As anime continues to gain popularity internationally, viewers are inundated with more and more series every year. The winter and summer seasons used to be relatively small compared to the spring and fall, but now, they pump out no less than 40 series all on their own, while the bigger seasons can provide over sixty new shows every year. With international distributors Crunchyroll and Netflix taking an interest and using their significant funding to create their own original content, things aren’t getting any easier. With so many shows to see every year, it's easy for viewers to get lost underneath a sea of mediocre shows that say next to nothing new in the genre they inhabit. Equally easy is for particular special series to slip through unnoticed while fans bounce from season to season checking out only the clear critical darlings.
Now that the end of the year is upon us, where we're going to be smothered with new shows again (including the return of popular meme-fest gambling anime Kakegurui), we thought now was the optimal time to look back on anime in 2018. For this list, we're counting down both The 10 Best (And 10 Worst) Anime Of 2018. Which series made it to the upper echelon this year and deserved to be pronounced as new classics in the burgeoning medium? And which shows deserve to be mocked for being just completely bad? Read on to find out.
20 WORST: 3D Girlfriend: Real Girl
3D Girlfriend starts out with a strong premise: A lonely geek and a stand-offish, beautiful girl take interest in one another and start dating. Meanwhile, everyone around them has to struggle through their teen years, just out of reach of the love they seek.
But, to keep the drama going, they just end up in one unfortunate, weird argument after another. The lead male is a total blockhead and it drains all the enjoyment from what should be an otherwise fun series about teenage love. Instead, every other episode seems to leave viewers screaming that they should just break up, which seems like the opposite of what a romance series should aim for.
19 BEST: SWORD ART ONLINE: ALICIZATION
Though the Sword Art series has been a smash hit since its inception six years ago (thanks mostly to an almost perfect first episode), the series’ quality has been… uneven at best. But, this latest version of Sword Art has been pretty strong. Featuring some fantastic animation courtesy of A-1 Pictures, it sees Kirito dive into a strange new virtual world where he’s the only human and searching for a unique AI girl known as Alice.
SAO’s usual tropes have been peeled away in this series, leaving only its strengths: a good mystery, a strong bond between Kirito and his new friend, Eugeo, and great sword fights; leading to one of the best stories of the fall.
18 WORST: HAKYUU HOUSHIN ENGI
Houshin Engi was a classic Shonen Jump manga from the 90s, loosely based on the novel Creation of the Gods. The story centered around an immortal named Taikobo attempting to save China from a twisted fox spirit named Dakki, who took over the country by bewitching the emperor with her spell. To save the nation, Taikobo is asked to seal away all the wicked immortals Dakki has taken on her side while gathering his own army of fellow immortals to aid in his task.
Though Houshin Engi got an adaptation, it was cut short due to a low episode count, and unfortunately, the remake experienced the same fate by having even fewer episodes than the original; leading to a rushed mess of a show.
17 BEST: DEVILMAN CRYBABY
When Devilman Crybaby came out at the beginning of the year, it accomplished two important things: it gave Go Nagai’s action-horror manga series a much-needed remake, modernizing it for today’s audiences, and it gave us a direct adaptation of the heartbreaking story of Akira Fudo and Ryo Asuka, which is set in the waning days of a world gradually coming to an end due to the an army of demons capable of wiping them out.
It also managed to put Netflix’s anime efforts on the map, as the superb series turned into a conversation piece for longtime anime fans and new converts alike for weeks.
16 WORST: THE MASTER OF RAGNAROK & BLESSER OF EINHERJAR
When Yuto Suoh takes a photo with his phone of an old shrine, he finds himself transported to an ancient fantasy world. With the help of his solar-powered smart phone, Yuto becomes the head of the Wolf Clan, which features a group of attractive women known as… ugh, does it even matter?
This alternate world genre is stuffed to the brim and it offers absolutely nothing new to it. There could have been a second season of the show that was actually good, but instead, we got something that features a protagonist with a personality about as interesting as watching a phone charge and a bunch of women inexplicably obsessed with him.
