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Team AFA's Top Animation Releases of 2017


Before 2017 becomes a distant, fuzzy memory, we were finally able to assemble (at least some of) Team AFA to look back at our favourite films and series that were released last year. While there are those who considered the year to be a weaker one for animation, we found there were plenty of excellent releases, particularly towards the independent end of things.

Please note that we made our selections based on things that we saw last year. Thanks to the peculiarities of varying international release dates you might see some titles that may appear on other people's lists for 2016, and some that may yet appear on other people's list for 2018.


Rachael Ward


Sometimes I feel picking a favorite animated film of the year is like picking your right or left arm. You need both for a lot of things but you always tend to rely on one of them over the other. Sometimes the art style is more appealing the eye or the narrative really hit home to the viewer's personal interests, or in my case, the film showcases a belief that the viewer relates to in some way.  For me, the film that hit all the right notes this year happened to be Nora Twomey's "The Breadwinner". As an aspiring storyteller myself, there was plenty of moments in this movie that really sang to my passion for the medium. Reminding me of my own experience on how when things in life were not always the best, stories can help put everything in perspective. There is also the charming Cartoon Saloon animation that never fails to impress, and loads of amazing performances from the voice cast which makes this film an incredible experience. Though I had originally hoped to include another film as my top pick for the year, the more I thought back on it, the more I realized how much Breadwinner spoke to me on a personal level. That no matter the medium, the power of a single story can touch so many people.


My second pick of the year comes one of the few summer anime releases that I had time to sit down and watch. The second season of an anime that had already taken me by surprise, My Hero Academia. With already such a fun first season under its belt, Studio Bones had a lot to live up to in my eyes in adapting the Shonen manga written by Kohei Horikoshi (which I have already caught up to the mainstream release between the 1st and 2nd season). While there were fewer surprises this time around, after having already read the manga, I have to say Studio Bones has once again really captured the manga's energy. Though the second season begins with the typical Shonen trope of a tournament arc (or Super Hero Sports Festival), the pacing of each episode was on point and offered some really memorable moments. A particular highlight in animation goes to the fight between Izuku Midoriya and fellow classmate Shouto Todoroki (who viewers get to learn a lot more about through the course of the season). Bakugo remains the angry, arrogant jerk as the previous season but his actions are played a lot more for comedy than I expected (and there are hints of some promising character development). Like any good season, the world of My Hero Academia continues to expand with new information and new questions but it is really the characters that keep me coming back instead of the plot. If you are looking for well-animated superhero shenanigans, My Hero Academia Season 2 certainly doesn't disappoint.




Honorable mentions


• Girl Without Hands: A must see movie for fans of fairy tales and experimental animation.
• Loving Vincent: A loving tribute to the film's subject, Vincent van Gogh.
• RWBY Vol 5: Roosterteeth and CRWBY continue to exceed expectations with each season.
• Voltron Season 3&4: Continues to be a strong space opera with great visuals and characters.
• Coco (Pixar): Easily one of my top 5 Pixar films of all time.
• In This Corner of the World: A charming and heartwrenching tale of perseverance.


Chris Perkins

Contrary to what seems to be the popular opinion, 2017 was actually another strong year for animation, so it was quite tricky to narrow down my picks. However, when it came down to it, two animated features stood above all others.

The Red Turtle is simply, incredible. Without a single word of spoken dialogue, it manages to create a story that connects on a deeply emotional level that most films can only dream of. The story is simple and fable-like but director Michael Dudok de Wit creates a completely absorbing world that makes this less a mere movie, and more of an almost spiritual experience. Gorgeous visuals, stunning imagery and a beautiful score combine to create an instant classic. The fact that this is Dudok de Wit's first feature makes it only all the more remarkable.

I was somewhat less surprised that Nora Twomey's The Breadwinner was as good as it was, as Cartoon Saloon have yet to put a foot wrong. Having said that, I was not prepared for how intense the movie was- something reflected in its PG-13/12A rating. It's completely appropriate for the movie's subject matter, but it's a new direction for a studio more associated with whimsical tales based on Irish folklore- and an exciting one at that. Its inspiring story of a headstrong young girl standing up for her family could hardly be more timely, either.

Honourable Mentions

In This Corner Of The World was another outstanding film, and one of the best Japanese animated features to have been released in the west last year. A moving story of normal people caught up in the events of war, it's a beautifully made film that should not be missed.

We mustn't let the behaviour of a few obnoxious fans overshadow the fact that the long-awaited Rick and Morty Season 3 was genuinely brilliant. Building on previous seasons but refusing to just repeat themselves the creators went all out this time to deliver fantastic sci-fi concepts, mixed in with comedy and a surprising amount of drama and pathos. Not every episode was a classic, but this season definitely had some of the show's best episodes to date.

My Life As A Courgette is another reminder of the wonderful variety of animated films we saw release in 2017. There's some pretty dark subject matter in this story of a young orphan who moves into a children's home but it never feels oppressive or depressing. 


Christophe Harvey


The Tatami Galaxy was a favourite from 2016 so I was very excited for its next instalment in Night is Short, Walk on Girl (Night is Short... is more a spiritual successor to Tatami Galaxy than a straight sequel). I'm glad I got to see this on the big screen and it was a fantastic experience from start to finish. Nothing really prepares you for a Masaki Yuasa feature or series, but you know it will look stunning, there will be visual and animated flourishes aplenty and that the sound and picture will create something truly unique. I love the flat style Yuasa used for this feature and with some of the more fantastical elements (if that is possible) it really feels like Ukiyo-e prints come to life. Night is short looks at its world through hopeful, fantastical eyes where anything is possible if you believe in it. It is saturated with a sense of mystery, wonder, colour and movement and is a must-see for lovers of truly unique animation.



