By Heather Nichols, Tawfik Zone Contributor
Hey guys, 2018 was the year we decided to invest in some great anime streaming services (thank you VRV). I figured it was time to give my personal top 10 picks of the year. Also this might be the time to announce that in 2019 I am planning on launching an anime Podcast based off of my panel at Connecticon 2018, “Anime That Changed the Game.” Stay tuned for more details. Now for this list it’s just my personal picks of the year, they’re not necessarily worthy of critical acclaim or what I would classify as game changing- though I will specify if they are since a couple of them would make the cut. For a series to qualify it had to premiere in 2018; sequels and new seasons of continuing series do not count and we’re counting this by Japanese release date, not American air date. Also I haven’t seen every single series that came out so if it looks like I missed a pretty cool one, feel free to leave a comment with your recommendation. Alright so here we go!
10. Hataraku Saibou (Cells at Work!)
Episodes: 13, 23 minutes per episode
Genres: Comedy, Shounen
Full disclosure, I haven’t had the chance to finish this series yet which is why I have to put it at number 10. Purists may cringe but I actually stopped because I wanted to wait for the dub to finish before watching this one. The premise is pretty neat; it’s a depiction of the inner workings of the human body starring a red and white blood cell. Viruses are appropriately depicted as these creepy alien invaders and platelets look like kindergartners, so cute. If you remember that movie Osmosis Jones from the 90s, it’s like that but more anime if that makes sense. Clever and comedic. I’m looking forward to getting the chance to finish this one.
9. Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san (Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles)
Episodes: 12, 22 minutes per episode
Genres: Comedy, Slice of Life
This is a total guilty pleasure pick. Koizumi-san is a sub-genre of anime referred to as “cute girls doing cute things.” Typically these aren’t valued for their depth or character development. The plot is incredibly simple. Ms. Koizumi’s favorite food is ramen and each episode depicts another of her favorite ramen joints. Oh and one of her classmates seems to have a thing for her and follows her to said ramen places and then more cute girls start eating ramen. Yeah it sounds dumb, so why did it make the list? The sequences with broken English and German are hilarious. I give voice actress Ayana Taketatsu props, she really made the character fun. Also found out there’s a lot of ramen in Hawaii so more incentive to go, haha.
8. Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san (Teasing Master Takagi-san)
Episodes: 12, 23 minutes per episode
Genres: Romance, Comedy, School, Slice of Life, Shounen
Most of the time anime is known for being weird, but sometimes a series comes along that’s just super wholesome and a gem of the slice of life genre. Which gave us Takagi-san, about two school kids Takagi and Nishikata and their constant trying to one up each other with a better prank. With Takagi being the master of this and always 5 steps ahead of Nishikata. Cute, simple, a feel good show reminiscent of childhood memories.
7. Tensei Shitara Slime Datta Ken (That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime)
Episodes: 24, 23 minutes per episode
Genres: Fantasy, Shounen
Back to what you usually think of when someone says anime, a fantasy adventure that takes place in a world outside of our own. The set up for this one is a little dark for such a light hearted series. 37-year-old human Satoru Mikami is killed on his way to work one day and in his dying breath hopes to be reincarnated as “someone cool, like a wizard or great sage.” Next thing he knows he wakes up in a RPG like world as a slime monster, an incredibly overpowered one at that. And so begins the adventures of Rinmaru Tempest. This series has not yet finished and will continue in 2019.
6. Ninja Batman
Feature Film: 1 hr 25 minutes
Genres: Action, Martial Arts, Samurai
So the anime community on the whole has found Hollywood adaptations of anime to be underwhelming to say it nicely. We won’t even mention that “thing” Netflix barfed out and tried to label as “Death Note,” we’ll see about Alita in the coming months… So Ninja Batman is interesting because this reverses that concept with an American property getting the anime treatment. It delivers in the way that a Jim Dandy sundae delivers everything you could possibly want on your ice cream and as many calories as it takes to break your suggested daily allotment. It’s got Batman working with a ninja clan that worships a legendary Bat-Shogun who is said to come from another world and save feudal Japan. Batman becomes said shogun, oh and there’s a giant mecha fight. It’s fanfiction quality, and you can tell the team behind it just had a whole lot of fun working on this project.
