With something like 130 releases in 2017, Sentai Filmworks dropped down to just about 90 releases in 2018 and had a number of re-releases and compiled two-cour sets that came out. It actually proved to be a bit more of a challenge in figuring out the ten titles that really resonated well with me overall and that I would want to include on the list. The year had some good things that didn’t make it for me like Tanaka-kun is Always Listless and follow-up seasons of things like Chihayafuru and AJIN, but there were a lot of good things to dig into with this year from the distributor. They took a few more chances, made a few more license rescues that were surprises, like Negima, and hit some strong projects overall.
Scum’s Wish: Exploring complicated love situations is definitely something I enjoy because so much of what is presented over the decades, and in anime in particular, rarely gets to the kiss itself between two characters that are fated together from page one of the manga or original story design. Scum’s Wish gives us the problem of two childhood friends with an age difference that’s now making things a whole lot more complicated. When a fake love is setup in order to deal with the loneliness that exists and it becomes sexual in order to help out with the needs that they’re feeling, we get into some rich territory for exploring characters and how they react to situations.
Takunomi: A series about a group of women living in a women’s-only complex who enjoy drinking together. This is the kind of slow burn series that really drives my continuing love of anime as it explores areas that you don’t get often. Getting to see these characters navigate their lives while dealing with it in shorter form and with a heavy focus on drinking brings all the results and leaves me wanting more and more o fit. It’s nicely animated and it allows you to be drawn into the characters and their stories well.
Initial D Films: Having fallen hard for the TV series back in the day with all of its awful animation, which adapted some pretty rough designs from the manga, this is a property that I’m always down for more of. While I’m frustrated that we keep covering the same areas as this basically works a condensed version of a lot of what we’ve seen before, it’s great to see how the animation process has progressed so that it can look as great as it does. The trilogy is a lot of fun and delivers a great experience for those wanting to get more of a taste of this world. I’ll still hold out hope for a good modern TV series that adapts all 48-volumes of the manga and slaps a killer Eurobeat soundtrack on it.
No Game No Life Zero: As much as I thrilled to the TV series, the Zero film was a fascinating exercise in what it did. Adapting from one of the novels, this one uses the familiar characters but places them within a story that takes place 6,000 years before the TV series. That explores the new with a familiar thing but none of it matches up to what you expect. It’s an odd disconnect at first but as you immerse yourself in this world where things are vastly different and also deal with a self-contained story, it’s easy to get behind the concept. It’s beautifully animated as one would expect from this franchise but you definitely have to check expectations at the door since it’s not another piece of the present-day storyline.
Made in Abyss: It’s rare for a single-cour season to be as magical and mysterious as this one is but Made in Abyss delivers some of the best world-building out there. As we follow these characters down into the worlds below through the caverns and the sprawling abyss, we get introduced to a range of fascinating characters that inhabit these areas, and other creatures that exist down here as well. Though it’s kind of straightforward in a way it’s the attention to detail and craftsmanship of the series that really draws you in. Each area and each layer is so intriguing that you could build a season around navigating just that. With a compilation film and follow-up works, this is the kind of property that will be timeless and always a great introduction to what anime can be.
Love and Lies: Government orchestrated marriage is definitely an interesting angle to bring into storytelling and there’s a lot of options to work with just in deciding what genre to bring it. Played generally seriously with some good light moments here and there, as we see these high school kids grapple with their own feelings and the assignments that they’re actually being given. Can you date and be in a relationship with someone knowing that it has to end because of the impending mandated marriage? It doesn’t delve too hard into the social/government issues here as everything is taken as a given, but it opens up some solid conversational things.
Aura Battler Dunbine: Once thought to be a truly lost title with no hope of rescue, the Dunbine Blu-ray was a fantastic rescue when it came through. Getting the full 49-episode run in one set on high-definition after so many of the DVD singles from a decade before were long out of print and hard to find took the series to the next level. This project is one that plays to its own kind of craziness and with Yoshiyuki Tomino behind it, you could see what kinds of things he wanted to explore and worlds he wanted to create. In some ways he always felt ahead of its his time but without the ability to get all of the artistry in his head out in the way he wanted. Anime offers up the best path for it and this one is just thrilling in all the visual design elements, the world-building, and the expansive that makes it legendary.
Glass Mask 1984: While the 2005 series is what introduced me to this wonderful property, getting to see the original was a real treat. The property is one that I love for how it approaches acting in this period and the kind of cruelty inherent in the system with various players on all sides, but seeing the naive aspect of our lead as she navigates it and accepts all the pain and humiliation in order to become better is fascinating to watch. There’s a sadomasochistic element to it that really is disturbing at times with her but there’s also the whole molding a diamond out of the rough story going on as others chip away at her to help her achieve something transcendent.
Princess Tutu: I try to not get too many re-releases or follow-up collections on these lists but Princess Tutu hit the Blu-ray side of things and it was wonderful. Though it wasn’t designed for such presentation in its original release, what we get here shows the material off even better and the sound design for it alone is worth the upgrade for those that have a good setup. The series is one that we’ve loved since we first saw it and being able to binge it like this was a real delight as the various threads feel even stronger and more interwoven than they did when we looked at it through the single DVD releases.
Seven Heavenly Virtues: As I’ve stated before, I love my fanservice shows as much as I love the heavy thinking projects, the great romances, and the big action pieces. This series, done as shorts, is utterly delightful in just how ridiculous it is as the various Virtues come to Earth each seeking a new messiah and hoping that they’ve chosen the right one. It involves all sorts of sexuality and seduction and a range of different characters shown through the dirties of angles. And it’s glorious. It’s certainly not for everyone but I thrilled to the weekly experience and loved getting the complete collection.
Chris has been writing about anime, manga, movies and comics for well on twenty years now. He began AnimeOnDVD.com back in 1998 and has covered nearly every anime release that’s come out in the US ever since.