Hi everyone. It’s been awhile. After a season-long hiatus from writing (well, except that one time) it feels good to be back. Working on this blog has become such an embedded part of my weekly routine that it felt kind of weird without it.
What feels less good is trying to narrow down my annual favorite anime moments list. Interestingly in the end I chose a lot of smaller, more subtle moments than years’ past. I don’t know if it just happened to be a good year for that or I’m just appreciating the little things more at this stage in my anime watching career. Either way I think it’s a pretty good list, and feel free to share any of your favorite moments I missed.
1o. Beware of Dogs
Laid Back Camp Episode 2
Just watch the clip at 0:42 and you’ll get it.
9. Butt Lasers
Asobi Asobase Episode 4
I had my doubts about Asobi Asobase after the first few episodes. I appreciated the series’ irreverent sense of humor, but the premise seemed too mundane to hold up over twelve episodes. Then we find out one of the girls is super rich and has a creepy unpaid butler who can shoot lasers from his butt. Show saved! From that point on, Asobi Asobase established itself as the funniest show of the year, possibly even the last few years.
8. Goin’ Commando
Banana Fish Episode 10
I don’t know how much I actually liked Banana Fish and I’ll admit I have not watched much past this episode. But what an episode it was! Ash storming the enemy base in full 80’s action hero mode to save his boyfriend is all I ever wanted from this show. As the series’ first big climax, it was simple but effective payoff for building up some of the most disgusting villains in anime history and then giving them what they deserve.
7. Please Shut Talking Now
A Place Further Than the Universe Episode 4
For all the huge, dramatic moments in this series, it’s the simple ones that really sell it for me. The first one that really made me take notice was during the training camp with all four girls together for the first time. As they’re all trying to go to sleep, the youngest member tries to tell the older girls to shut up but realizes mid-sentence that would be rude. A few seconds later, the other girls can’t help but tease her for her mangled phrasing.
This might not seem particularly notable, but in the context of other “cute girls doing cute things” shows, it really stands out. Too often shows like this have dialogue that sound like its written by adults (usually men) trying to imagine how teenage girls talk to each other. Moments like this shine because it feels closer to a conversation that would really happen. I wouldn’t say this show always succeeds in that category, but when it does it really sets itself apart.
6. The True Meaning of Free Speech
Last Period Episode 8
Without question my biggest surprise of 2018 was watching Last Period, an adaptation of a dumb, generic fantasy mobile game, and discovering it’s one of the most politically charged anime I’ve watched this year. And yes, this is the same year I started watching Legend of the Galactic Heroes.
The show peaks in episode 8 when it uses the mandatory swimsuit episode to denounce Japan’s joint military exercises with the U.S. in the wake of North Korean missile testing. It ends with a giant sea monster exploding while saying “Freedom of Expression! Freedom of Thought!” and everyone’s clothes melt off. I had to immediately watch the final scene again to make sure it actually happened and I wasn’t hallucinating. Runner-up moment of course is the introduction of
Team Skull WISEMAN, who are the true heroes of the show.
5. The Universe Is Filled With Blessings
Planet With Episode 11
Oh Planet With… despite your bad CG and cramped pacing, you had enough heart to cover every anime in 2018. It almost borders on naive, but it’s so badly needed. The main example of this is the relationship between Souya and Gingko. Souya spends most of the series acting like an obnoxious brat, the last member of an aggressive race who nearly destroyed Gingko’s peace loving planet. The first few episodes actually make you wonder if he’s meant to be the villain.
Despite this, Gingko does her best to take care of him and love him like family, and the results show by the time we reach episode 11. With another big battle approaching, the two share a moment on the roof and acknowledge each other as brother and sister. To have Gingko bear no ill will toward Souya or his people is Planet With’s ultimate statement about love and forgiveness. The show may yell it a bit louder in the climax of the final episode, but I found it hit hardest when first presented here.
4. There’s Still Someone Who’ll Cry For Us
Hinamatsuri Episode 6
If you tried to grow my perfect anime comedy in a test tube, genetically engineered toward my specific preferences, you would probably get Hinamatsuri. The show’s blend of deadpan black humor and genuine heart is 100% my brand. It took all my strength not to make this the #1 moment, and in the end I chose to go with some more meaningful options for the top spots. That said, this was still a really great moment.
I’m talking of course about that time our dear, precious Anzu parted ways with her friends at the homeless camp. Her “joke” up to now has been the fact that she had no where else to go and has been surviving through sheer force of will and some kind-hearted homeless strangers. Look, I said this show thrives on black humor… ANYWAY, their group is eventually forced to disband and Anzu finds a proper foster home, but the old men who helped her are left with the inspiration to keep fighting a little longer. That’s a big gut punch in itself, but then the episode ends with an emotional, one off ending song that zooms in on the last photo the group takes together… excuse me, I can’t type when my vision is this blurry… just go watch Hinamatsuri. Please.
3. It’s Not a Phase
Bloom Into You Episode 7
I’ve written and talked about this moment before but I wanted to make sure it got a place on this list. I don’t want to keep repeating myself so in short I loved that this episode specifically challenged the notion that Sayaka’s feelings were “just a phase” and showed through action that girls falling in love with girls is a real thing. The best part is seeing the look of relief on Sayaka’s face when she opens up to the cafe owner she suspects is in a relationship with her teacher. It not only drove home the point they were trying to make, it made for a very warm and comforting moment that I can only imagine the importance of.
2. An Old Man’s Burden
March Comes In Like a Lion Episode 39
This episode is the best example of why I personally liked the second season of March Comes In Like a Lion more than the first: the side stories are short, powerful, and manage to add perspective to the main plot. In this case, the focus is on old man Saku Yanagihara, a recurring character who gets his turn to shine. Like the other pro shogi players, his story shows one of the many paths Rei could take in his own career.
Episode 39 paints a very mature, complex picture of Yanagihara’s burden, carrying the hopes and dreams of his generation who have long since quit. This is illustrated in a visually stunning way as we see Yanagihara constricted and weighed down by metaphorical sashes. Infamous director Akiyuki Shibo may be a perv, but he is really good at what he does. On a personal level, I’m starting to relate to this as I get older and go down a less conventional path than most people my age. It hit pretty hard. I could probably write a lot more about that, but for now I’ll just say seeing Yanagihara smirk at the end of the episode as his passion for shogi burns on made me smirk right along with him.
1. Kids Love Devilman
Devilman Crybaby Episode 9
I feel ambivalent about Devilman Crybaby as a whole, but I can’t deny the series offers some incredibly poignant, insightful moments. For me, the hardest hitting scene was a less obvious one: Devilman is unsuccessfully trying to calm an angry mob when a line of small children form to give him a hug. For just a brief moment, everyone comes to their senses.
I could probably write an entire post on this moment, but in a nutshell it says so much about humanity and our learned prejudices and hatred. As ugly as we may get, at our core we want to be compassionate and love each other. Whether or not we can realize that before we destroy each other is another topic, but to me that seemed like the most relevant and important anime moment in 2018.