There’s so many things that define 2018 for me, but at the end of the year, it’s hard to help but look back at the positives, the best of the best in regard to anime. Here’s my two cents on my favorite anime of the year, my top anime of 2018.
My rules of this list are simple: if it aired/released this year, it can go on this list. I don’t see the point in only giving a show one chance during it’s airing season, and this is my list so I’ll list my favorite shows regardless of what season it started on. If this means that one show hogs the top spot for 2 seasons, than good for that show! If it’s an OVA or movie that came out during the duration of the season I fell in love with, then it may be there. I think that the seasonal split is arbitrary and unnecessary, so it’s completely gone here. Sorry about that, but that’s how I’m doing it.
Just an FYI, the placement of the show in the list is mostly based on my experience and enjoyment of the work, so if you’re wondering why something isn’t where you think it should be or you can’t really tell via the justification, that’s probably why. Keep in mind, just because a show is lower on the list doesn’t mean it’s bad - all of these are great, and a lower placement isn’t a mark against the show, at this point it’s nearly all personal preference. With that out of the way, let’s get started!
Thoughts on Anime in 2018:
A part of this is my own circumstance, but a part of it was anime itself: while there were some really great anime this year, and I absolutely adore a lot of the shows on this list, outside of this there was only a handful of shows that actually kept my interest. Even if I had time to make the seasonal lists, I’m not quite sure if I would have been able to find enough shows to fill out the 5 I usually have per season.
That being said, like 2017, there were some damn great movies that came out in 2018, and I loved seeing them. Liz and the Blue Bird, Maquia, Night is Short, Walk on Girl, I enjoyed all of the anime movies I went to see this year and some of them were just stunning. Shame I wasn’t able to see Mirai, but I had a great anime movie year.
One thing about 2018 I did appreciate a lot however, is that because of the anime that came out this year, I feel like I finally know what I enjoy in a work - it’s all about the characters. Before I thought I enjoyed works that focused on the story first and foremost, disregarding other elements to create a more engaging work, but ultimately I’ve learned that I can enjoy a show regardless of it’s premise, so long as the interactions between the characters are entertaining and engaging. While I do enjoy a good sci-fi or action show, well written, realistic and complex characters are what I love for in a work, and I think this list definitely shows that, at least up in the top.
Honorable Mention: Steins;Gate 0
Anime Made By: White Fox
Genres: Sci-Fi, Slice of Life, Drama, Thriller
Plot Summary: The eccentric, self-proclaimed mad scientist Rintarou Okabe has become a shell of his former self. Depressed and traumatized after failing to rescue his friend Makise Kurisu, he has decided to forsake his mad scientist alter ego and live as an ordinary college student. Surrounded by friends who know little of his time travel experiences, Okabe spends his days trying to forget the horrors of his adventures alone.
While working as a receptionist at a college technology forum, Okabe meets the short, spunky Maho Hiyajo, who later turns out to be the interpreter at the forum’s presentation, conducted by Professor Alexis Leskinen. In front of a stunned crowd, Alexis and Maho unveil Amadeus—a revolutionary AI capable of storing a person’s memories and creating a perfect simulation of that person complete with their personality and quirks. Meeting with Maho and Alexis after the presentation, Okabe learns that the two were Kurisu’s colleagues in university, and that they have simulated her in Amadeus. Hired by Alexis to research the simulation’s behavior, Okabe is given the chance to interact with the shadow of a long-lost dear friend. Dangerously tangled in the past, Okabe must face the harsh reality and carefully maneuver around the disastrous consequences that come with disturbing the natural flow of time. - Plot Summary from MAL
Justification and Thoughts: Huh. If you told me before the show aired that Steins;Gate 0 wouldn’t make my top 10 list, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. I loved the Visual Novel of Steins;Gate 0, and the anime definitely had it’s moments, some even better than the VN, ... but the show rubbed me the wrong way. A part of this might be that Steins;Gate 0 isn’t as good as I thought it was or it might have been a poor adaptation or it might have been fatigue since I played and reviewed the Visual Novel recently, but I just didn’t really enjoy it as much as when I played the Visual Novel or as much as I thought it would.
