From what I’ve gathered, the common opinion seems to be that 2018 was one of the best years for anime ever. Was it? Well there’s no denying that there were certainly quite a number of anime that struck a chord with the masses over the last year. In fact, I have right here, a list of every anime series that got popular in 2018 based on a list of criteria I’m not going to go into detail over (although I will say it’s changed a bit from the 2009 lists). However, the short of it is that I basically included all of the anime that either had a good number of people watching it upon airing or got critical acclaim from a small but dedicated fanbase. Most of this list is based on the American fanbase and what little I can see of the Japanese fanbase, and the anime has to end this year.
And while everybody mostly just does top ten lists of their favorite anime around this time whilst ignoring the anime that were bad, Standing on My Neck works a little differently. We do worst and best lists here in order to celebrate anime’s failures as well as its successes. And just to make sure that things are kept fair, we’re only allowing popular anime on said lists. Popular anime series to be more precise, because let’s be honest, those are the only anime that truly matter in the general fandom. That way, I have a good method to say what anime from this year were truly bad without going after easy targets that aren’t even worth remembering in the first place, and I avoid accusations that I’m some hipster going against popular opinion in order to be edgy when I get to the best list.
Because with regards to the worst list, which we’re going to be focusing on today, I want to make it clear that these aren’t just bad anime. These are bad anime that got a lot of people’s attention. That generated tons of online discussion and had people cosplaying the characters from these shows at conventions despite the actual thing spawning this community behavior not being worth it. Or alternatively, got really big whilst airing, but fell off the radar completely after finishing either because people thought they were crap or they didn’t have much staying power. It’s pretty cathartic to beat up on big anime before we get to the actual praise in my book, and I hope you’re all excited to see my honest opinions on what I found to be overexposed tripe.
Just a reminder that no series continuing into the next year can get on, and I will not allow any sequels on the list that aren’t a significant change from their predecessor. Also, I haven’t seen all of the popular anime from this year, because I’m only human. However, I did make sure to watch what people have informed me are some of the worst/best shows this year had to offer, so even though I never gave Grancrest Senki much of a chance, I very much doubt it would get on either list since the common consensus seems to be it wasn’t terrible and wasn’t particularly good.
Well that’s enough buildup. Let’s countdown the top five worst popular anime of 2018, folks.
Netflix’s reputation this year in terms of anime has been up and down so to speak.
You’ve got Devilman Crybaby and Aggretsuko being decent hits on the platform. You’ve got them licensing Neon Genesis Evangelion and there are even talks about redubbing the show, which I can only see as an improvement as long as they keep the baloney pony line (aka the best/only good thing about the original dub). But then you’ve got Sword Gai. Hero Mask. AICO Incarnation. Basically a bunch of anime that try to cater to a more Western audience and utterly fail at it because if you remove the Japanese culture and don’t get the Western culture right, what good are you?
Well okay, Sword Gai was heavily Japanese and failed for other reasons, but my point is that the majority of Netflix anime suck.
If I didn’t have the restriction of only including popular anime on this list, almost all of the Netflix anime would have made it on this list. But since only one of these failures actually got popular due to coming out right before we knew any better, that’s the one we’re going to recognize here.
5. B: The Beginning (Production I.G.)
You guys remember B: The Beginning? It was kinda big for a time, and then it just faded into cult status as a show that people mostly enjoy for the pulp trash atmosphere it gives. Except while other trashy anime from this year had at least one particular element I can point to as fascinating from the titular character of Goblin Slayer to the action scenes in Sirius the Jaeger, I can’t think of anything that stands out about this show.
The plot is completely uninspired with its out of place supernatural elements combined with the multiple plot threads that come together about as well as Elon Musk and common sense. And the animation is the same soulless quality that Production I.G. have been giving to us for years now. Even trash has to make some sort of sense underneath the terrible decisions made during production, and the only sense B: The Beginning had was the sense that it had no idea what kind of series it wanted to be.
Whenever I think about this show, all I can recall is the utter boredom I felt whilst binging it. Even if this show only existed for the art, it fails at that as well. And it’s only on fifth place, so you can imagine just how awful the other shows I picked for this list are. But the other reason it’s not higher on the list is because I’ve seen some of the other Netflix anime and I know how much worse they can be than B: The Beginning. The majority of anime suck in general, but literally none of the western-pandering Netflix anime have been good, and I don’t expect that trend to turn out anything positive in the near future.
