I feel like since I started doing these, the time between them has gotten shorter and shorter. Somehow or other, another year of anime is behind us, so it’s time for the autopsy.
Before we start, here’s the usual set of disclaimers:
Disclaimer 1: None of us watched everything that aired this year, so bear in mind that our individual picks are more drawing from the pool of ‘what 2018 anime I watched this year’ rather than ‘what 2018 anime aired this year’. It’s entirely possible that there are a number of fantastic  (and terrible) shows we never got the chance to see that deserved awards in one or more category.
Disclaimer 2: These are the opinions of the reviewers and some of these opinions may only be based on the first episode of each show.
Disclaimer 3: This feature is purely for fun and if you disagree with any of the views of any of the reviewers that’s perfectly fine, and you’re even welcome to voice your disagreement for the sake of discussion in the comments…just don’t be a moron about it.
Disclaimer 4: There’s spoilers, it’s kind of hard to avoid it.

So without further ado, let us begin the Moeronpan Anime Awards, 2018 edition!

Best Anime Overall

This should need no explanation – what did we decide was the best new shows of 2018? Here are the shows that reminded us just how great anime can be.

Moeronpan

Violet Evergarden is one of those shows that I heard a lot of buzz about and then completely forgot to watch for the rest of the year. I really wish I’d checked it out sooner though because it’s another one of those types of shows that I’m starting to discover are definitely My Brand – episodic and mostly self-contained stories with an ongoing backstory, which excel at tugging on heart strings. As I never got the chance to do a First Impression review (it was condemned to Netflix)- Violet is an ex-soldier working as an ‘Auto-Memory Doll’ – an apparently all-women profession involving letter-writing for clients who either cannot write themselves or are unable to find the exact words needed to express what they wish to express to others. The episodic nature and focus on different characters each episode reminds me a lot of a previous favourite – Death Parade – as well as a much older show I also absolutely adored which also focused on letter-writing – Shigofumi.
The types of shows that end up sticking with me, and elevating them to Best Show material are those that make me feel genuine emotion, and that’s what Violet Evergarden succeeded at over and over again. And it all comes in a downright phenomenal looking package – Kyoto Animation have used their absolute most gorgeous animation for this, and so every single thing that happens in the show – from small movements to dramatic action and beautiful scenery – looks an absolute treat.

Runner up:


I did the First Impresson review for A Place Further than the Universe (Sora yori mo Tooi Basho) way back when it first aired, and since it didn’t grow on me immediately, it also took a while to get around to watching the rest after hearing that there was a lot more to it than met the eye in just the first episode. This was a truly unique and incredible show, and I really hope more people will watch it and get past its rather conventional ‘cute girls do a thing’ setup in the first few episodes. While the premise of the show is ‘cute girls go to Antarctia’, there is a whole lot more beneath the surface that is going on – so much that I wasn’t even annoyed that it takes them more than half the run-time to actually get to Antarctica. The amount of research and dedication that has gone into portraying everything from the activities of the Antarctic research team to the icebreaker used to get there is impressive enough, but it didn’t earn its runner-up position for the Antarctica novelty alone. It’s an unbelievably solid coming of age story for its main highschool cast – girls who actually act like real girls – but not only that, it doesn’t neglect its adult cast either. The adult members of the research team are all varied and distinctive, and their own need for closure in Antarctica intertwines with the girls’ separate reasons for wanting to be there. The incredibly done emotional beats the series has just further earned it a place as a show I am going to be thinking about for years.

Ariana

It was really hard to choose a Best Anime for this year, but I have to go with Hugtto Precure, the current season of the long-running Precure franchise. There were a lot of anime I enjoyed this year, but Hugtto Precure is the only one I can think of that deserves the “Best” title. Hugtto Precure (despite the cutesy name) has some really strong writing throughout; dealing with topics like failure, loss, and anxiety about one’s future. These topics are discussed in a surprisingly mature manner for a show aimed at a young audience. This season was also groundbreaking for tackling generally “taboo” subjects like childbirth (and the pain involved), as well as gender identity and expression. Hugtto Precure also features some amazing animation and action scenes in certain episodes. Due to all of the reasons I listed above, I am choosing Hugtto Precure for the Best Anime of the Year.

Runner-up:

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai (gosh, that title’s still a mouthful) had some surprisingly strong writing and characterization despite its strange and almost off-putting title. However, it was not completely free of some story clichés, and some cringey “anime” moments; and had other minor faults as well: such as noticeably low quality animation in the latter half of the series. These qualities ultimately prevent it from being my first pick for Best Anime of the Year, but it was still a really engaging watch and I desperately want more seasons of this show. You can see me gush more about this series in my reviews for it here.

Special Mention:

Okay, I can’t not mention Shiyan Pin Jiating (a.k.a. Frankenstein Family). It is a show based on a Taiwanese manhua, and was produced by a Chinese animation company. Because of its origins, I’m not sure if this could be called an “anime”—it’s not a Japanese animated work, although it was re-dubbed into Japanese and did air in Japan during the spring season. Even if it’s not technically an anime, I think it at least deserves a mention for being one of the better animated shows I have seen coming from China. Shiyan Pin Jiating is a bit rough in some places (story-wise and animation-wise), but it had extremely heartwarming character-focused plots. This show makes me excited to see what other types of animation we’ll see from China in the future. I reviewed this series here!

Junko

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When I started watching the first episode of GeGeGe no Kitaro 2018, I never would have guessed that it would wind up snagging the top spot this year. This is the latest adaptation of a wildly popular franchise about a half-yokai half-human boy who serves as a protector of the human world against some of the more dangerous yokai. I went into it expecting a fairly generic and episodic but generally pleasant kids show. While yes, it was sometimes that, and every episode wasn’t necessarily perfect…it absolutely took the prize as my favorite Kitaro adaptation to date. “Modernizations” of classic shows can be a hit (Osomatsu-san) or a miss (too many others to count), but Kitaro definitely falls firmly on the “hit” side of things. You have classic characters and fight scenes using Kitaro’s traditional sandal- and hair-based fighting style, but you’ve also got examination of the relationship between humans, yokai and technology in a rapidly expanding and advancing world. Truly a heartwarming, sometimes dark, sometimes hilarious “hidden gem” of the 2018 season – if you’ve been on the fence because of the “kids’ show” label, I strongly recommend you give it a chance! I reviewed the first three episodes here.

