Shelf Life
The 2018 Year In Review

by Paul Jensen,

'Tis the season for “year in review” articles, and you'd better believe we're getting in on that action in Shelf Life. Here, you'll find a list of some of the most interesting and noteworthy titles we've covered this year, with two reviews from each member of the Shelf Life team. Instead of a “best of” article, think of this as a collection of the films and TV series that gave us the most to talk about, whether it was because of their unique stories or the way they influenced their particular genre. If any of these catch your interest, you'll find links to the full reviews in the summary paragraphs. Since there aren't any new releases to check out this week, let's dive right into it. Welcome to Shelf Life.

The Year in Review

First up is The Life of Budori Gusuko, which Gabriella reviewed back in March. Featuring the same director as the influential Night on the Galactic Railroad, this film takes a look at our relationship with nature, both in terms of feeling like we're at its mercy and in terms of trying to achieve some form of mastery over it. Gabriella pointed out that while the movie's narrative structure can be a little awkward at times, its emotional appeal more than makes up for those flaws. It's definitely worth a look if you're looking for something a little more artistic than the usual genre fare, but you may want to start with Night on the Galactic Railroad to get used to the storytelling style.

As coincidence would have it, the next two titles on this list ended up right next to one another on our August review schedule. No Game, No Life Zero was the first of the pair, and this prequel film offers a fresh take on the fan-favorite series. As someone who enjoyed the energy and art style of the TV series but had issues with some of its character writing, I found this movie's darker and more dramatic tone to be a welcome improvement. I did miss the original's crazy game scenarios, but No Game, No Life Zero is just a darn good movie in its own right and it adds some worthwhile context to the premise of the TV series. It's now my favorite part of the franchise, and it's a great excuse to give the franchise another look.

One week after No Game, No Life Zero, I found myself looking at another Shelf Worthy movie. Tomorrow's Joe is much older, but it also ended up being one of the most interesting experiences I had while working on Shelf Life this year. It's not the first time I've reviewed a classic or influential title, but I can't remember any other time one piece of media added so much to my appreciation of another. You see, the story of Tomorrow's Joe was retold in a heavily adapted and updated form this year in the form of Megalobox, and while I really enjoyed that series when I first watched it, it wasn't until I saw this movie that I realized just how well Megalobox turned those classic characters and plot arcs into something new. Even if a boxing anime doesn't sound like your cup of tea, take a look at Tomorrow's Joe if you want to see where a lot of iconic anime images and plot twists came from, and then watch Megalobox if you want to see a modern version of the story.

Sometimes a show can be memorable for being just plain bizarre, and that's how the ambitious but flawed 18if ended up on this list. While it's theoretically an adaptation of a mobile game, James found this series to be a fascinating (if not always successful) case of an anime studio cutting loose and getting creative with its source material. With many of its episodes helmed by different directors, 18if does some intriguing things with its trippy dreamscapes, and James found that its seventh and tenth episodes were particularly worth watching. I don't know if a few good stories are enough to justify sitting through an otherwise mediocre show, but since most of the episodes are relatively self-contained in terms of plot, you may want to at least check out the highlights.

Our last two spots go to a pair of top-quality TV series, starting with Made in Abyss. Gabriella took a look at this one back in November, and she had a lot of praise for the way it translates the fear and wonder of a childhood fantasy story into a more mature work. Between the art style, the story, and the soundtrack, this is the kind of show that pushes the limit of what you can get out of a single-season anime series. Made in Abyss has garnered plenty of accolades since it first aired, and you can add the Shelf Life stamp of approval to that list.

Rounding out the list is Scum's Wish, which James reviewed just a few weeks ago. In terms of raw emotional and dramatic intensity, you'd be hard-pressed to find something that tops this show. While it pulls no punches in its depiction of young love gone wrong, James found that Scum's Wish has the storytelling prowess to make its tangled web of relationships work. James also had a lot of praise for the English dub, which features strong writing and performances across the board. As long as you're on board with a teenage drama exploring the dark corners of its characters' minds, give this one a look.

That wraps things up for this week, and also for 2018. Thank you all for your readership this year, and I hope you'll come back next week when we return to business as usual with the first new releases of 2019. Here's to another year of anime!

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