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I cannot finish this. I delayed it completely until I got the last chapter and a few other things done, and by then my passion for this section was drained and I hit major writer's block. It's taken me this long to concede defeat, but I've just gotta put it out in its current state and move on to the last section so it stops clogging every other project. If there's anything unfinished you're curious about, feel free to ask in the comments.
Some spoilers follow.
BEST TV SHOW
Didn't See Before Now But Probably Would Like: Mindhunter, The Punisher, American Vandal, Adventure Time: Islands (I fell off AT a while back and have only binge-watched up to Stakes)
Runners-Up: Planet Earth II, DC's Legends of Tomorrow (Season 2), Fargo (Season 3), Channel Zero: The No-End House
Special Honorable Mention: Wormwood
In 1953, military biologist and CIA employee Frank Olson plunged from the window of his Manhattan hotel room. It was announced at the time as a depression-induced suicide. The official story today is that he was accidentally dosed with LSD during an experiment and fell from the window in a delusional panic. According to his son Eric, who has spent almost seventy years devoting his life to uncovering the truth, he was murdered by the CIA. Wormwood, a riveting Netflix miniseries that's part documentary and part speculative reconstruction, takes this fascinating puzzle from the past and makes you care -- about the man who died before his time, about the government operatives who claimed his life (accidentally or deliberately) as a pawn in a petty war, and about the brilliant son who's wasted his life trying to solve a crime where even the whole truth will bring no justice or peace of mind. It's outshined for raw quality by my actual picks and I don't normally talk about documentaries here, but I'm giving it a strong enough recommendation to warrant writing about it here.
5. The Expanse (Season 2)
If you're in the market for superb science fiction on TV, there's no need to shell out the money for the new Star Trek: Discovery trainwreck. The Expanse, which has quickly proven itself as the best sci-fi series in years, finished its second outing last year and only continues to kill it at every turn. It's not just the gorgeous, Hollywood-quality special effects and set dressing on a channel formerly known for laughably cheap CGI; over the course of relaying a complex interstellar multi-faction cold war, the series brings both intellectualism and roguish charm to bear in equal measure. None among the dozens of unique characters get lost in the tides of conflict, nor do their individual goals and arcs ever clutter things up, and the excellent dialogue, performances, and loaded backstories keep the extravagant future world feeling grounded and lived-in. Throw in a couple of riveting mysteries, unpredictable twists, badass applications of science and physics, and one hell of a mid-season climax, and the second season well earned its spot here after I foolishly ignored it in 2016.
4. Arrow (Season 5)
The second season of Arrow was a near-flawless gem that I and many others hold as one of the finest pieces of comic book television ever conceived, which makes the show's reputation these days -- on the heels of two mediocre seasons, nonsensical plot twists, an infamously forced romantic subplot, and the general decline of the Arrowverse shows save for Legends of Tomorrow -- quite tragic. But sandwiched between the wasted Season 4 and the so-far abysmal Season 6 is a season which matches and even outshines its quality predecessor in many ways, and makes it all the more baffling when the same creative minds churn out such zero-effort bilge. Arrow Season 5 is a rich thriller epic that uses its return to smaller-scale stakes to tell a story of reflection and reckoning, as Oliver Queen (in his best characterization since S2) finds himself in the crosshairs of a vengeful assassin and is forced to reckon with everything he's done since washing up on Lian Yu in order to stop the madman from tearing his world apart. It also features a near-universally likable supporting cast, the best cinematography to be found in the whole Arrowverse, a return to the gripping and brutal fight scenes the show once made its name for, and an emotional arc that climaxes in the best season finale they'll likely ever pull off. Whether you're a former fan who jumped off the wagon or someone who's never even heard of the show, this is a season of genre TV that must be experienced.
3. Samurai Jack (Season 5)
I wrote a review here, and I don't feel like restating myself.
How does my favorite ongoing show on television keep topping itself like this? From the slick Fight Club-influenced techno thriller of the first season to the surreal, unpredictable puzzle box of the second, Mr. Robot has never failed to captivate me, whether it's shown through the eyes of its unreliable but well-meaning narrator or taking long breaks to flesh out its rich supporting cast. The third season starts off slowly despite the urgency of the setup, but when shit hits the fan partway through, it metamorphoses into the best season the show's served up yet and what would surely have won the Best Show of 2017 award if not for the winner's existence. Momentous status quo shakeups, captivating tricks of cinematography and storytelling, and profoundly meaningful character development make every episode after the first few a veritable feast of quality; whether we're being white-knuckled through a disastrous countdown or treated to a whole episode about Elliot quietly hanging out with a new friend, things rarely fall exactly where you predict and land with aplomb if they do. If the dreadfully low ratings mean the upcoming season is its last, I'm completely confident in the team's ability to end it on this same kind of stunning high.
