Well I had planned to do a lot more writing these past few months, but alas due to having two broken computers and lots of waiting on refunds and packages, that did not happen! I am back once again to try to hopefully bring more regular anime related content to this blog. This past year was probably my worst year in terms of anime watched in the past several years. Not only did I watch even less than before, but I also just didn’t finish a lot of really strong titles. There were a few standouts, but overall, this was a very poor year in anime for me. Regardless of that though, I have come to chat about how the year went with the specifics! As always, I will start with some individual awards for the year, and then progress onto ranking the shows I completed as a whole. Most of them did not air this past 2018, but then again I haven’t really watched seasonal anime with conviction since like 2016. Being a busy adult, and getting pickier hasn’t helped that mindset either. I plan to try to knock out a few of the big shows on my bucket list this year though, so hopefully I will have some good stuff to talk about later. But enough of that, let us proceed into the 2018 retrospective!
*For Touch specifically, it was super hard to find images, so I had to make do with what I had, so they might not be as fitting as I’d like. Also any feedback you folks have, leave them in the comments below somewhere!
Best Movie: Pom Poko
Runner Up: Redline
I only watched like 6 anime films this year so it wasn’t really a heavily contested category. I would say Pom Poko was a huge surprise, and now I think my favorite Takahata film I’ve seen. It’s a brilliant comedy in many regards, but really it shines with the overarching message it is trying to deliver. Yes, there are balls, but this movie is a lot more full of content than most would lead you to believe. Even Kon’s work on Perfect Blue, and the visual splendor of Redline wasn’t enough to convince me that they were better than this little gem of a film.
Best Short/Short Series/OVAs: N/A
Runner Up: N/A
I actually didn’t watch a single OVA or short series this year! Better luck next time me!
Best Male Character: Tatsuya Uesugi- Touch
Runner Up: William Jones- Emma: A Victorian Romance
Touch will more than likely pop up a lot this year. When you are 100 episodes of content, and worthwhile, you tend to have a lot going for you. Tatsuya is by far the best character of the year for me. His role as delinquent brother to hard-nosed hero is a true coming of age tale, and the road he takes is hard not to applaud. He is far different from his brother or even Kou from Cross Game, and he makes his place as a stand out protagonist with how much he evolves from episode 1 to the end whilst staying true to himself.
Best Female Character: Minami Asakura- Touch
Runner Up: Anzu- Hinamatsuri
What makes a good lead even better? A very strong woman at his side supporting him from behind. Minami is the one person who can go toe to toe with Tatsuya in every regard. The ultra talented girl of Meisei has her own major role in the story of Touch, but its her huge relationship with Tatsuya and his family that makes her so integral to the world of Touch. Where Tatsuya needs her, she also needs him. They are the balancing of the scales for one another in the tough world of adolescence, and societal pressure of Japan. Minami is a strong-willed and competent female lead throughout the entirety of Touch and earns my spot for this year as gal of the year.
Best Ensemble Cast: My Hero Academia
Runner Up: Mob Psycho 100
One thing Shonen have over most other series are their massive casts of characters in the massive worlds they build for their massive set pieces. I’d say just like most other notable Shonen like Dragon Ball, One Piece, and Naruto, My Hero is doing a good job at making it’s overly large cast worth caring about still. My Hero might succumb to bloating sometimes from it like Naruto and Bleach, but as of now it’s still fresh, and this cast is incredibly lovable, and I want to see them grow into full-fledged heroes.
Best Animal Character: Shokichi- Pom Poko
Runner Up: Tokoyami- My Hero Academia
Not a lot of animal characters this year to talk about. But the main character of Pom Poko is as average as your average Joe, and for that he is a sort of lovable lead to follow along with. You end up relating to the tanuki more than you would first have thought!
Best Music: Redline
Runner Up: My Hero Academia
In all honesty I find it hard to remember most music from anime series unless it’s very recent in my memory. So these picks are just sort of me spit balling my memory. Thing’s like Touch, Food Wars, or Noragami could have easily made it here too if I really explored them heavily. I might spend a longer time next year on this one!
