It’s certainly been a long year everyone, but thankfully the top-notch anime we’ve gotten to see this year has made the tumultuous time a bit more tolerable. Most of the romance has been relegated to the sidelines, either a blatant tease in your average comedy or a sidedish to your main drama, but there still are some notable couples to pad out the normal roster. However, the biggest development by far has been a long time in the making. For five years I terrorized the blog with an inadvertently shameless award paying homage to the supernatural sexpot that is Dusk Maiden, but no longer! Watch on in horror as the awards hug and turn into tang… I mean get replaced by the kind of comedy awards that I should have always had in the first place.
Rei and Hina-March Comes In Like a Lion
Okay, so they’re not officially a couple, but man watching these two uplift each other and be a source of strength in times of need was an absolute joy. It’s also undeniable that Hina is the cutest heroine of 2018, just look at that face. As I’ve talked about many times before, what makes their relationship really special is the ways they come to support and sacrifice for each other. In the beginning, this started with the ways Hina would cheer Rei up and give him a place to feel welcomed and at home when he felt directionless and alone. It was Hina that reaches out to Rei to call him over, just as he finally got the courage to do so himself. When Rei sees that Hina is holding on with all her strength after being bullied, he sees a way he can finally return the love he received from her and her whole family. Through his efforts, Hina lets him realize just how much the importance of his presence can be to the people who truly care for him, and in the end they are both strengthened through the stress. And hey, Rei seemed to react pretty strongly to Hina’s new look, so maybe romance isn’t out of the question. Season 3 please.
Most Disappointing Romance
Narumi and Hirotaka-Wotakoi
There were certainly a lot of good anime this year, but it seems like that was balanced by an equal amount of trash. Unfortunately, the romance genre was not free of this, as the spring season gave us the completely forgettable Wotakoi. Initially it showed a lot of promise as a show about adults coming to grips with their burgeoning adulthood while still appreciating the love of games they’ve had since childhood. That lasted for about three episodes until the show revealed it was invested more in the fetishistic of immaturity rather than actually tackling growing up. Our older duo are a completely toxic and unhealthy combination that is pretty hard to swallow, but they were never the draw. Instead what’s really disappointing is that the potential and chemistry that are easily visible between Narumi and Hirotaka completely melts away by the middle of the show. It’s very clear that while Hirotaka has well come to terms with how he wants to engage in his pasttimes while live as an adult, Narumi refuses to move forward and acts like a petulant child at all times, having to be consoled or rescued by Hirotaka or their friends. Recovery of an MMO Junkie this ain’t.
The 2nd Annual #HATEWATCH for Biggest Load of Bull
Whatever the Frig Darling in the FRANXX was trying to be.-Darling in the FRANXX
I didn’t even watch to the end of this trainwreck and yet it still is the worst thing I watched all year. Okay wait no I did watch the first episode of that sister show that aired this season. Let’s just say it was the by fart he worst show that made any claim to actually being good. Melodramatic, egocentric, and then downright nonsensical, this show was a disaster from pretty much the third episode out. Zigg, Gee, and Iro suffered through that nonsense much longer than I did, but even in my one-cour experience of the show it was completely dreadful and unsatisfying. Thankfully, Gridman has filled the gap and given us something better to think about as good mecha anime become rarer and rarer by the year.
Most Mature Couple
Sakuta and Mai-Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai
Say what you will about this show. It has perhaps the dumbest title of all time. The imouto character is about as bad as you’re gonna get. The comparisons with Bakemonogatari are unavoidable. Still, I think it’s hard to deny that the budding and developing relationship of Sakuta and Mai is genuine and by far the best part of the show. While it seems that Sakuta is a bit too cheeky than he should be, Mai doesn’t let him get away with every joke, and often can give as good as she takes. Her being his elder gives their relationship an interesting angle, with the girl being a calm and steady presence that you’d be hard pressed even to find even in shows about adults (see above). What pervades that feeling is a sense of trust that they have. Mai is sure enough in her personality that she doesn’t ever become needlessly jealous of the myriad girls Sakuta comes in contact with, and Sakuta’s reliance on Mai ensures that he never goes too far in his joking with the other girls. Their reliance on each other allows them to be able to talk to each other and see through the problems Sakuta keeps experiencing in a way that he may not have been able to deal with alone.
The Golden Sawako for Excellence in Not Making Out Already
Takagi and Nishikata-Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san
Sure, they’re middle schoolers so it’s not like I was raring for a makout session anyway, but it is most likely deliberately comical that the two have not actually entered formally into a relationship. Takagi admits pretty early that this is the kind of flirty teasing that we think it is, but the show would probably be boring if everything made too much sense. Thus, Nishikata’s straight man act gives us just enough rope to laugh at the immature dope while reminding us that we were no better at 13. This is usually the case in real life, but Takagi’s level of maturity is off the charts, which makes the moments when she actually gets flustered that much more satisfying. One can see Takagi’s teasing as simply her way of waiting for him to grow up and understand her feelings while also being able to enjoy his company. At the end of the day, who doesn’t want someone they can just joke around with and be at complete ease?
The Most Dysfunctional Relationship
Yuu and Touko-Bloom Into You
There is certainly a level of depth in character development that is being revealed the further Bloom Into You goes along. However, it is undeniable that this pair have an incredibly problematic relationship, and development can’t undo the harm that’s already been done. There is a constant theme of selfishness touched upon in the show that I think really needs to be addressed. Both characters want to pursue this relationship on their own terms. We see this most clearly from Touko, who very selfishly forces Yuu into incredibly sexually charged situations. I think it’s hard to deny that anyone forced into that kind of situation is going to have their emotions confused or enhanced, intimacy is one of the ways we form bonds in the first place. Yuu’s responses are no better though, as she simply hides her emotions instead of confronting Touko with how she’s changed her. Touko honestly has a lot of psychological problems considering her fixation on her sister, but her behavior around Yuu goes past a line of what I think anyone would deem appropriate. There is a lack of giving that is essential for any relationship, and it would take a long time to heal the damage that’s already happened.