Runner-up:

Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family is a gentle, laid-back cooking show which is always a treat to watch. At 13 minutes for the average episode, it does not overstay its welcome, but manages to use that short time well to educate viewers not only about the recipe of the episode, but also about facts, meaning and symbolism related to the dish. While you might get a bit more out of this show if you’re already a fan of or at least somewhat familiar with the Fate/ franchise (as seeing these characters, who usually have to go through so much tragedy, enjoying everyday life and delicious meals together is certainly heartwarming) there is still plenty of cute character interaction and food focus for even Fate/ first-timers to find something to love. Just don’t watch it while you’re hungry – that might not be quite as pleasant of a viewing, given how dowright delicious each animated dish looks!

Best Character (Female)

Every year we’re given more new anime girls than we know what to do with, so which ones did we enjoy the company of the most?

Moeronpan
Saki – Zombie Land Saga. The girls of Franchouchou are all pretty great, but the most dynamic of them all is the ex-gang leader Saki. Her unapologetic, brash roughness may seem an odd contrast for an idol group, but the way she blends being an idol with her own personal flair definitely makes her stand out as the best character in the show. (She also has the best theme song.) Also, she’s from Kyushu, with a dialect to match. With Zombie Land Saga, Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens and then Sono Toki, Kanojo wo, Kyushuu got a good deal of anime rep this year so it’s fitting to give at least one of the zombie girls the title.

Runner-up:

Asirpa – Golden Kamuy. She normally would win best character – she’s extremely badass, she’s extremely smart, and she’s extremely adorable. However, I can’t help but downgrade her title a little if only because the Golden Kamuy anime just…wasn’t that good compared to the manga. It’s a fantastic manga and she shines even better in that, but…well. That aside, even in an imperfect adaptation Asirpa is still the same incredible Ainu girl as before…she’s just not animated that well.

Special Mention:

I said before ‘at least one of the zombie girls’ but there’s just no way I can’t give some sort of shout-out to ‘the legendary’ Tae Yamada from Zombie Land Saga because she’s amazing. For whatever reason, she is the only zombie that didn’t fully revive – so she’s usually stumbling around biting things and groaning (although she can still follow instructions – and thus can dance with the others). She’s also voiced by Kotono Mitsuishi – AKA Sailor goddamn Moon – and there is honestly something hilarious about hiring a legendary voice actor just to grunt and moan a lot.

Ariana

I really struggled this year in picking a character for this category. While there were tons of great female characters in all the shows I watched, there wasn’t any character who I could easily say was My Favorite, or The Best. After much deliberation, I eventually settled on Meiling, from the Clear Card Arc series. Meiling was a pretty obnoxious character in the original Cardcaptor Sakura anime, but she got a hefty dose of character development as the series went on. I was extremely happy to see her again in Clear Card Arc, and to see how far she’s come as a character. It was heartwarming to see her and Sakura as good friends now; and I loved that she is now so supportive of Sakura and Syaoran’s relationship.

Junko

It’s really hard to talk about Akane from SSSS Gridman without spoiling some major twists of the series. Let’s just say that she was the type of character that I really did not expect to see in a mecha show. Her motives were explained and she was far more than just a one dimensional antagonistic character. Not to mention, the secrets and twists regarding her motivations and past represented a major shift in the show’s tone and genre, one which many viewers found completely unexpected. She was an incredibly controversial character, and will probably be seen making the top of both Best and Worst lists for this year, but I would definitely place her further on the “Best” side of things.

Runner-up:

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It’s a tie between Mana Inuyama and Neko-musume of Gegege no Kitaro 2018. These characters tie for the award because the show would not have worked nearly as well without both of them. Mana is a human who is slowly introduced over the course of the series of the world of yokai. On the other hand, Neko-musume is a fierce, combat-capable yokai who develops an adorable friendship with Mana and repeatedly shows herself as the member of Kitaro’s group most willing to engage with the modern world, such as getting her own smart phone and learning how to text. While Kitaro is the title character, I felt like these two played an equally important role and I loved to see the progress of them learning about each other’s worlds throughout the show.

Best Character (Male)

We also keep getting more and more male characters to choose from, so who was best boy this year?

Moeronpan

Kirill Vrubel  – Double Decker: Doug and Kirill
I fell in love with Kirill the moment he appeared on screen because he’s just the kind of character I like – earnest, headstrong, kinda dumb and super cute. Early on, the show did seem to like picking on him too much so it was always a relief when he wasn’t treated as the butt of a joke for a change. He makes a great hero, and although he didn’t get quite the coming of age story I was hoping for – I’d love the show to get a second season so I can see more of his antics. I’d also like his partner Doug to get a little more developed – they really could have won Best Duo otherwise.

Runner-up:

White Blood Cell/Hakkekyuu u-1446: Cells at Work (Hataraku Saibou)
I debated on this a lot and almost decided to give it to Golden Kamuy‘s Sugimoto, but in the end, Cells at Work ended up being more watchable to me than Golden Kamuy‘s adaptation, so White Blood Cell/Hakkekkyuu (number u-1146 to be precise) it is. He may look like a scary guy (especially when bathed in the blood of the germs, which is almost every episode), but he’s actually very kind and gentle (if you aren’t a germ). Every day, he’s doing his badass best to defend the body he lives in – and with such a quirky and memorable character design – he looks great doing it.

Special Mention:

The 2018 Type Moon special was an adaptation of ongoing novel Lord El Mello II Case Files – a spinoff with Waver Velvet as the main character, ten years after the events of Fate/Zero and shortly before (as well as during) the events of Fate/Stay Night. Waver Velvet is, hands down, my favourite anime character of all time – and even though the Case Files proper anime will air in June 2019 (and you can be sure it’ll get reviewed here)- since this special aired at 9:30pm on December 31st, it qualifies as a 2018 anime, which means that Waver should win Best Male character by default. However, it is only a single episode special that did air in the final hours of the year, so it’s maybe a little unfair to other characters who don’t have the privilege of being Waver Velvet. But all that said, my boy’s all grown up and he’s a big a dork as ever, and I love him.

