Winter 2020 Season Guide (Updating)

Koishikawa in the Morning after a Snowfall, Hokusai, c.1830-1835

It’s right up there in the site description: Purveyors of Fine Anime Reviews and Ratings Since 2010. That means 2020 will be our tenth year in operation. A decade might as well be a century on the interwebs, and all we can say is we’ve been both blessed and cursed with the time and the means to do this as a hobby for so long.

We’ve watched a lot of shows in the last decade—the 100 best of which we’ll probably be posting listicles for in due time—but before that, it’s time to do our thing we do when the current season is around half-over: present the shows we’ve penciled in for viewing next season, which will also mark Decade Number Two.

Those shows are below. We’ll update this list as we add or drop shows. Leave any recommendations you might have in the comments and we’ll take them under advisement!

RABUJOI STAFF

LAST UPDATED 18 Nov 2019

Braverade

Fate/Grand Order: Zettai Majuu Sensen Babylonia (Fall Carryover)
Infinite Dendrogram

Kuutei Dragons
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T


sesameacrylic

Chihayafuru 3 (Fall Carryover)
A3! Season Spring & Summer
Dorohedoro
Eizouken ni wa Te wo Dasu na!
Rikei ga Koi ni Ochita no de Shoumei shitemita.


MagicalChurlSukui

Darwin’s Game
ID:Invaded
Isekai Quartet 2nd Season
Kyokou Suiri
Magia Record: Mahou Shoujo Madoka☆Magica Gaiden

Passing on PSYCHO-PASS 3

You may have noticed that there was no review for PSYCHO-PASS 3’s first episode. That’s no accident—after watching most of the double-length episode, I decided I wasn’t going to be picking up the show this Fall. There are three primary rationales for that decision:

1. Timing

Sometimes once I’m in a season groove, even a show I was planning to watch falls through the cracks simply because it was the last one out of the gate. I’m not sure why PP3 aired 3-4 weeks later than all the other shows, but I only tend to review 3-4 shows a season, and I’m content with the four shows I’ve already got—SAO:A-WU, Fate/Grand Order ADF-B, No Guns Life and Vinland Saga.

2. Substance

Don’t get me wrong: PP3 is one of if not the overall best-looking shows of the Fall season, with little expense spared in upping the futuristic setting and all of the fancy societal technology. But as I watched the show, I became more and more aware of the fact that the show didn’t really have that much more going for it than the occasional eye candy.

I’d normally give a show another week or two to prove my initial impressions wrong, but again, we’re now technically four weeks into the season, and this was a double episode (as all eight episodes will be), and often felt sluggish and even tired, as if this whole Psycho-Pass thing might just have run its natural course.

3. Akane

This might be the biggest reason I’m not moving forward. As you can probably tell by my avatar, Tsunemori Akane is one of my favorite anime characters, just as Hanazawa Kana one of my favorite seiyus. I enjoyed watching the character evolve through two strong seasons and a movie.

I had reservations about a threequel when I learned it would focus on neither Akane nor Mika, but on two new male characters. When neither of them stood out as anything special whatsoever, those reservations were validated.

Anime needs more characters like Akane—not fewer, and her virtual absence from this episode felt like a massive void in the proceedings. She certainly deserved better than being consigned to voice-over exposition duty at the beginning and end of the episode—she doesn’t even speak out loud!

Mika is the new chief now, but I never liked her as much as Akane, and it looks to be a minor role for her in PP3. Will Akane (or Mika) actually end up playing larger roles in the next seven episodes? Perhaps, but I doubt it; Akane isn’t even on the promo art, where Arata and Kei are front and center while Mika’s off in the background.

This isn’t to dissuade anyone from watching the show; I’m not trying to go all #NotMyPsychoPass here. I respect the show’s desire to go in a different direction with some new points of view—I’m just not going to be following them down that particular road.—Braverade

Summer 2019 Anime, Ranked.

With the exception of Fire Force’s twelfth episode, we’ve wrapped up our coverage of the Summer 2019 season, which is just as well since we’re technically in the second week of Autumn.

