Drama is considered the highest genre of narrative fiction. It's the serious genre, where things go wrong and characters have to suffer through many, many trials and tribulations and not always have a guaranteed happy ending. While dramas are the plays that are neither comedy nor tragedy, many people think that the only dividing line between a drama and a tragedy is the number of dead people at the end of the story, although the true distinction is that dramas are usually more character-driven than tragedies, which can be more plot driven.
Because of how broad the drama genre is, there are many subgenres within it that make things more specific: police drama, procedural drama, melodrama, romantic drama, even teen drama. But in the end, they are all dramas that will make us connect with the characters and feel their tribulations as if they were our own.
And because we all love a good drama, we’re counting down the ten best drama anime we got in 2018.
10. Sayonara no Asa ni Yakusoku no Hana Wo Kazarou (Maquia: When the Promised Flowers Bloom)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: February 2018
The Iorph are an immortal race of people who remain completely isolated from the world as they weave the story of the world into a fabric called Hibiol. Maquia is a very lonely Iorph who lost everything when the Mezarte Empire attacked the Iorph village. As she tries to figure out how to find her family again, she finds a baby boy who lost his parents. Maquia then adopts Ariel, even as she knows nothing about human society, much less about raising a child that in just a few years will look a lot older than her. But as she can't go back to her home, she is determined to create a new one for herself and her newly adopted child.
Do not be fooled by the poster, the main story of Sayonara no Asa ni Yakusoku no Hana wo Kazarou is not a romance, but a parental love story. Maquia and Ariel’s relationship is always that of a mother of a child, even when at some point Maquia has to pretend to be Ariel’s sister to stay at his side. It’s also a story about losses and unrequited love, and more importantly, of the changing of an era. It’s a beautiful story that won’t leave a dry eye in the audience and which you shouldn’t miss.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2018 – March 2018
The line between love and hate is very thin. Yuzu Aihara learns that lesson when, due to her mother remarrying, she has to change schools for her second year of high school. Because Yuzu is a very outgoing girl, she thinks this will be a great opportunity to make new friends and maybe get a boyfriend and thus is shocked to discover that her new school is an all-girls school with a very strict moral and dress code. Her class president, Mei Aihara, immediately clashes with Yuzu and it seems that they both will be butting heads all year. That is until Yuzu discovers that Mei is her new step-sister, and, once they’re all alone, Mei forces a kiss on Yuzu showing that her feelings for her are not sisterly at all.
Based on the manga by Saubrota, Citrus is a very good yuri anime that follows the conflict within Yuzu when she realizes that she is far more interested in girls than in boys, and in particular, in Mei. Mei is quite broken due to her parents’ abandonment and tends to kiss people just to shut them up. Citrus is a very strong drama where everyone's issues are just hidden beneath the surface and once they start bubbling up, no one is really safe. Of course, if you plan on watching this, keep a box of tissues handy as you will need them to dry your tears.
8. ReLife: Kanketsu-hen
- Episodes: 4
- Aired: March 2018
Arate Kaizaki has managed to get the chance of a lifetime: Thanks to the ReLIFE company he went from being 27 and not really having any direction in his life, to being 16 and getting a new chance to re-live his high school years. This made him see life in a completely new way and helped him create new bonds and friendships both with real teenagers and with other ReLife subjects. Unfortunately, the experiment is coming to an end and he will return to his real age, and all his friends will forget him. So now, both he and Chizuru Hishiro, another ReLIFE subject, must accept that their second youth is over and decide if they can really let go of everything they created in this new life.
ReLIFE is quite an interesting study on how different generations see life and how experiences model our personality even as adults. Arata may look 16, but he is still 27 years old and applies a lot of what he lived before to his new experiences, and that’s the conflict in the series. The main difference is how he learns to see the world through the same filter as the current generation and that he can regain the perspective he used to have.
