"Action" is such a broad term. What constitutes an action anime? Technically, any story featuring goal-driven characters should qualify. Despite encompassing so much, the genre itself conjures up some rather specific and kinetic imagery. Two opposing forces clashing over ideologies or out of pure hatred. Action anime are explosive. Action anime are loud. Crucially, action anime are exciting!
Regardless of whether mechas, demons, Saiyans, or superheroes happen to tickle your fancy; 2018 has something for everyone! Prefer a bit of comedy with your anime punches? 2018 offers Double Decker! Doug & Kirill. Want a side of gore with your action? Netflix released a sequel to Baki and Goblin Slayer was a thing. Believe battles are pointless without ecchi? Senran Kagura Shinovi Master: Tokyo Youma-hen cares little for clothes.
2018 was huge for anime, especially when it comes to action. Here are the absolute best action shows the year had to offer!
10. Devilman: Crybaby
- Episodes: 10
- Aired: January 2018
While not for the faint of heart, Go Nagai's Devilman manga is an influential property well-worth seeking out for anyone interested in the medium. What is the premise? A timid student fond of a good cry, Akira Fudou is tricked into fusing with a devil by his supposed friend, Ryou Asuka. Creating the being known as Devilman, Akira takes it upon himself to rid the world of any rampant demons seeking to use humans as vessels or food.
At a short 10 episodes, Devilman: Crybaby is a quick but unforgettable sit. Wisely opting to remove some of the source material's fat, Science SARU's adaptation mainly focuses on Akira's origin story and the manga's final Apocalypse arc. In this day and age, Devilman's themes of corruption and futility are nothing new, but the manga helped popularize these ideas.
So, how is the action? Devilman: Crybaby is rarely pleasant, and this extends to the battles. Backed by quite a loose art style, fights often amount to grotesque body parts wailing against each other to form something akin to a strange piece of abstract art; however, that is the point! Devilman: Crybaby does not glorify action.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2018 – December 2018
Mecha shows are not quite as mainstream as they used to be. Sure, Gundam periodically produces a new season, but the days of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and Eureka Seven seem to be long gone. Luckily, 2018 refused to let sleeping dogs lie and gave the genre a shot in the arm! While Planet With and Darling in the FranXX had their moments, SSSS.Gridman stood out as the year's definitive mecha extravaganza!
Created by Trigger, a studio intimately familiar with the action genre, SSSS.Gridman takes place in a city constantly under attack by massive monsters. If it were not for a first-year high school student who happens to discover a digital mecha in an old computer, hope may have been completely lost! Clearly, SSSS.Gridman is more concerned with looking good than making sense, but Trigger backs up its pretty visuals with fluid animation and memorable battles.
Mecha need to properly convey a sense of scale, and SSSS.Gridman accomplishes this better than most. Along with introducing various interestingly designed monsters to test Gridman, most encounters include a strategic element.
8. Golden Kamuy 2nd Season
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2018 – December 2018
In a year packed with excellent anime, Golden Kamuy could easily be overlooked, particular due to the first season needing a couple of episodes to hit its stride. Set during Japan's Meiji era, Geno Studio's series is basically a rat race pitting various groups against each other to determine who can locate a hidden stash of gold. Also, the treasure map is written on the back of various escaped convicts scattered throughout the vast snow-covered region.
Golden Kamuy is weird. Even though comedy is not listed as a genre on myanimelist, Geno Studio's anime has a wicked sense of humor, one that juxtapositions well with the brutal and gory action. Due to being a budget series, Golden Kamuy's animation cannot compare to some of 2018's prettiest releases, but the tense atmosphere and grounded fights compensate for the somewhat lackluster visuals!
Golden Kamuy's action arrives in bursts, but it nearly always leaves an impression.
7. Shingeki no Kyojin Season 3 (Attack on Titan Season 3)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: June 2018 – October 2018
Following a season defined by discourse rather than action, Attack on Titan’s sequel pushes human versus human conflict to the forefront. In fact, titans seldom make an appearance during season 3! Newcomers should definitely start from the very beginning, but 2018's season arguably represents the franchise at its peak. While Eren Yeager remains the protagonist, Levi is thrust to the lead for the bulk of the latest batch of episodes.
Wit Studio has always done a brilliant job animating the anime's action scenes, but this season marked the first extended period were Attack on Titan could not rely on gore or titans to sustain a viewer's attention. The end result is an increased focus on fast-paced battles and flexibility, as tactics designed to take down a titan are hardly suitable against a human enemy.
Shingeki no Kyojin Season 3 embodies the best elements of the franchise! Unlike its predecessor, 2018's entry rarely slows down to take a breather.
6. Mo Dao Zu Shi
- Episodes: 15
- Aired: July 2018 – October 2018
Based on a manhua, Mo Dao Zu Shi has a credible claim to being 2018's most underappreciated show. Chinese anime are not especially common, but a few series are starting to slip through the cracks; out of all them, Mo Dao Zu Shi could very well be the best!
Detested for establishing the Demonic Sect, the disgraced Wei Wuxian spends years wandering a world that does not want him. Ultimately, the former grandmaster takes a knife to the back and dies. Luckily for the protagonist, death is merely the beginning in this anime, and Wei is reincarnated into someone else's body. While this is far from ideal, things could definitely be worse for Wei; for example, he could be forced to accompany his archenemy on a journey laced with mystery and neverending battles.
