Anime roundup 1/3/2019: Best of 2018

Congratulate yourselves, everyone, we’ve successfully circumnavigated Sol again! Which means it’s time to look back at the last twelve months and think about the best shows they brought us.

For those of you contemplating having to make sense of anime credits to fill out nomination ballots, I’ll include the more common things asked for. If your favorites differ from mine, I recommend looking for the information you need in Anime News Network’s encyclopedia. “Series Composition” is usually equivalent to the head writer, and “Animation Production” gives you the main studio or studios.

#3 – Tie: Kokkoku and The Girl in Twilight

Each of these shows is an excellent work of sf overall, but each also has one drawback that makes it hard for me to recommend it to anyone who hasn’t been desensitized to anime’s frequent tendency to oversexualize. Kokkoku is a taut thriller built around a unique idea, but is let down by a closing-credits sequence that feels compelled to display both heroines topless. The Girl in Twilight is a surprisingly sophisticated take on adolescent girls finding their way toward their adult selves, but it also spends some time in the middle endorsing the idea that same-gender sexual harassment is funny.

Director: Kokokku: Yoshimitsu Ohashi, The Girl in Twilight: Yuuichi Abe (Series Director) and Jin Tamamura (Director)

Series Composition: Kokkoku: Noboru Kimura, The Girl in Twilight: Shogo Yasukawa

Studios: Kokkoku: Geno Studio, The Girl in Twilight: Dandelion Animation Studio and Jūmonji

International streams for Kokkoku: Amazon Video (probably worldwide); bilibili (Asia)

International stream for The Girl in Twilight: HIDIVE (US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, other unspecified countries, possibly worldwide)

#2 – Hakumei and Mikochi

This beautifully animated tale of small adventures is just what we all need to wash 2018 away: a vision of a world which is inherently kind. Where the local necromancer is just a low-key inventor with a secret wish to look fabulous, and one’s unexpected upstairs neighbor turns out to be a beetle that wants to be a hip city girl. Where forest elves shop and tinker and exchange craft tips. If you just want to immerse yourself in an intricate fantasy world, the past year offered nothing better than this.

Director: Masaomi Andō

Series Composition: Reiko Yoshida

Studio: Lerche

International streams: HIDIVE (Americas, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa); Wakanim (Francosphere, Scandinavia, Germany, Austria, Russia); bilibili (Asia)

#1 – Megalobox

A reimagining of a 50-year-old manga about boxing should have been the most niche of shows outside Japan, but once this got going, there was no real hope that any other show this year would top it. In story, soundtrack, visuals, attitude, and every other aspect, this was the class of the field. It drew people in regardless of whether they were into boxing or not, regardless of whether they were into sf or not, and even managed to reach outside the hardcore anime community and earn a little coverage in wider geekdom.

Director: You Moriyama

Series Composition: Katsuhiko Manabe and Kensaku Kojima

Studios: 3xCube and TMS Entertainment

International streams: Crunchyroll (Americas, UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand, Middle East, North Africa, South Africa); ADN (Francosphere); bilibili (Asia); Yahoo! View (US); TubiTV (US); Vudu (US); Hulu (US); Viz (US)

Other random thoughts on the year past:

  • Shows which could have been on the list above if they’d actually ended this year: Attack on Titan season 3 and Double Decker! Doug and Kirill.
  • Sentimental favorite: Steins;Gate 0 (not generally recommendable because you need to be a big fan of the original Steins;Gate first).
  • Show I’m gladdest to have dropped quickly: Darling in the FranXX, which was merely a pale imitation of Neon Genesis Evangelion after the first episode. People who watched the rest report that it continued to be that while also becoming a rant about how the LGBTs are destroying society and young people need to get back to traditional values like teen marriage and intensive baby production. This naturally attracted the culture warriors of the Internet, so on top of everything else Darling in the FranXX also managed to be the second most polarizing thing in anime this year.
  • Since you ask, the most polarizing thing in anime this year was the opening-credits theme for Kokkoku. You can find a few people out there who thought Darling in the FranXX was just meh. The Kokkoku opener was either the commentator’s new favorite jam or the worst thing they’d heard in years. (This reviewer falls in the first group. Fight me.)
  • Worst thing I came into contact with all year: The premiere of The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Einherjar, which not only assembled a stack of the most horrible, skeeviest tropes of the trapped-in-an-RPG-like-world power fantasies, but then went above and beyond by managing to find room for bad science.

I like to conclude with a few words about ongoing anime trends. It’s too early to call it a real trend since it only started this past season, but I hope that if the anime world insists on continuing to adapt video games, it also continues with the new approach of developing a related story rather than animating a straight playthrough of the game. Merc Storia, Bakumatsu, and The Girl in Twilight all came out of their premieres looking much better than the average game adaptation. Contrast them with Between the Sky and Sea, trapped having to walk the viewer through the game mechanics.

We have a total of five shows related to video games next season, so we’ll certainly know soon if this is a real trend or not.

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