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The human face – one of our species’ most entrancing, fascinating traits. Capable of revealing the depths of the bearer’s soul or hiding a person’s true intentions, the face is the external cradle of emotion, the heart’s fairest and yet most complex messenger. Tonight, on NOVA…
Just kidding! You’re not here for a deep dive into the nuances of human faces and delicate insights into what the expressions we make say about who we are, what’s important to us, and the human psyche – you want some gosh dang goofy anime faces, and I’m here to provide. Good anime faces are one of the medium’s greatest treasures, with each new season of anime bringing with it a brand-new set of contenders reaching for the crown of best anime face. Some of these contenders bide their time, breaking out truly stellar faces for a moment of ideal impact, while others seek to make their mark with torrents faces.
Let me tell you, it was no easy task to break down an entire year’s worth of quality anime faces to a list of just ten of the best contenders, but I have tried my darndest and present before you the fruits of my labors. You can either read all the reasoning, or just look at the pictures and start yelling in the comments. Your choice! And so, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the top 10 best faces of 2017 anime!
Gamers! (Pine Jam, Summer 2017) was sneakily good in a lot of ways, feeding us rich material on the smugness of nerd self-deprecation, touching little reflections on romance, and a late bounty of dunks on video games courtesy of my favorite character in the show – Aguri. But there was one area where Gamers! needed no subtlety: its excellent face game. Trying to narrow down the faces from this show was a truly daunting task, but this one wins out for a number of reasons. First, the mismatched combination of heavy, marker-like lines and traditional thinner lines provides an odd contrast that frames Aguri’s deformed facial features – her mouth trailing off her face is probably the detail that makes the whole thing work. But the most impressive thing about this face? I don’t have the foggiest clue what it was in reaction to, but it still works devoid of any context. In many ways, that’s emblematic of what makes silly anime faces great – their ability to stand on their own apart from the context of their show. How about that? Weren’t expecting actual analysis on silly anime faces here, were ya!
This shot of Jean Otus from ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept. (Madhouse, Winter 2017), on the other hand, is one of the most context-rich faces in today’s list. While those of you who haven’t seen ACCA might be able to appreciate the smug upwards tilt of Jean’s mouth and his coy eyes, the people who did watch the show have the privilege of appreciating that this smile is the culmination of an entire show’s worth of political intrigue, spywork, and plotting. The twist and triumph this one smirk represents gives the audience a sort of deep satisfaction that offers an entirely different sort of appeal from the instant amusement that your typical anime face grants – and that earns it a spot on this list.
There’s your typical anime girl pout, and then there’s filling up the entire darn screen with your pouting. Leave it to an actual sulking child, like Sana from Alice & Zoroku (J.C. Staff, Spring 2017), to pull a feat like that off. In fact, Sana pulls a plethora of fantastic faces throughout the duration of Alice & Zoroku, including a ton from my personal favorite anime face genre, then > <. That being said, there’s no way a pout this powerful, which conveys both her childishness and her earnest cuteness in one shot, could be anything less than the show’s best face – and one of the best of the entire year.
What other sort of face are you supposed to make when a pretty girl seems like she’s about to confess to your extremely low self-esteem self? It was pretty much all out war in the Tsuredure Children (Studio Gokumi, Summer 2017) camp for this spot on the list, as the show’s face game was, frankly, unbelievable – with wobbly mouth smiles, tears by the gallon, blushes so numerous they probably contributed to global warming, moments of shock, embarrassment, and awkwardness galore. But Takao’s face here topped them all on two specific strengths. One, his head is very round. Two, the mix of sweat, full-face blush lines, pitch-perfect pink shading, and his huge mouth are a truly phenomenal combination that make it look like he’s just about to melt. #relatable.
Todoroki takes a page out of All Might’s book as he storms away from Endeavor in this scene from My Hero Academia‘s second season (BONES, Spring 2017), complete with the intense lines and dark shadows – except, in his case, it’s a face chiseled by rage instead of heroism. Pretty much everyone knows about famous BONES animator Yutaka Nakamura’s contributions to Todoroki’s fight, but the figure behind this epic face is anime character designer and chief animation director Yoshihiko Umakoshi. Although this shot is based on mangaka Kohei Hirokoshi’s excellent original drawing, Umakoshi’s distinct style still shines through in the inky lines and sharp angles. In the end, the anime version isn’t hugely different from the manga version, but it’s got just enough extra style to stand all on its own. You can really feel Todoroki’s fury!
What’s better than a sexy werewolf lady who can crush your heart with her hand while it’s still in your body? How about one who can drink you under the table without batting an eye, like Chain Sumeragi from Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond (BONES, Fall 2017)? While not the most intricate offering on the list, the simple chibi-like design is actually part of the face’s charm. There’s a pleasing asymetry to the whole thing, what with the back-and-forth linework of her mouth and the goofy puff of her left cheek. The empty shot glass of otherworldly liquor is just the chaser that makes the face irresistible.
I didn’t watch Gabriel Dropout (Dogakobo, Winter 2017) myself, but that doesn’t mean I’m not familiar with the show’s inescapably good face game. The studio behind GabDro, Dogakobo, has made a name for itself doing cartoony comedies with fun animation and great faces, and Gabriel Dropout is just another in a prestigious ouvre that includes cult favorites like Love Lab, widely beloved offerings like Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, and transcendent meme shows like Himouto! Umaru-chan, but on faces alone GabDrocertainly stands on level ground with the rest of the studio’s productions!
Can an anime face be just one eye? I’m not sure, but I’m sure as hell not going to argue with Mikasa Ackerman when she’s looking at Bertholdt like that! I’m not the biggest fan the show, but this chilling moment from Attack on Titan S2 (Wit Studio, Spring 2017) got my attention in a big way simply because of how much intensity and emotion was packed into a single open eye. The much-discussed makeup animation crew (more on that here) appeared many times during Titan‘s second season, but I’d argue this moment is their crowning achievement – if only for how impactful and terrifying it is.
At this point in the list, we’re well and truly into meme face territory, with Sagiri’s infamous “bleh” face from the middle of Eromanga Sensei (A-1 Pictures, Spring 2017). I didn’t watch the show myself, so I have basically no idea what the context is, but as we’ve discussed with some faces on this list already, many of the best anime faces are accomplished because they can be divorced from their shows. And, in the case of ones like this, they go on to become memes in their own right, ways of expressing emotion and feeling through our computer screens. Ah, for the face of an anime girl that expresses my true heart…
As much as it physically pains me not to have an Aqua screencap in this spot, was there ever any doubt that the most memorable anime face of 2017 would be this incredibly goofy Kazuma face from Konosuba S2 (Studio Deen, Winter 2017)? The face was an instant legend among the community as soon as the show aired, and went on to be discussed at length on Twitter, Reddit, and pretty much everywhere else for the entire season. As for the merits of the face itself, the bulging eyes, tiny pupils, streaming tears, garbled mouth, the general upwards slant of everything including Kazuma’s hair, and the hilarity of the moment itself all pull together to make the best anime face of 2017.