I started watching and writing up the Persona 5 special, but it’s so long (about fifty minutes), so I’ll just save that for tomorrow. Let’s do a quick recap of the year instead. So how should I do this? Well, let’s get the boring stuff out of the way, i.e. stats about the blog. I’ve written nearly 700 posts, and for whatever reason, you guys provided the blog with nearly a million views this year. Likewise, I’ve written nearly a million words. This is a far cry from the heydays of 2014, but I’m thankful either way. Of course, it does feel as though time has passed for anime blogs. I certainly don’t get anywhere as many views as I did three or four years ago. Then again, I have to take some responsibility in that: I don’t think my writing is as good as it was three or four years ago. But there are always trade-offs in life. Back in 2014 and early 2015 — y’know, when the blog peaked — I had more time. I covered more shows. I threw myself wholeheartedly into blogging. Nowadays, I spend nine hours at work, two more hours commuting back and forth, and of course, there are personal matters that I have to take care of. As a result, I’m just not watching as much anime as I used to. But maybe it’s better this way. I usually burned out pretty quick in previous stints, but this time, I intend to continue blogging indefinitely. At some point, I will have to call it quits for good, but it won’t be in 2019 (knock on wood). Anyways, these are the top five most popular posts of the year:
- DARLING in the FRANXX Ep. 24 (Final): Uh…
- Record of Grancrest War Ep. 4: Who the hell is Sir Neyman?
- Sword Art Online Ep. 24: Rape Art Online
- Killing Bites Ep. 12 (Final): Why can’t this show just go away quietly?
- DARLING in the FRANXX Ep. 17: Forbidden love
As disappointing as DARLING in the FRANXX was, it certainly raked in the views. And honestly, my blog almost looked like it was returning to the good ol’ days during the show’s run. But as you can plainly see, none of the top five posts were actually about shows that I loved. That has always been the main problem with blogging. The shows that I’m passionate about? Their posts almost never get any attention. The shows that are super bad or just plain disappointments? Huge amount of views. Hell, that old ass SAO post will never die. Every year, it shows up in the top five. As for Record of Grancrest War, it turned out that I wasn’t the only person who had no goddamn clue who Sir Neyman was. If you Google Sir Neyman, that post is the first result on the list. So uh, thanks for that, I guess. Last but not least, there’s nothing remarkable about Killing Bites. The only reason why the post about its finale got so many views is because of degenerates looking up Yoko’s unfortunate fate.
So where do most of my readers hail from? Here are the top five countries:
- United States (obviously)
- United Kingdom
I don’t really have much commentary to offer here. I’m not exactly sure why I have Brazilian or Indonesian readers, but there you go. Alright, let’s talk about some anime.
Did a horror series even come out this year? Ooh, right… there was the painful Junji Ito Collection. I think that would go better under the “Biggest Disappointment” category. Yamishibai also got a sequel in the summer, but it was nothing to write home about. I guess you could argue that Mahou Shoujo Site belongs in the horror category, but it’s more trashy than horror. Happy Sugar Life could’ve delivered on the psychological horror front, but I actually found it kinda dull. Kinda over tortured too. Other than those shows, I can think of any other horror series.
I also think that the screenshot above perfectly captures why Junji Ito Collection was so bad.
Hinamatsuri is a strong contender, but it often wants to tug at your heartstrings whenever Anzu is onscreen. Sorry, but I came here to laugh and not cry. So at the end of the day, I’m going to have to go with the absurd and sometimes raunchy humor in Asobi Asobase.
For a medium that often shies away from even hand-holding, a few sex jokes somehow becomes a breath of fresh air. There were other shows that proved to be quite popular with anime fans, but I never got the appeal of them. Grand Blue and Chio’s School Road. The latter had its moments, but I found the former to be thoroughly unfunny from start to finish. Pop Team Epic was amusing for maybe an episode.
For me, if you’re going to be my favorite romance series of the year, then you gotta have a happy ending. That might not be true for you, but it sure as hell is true for me. As a result, a bittersweet ending like the one in Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara is a complete non-starter. To be fair, even if things had worked out for Hitomi and Yuito, I don’t think the show would’ve won anyways. So what else, what else…? After the Rain (Koi wa Ameagari no Yo ni) has my respect, but I don’t really see it as a romance anime. Sure, Akira tries to win her manager’s heart, but for me, the show is really about her growth and recovery. Romance was a distraction. Boarding School Juliet (Kishuku Gakko no Juliet) is definitely not a contender. High Score Girl is really, really good, so it sucks that few people got to watch it (thanks Netflix). But at the same time, it feels unfinished, especially on the romantic front. I can’t pick Kakuriyo no Yadomeshi ’cause Aoi didn’t pick anybody! It’s funny, ’cause she only had two pretty boys to choose from. In a lot of similar shows (e.g. Phantom in the Twilight), the heroine would find herself flanked on all sides by hot guys. Aoi had only two people gunning for her heart, but she came nowhere close to going with either of them. Wotakoi featured two nerdy couples, but it just didn’t work for me. Hanako and Taro fought all the time, and it always felt like Narumi settled for Hirotaka and had to convince herself over time that she actually liked him. Screw that. Neither of those relationships seemed healthy. I’m sure I’m missing a show or two, but if I can’t remember them off the top of my head, then they obviously don’t deserve to win. I guess I just have to go with the mediocre Tada Never Falls in Love.
