The Five Best Anime Of 2018

Anime wasn’t very generous to us in 2018. There weren’t as many wholly original standouts, like in 2017, or 2016's steady flow of genre-defining pillars. Adding to that, 2018 also gave us a couple stinkers in the “thanks, I hate it” category: an anime about anthropomorphic horse girls who race each other and are idol singers; a sloppily-drawn anime called My Sister, My Writer (don’t ask) and Magic Girl Ore, an anime about a magical girl who looks like a buff man, which was just plain offensive.

And yet, there were a few standouts. They were damn good, too. Allow me to help you swerve the bad and enjoy the best of what 2018 has to offer.

Aggretsuko

If you’ve ever worked in an office, Aggretsuko will have you saying “literally me” at least once every episode. It’s a too-relatable anime about the rage that comes with working a shitty job.

A red panda named Retsuko works in the accounting department of a large Japanese company. Her day-to-day is a tug-of-war between her pushover tendencies and her pig boss’ impossibly high standards and sadistic management style.

To let loose, Retsuko stows away at a local karaoke shop, takes her microphone out of her purse and shakes the place with covers of metal songs. As Restuko discovers her capacity to stand up for herself, and figures out what she wants in life, she lets others in on her karaoke secret.

Aggretsuko episodes are just 15 minutes, and yet they don’t lack for personality. It’s not just a funny Sanrio anime. Retsuko is struggling under the thumb of corporate culture, which she has no hope of taking on alone, and the personality it’s forced her to adopt. As the pressure heightens, Retsuko’s metal alter-ega spills out at her seams.

Where to Watch: Netflix

A Place Further Than The Universe

In this feel-good adventure drama, Mari Tamaki, a high school girl who has accomplished nothing of note, encounters a stormy upperclassman named Shirase Kobuchizawa, whose one goal is to travel to Antarctica. That’s where Shirase’s mother, a scientific explorer, disappeared.

Over the course of 13 episodes, Mari and Shirase, along with a convenience store clerk and a celebrity actress, tenderly fall into a deep friendship while they accomplish the impossible: becoming the first high-schoolers to go on an Antarctic exhibition.

A Place Further Than The Universe gracefully and seamlessly describes what happens in the hearts of four strangers that bonds them forever. Antarctica, in Shirase’s words, “strips everything bare.” A Place Further Than The Universe shows that through fights, scientific miracles, lost passports, long boat journeys and stolen desserts.

Where to Watch: Crunchyroll

Asobi Asobase

In a genre where school girls always check one of the cutesy, beautiful or brilliant boxes, Asobi Asobase’s three middle school protagonists are gruesome brats. Asobi Asobase is a good anime about petty, garbage humans. It will have you in tears.

The three girls form a “pastimers club” where they torture each other playing low-stakes games like thumb wars or laun02ching their shoes off their feet as far as possible. Often, the loser has to do something grotesque like sniff the winner’s armpits (“Now I know why my cat grinds its nose after my dad farts”). Its humour is consistently absurd, like Pop Team Epic’s, and its animation is diabolically ridiculous. No anime I’ve encountered has so adeptly transformed mundane, inconsequential moments into over-the-top sketch comedy, and, at the same time, Asobi Asobase captures what it’s like to be bored enough to sap meaning out of meaningless activities.

Where to Watch: Crunchyroll

Devilman Crybaby

There has never been an anime like this. It’s a masterpiece. It’s also very, very “extra.” Every episode is like coming up on psychedelics, getting kicked in the stomach, looking at some vibrant scenery and then coming down as the sun sets.

Devilman Crybaby is a brain-melting story about Akira Fudo, an emotionally sensitive high-school boy on the cusp of adolescence whose best friend, Ryo Asuka, believes he has scientifically discovered demons. At the same time, Akira begins his transition into the Devilman, a brutal and fiery demon who would be uncontrollable if not for Akira’s defining empathy.

Akira is exposed to a new reality of pain, dispassion, sexuality and ultra-violence as demons attempt to overcome humanity.

Devilman Crybaby is not for everybody. It’s transgressive, to say the least. As unrestrained as it is, Devilman Crybaby is the kind of anime that will stick with you forever, for better or for worse.

Where to Watch: Netflix

Violet Evergarden

Violet Evergarden was a homeless and nameless child when a naval officer found her. After seeing her defend herself in crisis, the officer realised that she could become a tool for the army under the tutelage of his brother Gilbert.

Violet bonds to Gilbert, who treats her like a human and not a weapon. And as Gilbert fades away in war, he tells Violet that he loves her. Violet awakens with metal prosthetics and a determination to learn the meaning of the phrase, “I love you.”

All of this happens before the anime really begins. After the war is over, Violet needs employment. She learns of a collective of Auto Memory Dolls, essentially ghost writers, who make money in exchange for aptly conveying others’ thoughts and feelings. Gilbert had taught her how to write. Violet, who never really developed emotional insight, decides that becoming an Auto Memory Doll will help her understand Gilbert’s final words to her.

Violet Evergarden is the sort of anime you can just melt into. Its Victorian-style world, full of sensational details like watch towers, windy fields of irises and royal palaces, feels fleshed-out and realistic.

Its plot is gripping and its characters, in contrast to the deadpan Violet, are lively and individual. The anime deals well with the trauma of war, and especially, war’s ability to give and take away a soldier’s identity.

Where to Watch: Netflix

Honorable mentions:

Megalobox, Laid Back Camp, Pop Team Epic

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