Golden Slaine Court: Crunchyroll Originals

Animasochists
Dec 21, 2020 · 16 min read
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We, the Animasochists, do hereby ordain and establish the Slaines Court. We gather today to cast judgment upon Crunchyroll Originals, a collection of anime series partially funded by the titular streaming service in exchange for exclusivity, a practice with its own set of issues outside the scope of this article. Every show produced under this banner thus far has demonstrated problems of one kind or another, which we are about to gleefully excoriate.

For those who haven’t already heard of us, it’s not too late! You can still run! But more seriously, we’re a subset of AniTAY crew who write about terrible shows, in what’s effectively an anime version of the Razzies. Our ‘award’ is named for the Undisputed Worst Anime Character In History: Slaine Troyard from Aldnoah Zero. His mere ghastly, inconsistent, overwrought and idiotic presence was enough to sink that show like the leaden turd it was.

Like everyone else, 2020 kicked our asses and our normal schedule was completely hosed. Like many others, this year was the straw that broke the camel’s back; we’ve taken a long, hard look at ourselves, and we’re doing some restructuring. While we may still salvage the 2019 Golden Slaine Awards, our yearly flagship production, it’s very much up in the air, and in the meantime we’ve decided to try something different.

In this article, we’ll be dismantling the Crunchyroll Originals collection, in quick-and-dirty fashion compared to our usual, long-winded fare. Final judgment for each show will be assigned using our now-standard Slaines categories. For those new to the Golden Slaine Awards, fear not! We’ve salvaged the original Google Docs from before the Great Kinja Purge, and they should be unleashed upon Medium in something approaching a regular schedule Soon™.

Without further ado, let’s start eviscerating anime. In order of ascending terribleness:

Dishonorable Mention: TONIKAWA: Over the Moon for You

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It actually hurts us a little to have to mention TONIKAWA. In a surprise twist that caught all of us off-guard, there is nothing inherently wrong with the show on its own merits. However, by interacting with Crunchyroll to view this show, you become an enabler for the rest of the terrible shows in this collection. This merely reinforces our stance that Anime Was A Mistake, even at its best.

The Slaines Court finds this show guilty of the following crime: Guilty By Association.

#5: Tower of God

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In order to populate its new “Originals” lineup, Crunchyroll chose to draw deep from the dark, deep Webtoon well. “All the great manga are already tied up in licensing deals, right? So let’s go where Japanese companies fear to tread… South Korea.” In truth, this doesn’t sound like a terrible idea, however Webtoon as a service does not utilize the same editorial oversight or professional standards as Japanese manga publishers. Sometimes it seems like anyone can vomit up the insane ramblings of their unrestrained id and have someone read it on the Webtoon platform. With Tower of God, their first full season Webtoon adaptation, Crunchyroll began to reap the shitstorm of their ill-conceived plans.

Let’s talk about perhaps the blandest nonentity of a central character in the history of Shonen anime. Bam’s (Oh god, is that really his name? Bam is an offensive Scottish term used for a feckless, brainless idiot that seems oddly fitting here) main character trait is an obsessive simping over Worst Female Character Ever: Rachel. She who emits throbbing, luminescent “Dude, I’m just not that into you” vibes, visible even from space. Bam is too inexplicably besotted and stupid to realize that she is Bad News who’ll probably throw him under the bus/out of an underwater bubble to his certain death. (Oops. Spoilers, we suppose.)

So vacuous is Bam’s non-character that we have no idea why any of the other characters flock around him. He has no skills. No abilities. No charisma. His very presence sucks time away from the other, more interesting characters. Characters of whom there are too many, very few developed in enough detail for us to care if they die or leave inexplicably. Otherwise-interesting boob-tube girl Serena just ups and leaves one episode: “Welp, the author ran out of plot for me, so I guess I’m just gonna split. Laters.”

Next to the weak characterization, oblique worldbuilding is Tower of God’s second most egregious offence. Acting like an extended prologue (despite the fact that all 13 episodes cover 80 chapters of the original source Webtoon), it deigns to explain very little about the world the characters exist within. Not only does this make the stakes maddeningly unclear, but it fails to explain fundamental concepts central to the characters’ interactions and plot progression. Even at the end we are left wondering just what in the ever-living hell a “Wave Controller” even is. We understand that to cram so much material into such a ridiculously small space requires judicious pruning — but did coherence and clarity need to be the casualties?

Some parts of Tower of God, such as the action scenes, were fun, but were overshadowed by poor characters and vague plot. If only Crunchyroll had learned their lesson that cramming almost one hundred chapters of Webtoon content into a single cour of anime was a bad idea — we wouldn’t have had to experience the excruciating follow-ups: God of High School and Noblesse. Well done Crunchyroll, for ensuring that we studiously avoid anything Webtoon-related in future. We can’t imagine that was your goal, but you succeeded.

