Now that 2018 is officially over, it’s time for our yearly foray into annoying everyone with our questionable opinions, the Best of Anime 2018 post. As with last year, this year’s iteration will continue being written by one writer. Through a complete hiatus from blogging and other real-life obligations that made this year my busiest yet, I still managed to watch approximately ~80 series this year, and while I won’t guarantee total objectivity (like such a thing exists), I’d say I’m generally well-informed about whatever I’m wrong about. That said, I will be attempting to take a multitude of picks across the spectrum for each category to make up for the lack of a second opinion. What this means is that you may not see as many repeat winners this time around as you would otherwise, so mileage may vary here more than previous years.
Continuing from last year, there are numerous categories in the following areas: Production, Miscellaneous, Genre, and Notable Others. Due to lack of series candidates, the lack of involvement of specific writers that specialized in certain categories, and/or the belief that I may not have watched enough shows to make an informed decision about specific genres, some categories have been omitted from previous years. This includes the Soundtrack, Plot Twist, Underappreciated, and Exceeded Expectations categories. Added back to this year’s post are the Animation (tweaked to include overall visuals) and Disappointment categories.
Encoding and videos for the OP/ED/Song categories were done by Xumbra, who will be retiring from encoding following his many contributions over the last decade. So here’s a shout out (thanks!) for him and everything he does for the site behind the scenes, especially in regards to not only this post, but the PVs that you found in each of the seasonal previews as well. It goes without saying that Xumbra will be missed, as will all the cage jokes that came with him. Included at the end are the final results of the Reader’s Choice Poll.
Disclaimer: As always, disclaimers abound. Please keep in mind that “best” is subjective. What’s best for us isn’t necessarily best for you, and that’s perfectly fine. This list shouldn’t be taken as some kind of inviolable truth, but rather the opinions of a guy who had too much time on his hands and spent it conjuring up a list of picks based on all the anime they watched. Naturally, my choices will be influenced by my own tastes, experiences, and personal impressions, and these are just recommendations, nothing more and nothing less. Before you go bashing one of my choices, please make sure you’ve at least given the series a chance so you may know where we’re coming from. Aside from that, we ask that you respect our opinions and the opinions of others in the comments, just like we respect yours. Thank you.
Disclaimer #2: The choices in this post are not reflective of the opinions of all Random Curiosity writers. They are solely the opinions of myself (Zephyr), save for where otherwise noted. Thank you for your understanding.
Note: For a show to be considered, it has to have met the requirements outlined in the Reader’s Choice Poll. For OVAs/movies, the additional requirement is that it’s been either released on BD or DVD, so that viewers outside of Japan have had a chance to watch it.
Visuals and fluid movement. It’s all about the quality of what we see on screen and what impressed us the most. To a certain degree, character designs and overall art style fall into this category too.
As the somewhat polar opposite to what’s on the surface, here we’re looking at depth and what captivated us from start to finish. You don’t need amazing visuals to tell a good story, so it’s about the original material (if any) and the screenwriter’s adaptation of it here. Good cliffhangers that keep you on the edge of your seat week after week suggest the series is doing something right, whereas filler-esque showings don’t.
Opening & Ending Sequence
Whether for its originality or ability to showcase what a series has to offer, opening sequences are always fun to watch. We tend to look forward to new ones and the songs that will be featured in them, and sometimes get a glimpse at what’s coming up in the show too (for better or worse). Here, the focus is on the sequence itself, even though the song may play a part in making it memorable.
Unlike opening sequences, endings don’t strive to draw the viewer in and get them psyched up about the episode that’s coming up. Instead, they’re an outro to what you’ve just seen and may highlight a specific aspect/emotion of the series, though sometimes they’re completely irrelevant to the actual story and are just an outlet for sheer fun/comedic value. Whichever the case, there are certain sequences that we enjoyed more than others.
