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Team AFA's Top Animation Releases of 2018

As AFA takes one final look back at 2018, we remember the pieces of animated media that made this past year such an exciting one. Whether you’re knees deep in the industry or just a passionate fan, 2018 gave animation enthusiasts like us so many different films and shows to capture our hearts and inspire. Giving us a glimpse at what may be waiting for us in the future.

In that spirit, here is AFA's staff picks for the Best animation of 2018!

Chris Perkins

2018 was another fantastic year for animation, with brilliant stuff coming out in the realms of movies, TV and streaming. While there were many titles that I enjoyed throughout the year. Two movies, in particular, were standouts for me.

From the moment I saw the first teaser, I knew that Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse was going to be something special. Even then, I wasn't prepared for how much it blew me away. The phrase "game-changer" was bandied about a lot in the run-up to the release and it seems appropriate. The animation looks like nothing else and proves that CG animation doesn't have to play it safe. The film underneath the visuals is equally amazing- funny, smart, and heartfelt. It never loses sight of the fact that what makes Spider-man special is the character(s) behind the mask- whether its Peter Parker or Miles Morales. It's probably the most "comicbooky" comic book movie of all time and probably the best mainstream American animated movie of the decade so far.

My other pick is a very different affair. I've long been an admirer of Mamoru Hosoda's work but for me, none of his films had quite lived up to his breakthrough The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. So it was a lovely surprise to me that 2018's Mirai is probably my new favorite of his films. It shares some similarities with his earlier film- not least that time travel plays a big part- but ups the game, with stunning animation and beautiful set-pieces. The characterization is beautifully observed, as anyone who has spent time with a four-year-old can attest. Sublime stuff.

Gino Balton Abello

2018 was quite a wild ride for me personally as I am sure it was for most everyone else on the planet. Thankfully there was no shortage of wonderful animated shows and films to keep up my spirits through two house moves and four job changes.

Sanrio of all people took it upon themselves to explore the existential angst of the adult working world with their Netflix Original Aggretsuko. Fewer pieces of media spoke to me on such a personal and visceral level as the scene where Retsuko hide in her company’s storage closet to eat her lunch alone so as to not incur the concern of her co-workers about her meager diet of stale bread crusts and mayo. I marathoned the whole show the weekend I spent in my new apartment surrounded by boxes that didn’t belong to me and sleeping in a stranger’s sheets, and yet I was able to feel comfortable and hopeful about my future when relating to Retsuko’s struggles and triumphs, few as they were.

My other animated love affair this year was the very show I introduced myself to AFA with, and also happens to be a Netflix Original Anime: Devilman Crybaby. I talked at length about Masaaki Yuasa’s latest series on our episode of the AFA Podcast we did for the show (which you should totally listen to if you haven’t!), but even a full year later it stands out as an absolute achievement. It was the perfect antidote to the post-holiday blues (and the post-holiday flu) and kept me coming back again and again

Ali Harris


Once again, Warner Bros. Animation has managed to blow me away with another animated comedy. This time, instead of storks delivering babies, we followed the adventures of a Yeti trying to discover if humans exist…a pretty funny spin on the monster hunter story. Besides adorably cartoonish animation, Smallfoot delivers a soundtrack of catchy songs, a flowing palette of gorgeous colors, and a story that’s filled with heart. What could’ve easily been another goofy adventure flick became an instant family hit. It makes you laugh and makes you think about yourself. Overall, Smallfoot is a great big success. 

Bilal: A New Breed of Hero
Based on the true adventures of one of the first muezzins (men who call to prayer), Bilal: A New Breed of Hero was definitely an unexpected hit in my books. Much like The Prince of Egypt, it shows great respect to a religious story while also maintaining the heart of an action/adventure flick. This is easily one of the most gorgeous animated films I’ve ever seen, with characters who are filled with so much emotion and heart. (Seriously, there are times where I feel like Disney greats Glen Keane and Nick Ranieri took over the art department.) I certainly hope that Baradjoun Entertainment continues producing animated films. If they are anything like Bilal, they will be incredible. 

Christophe Harvey

For me, 2018 was a good year for animation and my consumption of it. In the UK we had theatrical showings for Mirai no Mirai, Maquia, Cowboy Bebop (not a recent release but great to see on the big screen) to name a few. Through festivals, we had Penguin Highway, and the London Film Festival had a good crop too. Factor in streaming (One-Punch Man and Aggretsuko) and the DVD/Blu-ray releases and it was an impressive year.

