Getting started with our end-of-the-decade lists on a negative note, folks. I know 17 is kind of a weird number but I just dumped everything I could think of here. And apologies in advance to BONES, who take a fucking beating on this one by the way.
Chill beats. Cool dudes. Walking around. Every surface reflecting an unnatural amount of light and coated in a nauseating GoHands teal. I think one guy might even skateboard.
If they exhumed Nujabes’ corpse for this show’s soundtrack, then apparently they couldn’t find anyone alive or dead to write a decent plot or characters for it. I haven’t even seen Durarara and I know I prefer it to this.
16. Samurai Flamenco
Sorry, buddy ;_;
When this show started, people compared it to Super. And having not seen Super I have no bearing on its actual quality, but the point is that it was a down-to-earth show about a regular naive guy trying his hand at vigilantism. It felt like a slow burn – with promise of a gradual, satisfying build up as we watch our MC develop from cheesy sentai LARPer into someone actually admirable. Then a talking gorilla showed up.
And you know what? I was okay with the talking gorilla (what’s his name again?). It seemed a bit early for the show to go fully supernatural but it wasn’t too far from where I was hoping we would end up. Unfortunately, while still fun (we’re low on the list here, chill), SamFlam kept feeling the need to one-up itself, and devolved into what I will now coin as an “Homage of the Week”. I don’t remember all the arcs but I’m pretty sure we experience both mecha and sentai before an awkward, much more serious finale concerning one of the characters’ dead girlfriend. Also the animation really starts to look like shit at some point (RIP Manglobe).
15. Hisone to Masotan
Again, we’re not very far into this list – this show is actually alright and I like it. The problem is that it’s about fighter jets, and anything that’s about fighter jets has the potential to be Ace Combat. Hisone to Masotan is not Ace Combat – it’s a friend drama with vore, and therefore disappointing.
14. Masamune-kun no Revenge
Silver Link, 2017
I don’t remember much about this show but I think it was supposed to be about some fatso who entered the Chad Zone and completely shows up some snobby past flame but if I recall correctly he did not do that. He whines and talks to a bunch of other girls instead.
13. Seikaisuru Kado
I was hesitant to include this show on the list, because I’m not entirely sure the year 2017 actually happened. But one thing I DO know didn’t happen was this show’s satisfying conclusion!!! Haha but seriously folks-
Yeah I remember this one being a pretty girthy-brained piece of interesting hard-scifi. Then at the end it gets bad and nothing pays off. That’s all, really.
I wish I could explain this one more in-depth, but I truly don’t remember much about this show besides the fact that it wasn’t funny. The only good episode (and the only one I remember) was the one where the robot falls in love with a coffee machine and turns huge.
11. Kyoukai no Kanata
Before this aired, everyone wondered why Kyoani hadn’t really done any serious action shows. It made sense that they should finally put their insane visuals toward a non-slice-of-life series. And KnK did end up looking incredible, but it turned out that whatever had made the studio’s previous efforts memorable and endearing had disappeared. I feel bad putting a KyoAni show on this list because it feels like adding insult to injury after half their staff got barbecued, but as a steadfast warrior of anime critique I gotta carry out my duty and point out that this shit sucks.
10. Yoru no Yatterman
This is a weird one because its potential is wasted not relative to its concept (which sounds pretty bad off the bat), but to its early execution.
YnY is a Gritty Reboot™ of a lighthearted kids show from the 70s. I guess this isn’t necessarily doomed in theory (people liked Casshern Sins), but the hook they went with was more compelling than I was expecting. The main characters of Yoru are descendants of the original series’ antagonists; Japan’s equivalent of bumbling Saturday-morning cartoon villains. They’ve been banished from society, and for reasons I can’t remember have to defy their ancestry and journey into Yattermanville to save something.
Besides the interesting take on the characters, I remember this series having a bunch of legitimately cool moments. At one point they find the Speed Racer car in like a cave, and somehow this is made not dumb. But when I said moments I meant just that. The show’s plot and pacing are both a mess, and the final episode aired not even close to finished.
