Anime of 2018

2018 was a big year for me. One part that turned out to be bigger than I anticipated was watching anime.

This year in anime, for me:

  • Kill la Kill
  • Darling in the Franxx
  • Konosuba
  • Aggretsuko
  • Gurren Lagaan
  • Cowboy Bebop
  • Re:zero
  • Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
  • Fullmetal Alchemist
  • Code Geass
  • Tokyo Ghoul
  • Psycho Pass (season 1)
  • Cells at Work
  • Mob Psycho 100
  • Overlord

Not so impressive until you look at all the other anime I have watched in my entire life until this year:

  • Naruto
  • Naruto Shipp┼źden
  • One Punch Man

Why I watch anime?

I avoided anime for a long time. Socially, anime was not very big in school. People associated it too directly with hentai (Japanese porn, I think; I'm not going to search it for you. I know hentai means "pervert" so maybe encompassing all porn is too wide a net). So I never really heard about new shows coming out. It was only after watching Kill la Kill that I decided that I liked it enough to explore it.

There is a lot I like about anime. Since I draw web comics, I enjoy seeing tons of different art styles find their way into the animation. From my limited, personal experience, I can really appreciate the effort and grinding that goes into these productions. The stand outs here are One Punch Man and Mob Psycho 100.

I like the format: anime are broken into cours of around 12 episodes. I like these shorter tracks, as opposed to American 24+ episode seasons or something never ending like Naruto. This limited runway also makes anime really get to the meat faster, very often it is make or break in the first cour so it needs to count.

The variety of anime is great. American shows have gotten so bland: sitcoms, romcoms, crime shows that all blend together and are too afraid to go anywhere interesting. Every anime stands out in its own way. Looking for an exploration of the female perspective of modern work life? Aggretsuko. Looking to compensate for being uneducated in anatomy? Cells at Work. Looking for a non-stop hype train? Gurren Lagaan.

Anime has its niches: Re:zero, Konosuba, and Overlord fall into a subgenre called Isekai where the main character transferred to a new world. Even in that hyper specific niche, these shows are all quite different and enjoyable in their own ways. I am also able to explore ideas I would otherwise shy away from. Since it is just animation, I can also appreciate horror shows like Tokyo Ghoul without getting too queazy.

I have learned a good amount about Japanese culture from anime. It is really unavoidable since America is a secondary consumer. That in itself is interesting: so much of what I grew up watching was framed by American culture. Anime is probably the only non-one-off medium of a different culture I have gotten into. As such, I get to see differences in values, priorities, and day to day life. Cultural diffusion into the US? Good stuff as it turns out.

With anime comes its soundtracks. Long story short, I've somehow gotten into what I believe is considered J-Pop. With every new anime, I have added at least 1 or 2 good songs to my playlist. Myth & Roid in particular caught my attention for great music. I started Overlord solely because they made half of Overlord's opening and ending songs. I never thought I could enjoy music that I could not understand at all, but here I am. At work, anime songs are all I listen to. Since I can't understand the lyrics, I can listen and continue to focus.

Lastly, and this is a little weird to say: I like anime, in part, for its openness with sexually. We're talking boobs, butts, pretty faces, and more boobs that are thrown in because why not. Everyone for the most part is drawn to look their most attractive, and it doesn't effect the story. Konosuba isn't accidentally putting boob giggles in every 30 seconds, it's funny and silly. Anime can explore and poke fun at these more adult things, because anime has an audience okay with that.

It's part of the culture, not something to be ashamed of. Every show has a "best girl," and it isn't just the one with the biggest breasts. I appreciate this transparency and collective understanding, which is surely lacking in America. Anime culture is genuine and inclusive; that's awesome.

Ranking and review

It is really hard for me to rank anime I have watched this year. Just watching an anime to completion does not make me confident to compare them. For example, Konosuba I said was "okay, kinda funny" my first time through. Re-watching it months later, holy crap it is it funny. I have not revisited all these anime thoroughly so I won't be ranking them all. I'll rank some shows on some aspects instead.

Most re-watch-able

The show I have gone back and re-watched the most is Kill la Kill. It did have a head start being the first anime of the year. The Isekai shows come in second: Re:zero, Konosuba, and most recent Overlord. These shows all have very compelling and interesting characters that I can't help revisit. I have also watched Mob Psycho multiple times.

Most emotional

Gurren Lagaan hit me at the perfect time in my life. This year had some big events in my professional career. By the summer, I had amassed a lot of responsibility and kept pushing forward, wondering what my limit would be. I kept going and by August I had found myself accepting my dream job. Gurren synced up perfectly, a thrill ride of hype after hype after hype. I can't give this anime all the credit, it inspired me to push myself.

Most fun

Clear winner is Konosuba. It took me a while but once I finally got this show, it got me. This shouldn't be too surprising as Konosuba is the most geared toward comedy on the list. Mob Psycho 100 definitely is funny too. The big difference I think is that Konosuba's humor is always on whereas mid-season Mob got a little serious.

Best concept

I think this goes to Code Geass for its strategy and interplay with superpowers. Tokyo Ghoul was also interesting and is ongoing, but the initial premise kind of got muddled up with action. I think Tokyo Ghoul could have taken this easily had it been more melancholy and less slashy. Cells at Work is interesting in just how effective it is in conveying concepts, but I can't give them credit for the human body's complexities.

Best soundtrack

Looking at the song counts per anime in my playlist alone, the winner is Kill la Kill. Darling in the Franxx and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood are also big contributors. Ultimately though, it is Myth & Roid across Re:zero and Overlord that stand out the most.

What's in store for 2019?

I know Aggretsuko, One Punch Man, and Mob Psycho 100 will be getting new seasons in 2019. One Punch Man in particular I am excited for because it has been just so long. Shows where I really want new seasons: Re:zero, Konosuba, Overlord (the Isekai shows). Overlord is the one I'm least confident in getting more support, so please check it out so these great characters don't go to waste.

Anyone deeper into anime than myself will notice some glaring omissions in my watch history. Shows I have explicitly gone out of my way to avoid are My Hero Academia, Attack on Titan, Food Wars!, Sword Art Online, and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Basically ongoing shows with more than 50 episodes are off limits because I don't want another Naruto on my hands. This may change in 2019, but I'll need some convincing. (Yes, I know Fullmetal slipped through this year.)

I never really plan more than a show ahead, so please give me your recommendations if there's something I should be watching.

Thanks for taking the time to reflect on some anime with me!