15 BEST: MEGALO BOX
Created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of boxing manga series Tomorrow’s Joe, Megalo Box follows an underground fighter named Junk Dog in a futuristic world where fights take place in exo-frames that boost the power of each fighter several times over. After years of throwing fights for the sake of his boss, Junk Dog finally decides to make a run at the top by entering Megalonia, a tournament to decide the best Megalo Boxer in the world. Despite being set in such a dreary world, Megalo Box is a beautiful show, channeling legendary series like Cowboy Bebop with its art direction and having some of the slickest music of the year for its soundtrack.
14 WORST: CUTIE HONEY UNIVERSE
Cutie Honey Universe should’ve been good. Created to celebrate Cutie Honey’s creator Go Nagai’s fifty years in the business, this was supposed to be a banner year for the creator. Even Cutie Honey Universe’s idea of allowing the lead to have six different transformations was inspired, and it seemed like it was going to be the second Go Nagai adaptation of the year to be a hit.
But then it aired and the story was boring, it contained one-dimensional tropes and characters who were poorly developed. The series was pretty to look at, but not much else, and it burned through its twelve-episode series without much fanfare at all.
13 BEST: LUPIN THE THIRD PART 5
When Lupin came back in 2015, it felt like this weird Frankenstein of a show with the animation of today and the storytelling tropes from the 70s. But, with the 2018 version, the writers managed to fully bring the master thief into the 21st century. A smartly written series that broke its episode count into four movie-like “episodes,” with interludes interspersed in between, the series explored the effect of technology on Lupin and the gang’s chosen profession and introduced a new cast member in Ami, a teenaged hacker who fit the group like a glove. Aside from a rushed ending, this was a glorious return for one of anime’s most iconic characters.
12 WORST: DEATH MARCH TO THE PARALLEL WORLD RHAPSODY
Stop us if you've heard this one before: a person is transported to an alternate realm resembling a video game. Yup, they did it again — the main character of Death March is a programmer transported to a world resembling the game he’s been designing, and he has no idea how to get home.
What’s worse is that Death March doesn’t really seem to offer much of anything new in an already crowded isekai (alternate world) genre, unless you count deliciously animated food. It also has an unfortunate inclusion of servitude that it does very little with narratively, making one wonder why it was even included at all.
11 BEST: HAKATA TONKOTSU RAMENS
This show is easily the sleeper hit of the winter season it was released in. Set in a sub-section of Fukuoka, HTR introduces us to a world of elimination... and baseball. It's a grimy world where every character's life is at risk as they battle against gang bosses and enemy hitmen. Boasting the most likable cast of criminals you’ve ever met, some gorgeous animation from Satelight, and actually solid fight scenes, HTR's biggest flaw is that it was only 12 episodes. That’s neither enough time to leave a great impression or adapt some of the stronger parts of the light novel later on.
10 WORST: RADIANT
It's too bad Radiant has to be here. It's every anime fan's dream after all: some westerner created their own action manga and it got so popular with people in Japan that it became an anime. The trouble is, in case of the anime at least, the series doesn’t seem to be very good. The anime wastes too many episodes running in place and never advances its plot, and its universe isn't anything viewers couldn't find in every other shonen anime ever.
The characters aren’t likable enough to follow the usual roads that shonen series send us down, and the fights aren’t particularly creative or well-animated either. It’s just… there, which is the worst thing one can say when there’s so many other series out there.
9 BEST: LEGEND OF THE GALACTIC HEROES
Often viewed as anime’s Star Wars, the original Legend of the Galactic Heroes from the 80s is an unimpeachable classic, an epic series of OVAs released over the course of a decade adapting Yoshiki Tanaka’s novel series. Telling the story of two genius tacticians and how their actions eventually shape the course of an interstellar war that’s lasted hundreds of years, Production I.G was really asking for trouble when they decided to give this series a remake.
Still, they managed to do a great job adapting the first novel by featuring some of the most gorgeous animation on television all year. They definitely raised everyone’s expectations for the series of films they plan to do in 2019.
8 WORST: GOBLIN SLAYER
Goblin Slayer is almost a good anime. Telling the story of a young man obsessed with ending all the goblins in his world after they eliminated his village. The anime features gorgeous animation and a likable cast of characters, and while the series is largely just a pastiche of DnD tropes, it works in favor of the series, giving it a familiarity that makes it easier to become invested in the world.
