2018 Anime Year in Review

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Overall this feels like one of the weaker years for anime in recent memory. Yes, I’m giving 3 “outstanding” ratings, but 2 of them are for series begun in previous years.

The most noticeable trend seems to be “over the top.” It’s always been common for anime series to be a bit nuts, but many this year seemed to be trying to push craziness to the limits. This is not necessarily a positive trend.

Outstanding Anime of 2018

The Ancient Magus’ Bride (Crunchyroll) (previous posts) (begun in 2017.) There’s not much more I can say about this one but it’s clearly one of the best high fantasy stories in the last few years.

March Comes in Like a Lion Season 2 (Crunchyroll) (previous posts) wrapped up a series that originally began in 2016 and just got better and better as it went along.

Gurazeni: Money Pitch (Crunchyroll) is the best new series of the year, a smart, funny and insightful look at the lives of professional baseball players. (Previous post.)

Notable Anime of 2018

A Place Further Than the Universe (Crunchyroll) is a totally wholesome story about high school girls who finagle their way into an expedition to Antarctica.

Hakumei and Mikochi (HIDIVE) is a strange but charming fantasy about 3-inch-tall people who live peacefully with full-size animals.

Karakai Jouzu no Tagaki-san (Crunchyroll) is the year’s funniest gag anime, a whimsical look at middle-school puppy love. A girl constantly outsmarts a hapless boy, suckers him into making losing bets, then forces him to do something that a boyfriend would do for her. He insists to himself that he hates it but keeps coming back for more.

GeGeGe no Kitaro (2018) (Crunchyroll) is (I think) the 6th reboot of the perennial spooky children’s series based on the classic manga by MIZUKI Shigeru. I think this one is the best version so far (in spite of Crunchyroll’s decision to translate “Nekomusume” as “Catchick.”)

Shounen fighting anime is not my favorite genre but My Hero Academia (Crunchyroll) is about as good as it gets. It just finished its third season.

Hinamatsuri (Crunchyroll) takes story elements that might have been the basis of a dark and tragic anime and uses them to come up with something that is totally nuts. A smug and ruthless young gangster is humanized when he adopts a teenaged girl who is sullen and self-centered and has deadly psychic powers. She is on the run from a sinister organization which, fortunately, is totally incompetent. In fact everyone is a position of authority is incompetent, irresponsible or just plain stupid. Somehow love and decency manage to triumph at least part of the time.

Golden Kamuy (Crunchyroll) is definitely in the “over the top” category. It’s common to refer to samurai shows as “Japanese Westerns” but actually Japanese history had a period much more like the settlement of the American West: the settlement of Hokkaido in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This took place in the same time period, in a climate resembling America’s Pacific Northwest, and involved determined pioneers and proud indigenous people who were less than thrilled about having their hunting grounds taken over.

So Golden Kamuy is like a Western, but not like a Western directed by John Ford. It’s more like a Western directed by Alfred Hitchcock with some assistance from Mel Brooks, with characters ranging from rugged individualists to batshit-crazy wackos. It’s pretty violent but I like it due to its depictions of Ainu culture and the two likeable main characters.

More “Over the Top” Stuff

Karakuri Circus (Amazon) is a shounen fighting anime involving a unique form of military technology. Before I tell you, try to guess…Is it giant robots that punch each other? No? How about giant robots that bash each other with swords…In Space?

No, that would be too easy. In this universe the most advanced military technology consists of giant marionettes based on characters from the Commedia dell’arte. (This seems ideally suited to give your kids nightmares.)

This show is ultra-violent with great production values and it just keeps getting weirder all the time. It’s interesting but I can’t honestly recommend it.