CR staff, editors, and writers look back on their favorite anime and manga of 2018!
2018 was a wild ride for all of us, but at least we had a whole lot of great anime and manga to keep us entertained along the way! We laughed, we cried, we recoiled in horror, and we waited for the "ahh, you are motherf**ker?" moment in Pop Team Epic's anime that never actually came.
We recently talked about our favorite anime of the past season, and our most-anticipated anime of the coming season, so that brings us to now, to the now-annual tradition of Crunchyroll Favorites (can you believe this is our eighth year?!), where CR's staff, editors, and writers share what stood out most to them over the entirety of 2018. The rules were simple: for Part One, only anime, manga, and related media that were released in 2018 (or received a Western release in 2018), or experienced a major milestone (like starting a new season or closing up a major arc).
There's a whole lot to look at in Part One--let's get started!
Devilman Crybaby - Satisfying violence and a pulsing soundtrack headline this savage modern retelling of the Devilman legend--this is the kind of thing that got me into anime in the first place, and it felt great to be back.
Dragon Ball Super ending - Meanwhile, Dragon Ball Super wrapped up with an insane 3v1 fight to the finish in the Tournament of Power. Imagine a group of grown men sitting around screaming at the TV like excited children--because in that moment, with a gassed-out, shoulder-to-shoulder Goku and Freeza meeting Jiren head-on… we were again.
HINAMATSURI - MY SMARTPHONE!! I figured Hinamatsuri would just be this goofy domestic comedy about a beleaguered yakuza adopting a psychic child, but then it got real. Like, "why am I crying so much at Anzu's story" real. It's so good, and one I really need to rewatch.
March comes in like a lion - The beauty of March is that it's sad, and sometimes a downer, but never a miserable pity parade that constantly dumps on its characters. There's growth, and a light at the end of the tunnel--healing and catharsis that come after the worst parts of life. We're going to lose the people we love, and we're going to be treated like garbage by the people around us… but that's never the end of the story if you have people you love and trust by your side.
Shonen Jump - This is what I'd been dreaming of for years, but always felt too difficult to implement… until now. New chapters? Free every week. The massive back catalog, along with an updated list of currently-running titles? TWO DOLLARS A MONTH. This is madness, and it's never been a better time to see people reading classics like Dragon Ball for the first time ever.
Liz and the Blue Bird - Sound! Euphonium is one of my favorite series, and this film takes the franchise to new artistic heights. Director Naoko Yamada and composer Kensuke Ushio reunite and create something truly special together.
A Place Further Than the Universe - This wasn’t the best-directed, best-animated, or best-scored anime of the year, but the sum is greater than the parts in this case. A Place Further is by far my favorite broadcast anime of the year.
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime - I love “another world” anime that focus on worldbuilding and characterization over action, but Slime has both in spades. Also, protagonist Rimuru is super OP, but they’re so likable that I don’t really care.
Violet Evergarden - There’s a lot I could say about this stunningly-produced show, but I’ll just note that toward the beginning of the first episode, Violet picks up an object using her mouth. While it seems like a weird character eccentricity at first, it’s later revealed that she has trouble using her new prosthetic hands. That’s a pretty good indication of how thoughtful the entire series is.
Dead Dead Demon’s Dedede Destruction - The newest series to be brought stateside from Goodnight Punpun author Inio Asano, Destruction is easily my favorite work from him to date. Taking the trademark eccentricity and attention to detail of his other titles, Destruction merges it with a much less grimdark tone that I find hugely refreshing.
Golden Kamuy - It’s no secret that I love Golden Kamuy to bits! The unique characters got me hooked, and then everything else (the story, action, drama and comedy) reeled me in to keep anticipating each and every episode. When’s season 3?!
Pop Team Epic - Where were you when the anime gods blessed us with Pop Team Epic? It’s basically anime shitposting, and it’s absolutely GLORIOUS! Yeah, I’m gonna be thinking about Hellshake Yano for a very long time.
Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles - If you know me, you know I love my ramen. And this show was a testament to how amazing and delicious ramen is while presenting a different array of wonderful ramen you can find in Japan! Of course, after each episode, I was left with the overwhelming desire for ramen, which was hard to curb.
Banana Fish (manga reprints) - Once news of the reprints began spreading around, I knew it was time for me to actually experience the majesty of Banana Fish! I don’t know what I expected, but I was addicted, reading all the volumes so fast, and I had to know what was going to happen next, so I went from volume to volume until I reached the end… What a thrill! I can’t believe it took me this long to check this series out. I’m glad I did!