Ariana

Sakuta from Bunny Girl Senpai is my pick for this year’s best male character. He initially comes off as your typical brooding, high school protagonist; but he actually has a surprising amount of emotional depth to him. I love that the series allows him to cry, and it’s never treated as a character flaw or as Sakuta being “weak.” What I like most about Sakuta is that he’s protagonist who actively DOES things to help and support the people he cares about–and what makes it even more amazing is that he doesn’t have the help of magical powers or any extraordinary ability to call upon. It’s extremely refreshing to see a character like this; when so many anime feature passive protagonists, or protagonists who are constantly saved by the timely intervention of massive amounts of deux ex machina.

Runner-up:

Gyokutei from Hakyuu Houshin Engi is my runner-up pick. While everyone else in the cast essentially suffered in their transition from a great manga into a horribly butchered anime, Gyokutei was mostly spared from all the bad writing. It also helped that he never got a chance to appear in the original (1999) Houshin Engi anime to begin with. As a fan of him from the manga, it was nice to see him finally get animated and voiced. Gyokutei is a great older mentor character and father figure… and that’s basically why I like him. (Well… he also has really nice hair too.)

Special Mention:

Henri from Hugtto Precure gets a special mention here. He is officially listed as male, but I have seen many fans interpret him as being non-binary. This is due to his desire to dress and present himself in ways that defy gender norms; and the show openly supports this and never plays it off as some sort of crude “dude in a dress” joke. He also ended up becoming the first official male Cure in the Precure franchise–a pretty big deal since it was sort of a “rule” for the longest time that only girls could become Cures. Ultimately, the Precure series never outright states what Henri considers his gender to be; but nonetheless I am glad that such an inspiring character exists in a show aimed at young kids.

Junko

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Kiyotaka Yagashiro, better known as “Holmes,” from Kyoto Teramachi Sanjo no Holmes (aka Holmes of Kyoto) is a gentlemanly “prince-type” antiques store owner who also moonlights as a part-time detective and general problem solver for the local population of Kyoto. While he already earned points from me as I’m a big fan of this character type, I really found myself liking what the show did with Holmes more and more as episodes progressed. Rather than remaining “cool” and “mysterious,” he was allowed to have feelings, show moments of weakness (especially in the face of his rival Ensho) and even work towards resolving his past issues with relationships and love. Despite the show’s slow pace and slice of life focus, I really felt like Holmes became a thoroughly well rounded character by the end, and I was sad when his journey ended at the conclusion of the season. I absolutely had to recognize him for this award!

Runner-up:

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Joker (Ren Amamiya) from Persona 5: The Animation. Yeah, I know, he’s a video game character originally, and he didn’t change dramatically from the original game to the animated adaptation, but…Joker is just one awesome dude. Awkward student by day, suave heart-stealing criminal by night, the essence of the “gentleman thief” from top to bottom – you just gotta love him! Plus it’s always refreshing to see a bland-ish “insert player here” protagonist given a bit more personality in an adaptation, which he definitely got.

Special Mention:

I didn’t always love Kotaro from Zombieland Saga, but I had to give him a shout-out solely for the utterly legendary performance by ever-talented voice actor Mamoru Miyano. I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard at a vocal performance in years! Also, the character did manage to get a lot more interesting as the show went on (I kinda wrote him off in the First Impression, and feel bad for that) so that’s great too!

Best Duo/Team

These are the characters who work better together than they do alone. Good teams are a joy to watch, and this year there were plenty.

MoeronpanCivilian Antarctic Observation Team – A Place Further than the Universe (Sora yori mo Tooi Basho)
As I already gushed about before, this is a show that respects and includes its adult cast along with its main adolescent cast, and together they make an impressive team as they not only undertake their expedition to Antarctica, but survive there. I liked how the two groups of characters interacted, but the relationship between the four high school girls leads- four girls who only recently became acquainted with each other, is really something special.

Runner up:

SEVEN-O – Double Decker: Doug and Kirill
Earlier in the series I was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t really liking the members of SEVEN-O quite as much as I grew to love all the heroes in Tiger and Bunny, but the more of the show I watched, the more I came to really love them. It’s a cast with a very different vibe, and I really think they could have had a more equal distribution of attention. But the moments where they all work together really made the show for me. There’s also the surprise Best Duo of Max and Yuri, a couple who I hope to see developed more in future if the show continues. I also like that the women outnumber the men in the team – something uncommon in the action genre. Each character is also extremely different, and none of them really feel like they’re tacked on for the hell of it. Even token ‘normal’ girl Kay serves a purpose in both the team and the character balance.

Ariana

My pick for best duo are Hakumei and Mikochi from the aptly titled Hakumei and Mikochi anime. Their personalities complement each other well: Hakumei is the energetic and adventurous one; while Mikochi is the more reserved and gentle one. They both help to bring out the best in each other, and also help to mitigate the other person’s shortcomings. I love seeing these two together, because they obviously have a very close bond and are so supportive towards one another. Hakumei and Mikochi are basically life partners, although it’s never outright confirmed if this is in the romantic or platonic sense. Either way, all of the episodes featuring these two together is guaranteed to be a pleasant watch.

Runner-up:

I have to at least mention White Blood Cell (WBC) and Red Blood Cell (RBC) from Cells at Work. While their relationship dynamics seem a bit lopsided at first, as it’s WBC who is usually saving RBC from some kind of trouble; we eventually see that WBC finds RBC to be inspiring. RBC also ends up saving WBC in indirect ways in the latter half of the show. Plus, their banter and familiarity with each other is just plain cute; especially when you take into account that different cell types usually aren’t so friendly with each other. The series seems to be pushing a sort of romantic slant with these two’s relationship, although I much prefer them as BFFs.

Junko

This award was definitely one of the easiest to hand out – it’s the cells from Cells at Work! After all, your body can’t work properly without the various cells functioning in harmony, so what better ensemble to give this honor to than those very cells themselves? Of course, Cells at Work’s central duo of the naive but plucky Red Blood Cell and the hardworking and usually-stoic White Blood Cell make a fantastic pair on their own, but adding in the rest of the ensemble just makes it even better. The childlike Platelets, the elegant Macrophage, the testosterone-fueled T cells…each and every cell gets their moment to shine as they show off their roles in keeping the body functioning. Cells at Work’s structure is one that could have easily become formulaic, but the distinct and varied personalities and designs of the cell team kept it fresh and exciting with each new episode!