Between Braverade, sesameacrylic and MagicalChurlSukui we watched and reviewed eleven shows in all (plus additional coverage from Oigakkosan, not detailed here), totaling 132 episodes, or approximately 53 hours. Without further math, here’s how we ranked those shows, and why. Break out the thesaurus!

11. HenSuki

RABUJOI Score: 7.00/10 MAL Score: 6.83/10

Pros: Novel premise, colorful pastel palette, likable characters, generally witty banter, risque ecchi situations that never cross hard lines of decency.

Cons: Uneven at best animation, silly central mystery that drags on too long, “twist” resolution feels like a cheat.

Verdict: An enjoyable, fluffy guilty pleasure. I try to watch one per season.

10. Lord El-Melloi II Case Files

RABUJOI Score: 7.77/10 MAL Score: 7.44/10

Pros: Built-in goodwill from Fate/Zero, always intriguing setup for cases, sumptuous setting, production, and mechanical design, stirring score, bonkers magical battles.

Cons: Excessive magical technobabble can be exhausting, conclusions to mysteries can feel contrived/arbitrary, non-Fate fanatics will end up hopelessly lost by most cameos or name-drops.

Verdict: A pale shadow of the classic upon which it’s based, but nonetheless a fun and moderately clever detective series.

9. Fire Force (Episodes 1-11 of 12)

RABUJOI Score: 7.82/10 MAL Score: 7.75/10

Pros: Gorgeously bizarre alternate-universe setting, elegant world-building, virtuoso action sequences, powerful orchestral soundtrack.

Cons: And MC who is dull and cliched within an inch of his life, Characters who go from evil-to-good (or vice versa) at the drop of a hat, a tedious central conspiracy, the potential for character bloat, frustratingly uneven gender balance, pathetic bouts of fanservice.

Verdict: A stylish show primarily about spontaneous human combustion might’ve weathered news of the horrific KyoAni arson attack, but isn’t quite good enough to watching following into the Fall.

7 (tie). How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift?

RABUJOI Score: 7.83/10 MAL Score: 7.68/10

Pros: A fresh, original premise to which it remains totally devoted, marvelous comic timing in the rapid-fire, self-deprecating, fourth-wall breaking dialogue, lovable and believable MC, decent animation, one hell of an earworm OP.

Cons: Ecchi elements and a superfluous Russian chick don’t add much, some parody bits are too on-the-nose, the show loses momentum in the final couple episodes.

Verdict: The show that inspired me to get off my skinny, underdeveloped backside and actually join a gym for the first time in my life!

7 (tie). Cop Craft

RABUJOI Score: 7.82/10 MAL Score: 6.94/10

Pros: Cool reverse-Isekai-lite premise, Range Murata character design, toe-tapping OP and lively soundtrack, entertaining buddy cop dynamic, engaging fights and chases.

Cons: Lame villains, some odd narrative choices, inconsistent/unfocused direction, disappointing animation, underutilized supporting cop cast, lots of loose ends.

Verdict: A show with some good parts to work with, mostly used badly. A wasted opportunity that’s not as good as our episodes ratings indicated.

6. DanMachi II

RABUJOI Score: 8.25/10 MAL Score: 7.45/10

Pros: Appealing, charismatic characters you love to root for, amusing romantic polygons, tremendous score, superb utilization of twelve episodes to tell a variety of engaging stories with a beginning, middle and oh-so-epic end, culminating in a quiet finale that doesn’t forget its core goddess-child dynamic.

Cons: Villains’ barks prove far worse than their bites, a couple slower episodes between mini-arcs don’t really distinguish themselves, and that huge Amazoness Phryne…what the hell?! 

Verdict: After the very lame Sword Oratoria spinoff DanMachi got a proper sequel, focused on the characters we cared about, full of emotion, excitement, and good old-fashioned fantasy ass-kickin’.


5. Fruits Basket 1st Season (Episodes 14-25)

RABUJOI Score: 8.50/10 MAL Score: 8.36/10

Pros: Impeccably-rendered characters and depictions of their various psychological issues, dark and poignant flashbacks, exquisitely cozy slice-of-life, a good balance of the mundane and the mystic, and hard-hitting cathartic scenes.