To be honest, I don’t know if I really hate this next anime all that much. I mean it’s pretty honest about being edgy crap. It’s paced fine. The animation is ugly, but sometimes it’s ugly in a hilarious way. And at the very least, I had a firmer grasp of the plot in this than I did in B: The Beginning.
It’s just, well, I’m sick of these Madoka copycats, okay?
4. Magical Girl Site (production DoA)
And it’s not just the trend I’m tired of. I’m sick of all the cliches this show embodies. I’m sick of seeing a bunch of girls who are drawn way younger than they probably are going all Ryukishi07 on me with their sudden facial shifts and the change in voice pitch from cutesy to enraged. I’m sick of the bullies whose sole reason for existing is to be an asshole. I’m sick of the psychological issues that are less grounded in reality than an NTR hentai. I’m sick of these anime trying to pass aside their failures as satire when it’s clear that they don’t have anything interesting to say even if you look at them like that. I’m sick of even thinking about this anime in general.
In fact, what exactly happened in this again? There’s a site that produces magical tools, which young girls can use to kill people at the cost of their lifespan. There’s a total wuss of a protagonist with no real personality traits beyond being punchable who’s completely dependent on a more confident veteran in the field. There’s some doomsday countdown associated with the site that I guess is supposed to predict a Walpurgisnacht-like apocalypse? There was an evil brother who was so poorly written it felt like the writer was purposefully trolling the audience with how bad at his job he could be.
I don’t know how well-received this was in Japan, but it barely qualifies as popular here according to most of the websites I looked at, and all I have to say is “goddammit”. I really did not want to watch this show when I heard about it. I thought it would be like Caligula or the Legend of the Galactic Heroes revival in that we all agree it wasn’t worth our time according to the first few episodes and just let it die in obscurity. And it technically did after it ended like most popular shows, but not to the point where I couldn’t justify leaving it off this list. So yeah, it’s now on here. I hope you guys are happy.
To this day, I still can’t believe how big Darling in the Franxx became when it entered our lives about a year ago.
When the mecha genre was all but dying due to a lack of innovative ideas and all of the popular entries after Code Geass ending up more disappointing than Woody Allen’s continual refusal to go away, here came Darling in the Franxx to save giant robots by basically being the most uninspired ripoff of Evangelion in years. It wasn’t hard to see why it became popular given the way it was hitting all the right checkboxes for the casual audience, but man did that popularity come with a price.
I’ve mentioned this briefly in the anime controversies from 2018 that I didn’t give a Twelve Days spot, but ANN accusing Franxx of right-wing propaganda was literally the dumbest criticism I’ve ever seen. And so were Anime Feminist’s solution to how the show should have subverted its incredibly standard and dated viewpoints on gender roles. Now admittedly, the production team have admitted that they had no intention of saying anything of real substance with this anime, so I guess a lot of Franxx’s viewpoints can just be traced to how Japan sees gender roles in general. And as I’ve mentioned before, the writer of Steins;Gate was heavily involved with the story, and he’s admitted in interviews that he doesn’t have the most ambitious mindset when it comes to creating stuff.
It’s wrong in quite a few ways, but let’s not start bringing Nazis into the argument, okay? If you’re going to hate an anime, how about we hate it for the right reasons?
3. Steins;Gate 0 (White Fox)
For example, let’s hate on Steins;Gate 0 for being a boring, poorly animated, poorly realized mess that makes every bad decision when it comes to adapting a video game into an anime. Let’s hate on it for being incredibly overlong. Let’s hate on it for spending more than half the runtime on a prologue with no important character development or anything of interest happening. Let’s hate on it for having one of the most creatively bankrupt visions of the apocalypse until RErideD came along. Let’s hate it on for not realizing that just because Clannad managed to become so successful by doing this in the late 00s doesn’t mean those adaptations choices are going to work now. Even Fate – the most successful visual novel property in current year – gets around this issue by just focusing on one route with each adaptation.
I really don’t have much to say about this one that I haven’t already said before. The only real thing I can add is that looking back on the show, my god was it ugly as sin. I recently saw that horrible Valentine’s Day OVA, and on top of Steins;Gate once again failing to understand the concept of humor, it fails to not blind me whenever I look at it. Jesus, I don’t think the Rewrite anime adaptation was as eye-cancerous as Steins;Gate 0.
Seriously, how do you watch this show without going to your local optometrist immediately afterwards?