Pokemon marathon on Twitch - The second Twitch announced this marathon, I was SO ready for it! I watched the old Pokémon anime when I was a kid, and watching the marathon brought back a lot of fun memories. There were also a bunch of moments in the anime I didn’t remember at all, like that bizarre Kangaskhan episode… It was a fun time to relive the show with thousands of other fans on Twitch!
Dr. Stone - This is the “Are you reading this? No? WELL YOU BETTER GET ON THAT” manga of the year, along with Promised Neverland. It’s so good and funny and I just love it.
“Mr. Osomatsu In Hell” - The second season of Mr. Osomatsu was more uneven than the first, but the season finale is a work of art. I really hope the movie is good, and that we get a Season 3.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind - I only got into JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure this year, and the more I watch it, the more I like it. It’s one of the few pieces of media that I’ve seen that is just as good as everyone made it out to be.
My Hero Academia: Two Heroes - No theater experience will ever top hearing an entire audience erupt into applause when All Might yelled “CAROLINA SMASH.”
That Time I Got Reincarnated As Yamcha - Poor Yamcha. His stock has dropped significantly since he went toe-to-toe with Goku in his first Dragon Ball appearance. Luckily, this manga knows that, and is more hilarious for it. Next I hope for “That Time I Got Reincarnated As That One Pterodactyl That Tried To Mess With Goku In Dragon Ball Chapter 1.”
A Place Further Than the Universe - A Place Further felt like it was going against the grain in many ways, as a character-driven drama without many of the usual anime trappings. It’s a damn near perfect show with an excellent story, tight character writing, and some truly brutal emotional beats delivered in novel and creative ways.
Planet With - Maybe some of the tightest storytelling I’ve ever seen, getting 24 episodes' worth of content finished in half that, at a pace that felt perfect. If you decide to check it out, be ready for two full narrative arcs and a ton of interesting character-based subplots all serving the overarching message of the value of compassion and forgiveness.
SSSS.GRIDMAN - It feels like I’m always waiting for the next TRIGGER anime that has the same bombastic energy as Gurren Lagann or Kill la Kill, but GRIDMAN proved they’re able to deliver a muted and thoughtful show as well. Amemiya penned a love letter to tokusatsu so reverent that even people like me can feel his passion. Some characters felt underutilized, but GRIDMAN was charming, mysterious, and stuck the landing.
Laid-Back Camp - I wish there were more anime like this: realizing a new episode of this anime was out became a weekly highlight. It’s chill, it’s funny, it’s educational, and it doesn’t pull any anime shenanigans. Just like the title says, you have absolutely nothing to worry about while watching this show.
HINAMATSURI - I remember seeing a promotion for this anime almost a year before it was released, showing Mao’s kung-fu sequence and thought: this would be a martial arts anime. Nothing could have prepared me for one of the single funniest anime I’ve ever seen. Hinamatsuri has some of the greatest comedic timing this year, and still managed to pack in beautifully-animated psychic fights and some ridiculously powerful emotional moments. I still have whiplash.
Fairy Tail Final Season - This marks the end of this legendary shonen and inevitable Fairy Tail-induced tears well up with every episode that inches slowly to the end. It may look like a victory lap on the surface, but the show is answering every burning question, fueling a fire in hearts, and cementing every reason why it’ll be missed.
As Miss Beelzebub Likes It. - As someone who doesn’t go out of their way to look for cute anime, I was pleasantly surprised at myself and this show for the effect it had on my well-being. It was my guiltiest and fluffiest pleasure of the year and I enjoyed how light, adorably cute, and heartwarming it was.
Attack on Titan - I’ve been holding off on watching this for as long as I could and I definitely regret holding back on it. I will note: I did become vegan for a month after watching the first episode. Now I’m left screaming at the screen and dissecting every moment. With stakes as real as they could get, and consistent losing, I live for the small but progressing wins in the neverending battle for humanity.
Food Wars! The Third Plate - The tables have turned and a new set of rules have left our favorite food orgasm inducers to fight for their survival despite an entire system against them. The creations only got more mouth watering and frankly so did the more visible presence of Joichiro-san. In all seriousness, Hayama-san’s betrayal and Erina’s heightened courage in front of her father was enough to induce a lot of stress eating. Next stop: the final showdown.
