Sturgeon’s law states that “90% of everything is crap”. Does this law hold true for anime? In this insanely packed season, where so many pandemic-delayed 2020 shows were thrown into the late-night-broadcast Death Arena, have I wasted the majority of my time watching the largest number of concurrently streaming anime shows (23) that I have ever attempted?
The answer to these questions is probably “yes”, and in this first Winter 2021 postmortem, I’ll try to spare you equivalent suffering. If you want recommendations for something good to watch, perhaps wait for my upcoming part 2. However, if you are here to witness me shit on some soft (but deeply deserving) targets, then you have come to the right place.
In order from least worst to WAR CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY:
9: Most YIKES moral transgression in a protagonist (not including Redo of Healer): That Time I Was Reincarnated as a Slime Season 2 Part 1 (all 12 episodes, Crunchyroll)
So I enjoyed the first half of season 1 of this relatively inoffensive isekai power fantasy, where a thirty-something Japanese salaryman is fatally stabbed and reincarnated into a JRPG-like world as the lowest monster in the food chain — a slime. Eventually re-named Rimuru, he gradually learns new powers, makes new friends and builds a kingdom of monsters, driven by his apparent innate good nature, philanthropy and egalitarianism. It became boring in the first season’s second half, and the first few episodes of the second season were a bit slow, but at least interesting in their worldbuilding.
ENORMOUS SPOILERS FOR LATEST EPISODES
My main criticism with Slime is in its absolute refusal to allow its main character to suffer any consequences for his actions, nor face any truly unsurpassable obstacles. In the past few episodes, it teased us with the possibility that finally, at last, there may be some stakes as Rimuru discovers that enemy soldiers have killed some of his friends. Seconds later, the show immediately rolls this back with bullshit magic gobbledygook about resurrecting the dead.
Throwing almost all established character work into the trash, Rimuru decides to become a Demon Lord, which requires he sacrifices 10,000 humans. Lucky him — there’s an army of 20,000 camped outside his city — more than twice what he needs, but to be sure he murders them all in cold blood anyway — first with laser beams and then with a disturbing new skill that automatically harvests the souls of terrified enemies who surrender to him. Not once does Rimuru question the morality of this act, and nor do any of his comrades.
This entire sequence is framed as a tasteless revenge fantasy, with the other characters getting in on the “fun” by also pursuing bloody, violent, humiliating ends for their enemies and then practically worshipping their not-so-benevolent ruler. I can’t root for Rimuru any more. He was worried that the human world would see his “Nation of Monsters” as the enemy. By slurping up 20,000 human souls in cold-hearted retribution, he has solidified his role, at least in my mind, and likely in his world’s, as The Bad Guy.
I didn’t realise when I started watching this otherwise benign show that it would jarringly transmute into Overlord, but that’s what we’ve got. I won’t deny that this leaves some fascinating directions for the story to progress in, however I have no confidence whatsoever that the writer has the skill, imagination or moral clarity to explore these in any satisfying, meaningful way. Rimuru will just keep getting more powerful, his friends will keep worshipping him, and the drama will drip drip away through plot holes of deep writerly ineptitude.
8: Most rushed and incoherent sequel (excepting The Promised Neverland): Quintessential Quintuplets S2 (all 12 romantically confused episodes, Crunchyroll)
Season 1 of this romantic comedy was surprisingly charming. Season 2 is more of the same, just much more rushed. Plot points barely get time to breathe, character development is sacrificed in the race to reach a certain point for the season to conclude. Compare to one of this season’s far superior romantic comedies Horimiya, which also progresses at a blistering pace through its manga source material — except when it focuses on the central relationship, it does so much better.
By nature, Quintuplets is messy. There are 5 female love interests, so when a show is as rushed as this, some of them inevitably feel undeveloped. I barely understand why they’ve all suddenly fallen for the socially inept main character after spending the entire first season making his life hell. And no, I don’t believe the fact he met at least one of them when he was a child somehow means they are destined to be with him forever. I hate this overused anime trope.
To give it credit, Quintuplets at least tries to subvert the trope by nature of the 5 sisters’ clone-like appearance, and the misunderstandings and shenanigans are gently amusing, but… I feel this would have been better stretched out across at least half as many episodes again to allow time for the characters to breathe. Romantic comedies live or die by the way they treat their characters, and for me, Quintessential Quintuplets is on life support. I hope the show manages to survive its recently announced (and final?) third season to give us a satisfying conclusion.
7: Most disappointing use of a veteran director: VLAD LOVE (all 12 weirdly unfunny episodes, Crunchyroll)
This weird show probably flew under the radar for most anime fans for a couple of reasons — firstly, the weird release pattern. Episode one was released on YouTube back in December 2020, episodes 2–6 appeared on Crunchyroll on February 14th, episodes 7–12 dropping exactly one month later. Secondly, this was touted as the monumental return to TV anime of legendary director Mamoru Oshii.