This award was all-but decided from the beginning of the year. None of the incredible, enriching, creatively blessed shows in 2017 hit me in the gut and clung there like Legion, a series I went into with no expectations (other than my love for Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley) and came out of with my brain dribbling out of my nostrils. Technically a Marvel/Fox show (since there are obscure characters pulled from X-Men) but impossibly different from any other comic book show on the market, Legion tells the story of a troubled young man with schizophrenia, scumbag friends, and no hope for the future -- as well as strong telepathy and loose reality-bending abilities that he doesn't quite know about. Boasting a fascinating and unreliable main character, a riveting antagonist who charms and terrifies in equal measure, a fleshed-out supporting cast, a mysterious and well-paced story riddled with surprising twists and turns, an offbeat sense of humor, genius cinematography and sound design, and a short season that serves up new things I'd never seen before with every passing episode, Legion is a masterpiece I can only convey so much about. It's part dark comedy, part superhero action show, part horror flick, and part many unidentifiable substances. It's as if my love of Mr. Robot, Fargo, Hannibal, and the like were all rolled into one: it might or might not be your cup of tea, but it's nearly the perfect show for me. Here's to Season 2.
BEST TV CHARACTER
Runners-Up: Amos (The Expanse), Bobbie Draper (The Expanse), Syd Barrett (Legion), Kerry and Cary Loudermilk (Legion), Ashi (Samurai Jack), Beth Smith-Sanchez (Rick & Morty), Gloria Burgle (Fargo), Oliver Queen (Arrow), Konstantin Kovar (Arrow), Sara Lance (DC's Legends of Tomorrow), Herr Starr (Preacher), White Rose (Mr. Robot)
10. Sy Feltz (Fargo)
Fargo is a show about stupid people making horrible decisions for absurd reasons under the belief that they're genius chessmasters, while the real masterminds blissfully run circles around them and occasionally pop in to make their lives hell. But despite two prior seasons of contenders to pick from, perhaps no one sinks so badly and gets screwed over so frequently as Sy Feltz: friend, business partner, and self-professed enforcer for Emmitt Stussy. Sy plunges headlong against forces he can barely comprehend with enthusiasm, and proceeds to have all of the world's shit rubbed in his eyes for his trouble. The more he tries and fails to make any dent in the conflict, the more Michael Stuhlbarg's pitiful weariness and fear shine through, bringing both levity and heartbreaking sincerity to the most cynical, bizarre war the show has ever depicted. Every deadpan Minnesotan pleasantry, impotent threat, and horrified reaction adds a little more luster to a season that at times struggles to live up to the first two.
9. John Sleator (Channel Zero: The No-End House)
John Carroll Lynch is no stranger to playing creepy-ass whackjobs: from American Horror Story's psycho clown Twisty to the demented killer of True Detective to a Zodiac Killer suspect in David Fincher's Zodiac, he's the go-to guy to portray the sociopathic serial killers and other unhinged freaks film and TV have to offer. The No-End House could have gone this route, but it chose to do something a little different with the man's unique talents. As the embodiment of Margo Sleator's dead father brought into being by the eponymous house's pocket world, Lynch is tasked with being both unsettlingly creepy and heart-wrenchingly soulful, and he rises to the occasion wonderfully. You completely buy him as the sweet, dorky, endearing dad Margo misses every day, and the show further enriches his character by having him aware that he's not quite the real person, but no less loving of "his" daughter and desperate to give her a happy life. But whenever the time calls for it, John Sleator (and Lynch himself) flips on a dime and becomes a disturbed, relentless beast, without compromising the portrait of a lovable father. He's the kind of nuanced antagonist that was missing from 2016's Candle Cove season, and one of the many fascinating villains to grace our screens last year.
8. Jack (Samurai Jack)
The titular Jack's defining traits were always his fundamental purity and his drive to return home, and neither were ever allowed to change much in spite of how much the other parts of his show gradually evolved. Freed from the shackles of executive mandates and cartoon syndication restrictions, Jack is allowed in his final season to undergo a radical shift: he grows tired. Over the course of fifty years, Jack has become a weary, bitter, traumatized man battered by his agelessness and never-ending battles. The brilliance of this tropey transformation (and what differentiates it from, say, Logan's inspired turn) is that it makes use of his previous static character; the same thing always happened in the show's episodes, and the same things continued to happen throughout his long life until he simply stopped being able to steel himself and move on. Haunted by his constant failures and defeats, he wanders the landscape without a sword or an ounce of hope, doing whatever he still can to help out. Watching this husk of a once-great warrior be hunted and broken is heartbreaking, but it's worth it to watch him slowly overcome the odds and rise back to his former glory. "Gotta get back, back to the past" indeed.