9. Kekkai Sensen
This show is good! The reason it has so much wasted potential is because all of its heart, humor, and vibrant characters are fighting desperately with its total lack of coherence in both aesthetic and plot.
No matter how fun this show is, I still have no idea what tone it’s supposed to have or what the setting is supposed to resemble. Is it noir steampunk? Jazz scifi? Are we in gritty 70s New York or like Jak 2?
This might not sound important (‘if the show is fun, who cares?’) but my enjoyment of KS was always marred by the background processes in my brain constantly trying to figure out what I was supposed to be looking at, or what was going on.
8. Boku dake ga Inai Machi (ERASED)
Man, this one started out so good. It was well-paced, moody, the directing was on-point. Then you keep watching and it ends the same way as the Even Stevens Movie.
I’m pretty sure I came up with a better narrative for this while it was airing. See, the MC uses this time travel ability to go back to the past, and at one point he returns to the present and gets saved from a fire by his female friend. I was sure it was gonna turn out that the friend was actually his daughter, who had inherited his time travel ability and went back to her past (his present) to help him travel back to his past to allow himself to save another girl who’s actually her mother to allow herself to be born or something.
When I predicted this I thought it was alright if not a little cliche, but what we got didn’t even approach that. From what I remember the friend turned out to be inconsequential, and the other girl, as we all remember because everyone watched this, slams his comatose ass into the cuck zone. Ouch!
7. Yuri Kuma Arashi
Silver Link, 2015
Sailor Moon is really good. Utena is really good I assume (I’ll get to it). Penguindrum was fantastic, if a little discombobulated toward the end, but immediately after it concluded Ikuhara started teasing its spiritual successor, Penguinbear.
This shit was hyped for years, and when it finally came out it put my ass to sleep. All of Ikuhara’s quirks – the jingles, weird repeated catchphrases, gayness, and mobile-UI aesthetic felt totally phoned in. Nothing ended up coming together into a coherent picture like in Penguindrum. I guess there’s a slim chance it did actually but like I said, I was literally asleep for at least a couple episodes.
6. Zankyou no Terror
The second Watanabe show on this list, ZnT is basically exactly all the most cynical bullet points I would list when predicting how an old japanese guy who thinks jazz is cool would handle a show about something like terrorism.
The thing about massive infrastructure-targeting terrorism is that it’s kinda dark and serious. And I’m sorry Japan, but I really mean it as a compliment when I say that where you live is so nice that I just don’t think you can comprehend something so rude. Which is probably why Bebop Man used it as a vehicle to develop the relationships between a few boring teenagers.
Not only is this show completely toothless (they’re terrorists, but don’t worry, they don’t kill anyone or anything, that would introduce moral intricacies that would get in the way of the pretty Yoko Kanno soundtrack), it turns into pure schlock about halfway through. I think everyone remembers the chess episode. Then at the end they get shot by helicopters and nothing happens.
I guess I should explain why this one had so much potential. Imagine how enthralling you could make a show that actually explores the type of darkness and isolation that would drive two young people to start blowing up buildings. Instead I think they’re just mad because they were government lab experiments or something (cookie-cutter anime plotpoint #3), and the whole thing was delivered with the subtlety that also drove Watanabe to name them Nine and Twelve. Fucking bravo dude.
5. Flip Flappers
Just watch this fucking opening. Try to resist blasting it. It’s exhilarating. Everything is moving so goddamn fast. Look at that guy spin! I bet he spins in the show! WRONG!
Remember what I said about government lab experiment plots? You can’t do them and hope that no one will notice just because you think you’ve filled your “fun” quota with one mahou shoujo episode. A ton of this show’s story is told through boring flashbacks – a total waste of its pastel-soaked amphetamine overdose of an opening theme. There was one legitimately 10/10 episode (it involved someone’s grandma I think, okay I don’t remember anything except that it was great) but the rest was a total missed opportunity.