Cue tumbleweeds as 90% of current anime fans are so disinterested they can hardly muster the energy to ask “who?”. VLAD LOVE was apparently meant to be Oshii’s answer to the sclerotic production culture of modern anime, and a comedy-filled shot in the arm that would singlehandedly reinvigorate the medium. He… uh… failed in this regard.
For those who don’t know (or care) who Oshii is, he began his career directing episodes of beloved TV anime Urusei Yatsura, before directing the first two films in that franchise (most notably Beautiful Dreamer). He moved on to direct the first two Patlabor movies and then both Ghost in the Shell anime movies. During a period in the early 2000s he disappeared up his own rectum to direct the live-action Polish language Avalon (perhaps the most boring, ponderous VRMMORPG action sci-fi film ever committed to celluloid) amongst other very slow, very dull movies. His last anime was The Sky Crawlers, released to mixed reviews and anime fan apathy.
Based on an obscure episodic mobile app/visual novel, VLAD LOVE is Oshii back in madcap, “zany” TV humour/Urusei Yatsura mode, and I honestly don’t know where to begin to appraise this. It… just… isn’t… very… good. It’s about a creepy teenage girl, Mitsugu Bamba, pale with permanent eye-bags that make her look unwell and exhausted, who sets up a school “blood donation club” with the aid of her fetishwear-sporting school nurse. This is in order to feed the randomly-appeared Mai Vlad Transylvania, a cute blonde vampire who accidentally posted herself via sealed package from Central Europe to Japan. Mai doesn’t want to suck blood directly from people because that would turn them into vampires. Sucking from transfusion packs like blood-orange-coloured Capri Sun is fine, though.
There really is almost no plot, just a random succession of increasingly bizarre non-sequiturs mixed with real deep cuts regarding apparently famous directors that seem not just out of place but utterly impenetrable to anyone without a film school degree. I don’t know who this is aimed at. It seems (probably deliberately) like a throwback to 90s anime comedy, which is a shame, as most of that was crap. Apart from some fantastic opening songs and a deeply weird closing tune, there isn’t a lot here to recommend it. As far as Yuri representation goes, the original protagonist in the visual novel was a boy. All they’ve done here is a bare-bones cut and paste gender swap for unclear reasons. Does empty Yuri-baiting sell better? If you’d told me that Mitsugu was male, I’d believe you.
6: Most ineptly plotted, mediocre waste of time: Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon(Wasted almost 10 hours of my life waiting for a plot — all 24 episodes, Crunchyroll)
Ugh. I waited 24 episodes for this dumb fantasy show to make any kind of logical sense, for any of the characters to exhibit any kind of self-awareness or clear motivation, the the bad guys to exist for a reason, for the main characters and bad guys to interact for any explicable reason, and for the story to develop any stakes whatsoever.
This could have been good. This could have been a fun sequel to the beloved Inu-Yasha. Instead it pisses away almost all of the goodwill it started with. It’s like it was plotted by a 6-year-old with no idea of character motivation or plot construction. Random shit just happens, characters fight for no reason, magical McGuffins appear and disappear at the whims of an incoherent and patchy narrative.
Where is Inu-Yasha and Kagome? Who cares? Their kid doesn’t. Why is Sesshomaru the worst dad in the world? Who cares? His kids don’t either. Magic tree lady asks girls to fight Big Bad Demon Dude? They refuse. They fight him anyway. Why? Not even they or Big Bad Demon Dude know. There is literally no reason for them to fight other than “oops, we’d better make a season finale out of dust, straw and buttons and whatever other shit we’ve got lying around.”
I will not be wasting any more time with the inexplicably recently announced season 2, and I suggest no-one else who values their precious limited lifespan upon this planet does so either.
5: Most intrusive fanservice if Redo of Healer didn’t exist: The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter (Stared helpless at the screen through all 12 episodes, Crunchyroll)
So I wrote most of what I had to say about this series in the below linked article. It doesn’t really improve. The main female characters are mostly treated as levitating fleshbags to press against the main character’s body in order to charge up his magic. The main character himself remains utterly generic and devoid of personality.
At least it generally isn’t boring, and the last episode or two are kind-of-ok-ish, except when they lean back into the misogynistic fanservice. Don’t get me started about the super-creepy loli tree dryad girl. Fanservice with teenagers is bad enough, but little kids? I’m calling the FBI.
I mainly watched until the end due to peer pressure from the meaner AniTAY cohort (you know who you are, degenerates) because they seem to enjoy seeing me suffer and then write about it. I don’t recommend this to anyone who wishes to maintain the functioning of their surviving brain cells.