Cons: Some members of the Souma family are more interesting (and tolerable) than others, but even the less interesting ones get plenty of screen time, Tooru’s saintly selflessness can wear thin at times.

Verdict: A beautifully-crafted second half that rewarded patience by delivering some of the strongest and most moving episodes of the year.

4. Master Teaser Takagi-san 2

RABUJOI Score: 8.58/10 MAL Score: 8.40/10

Pros: Truly magnetic chemistry in the central pair, Deft use of subtle facial expressions and body language in the animation, superb performances by Takahashi Rie and Kaji Yuki.

Cons: Like the first season, the various teasing games can grow repetitive, as can Nishikata’s denseness and inability to see more than one or two moves ahead, the side stories involving side characters often felt like padding.

Verdict: Continues and refines the brilliantly simple teasing formula of the first season, while ever-so-gradually blurring of the line between teasing and flirting. A sweet and touching, slow-burn portrayal of young, awkward first love.

2 (tie). Vinland Saga (Episodes 1-12)

RABUJOI Score: 8.67/10 MAL Score: 8.57/10

Pros: Flawed but rootable MC whose character is more complex than it initially seems, his multi-layered antihero mentor, exemplary action and battle sequences, powerful score, compelling exploration of the hard old world, with enticing glimmers of a brighter new one.

Cons: That said mentor would keep a kid dedicated to murdering him around so long stretches credulity at times, those battle sequences sometimes feature individuals or groups doing superhuman things that detract from the otherwise naturalistic milieu.

Verdict: While not quite as big, loud, epic, or bonkers as Attack on Titan, or Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, Vinland Saga is arguably Wit Studio’s most balanced and human series. Looking forward to the second half.

2 (tie). Astra Lost in Space

RABUJOI Score: 7.77/10 MAL Score: 7.44/10

Pros: Very well done futuristic world- and space-building, a large-ish main cast that you steadily come to know and love, the sense of family that arises from the crewmembers’ experiences together, an optimistic spirit of exploration that isn’t constantly beset by mortal peril, creative planets and lifeforms, thankfully subverted expectations for a Lerche-style bloodbath.

Cons: “Character gets a backstory” formula to some episodes felt repetitive at times, the crew almost faces too little mortal peril considering their circumstances, they similarly rely on a lot of luck, some major plotlines and twists could have been left out and still resulted in a pretty strong show.

Verdict: Maybe the season’s biggest surprise hit, the ambitious Astra calls to mind some of the best of live-action shades-of-gray sci-fi (Firefly, Battlestar, Expanse) while maintaining an old school optimistic, exploratory outlook. It set out to do and say a lot, and was mostly successful in doing so.

1. O Maidens in Your Savage Season

RABUJOI Score: 8.58/10 MAL Score: 8.40/10

Pros: Fearlessly tackles tough social topics on adolescence, sexuality, gender roles, upbringing, and abuse, ably juggles multiple, diverse love stories and triangles at once, pleasingly drawn and animated, and despite all its serious themes, doesn’t leave out the comedy.

Cons: What seemed to be an irreversible dive into an abyss that would tear the five girls apart, they work almost everything out almost too easily for a tidier ending than expected; while the show dips a toe in LGBTQ themes through Momo’s awakening, her’s is one of the least developed arcs despite being one of the most interesting.

Verdict: A rare-for-anime honest and unblinking exploration of the awkward, painful, and sometimes savage emotional journey to adulthood all kids must face (and not always at the same speed). By the numbers, the best show I watched this Summer, and the one I looked forward too most from week to week.


Summer 2019 Big Board:

Fall 2019 Season Guide (Updating)

“Autumn”, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798 – 1861)

Lots of huge sequels/continuations air this Fall, which will make it tough for us to check out all-new shows. Here’s what’s on our radar so far. Chances are we’ll stick with most of these, and we’ll see if there’s any time for more.