7. V.M. Varga (Fargo)
A stranger walks into an office, apropos nothing. Despite his unassuming appearance and shabby clothes, he seems to suck all of the color out of the room like a hungry vampire -- but when he opens his mouth, his rotten teeth are only stained with his own blood. In an accent that mostly sounds British but doesn't make complete sense, he tells you that your whole world is a lie, rails against the poor and desperate, and makes an innocent-sounding offer you know you're not allowed to refuse. This man is V.M. Varga, third main villain of a show that's never failed to churn out breathtaking villains in the past, and while the season is flawed and he's a divisive character, I couldn't get enough of the disgusting bastard. Despite keeping up the "mysterious, threatening stranger" motif, he's completely devoid of Lorne Malvo's terrifying power or Mike Milligan's nuanced charisma, instead doubling down on sheer repulsiveness in every manner. It's not just the way David Thewlis's face is deformed by prosthetics or the numerous scatological acts he uses to intimidate his "partners", not just his bizarre performance and unnervingly slacked gait, but also in what he represents: with his rants about minorities and his confident spouting of fake news, he's a devil of a modern world, and far better for political commentary than those stupid monks on Doctor Who. He's not sympathetic and certainly not subtle, but he's a perfect scumbag to embody the season's themes.
6. Mr. Robot (Mr. Robot)
5. Nikki Swango (Fargo)
Much like Sy above, Nikki Swango thinks she's got the whole situation figured out from day one. Her scheme is simple -- hire a boneheaded thug her boyfriend has leverage over to steal something, disguise it as random chance, kill him in an apparent accident and pin it all on the scapegoat -- and to hear her talk, she might as well be the most powerful and brilliant person in the room. But while she so tragically bites off more than she can chew like everyone else, she differs from Sy in one key aspect: beneath all her cockiness, she's actually pretty cunning. It's not often that Fargo's failed manipulators get to do more than amble around making the situation worse in a desperate attempt to stop digging themselves deeper, so watching Nikki recover from her initial failures and gradually get more of a handle on things is a rare and unexpected reward. By the time her seductive charm and ruthless pragmatism are being brought to bear again with actual weight behind them, she feels almost as dangerous as the villains of the season.
4. Prometheus (Arrow)
A season of Arrow is only as good as its main villain. When the villain is compelling and intense (e.g. Malcolm Merlyn, Slade Wilson, half of Damien Darhk), the show is in turn; when he or she's boring, ill-defined, or just stupid (e.g. Ra's, Damien's other half, the current season's baddie), so too is the show. Prometheus is the keystone that fuels Season 5's return to form, harkening back to the best the show ever was while presenting the perfect evolution of everything it's become. This isn't a world-conquering super tyrant or unbeatable master out to destroy Star City -- he's just a lone wolf with a potent intellect, a knack for mind games, some fancy hand-to-hand moves, and a raging chip on his shoulder. And while he's perfectly menacing and intriguing prior to his unmasking, especially when he's leading the heroes around like dogs by the nose, it's only when the hood comes off that his magic truly shines through. While I can't say who he is or what his role is, the actor playing him is fantastic, imbuing the deranged stalker with oodles of charm and darkly hilarious sarcasm without letting you forget that there's an inferno of barely-contained rage roaring beneath his skin at all times. And unlike many comic villains, he actually has a good reason to be pissed off! His presence brought a wonderful season ciose to perfection, and I treasured his every venomous quip and twisted trick. The fact that he's shockingly similar to my own villain Blackbox is just the icing on my personal cake.
3. David Haller (Legion)
Unreliable narrators are a hell of a thing when they're done right, aren't they? Maybe they are, maybe they aren't, YOU CAN'T TRUST ME, WOOWOWOOWO- ahem. Yeah, I like me some well-done unreliable narration, and what more extreme way to serve that up than from the eyes of a troubled young man who hears voices, sees demons, and might be experiencing and influencing different versions of reality? David Haller, the seemingly schizophrenic star of Legion, is an incredibly unique POV character: while many others trick the audience by seeing or hearing something different, few actually have the superpowers necessary to make that delusion a reality. David's assortment of telepathic powers means he's often a god even among mutants, but his condition weighs heavily on him, leaving him liable to see a whole episode out of sequence or slip into a trippy frenzy of nightmare imagery at the drop of a hat. It's a lot to take in -- I'm still processing shit that happened in the series premiere -- but Dan Stevens takes an impossible role and grounds it, rooting the twisted perspective in the struggles of a good-natured, sarcastic, endlessly likable young troublemaker who just wants the voices to go away. Through all of the spectral madness and mutant espionage, you never lose sight of the man at the center.