Runner-up:

awardsPart of what makes Gakuen Babysitters work so well as a show is the fact that the ensemble of babies at the daycare work so well together. Unlike many babies in anime, each one – even tiny Midori – feels like a distinct character with unique quirks and traits. From stoic Kotaro to polite Kirin, each of them had a role to play and contributed to the overall dynamic of the school setting. Best of all, each of them possesses a wide, creative imagination which inevitably leads to lots of fun and hijinks. I was always excited to see what adventures this group of pint-sized friends got up to each week!

Most Fun/Feel-good

This is a separate category to ‘best’, because sometimes shows are just plain fun to watch despite whatever shortcomings may stop them from being an objectively flawless show. Here are the shows that we loved unwinding with or getting cheered up by.

Moeronpan
Zombieland Saga was one of the surprise hits of the year, and ended up being the show I most looked forward to new episodes of this current season (even more than Double Decker, which I was actually blogging.) It managed the perfect balance of character-driven comedy, zombies and even drama in a way I never would have expected to work as well as it did. It’s fun seeing the girls perform in their made-up states, but it’s even more fun seeing them be zombies when the makeup comes off.  Add Mamoru Miyano’s absolutely bonkers voice work for Kotaro – the girls’ manager – and you’ve got a ridiculously good time.

Runner up:

Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family (Emiya-san Chi no Kyou no Gohan) is another Fate spinoff, but it’s somewhat of a surprise that I enjoyed this particular one so much as I honestly don’t care that much for Fate/Stay Night and most of its characters normally. But Today’s Menu is an adorably laid back show about cooking, and the various inspirations that lead to each dish. Shirou also explains the steps behind each dish, which means its entirely possible to learn recipes from it. While I haven’t tried making any of them, I did get to go to the Ufotable cafe when it was having the special collab menu for this – and the bamboo shoot gratin from episode 5 gets my recommendation.

Ariana

Hakumei and Mikochi wins the award for this category by a long shot. It’s rare to find an anime that “feels” as gentle as this one does. The backgrounds are lovely, and the main characters’ small sizes lend a sort of magical tone to the show. The anime focuses on the daily lives of its titular characters, who live in a generally carefree fashion. There’s never much conflict throughout the seires; or if there is, it’s resolved fairly quickly and peacefully. Because of this, Hakumei and Mikochi was an incredibly relaxing and calming anime to watch. When this show was still airing, I eagerly looked forward to new episodes every week, and every episode was always a joy to watch. Is this what if feels like to take a sunny stroll through the woods? If it is, Hakumei and Mikochi certainly captured that emotion perfectly.

Runner up:

As much as I love the Cardcaptor Sakura series, Clear Card Arc became just a tad boring at times. Due to Sakura growing older by a few years, this newer series definitely has a more mature tone, and features many more scenes of the characters just… chatting. Clear Card Arc was generally a pretty relaxing anime to watch, but I would have preferred some episodes to have a little bit more plot to them. The overarching storyline was just so intriguing that I wanted to know more about what was going on! Nonetheless, the spirit and tone of the original CCS series carries over into Clear Card Arc, and the show still manages to be incredibly cute. It’s probably one of the “softer” magical girl anime out there, and certainly deserves its large fanbase.

Junko

Kyoto Teramachi Sanjo no Holmes / Holmes of Kyoto was far from the most intense or compelling mystery show I’ve ever seen. However, I still found myself falling in love with it regardless. With its rich, beautifully detailed atmosphere and its surprisingly educational themes of “antique items” and “local Kyoto culture,” it was consistently an enjoyable watch that left me feeling like I had actually learned something new with each passing episode. Plus, the pace was generally fairly slow (with the exception of a few higher-intensity episodes) and there were lots of great moments of the characters bonding and taking in the gorgeous Kyoto scenery. If the definition of “feel-good” includes shows that leave you happy, relaxed and at peace, then Holmes of Kyoto is this year’s clear winner!

Pleasant Surprise Award

These are the shows that surprised us in a good way. It’s easy to build up expectations and make assumptions, but every now and then there’s a show that turned out way better than we could have predicted.

Moeronpan
I almost, almost gave Megalobox an award for best show, because it really is an impressive work with a delightfully old-school animation style and a definite sense of coolness about it. (I also was supposed to blog it back when it aired, but ended up getting far too busy to blog anything at all.) The only reason it didn’t was because it does fall short in one key area – the boxing matches are a little formulaic after a while and it’s a little hard for there to be much suspense. But its strong characters, great action and superb music makes me feel extremely guilty for not including it somewhere. The fact that I never expected to like it at all (not knowing a great deal about Ashita no Joe, which it’s a love letter to/anniversary project for, or having much interest in boxing) makes it the perfect candidate for this category.

Runner up:
As I said in the First Impression, most of my attraction to Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens is its location – a pleasant surprise in itself. I actually didn’t finish watching it while I was still living in Fukuoka, so I was watching the second half of it a few months after I had already moved back to Australia – which was an interesting experience, because it almost made me feel ‘homesick’ in a way. There’s a lot going on in this show – and not all of it is good, but at the center of it all is Xianming Lin – a foreigner who ends up in Fukuoka, grows to love it and then doesn’t want to leave. I liked Lin a lot, and that was one of the reason’s why. Still, it being set in Fukuoka still wouldn’t be enough to carry the show on its own, but luckily I started to really enjoy the characters – especially Lin and Banba – and started to want to know what would happen next. In a narrative sense it’s an utter mess, but it was still fun once it hit its stride.

Ariana

I wasn’t really expecting much from Jingai-san no Yome, as it was pretty obvious budget series consisting of three-minute shorts. And it had a really bizarre premise to boot (high school boys becoming the “wives” of magical/supernatural creatures…okay then). But I ended up enjoying it far more than I would have expected. It’s a silly, cutesy anime and that’s all there is to it… but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I kind of wish the episodes had been a bit longer, although Jingai-san no Yome made surprisingly good use of its run time (barring the infamous episode 1).

Runner up:

Despite one character’s descent into being the worst character imaginable, Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles turned out to actually be a pretty good show… if you really like looking at food (specifically ramen) and learning about food facts (specifically ramen facts), that is. I initially thought that this series would revolve more around the characters and their daily lives, but that turned out not to be the case. Instead the show strongly focuses on the ramen stuff. This was a pleasant surprise for me as I just watched the anime for the food rather than the characters (sorry). For the oddballs like me, who seem to find more joy in seeing good-looking food rather than eating it; then this series is a rare hidden gem.