It seems like just yesterday that TRUE made her stage name debut with the opening theme to Buddy Complex. It’s been a gradual and much deserved rise to stardom for her since, as she followed up with themes to series like Hibike! Euphonium and Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans. Despite her many memorable compositions, her theme for Violet Evergarden arguably comes in as her best, showcasing the strength of her vocals while also demonstrating her ability to diversify into different types of compositions. The song’s lyrics being a perfect representation of Violet’s journey only serves to sweeten the cake, combining with a simple, yet breathtaking sequence to make this an opening that I didn’t dare to skip and re-watched multiple times on a weekly basis. That said, I’m admittedly biased toward this song given the opportunity to hear it performed live just a few weeks ago, so mileage will definitely vary here. As with previous years, this category will likely be known more for the omissions I had to make due to pick limitations more than anything—including the openings to Beatless, Full Metal Panic: Invisible Victory, Grand Blue, Shokugeki no Souma: San no Sara, Yuru Camp△ to name a few.
Honorable Mentions w/ [Official MV]:
[flv:Best%20of%20Anime%202018/Sora_yori_mo_Tooi_Basho_ED.mp4 Best%20of%20Anime%202018/Sora_yori_mo_Tooi_Basho_ED.jpg 355 200] Sora yori mo Tooi Basho ED
Sometimes simpler is better, and in the case of Sora yori mo Tooi Basho this holds especially true. The sequence itself isn’t much—it’s just a montage of moving images with no character movement or complex animation—but it does everything it has to, providing one of the catchiest themes of the year while tying it to heartwarming (see “adorable”) backdrops that made you reflect fondly on the episode you just finished and the series as a whole. Notably, you’ll note that none of the characters or penguins are ever shown alone, and there’s much to be said about how a fitting ending sequence that compliments the show does so much more than one that just looks good or has a song with powerful vocals. With that said, there were many great ending sequences this year, and like with the opening sequences, this category will likely also be known more for the omissions I had to make—including the endings to 3-gatsu no Lion Second Season, Hataraku Saibou, Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai, Shokugeki no Souma: San no Sara, Steins;Gate 0, Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii to name a few.
Honorable Mentions w/ [Official MV]:
With the sequences covered, the attention is now on the actual songs. Insert songs are also up for consideration, with the only real criteria being that it’s something we never got tired of listening to. There’s no bearing on if it was created specifically for a series or even if the series was any good, we’re simply picking some of our favorite songs that were featured in an anime.
[flv:Best%20of%20Anime%202018/Uchiage_Hanabi_INS.mp4 Best%20of%20Anime%202018/Uchiage_Hanabi_INS.jpg 355 200] Uchiage Hanabi – “打上花火” (DAOKO × 米津玄師)
When it comes to the best songs, some of the themes I often find myself remembering are the openings to Kakumeiki Valvrave from 2013. The series wasn’t the greatest, but it managed to bring together legendary vocalists T.M.Revolution and Mizuki Nana for not only one, but two of the most notable duets in recent memory. It goes to show that you don’t have to have a great series to have spectacular themes and this is a category I love because it lets me mention and look for themes that may have been overlooked because it was in a series that was disliked or otherwise unpopular. With that in mind, it’s only fitting that this year’s winner is a duet that also comes from a movie that never met the high expectations placed upon it. I couldn’t mention the theme in last year’s post because the BD/DVD didn’t release until this year, but now that is has, I get a chance to share one of my personal favorites from the past few years, and the duet by DAOKO x Kenshi Yonezu really speaks for itself—especially once you hit 2:40 and the song’s climax kicks in. Rounding out the category are a series of themes that follow a similar pattern of coming from underwhelming or underappreciated series, and here’s hoping that with the variety of songs I picked here, at least one song here manages to catch your eye or make you interested in either the show it came from or at least the soundtrack behind it.
Honorable Mentions: “Rise” (Harukana Receive EP1 Insert), “Anno Domini” (Mahoutsukai no Yome EP8 Insert), “Button” (ReLIFE: Kanketsu-hen OP), “Gate of Steiner” (Steins;Gate 0 EP23 ED), “Won’t Forget You” (Tokyo Ghoul:re EP24 Insert)
Branching away from strictly picking series and focusing on some specifics is the idea behind the miscellaneous section. The first one is our favorite character, who won his or her way into our hearts for whatever reason. The criteria here is somewhat loose, but with numerous options in a single series, multiplied by almost a hundred in the past year, it’s actually quite difficult to pick one above all others. Be that as it may…
This may be part of a plot twist or something you see coming a mile away, but we’re concerned about the impact the death has on the story and us as viewers. Well-executed screenplay leading up to it may play a big part, but there are also cases where a character dies so suddenly that we’re left in complete disbelief. In both cases, it’s the lingering impression we’re basing our selection on.