5. Hinamatsuri (Hina Festival)
Episodes: 12, 23 minutes per episode
Genres: Comedy, Supernatural, Sci-Fi, Slice of Life, Seinen
This show caught me off guard. The trailer did a good job of peaking your interest but then the actual show was just so earnest and fun with a very anime premise. One night, a strange object falls on the head of Nitta, a member of the yakuza. Inside the box is a strange young girl named Hina. She has tremendous supernatural powers, and Nitta finds himself reluctantly taking her in. So Nitta ends up becoming a father figure for Hina and heartwarming comedy ensues. It’s a show that hits a bunch of high notes especially in terms of character development and character relationships. Highly recommended.
4. Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda-san (Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san)
Episodes: 12, 11 minutes per episode
Genres: Slice of Life, Comedy
A delightful series from the Fall season which no one saw coming. Based on a manga based on the author’s actual life when he worked as a clerk at a bookstore, the skeletons are avatars for the author and all of his co-workers. The show follows their day to day activities working in a Japanese bookstore, hilarity ensues. The show is also clever and brings up some interesting aspects of Japanese culture- such as the difference between how there is a difference in Japan between Gay Romance Books and Boy Love. While these sound like the same genre, they are not. Think of a high budget Biopic versus a Lifetime movie- this is the level of difference between those two genres. Also another great sampling of some hilarious Engrish scenes.
3. Poputepipikku (Pop Team Epic)
Episodes: 12, 12 minutes per episode (with a rebroadcast of each with different voice actors)
Genres: Comedy, Parody, Dementia
The best way to describe this is “internet memes” the anime. This was also one of my featured series for Anime That Changed the Game. Adapted from a 4-koma or 4-panel manga, think Sunday morning comic strips- it follows the exploits of Popuko and Pipimin through different sketch comedy pieces. With pop culture references from video games, other anime and even a parody of Earth Wind and Fire’s Let’s Groove Tonight; it’s a series that’s a whole lot of fun.
2. Mahou Shoujo Ore (Magical Girl Man)
Episodes: 12, 23 minutes per episode
Genres: Comedy, Fantasy, Magic
I’m surprised this series wasn’t received as well by the anime community on the whole only scoring a 6.7 on My Anime List. Admittedly it did take about 3 episodes to really get the whole set up going, but once it did it so delivered. The series is also very LBGT friendly like in a progressive way that doesn’t feel like pandering. Okay so you’ve got you protagonist who has a crush on a guy, well the guy likes her in her man form but doesn’t realize it’s the same person, then the protagonist’s best friend is hard core crushing on her and doesn’t care if she’s a girl or in Ore form. Hooray for love triangle equality. Simultaneously displaying and deconstructing some of the biggest anime tropes, a commentary on the idol industry as a whole- it just feels like a giant love letter written to those anime fans who are approaching their 30s and older. It will leave you wondering what Mahiro’s song was all about with lyrics including, “I don’t really like carrots, but I like them better then cellophane tape.” The world may never know…
1. Miira no Kaikata (How to Keep a Mummy)
Episodes: 12, 24 minutes per episode
Genres: Comedy, Slice of Life, Supernatural We made it to my favorite series of the year. Oh my god I can’t get over how cute this show is. Another one with a very simple set up, our protagonist’s father is an archaeologist and sends a mummy home for him to take care of. But since this is anime the mummy is pint sized and absolutely adorable. Oh and he barks. Like a puppy. SQUEEEEE. The series is cute in a feel good way and features some other adorable critters such as a baby ogre, a dragon and a baku. Baku is a Japanese dream eater for those who have never heard of them. My only complaint is the show gets really dark in the end of the second to last episode just to give a cliffhanger that gets resolved in the first 2 minutes of the finale and then it’s back to being cute. It was just an odd curve ball to throw in there at the last minute. Granted there were some hints at darker things having happened in the human character’s pasts but it feels more forced than a plot twist. Otherwise it’s a fun show, the characters are likable and you just feel happy when you watch it. It’s a good escape from the daily grind.