Where it messes up is its depiction of certain offenses, using it more as a way to show how “serious” the universe is. Combined with an abundance of fan service, it all comes off as a little too unpleasant for most to enjoy.
7 BEST: JOJO'S BIZARRE ADVENTURE: GOLDEN WIND
When David Production decided to bring Hirohiko Araki’s long-running manga to life, it was hard to predict how much of a success it would be. But, six years later, we’re on the fifth part of his story of this family of incredible heroes. For Golden Wind, we’ve journeyed to Naples, Italy to meet the son of the JoJo family’s eternal enemy, Giorno Giovanna, and follow his story of becoming a member of the crime group Passione, to bring a kinder hoodlum to the city. Despite the change in location and protagonist, things remain just as over-the-top as they’ve always been, with some of the most creative, outlandish battles in all of shonen anime.
6 WORST: MILLION ARTHUR
Million Arthur's lead character is too good for the show she's in. Relentlessly kind and genuinely funny, she's a joy to watch in most episodes of this series. But, the rest of the world makes no sense and it all feels tossed together haphazardly — it’s a universe where there are a million versions of Excalibur scattered across time, and a group of seven Arthurs are assigned to eliminate all of them. It’s the kind of plot that only makes sense once you realize it's based on a cell phone game. Plus, the animation is about as basic as it gets, an obvious cross-media cash grab.
5 BEST: BANANA FISH
Banana Fish was a popular shoujo manga that ran for nearly ten years across the 80s and 90s. And though it took over twenty years for it to finally get its own series, studio MAPPA has given it the perfect treatment for its introduction to anime fans. They've perfectly brought to life this story about how Ash Lynx (crime member of New York) and Eiji Okumura (a reporter) are brought together by unexpected circumstances. A beautiful soundtrack and color palette gives life to the city that never sleeps, while sharp writing and compelling characters create an exciting series.
4 WORST: BETWEEN THE SKY AND SEA
Every now and again, an anime based on a phone game is decent, like Rage of Bahamut. But, most of them wind up more like Between the Sky and Sea, a total mess of a series that follows a girl in a world where all the fish have passed, so they're forced to go fishing in space to continue supplying Earth with their usual dose of seafood.
And if that isn’t illogical enough, throw in a “gacha” element where they fish with the help of VR gods, because the show isn't enough of a cluster of ill-fitting ideas.
3 BEST: WOTAKOI: LOVE IS HARD FOR OTAKU
It’s rare when anime actually decides to run with protagonists that have made their way out of high school, let alone college. But, Love is Hard for Otaku does just that, giving us a cast of four lovable dorks who all work together at an office. There isn't any weird dialogue and it has very little “will they or won’t they” scenarios. Male lead Hirotaka asks out his childhood friend Narumi in the first episode, and from there, the relationships are set. Later, the story becomes more about the characters balancing work, friendship, and their love lives. It also has the cutest opening theme of the year.
2 WORST: GUNDAM BUILD DIVERS
Bandai’s Gundam Build series has gotten worse with every installment. Set in a world where Gundam models are able to come to life, thanks to the power of Plavsky particles, Divers introduces the newest evolution to Gunpla Duels — an online game known as Gunpla Battle Nexus Online, where players form guilds and travel through the largest, most detailed, MMO ever created.
The story is about a boy named Riku as he builds his guild and learns the rules of GBN. Build Divers is almost good, but it takes ages to get going, and by the time you’re finally at the end, you’re both wondering why it took so long to get started in the first place.
1 BEST: MY HERO ACADEMIA SEASON 3
BONES’ runaway hit continues to be one of the more exciting anime series airing regularly. This season we got away from the classroom setting a bit more as Class 1-A went on field trips and gained provisional licenses to be heroes. We also watched the Symbol of Peace go toe-to-toe with his rival, All for One.
My Hero is proof you don’t have to constantly reinvent the wheel; it’s not doing anything revolutionary with the shonen formula at all, but it is executing that formula as smoothly as possible with one of the most likable casts in fiction.