Kerberos' Top 10 Anime of 2018

Kerberos counts down his picks for the best anime of the year.
  1. 2018 was, to put it mildly, not a year I'll remember fondly. Not just because the entire world seemed to get one second closer to midnight but also because, due to personal issues that have thankfully been resolved, for me it was quite possibly the worst year of my life.

    In terms of anime 2018 was…fairly okay. Not great, not terrible, just sort of fine. One season was better than the other with summer sticking out at the top and fall at the very bottom. But overall it was a fairly decent year with a mostly consistent stream of passable if not pretty good shows. It certainly was no 2017 but I never got the feeling the anime industry had gone creatively bankrupt again like it did in the late 2000s. Also there were a few shows that did jump out for me and that I thoroughly enjoyed. Which is what this list is all about.

    There is however one major difference between this list and the one for last year. Last year when I made my list I felt confident that I had truly summed up the best that, that year had to offer. This year I’m not so sure. Due to the aforementioned issues and my overall slightly waning interest in the medium I’ve not managed to watch every series I would’ve liked to. So while I can say that every series that is on this list is worth checking out...I cannot say that there aren’t some titles that would’ve deserved it more had I watched them. (I am so sorry Hisone & Masotan)

    In every other regard this list is pretty much the same as last year. The only anime viable are those that have ended in 2018 because I dislike the idea of judging a series purely by it’s first half alone. Though ful;l disclosure, I didn’t pick up any series this fall that continue into the new year so in that context this rule is fairly pointless. Just wanted to point that out anyway. Also, like last year the honorable mentions are the ones that I think are absolutely noteworthy and worth watching but unfortunately weren’t able to make it into the top ten proper. Thankfully, or perhaps unfortunately depending on how you look at it, that list is far shorter this year than it was last year.

    Now with all that out of the way…let us commence za listo!

    Honorable mentions:

    Attack on Titan – season 3 (action, fantasy, shonen)
    Banana Fish (thriller, action, drama, mystery, shojo)
    Hinamatsuri (comedy)

    10: Zombieland Saga
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    Genre: comedy, horror, musical
    Source: original
    Studio: Mappa
    Number of episodes: 12
    Premiered: fall 2018
    Available on: Crunchyroll


    What do you get when you combine the zombie sub-genre with the idol subgenre? Well…you get Zombieland Saga. A genuinely funny horror musical comedy that balances out its perfectly timed and lough-out-loud funny humour with a genuinely affecting coming of age story. Witty, clever, meaningful and wonderfully bizarre, this series was an absolute delight from start to finish. Not to mention some inspired visual direction and a voice cast who all seem to have had way to much fun with their characters. Most of all, Mamoru Miyano who takes his zany antics to new stratospheric hights…and it is a true wonder to behold. All in all making this one of the best anime of the year


    9. Hero Mask
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    Genre: thriller, action
    Source: original
    Studio: Pierrot
    Number of episodes: 15
    Premiered: fall 2018
    Available on: Netflix

    One of the better entries Netflix put out this year. Incredibly tense and highly addictive, if nothing else Hero Mask is an example of how to do suspense right.

    Set during the present day in a not further defined European city (that’s clearly modeled after London) Hero Mask follows a cast of mostly solid characters as they try to entangle a complex web of intrigue and deceit.

    While in terms of premise the show might not stand out from other action thrillers, it’s the execution and the way it differs from many other anime that makes this a real stand out and worthy of a place on this list.


    8. After the Rain
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    Genre: drama, slice of life, romance, seinen
    Source: manga
    Studio: Wit
    Number of episodes: 12
    Premiered: winter 2018
    Available on: Amazon Prime

    This series follows a young girl named Akira Tachibana who works at a family restaurant and is very fond of her boss, 45 year old manager Masami Kondo. However she begins to realize her feelings for her employer might actually extend far beyond that of mere friendship.

    Romances between an adult character and an underaged one are quite controversial and rightly so if you ask me. But what sells this show as one of the year’s best is not the premise. It’s the execution. For instance while this is an overall fairly light hearted series, the central romance dynamic is never treated in such a way. It’s never waved away with a joke or treated like something that’s completely normal. The comedy in this series can be rather over the top in a way that only anime can be. But also, in a way that only anime can pull off, it never detracts from the more serious moments. In fact, it only lends them more gravitas.

    Adding to that it is also filled with a cast of highly quirky and loveable characters that really make the story work. Plus, given the unconventional nature of this romance there really isn’t an assured outcome and the show definitely leaves you guessing upto the very end whether or not the two leads will actually get together. And while the ending was certainly not what I expected, it was however in its own right, very satisfying. Oh and the soundtrack for this series is simply stunning.