The Slaines Court finds this show guilty of the following crimes: Most Disappointing, Worst Adaptation, Worst Ending, Worst Male, Worst Female, Worst Romance, Worst Writing.

#4: In/Spectre

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Detective fiction is a popular and saturated genre. There are only so many ways to innovate the presentation. Despite this small margin of appreciation for distinctiveness, media regularly tries to have their story unfold differently. However, there is a reason mysteries still tend towards the formula of placing their characters in media res; that they take dramatic license and have their characters actively participate.

The reason is simple: reading the facts of a case file is dry work. Don’t get us wrong, the legal questions arising from those facts can be scintillating, but reading the facts of the case after the investigation has been compiled and reported? It’s dull — but not as banal as watching them being recited as exposition. This is the choice In/Spectre makes. There is little action here, just discussing facts and making assertions, with wooden dialogue at that. There is an art to compelling Holmesian deductive monologues, which this lacks. Even Doyle was often quick to throw Holmes and Watson in the game that was afoot. In/Spectre’s almost Socratic dialogues would then at least feel appropriate, but its style languishes as dispassionate descriptions.

Sometimes In/Spectre literally pulls out a written case file on-screen. We wish that the show had let us read it. At least there is more structure in that format than the tedium In/Spectre offers. Each case feels overextended, with episodes arbitrarily and abruptly cut off.

Having chosen a presentation devoid of exploring character or inducing emotional investment, In/Spectre tries to distinguish its lead from the regularly tropey precocious, clingy anime female lead by making her disabled. She technically owns a walking stick, and has a false leg and eye, but her prosthetics function without encumbrance, her leg particularly having a normal range of movement. She also must possess the most advanced optical technology known to man given that her pupil dilates and contracts as normal.

Is it ludicrous to expect a slightly more realistic display of disability in a fantasy show full of forest spirits and giant monsters? Perhaps, but Kotoko’s disability is window dressing, when she’s dressed at all. There are occasional nods to her physical limitations, but her strapped-on leg seems mostly an excuse to lift her skirt and reveal some thigh. This is still anime after all.

Oh wait, no, Kotoko has her eye and her leg taken as compensation for becoming a Goddess of Wisdom, able to see between the realms of Man and the Supernatural. The sacrifice of a limb for power, or punishment, is a constant of mythology and superstition, but it is also just boring when used so inconsequentially. Everything about In/Spectre seems inconsequential though, so this aspect would hardly be the exception.

Yet the lamest thing about In/Spectre is its utter mediocrity and the fact that Crunchyroll produced it. Whatever underlying potential In/Spectre has, and there is certainly some when the series slows down long enough to let Kotoko converse like a normal person, it is quickly buried beneath a mountain of exposition. It makes us beg for paperwork.

The Slaines Court finds this show guilty of the following crimes: Worst Fanservice, Worst Female, Worst Cast Dynamic, Worst Writing.

#3: Noblesse

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You have to give Crunchyroll Originals some credit for being able to somehow produce not one, but three terrible Webtoon adaptions back-to-back in the short time span of three seasons. It’s almost as if someone at Crunchyroll HQ looked at man child simulator Tower of God, studied world’s worst Tournament Arc The God of High School, and then asked themselves “okay, how do we top this?”

If the goal was to make people forget you had a hand in the development of those shows and somehow make them look better by comparison, then congratulations Crunchyroll Originals — you finally did something right this season! Against all odds, Noblesse not only manages to avoid standing out, it actively avoids doing much of anything at all! Taking place in modern times, our story follows Cadis Etrama Di Raizel (Rai) and his servant Frankenstein as they take on civilian identities to live out as normal humans at a high school… for some reason. Unless you are Twilight, it’s almost impossible to screw up a vampire story, except Noblesse doesn’t call them that. So if they are not vampires, what’s the correct term? According to Wikipedia:

“The Nobles are a species of nearly immortal, elegant and powerful beings. Although occasionally referred to as vampires, they are not in fact vampires. (Though they do have some of the traits typically thought of as vampiric traits, such as near immortality, exceptional speed, strength, and endurance, as well as the ability to create infected (“mutant”) humans that are the true source of the vampire lore.)”

IS THAT NOT WHAT A FUCKING VAMPIRE IS?!

Terminology aside, Rai wants to see what’s on the other side away from his noble duties and obligations, or at least that’s what the show would like you to believe, because Rai is barely featured at all for the first few episodes. Instead, we follow red-haired high schooler Yusuke Tashiro, but wait, he’s not the main character either. The show introduces two other nobles who attend the school, so we follow Regis and Seira next. Okay, sure, but it continues to add on characters and sloppily throw together events without any momentum or gravitas as to who’s who or why this group would grow to rely on one another. Noblesse’s biggest fault is that at any given moment, it can’t decide what kind of show it wants to be. Is it a monster movie reel? Nope. What about a high school comedy? Keep guessing. A battle action Shonen? Keep dreaming.