Action, action, and more action! The action genre ranges anywhere from shounen-crazed series to war-filled mecha shows. For battles, choreography plays a huge role, so that was definitely taken into consideration.
Emotion-filled romance at its finest. The relationship between characters and the emotions involved are the appeal, and the main criteria for selecting a series here. A sentimental story is always good, with tear-jerking scenes being a plus. This is the series that had the best romantic mood from the character interactions to the big confession.
A lot of good series out there depict an emotion-filled story where the romance comes secondary, if at all. Strong depictions of friendship and in challenging situations can really draw a viewer into the story and start making them sympathize with the characters. It’s a bit of an all-encompassing genre, but only a handful of series really pull viewers in with their screenplay.
When it comes to science fiction, a futuristic world with advanced technology, robots, space travel, and superhuman abilities is the usual connotation. However, that’s not the only setting that fits this genre. Sometimes all a series has to do is play up a single sci-fi aspect and do it well to go down as an excellent sci-fi series.
The best horror shows are those that incite visceral feelings of shock, fear, and pulse-pounding dread. Gore is not a necessity for this genre, as there’s always psychological thrillers that are just as gripping if not more. However, those that can provide both an unsettling atmosphere and a good scare are even better.
Where science fiction seeks to explain the remarkable happenings of its universe via technology and logic, fantasy is less concerned with that. Wizards, dragons, and Tolkien-esque adventures are what usually come to mind, but those aren’t mandatory. As long as the focus is less on what makes the world tick and more on using magic and wonder to tell a story, it’s probably a fantasy tale you’re looking at.
The ability to make you laugh until you cry – that’s probably the number one criteria when selecting a comedy of the year. From everything to sheer stupidity, quirky characters, and timely comedic pauses to perverted fun, elaborate setups, and witty jokes, it’s the lighthearted nature and humorous entertainment value of these series that we love.
The romantic comedy genre separates itself from the individual romance and comedy ones by teasing us with potential relationships but never quite settling on one. Instead, the enjoyment comes from the character interactions themselves, often – but not always – in harem-like scenarios.
Slice of Life
A laid-back series with no reliance on heavily gimmicky plot devices nor a constantly progressing storyline is what this genre stands for. The character interactions themselves in an otherwise “normal” setting are the highlight, along with any incidental humor that results from them. A lot of times, they’re just really cute and innocent happenings, and that’s exactly what makes a good slice of life series.
Also known as the Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita Memorial Award, this is the category for those shows that deserve to be on this list, even if we don’t have a clue where they should go. Many series cross into multiple genres, which is why you see shows being featured in multiple categories in this section. These series defy genre. They twist and squirm, evading our attempts to label them and are just themselves, as well as good. This is the category for shows that deserve recognition, even if we aren’t rightly sure what they were.
Honorable Mentions: Free!: Dive to the Future*
The pitfall of excessive hype and anticipation for anything is the disappointment that results when things don’t meet expectations. With regards to anime, this is doubly true when a series has precedent established by its original and a sequel falls incomparably short. At times it’s only a small letdown, but sometimes we’re left wondering what we did to deserve sitting through it. We’re not looking for the worst series of the year here, but the biggest disparity between expectations going in and way the series turned out.
Honorable Mentions: Beatless
Best Anime 2018
The be-all, end-all of the year. This pick is always a hotbed of controversy, so here’s the exact criteria we used to make it: if we were to meet an anime fan for the first time and they were to ask us to recommend a show that aired in 2018, what would it be? Without knowing the person’s tastes, we would naturally default to the show that did the most things right, one that had wide appeal and deserved it, that had superb animation and told its story well, and above all else, that we enjoyed. The winner of this category should be a high anticipation show that supremely deserved it, or a dark horse that blew everyone out of the water. This is subjective as hell, but you can find a list of our best picks below.
