Five Favorite Anime of 2018

Now comes the post to sum up the highlights of 2018.  Last year did not have the same quality as 2017, which saw every anime in the top five rated 9/10 or 10/10.  Yet, 2018 was still a great year, offering plenty of four star anime to choose from.  It was difficult to choose between them.  In the end, I chose #3 – #5 based on how much enthusiasm I felt for these anime when they came out.  Honorable mentions go to Hinamatsuri and Golden Kamuy.

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5) Isekai Izakaya ★★★★

I cannot imagine giving a short more than four stars, but part of me wanted to make an exception for Isekai IzakayaDagashi Kashi II stands as another example of a well done and hilarious short from last year.  (It’s ironic that the original Dagashi Kashi was too long and the sequel too short.  If only season one had been a series of shorts, and the second season used full length episodes!)  But, where Isekai Izakaya trumps Dagashi Kashi II lies in how the former excelled in more than comedy and lovable characters.  Isekai Izakaya builds a great fantasy world using the Holy Roman Empire of the High Middle Ages as a basis–just as Isuna Hasekura did for Spice and Wolf.  In addition to exploring the world of Japanese cuisine in the anime, it offered some bonus segments alternating between a young chef showing the viewers how to make the dishes portrayed in the anime and an old gourmand touring various Japanese eateries.

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Two of the most avid patrons of this bar are the soldiers Hans and Nikolaus, who can always be counted on to show up for some lager.  The two of them are overawed by Japanese cuisine, and they are soon joined by more of the fantasy world denizens as new characters become loyal patrons.  One usually expects the Japanese to be the ones awed by the fantasy world, but the denizens of the fantasy world find themselves awed by Japanese cooking.  It’s a good thing that Izakaya Nobu builds up a large and diverse following, because an intrigue by a principle citizen threatens to shut down Nobuyuki and Shinobu’s operation towards the end of the anime.  This intrigue added a whole new level of enjoyment, making this one of the best anime of last year.


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4) Goblin Slayer ★★★★

Nothing so well keeps an audience invested in an anime as throwing young, likeable, and sympathetic characters into the jaws of death.  The brutality of the world in which Goblin Slayer and his associates survive keeps us curious about their fate to see whether they live through another episode or become goblin food.  Attack on Titan used a similar plan; but, I never became as invested in it as Goblin Slayer–or, for that matter, the other anime which came from the studio which brought us Attack on Titan: Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress.  The two anime I enjoyed had a couple of chief differences from my perspective: more likable characters and worlds I could care about.

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At any rate, the battles in Goblin Slayer showed some great inventiveness and one never feels like the characters are safe from the scythe of the Grim Reaper.  The psychological wounds borne by characters like Goblin Slayer and Sword Maiden also kept me interested.  I eagerly anticipated each week’s installment.


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3) After the Rain ★★★★

Here is another show I felt tempted to rate higher–if only for its gorgeous animation.  Each facet of the animation from the environs to the heroine’s pupils strikes one as something out of Plato’s world of ideal forms.  Though one could rave for pages on the beauty of the animation, it offered the audience the best drama I’ve seen since Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu.  The struggles of the main characters are all realistic and relatable.

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The focus on the main characters and how they slowly lose their dreams was all too realistic.  How often do people become sidetracked from their dreams and settle for something more mundane and more attainable?  The relationship between Akira and Kondou start out under the auspices of romance but leads to them both finding their dreams again.  Kondou starts writing a novel, while Akira overcomes the fears surrounding her injury to reenter track and field.  A very good story to watch.


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2) Angolmois: Record of the Mongol Invasion ★★★★ 1/2

This sort of story is made for fans like me.  My absolute favorite movie is Zulu, which portrays the famous defense of Rourke’s Drift in 1879 by eighty British soldiers against four thousand Zulus.  So, how could I not love an anime featuring a few hundred samurai against the Golden Horde?  The Mongols find that taking the island of Tsushima is far more than they bargained for!  The actions is thrilling from start to finish and–as in Goblin Slayer–none of the characters feels safe from death.

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Other than that, the animation is decent and the fights display vivid detail.  The only real downside is the lack of unique characters.  Shiraishi comes to stand out from the rest of the ronin engaged in this battle.  The hero and the heroine, Jinzaburo and Princess Teruhi, are both very strong leads who are a delight to watch.  Still, the content and the action more than make up for this defect in regards to characters.