When is the world going to wake up to the fact that the Science Adventure series has peaked long ago, and it’s never going to be good again for the rest of its life? It’s like trying to hold out hope for the new Star Wars, the new expanded Harry Potter lore, and all of that other unnecessary junk. Just let it die, please.
…fuck you Nitroplus.
So have you guys seen High Score Girl?
It’s this CG show on Netflix about a love triangle between three gamers growing up in the 90s. The male is a video game obsessed loser who somehow manages to get two girls falling for him despite his lack of skills applicable to the real world (which he does learn over time). One of the females is a rich girl who is forbidden to play games at her place and thus takes solace in arcades where she’s much better at gaming than anyone else. And the other female is a normie who converts into a gamer thanks to the influence of the male and ends up beating him at fighting games.
The show takes place over the course of several years from elementary to high school as the characters grow along with video game trends at the time. Also, can I just say that I love how this show integrates video game culture into the narrative? They don’t just have Street Fighter in the anime because it existed during the time. Guile and Zangief are actually core parts of the narrative and relationships between these three characters.
But while it does technically qualify as “popular” because it managed to become a critical darling with its low number of viewers, not to mention that it’s a decent hit in Japan, it’s not going to be on my best list. I wasn’t a fan of how dependent one of the girl’s characterization was on her affections for the main dude, and I still don’t understand why physical abuse is supposed to be funny. There’s definitely a lot that can be improved upon in regards to what it accomplishes. However, I speak no hyperbole when I say that High Score Girl is without a doubt a pretty decent standard in regards to how romance between nerds should be done, as well as a good standard in regards to integrating nerd culture into your story.
Certainly more authentic to being a nerd than this piece of crap.
2. Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for an Otaku (A-1 Pictures)
This is by far the worst of the sad attempts to make an anime catered towards the adult otaku demographic that I’ve seen. And as per usual in the world of terrible Japanese cartoons, you can put all of the blame on A-1 Pictures, recklessly chasing after what’s popular and putting the bare minimum effort into bringing said popularity to life. What’s even more insulting about this anime was how obvious it was that they got the guy who directed Working and Servant x Service to adapt the manga, as Wotakoi is just pretty much those anime except with otaku and even worse animation. Same bland jokes about working. Same lack of any sort of narrative direction. Same terrible comedic timing. Same uncanny ability to put me in a coma.
As a guy running an anime club that has hooked up more couples than a speed dating service and has gone on dates with a few anime nerds himself in just the last year alone, I can tell you straight out that this show is far from an accurate portrayal of how nerds dating each other goes. And even if you do want to factor in cultural differences, last I checked, nerds in love are supposed to have romantic chemistry. They’re at least supposed to have some sort of physical contact. Not act like how I do around my female friends. My brother shares drinks in the theater and wraps his arms around his female friends, and they’re all taken!
What the hell is the point of watching a show about nerds in love when the romance isn’t good, the jokes aren’t funny, the animation looks like ass, and there’s no sense of progression? I mentioned High Score Girl earlier because while the love triangle was contrived and J.C. Staff’s attempt at CG animation looked about as natural as a hunch-backed cyclops with wings, at least it understood gamers and 90s games whilst using that knowledge to push the romance forward. In fact, these days, J.C. Staff can be considered to be the more tolerable version of A-1. They’re still a completely unmemorable studio, but at least their animation has some personality to it.
This on the other hand? This is about as representative of nerds as most “get woke go broke” fiction is to the LBGQT community. It appeals to the most basic things nerds do without making anything out of it, and it looks butt-ugly to boot. I’m pretty sure at this point that A-1 Pictures exists solely to murder animation as an art medium, and shows like Wotakoi are not doing a good job of changing my mind.
Alright, on to the worst popular anime of the year. But first, here are some anime that either weren’t bad/popular enough to make the list, but they still deserve comments from me anyways.
Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online (Studio 3Hz)
You know, I’ve had my problems with Studio 3Hz in the past. I find their anime to be visually empty spectacles without much of anything to say. And the only thing they seemed to be saying with their newest hit of the year is “video games are fun and you can form friendships through them”. Yeah, try playing Mario Party with people and see how long any potential friendship lasts.
Hanebado (Liden Films)
I honestly kind of admire the amount of dedication the writers of this show put into making its lead character completely unlikable despite all of the shit she goes through. It’s stupid, but it’s the kind of stupid that makes me go “awww, that’s precious”. Hey as far as bad anime go, that’s a big compliment.