4. Little Witch Academia (TV)
Speaking of things that should’ve been flashy and vibrant, the TV version of LWA totally pales (literally, I swear it’s more washed out) in comparison to the original OVA. I get that you can’t make a full two-cour series look as good as a 24-minute one-off literally funded by the state, but Trigger failed to make up for the decline in visual quality with anything else. It turns out that there just wasn’t much going on underneath the beauty, fueled largely by intern bullying, of the first entry in the franchise.
And I hate to keep bringing up openings but check out LWA’s second. I could write a whole post about this thing. The first (somewhat tangential) question I wanna ask is what the fuck is going on with the verse of this song. Is this avant-garde? Is it some kind of math-pop? Have we gotten there? Anyways the thing I wanted to mention mostly is that I know drawing backgrounds is hard and unrewarding Trigger, but the disparity between my memories of watching that first LWA and this new blinding-white oblivion you’ve transported me and your witches into does something to my inner ear that resembles either sea sickness or an experimental dissociative overdose.
3. Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda
I’m glad it’s properly understood that this show has flawless character design, but besides that, the first episode is a legit dime that gave me serious FLCL vibes. It was doing some great worldbuilding with just enough weirdness and ambiguity to keep things interesting. The show then takes these concepts and characters and intrigue and does nothing with them.
For the show to devolve into pure trash would be one thing, but the fact that it’s sparsely peppered with moments of genuine greatness makes it seem like it’s trying deliberately to remind you what a waste it all was.
This show was the equivalent of an RPG with an engrossing (at first) main quest, and mandatory side quests that consist entirely of 3D platforming challenges with a d-pad. Among the squandered elements here are the great character design, visual style, and biking road trip/rock and roll theme.
The side stories we abandon our main plot for are not nearly worth it, and when the actual story finally gets going it turns out that sucks too. Its crazy that Bakuon did motorcycle road tripping better than this, and they rub their boobies on the bikes.
1. Kyousou Giga
I’ve been getting progressively angrier as I’ve traversed down this list. For the past five minutes I’ve been stuck in a loop of trying to start this entry by thinking about Kyousou Giga, making a disgusted noise and tabbing over to a C97 thread to look for photos of that guy dressed like a Saudi oil baron that shows up to buy porn every year.
You wanna talk about FLCL vibes, Kyousou Giga was poised to be its true spiritual successor, going by the ONA that it started out with. When the TV series finally aired, the zany, absurd, psychedelic setting was brushed aside and used only occasionally as a brief respite from lore explanations and boring fucking flashbacks!
This show had so many flashbacks that they might not even qualify as flashbacks anymore, the rest of the show might just be flash forwards. The family tree it tries to get you invested in is completely incomprehensible, and even if it weren’t I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t care, because I’ve already been teased with pure frenetic catharsis and now I’m being blueballed by semi-allegorical pseudo-folklore about foxes or some shit.
The creators of this show are criminals. In their minds lurks a power they deliberately keep locked inside. They will not use it themselves for fear of losing control, and they will not give it to you because they are terrified of what you would become capable of. They are COWARDS!
Bonus: Dr. Stone
I forgot about this one, and I’m not going back and re-numbering the rest of the list. Dr. Stone had all the ingredients for a truly memorable character relationship, but decided to forgo that in favor of being Epic I Fucking Love Science Moment Weekly.
The MC here is basically reddit, while the antagonist is BAP. The author had a perfect opportunity to create an intelligent exploration of these two competing religions and inspect their relative strengths and weaknesses to fashion the best rivalry since Code Geass. But apparently he was too busy buying Funko Pops and reading whatever Japan has instead of XKCD, because the protag never once runs into any roadblocks unsolvable by Science™, and the other guy we barely ever even see. This show’s treatment of Science resembles the way I would expect “Business International” to write about the CIA. Not a recipe for much of a brain bender.