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1) Violet Evergarden ★★★★★

Reading my old post on Violet Evergarden convinced me that I could do no better.  Read that post here: Best of Winter 2018.  While I am happy to give this honor to Violet Evergarden, part of me wishes that something had been released later in the year which could vie with it.

What were your favorite from last year?

10 comments on “Five Favorite Anime of 2018

  1. Cytrus says:

    I just ordered 2018 in my head, and boy was it a shaky year for me anime-wise. Dropped a lot, and a significant part of what I completed was fast food.

    But on your impressions:

    On Goblin Slayer, the differences between this and AoT strike me more than the similarities. AoT prologue ends with a teenager’s “I’ll have my revenge”, Goblin’s ends with a teenager’s “I’ll overcome this experience and strive to make a difference”. It then follows that Eren requires several convenient power-ups to stay relevant with his quest of slaying superior opponents. The Goblin Slayer crew can struggle and fail without the story falling apart, so it gets more respect from me on that front. Though the show does obviously have its issues.

    After the Rain. One of the shows I drifted off on during the year and never watched till the end (work being mostly to blame). But ironically I left the whole season + PL subs for my parents and they watched it through and enjoyed it. (That moment when your family gets ahead of you with anime…) I remember us discussing the show at length on this site, but apparently the show outgrows the romantic premise and still finds a solid story to tell. Should probably finish it at some point.

    Violet Evergarden I waited late into the year to watch with my family. They enjoyed/were touched by it plenty. On my end, I’d rate it on the lower end of KyoAni’s successful series (that category obviously setting the bar very high to begin with). It does have that unfortunate aspect of being (semi) episodic, which makes it more difficult for me personally to get fully engaged in a work. But at the end of the day my main gripe with the series would be how it insists on making each of those short one-episode stories end in a poignant and cathartic way as if it were obligatory or something. You have so little time to work with within a single episode to set it all up, and it’s not like a low-key story is necessarily inferior to the more tried-and-true big resolutions. Like with the female co-worker who wanted to be a writer or something, and we get a huge info-dump internal monologue at the end of her episode just to make the events seem more impactful. Still a worthwhile series overall, though.

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  2. The protagonist in Goblin Slayer was unusually humble for an anime hero. You’re right that the story conveys a very different mood. Goblin Slayer and After the Rain probably stirred up the most controversy last year. (The Ryuou’s Work is Never Done, aka Ryuou no Oshigoto, also stirred up some, but it definitely falls into the category of fast food.) But, tackling uncomfortable subjects is part of what made them interesting.

    Of my parents, only my father is interested in watching anime these days. Though, the anime tends to need to have vampires for him to want to watch it. History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi was one exception to that rule, which worked because I knew he would have a strong identification with the MC. (Karate was a necessary skill for someone growing up in New York City in the 60’s and 70’s.) Your parents tastes in anime sound more eclectic!

    Violet Evergarden could have spent more time developing certain of its stories, and it tried to play on the audience’s heartstrings at least every other episode. Still, Violet Evergarden counts along with Beyond the Boundary, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Full Metal Panic Fumoffu! as one of my favorite anime from KyoAni.

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  3. Katana Maidens and Citrus remain my favorite shows of 2018. But like you I enjoyed 2017 a lot more.

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    • I’ll have to take a look at Katana Maidens. If you have extra leisure time and have not seen some of the anime above, I hope that my little post will help you find a few more good anime.

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  4. dsprizer says:

    For me, Violet Evergarden represented everything I don’t like about recent Kyoto Animation shows in that it came across like “Oscar bait,” clinically engineered to make its audience cry, but actually taking absolutely no chances artistically or dramatically. Sure, it’s beautiful, but it’s like a million other overwrought melodramas that, for me at least, ultimately felt so empty that it actually made me angry.

    I consider Hyouka probably the best anime ever made, and Nichijou not far behind. But I can only imagine that KyoAni didn’t make enough money on those two works, which is why I personally feel they’ve been in a steady creative decline ever since.

    Of course, I get that these opinions are minority ones!

    Anyway, by far my favorite show of the year was Hi Score Girl, which is simply one of the funniest, most romantic, and strangely melancholy works I’ve ever seen. Ostensibly about gaming, it ultimately becomes a meditation on pursuing one’s passions, and for me at least, its emotions felt a thousand times more real than the utterly synthetic Violet Evergarden.

    Behind HSG, I would put A Place Further Than the Universe, which although it never quite lived up to the utter brilliance of its first episode, was still a moving ode to friendship. The show’s direction is remarkable, the best you’ll see anywhere this side of KyoAni, but completely lacking in that studio’s deep cynicism about what its audiences want or will tolerate.

