way. This series is a thrilling examination of what people do with power and it balances humble moments of humanity with disturbing violence and insane action. Everything it does hits hard and its ending is perfect in its precision and poignancy. The animation is also stunning in its depiction of these human/robot hybrids and the “minimalist” (ie. finger guns) approach to the violence.

Inuyashiki is a series that I will be absolutely shocked if some savvy American director doesn’t opt to turn into a movie within the next few years. It’s an absolutely beautiful story that boils down to the universal concepts of good and evil. Catch it now and get ahead of the game. At 11 episodes it’s an extremely easy commitment that you’ll wish was longer.

While the above are all the best anime from this year that are worth checking out, there are also a number of other phenomenal series that either debuted or returned this year to see new seasons. Series like PriPri Chi-chan!!, 100% Teacher Pascal, Magical Circle Guru-Guru, Yami Shibai, and Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans. 2017 also saw Dragon Ball Super deliver some of the most interesting content that it’s ever done. Whether you’re looking for entirely new series or just new episodes of returning ones, there are plenty here to keep you busy until the next batch from 2018 come along!