What’s worse than a bad TV show? A good TV show that wastes what it has. That feeling of “so close yet so far” is agonizing, and somehow it’s more so in anime. Maybe that’s because anime is a gorgeous medium with phenomenal capacity for storytelling. So join me in lamenting five anime that could have been marvelous.
Or hate me for insulting a show you love. Your pick.
1. Watamote – No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!
Tomoko is entering high school and wants to make a good impression. Sadly, she’s not only a textbook definition of social awkwardness, she’s a friggin’ case study. A steady diet of books, comics, TV, video games, and the internet have completely warped Tomoko’s perception of reality. For 12 episodes, she devises ridiculous ways to get popular such as spraying herself with soda, getting molested, and sucking her body with a vacuum cleaner to make it look like a boy gave her hickeys.
And it’s actually darkly hilarious…until it’s not. After a while, the joke starts to become familiar and tired. More than that, the show hints that more is going to happen. The longer she goes without making a single friend, the more desperate Tomoko seems to become. You can see real sadness developing and it appears as though she’ll learn her lesson or try something new. But no. That would distract from the same joke you’ve seen for the last twelve episodes. At the very end, Tomoko starts to approach a kind, popular girl to learn how to gain friends…but then she freaks out and runs away. Roll credits.
That wasn’t a joke. The credits literally roll just as she runs off from her first bit of character development. Spoiler alert. And worse yet, Tomoko looks at the camera, laughs at the viewer, and says, “It doesn’t really matter.”
Translation: You just wasted six hours of your life.
Several years ago, Rin showed an act of kindness to two young girls. Now in high school, the girls reappear, apparently the daughters of the king of the gods and king of the demons respectively. They both want to marry him and he’ll become the next king of gods or demons depending on whom he chooses. There’s also a lolita who’s basically an experiment and a redhead who’s so in love with Rin that she literally goes crazy and tries to kill one of the other girls. Sounds like a tense, exciting anime, right?
It’s not. It’s every other harem you’ve ever seen. Fanservice, plot threads that go nowhere, ridiculous scenarios, and somehow all the girls become besties for life despite all loving the same man. The entire concept of gods and demons essentially amounts to “these people have pointy ears and those people have pointier ears.” It’s an overly complicated setup to a pretty lousy anime. Granted, it can be darn funny at times, but your muscles wear out from all the cringing.
3. Your Lie in April
This anime would be incredible if it could just shut the hell up. Then we would have a funny, touching, and beautifully-animated story about music, love, and the pain of loss. But it can’t keep quiet because then we wouldn’t know how smart it is!
This show tries way too hard to be deep and meaningful, but comes across as unrealistic and pretentious. Every single moment has to have some kind of incredible value. Characters are blown away with enlightenment with every episode. And it’s humanly possible to play music so beautiful that the audience can visualize with precise detail the very room in which you used to practice.
The world you’re looking for with this anime is “…seriously?” The main character falls in a swimming pool and suddenly has a life-changing revelation. Instead of swimming out, he stays under the water and plays out his revelation. Oxygen be damned! Look, I love art, but this is too much.
And like I said, the worst part about this show is the endless jabber about nothing. Anime is an introspective medium, but this is obsessive. Every moment is cataloged like there’s going to be a quiz later, and thus the story drags while the writers fart into a wine glass and take a sniff.
4. Say I Love You
Take my man card and do what you will with it, but I love me a good romance. And Say I Love You had all the trappings of a trope-shattering game changer. A perfect male lead who actually has a solid reason for being so perfect? A female lead who’s more burned and wounded than mopey and self-debasing? A big-boobed character who actually isn’t appreciated for her mammaries? A blond best friend who likes the big-boobed girl on her personality, not her physique? A bully who’s complex, yet understandable?
An anime that flushed all those things down the toilet by episode five?
That’s right, take everything good about that anime, now exchange it for everything you’ve ever seen before. Awesome, considerate guy suddenly forgets girls have feelings. Girl who mistrusts others suddenly mistrusts herself. Complex rival turns into a good girl for no reason and the show brings in another rival with the exact same setup. And the girl finally says, “I love you” in a completely unimportant moment, off-screen, after the credits end.
How do you even do that?
5. Elfen Leid
So close! This anime got so close to perfection. The core story is actually sublime. It’s a harsh and harrowing story of cruelty and friendship between a young man and an inhuman girl with a talent for slaughtering people. It’s very compelling and tragic, and that opening theme, “Lilium,” is to die for. Sadly, all that gets buried by two things: shock value and superfluous characters.
This is one of the bloodiest anime I’ve ever seen, apparently in an attempt to disturb the viewer. But you know what? You could cut out all the gore and this show would still be disturbing, but in a meaningful way. The hardest part to watch in this show isn’t the bloodbath, but simple human cruelty. A group of boys bludgeon a puppy to death in front of a girl just because they don’t like her. And when that girl falls down, people assume she’s on drugs instead of helping her up. You don’t need buckets of blood to feel sick to your stomach.
Almost as irritating are the characters. There’s a whole episode about two girls with annoying voices who ran out of things to do long ago. The ending takes screen time away from the two leads to focus on a shoehorned father-daughter story which doesn’t tug the heartstrings nearly as much as the material they already have. And I haven’t even mentioned the jealous girl who’s only job is to cry about how the main guy doesn’t like her.
When the two-episode flashback is the best part of your anime, something went wrong.
What do you think? Did I miss one? Am I wrong about any of these five?