2. Elliot Alderson (Mr. Robot)
Speaking of likable, unreliable young mischief makers... In his first outing, Rami Malek imbued Elliot Alderson with the anarchic arrogance and unnerving tics of a misguided rebel. In the second, which topped 2016's list of best TV characters, he was mired in paranoia and delusion, never sure whom to trust. He makes another inspired turn in the third season, and of course it lands up here just like the last two. Recovering from the shocking truths he's uncovered, Elliot is driven into tireless action on a path that's almost redemptive, desperate to atone for his past actions and prevent any more blood from staining his hands. To say any more would spoil the path the season takes, but it's enough to say that I'm completely confident Elliot will top the chart again if I do another one of these for 2018. Shine on, you crazy diamond.
1. The Devil With Yellow Eyes (Legion)
In this banner year for remarkable villains across all media, one villain broke through the crowded TV landscape and held onto the #1 spot with a wry smile and an ice-cold grip. The principal antagonist of Legion is very hard to talk about at length; it's referred to only as "the Devil With Yellow Eyes" for most of the runtime, and the reasons for its existence, its power, and its ceaseless sadism are intricate treasures for the viewer to unravel. Whether it's creeping around in its grotesque true form or strutting its stuff in the above-pictured shape of David's dead friend Lenny (allowing Aubrey Plaza to blow the entire cast out of the water with a performance that's as terrifying as it is sexy), it's a constant weight on the mind of both David and the viewer, and its manipulations provide some of the most memorable scenes and effective scares. With this, Noah Hawley proves that his penchant for weaving some of TV's most compelling antagonists on Fargo isn't just a fluke. And sadly, that's really all I can say without giving the game away. I don't know that there's any villain on TV I look forward to seeing more of quite like this monstrous, demonic, strangely charming thing.
BEST TV SCENE
Runners-Up: Wellspring Duel (The Magicians), The Seed Crystal (The Expanse), Slaughter Over Ganymede (The Expanse), 52 Refugees (The Expanse), David Raids D3 (Legion), Flashbacks on Blackboards (Legion), Prison Bus (Fargo), Storage Locker Showdown (Fargo), Ranting to the Masters (Doctor Who), The Breaking of Oliver Queen (Arrow), Dead End Tunnel (Arrow), Slade's Rampage (Arrow), The Paradox Mission (Legends of Tomorrow), The Wedding Brawl (Arrowverse: Crisis on Earth-X), Uptown Girl (Preacher), The Siege of Targoviste (Castlevania), Eating a Memory (Channel Zero: No-End House), Split Therapy Session (Mr. Robot), A Death Wish (Mr. Robot)
16. The Planet Wyh (Fargo)
Throughout Fargo's meditative third episode, Gloria's trip to find out more about her late father is intercut by segments from a story the man wrote, "The Planet Wyh". In Don Hertzfeldt-esque animated interludes, we follow a little lost robot who only knows how to adorably say "I can help" as he interacts with the denizens of a strange planet. I have mixed feelings about the episode as a whole -- it's a well-told vacuum story with some nice parallel flashbacks, but it doesn't have much to do with the more compelling business in the main plot -- but I love these interludes so much. Not just because I'm a sucker for unexpected animated segments in otherwise live-action shows, but because of how the robot's depressing journey so succinctly echoes both the themes of the season and the show as a whole. It's a bitter pill of nihilism with a root of deep, innate kindness twisting through it, and while it's far from subtle, it's a treat to watch.
15. Starr's Initiation (Preacher)
I haven't read the Preacher comics, but since the adaptation's premiere, I've known about Herr Starr. Fans spent a year-and-a-half excitedly speculating about how they could possibly do the depraved Grail executive justice, and after the Saint of Killers arc wrapped, they got to see him live and I got my favorite episode of Preacher thus far. Starr's flawed use as a character beyond his introduction in "Pig" keeps him off of my Best Characters list, but for this episode, he is stupendous -- especially throughout the flashbacks to his initiation into the Grail organization. In a long montage to the tune of "Blood Upon the Risers", the scarred German psychopath rises through the entrance exams, perfectly demonstrating his ruthless pragmatism, disturbing creativity, and complete lack of boundaries or ethics. It's not every day that a villain's introduction includes him masturbating to distract his sparring partner and then collapsing his head with a folding chair all without even cracking a smile, and I wish the rest of the season supported his excellence.