The court has watched every single episode of Noblesse since launch and not one viewer has been able to accurately keep each character straight, much less put together a summary. Perhaps this is because it started in the middle. There was a previous OVA of Noblesse, about five years ago, which adapted the first hundred or so chapters of the webtoon into 40 minutes. Nobody watched it. This version picks up after the events of the previous adaptation, with no recap.

The show is such a juvenile mess even Crunchyroll couldn’t come up with a clever advertising slogan to downplay its faults, so they gave away pizzas instead and promptly forgot about it to promote much better shows in their library. For context, the only other Original that received the cold shoulder from its sponsors is Gibiate — let that sink in for a bit. Don’t waste your time with Noblesse — even Crunchyroll couldn’t find a clever Naruto reference to make the show look good by comparison.

The Slaines Court finds this show guilty of the following crimes: Most Disappointing, Worst Sequel, Worst Adaptation, Worst Male, Most OP Protag, Worst Cast Dynamic, Worst Writing.

#2: The God of High School

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The God of High School is one of the worst anime we have ever had the displeasure of watching.

Now, we know what you’re thinking: “How can it be one of the worst anime when Gibiate, Handshakers, and My Sister, My Writer exists??” Well, dear reader, TGoHS’s awfulness comes less from the actual quality of its writing (which is shit) or its animation (which is actually pretty good) than from how the show is the embodiment of wasted potential.

An anime framed around a tournament arc should be something that’s hard to fuck up, right? Hell, shows like My Hero Academia and Haikyuu! have had entire cours that are just tournaments, and they’re great! By using the structure of a tournament to interrogate its cast on both collective and individual, micro and macro levels, shows can pair action-packed and exhilarating battles with meaningful character development and memorable moments.

The God of High School tries so hard to emulate this idea, but forgets that competent writing and proper pacing are essential for tournament arcs to work. The core cast of Mori Jin, Daewi Hahn, and Mira Yu are all interesting characters on their own, no doubt! The show just takes every instance to remove any sense of empathy, relatability, or depth to their characters and replace them with actions both archetypal and completely nonsensical. Mira’s character-defining moment, in which she reclaims her family’s ancestral sword as her own, is undercut by the reveal that the rightful owner is a throwaway villain character she defeats in the next episode. Mori’s raw strength and power — admirable traits for a shounen protagonist — are revealed by the end of the series as resulting from him being the reincarnation of a mystical hero. Daewi, to his credit, does get the most development through a rather affecting two-episode arc involving his terminally ill friend and his will to fight, which does display some competence… and then his character is shafted immediately afterward, relegated to mere support for Mori’s development.

The problem, as you might have noticed, is that all these character moments are squished into thirteen short episodes. The amount of shit that happens in The God of High School is enough to fill two twenty-four episode seasons, and condensing it all into one short season leaves the entire work feeling inconsequential and at odds with itself. Why should anyone care about anything that happens when the status quo is going to change in the next episode and make everything irrelevant? As it turns out, you don’t, much as the show tries its damnedest.

The God of High School had the potential to be something special, memorable, and enjoyable. As much as we’ve ragged on it, there is a genuineness that emerges on occasion. The ED is pleasant, the arc with Daewi and his friend is emotional, and the cast of characters have slivers of depth and likeability. It’s the show’s insistence on undercutting and betraying itself at every moment that leaves us feeling dissatisfied, disappointed, and terrified of the next manhwa adaptation Crunchyroll decides to bring to the chopping block.

The Slaines Court finds this show guilty of the following crimes: Most Disappointing, Worst Adaptation, Worst Villain, Worst Cast Dynamic, Worst Writing.

#1: Gibiate

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As we mentioned in our entry for Noblesse, even Crunchyroll knew they were sitting on an absolute crime against the medium of animation with the release of Gibiate, having refused to promote it on their own Twitter — a show that they must have funded, as it was an original production. There’s no awful webtoon, light novel or manga to blame this on.

Anyone who was looking forward to Gibiate in any way, shape or form was kicked in the stomach from 10 minutes into the first episode. Our protagonist Kathleen, her mother and several other survivors in post-apocalyptic Japan are trying to find a cure for a virus that has spread across the world, which turns humans into horrific monsters called Gibia. But as Kathleen and the definitely-not-evil Dr. Yoshinaga are trying to find a cure for the Gibia, a samurai and a shinobi from the 16th century are suddenly time-travelled into this future to fight bad CG. (Of course they adjust perfectly to this new world they find themselves in.)