Best OP: 99 by Mob Psycho Choir- Mob Psycho 100
Runner Up: Re:Re by Asian Kung Fu Generation- Erased
Best ED: Refrain Boy by All Off- Mob Psycho 100
Runner Up: Roundabout by Yes- Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Season 1
Just like the November challenge I am confident in giving the dual win to these two songs from Mob. There are some great openings like Noragami season 2, Erased, Death Parade, and many more but this one is the best. And ending theme wise really only ED 4 of Touch came to mind to compete for me.
Best Pilot: Death Parade
Runner Up: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
There weren’t many especially crazy pilot episodes this year. Which is fair, not all anime need shock value in those first 20 minutes or so of introduction. I’m not super in love with Death Parade, but I do think as a show that hinges on episodic formula, its first episode is a great single piece. It sets the groundwork for what type of show there is, and it’s one of the highlight episodes in the entire series. I almost put Jojo, due to how fun it’s introduction to Dio and Jonathan were, but alas I just feel it’s kind of par for the course more than amazing.
Best Finale: Emma: A Victorian Romance
Runner Up: Touch
These two endings actually do have some interesting parallels if you have seen both. I was torn on which one to pick, but I feel Emma doesn’t frustrate as much as Touch before the pay off. There is a fantastic conclusion to both, and I feel both endings are very satisfactory, but Emma just happens to be a bit more focused with the approach and snails out a victory here.
Best Episode: Touch: Episode 100: Let’s Win for Meisei!
Runner Up: Touch: Episode 26: End of Match: However Without you
I could have honestly filled this with memorable Touch episodes. I decided to settle on the finale to the biggest game of the series that the whole narrative has been building up. The final episode of the first arc is about as moving, but I felt this one really had a culmination of so much emotion, and powerful moments. The final showdown between Tacchan and Nitta is probably my favorite in a sports series. Cross Game has one that is pretty good as well, and some series like Baby Steps do as well, but this has a bit more weight behind it than the latter.
Funniest Character: Joseph Joestar- Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Season 2
Runner Up: Master Reigen- Mob Psycho 100
Sugita is funny man yeah! His engrish, his performance, his ability to make characters so damn entertaining. He is a tour de force in the world of seiyuu. Reigen is beautifully hilarious too, but a lot of that is just the writing and animation, and not the power of the VA behind him holding most of the weight.
Best Villain: Coach Kashiwaba- Touch
Runner Up: Mima Kirigoe’s Mind- Perfect Blue
We had some super powered villains in cooking and the world of heroes, but it’s an ordinary bitter man who takes this spot. I don’t want to mention much about Kashiwaba because he has maybe the best story arc of all the characters outside of Tatsuya in Touch. The latter half of the show focuses on the dichotomy between their viewpoints, and how they fight one another over and over again. He may not be classified as a villain in all respects, but for the majority of his screen time he is in fact that, and a damn good one. Runner up was the mental state of a broken idol, but you’d have to see the masterful Perfect Blue to get what I mean by all of that.
Best Couple: Tatsuya & Minami- Touch
Runner Up: Emma & William- Emma: A Victorian Romance
In reverse to the finale award, I feel this show beats out Emma. This is more due to it having almost 4 times as much content, which gives it so much more to work with versus its counterpart. 101 episodes of building this duo, and the ins and outs of their relationship is hard to topple.
Best Fight: Tatsuya vs. Nitta- Touch
Runner Up: All Might versus All for One
I already mentioned this above, and for good reason! I would be a fool to not let this be crowned the winner! The best pitcher versus the best batter. Their record against one another is almost 50/50 and both are exhausted as the game has gone way beyond the stamina of both teams. Both players on offense and defense have made play after to play to swing the game in favor of their respective teams, and now we get a real star versus star showdown where the winner is actually not so clear as you would normally expect. The tension and build up to this moment is the perfect crescendo to a rivalry that has been brewing for almost 70 episodes.
Best Visuals: Redline
Runner Up: My Hero Academia
Watch Redline, it’s really pretty and stuff.