That is exactly what happens. Heavy on flashbacks, Mo Dao Zu Shi is somewhat slow paced, but individual episodes basically consist of nonstop action and comedy. Blending supernatural and historical elements, Mo Dao Zu Shi is perfect for action fans seeking to sample Chinese anime.
5. Nanatsu no Taizai: Imashime no Fukkatsu (The Seven Deadly Sins: Revival of the Commandments)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: January 2018 – June 2018
Traditional shounen anime are steadily becoming a rare occurrence. One Piece seems set to continue producing episodes until the Sun calls it a day, but Black Clover is practically the only new long-running shounen series to rise up from Naruto and Bleach's ashes. Boruto already had an established fanbase.
With its perverted protagonist and overpowered characters, The Seven Deadly Sins is almost nostalgic. Distributed through Netflix and created by A-1 Pictures, Nanatsu no Taizai had an impressive 2018, releasing a new season and a movie. While the latter grants a rare opportunity to watch all the Sins working together, the former's action packs more of an impact, primarily due to there actually being stakes.
A-1 Pictures' animation is unsurprisingly gorgeous, but Nanatsu no Taizai's battles amount to more than just exciting explosions. Depending on the participants, a battle could take on the form of a rapid thrill ride or a grueling exchange of blows. Variety helps stave off boredom.
4. Megalo Box (MEGALOBOX)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: April 2018 – June 2018
Innocent lives do not have to be on the line for an encounter to feel significant. Shounen action series tend to adhere to the "go big or go home" rule of thumb, but sports anime are an inherently more personal bunch. A victory means proving the doubters wrong and overcoming one's own limitations to obtain a place in the universe.
Megalo Box pays tribute to the granddaddy of boxing anime, Ashita no Joe. Known as Junk Dog, Joe is forced to throw fights to satisfy his promoter's bookies, who do not appreciate surprises. After the announcement of a new tournament and a brief match against the current champion, Joe sets out to take on the world and rise above his status as a Junk Dog!
With CGI running rampant throughout the industry, Megalo Box's traditional animation is a breath of fresh air. Even if boxing is not someone's cup of tea, Megalo Box's fights carry so much emotion, it is near impossible to not get invested. Whether a fan of sports or action anime, Megalo Box should not be missed.
3. JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Ougon no Kaze (JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind)
- Episodes: 19+
- Aired: October 2018 – Ongoing
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is back and more Italian than ever! Stardust Crusaders and Diamond is Unbreakable are two hard acts to follow, but Golden Wind has all the makings of an instant classic. Set in Naples, 2018's entry centers around Giorno Giovanna's ambitious goal to infiltrate and reform the mafia. Having an attachment to the Joestar family tree does not hurt the teenager's chances, but Naples happens to be home to some rather dangerous stand users!
Golden Wind sticks to the same formula established by its predecessors. The story is split into a sequence of fights pitting two or more stand users against each other. As battles are decided by countering the opponent's abilities rather than overwhelming them with brute force, Golden Wind's action is slightly more methodical than some other entries on this list. More time is allocated to hearing the characters plan their next moves than actually watching the execution of said moves, but Viz Media's dynamic animation makes every thought hit harder than most punches!
2. Dragon Ball Super Movie: Broly (Dragon Ball Super: Broly)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: December 2018
Already among the highest-grossing anime films of all time, Dragon Ball Super: Broly made quite a splash towards the end of 2018. For arguably the action genre's definitive, or at least most popular, franchise, Dragon Ball's movies have left something to be desired. The slower opening half prioritizes Broly's new back story while reinforcing that Frieza is still the worst; however, the second Broly steps foot on Earth, the fighting does not stop!
What do you expect from a Dragon Ball Super movie? Along with Goku consuming enough food to feed a starving nation and Vegeta challenging Toradora!'s Taiga for the title of anime’s greatest tsundere, fans want to see Saiyans punch or be punched through mountains. Broly is filled with these type of moments.
While Toei's TV animation is often suspect to criticism, the studio greatly ups its game when putting together a movie. For the most part, Broly successfully blends traditional animation and CGI to create an action-packed addition to one of anime's landmark franchises.
1. Boku no Hero Academia 3rd Season (My Hero Academia 3)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 2018 – September 2018
How could anything possibly top My Hero Academia? Dragon Ball ended 2018 on a high note, but the year belonged to Deku, All Might, and Bakugo. My Hero Academia's previous seasons effectively introduced the endearing cast, established the broader society's reliance on heroes, and hinted at potentially tearing down this universe's safety net. While not lacking in action, the previous seasons were mostly setting the stage for 2018's entry.
Thankfully, the 3rd season lived up to the hype! Action for the sake of action is not enough. An audience needs a reason to care about the affected players. Why does this fight matter? My Hero Academia 3 always supplies a reason to care.
On the surface, the central conflict seems like a straightforward scenario pitting heroes vs villains, but ideologies are on the line. All Might dominates the season's standout moments, and it will take something special to outdo My Hero Academia.
At the end of the day, anime is entertainment, and action shows distill this component down to its core. Craving an escape from everyday life? We recommend checking out these ten anime! 2018 packed such a powerful punch, 2019 needs to bring all the houses down to compete!
Which 2018 action anime was your favorite? Please let us know in the comment section below.