RABUJOI STAFF

LAST UPDATED 23 Aug 2019

Fate/Grand Order: Zettai Majuu Sensen Babylonia (Absolute Demonic Front)
Fire Force (Summer Carryover)

Psycho-Pass 3
Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld

Vinland Saga (Summer Carryover)


sesameacrylic

Bokutachi wa Benkyou ga Dekinai 2 (We Can’t Study 2)
Chihayafuru 3 
Kabukichou Sherlock
Ore wo Suki nano wa Omae dake ka yo (Are You Really the Only One Who Likes Me?)
Shokugeki no Souma: Shin no Sara (Food Wars: The Fourth Plate)


MagicalChurlSukui

Assassins Pride
Beastars
Choujin Koukousei-tachi wa Isekai demo Yoyuu de Ikinuku you desu! (CHOYOYU!: High School Prodigies Have It Easy Even in Another World!)
Shinchou Yuusha: Kono Yuusha ga Ore Tuee Kuse ni Shinchou Sugiru (This Hero is Invincible but “Too Cautious”)

Summer 2019 Season Guide (Updating)

Kuniyoshi Utagawa, Sudden Shower in the Summer, c. 1849-1851

Spring is almost over, and with the warmer weather comes a fresh batch new anime, including some very familiar franchises (Fate, Index, DanMachi). We’ll be watching and writing about some of those shows when July comes around.

As usual, Bold titles mean we’re watching that show; non-bold means TBD, and crossed-out means dropped/skipped. Additional Spring 2019 shows may carryover; we will add them to the list below if/when their Summer cours are officially confirmed.

A reminder: we don’t read any manga, novels light or dark, or video games the below shows may be based upon—RABUJOI is an anime-only blog. This list will be updated as needed. If you think we’re missing something, let us know in the comments.

Thanks! —RABUJOI STAFF

LAST UPDATED 12 Aug 2019

Enen no Shouboutai (Fire Force)
Kanata no Astra (Astra Lost in Space)
Katsute Kami Datta Kemono-tachi e
Lord El-Melloi II Sei no Jikenbo: Rail Zeppelin Grace Note
Vinland Saga


sesameacrylic

Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo. (O Maidens of the Savage Season)
Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru? (How Many Kilograms are the Dumbbells You Lift?)
Carole & Tuesday (Spring Carryover)
HenSuki (Would you love a pervert as long as she’s cute?)
Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 (Skilled Teaser Takagi-san)
Tejina-senpai


MagicalChurlSukui

BEM
Cop Craft
DanMachi II (Is It Wrong That I Want to Meet You in a Dungeon)
Fruits Basket
(Spring Carryover)
Isekai Cheat Magician
Toaru Kagaku no Accelerator
Tsuujou Kougeki ga Zentai Kougeki de Ni-kai Kougeki no Okaasan wa Suki Desu ka? (Do You Like Your Mom? Her Normal Attack is Two Attacks at Full Power, Okaasan online)

Dropped: Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin and Fairy Gone

I’ve run into a little issue with these shows: I just have no drive whatsoever to watch or review them. The meh has consumed me. If these were great shows like, say Made in Abyss or 3-gatsu no Lion, that would be one thing. But I have no emotional connection to either, both are marginal at best, and their flaws have been discussed in the last reviews. MyAnimeList may slightly under-rate them, but they’re still just not good enough to keep me on board, so better to say bye now than drag it out.

Why, MAL, Why?! – Mid-April 2019 Edition

For all its faults, MyAnimeList is one of the best places to organize all the anime we’ve watched and it can be fun learn how public opinion for said anime fares over the course of its run. It is also unqualifiedly AWFUL!

(and yes, Chrome spell check, unqualifiedly IS a word, I checked!)

Everybody knows MAL has never a particularly accurate way to gauge the critical value of any given show. For one thing, its underlying business model hews closer to “marketing and e-book sales”.

Viewers naturally tend to under-rate anime they hate or over-rate shows they love, which means any MAL score must be taken with a veritable Makgadikgadi Pan of salt, especially since scores aren’t even factored into the average if a user hasn’t watched more than 20% of the show.

And yet, we still go there, we still post the shows we’re watching or have completed, and we still contribute what we feel to be fair scores to anime we watch. A MAL score will never be the determining factor in whether we watch a show, but it would be disingenuous to declare they have no influence on anyone.

So How Awful is MAL so far this Spring? Let’s go show by show, comparing both our current score—along with an estimate of the expected final average score – to that of MAL. We found that sometimes MAL still does get it right…at least from our perspective.

