It’s 2017, Do Better (Animation Tier List)

Not every anime that comes out each season is going to be as visually impressive as Guilty Crown or Fate/Zero, but do you feel like Summer 2017 is a bit lacking? I ranked some shows that premiered this season based on animation quality to help determine if that’s the case.

I meant to write this sooner, but I’ve had a sporadic viewing schedule lately and have only recently been able to catch up on a number of shows I was meaning to check out. In any event, one thing that stuck out in my mind as I watched this season was how a fair number of the new series didn’t look very attractive compared to what I recall of previous seasons and older shows. Taking only the premiering shows from the current season, I decided to make a list of how I thought each one ranked.

Before we jump into the list, I have a few disclaimers:

This listing isn’t based on any actual research or scoring metric. It’s simply a breakdown of how I feel the shows perform visually. I’ve given explanations for each category and entry to give idea of the placement, but at the end of the day it’s my opinion and I expect some of you to disagree.

The rankings also don’t correspond to the quality of the anime’s story, character dynamics, soundtrack, originality, or overall enjoyment. I’m only talking about how the show looks. Two of the shows I’m avidly following this season are C tier, so don’t get the impression that my opinion of its animation takes anything else away from the series.

Regardless of how I feel about any particular facet of an anime, I realize there are many factors that go into a production and that the staff in most cases have done their best. This article aims to discuss each show independent of the harsh realities many studios face as they’re trying to get anime made for us to criticize enjoy.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at how these titles measure up. Shows listed under a given category are in no particular order. Also I’ve only ranked the ones that I’ve seen at least one episode of. Hopefully 22 is a good enough number to give this post some girth, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on some of the shows I haven’t included.


S+ Tier

Truly standout animation work. These shows are far above the rest in their apparent technical merit, fluidity, and aesthetic appeal. You could watch these for the animation alone and be fairly satisfied with what you get.

 

Welcome to the Ballroom (Production I.G)

This was a bit of a high profile anime before the season even started. Ballroom delights viewers with some really expressive character designs, clean & attractive movement, and an attention to detail that makes non-fans of ballroom dancing able to appreciate its demanding nature.

Animation deirector Takashi Mukouda has done key animation for the Rebuild of Evangelion films and Fullmetal Alchemist (among a long, long list), but his directorial resume is pretty light. Still, his work with Ballroom looks great, and it only makes sense that the studio that brought us Psycho Pass, Attack on Titan, and Guilty Crown was behind this season’s clear visual champ.

Verdict: Strong showing from a capable studio.

 


S Tier

Excellent animation in terms of technical merit and aesthetic appeal that is able to maintain quality on a consistent basis.

 

Katsugei/Touken Ranbu (ufotable)

I may not have watched Fate/Zero or Unlimited Blade Works on account of having no background on the franchise, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how nice ufotable can make a show look. Regardless of how you might feel about CGI, Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu is no less visually impressive than the studio’s previous work.

If there’s one thing to complain about, it’s that most scenes take place at night or otherwise dark environments, but the backgrounds are highly detailed, and the characters are animated superbly. Pitched sword battles, dazzling effects, and crisp, clean detail throughout make this show a lot more watchable than its franchise brother,(Touken Ranbu Hanmaru) earlier this year.

Verdict: Strong showing from a capable studio.

 


A Tier

Well animated shows that are clearly above average compared to contemporary work. Only minor compromises or slips in quality.

 

Princess Principal (Actas, Studio 3Hz)

Who do I blame credit for this? Actas (Girls und Panzer, Long Riders!), or Studio 3Hz (Dimenson W, Flip Flappers)? Either way, the series making moe fun this season is looking really good while it does so. Princess Principal has some great character designs that are well animated and fun to watch in the many action packed scenes and secretive shadowy moments alike.

A lack of consistency in the cleanliness of the art and some CG backgrounds that sometimes clash too heavily with the 2D animation keep this from being S tier or better, but this is a solid looking show regardless.

