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More important than the Oscars, the Grammys, and the Havelock, North Carolina Chili Cookoff combined is the Anime Awards. It's that wonderful time when we can look over the past year of anime and bestow honors upon the ones that most touched our hearts. And with them looming ever closer, we asked some of y'all to give us your hot takes on who YOU think should take the trophy in some of the categories. And you didn't disappoint. Your answers ranged from surprising to thoughtful to inspired, so we decided to collect the twelve best of them and post them here for the rest of the internet to love and appreciate and then, as the internet does, nitpick into oblivion.
I'm gonna go down category by category, and what better category to start with than the big one: Best Anime.
"Yorimoi for AOTY" by Cameron (A Place Farther Than The Universe)
A Place Further Than The Universe was the best anime of the year. It was the best anime by far and no other show came even close. There were plenty of other shows I loved this year like Laid-back Camp and Revue Starlight but none of those shows compare to the good good Antarctica girls. The show teaches amazing lessons and made me cry many times. The email scene at the end of episode 12 made me cry for hours and I still tear up every time I think about it. It's just genuinely one of the best shows I've ever seen. This is my new go-to recommendation for people who want to get into anime. Their adventure is so inspiring and it deserves anime of the year.
"Devilman: Crybaby" by Manic Stylo (Devilman Crybaby)
It's been almost universally accepted by both formalist and populist anime fans that Devilman Crybaby has the qualities of an instant classic. From its unique visual direction, infectious soundtrack, and unrelenting use of adult content, Devilman Crybaby breathes new life into Go Nagai's classic manga and beautifully streamlines it for a contemporary audience. Remaining mostly faithful to its source material, director Masaaki Yuasa's sensibility for abstract and avant-garde visuals makes for a delightfully nightmarish fever-dream adaptation of Nagai's original concept (it's a match made in heaven...or hell in this case). As far as adult anime go, Crybaby is consistently balanced fare with uncompromisingly violent action for anyone who just wants a fun romp, solid thematic undertones for those who want more bite out of their shows, and tastefully implemented real-world commentary if you want more than just escapism. A hyper-stylized modern gothic masterpiece, whether it worked for you or not, Devilman Crybaby will not leave your subconscious any time soon.
"Zombies But Still Alive" by Jouii-chan (ZOMBIE LAND SAGA)
2018 has been quite the year for anime. It's my first year that I've been watching and keeping up with seasonal anime with Crunchyroll! But one show stood out to me, and that show was Zombie Land Saga. For the first few episodes, I was pretty doubtful about the series. I mean, an idol anime with zombie girls? That was just plain crazy!
But as the show went on, I realized Zombie Land Saga was more than some silly comedy show. It was beauty. All the characters had great chemistry, and the music was great. It got me addicted to it with it's great music too. The best part of the show was how it showed the indomitable human spirit and how even through the toughest of storms, anyone can prevail. Sakura provided a great lead with her past sucking her of all her confidence, yet she overcomes this to lead Franchouchou to a great future. Zombie Land Saga was one of the surprises of 2018, and I was always hyped to watch the new episodes when they came out.
"I Would Lay Down My Life For Toono Hiyori" by Nija (Free! -Dive to the Future-)
200 words definitely aren't enough to properly convey my intense love and appreciation for my everything, the light of my life, the absolute blessing that is Toono Hiyori from Free! but I'M STILL GONNA TRY because he deserves everything. Starting out as a fun antagonist, turning into a slightly confusing antagonist, and then ep. 6 hits you with that ABSOLUTE GUT-PUNCH and I weep for him always. He did some things wrong (though I understand why he did them and wouldn't say I necessarily disagree tbh) but in the end he's just a lonely boy giving everything for the person he cares about the most without ever asking anything in return. Less important but still Important things include: he's a jerk sometimes and I love it. His frenemyship with Asahi? The funniest thing. He can and will ruin your life with a smile, he loves reading and coffee and has a really good fashion sense, he's very organised and on top of things, even if he's a social mess lbr... And if he likes you, he'll probably kill for you. All in all he's just the best and you, person who's reading this entry, should know that too. Bless his soul.
"Katsuki Bakugo, A Living, Breathing Explosion" by Mimi Valentine (My Hero Academia)
Katsuki Bakugo is easily one of the most dynamic characters of the year. Starting with his complicated relationship with Izuku, his hidden jealousy for a boy with no quirk, to outright anger at him suddenly having a quirk, to the rejecting the trope of "rival becomes evil for greater power," to confessing his feelings of inferiority towards Izuku, and the intense self blame for what happened to All Might. Katsuki has always shown that he has this heart, from treating Uraraka as his equal in the torunament, to fully acknowledging Izuku's growth ans strength. Seeing his slow dismantle from just a typical bully to a hidden broken boy only to show you that under all that anger, he's truly just a boy who wants to be a hero.