The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter: AniTAY First Impressions
So when I volunteered to write something for this “first impressions” series, my favoured shows were already snapped up…
4: Most derivative, most boring: Last Dungeon Boonies (dropped after 4 of 12 episodes, Funimation)
Surely it speaks volumes that I managed to stick Hidden Dungeon to the end, but couldn’t tolerate this thematically similar show past even a third of its length. Terminally unfunny, repetitive and dull, I wish they’d stop mas-producing this identikit fantasy anime shite. Who even watches this? Why?
It’s such a nothing show, I’ve nothing else to say about it.
3: Most heartbreakingly awful sequel: The Promised Neverland Season 2 (dropped after 6 of 11 episodes, Funimation)
Someone should be executed for this. How do you turn one of the top anime of 2019 into an animated wreckage so universally derided that the final two episodes have no writer credits? I had such high hopes for this. What a catastrophe. Who in their right mind decided it would be a good idea to cram 15 volumes of tightly plotted psychological thriller into 11 rushed, incoherent, badly paced episodes, ripping all emotional build-up and character development and leaving a dripping, shambling corpse?
I hear this is as bad as (if not worse than) the anime-original Tokyo Ghoul sequel that exists only as a warning against anime-only sequels that ignore the source material. The Promised Neverland Season 2 will now forever stand as an example of the wasted opportunity. The manga was already complete. They didn’t need to make anything up. They could have paced it nicely to pay off the various plot arcs. Perhaps they could have got another 3 seasons out of it. But no. Someone decided it had to finish with season 2, with an adaptation rate roughly 3–4x that of the original series. Well, I hope you’re proud of your inexplicable fuck-up, whoever you are. This should be a career-ending mistake for you. Not so much a “read the manga” ending as a “give up halfway through and read the manga instead” anime.
2: In any other timeline, the worst anime ever made: EX-ARM (suffered through all 12 episodes, Crunchyroll)
Normally when their work is chosen to be adapted into the animated medium, most manga authors are overjoyed, especially because they usually see a significant bump in book sales. Take Demon Slayer, for example. Without ufotable’s spectacular anime, no way would that series have broken so many sales records.
Amazingly, EX-ARM’s (sequel) manga was recently cancelled, no doubt partly due to the overwhelmingly negative effect of being associated with this raging black hole of incompetence that sucks all hope and good from the world — the stratospherically awful Crunchyroll Original anime EX-ARM.
Is there any wonder that Crunchyroll’s normally noisy media machine has failed to emit even the slightest peep lately about their shiny new exclusive show? Where are the constant tweets and YouTube promos? Even its parent company knows a turd when it sees it. Surely the only reason they didn’t arrange a late-trimester abortion for this malformed, malodorous chunk of steaming excrement is because of the sunk cost fallacy? Somebody, somewhere, greenlit this atrocity, failed to notice the deafening warning sirens that they had conceived an ungodly abomination, and failed to strangle it in the womb.
Every Sunday night for the last 12 weeks, a select group of hardy (some would say foolhardy) AniTAY folks grudgingly assembled in mutual cursed solidarity to simulwatch this historically significant anime holocaust, if only to say “We were there! We suffered it first hand!”
EX-ARM’s rogue thermonuclear war crime left our minds scarred, our bodies melted and our souls forever tarnished. Please don’t make me relive this show ever again. Please don’t make me talk about how terrible and incoherent the storytelling was, how horrendous the action scenes, how uncanny the frozen facial expressions, how disconcertingly bad the compositing of 2D and 3D characters into the same space, how absent of artistry and human creativity this entire endeavour was. If I was told this anime was created entirely by AI to fuck with us, 1) I would believe you, and 2) I’d advise that no-one ever needs to worry about an upcoming AI apocalypse because anything that makes something this bad is more of a danger to themselves than to humanity.
1: The absolute worst anime ever made: Redo of Healer (HIDIVE, dropped after 2 of 12 episodes)
So bad that the AniTAY community as a whole voted to deny its very existence, do not watch this exploitative, offensive, disgusting, misogynistic work of morally reprehensible excremental garbage. I don’t want to waste any more time or energy on it, you can read why I hate it so much at the link below.
Wow. What prestige. Winter 2021 really knocked it out of the park. In my over 30 years of watching anime, between Redo of Healer and EX-ARM I have never been so despondent at the state of animated entertainment. Join me again soon when I talk about the shows that didn’t waste my time, that didn’t make me despair of humanity, and I might even recommend.
Doctorkev’s Thoughts on the Winter 2021 Anime Season Part 1: Crunchyroll
With such an insanely packed Winter 2021 anime season, I’ve had no choice but to break my traditional half-way seasonal…