Verdict: Keep up the good work.

 

Restaurant to Another World (Silver Link.)

What this show lacks in variation or tension in its plot, it makes up for with its artwork. Though it has a repetitive setting, Restaurant to Another World succeeds in doing the one thing that is vital to its niche appeal and that’s making the food look really good. The cooking scenes and well drawn character expressions further sell this aspect in a thoroughly attractive display.

It’s hard to pin down a Silver Link show with such varied styles as seen in Tanaka-kun is Always Listless, Kokoro Connect, and Masamune-kun’s Revenge, but this show is one of the better looking ones I’ve seen them do.

Verdict: You’ve outdone yourself!

 

Altair: A Record of Battles (MAPPA)

Altair has an unconventional premise and subject material, but beyond faux historical appeal its character designs and many impressive looking settings really help make this show feel special. Mahmut’s adventures through Turkiye (Torqiye?) and beyond give viewers a lot to enjoy through crisp animation and clear efforts to make the different locales feel unique.

Prior to this season MAPPA brought us Yuri!!! on Ice and Terror in Resonance, and released Kakeguri this season alongside Altair.  It remains to be seen if this studio will become regarded for its talent, but with some well received work under its belt it’s on the right track.

Verdict: Keep up the good work.

 


B+ Tier

Not quite A tier but still better than most you will see this season. These shows try to add something special once in a while that set them apart from the rest.

 

Made in Abyss (Kinema Citrus)

Made in Abyss is one of the most unique shows I have seen in some time, and can distinguish itself as the sole reason I have a B+ tier in this post. Kinema Citrus is no stranger to making interesting, if not good, looking shows like Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, Barakamon, and Black Bullet. While this may not be their technically strongest work, there is enough there to create an engaging experience for the viewer.

To start, the setting provides a wide range of opportunities that the show capitalizes on to create a dynamic backdrop. Adding to this the fun character designs and exploration based theme ensure there is always something interesting to look at. Cleaner line work and more consistent quality would have bumped this up to A tier, but there’s not a lot to complain about.

Verdict: Color me impressed.

 


B Tier

Shows with animation that holds up well against its contemporaries and looks better than older work. Quality ranges from good to average with some nice art/techniques to catch the eye.

 

Gamers! (Pine Jam)

Pine Jam is a relatively new studio, whose next most well known series (okay, “well known” is being generous) is an ONA short about boobs as far as I can tell. Still, while this series hasn’t been visually spectacular, it doesn’t leave a lot to complain about. The entertaining character designs and art let it accomplish more than most in B tier.

With an style is similar to last season’s Tsuki ga Kirei (albeit much more vivid in color), the tone dictates some differences. As a comedy series there is a fair sampling of exaggerated art but the presentation is good nonetheless. Just don’t expect to actually see much in the way of animated gameplay.

Verdict: Keep up the good work.

 

Clean Freak! Aoyama-kun (Studio Hibari)

The best thing about this show is, if you’ll pardon the pun, a clean presentation with very few scenes where the crisp animation slips. Studio Hibari’s forte seems to be moe girls and baseball, but they have managed to extend the “clean” tenor of the protagonist to this show about football in a consistent, albeit limited, display.

The art style fits well for a sports anime, and the characters are generally well designed. As with most comedies it’s expected to see some exaggeration, but Ayoama-kun reverts to chibi art very frequently for its jokes. These scenes might be lifted from the manga so I won’t criticize too much but if you’re expecting well animated sports action, this show has been surprisingly light on it.

Verdict: A decent showing, if nothing else

 

Knight’s & Magic (8bit)

Honestly, Knight’s & Magic doesn’t look bad. In fact, it looks better than the rest of the shows in B tier. The artwork is generally good, using imaginative coloration and designs, with a lot of room to deliver impressive visual displays. The style is similar to 8bit’s earlier work on IS: Infinite Stratos, with the 2D art here looking nicer by comparison.

