Welp, better late than never I suppose. 2018 was just a stellar year for anime, and I found myself consistently entertained all year long. In total I saw 51 anime to completion, with an outstanding 12 of them earning platinum medals from me, the highest praise I could grant a show last year. Needless to say, with such a stacked list of shows, it was extremely hard for me to choose my overall favorites. Thankfully throughout most of the year I was somehow able to get out seasonal favorites articles for at least the Winter, Spring, and Summer seasons to help narrow the field down just a tad. My picks in this article were chosen from the winners in those respective articles, in addition to the ones that would have won for the Fall had I managed to get that article out as well. So without further ado, here are my choices for my 2018 anime favorites, starting like always with the production awards.
Winner: “Winding Road” by MAN WITH A MISSION (Golden Kamuy)
Runner-up: “Fighting Gold” by Coda (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind), “Deal with the Devil” by Tia (Kakegurui)
It just wasn’t really much of a contest for me. “Winding Road” was the opening I watched the most in 2018 by far. Not only was this the OP I watched the most during the Spring season, the season it actually aired, but also in the Summer and Fall seasons as well. Even now I still watch it quite regularly. I just love everything about it from the stellar song to the incredible visuals that were so thoughtfully chosen. It’s a surprisingly subdued OP, but in a way that is one of its strengths.
Winner: “I AM STANDING” by RUANN ( March comes in like a lion Season 2)
Runner-up: “Buntline Special” by Vickeblanka (Double Decker! Doug & Kirill), “Seine no Kaze ni... (Adieu)” by Miyuki Sawashiro (Lupin the 3rd Part 5)
This is a rather similar situation to my favorite opening, as I have just been listening to this ED all throughout 2018. The song is extremely powerful, and I am still amazed that the singer, RUANN, is as young as she actually is. Needless to say, the accompanying visuals are also breathtaking, summarizing perfectly Rei’s relationship with the Kawamoto sisters. This wasn’t as easy a pick as the opening was, however, because it had some stiff competition.
I’m just a sucker for Miyuki Sawashiro singing, and the ED to Lupin Part 5 had some flat out gorgeous shots involving the series femme fatale Fujiko Mine. I’m also all in on people doing Beastie Boys-inspired songs, and that’s exactly what I got from Double Decker!’s ending. In the end, however, the strengths to March comes in like a lion’s ED were just too much to overcome.
Winner: An Icon is Born (Zombie Land Saga)
Runner-up: A Mother’s Love (Violet Evergarden), Hellshake Yano (Pop Team Epic)
So here’s the thing, at the end of the Fall season I was having a hard time deciding what the representative of the season would be here. All I knew was that the Fall winner was extremely likely to walk away with the prize here, not merely due to recency bias, but because the trio I narrowed it down to were all insanely great moments. For those curious, the final three I managed to leave myself with were the torture dance from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, which was a moment people were waiting to see animated for multiple years and managed to deliver beyond anyone’s wildest imaginations, the “Bloody Tears” fight scene from Castlevania Season 2, which similarly delivered on something fans had been dying to see, or in this case hear, and the actual winner of this category, when Lily Hoshikawa from Zombie Land Saga came out as being trans.
The reason I ultimately decided to go with this choice is because I took a step back and looked at the bigger picture of things. The last few years have been pretty damn rough for people in the LGBTQ community, the trans community in particular. Everyone deserves escapist media to help get by, and part of that is seeing proper representation of themselves in said media, and not going to sugarcoat it, anime has been extremely “yikes” when it comes to including trans characters. So when you have an idol anime that everyone is loving, even people who normally can’t stand idol anime, that is being funded by the vast wealth of Cygames, comes out and reveals that one of its main characters is trans, and actually handles it properly and with tact, it is something to be celebrated. Numerous friends of mine are trans, and to see them, and the countless people like them get at least a brief glimmer of happiness last year was without a shadow of a doubt one of my biggest highlights of all. Sometimes it’s not just about the things I like.