The End of the Annual Dusk Maiden Award for Excellence in Being Simultaneously Cute and Smutty.
A.K.A. THE ERO-KAWAII AWARD
The Nichijou Award for Most Heartwarming Comedy
A Place Further Than the Universe
In addition to winning this award, this certainly was the biggest surprise for me. It has all the initial trappings of any bog-standard cute girls show, and yet from a very early point we see it going in a much different direction. Far from being girls content to stagnate in a niche hobby, our protagonists have an ambitious goal and a determination that makes you really believe they can achieve it. And through the entire journey to make it to Antarctica, it never feels like too much. A pox on anyone who decries the value of hard work compared to the effects of random chance, you still have to put in some work even to make the chance encounters work in your favor. As the girls assemble together, we get a natural and endearing growth that takes them from random strangers to believable friends that can truly be there for Shirase when she comes to accept her mother’s fate and is finally ready to move on.
The Zetsubou-Sensei Award for Blackest Comedy
This is no exaggeration, as great of a show as Hinamatsuri was, Asobi Asobase was the best comedy of the year. Its slow start and pastel colors belied the sharpest wit and the darkest heart we’ve seen since the award’s namesake. This show glories in being an unfiltered take at terrible teens being terrible to each other without feeling exploitative. The conversations can err into the titillating, but they never seem needless, and if they seem tasteless it’s because of the writer’s deft hand rather than a lack of understanding. You’ve never seen Japanese absurdism until you watch a robot based on a sex doll become self-aware and start badmouthing everyone around her in perfect English. From blackmailing their teacher by stealing her dating profile to training a beetle to steal their dirty secrets, Asobase gave us plenty of hilariously irreverent bits to keep us going, all the way until the best non-ending in anime history.
The Best OP/ED of 2018
Fighting Gold- Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind
I’ll be the first to admit this has been a somewhat weak year for anime OP/EDs. The only other real contender is Lupin, but as we stated back in the Spring, the legacy of Lupin’s theme is almost unfair. Even then, there’s just something about a good Jojo OP that gets my blood pumping and ready for some shounen madness. Following on heels of its more impressive predecessors, Fighting Gold is a wonderful splash of color and stylish directing that keeps the viewer engaged and excited for what’s about to come. The song is also no slouch either, starting out a more subdued and almost melancholic piece which speaks to the undercurrent of crime and corruption that is the catalyst for our hero’s journey. Each member is held back by chains or bars and drenched in dark colors. However, once we have all of our heroes accounted for, Golden Wind doesn’t remove the chains but changes them, and the scene erupts in color and triumphant stings as the characters look towards the golden light ahead of them. Is this still mostly an anime about attractive men and their punchghosts? Sure, but it certainly hasn’t lost the touch.
Bro of the Year A.K.A. The Iskandar
Jigen Daisuke-Lupin the Third Part 5
If going through an entire platoon of armed guards to bust someone out doesn’t make them a bro, then no one is. Jigen Daisuke is such a bro. His personality gave real gravity to some of my favorite episodes, including the sniper duel that delved the most into his past life. While he had a great presence as the straight man foil to Lupin’s playfulness and Goemon’s naivete, it’s hard to think of no better moment than episode 23. After all seems lost and Lupin is finally in the clutches of international agents, Jigen reminds us that he is a hitman, and anyone who fires on him will see no mercy. If it weren’t for episode 24, I would probably put Jigen’s plea at the end of the episode as the best moment of the year. Having Kiyoshi Kobayashi say he’s literally getting too old for this was a great back and forth, confronting the real past of Lupin’s legacy with the new face Part 5’s Lupin has given to the franchise…
The Best Moment of 2018
The Face of Lupin- Lupin the Third Part 5
And speaking of that, what a better moment could there have been than the reveal of Lupin’s greatest secret. Part 5 had been building up Lupin’s new adventure as a fight to keep up with the future. Social media became a bigger villain than any one assassin or thief, and it seemed that it continuously produced more problems than even Lupin could handle by the end. And yet, despite the odds, Lupin managed to disappear in a world waiting to catch him in the act. Confronted with doubts by Fujiko on his genuine motives, Lupin is forced to bring out his biggest trump card yet, and with it cemented the legacy of Part 5 as the greatest adventure Lupin has embarked on yet. A link to the past and a staple of the present, a lecherous crook and a responsible guardian, a lovable buffoon and a cunning master thief, all of these disparate parts could only be captured together in the face of Lupin the Third.
Well, that about wraps it up. If there was anything I would want to leave people with as the year draws to a close, is that if you haven’t watched March Comes In Like A Lion, you owe it to yourself to carve out some time and experience it. Even after my final thoughts post and the copious digital ink I’ve spilled, I can’t say enough about this show. It’s a treasure to watch both visually and narratively. Lupin the Third also gets a deserved shout out for its fantastic storylines and consistent narrative despite being worked on by multiple authors. Also, it didn’t make any of my awards, but shout out to MEGALOBOX for being a masterpiece of genre fiction, playing all of the underdog boxing tropes to the fullest and leaving us electrified with an absolutely fantastic soundtrack. With the return of Mob Psycho 100 looking like the only bright spot next season, I may be holding onto the memory of these shows for a while. At least we’ll always have Legend of the Galactic Heroes.