Where it lacks somewhat is in the CG. It looks fine when it’s the only thing on the screen, but it doesn’t fit well with the 2D art style. That goes double for the monsters, which look really out of place sometimes. Add to that some really static action (when it’s not robots) and you have a clear B tier entry despite its nicer aspects.

Verdict: High potential, average delivery

 

Chronos Ruler (Project No.9)

I don’t have a lot to say about Chronos Ruler because while there isn’t anything terrible about it, there isn’t anything impressive either. Sparse detail on characters, unnatural looking CGI, and some stilted action weigh down the otherwise clean animation.

Project No.9 had better animation with last year’s And you thought there is never a girl online? and Girls beyond the Youth KOYA. This being an action centric show can explain some of the difference, but overall it doesn’t reflect much improvement by the studio.

Verdict: Not your best work.

 

Vatican Miracle Examiner (J.C.Staff)

This show has a lot of unique looking and expressive characters, but the overly dark setting dulls the detail a lot and lets the show get away with plain looking or downright useless backgrounds. It fits the tone that the show is going for, but some dull shot composition exacerbates the show’s issues and makes it hardly satisfying to look at.

When you’ve seen J.C. Staff make things like ToraDora!, Pet Girl of Sakurasou, and Danmachi, a show like this can make you feel like corners are being cut.

Verdict: Surely you can do better

 


C Tier

This tier is a large part of the reason I made this post in the first place. Passable animation that may work fine for the subject material or is decent enough to forgive, but doesn’t make any special effort to look good. You’re probably not watching these for the visuals in any case.

 

Aho Girl (Diomedea)

What gives, Diomedea? If Fuuka was one step down from Girlish Number, this is a good three. Aho Girl is a model for “low effort” this season, with 10 minutes episodes (closer to two 5 minute segments), simplistic humor, and an undemanding animation style.

To give credit where it’s due, just because the show does’t strive for much doesn’t mean it slacks in what it does present. The art is clean for the most part, with lively animation used to sell a lot of the physical humor. It might be low hanging fruit, but Diomedea doesn’t leave the banana on the tree.

Verdict: Not your best work.

 

7O3X Fastest Finger First (TMS Entertainment)

TMS has a wide range of quality when it comes to their animation, but Fastest Finger First looks especially primitive in its predominant art style. Characters are drawn with scant detail, and much of the animation consists of closeups or static shots.

The settings also lack a lot of detail and are mostly uninteresting, and that’s if they’re used at all. Many shots are just character reactions placed against a simple colored background. It’s not unsuitable for the subject material, but it conveys an almost bare bones effort to actually animate a show.

Verdict: Do better!

 

A Centaur’s Life (Haoliners Animation League)

While A Centaur’s Life is animated a good deal better than some of the stuff that Emon (Haoliners) has put out, the overall presentation still shows signs of rushed work. The lines are rough and inconsistent, and the marked lack of detail in the character art results in sameface for most everyone outside the main cast.

The show has its moments every now and again, but once the novelty of the different kinds of monster girls wears off, it has little to hold visual interest.

Verdict: Run of the mill

 

Tsurezure Children (Studio Gokumi)

This sort of series seems right up Studio Gokumi’s alley, so the appearance of the characters is fairly standard for what they’re used to doing. Even so, the bland expressions and overly simple artwork leave a lot to be desired for for a show that’s all about relationships.

I understand the decision to use a particular art style, but it doesn’t give animators much to work with aside from blush lines. Lazy coloring and hazy lighting effects make scenes look more like a sequence of pictures than animated set pieces.

Verdict: Not much to see here

 

Netsuzou TRap (Creators in Pack)

Another show that suffers from basic and uninteresting artwork, Netzusou TRap curses itself with the kind of shot composition it decides to use. With such sparse detail in the art, the frequent close ups meant to highlight the show’s naughtier aspects look plain and boring instead.