    Beautiful, funny and like no other romance anime out there, After the Rain is a series I cannot recommend enough and one that more than deserves its place on this list.


    7. Golden Kamuy
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    Genre: action, adventure, historical, seinen
    Source: manga
    Studio: Geno
    Number of episodes: 24
    Premiered: fall 2018
    Available on: Crunchyroll and Funimation

    Like the barren wilderness of early Showa era Hokaido, Golden Kamuy is often harsh and brutal. But it’s also incredibly charming and often well…downright weird. It’s certainly not the most accessible anime but those willing to invest will find one of the most entertaining shows of the year and my personal favorite.

    The series features one of the most likable and relatable duos in anime and backs it up with an ensemble cast of highly compelling characters. Also it overcame the seemingly impossible task of topping Hochu Ohtsuka’s best villain performance as Sato in Ajin with the even more amazing villain performance by him as the utterly ruthless and downright sadistic yet also surprisingly sophisticated and charming Lt Tsurumi. Though perhaps the show’s greatest achievement is how it portrayed masculinity. Featuring a cast of mainly very manly men but taking the piss out of that concept as much as it frontloads it. Making Golden Kamuy one of those few typical seinen series that’s also a ton of fun to watch for a female audience.

    The series is admittedly not for everyone though. It’s often extremely violent and it’s huge shifts in tone might be too much for some. But it’s warm character interactions and quirky comedy makes up for a lot and overall leaves you with an experience that is both as cold and brutal as the icy wastes and as warm and delicious as the many dishes our leads prepare throughout the series. Hinna! Hinna!


    6. Garo - Vanishing Line
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    Genre: action, supernatural
    Source: original
    Studio: Mappa
    Number of episodes: 24
    Premiered: fall 2017
    Available on: Crunchyroll and Funimation

    While I was instantly smitten with this series my first impression was that it was very style over substance. Roaring right out of the gate as a gruff, overly violent action vehicle in the style of 90 OVAs. However over time this show proved itself to be a lot more complex and emotionally riveting than at first seemed the case with one of the best character arcs in all of anime.

    What started out as a show about cool guys beating up monsters, fast became a series about flawed heroes fighting for justice and trying to become better people while doing so. Making this easily one of the best super sentai series out there and definitely the best Garo series to date. Offering up over the top action and graphic violence mixed in with truly meaningful character drama. Filled with many punch the air moments of awesome as well as moments that made me go “I’m not crying! You’re crying!” to the screen. Also replacing Garo’s more traditional fantasy setting with something more akin to the modern mid-west made for a very refreshing shake up of the Garo formula while still retaining the key ingredients of what makes a Garo series.

    That being said it’s certainly not all graphic violence and tear jerking drama as the series is also filled with the kind of over the top zany humour that ranks it right alongside the best comedy anime despite not actually falling in that genre.

    Finally the show also sports fantastic visual direction with some of the best action sequences I’ve seen all year. Not to mention some jaw dropping animation. All of which made this a superb super sentai series and one of the best anime of the year.


    5. Devilman Crybaby
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    Genre: action, horror, supernatural, shonen
    Source: manga
    Studio: Science Saru
    Number of episodes: 10
    Premiered: winter 2018
    Available on: Netflix

    This incredibly gory adaptation of Go Nagai’s already controversial manga by acclaimed director Masaaki Yuasa hit the anime community by storm, receiving near universal acclaim and can probably be considered the first mainstream success for Yuasa. With visuals that far surpass what can be allowed on television and a story that feels like being punched in the gut over and over Devilman Crybaby is an often disgusting, somber and sometimes downright nasty piece but it is also genuinely moving with a cast of very well fleshed out characters and an ending you’ll probably not likely forget. It’s a highly controversial piece by an auteur director and yes…in my opinion one of the best anime of the year.


    4. A.I.C.O. – Incarnation
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    Genre: adventure, drama, sci fi
    Source: original
    Studio: Bones
    Number of episodes: 12
    Premiered: winter 2018
    Available on: Netflix

    Visually gorgeous with a story filled with huge twists you’ll never see coming and an incredibly deep exploration of daring thematic ideas that leave you contemplating the show’s many concepts long after the credits roll for the final time.

    With this show visionary director Kazuya Murata gifted us his magnum opus while genius composer Taro Iwashiro graced us with his most beautiful score to date. A.I.C.O. is a challenging piece of science fiction that like all the best works in the genre asks the audience to think for themselves instead of spoonfeeding any clear message to the viewer. Massive both in its scope and its depth A.I.C.O. is the gift that keeps on giving. It juggles so many things between its various plot threads and philosophical musings but eventually manages to pull it off with a grace and deft hand you rarely see in anime or outside it. All of which making for a show that’s an absolute treat from it’s first frame to its last.


