In 2017, anime is being stretched in all directions. With a glut of new live-action anime adaptations, it’s being stretched into reality. With the airing of Naruto’s 720th (and final) episode, it’s stretching into the future. With behemoth streaming channels nabbing up licensing deals, it’s stretching into the mainstream. And by moving into the mainstream while continuing to embrace so many of the same tired tropes, it’s stretching its audience, too.
The anime industry has ballooned over the last half decade, experiencing boom after boom every year since 2012. This year, we’ve seen a wealth of anime, but not a lot monumental ones. I write a lot about anime on Kotaku, and each time I do, I see anime fans talking about how much the scene has changed. That’s a perennial complaint for any fandom, but the particulars shed light on the state of anime. Now, it’s a circus, they say. It’s laden down by gimmicks, they say, refusing to innovate beyond what viewership numbers say is appealing to certain audiences. After last year, I lowered my usual “Five anime of the season you should be watching” post to to four shows. Throughout this year, I still often couldn’t come up with a fifth.
At the same time, this year we’ve gotten a handful of captivating titles that have done some cutting-edge stuff. They were few and far between, but the fact remains that throughout 2017, anime studios released some of the most memorable shows and movies I’ve seen in years.
This is part of our 2017 State Of series, a look at how the major consoles, PC, and other areas of interest are doing this year.
Assessing an entire animation form is difficult if not impossible. But after watching most of 2017’s anime premieres, I was able to tease out a few notable trends that say a lot about how the world of anime fared in 2017.
A steady stream of solid-enough sci-fi, fantasy and slice-of-life anime flowed through the entire year. Fantasy anime had a typically strong year. From the crowd-pleasing Little Witch Academia series, which premiered in the winter, to the second season of Attack on Titan in the spring, to summer’s dark fantasy adventure Made in Abyss and fall’s Kino’s Journey remake, the greatest hits landed squarely in the realm of sword, sorcery, and enormous floating monsters. One-trick gimmick shows didn’t quite weigh down the genre as much as they could have, but there was certainly a show about summoning weapons by holding h