This anime is still Steins;Gate so the strengths like the enjoyable cast, the engaging science and fun slice of life still applies and honestly it’s a better adaptation than I should have expected. I think most would say that it’s an objectively good anime, and you can see that from it’s MAL score. It’s just that this is my list based on my enjoyment of the show and there were just moments that were either rushed or incredibly dull during the anime to the point where I wasn’t a big fan. The second half in my opinion is a bit all over the place, too focused to cram new stuff or non-relevant aspects of the show instead of focusing on what makes for enjoyable. Also to me, the strengths of Steins;Gate 0 is how it manages to convey Okabe’s downtrodden feeling after the events unfolded, but the anime doesn’t really do that element of the work justice. It’s a shame, but what are you gonna do. :c
10. A Place Further than the Universe
Anime Made By: Madhouse
Genres: Adventure, “Cute Girls Doing Cute Things”
Plot Summary: Mari Tamaki is second year high school student, who never did anything memorable in her life. Her fear of failure prevented her to do anything out of ordinary. When she decides to change it and do something she won’t forget, Mari meets Shirase, a girl who’s considered a weirdo by the rest of her class. Her nickname is “Arctic” since it’s all she ever talks about. Mari listens to Shirase’s story and is moved by it to the point, where she decides to join her in her pursuit of going to Antarctica, despite it’s nearly impossible for high school girls to achieve it. - Plot Summary from The 11 Anime of Winter 2018 You Should Be Watching article
Justification and Thoughts: A Place Further than the Universe is an absolutely phenomenal show. The journey we watch as our colorful and cute cast grows throughout their adventure is gripping, entertaining, emotional. APFttU is a touching story about friendship, defying odds and finding closure in your life, a truly moving story that’s executed exceedingly well. It’s a story that I enjoyed... but it didn’t really resonate with me, like so many others in this list.
A Place Further than the Universe isn’t what I was expecting it to be, more a slice of life drama/cute girls doing cute things show than a true adventure show, an enjoyable watch throughout thanks to it’s quirky cast and entertaining character interactions. With so much charm, it’s easy to understand why it’s chart topping so many other people’s lists, and it stands as one of my favorites of the year.
9. Liz and the Blue Bird
Anime Made By: Kyoto Animation
Genres: Romance, Slice of Life, Drama, Music
Plot Summary: Mizore Yoroizuka and Nozomi Kasaki are two close friends who are part of the Kitauji High School music club. Quiet and reserved Yoroizuka plays the oboe while lively and popular Kasaki plays the flute. The group has decided to play Liz and the Blue Bird, a song inspired on a fairy tale about the relationship between a girl and a bird. The musical piece puts both Mizore and Nozomi on the spotlight due to a solo part by Yoroizuka and forces the two girls to reexamine their friendship. - Plot Summary from MAL
Justification and Thoughts: Liz and the Blue Bird is exactly what I love to see out of a movie. It’s a meticulously crafted, focused and straightforward story about relationships that delves into motivations, communication and personalities in a way I just can’t help but love. It’s a movie with heart, a movie with soul, it captures the feeling of youth and love amazingly and the movie as a whole is done exceedingly well. Like every KyoAni Movie, it’s an absolutely stunning watch, and it’s an emotional drama that’s absolutely one of the best i’ve seen. It’s tangentially related to Sound Euphonium, but other than the setting and cameo appearances from characters in Sound, it doesn’t really relate to that work so there’s no real excuse not to watch this movie if it sounds appealing - it’s a great work that you should try to go and see.
Anime Made By: feel.