7. Piano no Mori
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2018 – July 2018
There’s an abandoned piano in the forest that everyone believes is broken. Shuhei Amamiya, a young piano prodigy, is bullied by his new classmates at Moriwaki Elementary into going there at night to try to play it and that’s where he meets Kai Ichinose. Kai is another student at the Moriwaki Elementary who escapes every night from his home in the red light district to play, as he manages to get sounds out from the instrument. Shuhei immediately feels admiration for Kai, but also jealousy because Kai hasn’t had any formal education in music and yet is almost as talented as Shuhei. From that moment on, Shuhei decides he will make sure his “rival” gets the chance to take proper lessons, so he can really see who’s the better pianist between them.
Piano no Mori is a quiet and soft tale of the friendship between a very privileged boy and one who has only known hardship from the moment he was born. And yet, it doesn't fall into any kind of melodramatic tropes about their differences but instead chooses to focus on their similarities; in particular, their love for music and their mutual friendships. The series is a good reminder that dramas aren't always about huge events and important situations, but about life and characters with normal lives.
6. Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara (Iroduku: the World in Colors)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: October 2018 – December 2018
Life in 2078 is not really happy for Hitomi Tsukishiro. She’s 17 years old, and the last descendant of a long line of witches, but due to the little magic that still remains in the world and the constant loses she has suffered, she now can’t see colors and her emotions are dulled. Worried about her, her grandmother Kohaku decides to send her to the past, to 2018. Now stuck in the past, Hitomi starts making new friends and with the help of both her 17-year-old grandmother, as well as her school’s “Magic Photography Arts Club”, she learns how to bring color back into her life.
Irozoku Sekai no Ashita kara has many points that make the story memorable. Every person Hitomi meets in 2018 is unique, and while we know that at some point she’ll have to leave everyone behind for the sake of the timeline, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t form strong bonds or that every character’s personality isn’t well defined. While some may call Irozoku a fantasy anime due to the magic involved, it’s a very good drama that goes quite deep into how depression and anxiety work.
5. Free! Dive to the Future
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2018 – September 2018
Haruka, Makoto, and Rin have gone their separate ways as they have graduated high school and are now in College. But the currents still reconnect their stories, as Haruka and Rin are still training to become professional swimmers, while Makoto is still trying to find his own path although he is happy teaching children to swim. At the same time, Rei and Nagisa are in their last year in high school so they are also worried about how the Iwatobi Swim Team will continue without them. To add even more turbulence to the situation, Haruka meets Asahi Shinna, an old teammate from Haruka’s middle school who reignites some old rivalries.
Free! Dive to the Future is the third season of the very successful Free!, as we keep following the lives of the original members of the Iwatobi High School Swim Club. If you enjoyed the first two seasons, the third one will also be quite enjoyable as we can follow the growth of every character, especially Haruka who has gradually become more serious about his goals as a swimmer. The story is not ending yet, as a fourth season was announced for 2020; but for now, many plot threads are closed, giving viewers a satisfactory experience.
4. Happy Sugar Life
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2018 – September 2018
Satou Matsuka has earned her reputation as an easy lay despite being only in High school. It’s mostly because she doesn’t really know what love is, despite being popular and friendly and having an apparently perfect life. On the other hand, the Kobe siblings, Shio and Asashi, come from a broken home and were separated when their mother took Shio to escape her abusive husband. One day, Shio meets Satou who, upon seeing the little girl, decides that she will do anything to keep Shio safe and happy even if it means kidnapping her. And if you think Satou’s infatuation was a dark obsession, it’s nothing compared to what Asashi will do to find his sister once he figures out that she is not with their mother.
If you’ve ever complained about a series’ title being misleading, you can understand the shock some viewers felt when watching Happy Sugar Life. While Satou’s motivations are to live the titular happy sugar life with Shio, what we see on the screen is anything but. No one in the whole cast has a truly happy and stable life, and even those who seem normal hide dark secrets. If you like some horror with your drama, Happy Sugar Life will be your cup of tea.
3. Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai (Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: October 2018 – December 2018
Sakuta Azugawa is one of the very few people in his high school who believes that the Puberty Syndrome exists. This disease, which only affects teenagers, is supposed to affect everyone differently, and most of the effects are of the supernatural variety so it’s really hard to diagnose, which is why people think it’s a myth. Sakuta has some experiences with it, so when he meets Mai Sakurajima, a third-year student at his school, walking around the school library dressed in a bunny suit and without being actually seen by anyone except him, he quickly realizes she's suffering the effects of Puberty Syndrome.
While, at first, it's easy to think that Bunny Girl Senpai is just another wacky hijinks series, once it starts delving into different girls suffering from Puberty Syndrome, we can see it’s a bit deeper than that. Mai, for example, is a child actor who suddenly started to become invisible to people. And each effect also has a direct connection to the girls’ fears, desires, and anxieties. This makes it easy to see how viewers can identify with at least one character making this series a must-watch.
2. Violet Evergarden
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: January 2018 – April 2018
Violet has no memories of her past before the Leidenschaftlich’s Army discovered her during the Great War of Telesis. She was then raised by one of the soldiers as a killing machine who could wreak havoc upon enemy lines. But as the war drew to an end, during a battle in the city of Intense, Violet lost both her arms and the one person who had been kind to her. She was then fitted with prosthetic arms and no real direction in her life because once the war was over, there was no need for a perfect soldier anymore. By pure chance, she sees an Auto Memory Doll working–Memory Dolls are people or robots hired to write for those who, for different reasons, couldn’t do it on their own. Amazed by the way in which the Auto Memory Doll could bring emotions to life, Violet decides to become one and find a new life path.
War is hell. That is something that no one debates, and every story about war shows the horrors of the battlefield. But what not many stories like to touch on is the terrible reality that the survivors face. PTSD, shellshock, and the inability to adapt to times of peace are some of the very real problems that veterans have, and what Violet lives through as she tries every day to find something to do with herself. This is a drama that isn't easy to watch, but that is beautiful through heartbreak and genuine emotions.
1. Banana Fish
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: July 2018 – December 2018
When Eiji Okumura’s career as a vault pole jumper ended due to an injury, his friend Shunichi Ibe offered him a job as his assistant, which Eiji accepted as it would help him find something to do now that he was 17 and without a direction in his life. Once in New York, Shunichi's report on American street gangs led him and Shunichi to meet Ash Lynx, a 17-year-old gang boss who was practically raised by the godfather of the mafia Dino Golzine. Ash and Eiji bond quickly, but their meeting is interrupted by Dino’s men, who are trying to stop Ash from investigating a drug named Banana Fish and kidnap Eiji to make Ash come to them. But Ash didn’t get to where he is by blindly following orders, and what follows will change his and Eiji’s lives forever.
Based on the 1985 manga by Akimi Yoshida, Banana Fish was the surprise of the year. Not because anyone doubted that the story would be good–the original manga has for many years been considered one of the best shoujo manga of its time. But 33 years after its publication, no one expected an anime adaptation; so when MAPPA announced it, fans became quite interested. Unfortunately, giving more details would completely spoil the story, so trust us, the character development and the plot are complex and intriguing, and it’s more than worth your time to watch it at least once.
As we said before, the Drama genre is one of the most prolific in every form of narrative entertainment: from movies to ONAs, from novels to manga, there are more dramas made than any other genre and that's without going into the mixed genre stories such as horror dramas, psychological dramas, and mystery dramas.
This is why it’s really hard to make a list of only ten series to recommend. While we stand by our choices and really think you should watch every title on our list, we also want to know your opinion. Of the series on this list, which one was your favorite? Do you agree with our order? or do you think we missed one great drama of 2018? Don’t forget to leave your opinion in the comments below!