There is also a strange lighting effect that follows the girls around in the form of a bright spot in the middle of their heads, regardless of setting. I don’t know much about Creators in Pack, but seeing this doesn’t leave me curious for more.

Verdict: It’s 2017. Do better.

 

Convenience Store Boy Friends (Studio Pierrot)

Delivering such basic art on a weekly basis must be hard as this series has no time to make characters actually look like they’re part of the setting. Even Pierrot’s older non-shounen titles like The World is Still Beautiful from 2014 look good in comparison.

In all fairness the character designs are decent. They just look too plain with this art style and clash too much with the static backgrounds. I don’t know what the makeup of the Pierrot team working on this is (of if they’d rather be doing another JUMP adaptation), but the presentation feels as casual as a lot of the relationships in the show are.

Verdict: It’s 2017. Do better.

 

Elegant Yokai Apartment Life (Shin-Ei Animation)

There are some interesting character designs in this anime (though not in the main cast), but they don’t do much to change how technically dull it is. The few special effects used to show supernatural activity look especially rough, as does almost any scene where there’s any kind of action.

But this is the studio that did The Laughing Salesman and is still putting out the grade school quality animation of Crayon Shin-chan. So, improvement?

Verdict: Run of the mill

 

18if (Gonzo)

Sometimes I really don’t understand Gonzo. It’s apparent they like to experiment with style from titles like Gankutsuou, but I have a hard time believing that everything about 18if is a deliberate design choice. The art team seems to have put the majority of its efforts into the CG art for all kinds of wacky effects and skimped on everything else.

The different dream worlds that the show visits each week can provide interesting settings, but weird coloring and overly simplistic art make it harder to enjoy what imagination the show does manage to showcase.

Verdict: It’s 2017. Do better.

 

Lights of the Clione (drop)

This anime may be the first one credited to drop, but it’s far from their first project. Like most studios they’ve worked on a ton of key animation, so it’s a little disappointing to see Lights of the Clione look so plain and uninspired.

The animation is very consistent, but that’s less impressive when most of what’s shown is so limited in detail. None of it looks noticeably bad, but it doesn’t display the mark of an experienced studio. Still, this is an anime about a sick girl who’s being bullied so it’s not like I’m going to stop watching either way.

Verdict: Not much to see here.

 

Fox Spirit Matchmaker (Haoliners Animation League)

I really don’t mean to be rude in saying this, but whatever connotation about quality the words “Made in China” conjure up in your mind can safely be applied to Fox Spirit Matchmaker (Huyao Xiao Hongniang). The show is technically a two year old ONA, but it premiered in the US on Crunchyroll just this season and is too telling an example not to include for a discussion on animation.

There are some fun character designs and Suusuu is an adorable airhead but this show has a huge consistency problem, It’s rife with poorly animated moments, random style shifts, and generally low quality special effects. Spirit Pact from earlier this year looked a lot better (so I’m not discriminating against Chinese animation!) even if it had some of the same shoddy animation techniques.

Verdict: It’s 2017. Do better.

 


F Tier

Really poor animation that seriously hinders enjoyment of the show. If you’re watching, you’re probably a niche audience.

 

The Reflection (Studio Deen)

Let’s start with a reminder that this is nothing like Deen’s other work. Actually, I don’t know of any other anime that looks like this. Many shows use minimalist styles quite well, but the problem with The Reflection is that whatever comic bookish style they were going for (I also don’t know any comic books that look like this) makes it feel like an amateur production at best.

Thick, bold lines and highly inconsistent movement make everything look clunky. All the shading is pitch black. Anything that they don’t want to draw for whatever reason is a nondescript blob or pitch black. Aside from Eleanor and X-on, everyone in the first episode looks terrible.

I mean, some of these shots look like I could make them in MSPaint.

Verdict: I can’t even.