14. Mother of Dragons (Game of Thrones)
13. The Devil Dances (Legion)
The below clip, entirely free of the spoilery context that sets it up, shows a horrifying entity of unimaginable power wrecking shop through David's literal memories in a gorgeous montage styled after old Bond movie intros, all to the tune of Nina Simone. There is nothing more that I can say. I love this show.
12. The Horseman's Judgement (Samurai Jack)
11. "Thank You... For the Adventure of a Lifetime" (Arrowverse: Crisis on Earth-X)
10. House of the Deaf (Legion)
9. You Are Scapegoats (Mr. Robot)
Things Mr. Robot has never shied away from: timely political relevance. Abandoning plot points for a long, long time only to revisit them at the most unexpected moment to chilling effect. Killing major characters coldly and impersonally. Breaking the audience's hearts. Somehow, the show suckered me again despite its most ominous setup: I truly believed the episode following "Kill Process" (listed below) might end with a glimmer of hope. Surely, that couldn't just happen out of the blue, right? There must be another way, an unforeseen escape route far away from the powerful ones enacting their horrific plans? But happen it does, and when the moment comes and the clock winds down in a grimy two-car garage festooned with lies and propaganda, Mr. Robot delivers one of the most effective gut punches of 2017 and I loved and hated it in equal measure.
8. Final Showdowns on Lian Yu (Arrow)
7. Taking the Subway Home (Mr. Robot)
6. Winter Is Here (Game of Thrones)
5. Runtime Error (Mr. Robot)
The entire fifth episode of Mr. Robot's third season, "Runtime Error", centers around the chaos that overwhelms a large office building as Stage 2 approaches and Elliot tries to counter the Dark Army's sinister plans unnoticed. It follows him and multiple other perspectives as they weave in and out of the building, across multiple floors and tense situations, in the space of a full hour with no commercial interruptions. It's also -- in a gimmick that doesn't beat out Season 2's sitcom episode, but comes damn close -- shot in a couple of long takes artfully disguised to look like a single uninterrupted shot. The effect is gimmicky, sure, but it turns the seemingly pleasant office into an environment of intense claustrophobia and adds in all of the urgency that the setup of the season slightly lacked. It has to be seen to be believed.
4. Temple of Darkness (Samurai Jack)
As great as most of Samurai Jack's final season is, it regrettably does hit its peak at the end of the second episode. There, a terrified and outgunned Jack is chased into a pitch-black temple by the Daughters of Aku, where he must evade and strategically battle them while nearly blind. The resulting sequence includes an incredibly tense tomb hiding sequence, a claustrophobic battle illuminated only by the flashes of sparks as weapons clash, and so much more, culminating in a shocking ending that lays out exactly what kind of show this final season is going to be. And of course, it wouldn't be a Samurai Jack revival if all of this wasn't accomplished with some of the most gorgeous, vibrant, and creative animation I've ever seen used for such violent ends. If the season stuck its landing on the level it established with this scene, the season might genuinely have risen to the #1 spot.
3. The Animals In The Woods (Fargo)
Many people gave up on Fargo's third season in the deceptively slow burn of the first five episodes, and remained blissfully unaware that the latter five contained shocking subversions and setpieces that simply wouldn't be the same without that kind of buildup. Chief among these highlights, and among the best things Fargo has ever committed to screen, is the sequence late in the season in which two unlikely allies must escape a group of animal-masked assassins while concussed, handcuffed together, and blindly stumbling through a snowy forest. If the concept alone sounds intriguing, you haven't seen anything. From the crash that initiates the chase to a blood-spattering standoff in a clearing to whatever the hell goes down in that bowling alley, the whole scenario plays out like an extended nightmare I almost couldn't believe I was getting to watch unfold. This is the frequent action that defined prior seasons condensed into one terrifying package. You'll never look at a tree stump the same way again.
2. A Silent Movie Showdown (Legion)
This is such a pivotal and surprising scene that I would be remiss to give it any real summary, except for this: whether it's Noah Hawley or a random writer, whoever had the idea to shoot one of the most important confrontations in the season as a trippy silent movie deserves a commendation. If you know what I'm referring to, you know why this is so high up on here. If you don't, what the fuck are you doing? Legion can be streamed in full on Hulu at the time of this writing, and the second season is coming up soon! Get on it!