Honorable Mentions (Alphabetical Order): 3-gatsu no Lion Second Season, Banana Fish, Boku no Hero Academia 3, Golden Kamuy, Hinamatsuri, Mahoutsukai no Yome, Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai, SSSS.Gridman, Steins;Gate 0, Violet Evergarden, Yuru Camp △
Best OVA/Movie 2018
The same as above, except for the not-regularly-broadcasted offerings. These aren’t covered very often on the site, but we’ve each had the pleasure of watching enough to find some that really caught our eyes.
Honorable Mentions (Alphabetical Order): Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya: Sekka no Chikai, Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel – I. Presage Flower, Liz to Aoi Tori, No Game No Life Zero, ReLIFE: Kanketsu-hen
Reader’s Choice – Favorite Anime 2018
Your choice for 2018. With everyone allowed to pick up to five series, we have a pretty nice spread of results. In exchange for finding out if there was one series that everyone would’ve picked with a single vote, we have a much better idea of the other ones you enjoyed. The top choice is still pretty unquestionable though, since it was good enough to make it into the majority of your top 5 picks.
The Top 5:
Boku no Hero Academia 3 – 6.2%
Violet Evergarden – 5.49%
Sora yori mo Tooi Basho – 4.83%
Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai – 4.63%
Goblin Slayer – 4.23%
Here are the full results.
The votes have been tallied and Boku no Hero Academia 3 comes in as the Reader’s Choice for Best Anime of 2018. Given its popularity and the fact that this season gave us two of the franchise’s best moments—that’s saying something given how many great moments we’ve already had the previous two seasons—it’s not a particularly surprising win, and I don’t think that many will have too many qualms with at least putting it in their top 5 or 10 regardless of personal preference. Rounding out the remaining spots are other popular picks in Violet Evergarden, Sora yori mo Tooi Basho, Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai, and Goblin Slayer—all of whom really speak for themselves as series that were great throughout their run and deserve their many accolades. Ultimately, there wasn’t much in terms of surprises, although I didn’t expect Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai to garner as much votes as it did and in the opposite sense, I had expected both Steins;Gate 0 and SSSS.Gridman to fare better than they did.
Reader’s Choice – Favorite OVA/Movie 2018
Your OVA/Movie choice of 2018. As mentioned in the disclaimer above, the choices here were restricted to what’s been released on BD/DVD so that viewers outside of Japan have a chance of watching them and making an informed decision. It didn’t make sense to restrict such offerings to a small pool of voters this year and not have it up it for consideration in 2013, so if you wanted to vote for anything that premiered in theaters, you’ll get your chance next year.
The Top 5:
Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel – I. Presage Flower – 12.0%
ReLIFE: Kanketsu-hen – 6.46%
Violet Evergarden: Kitto “Koi” wo Shiru Hi ga Kuru no Darou – 6.24%
Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya: Sekka no Chikai – 5.07%
Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch – I, II, and III – 4.79%
Here are the full results.
It feels like with the release of Fate/Grand Order, the Fate franchise has become more popular than ever before. This past year gave us multiple movies, a multi-season TV series in Fate/Extra (though this one didn’t fare as well), and additional announcements for adaptations based on two of Fate/Grand Order’s most memorable singularities. As such, it doesn’t come as too much of a surprise when two of the top five picks here ended up being those two aforementioned Fate movies, and they’re understandable picks given that they were the two best theatrical Fate releases to date and also ones that managed to reach the most amount of viewers given their simultaneous worldwide subbed release in theaters. ReLIFE: Kanketsu-hen comes in as much deserved honorable mention and similarly popular series, coming together with another popular winner in Violet Evergarden: Kitto “Koi” wo Shiru Hi ga Kuru no Darou. The Code Geass theatrical remakes round out the list as the last of the top 5, and I’m admittedly surprised at how high it placed given the tendency for remakes/recaps to not be nearly as well-liked, though I suppose it does make sense given how popular its original was and the expectation that re-watching some of its biggest plot points would set things up nicely for the upcoming sequel. Barely missing on the top 5 by less just two dozen votes at 6,7, and 8 respectively were my own personal picks in Liz to Aoi Tori, No Game No Life Zero, and Sayonara no Asa ni Yakusoku no Hana wo Kazarou (a.k.a. Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms).
