Top 10 2018 Anime with the Best Animation [Best Recommendations]

It’s been a wild period for animation in the past few years. Gone are the days when lifelike animation ruled the airwaves. We’re getting many more experimental animation pieces these days and 2018 was a fascinating year to follow in this regard. We saw a lot of different series adapt many different kinds of animation techniques in unexpected and interesting ways.

Therefore, we wanted to honor some of the best and most interesting anime this season that were specifically interesting due to their animation. Remember: animation does not mean art direction or character design! We’re referring to anime that were specifically interesting due to how they actually moved on screen!

10. Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru (Run With the Wind)

  • Episodes: 19+
  • Aired: October 2018 - Ongoing

Kakeru’s at his lowest point. He’s just entered school but has nowhere to go and just blew all of his cash on pachinko. Just as he’s running from an angry convenience store clerk for stealing some bread, a passionate running fan named Haiji notices him zipping by and quickly chases after Kakeru. He wants Kakeru to enroll at his dormitory and join his track and field club along with the other residents he suckered into living with him. Haiji’s goal? Compete with his friends at the Hakone Ekiden Marathon!

There’s a remarkable consistency to the animation in Kaze ga Tsuyoku. It’s not the most in your face, but the characters move with a remarkable realism no matter the situation. Even during comedic moments, there’s never a break in the animation that signifies that what you’re watching is a joke now and that it’s time to laugh. This consistency makes it easier for us as viewers to get sucked into the story and take its world seriously.

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

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: July 2018 - October 2018

Eren Jaeger is finally off the front lines of the battlefield. Now that he knows he can control Titans, he’s got to figure out how to best make use of this newfound ability. He’s moved to Levi’s squad, but before he has a chance to really experiment, word comes in that Pastor Nick has been killed. Levi has a hunch that someone has it in for the Survey Corps, so he needs to do a little investigation of his own.

Gone are the days of the long, drawn-out recaps of past episodes with the occasionally neat action sequence mixed in for flavor. Now we’ve got fantastic, frantic Titan battles fleshed out with some meaty and surprisingly great CG work. What’s great about it is that the CG doesn’t really stand out that much from the 2D animation when it moves, proving that it’s possible to make some great CG animation that’s just as smooth as 2D.

8. Poputepipikku (Pop Team Epic)

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: January 2018 - March 2018

Daichi Taira was just your average school student with no prospects in life. His parents have just left on a business trip and are leaving him to take care of the house. There’s just one problem though: they forgot to mention his cousin Sosogu was coming to stay too! Not only that, but she’s secretly an idol and can’t let anyone know. If she does, then she’ll have to be expelled. Can Daichi help protect his cousin’s secret while also managing her career?... Not if Pipimi and Popuko have anything to say about it.

No this choice isn’t a troll, though maybe one might expect it to be with the nature of Pop Team Epic. But there’s a lot to admire about how Pop Team Epic shifts from animation style to animation style just for the sake of a joke. In the first episode alone, you get an incredibly convincing opening for a generic pop idol anime that you have to imagine actually exists in some timeline, 3D cell-shading, and a weird surrealist version of the show in the form of Bob Team Epic, which looks like a 4-year-old animated it. If nothing else, you have to admit that the Hellman Shake wouldn’t be nearly as memorable if it was “traditionally” animated!

7. Megalo Box

  • Episodes: 13
  • Aired: April 2018 - June 2018

There’s a man that goes by “Junk Dog”, largely because he doesn’t have any other name to go by. He’s got potential as a Megalo boxer, but circumstances have made it so that he’s really got no shot at life. He was born into poverty and works taking bribes from the mafia to throw fights. One day, though, he has a chance encounter with the Megalo boxing champion of the world, Victor, and is inspired to go straight. He cuts a deal with his mob boss: he’ll give him all his winnings if he makes it as a champion, and in exchange, Junk Dog has to actually win. If he loses… well, there’s no point thinking about that.

One look at Megalo Box would make you think that it comes straight out of the late 90s/early 2000s anime scene, but its roots actually go back further than that. It’s actually meant to be a re-envisioning of the late 60s classic underdog story, Ashita no Joe. Nonetheless, Megalo Box lovingly recreates not just the art, but the animation of the aforementioned style. It comes complete with the satisfyingly viscous motion that you can only get with well-done hand-drawn animation. You’d never believe it was animated with a computer!

6. Lupin III: Part 5

  • Episodes: 24
  • Aired: April 2018 - September 2018

Lupin’s always got his eye on the prize, and this time he’s got his sights set one Ami Enan, a young girl who also happens to be a brilliant hacker. He asks her to crack the mainframe of the world’s biggest online black market. Unfortunately, doing this also puts a massive target on his back, and now he’s got the entire world chasing after him in a deadly game. Said organization is livestreaming the hunt for Lupin and company and is offering a hefty sum for whoever can kill him, not to mention accepting bets on who they think can do it!

The recent return of Lupin has returned the franchise to its original, stylish roots. Part 5 continues this tradition with some wonderfully smooth, exciting, and creative action sequences that flow effortlessly on your TV or computer screen. Lupin III: Part 5 really pushes the franchise to its limits with its creativity, creating wonderfully inventive scenarios as an excuse for more wild animation showcases.