Junko

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It wasn’t that I didn’t expect Miira no Kaikata / How to Keep a Mummy to be cute, but…I was absolutely pleasantly blown away by how downright heartwarming it is. The relationship between the human protagonist and the tiny mummy Mii-kun is an adorable journey of mutual friendship and caretaking, including such adventures as both trying to take care of each other while they are both sick and even going to school together. It only gets cuter when the protagonist’s friends get tiny, adorable creatures of their own – and that’s not even mentioning the ED, which features the humans and creatures all happily dancing together. Truly a show which fits the description “pleasant” absolutely perfectly.

Best Scene/Episode

Anime is full of memorable moments, and these are the ones that will stay with us from this year. A warning for spoilers!

Moeronpan

Violet Evergarden has some very emotional episodes, but the one that hit me the hardest was episode 10. Here, Violet’s job takes her to an terminally ill woman to be her scribe for a week and write letters for a recipient who goes unnamed for most of the episode. It’s a somewhat different episode in that most of it takes place from the point of view of Anne, the woman’s young daughter who is at first distrustful of Violet, as well as upset that she is taking up valuable time that her mother could be spending with her. Now, I spent the episode knowing exactly who the letters would be for, and hoping that it wasn’t going to treat it like some big surprise twist. However, the specifics of it was the real twist and when the reveal happened it hit me like a freight train and I cried like a baby.

Runner up:

The second-last episode of A Place Further than the Universe – specifically when Shirase finds her mothers old laptop and it begins downloading the hundreds and hundreds of unread emails she’d sent – was the moment I said ‘yeah this is definitely show of the year material’. It’s an incredibly powerful segment in which she receives the closure she sought for three years – but at the cost of finally admitting to herself that her mother is gone forever. From the first episode, Shirase had been clinging to the unrealistic dream that her mother was alive and waiting for her somewhere in Antarctica, and this was the heartbreaking scene where she finally admitted the truth to herself so that she could move on. Bonus: Did you know that the Shirase nendoroid lets you relive this sad scene in chibi form? I didn’t, but now I do.

Special Mention:

The inexplicable semi-live action ‘Hellshake Yano’ segment of Pop Team Epic’s 7th episode has to be seen, because describing it not only doesn’t do it justice, it’s kind of impossible to. It’s one of the most unique and creative uses of sketchbooks I’ve ever seen. There’s a reason I can’t stop thinking about Hellshake Yano.

Ariana

To celebrate the Precure franchise’s 15th anniversary, Hugtto Precure had a few episodes featuring crossovers with the Cures from past seasons. But the most ambitious crossover was the one that occurred in episode 37, which not only featured ALL 55 Cures up to that point, but also numerous honorary Cures and supporting characters. It was really fun to see all the cameo appearances, and there were some cute call-backs and in-jokes (for the long-time fans) added in as well. The action scenes were also pretty inventive and memorable. My personal favorite scene of the episode involved all the Pink Cures beating up on the main baddie of the episode, which can be seen in the video below. Now that’s some great choreography.

Runner up:

Although I’m generally pretty lukewarm on the We Rent Tsukumogami series as a whole, episode 8 still sticks with me in the back of my mind. The writing for episode 8 was (in my opinion) leagues better than the writing for the rest of the show. The story presented in this episode is a melancholy one that ultimately ends on a hopeful note, with a pretty brilliant plot-twist thrown in. But what I loved most about the episode was the atmosphere, thanks in part to the beautiful visuals and wonderful use of lighting. I’m being purposely vague here as I don’t want to spoil the episode’s plot; so I’ll just say that I’m a real sucker for stories where a person is able to escape a hopeless situation through their own skill and ingenuity, and is rightfully rewarded for their hard work.

Junko

Episode 1 of Vento Aureo / Golden Wind may not have been the most meaningful or even most memorable moment of the year, but it certainly was one of the most “meme-able”. I was beyond excited for the newest installment of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, as Giorno’s adventure is one of my favorites, and so I had really high expectations for Episode 1. While the full episode was a visual treat which could have easily won this award in its entirety, there was one particular moment which gave me an amazing feeling of energy and nostalgia combined that truly made me think “Jojo’s back”! I am talking, of course, about none other than the entrance of dynamic criminal / combatant / eventual ally Bruno Bucciarati. Bruno makes himself known by storming onto a bus in the middle of the day and thoroughly introducing a hapless Giorno to his unique zipper-centric fighting style. Oh, yeah, and he licks him and tells him he tastes like a liar, too. So a great scene overall!

Runner-up:

The second season of Gyakuten Saiban / Ace Attorney followed a tradition started in the first season: a completely original episode which explores the childhood / adolescences of primary characters Ryuichi Naruhodo and Reiji Mitsurugi. This time, in Sound the Turnabout Melody, we got to see the characters finding unique ways to stay in touch with one another even after the latter moves away, as well as the closest look the series has ever provided us at Mitsurugi’s less than happy childhood. Once again, this episode managed to entirely subvert any “filler” stereotypes by including lots of character development and heartwarming friendship moments. Truly a stellar episode that I could not pass up for this award!

Best Adaptation:

Adapting manga/games/novels/etc into animation can be a tricky business with wildly varying results – but some studios and directors have this down to an art. Here are the anime we thought did best by their source material.

Moeronpan

In my review of the first episode, I questioned whether we actually needed a Pop Team Epic anime and thought that it probably wasn’t the best idea. But I was proven completely and utterly wrong, and the chaotic weirdness turned out to be the only way to truly do Pop Team Epic justice. It takes full advantage of being an animated medium, and now free of the confines of printed pages it contains everything from felt stop-motion, to 8-bit game sequences, to live-action segments, to whatever the absolute hell those Bobunemimimmi parts are. While I originally questioned the point of splitting the episode in half and having male voice actors in one half and female in the other half – the true reason for this soon became apparent. Pipimi and Popuko are so iconic that cementing single voice actors for them just doesn’t seem right, so they get around this by having them voiced by everyone. Every single episode features different voice actors in the A and B sides and it ends up a Who’s Who of the seiyuu world. You eventually start to look forward to seeing who the next VAs will be, just to hear their interpretations of the characters. It’s ridiculous regardless, but it’s still an incredible idea. I still don’t have any idea what I watched with Pop Team Epic but I’m glad that I did.