When it comes down to it, 2018 may be remembered not for its new adaptations or original series, but for the many quality sequels we received. 3-gatsu no Lion, Boku no Hero Academia, Dagashi Kashi, Full Metal Panic, Overlord, Saiki Kusuo no Ψ-nan, Shokugeki no Souma, Steins;Gate, and Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru were just some of the series that received sequels worth talking about this year, and it just goes to show just how well received their original counterparts were, how well their worlds and characters were made, and/or how well that particular staff of people work together. At the same time though, it does makes you wonder—in the face of all the new adaptations and the many original series we’ve gotten in between the release of these sequels, what is it that continues to make them successful? Is it just because the same (or similar) staff tends to carry over into sequels? It is just because good stories tends to have a easier time maintaining a certain level of quality, especially when it comes to adaptations? Or could it be indicative of a problem with the quality of the content being made now? Either way, I just hope that a fine balance continues to be had in regards to making sequels and trying out something new/original/innovative.
With that said, this was a year that didn’t really save its best for last, and many of 2018’s consensus top 5 aired in the first quarter (if not, the first half) of the year. 3-gatsu no Lion Second Season and Mahoutsukai no Yome highlighted the pack as Fall 2017 carry overs, Sora yori mo Tooi Basho, Violet Evergarden, and Yuru Camp △ arrived in the winter, and Boku no Hero Academia 3, Hinamatsuri, and Steins;Gate 0 following up in the spring. There were a handful of successes in the summer (Banana Fish) and fall (Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai), with a sprinkling of some good/great OVA/Movies in a year that otherwise didn’t offer any real masterpieces in that regard.
Genre-wise, 2018 was highlighted by the usual quality offerings in Slice of Life, while rounding things up with a good selection of Action, Comedy, and Drama. Romance/Romantic Comedies arrived with their own large selection of candidates, though mileage definitely varied more than usual on those categories, making its quite possible that some series that appealed to some people didn’t even make it watch lists of others. Sci-Fi and Fantasy had their own share of picks as well, though the former had more appeal to the sub-set of fans that like mecha combat and the latter had three good/great series in Mahoutsukai no Yome, Overlord III, and Violet Evergarden, but didn’t offer much else. Aside from that, Golden Kamuy came in as a series that straddled multiple categories, with Banana Fish and Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai likely being two of the bigger surprises of the year along with multiple category winner Sora yori mo Tooi Basho.
All in all, I think 2018 felt different from previous years because it felt very easy to differentiate its better/best shows from the rest and to come up with my top 10. I suppose in that respect it means that we had a lot more shows that were not as great as a result, and admittedly, there were a decent amount of series that were lackluster in between the good ones that were mentioned above. I can’t quite say it’s significant enough to represent a trend or anything given the tremendous amount of personal preference that goes into this thing, but at the very least I can say that 2019 should at least have a decent foundation to start off with given the quality of 2018 carry overs like JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Ougon no Kaze, Tensei Shitara Slime Datta Ken, Shingeki no Kyojin Third Season, and the ever popular Sword Art Online: Alicization.
On a more personal note, 2018 was a year that saw me become so busy that I didn’t blog a single series at all. Unfortunately that’s not expected to change (in fact it’ll probably become worse due to additional job requirements), so it’s likely that my blogging hiatus will continue for the foreseeable future. I’ll attempt to watch enough to get this post set up for next year regardless and I’ll also be continuing my contributions to the previews (at least in regards to the OVA/Movie lists), but it’ll be more difficult to do compared to previous years, and it’s highly likely that I may not be able to watch the same number of shows that I have been, so I apologize before hand if I end up omitting a series next year that you may have felt was worth considering.
Looking forward to 2019, I think it’s safe to say that “optimistic” is the buzzword once again, and here’s hoping that the carry overs from 2018 will set up a good foundation for the winter season. Last but not least, I’d just like to take a moment to say thanks once again to everyone that continues to visit Random Curiosity, and I hope that the new year brings with it your continued visits and good fortune.