The best shows are not necessarily the most popular ones. Certain genres cater to a larger audience, allowing for the content to be viewed and re-tweeted more than the average series. The studio behind the production also plays a part, since lesser known creators are unlikely to pull in the same numbers as Kyoto Animation or A-1 Pictures.
While anime has gotten to the point where it is readily available, a handful of releases are only streamed via platforms like Netflix or Amazon Prime, meaning they might have been completely missed by quite a few people. Dozens of new anime are released over a year, making it extremely easy for a potentially great show to be lost in the rubble.
Here are 2017's top 10 best underrated anime.
10. Sakura Quest
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Apr 6, 2017 – Sep 21, 2017
Slice of life comedies are a dime a dozen. No matter the season or year, you can bet there will be, at least, three to four of this type of anime on the schedule. The vast majority are set within a high school setting, so, it is a genuine surprise whenever something different comes along. Sakura Quest answers that call.
When it comes to workplace comedies, P.A. Works has proven to be a fantastic studio. Shirobako and Hanasaku Iroha balanced humor and real-life drama to create memorable and lovable characters. Despite falling short of the studio's previous work, Sakura Quest follows in their footsteps and delivers more of the same.
Yoshino Koharu is a college graduate struggling to find a job. Desperate to avoid returning to her hometown as a failure, she accepts a strange role as queen of the "Kingdom of Chupakabura" in the agricultural town of Manoyama. Over the course of 25 episodes, Yoshino attempts to attract media coverage and tourists to help revitalize the area. Dealing with adult themes like loneliness, Sakura Quest is a mature comedy and coming of age story.
9. Garo: Vanishing Line (GARO -VANISHING LINE-)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Oct 7, 2017 – Mar 30, 2018
The Garo franchise has been around for a few years. Garo: Vanishing Line is actually the third series to carry the name, something that might have kept many people from giving it a try. Here is the thing, these shows stand on their own two feet; so, there is no reason to watch Garo: Honoo no Kokuin or Garo: Guren no Tsuki. Vanishing Line is a silly and over-the-top action series about a badass protagonist who loves chasing women and fighting monsters.
The 2nd cour is currently airing and Garo: Vanishing Line has yet to end. As the series progresses, MAPPA has focused more on delivering thrilling action rather than a particularly deep storyline, which is probably for the best. Garo shines when fighting scenes are placed at the forefront. The characters are nothing special, but they do serve their purpose. The main character, Sword is arrogant and outlandish, but his zest for life and never-say-die attitude is rather contagious.
Garo: Vanishing Line is far from the best action anime of the year, but it hits most of the right notes. Viewers who enjoyed Kekkai Sensen & Beyond should really give this one a go. The soundtrack is also fantastic and enhances the anime's overall appeal.
8. Saiyuuki Reload Blast (Saiyuki Reload Blast)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jul 5, 2017 – Sep 20, 2017
Saiyuuki Reload Blast is hard to recommend to newcomers. The Saiyuuki franchise launched nearly two decades ago, with around 80 episodes of content available to watch. Blast is the first proper season since 2004's Saiyuuki Reload Gunlock, therefore, there is a ton of backstory to go through. Thankfully, Platinum Vision did a decent job of establishing the four main characters, with each getting an episode dedicated to their history. The older series are fantastic and worth watching, but Saiyuuki Reload Blast is an okay starting point.
In terms of art and animation, Blast is run-of-the-mill. The anime does feel like it was done on a tight budget, but the characters are charming enough to warrant giving this one a go. The central cast is packed with colorful and eccentric heroes who compliment each other brilliantly. Their chemistry is believable, and it is easy to tell they are based on a long-running manga.
There is a great deal of humor and touching moments spread throughout Saiyuuki Reload Blast, although we would still recommend watching the earlier seasons.
7. Shoukoku no Altair (Altair: A Record of Battles)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Jul 8, 2017 – Dec 23, 2017
Our time is precious. Putting aside live-action series and movies, each season sees the release of so many anime, that it is (almost) impossible to follow everything. If a series fails to make its case within the first two episodes, many are likely to drop it without a second thought. Shoukoku no Altair has a rough start but quickly improves once the cast is properly established and the war commences.
As a historical shounen series, Shoukoku no Altair wisely focuses on the tactical and political side of war rather than the fights themselves. Mahmut Tuğrul is a 17-year-old orphan driven by his mother's death to ensure peace between two warring states. Mahmut joins the army and earns a high rank, before setting out to see the world. He quickly realizes that the Balt-Rhein empire is gaining influence, prompting Mahmut to try and form alliances with other nations.
Shoukoku no Altair deserves praise for the characterization of the nations. With their own political and cultural systems, they feel unique and worth exploring. Mahmut is an intriguing protagonist, one who uses his intelligence to study his enemy's behavior and outmaneuver them. This is an ambitious anime that ramps up the excitement levels by using mind-games rather than action.
6. Konohana Kitan
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Oct 4, 2017 – Dec 20, 2017
Oh, cool, another slice-of-life anime following an exclusively female cast as they do cute things. Konohana Kitan is not going to be for everyone. If this type of series tends to annoy you, then there is no real point in giving this a try. Konohana Kitan sticks to the basics and never pushes the envelope; yet, Lerche produces one of the most underrated anime of 2017.
Innovation and creativity should be praised, but these qualities do not necessarily translate into an enjoyable product. Some of the best movies and TV series take established tropes and run with them. Konohana Kitan centers on a fox-girl named Yuzu who is left by her master to work at a hot springs inn. Initially clumsy and naive, Yuzu learns to trust her new co-workers and develops an attachment to her clients.