Biggest Disappointment: The Vision of Escaflowne
Runner Up: Inuyashiki
It’s been an amusing running theme between me and most of my closest friends that I do group watches with, that most shows end up being sort of a big disappointment even with all their large praise behind them. The trend has continued once again, as Escaflowne is really just not what we hoped it would be, and fell flat on its face. Even more so than a show about an old man robot trying to save Earth ending with a Shonen Jump entry. I know once again I might be in the minority on this, but Escaflowne just doesn’t hold up.
Biggest Surprise: Hinamatsuri
Runner Up: Children of the Whales
I figured I may enjoy this because Studio Feel’s work on Tsukigakirei, but damn they knocked my socks off! Still haven’t been able to find those either. Hinamatsuri is easily the new 2018 comedy of the year for most seasonal watchers for a good reason. It hits all the punches so darn well. I saw a few other notable shows like Children of the Whales that I genuinely think is a much better version of a fantasy story than Made in Abyss, but Hinamatsuri is just comedy gold that I can’t ignore.
Best Scene: Tatsuya grabs his parents- Touch
Runner Up: The rearview mirror- Perfect Blue
I can’t spoil this moment, but when Tatsuya goes to collect his parents to talk to them, god damn was it a great moment. It’s the sort of real family moment only certain people will get on a deeper level, and well I’m one of those folks. Perfect Blue’s mind fuckery at the end was noteworthy though too. Sort of like Inception where you have no idea what the real ending actually means. So mean, but done so well!
18: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid
Man, Dragon Maid is just garbage. And yes I am going to just be a little blunt from this point on. Kyoto Animation really just knows how to pick the most otaku bait shows sometimes, and this series is right in line with that. It’s not funny, it’s gross to sexualize moe designed characters, and the lazy lesbian baiting is tiresome at best. It has crisp animation sure, but outside of that it’s a show full of a cast of characters that feel like they are existing purely to sell merchandise and volumes rather than have true substance. I watched this as a trade-off, and well I’ve spoken at length why I find this show a true failure on most accounts for me. This is not my type of show, and that is okay, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone unless you like shows with otaku bait.
17: The Vision of Escaflowne
Fuck me, what is it with series from my group watches being train wrecks? First we had Utena(the worst of the worst), then Cromartie(which is okay), then Ryvius(so bad), and now this series. I might still like Ryvius more than this, but only because it ends well at least. Escaflowne has a super solid concept, but as time goes on it devolves into the same fight over and over again, and tons of weird unexplained things that just happen to be dramatic. The characters act really bizarrely foolish in most instances, and it’s romance is a steaming pile of mess. It wants to do so much, but without taking the time and effort to actually flesh things out properly. I can’t even count how many times while watching it I was shaking my head going, that makes literally no sense but okay let’s go with that. It’s hard to talk about what hurts Escaflowne without spoilers, but it really suffers under the weight of all its ambition. It wants so much, but does so little.
Abstract ways of approaching worlds have never really been my thing. Kyousougiga is something I talked about recently, and I won’t delve too much deeper. I feel this show has things going for it that make it beloved. It’s got fun ideas, and interesting cast members, but it just never clicked with me. I think there are loads of people who would love this, but I also feel that is a specific crowd more than anything. If you want something a little different, give it a go.
15: Megalo Box
You know, some anime really should be longer. This anniversary project for Ashita no Joe was rife with potential. It starts very strong, and then you slowly realize that things are moving way too fast. Similar to anime like Angel Beats or Donten ni Warau, Megalo Box has way too much it wants to squeeze in just a single cour of anime. This easily could have been twice the length. It would have given more space to develop the cast, flesh out the world, and give more stakes to each match. Fights come and go so quick in this series, it honestly is a bit hard to be invested in it all. It’s not bad, but it’s untapped room for growth we never get.