Mo Dao Zu Shi - Technically a donghua (Chinese Animation), and not traditional Japanese anime, this is BY FAR one of my favorite shows of the year. There’s magic, it takes place in ancient China, and there’s lots of zombie slaying. The character designs are gorgeous, the pacing and action are exceptionally well done, and there’s juuuuuuust enough romantic tension to keep my blood warm.
Banana Fish - I didn’t catch this manga when I was younger, but my roommate told me I was missing out. We started watching the anime, which entranced me with cool character designs and excellent pacing. I got impatient and read the manga (which is just as good, if not better than the anime), and cried my eyes out at the ending.
Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai - I thought I was going to hate this, and instead ended up loving it. The dialogue is fast-paced, which keeps otherwise off-color jokes from souring, and instead transforms them into witticisms worthy of a chuckle. It is fun, heartwarming, and a little nostalgic, but does a wonderful job of transforming those perceived insurmountable imperfections into challenges worth overcoming.
A Place Further Than The Universe - Great characters, wonderful development, original story line, dramatic without being overwrought, an improbable scenario without being impossible. It made me cry big, fat tears (I was alone, in my apartment, it was kind of sad honestly), but I loved the salty-clean feeling of relief and forgiveness that came after I finished the show.
Kakuriyo: Bed and Breakfast for Spirits - This is a great show that DID NOT get enough love. It was a bit of a guilty pleasure for me, but also great from a cooking blog perspective. Aoi, the main character, makes a lot of foods that are interesting and not pedantic. It’s definitely a slice of life, but has a main character that is steadfast in her determination to burn through the prejudice, anger, or sadness of those she meets through her cooking.
The Promised Neverland - I got into it this year and what an absolute treat! Having grown up on the slow pacing of the Big Three, this turned the Jump formulas all around. Excellent cast of characters, a condensed story, intrigue about the world, a constant wonder- this series had it all. Emma is the rare female shonen protagonist who is completely capable on her own terms, and every character is sharp. It’s worked its way to be one of my favorite Jump series, and I can’t wait for the anime.
Pop Team Epic - I genuinely looked forward to this every week. It’s so hard to describe how absolutely wild it is. It’s hard to describe what exactly Pop Team Epic is but it’s definitely some kind of an experience. Being able to catch all the many cultural references were always a fun game to play for every episode, as well as seeing what chaotic entities Popuko and Pipimi had to shove into our faces.
That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime - This caught me off guard because I really am not a fan of 99% of isekai. I’d passed this series off as silly because of the title but I was wrong. It’s still an isekai in its bones, but it combines having fun with having something to say- with a slime protag, of all things. I’m really excited to see more!
My Solo Exchange Diary - Nagata Kabi’s autobiographical work always cut me to the core. Her dealing with both depression and her seuxality with finding her place in the world really speaks to me. At the same time, it’s not a dismal story at all, but one that’s filled with hope. It’s about trying to find your way in the world and make do with what you have, and I think we can all relate to that.
Planet With - A series that squeezes 52 episodes' worth of story into a trim 12, Planet With is packed with honesty and heart. Few shows leave me with a feeling of hope for the future, but Planet With's relentless positivity and effortless heroism in the face of unspeakable tragedy speak to how fiction can embody the best aspects of humanity.
A Place Further than the Universe - Blurring the boundaries of the “cute girls doing cute things” subgenre, A Place Further than the Universe is a heartfelt (and sometimes heartbreaking) drama about coming to grips with loss while on a journey of self-discovery. Incidentally, any moe show that features the main cast becoming seasick barf-monsters for an entire episode is A+ material.
Umamusume: Pretty Derby - It's hard to imagine that a tie-in anime for an as-yet-unreleased smart phone game that's supposed to sell viewers on the glories of Japanese horse racing can also be so consistently entertaining and emotionally sincere, but that's just the sort of thing that makes Umamusume: Pretty Derby a dark horse candidate for pure viewing pleasure.
Cells at Work! - Equal parts hilarious and horrifying, Cells at Work! makes learning the basics of human biology fun, because it's nice to imagine that every individual part of my cellular anatomy is just as dorky, self-conscious, and occasionally inept as I am.
Pop Team Epic - Every so often, there comes a work of art that so overwhelms me with its beauty and its ugliness that it leaves a scar upon my soul. But enough about Devilman Crybaby, 2018 is also the year that gave us the inimitable, inscrutable anime adaptation of Bkub Okawa's Pop Team Epic, and no one's complaining (except you).