Runner up:
N/A

Ariana

Happy Sugar Life is far from being a happy series, but it certainly has one of the best adaptations that I have seen this year. The Happy Sugar Life anime was adapted from the manga of the same name, and I think the transition from a print medium to an animated one was done in an appropriately skillful manner. The Happy Sugar Life manga uses quite a few artistic techniques to emphasize certain important scenes. I felt that this was translated well into the anime. For example, one chapter of the manga is completely wordless until the very last page—so the anime handled this aspect by having louder background music playing throughout this scene; with the characters shown “talking” but having no sound come out of their mouths. I appreciate when an anime goes to extra lengths to replicate these artistic flourishes.

Junko

Hataraku Saibou / Cells at Work! takes a unique somewhat-educational concept and translates it extremely well into animated form. You can learn just as much about the workings of the human body from watching the show as you can from reading the original manga. The important “teaching points” are highlighted by a helpful narrator and clearly labeled diagrams, but the show doesn’t take the education aspect too far and gives the viewer plenty of time to simply enjoy the brightly colored, beautifully designed world and its population of unique characters. I have to give a special shout-out to the obviously high amount of careful selection which went into choosing the voice actors for each cell and body part. Many of the characters were deliberately designed as parodies or shout-outs, and the casting department did a great job with these, such as the elegant but powerful maid-costumed Macrophage being voiced by Kikuko Inoue, aka Belldandy from Ah! My Goddess. Overall, a masterful translation from page to screen that manages to retain so much of what is great about this series!

Best Opening:

2018 also saw a whole load of new super catchy anime theme songs. We judged them on both the song and the accompanying visuals…good openings, after all, are the type you don’t mind sitting through every time. (Note: Due to the nature of copyrighted songs, its likely that the vids could be pulled eventually so enjoy them while you can)

Moeronpan

Pop Team Epic‘s opening featuring the titular theme song by Sumire Uesaki was best of the year with zero contest, and certainly the most unique. The moment I saw it from the second episode onward was when I started to question my previous judgement that the anime may not be worth watching. It’s delightfully weird and only a preview of what to expect in the show, but it’s also incredibly stylish.

Runner up:

I almost wasn’t going to have a runner-up, but I really started to like the opening to Bloom Into You (Yagate Kimi ni Naru) – featuring ‘Kimi ni Furete’ by Azuna Riko. The flower imagery is extremely beautiful, yet there is also something vaguely unsettling and somewhat haunting about it.

Ariana

Despite being unable to watch all of Koi wa Ameagari no You ni (a.k.a. After the Rain), the OP for this series impressed me all the way back in January—and still impresses me even now. The song itself (“Nostalgic Rainfall” by CHiCO with HoneyWorks) is lovely; but what I really like about this OP is the visuals and animation. There’s sort of a pop art crossed over with shojo elements vibe to the whole thing. Plus, the scenes of Akira (the main heroine) twirling around on rain puddles is wonderfully animated. Watching this OP never fails to put a smile on my face.

Runner up:

It’s pretty obvious that P.A. Works was really just intending to flaunt their animation budget for the Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara/The World in Colors OP (featuring the song “17-sai” by Haruka to Miyuki). But wow, it’s still pretty stunning to look at. The song is definitely emotional enough for the series, and features a lovely monochromatic-to-color effect; referencing the main character’s color-blindness and her desire to see colors again. I usually prefer my anime OPs to be a little bit more visually creative, but the backgrounds featured here are so lovely that I can’t not pick this as a runner-up.

Junko

awards

This catchy opening from Release the Spyce – with the equally catchy title of “Spatto! Spy & Spyce” – does a fantastic job of setting the tone of the show to follow. It’s fast-paced, almost frantic, with the background mostly provided by vocal instrumentation (lots of “ba” and “da” behind the lyrics). The accompanying visuals are snappy and colorful and definitely get you hooked on the equally exciting and colorful world to follow. Release the Spyce snags the Best OP award of 2018 with class and style!

Runner-up:

“Fatima” from Steins;Gate 0 is an intense song which makes it obvious that you’re in for a gripping story. I especially love how the music is made to sound like the ticking of a clock at some points, referencing Steins;Gate’s overarching themes of time – traveling through time, losing time and ultimately, even running out of time. The visuals emphasized this with shots of characters fragmented, reflected in mirrors or dissolving into holograms, creating a thoroughly eerie experience which made a perfect pairing with the show itself.

Special Mention:

An honorable mention to GeGeGe no Kitaro 2018 for recognizing that the show’s classic opening should not be replaced and bringing it back in all its traditional, utterly catchy glory!

Best Ending:

Ending themes can be just as good as openings – in some cases even better! Here’s our picks for 2018.

Moeronpan

The first time I saw the ED for Double Decker I knew it had won the award for the year. The song (Buntline Special by VickeBlanka) is great and incredibly catchy, and the visuals, while mostly CGI -are actually an example of some of the less-awkward looking CGI in the show. It’s a fun way to feature SEVEN-O looking cool and I watched it every time.

Runner up:

It’s really no wonder that I like the ED to Karakuri Circus so much – ‘Marionette’ by Lozareena is a Teddyloid collab after all, and I’ve loved his stuff since Panty and Stocking. The song is extremely fitting for Shirogane’s character, being both sad and hopeful, while the visuals are rather unique. It’s a shame the whole show couldn’t have been this visually pleasing.

Ariana

I just love the ED for Hakumei and Mikochi. It features some lovely instrumentals and also has the voice actresses (Shino Shimoji and Aoi Yuuki) singing. I like that the song (titled “Harvest Moon Night”) actually ties into the show, as it is the song sung by two of the characters for, well; a Harvest Moon festival. The ED to Hakumei and Mikochi actually has visual and lyrical changes depending on the episode, which is pretty neat. The visuals aren’t anything spectacular, and mostly features colored silhouettes of the main characters walking through the woods; but it’s charming enough. I could only find a video of the ED featured in the final episode, so you get some extra stuff to watch (a pity that Konju’s first line gets cut off at the beginning, though).

Runner up:

I’m not actually sure if this actually counts as an ED… since it sort of feels like it should be an OP, but comes after the episode itself so… whatever; I just wanted this thing somewhere on the list. Jingai-san no Yome’s theme song (“Happy Life Spectacle” by Hi!Superb) is ridiculously catchy, and seeing Kanenogi doing its weird goofy dance is pretty mesmerizing.

