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Beyond the TV shows and films, there are the many one-off and direct-to-DVD anime out there. These are our picks for the best of these from 2017.
Image source: アニプレックス on YouTube
The Kubikiri Cycle: The Blue Savant and the Nonsense Bearer
8 Episode OVA
Genre: Murder Mystery, Psychological
Non-spoiler Plot Summary: On a tiny island off the coast of Japan lives a rich eccentric who invites the geniuses of the world to be her guests—to work or relax as they see fit. But no sooner do computer genius Tomo and her friend Ii come to the island then they find themselves caught up in a locked room murder mystery. With no detective present, it falls to Ii to solve the case and find the murderer before the body count increases.
Why You Should Watch It: On the surface, The Kubikiri Cycle is a classic Agatha Christie-style murder mystery. There’s a small group of people—all of them more than what they seem—and all suspects. But what causes this anime to rise above other similar ones isn’t the mystery but the characters. Written by the same author as the Monogatari Series and Juni Taisen: Zodiac War, the dialogue and character depth is explored through tantalizing conversation and clever wordplay.
And like with the aforementioned Monogatari Series, The Kubikiri Cycle makes its exposition interesting by complimenting it with surreal visuals that are sometimes representations of the topic at hand and, at other times, give a visual peak into the various characters’ souls. It is visual and philosophical eye candy at its finest.
Where You Can Watch It: Amazon.co.jp (No English Subtitles)
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Girls und Panzer das Finale Part 1
Genre: Cute Girls Doing Cute Things
Non-spoiler Plot Summary: Following the events of the Girls und Panzer series and Girls und Panzer der Film movie, the girls of the Ōarai Girls High School face a new crisis and an opportunity that leads them to enter the reestablished sensha-dō tournament, the Winter “Infinite Orbit Cup” where they face a new school they have never encountered before.
Why You Should Watch It: Put simply, Girls und Panzer is a fun series. It’s not about any sort of deeper meaning, although viewers are welcome to glean any such elements from it as they like. More than anything, the series is about entertaining the viewer with cute girls and military weaponry. There is a love and adoration for historical tanks by the creators that permeates the story and imagery, and even the sound design, down to the use of different sounds for each individual tank and gun.
Girls und Panzer das Finale is not out to make any new friends. Viewing of the series (or the full recap special) and the movie are completely necessary to get into it. But, if you’re already in or if you’re willing to take the plunge, it does not disappoint. It’s a lovingly put together episode by a brilliant director with barely a single slow moment to drag it down.
Watch It If You Like: Girls und Panzer, Strike Witches, Kan Colle, tanks
Where You Can Watch It: Not currently streaming
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin V: Clash at Loum
Genre: Mecha, Space Opera
Non-spoiler Plot Summary: Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin is a prequel series to the original 1979 Mobile Suit Gundam. In Mobile Suit Gundam humans have colonized space. However after years of oppression by the Earth Federation, the space colonies formed into the Principality of Zeon and declared independence. The two forces clash in a “One Year War” with grave losses on both sides. Clash at Loum brings us the to beginnings of the One Year War with the Principality of Zeon declaring it’s independence and war on the Earth Federation. And the first act of war by Zeon causes untold destruction.
Why You Should Watch It: For many beginner fans of the Gundam franchise we’re drawn to the robots featured in the different series. As we watch more and more material within the franchise, though, we find some excellent writing. It’s the later that makes Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin V: Clash at Loum so engaging. We’re dealing with a story about the beginnings of a war and how it’s not a beautiful thing in the least. The pure destruction, the loss human life, the callousness of military leader when it comes to attacking civilians, to even what we fight for are all on display in the OVA and handled with grace.
However, the writing is at its best when the OVA examines the different characters. We see what drives our hero into action and why it is the characters of Mobile Suit Gundam are the way they are. The excellent writing doesn’t end there, though, as this rings doubly true for the throwaway characters in the OVA. While these characters may not seem all that important, it shows just how much suffering people endure during war. This is writing akin to that of the creator of the Gundam franchise, Yoshiyuki Tomino, of very minor characters in Mobile Suit Gundam and Turn A Gundam. You don’t think these characters are important at all, but with very few words and great visuals we instantly understand their situation, why we should care about them, and how they add to the tension we’re seeing. This isn’t an easy feat to achieve to say the least and makes Clash at Loum all the more depressing, but engaging to watch.
Watch it if You Like: Anything Gundam related.
Honorable Mention: Armed Girl’s Machiavellism OVA 1, Food Wars! OVA 3
© Otaro Majio,nihon animator mihonichi LLP./NHK, NEP, Dwango, khara
The Dragon Dentist
2 Episode TV Special
Genre: Fantasy, History, Action
Non-spoiler Plot Summary: The main protagonists, Kishii Nonoko and Bellnard Octavius (or “Bell” for short) are responsible for an overtly religious cleaning of teeth belonging to very real dragons. Dragons are essentially responsible for the purification of the dead, and the build up of souls become the plaque adhering to the teeth. If the plaque isn’t cleaned, they become monsters. The dentists don’t just scrub and floss, they also battle any monsters they miss.
Why You Should Watch It: The two main reasons to put this on your playlist is the relationship between Nonoko and Bell, especially given there very different cultural background, and the fact that Bell isn’t Japanese but that the dentists’ rituals are overtly Japanese, and specifically, Shinto.
Watch It If You Like: Last Exile, Spirited Away
Where You Can Watch It: The Dragon Dentist is currently streaming on Crunchyroll in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. It is also available on Blu-ray through Amazon.
© BNEI／PROJECT SideM
The iDOLM@STER Prologue SideM -Episode of Jupiter-
Genre: Male Idols
Non-spoiler Plot Summary: 3 guys—high-schooler Toma, middle-schooler Shota, and college-aged fashion model Hokuto—have left their life of working at an agency, and now perform freelance as the male idol unit “Jupiter.” They work together with the staff to put on the best concerts they can for their denizens of fans. However, when an odd scout from an agency appears, the members realize that maybe their popularity is more than they can handle without the power of an agency to back them.
Why You Should Watch It: Even without knowledge of The iDOLM@STER, this special does a great job of setting up our characters and premise for Side M. While Jupiter isn’t the main focus of Side M, they are a great way to show the basic world that all of the idols featured in the anime live in. For those who have watched the 2011 anime, it gives great closure to the boy band who decided to leave evil behind to fulfill their dreams, the honest and fair way. We also see a side to them we never got to because of their lack of screen time, giving them a more human side. Honestly, this special alone gets me wanting a stand-alone TV series or movie for Jupiter on their own.
Watch It If You Like: The iDOLM@STER, Tsukipro The Animation
Where You Can Watch It: Crunchyroll