I have always been a fan of Gundam but Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam defied my preconceptions and has become my favourite Gundam show. From the foreboding opening music I was hooked. It was familiar and yet built its own world which for me was more complex than I first thought. It is one of the few Gundam shows that has stuck with me. The mech designs were excellent and the scientist in me appreciated some of the detail of how things worked. Compared to other Gundam shows MSZG was much darker in tone, at times melodramatic but always honest. It is a show full of teen angst and I found it to be an emotionally credible. Kamille develops his skills and matures throughout the series and it feels believable. Its finale is perhaps the best of *any* of the Gundam series I have seen to date, I didn't see it coming, it was completely fitting for what had gone before and true to how they had developed the characters.

2017 has been a good year to see animation in the cinema. It afforded me the opportunity to watch anime features on a big screen rather than a PC monitor or television at home giving rise to 2 of my honourable mentions. The Masaki Yuasa directed feature Lu Over the Wall was fabulous. It is perhaps his most accessible feature and is much more a family film. I particularly loved the use of colour throughout the feature and how memories or dreams had an intangible, almost weightless feeling to them. Plus like all Yuasa works there is *always* something to look at that you may not have seen before.

My second honourable mention is a bit of a cheat. I was lucky enough to see Perfect Blue on the big screen as part of its 20th anniversary release. It is my favourite film directed by Satoshi Kon and feels very much like an animated Hitchcock film. Set at a time when the internet is becoming a thing against a backdrop of a murder-thriller TV show, reality and fiction blur challenging us to think about what we see and what we think is "real".

My final honourable mention is for a feature I saw at the London Film Festival and is due for release in 2018. The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales was an utter delight from start to finish. I knew very little going into it apart from its creative pedigree (Patrick Imbert and Benjamin Renner who were animation director and director respectively or Ernest & Celestine). I left the cinema with a big goofy smile on my face and wanting to go back in again for another viewing. I have been recommending it to friends and family of all ages and I am really looking forward to its release in 2018.

Denhery Olguin

Coco

This is a movie I didn't expect to love as much as I do now. It was controversial for reasons that I felt passionate about. Nevertheless, I gave it a chance and it instantly became my favorite Pixar movie ever. This movie won me over and I'd be lying if I told you I didn't cry. The music and the characters were equally amazing. Anthony Gonzalez and Gael Garcia Bernal made such a perfect duo as Miguel and Hector,  especially when it came to 'Un poco loco'. I even loved what they did after the credits, which I don't want to spoil if you haven't seen it. It's best to see it yourself. 

Tangled: The Series

This series released last year and recently had their season finale. It's one of the few times where the series is as good as the movie. After all, most of the cast and crew returned to work on the series including Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi as Rapunzel and Eugene/Flynn as well as Alan Menken and Glenn Slater to create the wonderfully addicting soundtrack. The series introduced us to some new characters that you can't help but love. The series is off to a great start with plenty of surprises. It's worth a watch if you're a fan of Tangled. But seriously, the music is so good too!


Jillian Baker

In my opinion, 2017 was a weak year for feature length animation and a strong year for television series animation. Thus it was easy for me to pick a favorite film, however quite difficult to narrow down my choice for favorite series of the year. 

The Breadwinner

In regards to animated films for 2017, it was down to Coco or The Breadwinner. Personally, I found The Breadwinner to be more engaging and challenging than the widely acclaimed Coco. The Breadwinner dealt with a difficult subject matter and didn't shy away in showing just how difficult the situation in Afghanistan was for women. Parvana's journey in disguising herself as a boy in order to provide for her family is a testament to the strength and endurance of women everywhere. The filmmakers are clear to show the risks Parvana takes and just how dangerous the times were for a woman in Afghanistan. The variation in animation style also makes the film stand out as it goes from 2D to stop animation as it flips between Parvana's story and the fable that Parvana tells to her baby brother. It's a stunning piece of animation and is helped by the fact that it is one of the few feature animated films directed by a woman, Nora Twomey. This was by far the strongest feature film of 2017 in animation and my personal favorite of the year. 

Star vs. the Forces of Evil

The second season and the first part of the third season saw Star vs. the Forces of Evil dip down into  darker territory and add even greater complexities to the energetic cast of characters. The second season delved into Marco and Star's relationship as well as how strong Star's magic is and the darkness that was lurking beneath Ludo's wackiness all season. The finale of the second season ended strongly with a friendship altering confession from Star and the revelation that the big bad from season one, Toffee, was back to wreak havoc on the Butterfly family. Season three saw the addition of the quirky former Mewni queen, Eclipsa, and some excellent writing on monster/Mewni relations that ran parallel to current race issues along with revelations regarding the Butterfly family that brought up a whole slew of new questions. Retaining the fun and energetic wackiness, Daron Nefcy and crew have managed to bring this series up to a whole other level that will ensure it remains a classic of Disney television animation for years to come. 

Honorable Mentions

• Tangled: The Series: Retains what you loved about the film while adding a great deal of depth to the original characters, entertaining and complex new characters, and some great new songs. Currently listening to "Ready as I'll Ever Be" on permanent repeat!
• Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia: The sophomore season amps up the stakes and increases the presence of some surprising characters. The show also takes a darker turn and keeps up a bingeworthy pace. Notable episodes include "Creepslayerz" and "Hero With a Thousand Faces".
• Coco: Excellent representation of Dia de los Muertos and visually stunning. Excellent Pixar offering.
• The Lego Batman Movie: Incredibly entertaining with plenty of pop culture references and laughs.
• Bob's Burgers: Retains the heart that we love while keeping the jokes fresh as Bob's daily burger special.
• Voltron: Continues to have stunning animation, great storylines, and complicated character development. Not to mention Prince Lotor's hair should get its own recognition in the credits.



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