Winner: Devilman Crybaby
Runner-up: Megalobox, Zombie Land Saga
Here’s the point we get to where I have to battle with myself between what I think is the best out of the options and what is my favorite. I will come out and say it, I think Megalobox and Zombie Land Saga’s OSTs are better overall soundtracks than Devilman Crybaby’s. Obviously that’s not to say Devilman Crybaby’s is lacking, just that the song variety and consistent high quality despite the multiple genres at play in both of the other soundtracks is more impressive.
However, that being said, I have far more emotional attachment to Devilman Crybaby’s soundtrack. Megalobox and Zombie Land Saga are filled with bangers I can just listen to at anytime if I want a good jam. Devilman Crybaby’s soundtrack, however, I have to be careful when I listen to it, because multiple tracks in it can just absolutely wreck me emotionally. Just completely drain me of good feelings, and replace them with sorrow. For the most part I can divorce the soundtracks to Megalobox and Zombie Land Saga from their respective shows and just enjoy them purely as soundtracks. I just can’t do that with Devilman Crybaby’s music. It is just an ingrained part of the experience for me.
Winner: Thunderbolt Fantasy Sword Seekers2
Runner-up: Devilman Crybaby, Violet Evergarden
Normally it would be extremely difficult for a show to edge out not only Masaaki Yuasa, but Kyoto Animation at its finest when it comes to visuals. Thunderbolt Fantasy and the delightfully talented people at PILI make it look like child’s play, however. I just cannot deny the raw visual power the meticulously detailed martial arts puppets Thunderbolt Fantasy have. Their designs are both a cosplayer’s dream and nightmare rolled into one.
Then the puppets start moving, and things take on a whole new level of amazement. The way the action is framed and performed is something that must be seen to be believed. The puppetry is also helped along with some brilliant strategic usage of CGI to enhance many of the shots, usually in the form of energy attacks and whatnot. Thunderbolt Fantasy remains a visual tour de force that only a handful of shows can even dream of keeping up with.
Winner: March comes in like a lion Season 2
Runner-up: Golden Kamuy, Lupin the 3rd Part 5
Rather fittingly, the three shows to be selected the winner and runner-ups for the writing category were three excellent shows that somehow managed to keep getting better the more they went along. I love how all three shows manage their characters and their interactions with each other, but in the end I just can’t deny that, to me, March comes in like a lion blew its competition away. This show had arguably the best two episode combination out of any series this year with its Kishou Championship episodes focusing on the shogi match between Shimada and Yanagihara.
But it wasn’t just these two expertly written episodes that helped the show win this category. March comes in like a lion had the rather massive balls to do a second season that doesn’t focus as much on the main character and instead builds up the supporting characters around him, and it worked. God damn did it ever work. Now the series has a incredibly deep and well-rounded roster of characters at its disposal, and has already proven it can manage to survive downplaying its main character for stretches. I am beyond excited to see what may be in store in the future should the anime continue.
And now time for my genre awards.
Winner: Devilman Crybaby
Runner-up: Megalobox, Thunderbolt Fantasy Sword Seekers2
2018 was just a phenomenal year for action anime. This was easily the most packed and tightly contested out of all the genre awards over the course of the year, with each season having multiple shows worthy of taking the seasonal crowns. This was especially true during the Spring season, where nearly my entire seasonal lineup was action shows.
This is also the only genre award where the winner, runner-ups, and the last two shows cut from the running to get to the winner and runner-ups were all shows I awarded platinum medals to. It was that ridiculously stacked, and yet, I still gotta give it to Devilman Crybaby. The action was raw and visceral in a way few other shows during the year were able to match. Beyond just the actions scenes however is a deep, emotional, thoughtful experience. Masaaki Yuasa managed to bring every aspect of Go Nagai’s beloved classic to life, for better or for worse, and shines as one of the true gems of this classical revival period we are currently in.
