Another GLORIO year comes to a close and we recommend ringing in 2019 in the best way possible – no, not by partying with friends and family, I mean talking about anime!
Using our proven, scientifically infalliable scoring system, we’ve compiled our list of the ten best anime of the year. Did your favorite make the cut? Is there a show you think we missed? Just how high did we rank Darling in the Franxx? Have a look and let us know what you think.
Bloom Into You
Manga Adaptation by TROYCA
Director: Makoto Katou
Series Composition: Jukki Hanada
Aqua: With the noticeable and considerable exception of that Saga of the Space Heroes or whatever show Iro and Gee can’t shut up about, no show warranted quite the same level of intricate rumination as Nio Nakatani’s contemplative character drama. A stalwart slow burn unlike most of the shows on this list, Bloom Into You excels in being the perfect possible version of a simple idea, spicing up the awkward trepidation and intensity of teenage romance with an eye for cinematic language, a mind for the complexities of human emotion and a heart for the buoyant irrationality of love. Yet above all, it is sensibly and genuinely queer — not only in its respectful, but laid-back portrayal of a girl losing her heart for another; not only for its considerate musings on the difference between friendship and love, between admiration and adoration, between delusion and desire, in a genre that all too often conflates love with lust; but also because it unapologetically celebrates love as more than the sum of its parts.
Important as its depiction of lesbian romance may be — neither voyeuristic nor insufferable in its idealization — it is ultimately the character writing that sets Bloom Into You apart. Few shows have better depicted the age-old adage about opposites attracting and fewer have even tried to explore the impact expectations both personal and societal have on the fragile teenage psyche. A lack of broad appeal, genre-busting ambition or visceral elation are what hold it back from the higher echelons of this list, but within the little niche it has found itself a comfortable home in, there is no show warmer, more delicate or more sincere than Bloom Into You.
Dragon Pilot: Hisone & Masotan
Anime Original by Bones
Director: Shinji Higuchi, Hiroshi Kobayashi
Series Composition: Mari Okada
Artemis: This series received a ton of praise from fellow bloggers, and I can certainly see why. Easily the best show of its season, Dragon Pilot really outdid itself in terms of art style and animation, which managed to be at once both wonderfully charming and uniquely impactful. The distinctive artwork also served its storytelling very well with regard to its characters and core narrative – and speaking of which, I honestly can’t even think of the last time I’d been introduced to a main cast of this size and liked each and every member, not just in spite of their flaws but because of them. That goes doubly so for Hisone herself, who’s just so refreshingly straightforward and verbally honest that I couldn’t help but immediately love her. I don’t think I need to point out how rare this is for any anime lead, but particularly for a woman in a military setting.
This leads me to my only major reservation about Dragon Pilot: nearly all the men are assholes who treat their female colleagues like shit – usually behind their backs – and are constantly either trying to get them in bed or demeaning them by loudly discussing their supposedly overwrought emotional states (sometimes both in the same sentence). To my dismay, the series ends up just letting the guys get away with this; it’s a wry social commentary on women in the workplace/military, to be sure, but doesn’t actually go anywhere with it. Nonetheless, Dragon Pilot is a truly excellent show in its own right, and the fact that I can thoroughly recommend it as one of the frontrunners of 2018 despite its flaws speaks to its extremely high quality.
Manga Adaptation by Science Saru
Director: Masaaki Yuasa
Script: Ichiro Okouchi
Gee: It’s hard to call Devilman Crybaby one of 2018’s most enjoyable anime, but it might very well be one of its most important. Devilman Crybaby approaches its story and subject matter with a stylistic and raw brutality that I have never seen in anime, largely thanks to Masaaki Yuasa’s excellent directing. Other anime have used violence as spectacle (including other adaptations of Devilman), but Devilman Crybaby uses its harsh extremes as an ugly mirror to humanity’s worst tendencies. It forces us to confront the despicable truths we have always known. I can’t think of a more relevant lesson needed in a year like 2018’s. And yet by doing so, it desperately appeals to our better nature. If Devilman Crybaby’s version of humanity couldn’t save itself in time, then perhaps we may be able to. That love alone cannot save us, but we must try anyway.
Anime Original by J.C. Staff
Director: Yohei Suzuki
Series Composition: Satoshi Mizukami
Iro: After the ordeal that was 2018, it would be easy to view Planet With as foolishly naïve. Its messages are hoary old chestnuts like facing your fears, solving conflict with forgiveness and empathy rather than violence, that holding onto hate will only destroy us and those we care about. We’ve collectively outgrown such tedious things as giant robots, alien maids, psychic powers, love and peace. But precisely because everything about Planet With is so corny, it cuts straight to the heart. The show operates on that deeper shared wavelength with unshakable earnestness, steadfastly affirming that the universe is filled with blessings, and convincing us that it just might be true after all.
Manga Adaptation by Feel.
Director: Kei Oikawa
Series Composition: Keiichiro Ochi
Jel: For a comedy to make any “best of” list, it needs more than just laughs. Hinamatsuri is built to be funny: it’s a “dad anime” except the dad is in the yakuza and his adopted daughter has god like psychic powers. There’s a thick layer of black humor that stems from this setup, and combined with the series’ deadpan delivery there’s more than enough quality jokes to cover the comedy angle.
What makes Hinamatsuri really special is the heart beating below the surface. The characters are particularly fantastic. The cast is an ensemble of selfish dirtbags, but they’re lovable selfish dirtbags. You know deep, deep, deeeeep down inside they care about each other and their flawed ways of showing it are both hilarious and heartwarming. It’s become one of my personal favorite shows of the GLORIO era, and it’s a must watch if you enjoy anime comedies.
