Hey guys, remember 2018? No? Well, I remember! And you’re gonna read about it now! This one month-late article is still relevant I’m telling you!
Ahem. Now that 2018 is over, I feel compelled to ramble a bit on all the anime that I finished within said year. And you’re gonna join me! So let’s not waste any more words and just get this going. Also, if you badly miss that one anime of yours that you totally did like as it’s not on this list, there’s a high chance I’ve watched and simply dropped it. It happens.
Asobi Asobase: The surprise hit comedy with silly faces, inappropriate humor and wacky screaming at least until all of these started to wear thin on me. There is only so much I can bear of all of that until things get grating. With that said, it still turned out to be the only neat show in its piss-poor season and in its better moments, was a beacon of hope for comedy anime in general. Decent.
Caligula: This one started out on a really good note with its first episode – neat directing, an in medias res episode that actually worked and a Zegapain-esque thriller. Sadly, both production issues and cramming a JRPG source material with a plot that didn’t mesh well with the first episode’s tone into the anime hindered this from being particularly worthwhile. At the very least, the anime original material surrounding its protagonist felt like a very laudable effort contrary to the average copy and paste video game adaptation approach. There is a gold standard for that in here, buried beneath a lot of dysfunctional, ignorable rest. Mediocre.
Comic Girls: The latest Kirara adaptation. For some reason, these oftentimes get good production conditions as well as young, capable directors so the visual side of things was certainly quite nice in a season where everything else was stuck in a production mess. Oftentimes, it meandered as your average slice of life comedy with a mangaka gimmick attached to it but the characters were serviceably likable and occasionally, it went for more somber, substantial segments and pulled them off with more dignity and weight than one would expect. Decent.
Devilman Crybaby: I can’t say I was too on board at the beginning but when it started pulling me in around episode 4 or so, it did it tremdendously well and what seemed like Yuasa loosely adapting a weaker Parasyte at first, turned out to be a grand, moving statement on mankind with a jaw-dropping finale. Good OST, exciting, super ambitious writing and Yuasa himself on the directing seat made for the best anime of the year no doubt. Very Good.
Dorei-ku The Animation: This feels a lot like Durarara!! with a trashy game premise attached to it. It’s a bit better than what you’d expect and at least knows how to get interesting at times but that doesn’t salvage the dogshit visuals, moronic game setups and flat characters that were pumped and dumped into the show without a satisfying climax or worthy resolution. I miss Kaiji but then again, who doesn’t? Bad.
Golden Kamuy I + II: This is a tough one. First of all, I think it’s good. Secondly, I’d like to stress that it’s at the lower end of the goodness spectrum, with there being two reasons, the first one that it’s an unfinished story – here’s to hoping Twin Engine will give us the rest in their quest to save anime – and the second that it’s not the show it could have been, namely a brutal battle royale treasure hunt story among memorable elite characters but a mishmash of genres. I do, however, think it still sort of succeeds with said mishmash and that bunch of memorable elite characters is still around after all, providing plenty of solid entertainment. And good grief, it’s war bit and dramatic flashbacks were really, really convincing. Good.
Gurazeni I + II: One more anime that’s somewhat self-contained but not properly finished yet managed to leave a neat impression with me. Gurazeni is a slice of life sports anime placing less focus on the sports and moreso with the monetary gains that come with it as well as career pressure as to those involved or at least its protagonist, baseball is a profession first and foremost. Its characters weren’t always the strongest and some episodes, particularly those at the beginning, were boring drivel but overall, it made for a unique, entertaining watch. This anime certainly gave us one transparent job description. Decent.
Hakumei to Mikochi: I’m still a bit torn on this. On one hand, it improved as it went on. On the other, its start almost put me to sleep. And we also got the occasional episode trying its best at that afterwards as well. But it was also a highly charming slice of life anime with a very unusual setting that I can get behind. And was fittingly directed. I wouldn’t broadly recommend it but it overall did a fine job. Turns out the tiny little life also brought me some tiny little joy. Decent.
Hinamatsuri: This anime has a huge issue, namely that its protagonist Hina is terrible and doesn’t make for good jokes. I’d take any of Anzu’s homelessness adventures over what we actually got and eventually, even those disappeared entirely. What remains is a comedy that has some unexpected emotional highs but ultimately makes me wonder what it even was about… or what parts I deemed particularly funny. I’ll give it its crazy setups but that’s about it. Mediocre.