Genres: Comedy, Sci-fi, Seinen, Slice of Life, Supernatural
Plot Summary: Yakuza member Yoshifumi Nitta is lounging around his apartment, admiring his vase collection, when a giant metal capsule appears from thin air and knocks him on the head. Inside the pod is Hina, a strange girl with psychokinetic powers and a penchant for breaking expensive vases. Having blackmailed Nitta into feeding her, clothing her, and sending her to school (because she saw it on television), Nitta’s new parental life is seemingly going to be full of the antics that only a telekinetic middle-schooler can incur. - Plot Summary from The 11 Anime of Spring 2018 You Should Be Watching
Justification and Thoughts: Hinamatsuri is an absolute riot. With a wacky yet extremely engaging cast, it’s a show that’s so out there that it’s hard not to laugh at every one of it’s gags. Easily the best comedy of the year if not one of the best pure comedies that anime as a medium has to offer, Hinamatsuri was such a blast! The combo of entertaining comedy and enjoyable slice of life meant that it was a joy to watch every week, the cast was extremely strong with not just an enjoyable main cast but an enjoyable side cast, and the premise is just quirky and silly in a way that just puts a smile on your face. Definitely one of my favorites of the year.
7. Revue Starlight
Anime Made By: Kinema Citrus
Genres: Drama, Slice of Life, Music, School
Plot Summary: Karen Aijo is a student at a school famous for its theater and arts program, as she trains alongside her classmates to be the best on stage. But a mysterious audition process has already begun and started wrapping in her classmates as they both literally and figuratively duel to be the star. - Plot Summary from The 10 Anime of Summer2018 You Should Be Watching article
Justification and Thoughts: Revue Starlight is something special. To me, Revue Starlight is best described as Ikuhara light in all the right ways - filled with symbolism, great characters, great themes and is creative in ways other shows aren’t, but not in a way that’s too overbearing like so many shows of this ilk tend to be. The music is phenomenal, the cast is outstanding, the drama is engaging and emotional, the character development was a joy to watch and the visuals were top notch. I loved the show and have no real gripes about it. Really underappreciated show since it was trapped in the hell that is HiDIVE, with lots of twists and turns that I enjoyed. Definitely give it a shot!
6. Planet With
Anime Made By: J.C. Staff
Genres: Action, Mecha, Sci-Fi
Plot Summary: Soya Kuroi, a high schooler with no memories of his past, lives in a small apartment in a Japanese coastal city with a gothic maid named Ginko and an anthropomorphic cat called Sensei. One day, several large, unidentified, and rather odd looking objects emerge and approach several cities across the world, including the town Soya lives in. In response to the mysterious objects, a team of sentai-esque mecha superheroes emerge to combat the threat. Soya however finds himself fighting the superheroes for reasons at first unknown to him, but as he does memories start to come back to him, and the fate of the world becomes increasingly perilous, as things get weirder and weirder… - Plot Summary from The 10 Anime of Summer2018 You Should Be Watching article
Justification and Thoughts: What a nice throwback to the mid 2000's of anime. Planet With is an anime that has let time by, and hearkens back memories of anime I used to adore but they just don’t make nowadays. When I was younger, I used to watch almost nothing but mecha, but as time went by, the amount of mecha and the quality of mecha seemed to wither. Given this, it was really refreshing to see a quality mecha that echos the ones I used to adore so much. A mecha action sci-fi that doesn’t take itself too seriously, is an enjoyable watch throughout, has great action, has a great cast, and has a rocking soundtrack, what else would you want from a show? Thanks J.C. Staff for making Planet With, the world would be a slightly worse place without it.
5. Devilman Crybaby
Anime Made By: Science Saru (Masaaki Yuasa)
Genres: Action, Supernatural, Horror, Drama, Mature Audiences
Plot Summary: Akira Fudo is a good kid, but is unremarkable otherwise. So when Akira’s childhood friend, Ryo, suddenly reappears and asks Akira for help, Akira immediately offers to help him, no matter the danger.
Ryo asks Akira to help him combat an emerging demon invasion, but on the pair’s first encounter with demons, Akira is possessed by the demon Amon. With his strong heart, Akira is able to overcome Amon’s influence and is endowed with with new demonic powers.