5. Hinamatsuri

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: April 2018 - June 2018

You can be a crime lord and also have an appreciation for the finer things. At least, that’s what Nitta Yoshifumi believes. He lives a life of luxury and class until, one day, a young girl shows up out of nowhere in his house. Like, literally. One minute he was minding his own business and then all of a sudden, she teleports into his room like a newborn babe. This is Hina, and she turns out to be the best thing that ever happened to Nitta. Hina’s got incredible psychic powers, and with them, she can help him take on any other rival gang and help Nitta rise up the ranks of his own organization. In exchange, she can live at his place for free.

Generally, comedy uses quick cuts and super deformity to drive its humor. However, Hinamatsuri’s unique in that it’s first and foremost a comedy, yet it uses a very natural and realistic animation style to sell its gags. This also allows Hinamatsuri to effortlessly drift between humor and sincerity, never having to worry about breaking its animation style from scene to scene.

4. Hanebado!

  • Episodes: 13
  • Aired: July 2018 - October 2018

Nagisa Aragaki once thought herself to be one of the best high school badminton players in all of Japan. However, her confidence is completely shattered when she goes up against the junior high prodigy Ayano Hanesaki in a tournament, who completely shuts her out. Even worse, just as Aragaki is at her lowest point, Ayano enrolls in her high school. However, for whatever reason, Ayano isn’t playing badminton anymore, which only hurts Aragaki’s pride even more. Nevertheless, Ayano is dragged into the school’s badminton club, and the two will have to work together to help each other regain their passion for the game.

Hanebado is one of the best examples of rotoscoping or drawing over live-action footage to give the animation a sense of reality. Generally, the technique is used to capture a sense of tranquility and elegance to drive home the beauty of the scene, or in some cases add some uneasiness to the atmosphere by putting cartoon figures right into the uncanny valley. Hanebado makes a unique case for rotoscoping for capturing high-octane action, with some beautifully intense badminton games that are as intense as if you were right in the middle of a real game rather than cheering from the sidelines.

3. Sayonara no Asa ni Yakusoku no Hana wo Kazarou (Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms)

  • Episodes: 1 (movie)
  • Aired: February 2018

The Iorph are a gentle people who have no real interest in combat or warfare. However, that doesn’t stop the neighboring nation of Mezarte from invading. Maquia, an Iorph orphan girl, simply wants to live her life in peace and is forced to run from her homeland. Along the way, she discovers a baby who’s been abandoned by his parents and, not knowing what else to do, takes him in as her own. As the two grow older, racial tensions begin to cause a rift in their relationship, and they’re unsure as to what to do about it.

P.A. Works did an amazing job with Maquia regarding the stark contrasts of animation. Maquia herself basically flows on the screen with the elegance of a Disney princess, yet this is at complete odds with the brutality of the war sequences. The animation here is used to remind the viewer of the value and beauty of life, and the horrid circumstances that are unjustly used to take it aware.

2. Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho (A Place Further Than the Universe)

  • Episodes: 13
  • Aired: January 2018 - March 2018

Sometimes, in order to get somewhere in life, you have to be willing to work around the rules rather than strictly follow them. At least that’s what Tamaki Mari, who desperately wants to cut school one day and do something out of the ordinary, has been told. However, she can’t seem to muster up the courage to cut class for just one day. A chance encounter with Kobuchizawa Shirase, however, changes her tune, as discovering Shirase’s dream of visiting Antarctica while still being in high school invigorates a motivation she didn’t know she had!

Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho is an interesting combination of genres, as it’s one half slice-of-life-drama mixed with a grand adventure plot. The animation captures the wonder of the natural world, like the ripping waves of a storm violently smashing against a cruiseliner. There’s a great mix of gung-ho spirit captured in the environment mixed in with the detailed, mundane movements of its heroines, creating an engaging visual experience that reminds us that adventure can exist all around us.

1. Devilman Crybaby

  • Episodes: 10
  • Aired: January 2018

It’s a kill-or-be-killed world, at least according to Asuka Ryou. He’s a bit sociopathic, only seemingly caring for his childhood friend Fudou Akira. The two haven’t seen each other in a while, as Ryou has been investigating something interesting down in South America. There, he discovered that devils can take over the bodies of humans and infiltrate human society. He’s got a weird idea, though; maybe he can infect his good-hearted but weakling friend Akira with one and urge him from the sidelines to fight other demons?

Of course, the real star of Devilman Crybaby is none other than director Masaaki Yuasa, who solidified his position as one of the best working animation directors in the business today. Characters contort and flail out of model to fit into the mood of the scene and enhance the impact of every motion. Meanwhile, as bodies tear apart, you’ll watch each tendon and muscle string tear apart while all you can do is watch from your seat, mesmerized by the sheer horror playing out in front of you.

Final Thoughts

All of these series highlight the diversity of how animation can affect the tone and story-telling of a piece. 2018 will probably go down as one of the stranger years for it due to how many different series we saw using different techniques and styles outside of their normal comfort zone.
Did we miss anything, though? My Hero Academia got your blood pumping and you’re mad it’s not here? Think Violet Evergarden deserves a place? Please, let us know in the comments below!

Hanebado-Wallpaper-500x500 Top 10 2018 Anime with the Best Animation [Best Recommendations]


Author: Matt Knodle

I come from Indiana, where I grew up near a video rental shop that proudly stated “The widest selection of anime in the state”, setting me on a course to enjoy as much anime as possible. I’ve devoted myself to over-analyzing various sports anime and video games probably more than they were ever intended. I currently co-host a weekly sports anime fan podcast called KoshienCast with my good friend, Matt.

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