Liz and the Blue Bird - As an unlikely followup to a side story from Sound! Euphonium’s second season, Liz and the Blue Bird was basically guaranteed to have niche appeal. But even if you haven’t seen the show it’s spun off from, Liz is a stunning accomplishment in any right, a gorgeous expression of love composed by one of the greatest directors in anime. Beyond its overt beauty, Liz uses visuals and music to perfectly evoke the mental states of its heroines throughout, making it easy to get carried into their world. Liz is a perfect jewel of a film.
Violet Evergarden - This has certainly been a strong year for Kyoto Animation! Along with the stunning Liz, their full-length Evergarden took my breath away again and again, elevating a poignant melodrama with all the animated splendor and thoughtful visual storytelling you expect from this team. It feels like my favorite animation studio are somehow leveling up.
After the Rain - There are far too few dramas about actual adults facing realistic problems in anime, and After the Rain stands as a welcome and brilliantly executed counter to the trend. Equally sympathetic to its teenage heroine’s feelings of displacement and its middle-aged hero’s feelings of regret, After the Rain paints a thoughtful and sympathetic portrait of its melancholy leads from start to finish. More people need to check out this insightful and very pretty show!
Planet With - Satoshi Mizukami has long been one of my favorite mangaka, and so I was thrilled to see his work finally debuting on the small screen. The results don’t disappoint; Planet With is a wildly ambitious, creative, and emphatically humanist tale of interplanetary war, secret identities, and much else besides. Along with providing some of the most thoughtful human insights of the anime year, it’s probably also the only show this year to feature a space general in a giant cat suit.
March comes in like a lion - March has stood among the best anime dramas for three straight years now, and the conclusion of its second season was an absolute triumph. Having slowly and compassionately articulated Rei’s journey from depression to genuine self-love, the show was at last able to extend its focus outwards, and celebrate the journeys of all the people Rei has come to care for. From its vivid visual embellishments and keen psychological insight to its great empathy for all its characters, March was a wonderful experience this year, and a show I’ll dearly miss.
A Place Further Than the Universe - The heartfelt story about four girls’ spectacular journey to Antarctica is not only my personal anime of the year; it also managed to secure itself a spot among my all-time favorite shows. Add highly-likeable characters, a great soundtrack, as well as gorgeous visuals to an excellent story, and you have one of the most well-crafted anime in recent years.
Laid-Back Camp - Laid-Back Camp accomplished the feat of making camping out alone in the cold look extremely enticing. Its cozy atmosphere, light humor, and the simply gorgeous-to-look-at backgrounds always made me want to grab my tent, and head out to the great outdoors after each episode.
Harukana Receive - This was a perfect fit for this year’s summer anime season, getting us in the summer spirit with a whole season of nothing but beach volleyball in tropical Okinawa. On top of its vibrant visuals, the show also had a great upbeat soundtrack.
ZOMBIE LAND SAGA - The series’s vagueposting approach to publicity was as interesting as it was risky, but none of us could have been prepared for undead idols finding closure while Mamoru Miyano yells a lot. The back half of the series was especially good, touching on everything from personal identity to the spiral of depression. And in spite of all that heavy stuff mixed in, it brought me so much joy.
Lupin the 3rd Part 5 - I will always be a sucker for new Lupin, but there was something extra special about this season. Maybe it was the no-fear approach to action balanced out with the characters staying in-character, a dichotomy the franchise sometimes fumbles. Maybe it was just how deeply important the characters’ intelligence was, to the point of reminding us that Lupin is no mental slouch. Or maybe it was the callback filler episodes. At the moment, probably my favorite of the many Lupins.
Pop Team Epic - From a news standpoint, this series was a disaster to cover because we never knew the truth from the troll. Watching as a fan, and one with very little experience with the 4koma, was delightful. The cultural references were on point, and Norio Wakamoto made his way onto the cast list at least five episodes earlier than expected.
And that's a wrap for Part One! Be sure to tune in at the same time tomorrow for Part Two, where we share our favorite VIDEO GAMES of 2018! If you're in the mood for more CR Favorites, here are the links to past years' features:
What were your favorite anime and manga of 2018? Remember, this is a FAVORITES list, not a BEST-OF list, so there are no wrong answers--sound off in the comments and share your favorites!