Junko

Call me predictable, but I just can’t get enough of the Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure franchise’s excellent decision to use thematically relevant, sometimes even time period accurate existing music for the ED of each part. The Internet was, of course, waiting with bated breath for months to see if Vento Aureo/Golden Wind would continue that trend, and of course it did – with none other than the 1995 hit “Freek’n You”. It was an excellent choice, filling you with anticipation – or perhaps dread – as you realized you had another week to wait until Giorno and co continued their adventures. Also, it gets stuck in my head a lot. Definitely deserving of this award!

Runner-up:

“youthful beautiful” from SSSS Gridman is an upbeat song paired with still shots of the characters against real-life photo backgrounds of ordinary Japanese schools and classrooms. It’s a nice, peaceful way to relax after the intensity of each episode, and each still is beautifully posed and perfectly paced with the music. Plus, it’s got some nice foreshadowing and plot details which makes it extra interesting upon multiple watches. Gridman was a show where I honestly found myself looking forward to the ED each episode!

WTF Award

Self-explanatory, what was the most absurdly ridiculous thing we saw this year?

Moeronpan

Pop Team Epic as a whole is weird enough to win the wtf award this year, but the regular ‘Bobunemimimmi’ segments in each episode are bizarre enough to make the regular stuff seen banal in comparison. It completely defies explanation. Here you go.

Runner up:
I wasn’t able to finish Hisone to Masotan but I feel like it deserves a pretty big ‘wtf’ purely because I went in hearing it was about a girl that piloted a dragon, so the mental image I had was a girl riding a dragon. I didn’t expect her to pilot the dragon from inside its stomach after it eats her each time, complete with stomach juices, and that she’d get vomited out in a waterfall of stomach juices afterwards. While the inside of the ‘cockpit’ does also change to become transparent for the ‘pilot’, if your anime makes me feel like I’m watching vore fetish porn then it’s a wtf from me.

Ariana

Sora to Umi no Aida/Between the Sky and Sea. I honestly don’t want to talk about this series more than I have to, so I’ll point anyone who’s interested in knowing more about this mess of an anime over to my First Impression of it. Seriously, don’t mix fishing, space, mecha, smartphone antics, and RPG-esque monster boss fights into one series. Just don’t.

Junko

I pretty much knew Planet With had this award locked down as soon as I saw the protagonist come home not to a normal household but to a chipper maid and a giant creepy-eyed cat named “Sensei”. Planet With is the kind of show which is not only fully aware of its own bizarreness, but revels in it – it KNOWS it’s strange, but it manages to use that strangeness to good effect without overshadowing the plot and characters (well, most of the time). It was far from my favorite show of 2018, but I have to respect it for committing so fully to “weird” and, honestly, pulling it off pretty well. (The cat still creeps me out though. What a strange design.)

Runner-up:

I think the real WTF is that I somehow watched most of this show which mostly featured a guy existing in a spaceship cockpit. Also, there was briefly a sentient pubic hair. No way Uchuu Senkan Tiramisu / Space Battleship Tiramisu wasn’t getting a mention for this award.

Biggest Disappointment

And here we move into the negative awards, starting with 2018’s biggest letdowns.

Moeronpan

Golden Kamuy’s anime adaptation was a pretty big disappointment. There are several moments where the characters all look extremely wonky, the beautiful landscapes of Hokkaido often look boring and drab, and most famously, the hilariously bad CGI bears clash terribly with the human characters so awfully it felt like some kind of joke. To its credit, the bluray release apparently has fixed up a lot of the animation, and my main complaint from the first episode (that they completely toned down and even removed a lot of the exaggerated facial expressions that the manga is famous for) seems to have been resolved in later episodes. Since I didn’t watch enough of it, I therefore won’t nominate it for worst adaptation, but I still think such an amazing manga deserved waaaaay better than this. Otherwise, I’m happy to report I wasn’t really let down much this year…I’ll save that rant for the real winners of Worst Adaptation.

Ariana

While We Rent Tsukumogami wasn’t actually that bad of a series overall (and is probably the least offensive thing on the list for this category), I personally found it to be the most disappointing series I have had to suffer through blog this year. I’m still annoyed that such an interesting premise got squandered for a half-baked, awful love-triangle plot. It wouldn’t even have been so bad if this love-triangle stuff didn’t end up taking over the entire series. I didn’t watch this series for the forced romantic angst, I watched it for the cute tsukumogami—who sadly featured less and less in the series as time went on.

Junko

Satsuriku no Tenshi / Angels of Death was never going to be a high-concept masterpiece, but it started out having the potential to be a mindlessly enjoyable show about terrible people fighting other terrible people and most of them dying in the process. And that type of show can be downright fun, if done well! (Although I must admit perhaps the reason I was so disappointed was because how few of these types of shows lately HAVE done it well). Instead, Angels of Death tried to be the high-concept show it could never hope to be, padded its episodes with bizarre musings about death and life and other “big” topics, and made the central characters so unlikeable that by episode two or three I was actively ROOTING for them to fail. And that’s not even getting into the show’s attempt at a “romance” plot. I ain’t touching that with a ten foot scythe…

Runner-up:

Darling in the Franxx. This one’s on me. I had high hopes for a show which was getting huge amounts of popularity and being lauded as a “return to form” for Trigger after the lackluster performance of stuff like Kiznaiver. But unfortunately, this show comes in as runner-up for Biggest Disappointment because…well, in so, so many ways, it felt like a complete letdown after all that hype. And I acknowledge that this is more of a personal disappointment, rather than an actual indictment of the show – there are a lot of people who like Darling in the Franxx, and that’s certainly all well and good! But to me, it was a waste of time and talent that paired honestly decent effects and animation with an uncomfortable plot, unlikeable characters and some downright disturbing “relationships” that I hope to Heaven nobody takes as an example of actual romance (although, I’m sure people will…) Try again, Trigger, because this was another strike-out.

Worst Adaptation

Like I said before, adaptations are a tricky business, and every year we see a bunch of anime that end up being terrible regardless of the quality of their source material.