(Note that there aren’t any Spring shows we believe to be “TOO HIGH!” on MAL—at least not yet—though that doens’t mean it doesn’t happen: TenSura, OverLord III, Grand Blue, and Banana Fish are all past shows we scored much lower than their MAL averages.)

All Verdicts Are FINAL…but if you respectfully disagree with any of the below, feel free to voice your alternative opinions in the ‘ments!

Carole & Tuesday

Progress: 1/24
RAB Score: 10
Expected Final Score: 8.75
MAL Score: 8.17 (-0.88)
Verdict: TOO LOW!
Notes: Just a very underwhelming initial score for the best first episode of the Spring. 10 may be overdoing it a bit; 8.5 seems more fair down the stretch.-Zane

BokuBen

Progress: 2/13
RAB Score: 9.00
Expected Final Score: 8.10
MAL Score: 7.20
Verdict: TOO LOW!
Notes: Yes, it’s another high school harem, but so far it has been executed almost perfectly, featuring vibrant characters with solid motivations. A mid-to-high 7 score would be more fair here.-Zane

One Punch Man 2

Progress: 2/-
RAB Score: 9.00
Expected Final Score: 8.33
MAL Score: 7.94
Verdict: TOO LOW!
Notes: OPM has switched studios from Madhouse to J.C. Staff, but I haven’t detected a dire drop in quality. 8.2-8.3 seems more fair.-Zane

Dororo

Progress: 14/24
RAB Score: 8.64
Expected Final Score: 8.65
MAL Score: 8.58
Verdict: JUST RIGHT!
Notes: No complaints. Solid show that MAL acknowledges as solid. Keep it up!-Hannah

Rising of the Shield Hero

Progress: 15/25
RAB Score: 8.27
Expected Final Score: 8.40
MAL Score: 8.38
Verdict: JUST RIGHT!
Notes: Another fair score, but if the show gets too mired in Naofumi’s victimization rather than the world-saving aspect, our score could drop lower.-Hannah

Isekai Quartet

Progress: 2/12
RAB Score: 8.00
Expected Final Score: 7.60
MAL Score: 7.56
Verdict: JUST RIGHT!
Notes: Low-stakes chibi crossover fun. 7.50 is sufficient.-Preston

Sarazanmai

Progress: 1/11
RAB Score: 8.00
Expected Final Score: 8.25
MAL Score: 7.27
Verdict: TOO LOW!
Notes: Like Yurikuma Arashi and Penguindrum, woke Ikuhara shows just don’t get the love they deserve on MAL.-Preston

Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin

Progress: 2/12
RAB Score: 7.50
Expected Final Score: 7.50
MAL Score: 6.79
Verdict: TOO LOW!
Notes: …But not by much! The premise is fun, but the production values are 3D Kanojo-levels of meh.-Preston

Fairy Gone

Progress: 2/24
RAB Score: 7.00
Expected Final Score: 7.20
MAL Score: 6.57
Verdict: TOO LOW!
Notes: Also not by much. Looks better than the above, but lacks compelling characters, and 24 eps of them feels like a major slog.-Preston

Senryuu Shoujo

Progress: 2/-
RAB Score: 7.00
Expected Final Score: 7.10
MAL Score: 7.16
Verdict: JUST RIGHT!
Notes: Pure lighthearted comfort food. Score is fair.-Zane

Ao-chan Can’t Study!

Progress: 2/-
RAB Score: 6.50
Expected Final Score: 7.00
MAL Score: 6.77
Verdict: JUST RIGHT!
Notes: I just don’t see episodes going far beyond 7, while I can definitely see it dropping to 6.-Zane

This has been the Mid-April 2019 Edition of “Why, MAL, Why?!”. Stay tuned for the Mid-May 2019 Edition, hopefully closer to the actual  middle of May!

Spring 2019 Season Guide (Updating)

Tsuchi-yama, Spring Rain, in The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road, c. 1834

Winter is almost over, and with the (hopefully) warmer weather comes a fresh batch new anime, including some very familiar titles. We’ll be watching and writing about some of those shows when April comes around.

As usual, Bold titles mean we’re watching that show; non-bold means TBD, and crossed-out means dropped/skipped. additional Winter 2019 shows may carryover; we will add them to the list below if/when their Spring cours are officially confirmed.