Lupin III: Part 5
Anime Original by Telecom Animation Film
Director: Yuichiro Yano
Series Composition: Ichiro Okouchi
Iro: How does a franchise stay relevant for 50 years? Ever since Monkey Punch’s original Lupin III manga began in 1967, the eponymous phantom thief and his known associates have been stealing hearts across the globe. Lupin has gone through as many iterations as there are writers to tell his story, and while some are better regarded than others, it cannot be denied that each one is someone’s One True Version of the character. Do you prefer Monkey Punch’s original scoundrel? Miyazaki’s green-garbed gentleman? The ultra-violence of the 2010s? Wacky pink-jacket hijinks?
Part V‘s main plot concerns itself with how a classical phantom thief could continue his work in a truly modern societal and technological climate, but the greater motif – built through interlude episodes in the styles of older eras – is that the legend of Lupin III will take whatever form it must. Everything about Lupin III and his friends can change (and has) depending on the needs of the current story. He’s a master of disguise, after all; literally a comic book hero, with new capers as the plot demands. Part V weaves the disparate, multi-colored strands of each version into a cohesive whole. It brings Lupin III into the future while paying homage to his past, and proves that his legend will never die so long as there’s another heist on the horizon.
Anime Original by TMS Entertainment / 3xCube
Director: You Moriyama
Series Composition: Katsuhiko Manabe, Kensaku Kojima
Gee: MEGALOBOX is 2018’s most wholly complete anime. Every aspect of its production and presentation, whether it is its music, its character design, the way its narrative is delivered, all of it are achieved to a sheer technical perfection. In each individual aspect MEGALOBOX sets out to achieve, it renders them masterfully. It is truly greater than the sum of its individual parts in how well they organically enhance each other. It’s an anime that trades purely on its overwhelmingly impeccable execution of vision to a degree no other anime in 2018 achieves. Like watching the perfectly performed routine of a master gymnast, it doesn’t necessarily wow you with its novelty but instead the spectacular nature of its achievement. MEGALOBOX isn’t 2018’s deepest anime but the way it achieves its mellow spectacle is unparalleled. It leaves you awestruck. Words defy the feeling, it’s something you can only feel in your bones watching it.
Anime Original by Trigger
Director: Akira Amemiya
Series Composition: Keiichi Hasegawa
Euri: SSSS.GRIDMAN, an animated pseudo-sequel to a 1998 tokusatsu show. Making it this high on our list might only be second to Rage of Bahamut: Genesis as far as completely unexpected successes go (with the two shows sharing their chief writer, coincidentally). But GRIDMAN is not just a great show – it’s a show that manages to retain the spirit of its predecessor, despite changing medium, and also improve upon it.
I’ve heard a lot of people say that this GRIDMAN doesn’t do anything new, yet what it does do, it does well. I don’t necessarily disagree with that, but I also think it sells this show short. GRIDMAN was able tell an engaging story, with plenty of twists and turns, and weaved it into an Ultraman ‘monster of the week’ formula complete with genuinely stunning 3D fight sequences. Every episode is a treat, and with so many moving parts, it’s a complete and utter mystery how they managed to avoid cocking it up along the way.
March Comes In Like a Lion Season 2
Manga Adaptation by Shaft
Director: Kenjirou Okada, Akiyuki Shinbo
Series Composition: Akiyuki Shinbo, Fuyashi Tou
Marlin: My number one last year was Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, and while that show is much more mature in the content of some of its relationships, there is a similar through-line to March Comes In Like a Lion. Both ultimately are stories of how one can build up a life of grief and emptiness and be saved from their loneliness by small acts of kindness and love. Where March grows this universal longing is talking about what constitutes human strength — what is the most valuable thing we can have as human beings. The show is at its best when it portrays this growth between Rei and Hina. Their earnest hearts touch each other, and out of the stress of their lives they become stronger together. No man is an island, and strength never comes from what one keeps inside. It has always come from another, and what we have is only valuable if we are also ready to give what we have received. Anything less only pretends to bear a likeness to true strength. While we don’t get to see their journey end, knowing that they’ve learned this lesson is enough to give us hope for their futures.
A Place Further Than the Universe
Anime Original by Madhouse
Director: Atsuko Ishizuka
Series Composition: Jukki Hanada
Aqua: If you haven’t seen A Place Further Than the Universe yet, this will probably be the point where you’ll expect us to make the most convincing case in anime criticism history — lest you close your tab and never return. If you have seen Atsuko Ishizuka’s masterpiece, however, you’ll know that it deserves its top spot on this list like no other. You’ll know that while it’s no controversial claim to call A Place Further Than the Universe a child of its time, no anime before it has managed to be this excellent because of, rather than in spite of, the conventions it commemorates. You’ll know that within five minutes of the first episode, this show has already effortlessly justified every cliché even the most bad-faith-driven cynic could accuse it of veering close to — its teenage protagonists aren’t shallow fantasies, but flesh and blood young women with quirks, issues and wills of their own, and their absurd journey together is no window dressing, but an endearing odyssey filled with genuine laughs and heartfelt moments of true friendship and poignant personal drama.
Effortlessly spicing up a character-driven comedy the likes of which anime hasn’t seen since the original K-ON! with thorough, yet optimistic, explorations of themes like mental health, envy, social seclusion, anxiety, and grief, Jukki Hanada has raised the bar by such a incredible margin, it’s hard to imagine ever enjoying another show about four high school girls goofing off again. At its best, A Place Further Than the Universe has more ideas in it than an entire top 10 could have in lesser years. At its worst, it’s merely the best show of 2018.