    Finally, I would have to include Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san on any list of personal 2018 favorites. It’s a simple, straightforward comedy, with really only a single joke at its core, but man does it execute that one joke well. And the ending of the show (for now, as there’s going to be more) is just pitch-perfect for what is a truly lovely, small-bore romantic comedy.

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    • It sounds like you have a predilection for shows based on real life and little liking for fantasy. Violet Evergarden is a very fantastic story from the main character’s history to the action sequences, so I can see how this anime might come across as fake or vapid to those who prefer more realistic tales. And, it did tend to go for stories which would play on one’s heartstrings. For me, these tragedies fit well with the postbellum world in which Evergarden finds herself. It seemed like a fitting kind of anime to make at the 100th anniversary of WWI.

      In my case, I found Hyouka very amusing with some compelling mysteries but occasionally slow. I still need to watch Nichijou. Everyone loves it, but I somehow missed watching it.

      Hi Score Girl and Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san are two other anime I did not get around to. A Place Further than the Universe was very enjoyable to watch. A good number of bloggers named it one of their favorite anime of the year. For me, it was one of many good anime produced last year. Happily, Winter 2019 seems to promise us another strong year for anime.

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  5. donhumberto says:

    Glad to see Angolmois so high up in your list. I thought it was great and definitely in my top 10 of the year.
    Anyway, a bit late to the party but here’s my take on the year:
    1- Hero Mask. Well, what can I say, taking over Virgin Soul (and The Perfect Insider before that, and Aku no hana before that…) is my top series of the year that apparently the rest of the anime fandom either ignores or hates 🙁 Anyway, I thought it was a superb mystery thriller that had some of the best action scenes I’ve seen in a good while. It does need a sequel badly but all I can say is that I enjoyed the show to bits (Hell, it even prompted me to write a few reviews after I finished it, something I had never done before)
    2- Violet Evergarden. One of the most beautiful series I’ve seen in years. As a father of a little girl myself episode 10 hit me like no other episode I’ve seen in a long time. Glad to see you liked it a lot too
    3- Kokkoku. Sadly, another underrated gem. A really unique sci-fi tale with one of the best female leads I’ve seen in a while
    4- Megalobox. I just wish all sports series were this good. I also loved how it looked like an OVA from the 80’s
    5- Garo-Vanishing Line. It was a blast from start to finish and it looked cool as hell. Sadly underrated, too

    Honourable mentions: Angolmois, Banana Fish (DAT ending… whoah, the feels. Also, soundtrack of the year for me), Devilman Crybaby, Castlevania (amazingly good second season), Dorei-ku (pretty much like Hero Mask, no one watched this and the ones who did didn’t like it, but I had a blast from start to finish and it had one of the best female characters of the year) and the LOGH remake (susrprisingly good, IMO)

    Overall, I think it was a pretty good year. I can easily count 20+ shows I enjoyed to bits and wouldn’t mind rewatching. No clear masterpieces though although if Hero Mask does eventually get a sequel and they manage to properly follow the story I could easily see it getting a 10/10 from me.

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    • That’s a very good list. I started watching Hero Mask and definitely loved the James Bond-like feel of the hero and the action sequences. Though, I did have to laugh at him keeping the chamber of his pistol empty and needing to rack in a round at the start of a fight. A good precaution on an old M1911, but modern concealed weapons carriers keep it cocked and with the safety on. (Less chance of a malfunction in just flicking off the safety than in chambering a round under stress.) But, the animation for this action impressed me as much as in the opening action scenes of Innocent Venus. I need to get back to watching Hero Mask.

      Kokkoku struck me as one of the most original stories of 2018 with a very immersive quality to the scenario. It’s main problem was how much the latter half dragged on. The heroine was great indeed, and it’s rare to have a whole family as protagonists.

      If you liked Megalobox, try to find Ashita no Joe, the series from 1970 which inspired them to made Megalobox. That will take some searching, but Ashita no Joe is the best anime ever made in my opinion–even if the animation takes some getting used to. I agree that one of the best parts about Megalobox was how they used the old, hand-drawn cel method of animation. It’s almost a lost art!

      I loved season one of Garo. Thanks for reminding me that I need to watch the second. It is sad that this show is underrated. There are not enough lovers of action adventures blogging, I suppose.

      Let’s hope for another good year.

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