A reminder: we don’t read any manga, novels light or dark, or video games the below shows may be based upon—RABUJOI is an anime-only blog! This list will be updated as needed. If you think we’re missing something, let us know in the comments.

Thanks! —RABUJOI STAFF

LAST UPDATED 21 Apr 2019

Braverade

Attack on Titan Season 3 Part 2
Dororo (Winter carryover)
Magmel of the Sea Blue
Rising of the Shield Hero (Winter carryover)


sesameacrylic

Midara na Ao-chan wa Benkyou ga Dekinai (Ao-chan Can’t Study!)
Bokutachi wa Benkyou ga Dekinai (BokuBan)
Carole & Tuesday
Joshikausei
Kono Yo no Hate de Koi wo Utau Shoujo YU-NO
One Punch Man Season 2
Senryuu Shoujo


MagicalChurlSukui

Fairy Gone
Isekai Quartet
Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin
Sarazanmai
Shoumetsu Toshi

RABUJOI’s Top 10 Anime of 2018

We watched over forty shows this year – not a record by any means, but definitely a product of our commitment only to watch the best shows available (with some notable exceptions in cases where we’re too far behind with certain franchises). As a result, a quick glance at our Big Board will show a lot of blue, indicating a lot of 8’s and 9’s with a handful 0f 10’s mixed in.

It’s not that we just like everything; it’s that we (usually) set a high standard for what we watch. If something is consistently scoring below 8 or 7, we’ll probably drop it, since there’s just not enough time to waste on subpar show. That being said, even among these forty shows (out of the 100+ that aired) there are a select few we would recommend over the rest; the Cream of the Crop…The Best of The Best of The Best (with honors).

Ok, enough cliches…let’s get down to it, shall we? Say you were incredibly strapped for time this year, and couldn’t watch any anime. To binge forty shows now, with just a couple weeks left in the year, would not be good for your health. So we’re making it easy for you: watch the ten shows below, and you’re sure to be satisfied!

Our tastes may differ a tad from the masses here at RABUJOI so we’ve included weighted scores from both MyAnimeList and Anime News Network, and then very unscientifically averaged them with our own scores for the final ranking.

10. Darling in the FranXX

7.82 | RAB: 8.92 | MAL: 7.61 | ANN: 6.93

The adolescent male-female pilot pairs of the titular FranXX live to fight the mysterious yet deadly enemy, and nothing else; they weren’t given a choice in the matter. This is a story of the bonds they share, the joys and trials of living together, falling in love, stumbling into adulthood, and finally coming to question the roles assigned to them by the adults. It features Trigger’s signature visual flair and compelling performances from Tomatsu Haruka and breakout newcomer Ichinose Kana. It wasn’t perfect by any means but it was thoroughly exhilarating more often than not.

9. Koi wa Ameagari no You ni (After the Rain)

7.92 | RAB 8.58 | MAL 7.61 | ANN 7.56

A high school student falling for the 45-year-old single parent manager of the restaurant where she works could have been a landmine, but their story is handled with a deftness, sensitivity, realism and beauty, matched by achingly gorgeous animation and character design and some powerful voice work from the HanaKana-channeling Watabe Sayumi.

8. Yagate Kimi ni Naru (Bloom into You)

8.28 | RAB: 8.80 | MAL: 7.76 | ANN: n/a

Perhaps the best pure romance of the year despite not being over yet and one half of the couple quite adamant she doesn’t have feelings for the other. Yet she seems to be gradually coming to like her senpai—wonderfully voiced by Kotobuki Minako—more and more, which is exactly how my love for this series has progressed: like a blooming flower.

7. Shokugeki no Souma: San no Sara – Toutsuki Ressha-hen (Food Wars! The Third Plate: Totsuki Train Arc)

8.35 | RAB: 8.75 | MAL 8.37 | ANN: 7.93

Food Wars is definitely one of those shows you’re either all-in from the beginning or hopelessly lost, but this second arc of the third season was one of the strongest due in no small part to watching how Souma and his numerous allies closed ranks and started to fight Azami’s oppressive new culinary regime. Best of all, it means Erina and Souma finally on the same side. Not to mention there are few shows that so seamlessly integrate the art and science of cooking, not to mention leave their audience hungry both for the next episode and for the food that had been presented.

6. Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan) Season 3

8.39 | RAB: 8.75 | MAL: 8.52 | ANN: 7.91

Like Food Wars, those who sign up for Titan are well aware they’re in it for the long haul. Indeed, the mysteries that have unfolded in the manga may never be put to the screen, with the show’s apparent primary goals to simply entice its audience into consuming the source material. But while we only got twelve episodes this time, not a single one was wasted. A lot of secrets were revealed, and the girl formerly known as Krista Lenz took her rightful place beside Eren as one of the chief protagonists of the series with a bizarre (this is Titan) and utterly righteous arc.

5. Hinamatsuri

8.45 | RAB: 8.83 | MAL: 8.34 | ANN: 8.18

Perhaps the best pure comedy of the year, Hinamatsuri is full of interesting, colorful, and imminently rootable characters, from the yakuza with a heart of gold and a love of antiques, to the young woman with telekinetic powers who suddenly enter and complicate his life, to that girl’s ridiculously hardworking classmate who ends up tending bar (and being pretty damn good at it). But while the comedy is almost omnipresent, there’s still some pockets of meaty character drama within the dozen episodes.

4. Steins;Gate 0

8.50 | RAB: 8.96 | MAL: 8.65 | ANN: 7.89

Seven years is a long time to wait between an anime and its sequel, though I only had to wait three since I got into the first series late. I’m glad I did, though; it’s one of my favorite (if not favorite, full stop) shows, animated or otherwise, whose emotionally dizzying heights were matched only by its emotionally hellish lows. spends much of its time in the depths, with Okabe never not mourning the loss of his beloved Kristina, even if it meant saving his beloved Mayuri. But thanks to a little help from friends old and new, including a virtual version of Kurisu called Amadeus, Okabe gets his groove back and foils the plans of a scientist even madder than he.

3. Violet Evergarden

8.68 | RAB: 9.15 | MAL: 8.59 | ANN: 8.30

VE has the distinct air of the anime equivalent of “Oscar Bait,” as goes to almost obsessive lengths to demonstrate its peerless quality of animation, music, and melodrama. I don’t usually go for Oscar Bait movies, myself, but doggone it, Violet Evergarden, despite being a bit pretentious, is nevertheless a gorgeous, marvelously-crafted, and exceedingly enjoyable piece of entertainment. Watching its deeply wounded inside-and-out titular heroine gradually gain the humanity that had been repressed in her bloody past is never not spellbinding.

2. Sora yori mo Tooi Basho (A Place Further than the Universe)

8.75 | RAB: 9.15 | MAL: 8.61 | ANN: 8.50

Ordinary girls seek an extraordinary adventure, and end up forming bonds that will last and memories they’ll cherish for a lifetime. That those ordinary girls are in Japan and the adventure they seek is all the way in Antarctica makes heir goal feel unattainable at first, even naive. But Shirase, Mari, Hinata, and Yuzuki gradually make believer of us. And that they manage to actually achieve the feat of going to the literal end of the earth is just the beginning. Overflowing with charm, love, and camaraderie, Yorimoi is a Must-Not-Miss.

1. 3-gatsu no Lion 2 (March Comes In Like a Lion 2), Second Cour

8.92 | RAB: 9.18 | MAL: 9.05 | ANN: 8.54

We don’t consider it cheating that a show that first aired in 2017 gets the top billing here. First of all, the eleven episodes of the sequel all aired in 2018, and secondly, it was just that damn good. Indeed some of the best episode sof the entire series took place this year, as examination of Rei’s depression gave way to those of his fellow shogi players like the ethereal (and profoundly lonely) Souya, as well as his young friend Hinata, who despite being quite simply one of the kindest souls alive became the target of horrendously cruel school bullying. Since Hina was one of the people instrumental in saving him, Rei considers it his duty to return the favor, with overwhelmingly gratifying, life-affirming results. No anime this year exuded love as powerfully or consistently as Lion. For that and many other merits to its name, it was the best of 2018.