1. Stage 2 (Mr. Robot)
The last act of "Kill Process" is not visually that spectacular. It's not mind-blowing experimental television like the above four, including "Runtime Error", the episode it directly follows. But for sheer tension, sheer mile-a-minute breathlessness, sheer heart-in-your-throat "HOLY SHIT" factor, nothing beats it. As Elliot's and Mr. Robot's long-escalating rivalry reaches a violent climax and the minutes tick down to seconds on a clock that's been going since the end of Season 1, Mr. Robot fires on all cylinders to deliver something that genuinely made me press myself back in my seat. It's quite possibly the most pivotal series of events in the show's history, completely reshaping every character dynamic and fundamentally altering the show's very soul, and the aftershocks of it are still not done being felt by the time the season ends. I can't think of another recent show willing to grind its status quo into so much dust, and even if I hadn't been so impressed, I still would have awarded it for ballsiness alone.
Runners-Up: Attack On Titan (S2), Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid
Special Honorable Mention: Re:CREATORS
Ah, Re:CREATORS, you should've been perfect for me. An original series about fictional characters from wildly differing genres being pulled into the real world, featuring both occasional fights between them (curious how a magical girl fights a hard-boiled mercenary with futuristic bullets, or how a fight goes when one of the combatants is an H-game love interest?) and rich meta commentary on various tropes and aspects of the creative process, and co-written by the author of Black Lagoon? Shit was built from the ground up with someone like me in mind. Sadly, a mishandled villain and a universally panned second half almost tank the show completely, but I can't let the quality of the first half go undocumented. The first half of Re:CREATORS is absolutely worth watching, especially if you're a creator; the subtle jokes and commentary on the relationship between author and character, the dynamics of watching characters evolve beyond your grasp, the role of a fanbase, and so on are truly brilliant and left me constantly amazed and amused. The well-developed characters and interesting fights are just the icing on the cake. It's a tragedy that I can't even put it in my top five.
5. KonoSuba (S2)
4. Made In Abyss
Lucky for me, my writer's block and frustration with this section did not hit before I managed to do full reviews of all four shows below this point!
Runners-Up: Megumin (KonoSuba), Reiner Braun (Attack on Titan), Izuku Midoriya (My Hero Academia), Ochaco Uraraka (My Hero Academia), Sucy Mambavaran (Little Witch Academia), Reg (Made In Abyss) Ozen the Immovable (Made In Abyss), Yuuya Mirokuji (Re:CREATORS), Blitz Talker (Re:CREATORS)
10. Bondrewd the Novel (Made In Abyss)
The demented White Whistle scientist Bondrewd, Made In Abyss's immensely popular villain and the character I started watching the show to see, is only in half of a 40-minute episode and a couple of scattered seconds-long flashbacks; the story of the first season cuts off right before his arc officially begins. The fact that he's on here should thus be proof enough of how effective he is. In the short time we get to see him, Bondrewd manages to showcase everything that makes him popular: his effortlessly smooth charm (and immense quotability), his fiendish intelligence, his ruthless cruelty for the sake of scientific discovery, his strangely genuine fondness for his test subjects, and perhaps most importantly, his amazing design. He's a potentially one-dimensional mad scientist concept done perfectly, and the time he's onscreen is captivating. Season 2 can't come quickly enough.
9. Kobayashi (Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid)
Much as the internet collectively flipped shit over Tohru and the dragon loli, the Dragon Maid character I fell in love with right away is the mundane human: the titular Kobayashi. An overworked dork with modest goals and no standards, Kobayashi manages to be one of the most grounded human characters of the anime year, despite being a comedy protagonist at the center of a pseudo-harem. Aside from just being incredibly likable and understatedly charming, she's the "straight man" (the comedy archetype; she is neither a man nor clearly straight) done right. Instead of sucking the fun out of the setup, her dry, somewhat realistic responses and goals are
8. Riko (Made In Abyss)
7. Chito and Yuu (Girls' Last Tour)
6. Shoto Todoroki (My Hero Academia)
5. Ichiro Inuyashiki (Inuyashiki: Last Hero)
4. Hero Killer Stain (My Hero Academia)
A lot of my favorite antagonists are the ones who honestly, passionately view themselves as the heroes of the story, and have done enough good amongst their crimes that the line you can argue them on becomes very blurry. The vigilante known only as Stain, my third-favorite anime villain of 2017 and the best character spawned from My Hero Academia's second season, exemplifies this so well that it's hard to call him a true villain. He roams the streets with the sole intent of crippling or killing licensed superheroes, which isn't exactly heroic, but his true personality belies his 90s Image Comics design and literally bloodthirsty methods. Underneath his savage cruelty, his motives and goals are quite high-minded; he seeks only to root out the corruption that selfish, money-hungry "heroes" have brought into the system, no matter how much blood he has to spill in darkened alleys to get that done. He may be a bit delusional and sadistic, but this driving goal -- and the fact that, going by the drastically lower crime rates wherever he's left his mark, it actually works -- elevates him far beyond the typical shonen anime monster he initially seems to be, so much so that you could even call him an anti-hero if you were pretty forgiving. It doesn't hurt that his design in motion is pretty kickass and that the fight against him is one of the series' high points, either.