Winner: Lupin the 3rd Part 5
Runner-up: A Place Further Than the Universe, Golden Kamuy
This was the second most contested genre award for 2018, with still an impressive 3 platinum medal shows making up the winner and runner-ups. I simply loved all three of these shows, each an Anime of the Year contender in their own right. However, following up picking Devilman Crybaby as my favorite action series for the year, I have to back my man Lupin. Part 5 is arguably Lupin the 3rd at its best with gorgeous animation, especially during the action scenes, and brilliantly biting commentary on both modern society itself and on the Lupin franchise as a whole. Out of these three shows Lupin was the one I looked forward to each new episode the most.
Winner: Asobi Asobase -workshop of fun -
Runner-up: Hinamatsuri, Zombie Land Saga
This is another one of the categories where the thing I think is the best out of the options isn’t necessarily my overall favorite. Ironically enough, it yet again involves Zombie Land Saga. In this case I think I prefer Zombie Land Saga as an overall show more than Asobi Asobase, however this is a category for what I think is my favorite comedy show, so I kind of feel like I have to side with the show I think is the funniest.
Obviously that isn’t to say Zombie Land Saga isn’t funny, it is really charming and humorous, but it’s not really a true through and through comedy show, either, and just kinda landed here because out of the weird homunculus that is its genre make up, its comedic side more clearly edges out the aspects that could have landed it in the dramatic or slice of life categories instead, and I don’t do a music genre category, the one it most obviously belongs to, so I had to make do.
Anyways, focusing back onto Asobi Asobase, holy crap I haven’t laughed this hard, this long, and this consistently at an anime in a good while. Every episode had multiple comedic gems that just left me gasping for air. Everyone in the show is a garbage human being, but that really works in the show’s favor, because it allows everyone to be punching bags for the jokes. There are a...few...jokes that don’t really work well, or at least as well as the show probably hoped they would, but these jokes are thankfully walled off in their own little segments that can be easily avoided, especially if you pay attention to the segment titles.
Winner: March comes in like a lion Season 2
Runner-up: Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai, Violet Evergarden
I’m gonna be real with you, the drama genre took quite a beating in 2018 for me, as I didn’t really see too many of them. On top of that the ones I did see barely had enough shows that I gave platinum or gold medals to to fill out the winner and runner-ups This was in part thanks to the Summer season being particularly dry on this front leading to me having to choose between two silver medal shows from that season’s representative.
Oddly enough, however, the few top tier dramas I saw this year were among the best of their respective medal tiers, with Violet Evergarden itself just narrowly falling short of a platinum medal, but unfortunately that’s what happens when I feel that almost half the show just wasn’t up to snuff, regardless of how amazing the rest of it was.
It goes almost without saying but March comes in like a lion Season 2 easily took this pretty much by being the only platinum medal drama I saw in 2018. Now it would have little trouble winning this even if I did give Violet Evergarden a platinum, because I just love this series that damn much. This is a truly special show that resonates with me on a deeply personal level, and very few shows from the year as a whole could stand up to it.
Runner-up: Encouragement of Climb Season 3, Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san
This...this was a downright dire year for anime shorts. Like I just made a big thing out of how rough dramas had it in 2018 for me, but for the shorts it was far, far worse. There just wasn’t many shorts worth watching in the year. That’s actually why I didn’t do my shorts countdown list for 2018, because that list wouldn’t have even truly been a Top 5 best list, merely just a list of the five shorts I actually managed to finish in the year. Now of course there were some stellar standout shorts to watch, like Ninja Girl & Samurai Master, Encouragement of Climb, Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san, and the uncontested winner of this category, Aggretsuko.
The thing is outside of those shows the quality really had a sharp drop off, and it is just kinda sad to see. It used to be that shorts were a constant seasonal joy for me, multiple little snack-sized shows for me to watch to cool off from the full length shows I was watching at the time, but now I’m blessed to have more than one short a season to watch. We really could use the Ultra Super Anime Time block to return, please.