    3. The Ancient Magus Bride
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    Genre: adventure, fantasy, shonen
    Source: manga
    Studio: Wit
    Number of episodes: 24
    Premiered: fall 2017
    Available on: Crunchyroll and Funimation

    Usually when a show comes along that has everyone in the anime community raving about how awesome it is I tend to take it with a grain of salt. More often than not these are fairly middle of the road series that just happen to cater heavily to what is popular in the community at the time. However this series…is something truly exceptional and worth every bit of the hype it got. Cleverly constructed, absolutely beautiful both in its story and visuals and with a real emotional core at its center. This is a highly entertaining, deeply engaging fantasy series with an incredibly well constructed narrative, amazing characters and even moments of genuinely funny comedy. Making this a must watch for any anime fan.


    2. Angolmois - Record of the Mongol Invasion
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    Genre: action, adventure, historical, seinen
    Source: manga
    Studio: NAZ
    Number of episodes: 12
    Premiered: summer 2018
    Available on: Crunchyroll

    First time director Takayuki Kuriyama’s adaptation of Nanahiko Takagi’s debut manga is proof positive that getting fresh blood into the industry can absolutely yield amazing results. This period drama action series is a spectacle to behold. Directed and animated with a clear vision and passion that’s evident from every frame.

    However it’s not all bombastic action either as even during the biggest setpieces the show finds ways to include meaningful character drama which only adds more gravitas to the action. It’s a rowsing epic of love, honor and violence that can stand side to side with the best works of Akira Kurosawa. And had this been any other year this would have been my pick for best anime of the year.


    1. March Comes in Like a Lion - Season 2
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    Genre: drama, seinen
    Source: manga
    Studio: Shaft
    Number of episodes: 22
    Premiered: fall 2017
    Available on: Crunchyroll and Netflix

    For the briefest of moments I considered not putting this at number 1. Not because I ever doubted that it deserves the spot but rather because it feels a bit unfair to all the good new shows that came out this year to put the same show at the top of my list for two years in a row. But I quickly dismissed this reasoning from my mind. Because this is March Comes in Like a Lion and if ever there was a series that deserved that singular honour it’s this one.

    Personally I did not quite enjoy this second season as much as I did the first one. Not because it was disappointing but because its first arc struck a little too close to home and brought back some very painful memories for me. On the other hand I absolutely believe a show that portrays bullying in such a realistic fashion that a former bully victim becomes haunted by his own prior experiences deserves all the praise. Upto now I considered Accel World to be the best depiction of bullying in anime but this second season of March Lion more than exceeded it. Down to the finest detail it detailed what bullying is like and how it feels for the victim in a way that is almost uncanny.

    Thankfully for me the show moved away from that subject in its second half and I was once again mesmerized, glued to the screen every week and trying to soak in every second as if it were my last drop of water in a desert. Every frame and every word in this show is deliberate and further enhances the ideas the series wants to convey. There are few shows that manage to depict everyday life with this level of accuracy while also displaying such an incredibly artistic vision. Between Chica Umino’s genius source material (that I highly encourage to read now that the anime is over) and Akiyuki Shimbou’s masterful direction that far surpasses anything he’s done before, not to mention the phenomenal performance by everyone in the voice cast and the hauntingly beautiful score, this series has become a true masterpiece that showcases the incredible heights anime can achieve. Last year I said that I wasn’t sure what I’d give the series as a whole as season 2 was still ongoing then. Now that I have finished both halves of the show however I can now say with absolute certainty…that this is the best anime series ever made.


    So that’s it for my list. If you’re thinking I missed out here on a truly exceptional show, you’re probably right. As I said I wasn’t able to watch everything I wanted this year but I am still glad with what I did watch. Overall 2018 was a mildly disappointing year for me anime wise but as this list clearly indicates there were still plenty of gems that I enjoyed immensely. And looking at the line-up for next season 2019 promises to be quite an improvement over 2018. Here’s to year full of wonderful shows and movies for us anime fans to enjoy!

    Special thanks to @Kuze and @Shannon Apple for editing and feedback.

    See You Space Cowboys…

Comments

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  1. Enies
    im surprised no mention of inuyashiki. I think for me it blows anything else out of the water though im interested in watching Garo the vanishing line and hero mask.
    but i know for me inuyashiki was superb.