3. Magane Chikujouin (Re:CREATORS)
Then again, sometimes all of the complexity and nuance gets a little strenuous. Sometimes you just want to watch someone who's not that complicated, someone you could never possibly root for but who gravitates you to them all the same -- someone who revels in being an evil bitchbastard just 'cause it's in their blood. These kinds of villains on paper are a dime a baker's dozen across all fiction, but the well-executed ones are much harder to come across. Magane Chikujouin is my second-favorite anime villain of 2017 (very narrowly beating out Stain) because, despite Stain and my #1 pick being marvelously well-written and nuanced antagonists, she's fun. She's just a demonic serial killer because she was literally born to be one, and she's all too happy to fulfill her purpose. Magane is the antagonist of a high school horror manga and one of the last Creations to burst to life, and she makes her mark almost immediately on execution alone. Between her creepy and quirky animation, oddly charming voice acting, dialogue that's as outrageously entertaining as it is horrific, and complete lack of fucks to give about the whole situation, she's just soooo much fun to watch even as she brutally murders innocent people for fun. I was in love the minute she casually ducked away from a climactic argument between the good and evil Creations to watch the ensuing battle like a drive-in movie, complete with mocking narration. She's certainly leagues better than the show's actual main villain, who... well, let's say it's a shame I finished my Worst of 2017 list before I finished this show.
2. Nanachi (Made In Abyss)
1. Hiro Shishigami (Inuyashiki: Last Hero)
Hiro Shishigami, the murderous cyborg who serves as Inuyashiki's main antagonist, is more than just the best anime character of 2017 -- he's quite possibly the best villain in a year packed with incredible ones, certainly the best anime villain I've seen in a long while, and one of my new all-time favorite villains. To sum him up while both trying to do him justice and not spoil the magic for anyone not yet watching, Hiro is a high-schooler involved in the same accident that grants Inuyashiki his powers, but he's a born sociopath who decides to use his new abilities to become a serial killer just because he can. This has all the potential to be a one-note evil baddie who only exists to be evil, but what makes Hiro so special is the... complexity in his twisted, remorseless heart. He is 99% unsympathetic and 100% fucking irredeemable, but despite committing some of the most depraved and despicable acts I've ever seen on a screen, he's the perfect example of how to write unbelievable levels of nuance in an unrepentantly evil asshole. There are so many layers to his personality and worldview, so many weird little quirks and subtleties and things that stick out in your mind. Add it on top of the bloody destruction he so expertly brings on Japan, and you have a villain who kept my eyes firmly fixed to the screen whenever he was present, fearing whatever he might do next yet equally captivated by him when he's doing shit. This guy is worth the price of admission -- aka, the price of Amazon Prime -- alone. Consider me blown the fuck away.
BEST ANIME SCENE
Runners-Up: The Trial of Satou Kazuma (KonoSuba), Lizard Runner Quest (KonoSuba), A Town of Con Artists (KonoSuba), The Beast Titan Cometh (Attack On Titan), Ymir's Past (Attack On Titan), Ochaco vs Bakugou (My Hero Academia), Rations in the Weapon Graveyard (Girls' Last Tour), Drinking and Dancing (Girls' Last Tour), I Can Heal Things (Inuyashiki: Last Hero), 2channel (Inuyashiki: Last Hero), Declaration of War (Inuyashiki: Last Hero), Ozen's Secrets (Made In Abyss)
16. First Flight (Inuyashiki: Last Hero)
15. Clash of the Creations (Re:CREATORS)
14. Heroics (KonoSuba)
Part of me hopes, whenever I watch KonoSuba, that things will never change -- that the quartet of beautiful fuckups will forever be stuck being beautiful fuckups, taking menial jobs to scrape up cash and getting on each other's nerves. It's such a wonderful breath of fresh air for anime that I'm hesitant to accept any sign that Kazuma and his "friends" are getting any better. But man, watching them finally use their stupid, stupid powers in harmony to take down a godlike slime demon almost moved me to tears, so I guess I'm okay with it. So much focus has been given to the dysfunctional party's scumminess and eternal bad luck that even a single victory ends up feeling well-earned, and the fact that it's a massive one rooted in the emotional throughlines of the season makes it even better.