Winner: Laid-Back Camp
Runner-up: Cells at Work!, Comic Girls
Much like the drama category, the slice of life genre had a bit of a patchy year for me. I don’t even think I actually watched a true slice of life show in the Fall season outside of Honda-san, which is kinda sad. I love Honda-san to death, especially because it speaks to my soul as a retail worker, but when a short is pretty much the winner by default, it doesn’t really bode well.
So once again I have to turn to the winner from the Winter season, the phenomenal Laid-Back Camp, which managed to claw its way up to a medal upgrade from gold to platinum during the course of its run. I always enjoyed it, but I had been waiting for the show to reach its second gear, and when it finally did, it just blew me away. The show is funny, adorable, and surprisingly really educational when it comes to the ins and outs of camping. It also aired at the perfect time as the show was about camping during the winter months, so it allowed the audience to share the characters’ feelings about having to deal with the bitter cold.
It would be a mistake for me to forget all the memes this show spawned last year. Dear god the memes. Especially among the Ani-TAY community. That was a great additional factor that furthered my love for the show even more. Now to just wait for season 2.
Winner: Devilman Crybaby
Runner-up: Golden Kamuy, Lupin the 3rd Part 5
So, this is an interesting little thing. The two runner-ups aren’t actually my true runner-up for Anime of the Year. Oh they are both still in my personal Top 5 for the year, with Lupin still falling within the Top 3, but they are both here simply because of how I did this whole thing. Golden Kamuy took my choice for Anime of the Season for the Fall season and Lupin won Anime of the Season in the Summer, and so were part of the four show pool to pick from.
My actual true runner-up is the show Devilman Crybaby beat for Anime of the Season back in the Winter season, and that’s March comes in like a lion Season 2. Don’t get me wrong, Golden Kamuy and Lupin are absolutely phenomenal shows that I kept looking forward to each and every week and were probably the two shows I had the most overall fun with in 2018. But as I had predicted back in the Winter season, the outcome was likely already decided for me.
March comes in like a lion is a show that just speaks to me on a level most shows don’t. And Devilman Crybaby managed to top even that show for me. The raw artistry and emotional roller coaster that is Devilman Crybaby was just too damn powerful for anything else to overcome. There’s a damn good reason why so many works were inspired by Go Nagai’s bloody, horny little series he did decades ago. I always knew Nagai was influential and beloved by Japanese media, but it wasn’t until this show that I realized how far that inspiration went.
One example of this is nearly every series to come out after Devilman that featured a main duo where one of them has blonde or white hair and the other has dark hair and at least one of them is a trouble maker/edgelord were either directly inspired by Devilman or inspired by someone who was inspired by Devilman. This web of influence is so vast that as part of Crybaby’s marketing they were able to create a bloody “family tree” that traced the lineage of as many series as they could fit onto it back to Devilman. This franchise played a massive role in shaping Japanese media, and it is easy to see why.
So there you have it, my extremely late take on my favorites for 2018. I’ll swear to try and do a better job at getting my articles out in a more timely fashion this year. Thinking about it, however, I’m probably going to eliminate one or two of the genre categories. Just given the sheer lack of shows for it, I’m axing the shorts category going forward for certain. Instead shorts will be competing against the full length shows in the other categories, though given how shorts are usually comedy or slice of life in nature, that’s where they’ll like end up most of the time. The other genre I am contemplating getting ride of is the adventure genre, but that one’s not due to lack of shows like the shorts category, but rather because I notice very few adventure shows are just an adventure show, and are usually some hybrid instead. Like action-adventure ala Lupin the 3rd, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and Attack on Titan, or adventure-comedy like Konosuba, or adventure-drama like A Place Further Than the Universe, things of that nature.
Feel free to share your thoughts on these changes below, as well as some of your favorites from 2018 if you still have the strength left to do so this far into 2019. That’s it for now, so until next time!