Moeronpan

Junji Ito Collection made Golden Kamuy look like Best Adaptation material. I’m almost actually impressed that Studio Deen managed to make Ito stories lame and unscary. Even when the source material is sufficiently creepy, when you get the timing and acting wrong, it just seems incredibly lame…and that’s not even getting into how absolutely hideous this show looks. It’s actually insulting to such a distinctive and respected mangaka as Junji Ito that his trademark style – achieved with his amazing inking method – is translated here to ‘whack a hideous green brown filter over it’. I’ve gone into more detail about the first episode here, but the others I bothered to watch weren’t much better either. With Junji Ito’s stuff, you either do it properly or you just don’t do it at all.

Runner-up:

hey quick question, did anybody understand what the absolute HELL was going on in Fate/Extra: Last Encore? This one makes me salty on a personal level because I seem to be one of those rare people who actually genuinely enjoyed the Fate/Extra PSP game (although I haven’t played the sequels). At first I was wondering if Last Encore making absolutely no sense was because I hadn’t played these sequels but…the characters are all the same ones from the first game, its just some weird alternate reality of it. The worst crime of all was making the MC the male protagonist instead of the female protagonist – who is a far more popular and iconic character, one of my favourite Masters in the Fateverse and someone I was really looking forward to seeing as an MC in an anime – and then also making him such a moody and unlikeable git on top of it. Because it’s a SHAFT anime it does at least look gloriously trippy and weird, but after that novelty wore of it was just a pile of confusing nonsense starring characters I would have otherwised really liked seeing animated. I barely made it 6 episodes in and then gave up. What the hell?

Ariana

Even now, I am still bitter about the Hakyuu Houshin Engi anime. And even now I have to ask: what the hell were the director(s) for this awful remake thinking when they decided to condense a 200+ chapter manga series into a mere 23 episode anime? While it was nice at first to see such beloved characters animated in a more modern style and budget, that excitement quickly turned to disappointment when I realized that… this is actually a really, REALLY bad adaptation of a beloved classic shonen manga. I’ve rambled on enough about why I so strongly dislike this adaptation in my round-up review for the summer anime season, so I won’t say too much more here.

Runner-up: N/A

Junko

Definitely Fate/Extra: Last Encore. Adaptations don’t necessarily have to be perfectly faithful…but then again, they shouldn’t give a creative team free rein to take (some of) the characters and (bits of) the setting from the original and use it to make a completely new story. Backstories, motivations, fight scenes, lore…in the end, nothing was left untouched. Fate/Extra Last Encore isn’t actually a terrible anime on its own, but as an adaptation, it absolutely stinks because of how much it discards from the material that it is adapting. As a huge fan of the Fate/ franchise, I was really disappointed by this show, especially because it doesn’t bode well for future adaptations of later installments in the Extra series. I must reluctantly award it “Worst Adaptation” for honestly being little more than an in-name-only barely-adaptation-at-all. Sorry, Fate/…

Worst Anime Overall

Finally, our personal absolute stinker awards. Because we know as much as anyone else that anime can be complete garbage when it wants to be, and so here is 2018’s cream of the crap.

Moeronpan

Previously I would have refused to believe an anime worse than Handshakers – 2017’s winner of worst show – could possibly exist, and I was a much happier person then. Unfortunately, it does exist, and while Handshakers was shitty in a way that at least managed to be amusing, Conception wrought nothing but suffering and anger from me. The game its based on was hardly a masterpiece to begin with, but even the fans of the game hated this. There is not a single redeeming quality about Conception. It’s ugly, it’s awkward, it’s badly animated, it’s badly acted, it’s gross, it’s sleazy, the characters are obnoxious, the whole thing is so awful that I feel genuine remorse and pity for every single person who was involved, unwillingly or not, in its creation. You can read my First Impression review here, but I’m despairing to even remember it.

Runner up:

The Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Einherjar (Hyakuren no Haou to Seiyaku no Ikusa Otome) was also a steaming pile of turds, and has the honour of being one of the laziest anime I’ve ever seen. An anime that simply does not care or try at all, and as I said in my First Impression review, complete effort black-hole. While it was at first hard to say whether this or Conception was worse, this one didn’t feature that horrific mascot character, which makes it the more bearable of the two. Choosing between them is still like choosing whether you want to eat a bowl of dog vomit or a bowl of dog vomit that is slightly mouldy, though.

Ariana

I hate Love to-lie-angle with the intensity of a thousand suns. How can a series pack so much awfulness into its three minute episodes??? This is your standard anime harem series except the usually male main character has been swapped out for a female lead instead. This “gimmick” does not make the show any less cringey. This series features awful characters, horrible animation, and tons of fanservice. From just the two episodes that I saw, quite a bit of sexual harassment occurs—which I guess is supposed to be “funny” as it’s occurring between two women? Nah, that shit is still deplorable.

Runner up:

Sunoharasou no Kanrinin-san is also a pretty bad series, that only gets very slightly less hate than the above title due to having way better animation. Unfortunately, good animation can’t save this steaming pile of hot garbage, which features an older adult woman constantly making sexual advances towards a very young looking middle school aged boy. And it’s played off for laughs, or as something that boys of that age should appreciate. Which is all sorts of messed up. I’ve never wanted to NOPE out of a series so fast.

Junko

I know, I know, handing the “Worst” award to a little sister show could be seen as taking the easy way out…but rest assured. My Sister, My Writer (aka Ore ga Suki nano wa Imouto dakedo Imouto Ja Nai) isn’t just bad because it’s about a little sister with an inexplicable crush on her bland protagonist of a brother. Oh no, had that been all, I could have written it off as merely “dull” or “unnecessary”. But this utter garbage fire of an anime also features terrible animation, ugly character designs, unrealistically-proportioned female characters with equally unrealistic collections of fetish fuel personalities – newsflash, people, “here, grope my boobs so you can write boob-groping scenes better” IS SOMETHING NO WOMAN HAS EVER ACTUALLY SAID – and an eye-rollingly dumb “conflict” that makes even reading a plot summary an exercise in ultimate boredom. Also, I mean. I know I brought it up before but. They named a character Ahegao. Really. A female character. Yeah, no other show even came CLOSE to taking home this “award” this year. Read my first impression to learn more about how downright terrible this show is.

Runner-up:

awards

Akkun to Kanojo. Yelling at your girlfriend and calling her stupid isn’t romantic. Stalking her is also not romantic. That’s pretty much all there is to say about this big ol’ stinky fart of a show. Moving on. Go check out my first impression review if you really care about learning more.

 

And there you have it! How about you? What were your best and worst shows of 2018?
Onwards to another year of anime!