 


That was a lot to get through, but if you made it all the way here now is your chance to let me know what you think. Do you agree or disagree with this list? What about some of the shows I left out?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments and feel free to rate this article to let me know how I’m doing.

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13 thoughts on “It’s 2017, Do Better (Animation Tier List)

Add yours

  1. Konbini Kareshi… I can’t even…

    I’m the type who doesn’t easily drop shows haha
    But then this show is having me on a big hang to see whether it will come out as something worthwhile or just a Tsuki ga Kirei wannabe x 4.

    And that’s the story alone. Art is okay but the animation is dreeeeeeadful. Indeed; it’s 2017. They can do better!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I doubt we’re going to get anything as satisfying as Tsuki ga Kirei out of it. It’s ok for now, though I worry Mashiki will be gone before Mishima (that’s another thing, these names are confusing on purpose) can make a move.

      It’s just sad to see that animation come out of Pierrot.

      Like

  2. Visually I quite like 18if. Mostly because at least if one episode isn’t working for me I know I’ll get a new look next episode and that gives me something to look forward to. Animation quality is not awesome, but that isn’t really something that bothers me unless it actually becomes painful to watch (Hand Shakers fits that category).
    Realistically, my favourite show from a visual point of view this season is Princess Principal. I like the look of the show and the animation is fairly consistently well done. While not every scene is a gem, it doesn’t have all that many scenes where the characters seem to jarringly clash with their own background (which is something I’m having issues with Katsugeki Touken Ranbu – though that’s hardly my only issue with that show).
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the shows as it was interesting to consider them in this way rather than focussig on their characters and story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If there’s one thing you can count on 18if for, it’s variety. That character art is something else though. Anyway, I’ve picked on it enough.

      I’m usually also okay watching shows with poor animation if it’s engaging otherwise. I just thought it might be interesting to actually examine this because generally I expect something from 2017 to look better than something from 2010. I didn’t do much retrospective comparison though, because this post would be much much longer if I did.

      I don’t think you’ll get much argument that Princess Principal is definitely one of the better looking shows. I’m really loving the style and they do alot of fun stuff with the animation like the car bouncing down a flight of stairs or Ange’s gravity defying stunts.

      It’s interesting that you mention Touken Ranbu is having clashing problems. I’m a few episodes behind so I’ll have to see if I can spot what you’re talking about. At least one of the characters is an anachronism each episode, so there’s a good chance the flashier ones will stick out.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. It might be on purpose for stylistic reasons, but that’s just how ufotable’s work looks. You’ll notice the same thing in Fate/Zero. The character art and backgrounds are created differently so there’s always going to be some mismatch but most of the time it looks fine to me. They seem to be able to blend 2d and 3d a lot better than other studios.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. A very nice list!
    Even so, I think Ballroom gets too much credit for showing too little dance scenes, and there’s too little movement for a dynamic sports show to begin with, though the aesthetic is undoubtedly appealing if you can cope with the giraffe necks.
    Also, I think Made in Abyss deserves more brownie points for its art. Yes, not every episode brings joy to sakuga fans but meticulously crafted backgrounds, thoughtful direction and just the sense of wonder that the exploration brings should count for something.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a fair statement. It’s compared a lot to Yuri!!! on Ice, but that show did animate the choreography a lot more than Ballroom does. I think a lot of the credit about Ballroom’s animation is warranted though, because whenever they do show movement it looks really good. Also long necks are good for your silhouette in ballroom dancing 😛

      I do think the art in Made in Abyss looks fantastic. It’s one of the more visually entertaining shows this season. It would be fair to say it’s A tier, but I I put it a half step below because it’s not as crisp as it could be and it seems like the quality drops more than the others when there’s a lot of stuff going on. Still really fun to look at though, no doubt about it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re right about Ballroom, but I just crave for more animation since the little bits are really good. I completely understand the purpose of the necks, it’s just that sometimes they seem too noticeable.

        Liked by 1 person

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