High Score Girl is superior to it in almost every way, but… if I just want to watch a heartwarming story of a couple falling in love and sealing the deal with a kiss, then Tada Never Falls in Love wins out. Plus, I’m a sucker for leitmotifs, and the show executed this well.
Uh, this is gonna be hard. There wasn’t exactly a plethora mecha series to choose from. I guess DARLING in the FRANXX technically counts, but that show also dipped its foot in the romance genre (which I failed to mention up above). But don’t worry, because DARLING in the FRANXX will get its own special section. Other than SSSS.GRIDMAN, I can’t really think of any other mecha series that I watched this year. Oh, I guess there was Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory, but unfinished stories bug me. I wish it would’ve just gotten a full two-cour experience rather than prolonging our wait even further. Plus, this is purely subjective (like the rest of this post so I don’t know why I even bothered to mention this), but I think it has some of the ugliest mecha designs in anime.
So I guess SSSS.GRIDMAN wins by default? Oh wait, there was also Planet With… nah, I’m still gonna give it to SSSS.GRIDMAN.
Favorite Sports Anime
It’s gotta be Megalobox.
It can only be Megalobox. I don’t even think the show ended as well as it could’ve. I actually find the final fight between Joe and Yuri to be a bit of a letdown. Nevertheless, the show manages to toe the fine line between the sport of boxing and the related character drama. You can’t just have nothing but the sport. Otherwise, you end up becoming one of those super boring and super generic baseball anime series that is all about (old school) baseball strategies and nothing else. You also can’t overdo the character drama or you end up becoming Hanebado. Speaking of which, our favorite badminton anime could’ve been a contender, but its penchant for over-the-top drama quickly descended into farce. I’ll also never forgive the show for doing Ayano so dirty. She gets bullied relentlessly, and abandoned over and over by her heartless mother. Not once did she get her moment of glory. Screw that. Then you have weird shows like Harukana Receive where apparently one half of the population just flat-out doesn’t exist. No, seriously. Go watch that show. See if you can spot a single male character. Like I don’t mind it all if you give me an all-male or an all-female cast as long as they go to, say, a private academy. But we’re talking about Okinawa! Anyways, I didn’t watch the latest offering from Free! and I quickly lost interest in Tsurune. KyoAni and sports just don’t work for me. Likewise, Run with the Wind completely lost me. I also don’t think the show is very realistic about getting complete newbies off the couch and running. I’m surprised that the Prince hadn’t seriously hurt himself in the episodes that I watched.
I mean, is it even possible for me to have a favorite isekai? It’s like the genre for manchildren. Dissatisfied with your life? Boy, have we got a harem just waiting for you in another world! And don’t worry, because you’ll instantly become the most overpowered bastard that the world has ever known! Of course, SAO is the granddaddy of the 2018 shows, but it’s funny to watch Alicization try its darndest to tone down Kirito and his powers. Neither How Not to Summon a Demon Lord nor Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody shied away from that. What I always find truly hard to swallow about these shows is just the sheer number of sycophants and bootlickers surrounding the main character. I’ll never understand the appeal of Overlord, and as a result, That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime suffers by extension. It’s just gross. At the end of the day, there are no real winners here.
Just the least bad. Here’s your consolation prize, SAO Alternative: Gun Gale Online.
Kind of a barren field this year. You have the much-loved Steins;Gate 0, but it didn’t do anything for me. I got frustrated with the story’s pacing. Sure, the show ultimately enhances my understanding of the original series, but it didn’t answer any questions that I was desperate to have answered. Y’know what? I don’t really wanna name a winner. A proper sci-fi story should scratch that hard science itch, and I don’t feel as though any of the 2018 shows even come close to succeeding on that front.
Eh, you have My Hero Academia Season 3, which is standard shounen fare. It’s like a batter batting .270 or whatever. Perfectly serviceable, but nothing to write home about (yes, I know about advanced stats but I don’t want to over-complicate the analogy). I wanted a shounen series to follow from the very beginning, and MHA served that purpose. That’s all it is. As for other shows, Goblin Slayer wouldn’t be bad if you could ignore the flat characters and the sexual violence. SSSS.GRIDMAN has some action, but the battles against the kaiju never felt like the main focus of the series. Each conflict would wrap itself up by the end of the episode, so I just don’t see the show as having an action focus. And again, there’s Planet With, but I honestly just want to forget that show. I consider Garo – Vanishing Line to be a 2017 show, but even if it counted, it wouldn’t have won this category anyways. Sigh, I guess I’ll just give it to Deku and his boys.