Fate/Extra Last Encore (Shaft)
Angels of Death (J.C. Staff)
This is another example of why trying to make an anime out of a video game is almost guaranteed to fail. They pretty much just went through all of the plot points without realizing that without the immersion created by the gameplay, you’re left with barely developed characters who only start letting us into their world near the end of story, long after the audience stops caring. And the story itself is pretty retarded when you factor in anime’s continued inability to do horror properly.
Master of Ragnarok & Blesser of Einherjar (EMT Squared)
Not popular. I just want to make it clear that this would have been my #1 if it had been. Seriously, this anime had one of the worst endings since Koi Koi 7.
Osomatsu-san S2 (Studio Pierrot)
Can I just express how glad I am that this fucking series fell off the radar so quickly after its incredibly overexposed time in the sun when it initially debuted? I warned people that this brand of humor wasn’t going to have long-lasting appeal, and it feels so good to be proven right with the crap reception this and that already-forgotten Bakabon adaptation got.
Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai (Cloverworks)
How many years is A-1 Pictures going to keep failing to give me a reason why they should exist? This is their biggest hit of the year, and even under a different name, it is as badly animated and unimaginatively executed as everything else they produce. No wonder the Japanese make fun of us Americans for liking this over SSSS Gridman.
Iroduku: The World In Colors (P.A. Works)
I honestly don’t understand why out of the three anime series that PA Works produced this year, their worst one was the show that ended up getting big. And like Magical Girl Site, this was barely popular as is. Man this studio struggles when it doesn’t have someone prolific like Tsutomu Mizushima, Jun Maeda, or Mari Okada to carry it.
You know, I’ve gained a grudging respect for popular anime that fans love to cosplay like Sword Art Online, Monster Musume, Juuni Taisen, and so on and so forth. If it’s allowing people to celebrate their nerdiness in creative picture-worthy ways, then it’s at least doing more good for the world than our own government after all. But I still don’t understand why Overlord, an anime that has not gone anywhere since the first episode of the first freaking season, still retains its popularity and acclaim with fans after delivering the animated equivalent of post-Season 2 Dexter to the world. The show doesn’t even look good.
Alright, that’s enough of that. Let’s get on with the worst of the worst. What exactly is my choice for worst popular anime of 2018?
Hm, there aren’t any light novel adaptations in my worst list so far. Wonder if there were any that got big this year…
…oh look, an isekai anime from this year directed by Shin Oonuma that’s apparently the 487th (as of this writing) most popular anime of all-time. Nice.
1. Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody (Silver Link)
Honestly, I don’t understand how Shin Oonuma keeps getting worse with each passing year. Just when I think the man can’t sink any lower, he goes and directs another shitty light novel adaptation that’s somehow even worse than the last. But we’ve got to be nearing the bottom of the barrel with Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody, right? Okay it’s not Master of Ragnarok levels of bad. It probably isn’t even “that little sister show from Fall 2018” level of bad. That said, who the hell looked at this anime and thought it would be acceptable to show to the public?
It’s yet another terrible isekai anime based on a fairly popular light novel that’s apparently really good, but you wouldn’t know that based on the anime adaptation. The RPG mechanics are incredibly annoying and the characters are walking stereotypes with some of them being way too young to show off skin and yet the show does it anyways, and then falling for our “29 turned 19-year old” protagonist in a way that most people into lolicon would find desperate. There’s no story to this show. It’s just a tensionless series of events happening without any rhyme or reason to care other than to check off a bunch of fetishes that aren’t the least bit titillating.
More importantly, what happened to Oonuma’s Shaft-lite directing style? It’s completely absent in this adaptation in lieu of terrible CG that would embarrass a PS1 Classic after it went through a trash compactor. How the hell did this show even get people watching after the first episode when it introduced that CG dragon? This adaptation was so bad that despite so many people watching it, it ended up scoring terribly on anime sites before deservedly getting swept under the rug so that much better anime could take its place. Seriously, how many people actually remember this show existed before today?
It’s occurred to me whilst writing this that I rarely watch Silver Link anime despite them releasing so many shows a year, and if you look at their resume, it’s not hard to see why. They rarely release anything that draws a crowd, and when was the last time people liked one of their popular shows? Non Non Biyori? Maybe Masamune-kun’s Revenge? They feel so long ago now. And yet, even if it was just for three months, somehow this got a big audience. I don’t understand the draw, but I do understand that Death March is without a doubt the worst popular anime of 2018. Disagree? Well you’re going to have to make a very convincing case for your own selection.