Island: You know, if this is what a 60 hours visual novel condensed into 12 episodes looks like, I really don’t want to know what the original was like since even in the anime, about half of it was meaninglessly faffing around. Rarely in its first half did it succeed with some character moments and while the characters are kind of okay per se, the poor attempt at a plot was just rather laughable. With that said, it had an anime original ending with an immense payoff where – age gap included – BEST GIRL won and people liked it so much that even fans of the source material rejoiced in deeming it better than the original. Doesn’t save the show itself but it helps a bit. Bad.
Jashin-chan Dropkick: Yet another not particularly funny comedy. It started out with gore and meta humor but for some reason, lost both of these in the process, leaving behind a cast of gimmicky characters of screentime inbalance you sloooowly got used to. Jashin-chan herself is pretty blergh and unlikable but there’s also Yurine, a dominant goth loli who’s actually really sweet if you let her be a.k.a. a LITERAL MIRACLE OF THE UNIVERSE. Bonus points for her. Otherwise, not worth watching. Still gonna check out S2 though for obvious reasons. Mediocre.
Kokkoku: The first Twin Engine project and would you look at that, it’s a pretty cool thriller with lots of neat twists and turns in a rather innovative setting. Wooden, flat characters sometimes only there to fulfill certain functions drag the overall experience down admittedly (there’s a bit of a family drama in here but it’s hard to give a shit about the family) but overall, this is what I want to see more of from this medium. Its last episode was also really somber and quite daring in a good way so kudos for that. Good.
Megalo Box: You can’t retell Ashita no Joe in a mere cour so gladly, this didn’t do that. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what else it did. Characters and plot were functional but nothing else. The boxing parts themselves were rather uneventful too. The Aragaki war PTSD sidestory was really good but this overall felt like an anime with a big buzz behind it that will become quickly forgotten. For what it’s worth, I’m Team Ippo anyway so what do I know. Mediocre.
Mahou Shoujo Site: This started out as rather tasteless and dumb torture porn but then kind of turned into a somewhat watchable anime with mostly likable (albeit several really flat) characters? It’s a bit dumbfounding how this graduated into the bittersweetness camp with some surprisingly tactful yuri interactions here and there yet make no mistake, this still is an amateurishly put together story where you can see the stitches. Its anime original ending was quite the powerful affair though, I appreciate that. Mediocre.
Overlord II + III: Both of these seasons suffered from the same problems – they had one way too long, dreadfully boring arc, poor visuals, weak main characters and when things actually did get compelling for most of their runs, the build-up turned out to be for absolutely nothing as plot elements went straight for weak disconclusions. The entire Workers outcome was also rather distasteful. Oh well, it’s Overlord. You know what it’s about and what you’re here for. Mediocre.
Ryuuou no Oshigoto: Haha, pedo jokes. Also shogi. More than you would expect from this kind of show but not too substantially relevant. The character drama was rather lame as well. It’s overall okay I guess and occasionally, it showed glimpses of a good anime, especially towards the end. Matches with weight behind them from characters who are willing to risk their everything to fulfill their ambitions. You know, like Hikaru no Go. A work the author was inspired by. This is what it could have been. But 90% of the time, it decided not to be, so there you go… and walk away. Mediocre.
Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai: It’s from Sakurasou’s/Just Because’s writer, so we’re already not on a good footing and him combining Monogatari with OreGairu sadly resulted in one overly pretentious combination. Much to my surprise, however, I wouldn’t call it bad at least as occasionally, amusing character interactions could be had and the finale was more on the emotionally satisfying side than I figured but when your characters mostly consist of witty one-liners thrown back and forth with some mouthpiece social commentary here and there as Schrödinger’s Cat becomes once more victim of exposition dumps… man, I sure do miss Sakurada Reset. I know I’m the only one but still. Mediocre.
Sora yori mo Tooi Basho: Ishizuka finally getting her first anime original after years of directing crap at Madhouse was quite the event and even made some big waves. It also turned out to be quite a good experience now that all is said and done. YoriMoi excels where others of its kind fail: it’s a genuine anime with its heart in the right place, delivering likable characters that still felt grounded and flawed enough as it should be, yet always keeping up with all the fun character chemistry you could ask for. This is an anime that captures the feeling of adventure as it celebrates youth and chasing your dreams. While I do think that some of the drama fell flat towards the end and its conclusion was a tad too anticlimactic for my taste, I very much appreciate where it ventured to. Good.
Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online: This could have been a cool VR tournament anime with fun characters in an interesting setting and a not-so-run-of-the-mill protagonist. Then Shadow The Hedgeheg made her entrance, cackling like a madwoman as this anime did its best to portray her as literally Hitler for killing others in an online game. No survivors on the Pitohui train. And don’t get me started on the production issues. This wishes it had the visual finesse of actual SAO. But it admittedly did end on a better note than I had imagined and every now and then, gave me some fun action and dynamics. Also gymnastic girls. One of my fetishes that certainly deserves more attention. Nonetheless, with all that said and done, it’s still SIGSAWA’s third loss in my book. Mediocre.
Tokyo Ghoul:re I+II: What happens when an anime’s best part was anime original, it featured good animation and strong directing, only for the follow-up sequel to almost blatantly ignore any kind of original writing, toss out the director and outsource the production to Korea as the new, far less talented director has to storyboard several episodes in a row to somehow get through a production disaster and all of this is based on a source material that spiraled completely out of control and turned into a mockery of its own while innumerable chapters get rushed through, completely destroying any kind of semblance of plot and characters? This. This is what happens. Very Bad.
Tonari no Kyuuketsuki-san: Somewhere between the shabadabada.flac, “Umu.” and “guhehehe sofi-chan”, this stuck with me. I can’t really explain why since this is the very definition of your not particularly outstanding CGDCT anime. The Sophie was cute, the Ellie was lewd, the rest was… well, there was a rest. It’s kind of fun and the characters do grow on you a bit but episodes are interchangeable, progress is non-existent and even for this kind of anime, it tried its best to avoid any substance whatsoever. Ultimately, it’s a thing. There were worse ways to spend your time with. But also better ones. Mediocre.
Violet Evergarden: By KyoAni standards, this was among their better output. But unfortunately, their average show is garbage. This did all it could to take a good premise and not do anything with it. I mean, the music is neat and it had two really good episodes but the rest was so by the numbers and good grief, was the supporting cast useless. The setting? An unexplored mishmash. Violet? A hollow character. In order to present yourself as a character study, you have to provide a character in the first place. Violet Evergarden never understood that. Going for everything and nothing, I doubt this anime had any idea what it was doing. Mediocre.
Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii: Hey, look, a noitaminA series about adult otakus, with grounded, nuanced writing and Monster Hunter shilling in its first episode, what could possibly go wrong? Sadly, much like Caligula, it collapsed therafter. “US OTAKU COUPLES, EH? FEELING RELATABLE YET? SHE’S A FUJOSHI, HE LIKES YURI! ARE YOU ON TEAM ASUKA OR REI, YOU GEEK WHO GETS THIS REFERENCE?” isn’t my kind of writing. While it’s not outright bad and there is a lot more sincerity and nuance in this than horseshit like OreImo, it never made it too deeply into otakudom, keeping it safe and occasionally, it felt like it was written by marketing. You can’t make it past the surface level with this one because there is nothing beyond the surface level. Mediocre.
Yagate Kimi ni Naru: Easily the non-Yuasa anime with the best directing of the year. Really strong performance all around, employing so many tricks in the book to get character acting and mood across. Combine that with pleasing visuals and highly charming characters in an interesting story that, in terms of yuri, actually goes all the way and you have one of the strongest anime of the year on your hand. But, regrettably, it also ended in the middle of nowhere. Look, there are works that do so as well by not covering all of the source material but decide to go for a fitting ending spot, narratively speaking. Like Girls’ Last Tour or Hikaru no Go. This was not those though and that’s really frustrating as this anime could and should have been much better than what we got. Still, totally worth a watch. It really does stand out. So go watch it. Good.
Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru: Yuusha no Shou: Amazing comedy and slice of life bits like you wouldn’t believe it, mostly due to Sonocchi. But also badly neglects Fuu and Itsuki. Then again, its plot is around since the beginning this time and is interesting. Yet also gets completely overthrown towards the end. I was torn about this until its last episode but then Takahiro, Uezu and Kishi gave me a powerful, well-written, beautifully looking finale not unlike Devilman Crybaby’s so I’m not sure how these people pulled that off but they certainly did and I appreciate that. This is no doubt the prime example of a perfect ending to a franchise. This is how you put things to an end, not any other way. Good.
And that about wraps it up. Overall, I don’t think this year left much of a positive impression with me but that’s a natural result of two out of four seasons ending up as complete crapshots so I spent half a year on a seasonal anime diet to the point that I had trouble getting a proper 3×3 done. When it’s tough to find nine shows to put into a mosaic maker over the course of an entire year, you know there’s something wrong. On the upside, I found out that in times of a bad season, you can always enhance it by simply allocating your time to your backlog instead. A stunning discovery for sure.
What banal anime-related enlightenment will 2019 bring forth? I can’t wait to find out.