With his new power, Akira must fight to protect humanity and his loved ones against this demonic force. But can Akira protect his loved ones while controlling the beast inside him or will he have to face a more human foe should his powers be discovered? - Plot Summary from The 11 Anime of Winter 2018 You Should Be Watching article
Justification and Thoughts: If you were to point a gun at my head and ask me what do I think is the best anime of 2018, I’d probably point twords Devilman Crybaby. Yuasa’s Netflix hit was supurb... one of the best anime I’ve ever seen. Why is it 5th then, you may ask? While it has extremely strong themes, absolutely amazing soundtrack, fascinating visuals and more, this is a gut-wrenching show to get through, never relenting with it’s pain. It’s so gripping that the pain experienced throughout the show doesn’t keep you from dropping the show, but even though it’s so good, that pain keeps it from going so high in my opinion. In many ways, it’s rather similar to Subarashiki Hibi with it’s near universal praise and strong themes, but unlike Subahibi I was engaged enough with Devilman Crybaby to not actively start to dislike the work. Yuasa does it again! Another masterpiece, even if I don’t quite love it as much as others on this list.
4. Megalo Box
Anime Made By: TMS Entertainment / 3xCube
Genres: Action, Cyberpunk, Sci-fi, Sports (Boxing)
Plot Summary: In a not-so-distant future, an exoskeleton-enhanced form of boxing named Megaloboxing has become the most popular sport. Joe, a young fighter, dreams of becoming champion yet is stuck with a deadbeat trainer throwing underground matches for petty cash. Everything changes when he meets Yuri, the Megalonia Champion, and is motivated to find out what it takes to become number one. - Plot Summary from The 11 Anime of Spring 2018 You Should Be Watching article
Justification and Thoughts: Megalo Box is a really special anime. I’m a sucker for the 90's action anime that were serious when it comes to style and presentation and this is a show that harkens back to that era. With it’s throwback presentation, thrilling start and easily the best soundtrack this year with it’s adrenaline pumping beats and amazing insert rap songs that I listened through throughout the season, Megalo Box will stand easily as one of my favorites. The first few episodes absolutely gripped me, and the show never really let go. It’s a fantastic and thoroughly enjoyable ride as a show with engaging characters, and amazing fights, standing as one of the best of the year.
3. Night Is Short, Walk On Girl
Anime Made By: Science Saru (Masaaki Yuasa)
Genres: Comedy, Romance
Plot Summary: On a mysterious night that seems to last for a year, an ordinary college student continues to chase one of his underclassmen, a girl with black hair—the girl of his dreams. Up until now, he has been relying on a simple plan, which is to calculatingly bump into her every day while making it seem like a meaningful coincidence. However, his efforts remain futile as their relationship is not progressing at all.
Meanwhile, the black-haired girl believes that everything is connected by fate and endeavors to experience as many new things as possible, leaving it all for destiny to decide. While strolling along the lively streets of Kyoto, she discovers that the very beginning of her fateful journey—a book she had as a child—is currently being sold in a second-hand bookstore. Upon knowing this, the college student eyes another opportunity to run into her “by chance”: this time, he hopes to get the book before she does and finally grasp the thread of fate that could connect their hearts. - Plot Summary from MAL
Justification and Thoughts: We have two Yuasa works in the same list! But, in an ironic twist of fate, they’re very different works and I enjoy them for the opposite reasons. We’re entering into this show is incredibly enjoyable to watch at every moment through out territory, shows that I had a blast while watching without any gripes during my viewing experience. This spiritual successor to Tatami Galaxy was frankly everything I could have hoped for out of an anime movie - an over the top, wacky and fun romance that knows what is does and nails every bit of execution throughout. I loved the quirky and memorable cast, the wacky events that were going on, the uniquely Yuasa presentation that absolutely fits the work, basically every part of the viewing experience was a blast. It’s a consistently engaging, fun watch that ended up as one of my favorites of the year. If you can, definitely try to see Night is Short, Walk On Girl, it’s yet another Yuasa great you won’t want to miss.
2. Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai
Anime Made By: CloverWorks
Genres: Supernatural, Drama, Romance, Comedy
Plot Summary: Sakuta Azusagawa is a second year high school student living in a world where Adolescent Syndrome is a mysterious affliction that affects certain young adults in different ways, hence the name. Sakuta has had his own issues with Adolescent Syndrome, but while spending time in the library, he sees a beautiful girl walking around dressed as a bunny girl. This is Mai Sakurajima, who it turns out is essentially becoming invisible to more and more people. Sakuta sets out to help Mai in her predicament and will come to help out many others with their issues. - Plot Summary from The 9 Anime of Fall 2018 You Should Be Watching article
Justification and Thoughts: I’m a sucker for romances/dramas with a great cast, and Bunny Girl’s cast had me in love. The music was great and the presentation was solid, but while the name might make you assume this show is trash, the best part of Bunny Girl is the characters, and oh boy, this cast was great. So many of these shows have extremely shallow characters, basically walking archetypes, but with Bunny girl we got multidimensional characters, a cast that had depth and acted like actual humans instead of tsunderes or something like that. Bunny Senpai is like the perfect blend of Monogatari and SNAFU, structured like the best parts of Monogatari and focused in supernatural phenomenon but having the character depth that made SNAFU so great.
The relationship between Sakuta and Mai was something special. Both characters on their own were phenominal, but seeing them interact, talk problems out and have a healthy relationship with banter that was just phenomenal, really what i’d love to see in every show. It takes a show like bunny girl to get you to appreciate how important idle banter between characters is in regards to one’s enjoyment of a show given how it fills your moment to moment experience, and after watching the show, I definitely won’t take it for granted.
Each arc of Bunny Girl was great and I thoroughly enjoyed the show throughout, but the standout was at the end with Kaede’s arc. I don’t think i’ve changed my opinion on a character so fast, but the way they executed that arc was phenomenal and I can’t wait for more. Onto the movie!!! Absolutely loved Bunny Girl, and it stands as one of my favorite anime i’ve seen, ever. Probably in my top 25 of all time.
1. Yuru Camp
Anime Made By: C-Station
Genres: Slice of Life, Comedy, “Cute Girls Doing Cute Things”
Plot Summary: Rin is a young high school girl and solo camping enthusiast. While winter camping at a spot with spectacular views of Mt. Fuji, she runs into new transfer student Nadeshiko, who knows nothing about camping but IS an adorable goofball. Nadeshiko then catches the bug and joins the schools Outdoor activities Club. From there we get the charming camping and camping related adventures of Rin, Nadeshiko, and the Outclub. - Plot Summary from The 11 Anime of Winter 2018 You Should Be Watching article
Justification and Thoughts: Secret Society BLANKET spreads it’s influence further. To me, the best slice of life shows do more than just comedy and day to day life- they have an almost uncanny, amazing ability to capture a raw feeling and present that feeling in a manner that provides pure bliss to the viewer. In this regard, Yuru Camp is an almost quintessential example of a great SoL. Sure, I could rattle off Yuru Camp’s great points like how I really enjoyed the well rounded cast, the jokes were really funny, I loved the presentation, the opening is catchy as all hell, etc but this wouldn’t even come close to why Yuru Camp is such a great show.
Yuru Camp captures the excitement that goes into camping perfectly - the wonder of the nice views that you see along the way, the anticipation from the escape from normality, the fun times of looking at the stuff you’ll need to buy for the trip, and then actually getting to your destination and having a great time. Even if you’re not a fan of camping, it’s gonna convey this feeling to you, reminding of what it’s like to go traveling with your goofball friends as they do silly things, having a great time. The feeling of adventure, the feeling of seeing cool and unknown places with all the quirks that comes with that, and the feeling of just having a great time by yourself or with friends: every moment Yuru Camp is pure bliss, enjoyable and relaxing to make your day all that much better. Add to this Nadeshiko being my spirit animal that put a smile on my face throughout, and I have to say... I love Yuru Camp and it’s my AOTY of 2018, and one of my favorite anime I’ve ever seen.
Thank you for reading! If you want to check out more of my writing, check out my blog RockmanDash Reviews, as well as FuwaReviews and AniTAY where I am a contributor. Also follow me on Twitter if interested!