My memories of “anime in 2017” include leading off my first three “quarterly reviews” of that year dwelling on how, for one reason or another, I hadn’t been able to watch any new series streaming. Another memory, though, is of heading off concerns there at last by picking up on some shows at the end of the year. That gave me something to look for in a list of series, but I did also happen to turn up a title or two I hadn’t seen “straight off.”

Anime-Gataris started off self-referential and self-indulgent as “an anime series about anime fans”; whether I’m more adaptable than some or just show less discernment, I did wind up interested in some odd early moments developing to shape the show into “animated cartoon characters becoming aware of existing in a constructed reality.” Made in Abyss was more widely popular, a descent into strange wonders growing ever more dangerous and unsettling. When it left off I contemplated continuing its story in its original manga, then left that sitting partway through on rumours of more anime even if I was also picking up on indignation about “unsettling” including certain drawings of its young characters.

Two series seemed to compete for the year’s very top spot in my estimation, and they did happen to offer different takes on similar “young women begin learning about magic and magical worlds” situations. Little Witch Academia, expanded from a self-contained short subject to series length, was a production from the studio Trigger that for once seemed to please just about everyone who watched it. To me, it manages a transition from “light and comedic” to “more serious.” It also marks “Netflix exclusives” getting into my standouts, just perhaps a bit of an accomplishment given all the indignation about “having to wait to see anime legally.” The Ancient Magus’ Bride adapts a manga series that had already built a reputation for itself, and does that well in my opinion (although the conclusion it reached turned out to be an “arc resolution” from the manga as well rather than “managing that itself.”) It takes itself pretty seriously throughout (if not overwhelmingly so), and it could be its world-building forms a more coherent setting than that of Little Witch Academia. I don’t “demand seriousness,” but in some way very hard to articulate I do seem to keep feeling I’d rather give The Ancient Magus’s Bride a slight nod for the top.