The best of the best! These are the must see hits of 2018.
Every new season I sit here at my desk looking over the list of anime that are about to come out, to help our readership decide what they should invest their time in. Watching previews, reading up on articles, scouring blogs, all in the hopes of selecting three special shows for you all to enjoy. Sometimes, however, there are disappointments. Sometimes I discover a show is amazing much later on, a show that would have been an easy choice for one of my periodical Shows to Watch. This time, I’ve decided that after a year’s worth of enjoying the best Japan has to offer, I will run down my five favourite shows of the year. These will be in no particular order, I’m not here to crown a winner, I’m here to establish the best of the best.
Before I get started I would like to give praise to Violet Evergarden, Yuru Camp, and Megalo Box, three shows that I have written about over this past year, and all three of which would normally qualify for a list like this. Unfortunately, due the quality of this year’s roster of shows, they won’t be making the cut. Without further ado, here are my favourite shows of 2018.
Pop Team Epic
One of the shows I was most excited/concerned about this year was the anime adaption of Pop Team Epic. Originally a 4-koma comic strip, I was unsure how its humor would translate into the animated medium. If you look back to my Shows to Watch for the winter 2018 season you will see it didn’t make the list of recommendations—due in part to that trepidation. An adaptation project, and the sheer ambition displayed by the self-titled “shittiest web comic.”
Hilariously absurd and endlessly creative, all your favourite jokes and memes have been elevated to an entirely new level. Fan favourites like Hellshake Yano were given amazing amounts of love, as the segment became this amazingly choreographed paper flip book-live action segment. There were music numbers too, one of which was entirely animated using felt dolls. And to cap it all off, to fill its normal anime broadcast time slot of 22 minutes, the show was split into two halves. In the first half Pipimi and Popuko were voiced by female seiyuu, but the second half would then repeat the show’s first eleven minutes shot for shot with male seiyuu taking over. Each week new pairs of seiyuu would take over the roles and by the end of it all an astounding 48 different actors would voice the girl that is small and the girl who is tall. If you are looking to laugh Pop Team Epic was this year’s best comedy anime, not because the jokes were always funny, but because there isn’t anything else like it, or maybe ever will be like it ever again.
What a way to start off 2018. Honestly, if you were to pick the single best show of the year Devilman Crybaby would probably be that show for a lot of people. The leadoff hitter for what would serve as Netflix’s foray into the anime, their partnership with the studio Science SARU brought us the best that director Masaaki Yuasa had to offer. The man behind the critically acclaimed Tatami Galaxy, and Ping Pong: The Animation struck gold once again with Devilman Crybaby. Unrestricted by the guidelines of normal Japanese broadcasting laws due to its exclusivity to Netflix, Devilman is the pinnacle in what could be described as adult animation. While sex, drugs, and violence all play pivotal parts in the story, Devilman doesn’t revel in gratuity with its new found freedom. The show has an amazing cast of characters you will grow fond of, learn to love, and eventually cry your eyes out over. Devilman Crybaby is bildungsroman of Akira Fudo, a high school boy who becomes possessed by a demon. Struggling with his new found powers Akira’s tale deals with the struggles of puberty, the responsibility of those who have power, and what it truly means to be human. A visual feast throughout, Devilman draws you in immediately as early as the rave scene in the first episode. Blinding hallucinogenic rainbows strobing out over a crowded dance-floor—that vibrant use of colour, and the animation’s looseness in its depiction of the partygoers—a scene and setting truly enhanced thanks to the medium. Collectively agreed to be a masterwork by The Goners, Devilman Crybaby stands out as one for the ages.
Emiya-san Chi no Kyou no Gohan
The versatility of Type Moon’s Fate franchise can truly be astounding, and Emiya-san Chi no Kyou no Gohan (Emiya Gohan) serves as a prime example of that. Normally the characters you see in Emiya Gohan would be fighting in the Holy Grail War, duking it out in pairs of Masters and Servants. Instead, we have a slice of life show that focuses on the beauty of cooking. In Emiya Gohan we find Fuyuki City in a state of peace, where both masters and servants can walk the streets. Or if you’re Lancer Cu Chulainn, hold down multiple part-time jobs without worry of attack.
This relaxed atmosphere really shines through in the show and sets the tone of the entire series. Made by Ufotable, the studio behind Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works, and the film adaptations of Fate/Stay Night: Heaven’s Feel, the animators flex their muscles with this new, more light-hearted style. However, this isn’t to say that you won’t find some of Ufotable’s signature action sequences in the show. One of the treats Emiya Gohan has to offer is a volleyball match between Shirou, Saber, Archer, and Lancer that is everything you would expect from a game between servants to be. The main focus though is of course cooking, something Shirou is well known for in the mainline Fate shows. In Emiya Gohan we have Shirou preparing new dishes every episode in beautiful detail. Ufotable captures the art of Japanese cuisine masterfully, and while not giving exact guides for everything you see, its step by step approach to cooking allows you to glean how to prepare the dishes on display. With its beautiful presentation, and relaxed atmosphere, Emiya Gohan was a show I would drop everything for when a new episode aired.
My Hero Academia Season 3
My Hero Academia is currently one of the biggest names in anime. Its explosive growth over the last few years should be obvious to even the most casual anime fan. From amazing fan art online, to all the cosplay you see at conventions nowadays, My Hero stands with the titans of the shonen genre. And with its anime adaptation from the pages of Shonen Jump it deserves all the credit it gets. This most recent season has truly been the best the show has offered us so far with huge story revelations, amazing fight sequences, and heartfelt moments. With some of the major players in the series’ universe finally unveiled My Hero has gone from a cool show about young heroes, to an emotional roller coaster of triumph and defeat. One of the stand out moments of the season was the showdown between All Might and All For One. The pinnacle of hero society battling all out versus the biggest villain the world has to offer was a moment in the series fans won’t soon forget. This was just one of the many explosive moments this season had to offer, making it clear to everyone paying attention that My Hero Academia is going to be a top dog for many seasons to come.
A Place Further than the Universe
A Place Further than the Universe originally flew under my radar when it premiered during the winter anime season earlier this year. It had to compete for my attention with many of the shows I’ve mentioned so far in this piece. It wasn’t until December, when other people were talking about their favourites over the past year, and the New York Times article that named it one of the best pieces of international television in 2018, that I really gave it a shot. What I had missed out on is now one of my all-time favourite shows. A story about four misfit high school girls whose personal struggles and past trauma led them to the very ends of the earth in a journey to Antarctica. That isn’t to say that the show is a dour piece of media, far from it. A Place Further than the Universe stands out because while it deals with serious issues like the death of Shirase’s mother in a previous Antarctic voyage, the show is so full of levity and love that these dark moments aren’t of sadness, but of healing and growth. Throughout their journey the four girls each battle with their own issues and by the time they return home to Japan each has experienced tremendous personal growth. Alongside this masterful storytelling experience is a visual style that really lends itself to a more grounded series like A Place Further than the Universe. Madhouse opted for a more photo real approach to the show that can be seen throughout the series, on display in it’s establishing shots, and scenes where the background is just as much part of the scene as the foreground. In many shots it looks like the animators working on the show have taken photographs and animated over top of them, capturing the realistic beauty of a somehow plausible fantasy. A Place Further than the Universe is truly a beautiful emotional experience, one of the best that anime has to offer.
Hopefully this article has given you something to consider when it comes to your next anime undertaking. Truly this year we have been blessed with some of the best shows to come out in a long while. If you have already watched my top five shows of 2018 you can find more of my suggestions over the past year here.