The year got off to a very strong start which gave me my first favorite of the year in Devilman Crybaby (currently being streamed on Netflix). I was really excited about this as I am a big fan of Masaki Yuasa. I'm not a huge fan of Go Nagai but was sure that Yuasa would engage me with his unique sense of animation, the superflat artistic style and a vibrancy of color. I was not disappointed and whilst I tried to ration my viewing to an episode a day ... I devoured the last half in an evening. It has a huge visual impact (it's worth watching the opening credits alone) and some story elements and themes that will stand the test of time and have felt more relevant as the year progressed. It neatly encapsulates growing up and puberty but also takes in the dangers of the mob inspired by a leader with their own agenda, the hope one person can bring to inspire and the incredible power or friendship. I was swept along emotionally and by the apocalyptic end, I had to take a few moments to compose myself as it didn't pull its punches. As you can imagine I'm looking forward to what Yuasa does next.

My second pick came from the from the London Film Festival. Dilili in Paris was the standout that I very much want to see it again. Some computer animation leaves me feeling a bit cold but here Michel Ocelot nailed it. From early on I was totally charmed by this French tale of a young woman trying to find her place in the world and who inspires people along the way. Whilst some elements of animation didn't work it tried to do something amazing - I always prefer to see a director try something remarkable and not always achieve by playing it safe. The rendering of Paris was incredible, the villains were suitably despicable and for aficionados of the time period, there was much to see and enjoy. The mix of near photo-real Paris and the slightly simplified actors took a bit of getting used to but their movement was beautiful and just drew me in. I can still picture the end credit sequence and was genuinely gobsmacked at the subtlety and individuality of the members of the group dance in the credits. There is just so much to see and take in that I can imagine multiple viewings in 2019 (if it is made available on general release).

Denhery Olguin

Last year was a strong year for cartoons, so it was hard to choose which ones to talk about. There's been a couple of good reboots and many new series.

My first pick is Craig of the Creek on Cartoon Network. It's a cute adventure series about Craig and his two best friends exploring the wonders of the creek. Craig of the Creek is a refreshing series, seeing these kids going on adventures and how there are different cliques like the girls pretending to be horses, but they all seem to get along. What also stands out is that this is a new series yet it feels nostalgic. These kids being kids, it takes me back to my childhood. When Craig is eager to see his grandparents, I remember how excited I'd get to go hug my grandma when I'd visit her. It's those small moments that really make this series so great.

The other pick is on Nickelodeon, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This series blew me away from the animation to the music. At first, I didn't know what to think about it but all we had was a promo poster when the news came out. The more information there was, the more interested I became. This show is very energetic, has vibrant colors, and amazing character designs with a stellar voice cast to go with it. Rob Paulsen is a voice director for Rise and he's been doing a fantastic job. The cast is absolutely perfect for their roles, they bring these characters to life and have such good chemistry. There have been many changes to the series such as Leo not being the leader, Splinter isn't the typical sensei father, and April has known the turtles for years (oh and she is black). The show runners have pushed the boundaries and I can’t wait to see what else they have up their sleeves.

Rachael Ward

Looking back on the animation released in 2018, it is very easy to get swept away by it all. From the legions of Netflix originals, big-budget films, independent shorts, and a large amount of Japanese animation to make it to Western shores, having to pick one as my favorite feels impossible.

The best way to narrow it down, in my mind at least, is which of those pieces of media came to you at the right time.

The time you needed to laugh, or cry or be inspired by the creativity on display. This year, the show that hit that mark with confidence was Netflix's She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.

Though I can't say this was a show made exactly for my age range, it came to me at a time when I was both physically and emotionally exhausted. Providing a great deal of levity with its witty writing and spot-on humor. I may not have been a fan of She-Ra growing up, but I didn't need to be in order to enjoy it. With Voltron having reached its conclusion, I'm eagerly anticipating to see where Dreamworks TV's new property will go in the future.

Films were even harder to pick this year. With amazing choices such as Maquia, Mirai and the return of the Incredibles I have gone back and forth with each and every one of my choices on what meant the most to me. Still, when I thought about what inspired me. Giving me a glimpse of the future of animation, of where it could potentially go in the future, I always came back to the same film. Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse has had a firm hand on my heart since it's teaser released in 2017 and has been one of my most anticipated films of the year. Even with all that anticipation and doubt if it would live up to my hopes, it surpassed it all. Even after leaving the theater, I want to learn more. More about the film's production, the development of its unique style, how they narrowed down which Spidermen/Women to use, all of it.

It was the delicious cherry on top of one of what I consider one of the best years to be an animation fan.