13. Inuyashiki vs the Yakuza (Inuyashiki: Last Hero)
12. Curse of the Abyss (Made In Abyss)
11. Shifters on the Wall (Attack On Titan)
10. The Last Pilot (Girls' Last Tour)
9. Mitty's Garden (Made In Abyss)
8. Stratosphere (Inuyashiki: Last Hero)
The finale of Inuyashiki is... imperfect. The sudden cancellation of the manga due to abysmal sales meant it had to skip right to its planned ending and fuse it into the current plotline, and the anime basically follows suit identically, leaving the pacing somewhat strange and a lot of important concepts without buildup. It's also pretty predictable to people who've experienced this kind of plot device before; I called it to near exacting detail as soon as the pivotal plot point was foreshadowed halfway through the story. But that doesn't mean it doesn't work. After all of the flawed setup is out of the way, the actual endgame is executed near-perfectly, blending a bunch of tired tropes I feared going in and making them work not just in isolation, but as seamless conclusions to each aspect of the show's stunning character work. A big turning point that raises complex, uncomfortable questions about morality and redemption gives way to a heart-tugging climax that hits all of the right notes no matter how predictable it is, and the show smartly knows not to drag things out further past that, leaving time only for a devastating credits remix and a surprisingly poignant stinger. If this is what a creator forced to wrap up his story many volumes ahead of schedule can come up with, why do so many full-length anime just drop dead at the end?
7. The Hero Killer (My Hero Academia)
6. Fish and Robots (Girls' Last Tour)
5. Home Invasion (Inuyashiki: Last Hero)
The pivotal moment of Berserk comes when Griffith, driven mad by torture and despair, sacrifices his entire team to demons in exchange for godhood and viciously scars the only two survivors beyond physical or mental recovery. That event is widely considered one of the darkest and most tragic in all of anime, killing off many long-developed characters in grotesque ways and leading to many dark story ramifications. So take it as a mark of quality that I felt the same chest-tightening, mind-numbing horror at the end of Hiro Shishigami's intro episode, having only known the character for 20-ish minutes and watching him kill completely random people who've never been seen before. It's so tough to describe what makes the home invasion sequence one of the most staggeringly disturbing sequences in recent anime without just relaying it beat by beat, but it casts a haunting shadow over the rest of the show and cements Hiro's status as an unforgettable villain. It's like bloody car accident footage -- I actually wanted to look away, but my eyes were glued to the screen until it was all over -- and yet it's executed with such maturity and artistry that it avoids feeling like the over-the-top brutality so many other shows would pull out for shock value. It just goes to show you that- "Bang. Bang. Bang."
4. Children of the Fifth Layer (Made In Abyss)
3. The Submarine (Girls' Last Tour)
2. Izuku vs Todoroki (My Hero Academia)
A tournament arc lives and dies off the emotional heft of its battles. Cool match-ups and exciting choreography are obviously important, but the most beloved battles in this staple of the anime medium always carry at least some gravitas to them (something everyone involved in Dragon Ball Jiren forgot about by the time they'd finished firmly rooting their heads up each other's asses). The duel between Izuku and Shoto Todoroki isn't the most exciting fight in MHA's second season in terms of choreography or stakes -- the two pretty much spend the whole battle firing their (visually gorgeous) attacks from opposite ends of the arena, and everyone's fine afterwards -- but it's my favorite part of the entire show so far on the weight of the feels alone. By the time they square off, the audience has an intimate understanding of who they both are, what drives them, the nuances of their reflected histories, and what they each stand to gain or lose. What ensues is a clash of wills and ideologies that rivals even the bloodiest supervillain battle, with Izuku fighting to help Shoto reach his full potential even as he's trying to beat him, and Shoto fighting back against both his opponent and the agony of his past. They push themselves and each other to the very limit, and every blow connected with my heart as much as the rivals' flesh.
1. People of Tokyo (Inuyashiki: Last Hero)
It stands to reason, given my adoration for the show and its main characters, that my pick for the best anime scene of 2017 would be the entirety of "People of Tokyo" -- the penultimate episode, in which Inuyashiki and Shishigami finally face off in the midst of the latter's most devastating rampage ever. I tried so hard to pare it down to one segment of the episode, but I can't do it. The face-to-face meeting, the elaborate battle in the sky that compensates for rubbery CGI with the strength of its writing, Inuyashiki's heart-wrenching breakdown in a burning skyscraper and the reason for it, and the poignant final moments... it's all so stellar, and it all flows together so perfectly that it's tough to separate it. "People of Tokyo" is an emotional tour de force, a masterpiece of catharsis that never fails to spark off its long-built-up suspense and complex character work. Tears, blood, and shards of metal fall from the smoke-choked skies, invisible bullets mingle with streaks of light, the young and the old are pushed to the limit, and I am utterly enraptured. It's criminal that this show was so overlooked.