Tuesday’s Top 5: Visually Interesting Anime from 2018

Tuesday's Top 5

Continuing my lists of anime from 2018, I am now looking at the most visually interesting anime. Notice it does not claim the best visuals or animation. To be honest, as long as something is watchable I generally don’t pay a huge amount of attention other than to decide something looks pretty or not. For instance, Angolmois managed to have me complaining about how ugly it looked almost every episode so I knew it had to be pretty bad for me to pay that much attention to it (that and Devils’ Line – what was it with weird filters this year). 

Still, there are some requirements for an anime to be on my radar for visuals. I need to like the look it is going for. It needs to feel slightly different from the other shows I’ve been watching. Some good choices in direction usually help. And, let’s be honest, the animation needs to be pretty smooth. Now, some of my choices on the list won’t have all of those things, but that’s kind of what I’m going for. And that term ‘interesting’ is in the title for a reason. I need to have found the visuals interesting, as in I thought they were worth mentioning and discussing on more than one occasion because they grabbed my interest.

Which is kind of how 18if made it onto the top of the list for 2017 and March Comes in Like a Lion took out second place in 2017 and top place in 2016. These anime demanded that I pay attention to their visuals and gave me imagery that stayed with me well after the episodes had ended. So what made my list in 2018? 

Honourable Mentions:

This year I’m giving an honourable mention to Run With The Wind and Darling in the Franxx. Franxx’s animation was gorgeous and the character designs were really cute. Even if I’m not a big fan of Trigger in general, it is hard to argue with those visuals. Run With The Wind has moments of spectacular direction and aesthetics and then large stretches where it feels pretty ordinary. If it could harness those moments where visually it just nails the scene, it would definitely have made it on the official list.

Number 5: Cardcaptor Sakura – Clear Card

While there were many parts of this reboot/sequel that didn’t quite work out as well as I would have liked, visually this was everything I could have ever wanted. Cardcaptor had always been beautiful but the update to the look of the show was spectacular. The magical moments sparkled and did everything they needed to, but it was the attention to detail on the everyday aspects, trees, leaves, flowers, cooking, background characters, that really sold me on the visuals of this one. While the story ended up being kind of meh, there is no denying how pretty this anime turned out.

Number 4: Tsurune

I will admit, this one has some wavering quality with some sequences being outstandingly pretty and others being more ordinary, but it never looks bad. The archery has so far been beautifully animated, the characters are lovely to look at and differentiated enough that you don’t get confused, and there’s just a general care and attention to detail here that is truly pleasurable to watch. I accept that some of what makes this work is how the visuals and sounds are paired together, but ultimately this is one very pretty sports anime.

Number 3: My Hero Academia Season 3

Right, it would have been just plain wrong to leave this one off of the list. For all that I didn’t find season three as enticing as seasons one and two, this season really did bring some spectacular animation to the mix of the already fairly amazing character designs and general distinct look of the show. For all that My Hero Academia is pretty classic shounen, everything about the look of the show has managed to make itself feel unique and the ongoing impressive quality of the action sequences where it never feels like lazy or reused imagery means this anime remains one that should be praised for just how good it manages to look.

Number 2: March Comes in Like a Lion Season 2

So, yeah, this one is on the list for the third year in a row (because it is awesome). I’m kind of sad that once again it has lost out on first place given it is still a truly amazingly beautiful anime to watch. Even in its most mundane moments, March Comes in Like a Lion manages to use an impressive combination of visual symbolism and interesting direction to draw the viewer’s eye to whatever they wish us to focus on. They are crafting an amazing character journey and the reason it works so well is very much because of how they present each stage. However, what really impressed in 2018 was the scene where Rei returned to his foster parents’ house. The awkwardness of that scene and the emotions both characters were feeling came through beautifully. It was something really simple and yet it worked spectacularly well. Wait, why didn’t I put this at number one again?

Number 1: Bloom Into You

Oh right, March Comes in Like a Lion couldn’t quite beat this one for direction in its second half of season two (which is all that aired in 2018). Now, if you want to see something that feels like it has been carefully constructed with love and attention to detail in every single frame, Bloom Into You is the anime for you. I love the direction, the use of colour and contrasts, the character designs, quite literally everything about this anime is beautiful and it works to construct a story that emotionally takes the audience on a ride. It is a truly amazing thing to see in action and there isn’t a single sequence that isn’t worth rewatching just to think about how it has been put together and why it is so amazing.

And that brings us to the end of my list of visually interesting anime for 2018. However, as always, I am dying to know what the rest of you thought this year. Please share your favourites in the comments below.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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11 thoughts on “Tuesday’s Top 5: Visually Interesting Anime from 2018

  1. I have to second Irozuka and Twilight as great looking shows. After The Rain did some interesting things too to lift it beyond the usual teen angst rom-com. Asobi Asobase subverted the schoolgirl comedy with its off kilter aesthetic and of course there is the retro look of Megalo Box.

    I’m surprised Cells At Work wasn’t on your list given the way they realised the human body as a fully active society.

    1. I definitely considered Cells at Work and it almost made the honourable mentions. MY biggest issue with that was, if you took away the fact that they were human cells, the actual visuals of the story weren’t that great. I really loved the concept and the designs but ultimately, just looking at the screen caps and thinking back over it, it just didn’t grab me the way other shows did.

  2. I gotta mention Koi wa Ameagari no You ni here. The various iconography (such as the tipped hurdles in episode one, or the evolving motifs of shoes and rain) did wonders for telling the story without characters verbally explaining everything. I’m not entirely in love with the character designs, but the beautiful character acting throughout the show really brings them to life, with all the little details included.

    I haven’t seen Bloom Into You yet, but it looks like it has a similar directorial style to Ameagari.

    Also I know it’s an overly mentioned show right now, but SSSS.Gridman’s shot and color composition is amazing. In almost every shot they frame characters and objects to tell a story, sometimes even using the environment to change the aspect resolution of the frame. The moments outside of Gridman’s fights are almost 100% hand drawn, with incredibly detailed backgrounds given out generously.
    The show also has signs of that iconic Noriko Takao style (the hand-focused style that she brought to Clannad, K-On, and Franxx) which results in a very expressive set of characters.

    1. I only made it really through the first episode of Gridman and the large number of shots of background details or just seemingly random objects drove me crazy. I’ve seen some excellent posts discussing the use of colour and the like in the anime, but I found the direction of it really off-putting.

      1. Yeah that’s the unfortunate downside to pillow shots and cuts to background shots; if it isn’t communicated well enough, or the viewer doesn’t cotton on to the meaning, it ends up being wasted space. I had that problem with Violet Evergarden recently.

  3. I think that I would have placed March Comes in Like a Lion first. Also, Darling in the Franxx would have place higher with me. . .but an interesting list. (Rather surprised to not see Girl in the Twilight, which imo has some incredible visuals.)

    1. I didn’t get very far with Girl in the Twilight so the impact of the visuals was somewhat lessened.
      I think Darling in the Franxx didn’t get higher because while the robot designs were cool and there was some amazing animation, the world itself was very typical dystopian and pretty ordinary looking. Still, it did have its moments.

    1. March Comes in Like a Lion is just beautiful. So many scenes you just want to pause and stare at forever. Though Bloom Into You has quite a few of those moments as well.

  4. Irozuku. The scenic shots and bright colors, the close-ups with muted colors, the black and white… While I think the show may struggle a bit in close-up character design and animation, the visuals from the show’s canvas shots are astounding.

    1. That’s tragically one I can’t watch right at the moment, no access. Still, it has looked pretty in the screen shots I’ve seen on others blogs.

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