Sure, there are girls in his class, but they sure as hell don’t see nearly as much action as they should.
This one is obvious: DARLING in the FRANXX. Nothing but DARLING in the FRANXX. The first fifteen episodes were so goo–… okay, let’s not go crazy. Even before the show jumped the shark, it was definitely still an acquired taste. Nevertheless, it managed to check off so many boxes for me. Cheesy humor, dedicated romance between the two leads, some mecha action, some catchy tunes, social commentary scattered here and there, a teasing mystery to uncover, so on and so forth. Then VIRM happened.
Aliens. Aliens in my goddamn anime again. Aliens wanting to enslave every species under its hive mind again. Not only that, the writers got mad lazy. Oh no, Hiro and Zero-Two got separated from each other, and they need their friends’ help to reunite! Oh no, they got separated again! Help us again, you guys. Oh no, even though Hiro is literally flying inside a giant mecha Zero-Two, he has somehow emotionally separated himself from his darling. Gosh, I hope his friends can hold hands and pray for him and Zero-Two from millions of light-years away! I can’t believe a studio could look over this script and approve it, and especially after such a decent start! What is wrong with you guys? No, seriously, what is wrong with you guys?
What were some other disappointments? Eh, Violet Evergarden got pretty silly in the last few episodes. And like always, Trigger couldn’t help triggering itself with SSSS.GRIDMAN. I didn’t really expect much going into Seishun Buta Yarou, but the show still managed to let me down after the Mai episodes. Persona 5 The Animation obviously wasn’t stellar.
Favorite Drama and Thus My Favorite Show of the Year
At the end of the day, I live for drama. No matter the genre, it can’t elevate itself in my eyes if it doesn’t have compelling drama. This is why my favorite sports anime of all time is Ping Pong. And this year, it’s really no contest. The only show that deserves the top spot in my eyes is A Place Further Than the Universe.
Not only that, it was also my biggest surprise of the year. A show about four cute girls do a thing and I actually end up liking it? A show where the premise is about four high schoolers planning to visit Antarctica, and I actually buy it (kinda)? A Place Further Than the Universe was just special, man. When Shirase logged onto her mother’s laptop and saw all those unread emails that she had sent, I turned into a huge blubbering mess. It’s rare when an anime can evoke that kind of feeling from me. Good animation, good soundtrack, solid direction — overall just a great show. Its biggest “flaw” is the fact that it aired in the very first three months of the year. As a result, it’s been nothing but downhill since then. As an slight aside, it was kinda weird that all four girls had straight bangs.
There were shows that could’ve dethroned A Place Further Than the Universe. Violet Evergarden started out strong, and I honestly thought that perhaps KyoAni could finally pull everything together and just execute. Unfortunately, the latter third of the series really let me down. You already know my complaints about DARLING in the FRANXX. High Score Girl has great interpersonal moments, but ironically enough, the video game stuff isn’t as strong. It ends up being a distraction. Whenever Haruo drones on and on about his favorite games, I just want to go, “Yeah, sure, but let’s get back to you and Akira!” Some people would put Hisone to Masotan at the top of their lists, but I found its world-building far too lacking. The ending also kinda sucked. I gave Revue Starlight two episodes before throwing in the towel. Just not my cup of tea.
Finally, like I had mentioned earlier, I respect the hell out of After the Rain. I think it has an amazing direction (the same direction that The Ancient Magus’ Bride sorely lacked). But it can’t be my favorite, because I couldn’t love the subject matter. I couldn’t love characters. They’re perfectly flawed human beings just trying to stumble their way through life and life’s many complications, but I just can’t get behind the idea of a middle-aged man not shutting down a high school girl’s advances completely. Like what are you doing, my dude? And although A Place Further Than the Universe is hardly perfect, I have no major complaints about the show. None at all.
I think I covered mostly everything that I wanted to cover. Sure, there are a lot of the shows that I didn’t mention, but like everyone, I have my blindspots. I can’t watch everything. I don’t want to watch everything. Everything can’t possibly appeal to me. I barely touched that camping show. The first episode put me right to sleep. I did end up watching Yagate Kimi ni Naru, but I don’t consider myself qualified to write about LGBT relationships. It’s not a space where I would want to offer my two cents. This is why it hasn’t come up once on the blog. Sure, I blogged about Banana Fish, but the romance between Ash and Eiji is so subtle at times that it almost feels like an afterthought. Last but not least, I had originally wanted to write about the games I had played this year, but as you can see, this post is long enough. Well, if you’re curious, Dragon Quest XI was my game of the year, and I think it’s criminally underrated. The fact that anyone would give best RPG to Monster Hunter World over DQXI is insane. I also replayed Bloodborne, and that’s still my favorite Soulsborne.
Alright, see you guys in 2019.