14: Death Parade
I like and don’t like this series. It has fantastic ideas, some wonderful stand alone episodes, and really nails a style that it owns. However, it just feels quite disjointed from itself far too often. It has a core concept it wants to bring to the table by the end, but it feels removed from most of the individual stories we get, so by the finale the “surprises” really don’t have as much weight as you would hope. When this show is good, it is on point, and when it’s not, it’s mostly forgettable. It falls between the scales a little too often for me to think any more highly of it.
This series had me so hyped at the beginning. The deep parallels between the good and evil values of the main leads was super well established after just two episodes. Then it sort of just muddles around for the remainder of the run time. It had potential to keep pushing both characters further and further into their alignments to make a really provocative tale, but instead it just sort of does fuck all most of the run time. It has some great moments that lift it above some of the other shows on my list, but it really just doesn’t nail execution most of the time.
12: Food Wars Seasons 2 & 3
Man how the mighty have fallen. Food Wars grows more and more exhausting the further I delve in. I love the cast(Well for the most part), and find the food they come up usually really appetizing. But god has this show become complacent. How many times can you use the same reaction towards the food over and over again. The sexual nature of the food reactions has lost its luster and become a lazy gag more than anything at this point. Which in turn makes most of the food showdowns lack any sense of wonder. I don’t care if I know who wins, I just want to be entertained. The prep part is the highlight of Food Wars along with the comedy, but the showing of the foods and the battles themselves really end up being the same thing over and over. I will keep watching, but a bit of variety to the recipe would be nice in the future.
11: Noragami Season 2
Noragami is massively popular amongst most anime fans. Like really loved, and I just don’t quite get it. It’s not bad by any means, but I never really found myself wowed by it. It plays so close to the chest with Yato the main character that it has made itself almost alienated to me most episodes. 24 episodes I’ve watched him, and I still feel like I barely know or care about him. I love Hiyori and Yukine, but they haven’t come very far either. Characters like Bishamon & Ebisu are far more interesting, and had some real consequence to their stories, but Yato feels like a god damn stranger to me. The show comes in waves of middling and damn good, and so in the end it just falls to me as a series that I enjoy well enough, but don’t love anything in particular about it.
10: Tamako Market
For a guy who normally doesn’t love Kyoto Animation, I had two shows I still wanted to see. It was Hyouka and Tamako Market. With the completion of the November Challenge I have now seen Tamako. It was a super cute little series. It doesn’t do anything mind-blowing, or make itself standout largely in the slice of life comedy genre, but it is consistent from start to end with what it is trying to do. I rather enjoyed my time, and look forward to the conclusion the series didn’t properly get in the film Tamako Love Story.
I always get amused listening to daily rantings of seasonal watchers in anime. Things go from love to hate or vice versa in a matter of an episode or two over arbitrary shit so often. I tend to think my tastes do not align with general conformity of the typical anime watcher, which is fine. I don’t need anyone’s validation on the anime I like and don’t like. So Erased is what I am talking about! It’s good, not incredible, but good. It reminded me of many films I have seen in my life. It plays by the book pretty safe to tell a sci-fi story built on the idea of time travel to save someone to stop something bad from happening. This of course varies from story to story, but Erased hits all the standard boxes of the genre off well enough. If the mystery was a tad more complex it could have been better or worse for it, but keeping it simple made it an effective drama through and through.
8: A Place Further than the Universe
I sometimes wonder if because people get so used to the hype of whats big in the moment if they really think about how good certain anime really are. Most of us get on a super high after finishing any anime that is at least very good. I feel this show is in that vein. It’s a quality show through and through, but it still is held back by little things here and there. But it’s the masterpiece of SOL from last year for most folk. I wouldn’t go that far, but I would say it is a series built on a very solid foundation and worth a watch if you are a fan of the genre. Antarctica felt a bit like a missed opportunity in exploration, but outside of that, this show has very few qualms to gripe about. Okay, maybe I still wanted some seals.