Konohana Kitan knows exactly what type of anime it is trying to be. The focus is on creating a mystical slice of life series that showcases traditional Japanese environments while allowing the adorable cast to do their thing. There is a surprising amount of character development and the fanservice is kept to a minimum.
5. Nobunaga no Shinobi: Ise Kanegasaki-hen (Ninja Girl & Samurai Master 2nd)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Apr 8, 2017 – Sep 30, 2017
Nobunaga Oda is just one of those historical figures that anime love to tribute. Depending on the type of show, Oda has been presented accurately or as barely holding any resemblance to the real-life person. Nobunaga no Shinobi: Ise Kanegasaki-hen aims for a middle ground, although the comedic nature of the anime tends to push towards the latter.
With episodes lasting only three minutes, this is a quick sit. While a solid follow-up to the first season, this time around, there is a heavier focus on story and drama. Oda's journey to conquer the Land of the Rising Sun brings forth a lot of dangerous enemies and situations, and they are surprisingly handled quite seriously. As this is a sketch show, humor continues to play a big part, but the anime has more depth than first meets the eye.
The adorable Chidori, who serves as Oda's naive ninja apprentice, never fails to be charming or delightful. As her master faces new dangers, she has started to show maturity and character development.
4. ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka (ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jan 10, 2017 – Mar 28, 2017
Certain anime just work better when watched over a single weekend. ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka is most certainly one of those shows. The episodic and lethargic pacing of the story makes this one difficult to watch on a weekly basis, as there is little to force the viewer to come back for more. In terms of world-building, ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka is second to none.
ACCA is a governing body that provides services to the citizens of Dowa. After the 13 states revolted against the king, ACCA was formed to maintain the peace. One hundred years later, rumors of a coup d'état are circulating; prompting ACCA's Jean Otus, who works for their inspection and auditing unit, to investigate the different branches to learn whether there is any truth to the claims.
The characters are realistic and dry. They have their own motivations and world view, which is not always presented readily to the audience. Jean is cold and calculating, but it is entertaining to see how he uncovers small misdeeds within the states. The real highlight is the world itself, with each episode focusing on a unique state. ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka is a slow burner that is well worth the effort.
3. Uchouten Kazoku 2 (The Eccentric Family 2)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Apr 9, 2017 – Jun 25, 2017
The Eccentric Family was a breath of fresh air. There was a calm beauty to the show's art and pacing, with characters rarely spoon-feeding their motivations to the audience. The anime relied heavily on crafting relatable personas while tackling challenging themes like mortality and family. As the central cast consists of tanuki, The Eccentric Family blends whimsy and fantasy with an otherwise modern setting.
The sequel is more of the same, including a similar final arc that harbors back to the original. The parallels are so pronounced that an argument can be made that season two is nothing more than a blatant rehash. While the plot fails to break any new ground, the characters continue to be the main reason to watch this franchise. For a lack of a better word, they feel alive. With the exception of the protagonist, Yasaburou, who is an open-book, the cast is filled with multi-layered characters who are struggling to properly identify their place in the world.
As can be expected from P.A. Works, the animation is gorgeous and awe-inspiring. The slice of life episodes are endearing, while the political plot adds quite a bit of tension to the anime's second half.
2. Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Natsume's Book of Friends Season 6)
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: Apr 12, 2017 – Jun 21, 2017
With six seasons and an upcoming movie, Natsume's Book of Friends has earned a dedicated following. The fantastical shoujo anime tells the story of Natsume, a teenager who can see youkai. The premise is hardly unique, but there is a twist to the formula; the protagonist inherited his grandmother's Book of Friends, which holds the names of hundreds of youkai. If their name is written within the book, Natsume has power over them. Instead of using this power to fight the forces of darkness, the teenager spends his days freeing youkai from their shackles.
Natsume's Book of Friends is an episodic series. Putting aside the thin overarching plot involving the book, there are very few stories that are not wrapped up in a single episode. Taking into account there are six seasons, this allows Natsume to still be accessible to new viewers. While the story might feel static, the characters show subtle development, especially when it comes to Natsume. By the sixth season, he has learned to trust in his friends and accepted that he is never going to be normal.
Boasting gorgeous animation and gripping storylines, Natsume Yuujinchou Roku is the franchise's best season to date. Newcomers should start from the beginning, as this is an anime that deserves to be watched by more people.
1. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen (Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jan 7, 2017 – Mar 25, 2017
Nobody deserves a second chance. If someone made a grave mistake, it is their responsibility to make amends. The universe is not going to just hand them a second chance on a platter. Youtarou is an ex-convict who dreams of practicing Rakugo. At first, he is slightly arrogant and entitled; but, through his budding relationship with the reluctant Yakumo Yuurakutei, who is a master of Rakugo, Youtarou improves as a person. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen is an anime that celebrates humanity by showing how much work is needed to achieve your dreams.
Studio Deen's anime is the total package. The traditional art style brings the best out of the premise, while the story moves at a slow but effective pace. The second season incorporates a fair amount of flashbacks focusing on Yakumo's past, showing that he also struggled to come to terms with what it means to be a Rakugo master. The cast's journey is tiring, heartbreaking, and beautiful.
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen is unlikely to attract a huge audience, but it offers a unique look into a side of Japanese culture that is rarely explored.
As anime continues to grow as an industry, each season is likely to include a series or two which fall under the radar. There is more to the medium than the popular shounen or Netflix series, and the ten mentioned anime offer a rewarding and enjoyable experience. Hopefully, when it comes to great anime, 2018 leaves us spoiled for choice.
What was your favorite underrated anime? Please let us know in the comment section below.