I know that being a professional anime blogger sounds like a great job, with lots of glamor and excitement and sexy cosplayers hanging off your body non-stop at conventions. But it is work and as more anime has been released, it’s been harder and harder to follow all and talk about the great series so I have decided to write about them here.
Now that the year is coming to an end, I thought it’d be fun to write up my list of the best anime of 2018. Also, we made an Anime Rewind video! Click here to see it, or scroll down to the bottom of this post.
But what makes an anime great? I’ve got a few guidelines I try to follow…
- A “great” anime is one that is well-executed, without major failings in the animation quality, writing or ending.
- If an anime makes a strong impression on fandom, making them respond by making memes that bring in more fans, it’s probably “great.”
- Similarly, if a show makes a deep emotional impression, leaving fans either sad or elated for days, I’ll give it bonus points.
- Shows that end their stories perfectly, rather than saying “thanks for watching, now go read the manga or novels for more” also get extra credit.
Winter 2018 Anime
Darling in the Franxx
One show that definitely had fans talking was Darling in the Franxx, a mecha anime made by Trigger that was a love letter to the best works of Gainax, from Evangelion to FLCL to Gunbuster: Aim for the Top. The only thing it was missing was Zero Two riding on a sword or an electric guitar.
This was one of the breakout hits of the year, a fun slice-of-life about five girls who go camping in the winter, to enjoy the peace and solitude of nature without a lot of people around. It was an adorable show, and probably got a lot of otakus interested in camping. Read our post about Yuru Camp here.
Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san
Isn’t it nice that such a fresh and fun concept can be executed so well? Takagi-san (shown above) loves a boy named Nishikata-kun, and spends all her time with him. Naturally, he’s a total idiot and never picks up on her feelings. So she trolls him again and again, trying to get him to notice.
An adorable anime about a high school girl who develops an obsession for the middle-aged manager of a family restaurant, and who pursues him romantically. Being an older guy, it sounds like the perfect male fantasy, but it was actually a beautifully executed series that was fun to watch. Read our post about After the Rain here.
A show that might have slipped under a lot of people’s radar, Kokkoku is a great adventure story about a family with esper abilities, including the ability to enter a frozen-time world and teleportation. When a family member is kidnapped by an evil organization, the characters must use their powers to get him back. A great break from moe anime, and it ended its story perfectly.
Spring 2018 Anime Season
Being the publishers of the original Steins;Gate in English, I’ve always felt a strong connection to these characters. Imagine my surprise when it was followed up by one of the best-executed sequels of all time.
Fans who complain that anime is all moe harems need to get out of their comfort zone and watch a wider variety of shows. One thoroughly enjoyable series is Golden Kamuy, an adventure story set in Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido in the years after the Russo-Japan War of 1905. A former soldier was known as “the Immortal Sugimoto” teams up with an Ainu girl named Asirpa to find buried gold. It’s got a huge cast of outlandish characters and many WTF scenes. It’s the only anime that will teach you the best part of a bear’s gall bladder to eat!
Mahou Shoujo Site
Madoka Magica showed the industry there was mass appeal for “dark” magical girls shows, and Mahou Shoujo Site is the darkest yet. It’s about a website that grants magical girl powers to depressed and suicidal girls, who use their powers for revenge. Naturally, the magical girls end up doing battle with each other. While not quite as enjoyable as Magical Girl Raising Project, it was a fun show with a great resolution.
Every anime based on a 4-koma manga wants to be the next Lucky Star. Some get close, but it’s a high bar to beat. One show that warmed fans in 2018 was Comic Girls, a slice-of-life about four girls living in an apartment who all want to realize their dream of being professional manga artists. It was an adorable series, with great characters — flamboyant Tsubasa, elegant but inept-at-using-a-computer Ruki, adorable Koyome and insecure Kaos-chan.
Summer 2018 Anime Season
Cells at Work
What if your body was inhabited by sentient cells who went all around, delivering oxygen to various regions, fighting bacteria and rushing to repair your body when it gets damaged. And what if these cells were super-cute characters voiced by the likes of Hanazawa Kana and Naganawa Maria (the voice of Kanna from Kobayashi Dragon Maid)? That’s pretty much what you get with Cells at Work, one of the most innovative ideas in years.
Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sou
We must all have our guilty pleasures, and mine is Miss Caretaker of Sunohara-sou, a silly show about a feminine-looking boy named Aki who goes to live in an apartment with a busty caretaker named Ayaka. Much sexiness ensues. My favorite character is Ayaka’s gyaru sister Nana, who’s got those sexy tan lines going, they drive me crazy. It’s an example of the “straight shota” genre, if you needed to know that.
Another fun show I ended up enjoying was Harukana Receive, a show about a girl from Tokyo who goes to live in Okinawa, where she discovers the sultry world of beach volleyball. In pretty much every episode, we’re treated to bouncing boobs, girls smacking each other on the backside, and lots of general cuteness.
Fall 2018 Anime Season
Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai
If I had to pick a single best anime of 2018, I’d probably go with Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai. While it’s not the most original concept ever — it’s basically the “deadpan main character has to help a harem of waifus solve supernatural problems so he can get back to dating his super hot dark-haired tsundere girlfriend” model from Monogatari — the stories and characters are all top-rate, and the execution is perfect.
For a fantasy anime to take off in today’s crowded field of offerings, it has to be really special, and Goblin Slayer definitely fits the bill. The story of an armored fighter obsessed with killing goblins after they raped and killed his sister, it’s the darkest fantasy anime I can think of, and every episode is thoroughly entertaining.
What happens when Trigger, the company that carries the soul of Gainax into the future, teams up with Tsuburaya Productions, who brought us the best kaiju TV creations, including Ultraman? The result is SSSS.Gridman, an animated remake of a 1993 live-action kaiju series that combines great characters, a mind-bending story and the hottest anime thighs we’ve ever seen to make something really special. Very nearly the best anime of 2018…
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 5: Golden Wind
The show that finally got me into JoJo’s. I’ll admit it: while I was happy to post Jojo memes with the best of them, I’d never pulled the trigger and watched the show. Why? Well, back in 1997, we got some Jojo figures in stock on J-List, and they didn’t sell, as we were about 20 years too early for the JoJo’s train. This early bad experience, coupled with the fact that JoJo’s is a huge fandom that’s been around longer than J-List always made me think it must be too hard to get into. I was wrong, and the quality of the writing, animation, voice acting and overall execution has been nothing short of incredible.
Uchi no Maid ga Uzasugiru!
Depending on your tolerance for anime series about female ex-military commandos working as maids and obsessing about pre-pubescent girls who haven’t gotten their first periods, you will either love or be turned off by Uzamaid. It is a fun show, with lots of jokes for otakus to laugh over, and outstanding animation all around (I mean, just look at this clip). It might be a series to not watch with your wife or mother.
Honorable Mention: My Sister, My Writer
Ah yes, truly the best anime of 2018! Ore ga Suki nano wa Imouto dakedo Imouto ja Nai, aka The One I Love Is a Little Sister, but She’s Not My Little Sister, aka My Sister, My Writer is the worst anime I can remember watching, at least since the heady days of 2004-2006, when the international anime licensing bubble had yet to pop, and all kinds of awful ideas were getting 48-episode anime series.
As I write in an extended blog post, the show is terrible, but in a way, I feel it’s teaching us an important lesson. Namely, that there are limits to what we can expect from the anime industry, and we should all find ways to support anime in new ways. Maybe it means buying import Blu-rays (though they are pricey), or maybe finding ways to support streaming sites like Crunchyroll/Funimation/Amazon Prime/Netflix.
J-List 2018 Anime Rewind
We made a video with the best anime of 2018. See it here!
✨ J-LIST 2018 Anime Rewind! ✨
Let's take a look back at the anime series that aired during 2018 that stood out!
— J-LIST (@jlist) December 18, 2018
Did you enjoy reading about the best anime of 2018? Did I miss your favorite shows? Tell us in the comments!