7: Children of the Whales
Fantasy anime are a dime a dozen nowadays. The genre finds so many ways to either over use concepts or dry out perfectly fresh ideas. I already spoke out last year on how Made in Abyss is mostly nothing special in particular. It has good drama, but forgot to make the cast interesting enough to care. Children of the Whales does a much finer job building up its unique fantasy world and inhabitants than Made in Abyss does. It has a much crisper, colorful art style as well. Sadly who knows if it will get a second season because I seem to be in the minority in the belief that this show was a really standout fantasy title.
6: Emma: A Victorian Romance
I went into fairly good detail on why this show was a superb romance in November, and I don’t want to be redundant. If you enjoy classic works similar to Jane Austen works like Sense and Sensibility or Pride and Prejudice, then I can’t recommend this enough. It is a very solid time period piece that has romance at the forefront of it. If you like Victorian times, romance, and actual endings to a story, then I say give this criminally under watched series a go.
I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but I have said it a few times already how funny this show was. It is one of the better comedies in recent memory, and I feel most anime fans would get a bunch of laughs from it. I could be talking out of my ass, but with how many people seem to praise this show like I do, I feel that assumption isn’t too far off base. I would be very happy if we got another season of this series as well.
4: My Hero Academia Seasons 1-3
One of the newest hype machines in modern anime, My Hero Academia. It’s really a phenomenally produced show thanks to Studio Bones. The music and animation are far beyond most typical shonen anime, and I feel that is the number 1 appeal to its massive audience. That and the easy to relate struggle of the common person wanting to be a hero in some way. It has a huge cast similar to Naruto, and it is really doing its best to make them all feel important. It hasn’t really set any huge stakes yet, and I feel that is the one weakness in the early parts of the series. We need something to set the stage for why the Villains League should be feared. A permanent change outside of what season 3 did. I also feel the villains have not made themselves quite as memorable as they could, but that is hard to do. I still really enjoy My Hero, and think it is one of the better battle Shonen series in modern memory.
3: Mob Psycho 100
Just like the previous November Challenge series, I won’t chat about this one in length. It’s very very good, and it showcases how talented a writer ONE is, and how great a studio Bones is yet again. I’m very happy to see a second season is airing currently, and will wait to watch it after it all airs. I do think it will be a real good one though. I love how ONE is using the shonen genre for excellent parodies that become something that only he could make. They are carving an identity that is making them more memorable than the genres they are playing with.
2: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Season 1
I have always been afraid to watch Jojo. To my surprise it isn’t as weird as it’s fan base in general. It was a very good shonen series. I sort of hate having it at number 2 to be honest though. I had a really good time with it, but it only ranks this high because of the lack luster competition. It isn’t anywhere near top favorites material for me as of now, and I would just call it a really good series that I am eager to see more of. The number one show though won by a country mile this time around.
This was a very very very easy choice. Touch was the best anime I saw in 2018 bar none. I saw a handful of good shows, some even great at times, but Touch was in a league all its own. This 101 episode coming of age story about a slacker becoming star of his prefecture for the dream of another is impossible to not recommend. If you know me somewhat, you know Cross Game is one of the best anime I have ever seen, and I would recommend it above almost any series. I still love it more than Touch, but I do think Touch is every bit as masterful in its approach to nuanced story telling. Mitsuru Adachi is the best writer of subtlety I have seen in the anime/manga world. His craft at making characters have so much unspoken language speak so much about how they feel is as real to real life as you can get. Whenever I eventually reorganize my top 25 anime or so, Touch will easily vie for a spot around the top ten or higher. It is a truly emotional experience that took me the better part of two years to complete with off and on again watching due to all of the struggles I had in my personal life. I finally sat down though at one point to churn my way through the series, and in a matter of two to three weeks watching 60 plus episodes of it. Touch is exactly like the title it displays, a touching experience that will always be nestled firmly into my heart as a special anime to me.
It wasn’t my best year for anime sure, but I still completed one of the best anime I have ever seen, so I can’t complain too much I suppose. I hope everyone had a great past year, I and plan to try to be way more active this year in building and supporting an infrastructure of community with fellow creators if I can. Otherwise though, I hope you all take care for now. Well until next time my little wanderers!
Happy New Year and on to an even better 2019!