There were a lot of good boys this year, but who was the goodest? The undoubtedly most delicious smudge-muffin in existence?
My answer is Rimuru Tempest and here's why:
He is the kindest ball of squidge you could ever meet. He would stop and help anyone in need at the drop of a hat. In his previous life he DIED saving his kohai from an attacker and he would do it again.
He is adorable. How could you take one look at his face (or lack there of) and not fall in love instantly with this soft boy? Not only is he soft in his ball form but once he grants the wish of a dear friend, he becomes the ultimate soft boy. One you could probably hug endlessly and both of you would still be comfortable.
He is the definition of epic. One of the first things he does with his new life is befriend and EAT a dragon. He ate him, whole. Then he proceeded to eat everything else in the cave. If you hurt one of friends he'll eat you too! Not before he beats you in a hilariously and awesomely one sided combat sequence though.
BEST FIGHT SCENE
"SSSS. Gridman's True Final Battle" by Donovan Bertch (SSSS. Gridman)
The greatest part about SSSS.Gridman's final battle wasn't the sheer amount of quality animation and editing on display. It wasn't the satisfaction of seeing Gridman finally return to his original form, theme songs blaring, as he finally decked the villainous Alexis Kerib in his smug face. It wasn't even finding out what the hell SSSS actually meant in the end. All of those were wonderful moments that made the fight shine, to be sure. However, the greatest part was that when all was said and done, the fight wasn't Gridman vs. Alexis Kerib. It was the show's antagonist, Akane Shinjo, vs. Herself. Her sins, her insecurities, her self-hatred...it took a lot of effort, and it wasn't a total victory (given that Akane's final scene with Rikka shows her still processing her guilt), but few things are that simple. Even when the heroes came to encourage her, it was Akane who made the final choice that led to Kerib's downfall. Gridman may have landed the final strike and had the big speech about human potential, but Akane Shinjo defeated Alexis Kerib and saved her world. The action-packed duel was just icing on the cake.
BEST VA PERFORMANCE (EN)
In one of the most emotionally stirring episodes of the entire series, we finally see all of Bakugo's pent-up anger come to a boil in this what could be considered a huge turning point for his character development. As a character who is known for his angry outbursts, this episode let us have some insight into Bakugo's inferiority complex and really reminded us just how young and emotionally immature these upcoming heroes are, and yet how much responsibility is weighing on their shoulders. With such an important milestone for a character like Bakugo, the voice acting in this episode was critical. Clifford Chapin gave an extremely raw and powerful performance that truly echoed Bakugo's pain; a performance that exceeded expectations of even those who don't normally give dubs a try. It was real, emotionally-charged, and could be considered a landmark for just how far english dubs have come.
My Hero Academia fans sure are spoiled with a fantastic same-day English simuldub in addition to everything we already love about the series! With great casting overall by ADR Director Colleen Clinkenbeard, Chapin's take on Bakugo is one of the highlights. He's consistently been such a natural fit for the role that I can't imagine anyone else voicing him, and always seems to give 110%. Season 3 has been no exception with some key moments to really shine, including a fan-favorite emotional confrontation. His vocal cords would probably disagree, but I'm definitely glad he's a part of one of my favorite anime from 2018.
BEST OPENING SEQUENCE
"Fighting Gold" is an intro I was honestly excited for long before it was even announce. I may be slightly biased as a manga fan and long time Jojo fan but in all honesty "Fighting Gold" is really a masterpiece in my opinion. It highlights the series so well with plenty of hidden spoilers as most Jojo intros have had before it telling the story perfectly if you break it down. It is an intro I will honestly never try to skip to get to the anime itself faster.
I would not be surprised to see SSSS.Gridman represented in quite a few categories this year, but its direction is where the show truly shines as one of the best of 2018. Akira Amemiya and Studio Trigger juxtapose the understated, day-to-day activities of our heroes with glorious, city-destroying kaiju battles without ever being jarring. However, that doesn't mean the former is only viewed though a mundane lens while the latter are just beautiful hype machines. Character moments have just as much flair as any fight with dynamic framing, art, and sound design, while tokusatsu battles are given so much attention to detail with how the kaiju move to pay homage to the live-action shows the team grew up with. Amemiya has a confident sense of visual language, and it shows every episode. SSSS.Gridman is subtle when it needs to be and bombastic when it wants to be, which is not an easy task to pull off.