This stupid premise may have been passable if you squinted hard enough. However, Gibiate does everything possible to make your viewing experience as miserable as possible. The cast accepts time-travelling warriors from the past without even batting an eye, and the only characters with a hint of intelligence are killed off before the halfway mark. Also, the show decided that having two awkward time travelling warriors wasn’t enough to carry 12 episodes, because it later dumps in a warrior monk, a gang lead by an old Yakuza, and a female police officer who turns out to be the yakuza’s daughter. Then the show kills off Kathleen’s mother, in a scene so stupid it made some of us burst out laughing in disbelief.

All this already makes Gibiate a bad show, but it’s the final 2 episodes where it truly dive bombs into dogshit, with several frankly insane plot twists one after the other. First, the criminal group and the main group join forces after finding an old lab for Dr. Not-Evil. Then they get attacked by the primary Gibia that has been stalking them, dubbed “Meteora”. While Dr. Yoshinaga frantically works on a cure, Meteora starts barging her way through the complex while everyone tries to kill her. After a major struggle, they succeed just in time for the Doctor to finish the Cure for the Gibia virus! Hurray!

… No, of course it doesn’t end there. It turns out that ol’ Yoshi and Meteora are actually fucking aliens, and they brought the virus to the planet so that the Doctor could infect people to extract samples to make a cure for Meteora (who was Patient Zero)… who the rest of the group just finished killing… because Dr. Yoshinaga never bothered mentioning that he wanted Meteora taken alive. Now realising all his work has been useless, he decides to kill everyone by injecting himself with his cure — which is actually a perfected form of the virus, turning him into basically Freiza. Oh, he also injects the female cop because she finished her side plot by forgiving her yakuza father. What else is she good for, right?

After all the criminals die to the freshly Gibia-fied cop, Dr. Yoshinaga turns into a palette swap of the monster the cop turned into! But, to our dread, we’re still not fucking done. As his victory seems assured, he reveals that when his spaceship crashed in Japan, she had made a wish, believing it was a shooting star. THIS WISH WAS THE REASON THE THREE WARRIORS TIME-TRAVELLED TO THE FUTURE. (True story: several of us were watching this show with a Bad Ending Bingo Card. We had Power of Friendship, Spaceship Crash, and Make A Wish on there, and it somehow managed to hit all three in the stupidest way possible.) And then, to cap it all off, after they obviously win and escape the Gibia, the show has the balls to end on a cliffhanger.

It’s rare to find a show that does nothing even remotely passable. We may have eviscerated many anime over the last 5 years but this is honestly one of the worst we have ever come across, currently having the worst MAL score of any full length anime ever produced. Consider this not only the worst Crunchyroll Original series (thus far), but a solid contender for the worst of this entire upcoming decade.

The Slaines Court finds this show guilty of the following crimes: Worst Ending, Worst Male, Worst Female, Worst Villain, Worst Cast Dynamic, Worst Writing.

A special mention: upcoming Crunchyroll trainwreck: EX-ARM

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jCPQe9g-TE

There are times in everyone’s lives when they remember what they were doing when some disaster happened: the fall of the Twin Towers perhaps; for some of our older readers: John Lennon’s assassination; more recently Donald Trump’s inauguration as U.S. President or No-Deal Brexit. Now, to add to this list: the release of the trailer for Crunchyroll’s Winter 2021 “anime” EX-ARM.

To summarize anime fandom’s general reaction to this wretched piece of so-substandard-it-excavates-new-depths-of-ineptitude CGI garbage: “WTF were they thinking?” Words almost cannot express how bad this looks. PS1 cutscenes had better composition, framing and motion. This looks so floaty and weightless that if you told us it was produced via motion-capture of meth-addled hobos on the moon, we’d probably believe you.

Apparently Crunchyroll employed a director with zero animation experience, chosen because the producers thought “a live action director would be better able to understand 3D space.” Yes, this is indeed why Pixar chose Quentin Tarantino to direct Inside Out. No, you idiots! You do not employ an ignorant, inexperienced director, who going by this trailer has absolutely no fucking idea what he is doing. Marry that with a studio that’s done nothing but promos and CGI video game work and you have a recipe for utter, humiliating disaster.

Seriously, even the first season of Rooster Teeth’s notoriously janky RWBY looked more stylish and accomplished than this. We look forward to ripping EX-ARM to shreds in a future Slaines execution.

Conclusion

It is equal parts hilarious and horrifying that Crunchyroll decided to label these specific shows as worthy of special attention, given that most of them are such utter crap. Therefore, the Slaines Court sentences Crunchyroll to everlasting scorn and ridicule, subject to temporary reprieves during the release of any sequels to TONIKAWA or other shows of similarly outstanding quality.

The court is thus adjourned, but fear not; as long as Anime continues to be A Mistake — that is, perpetually — the Golden Slaines shall return!

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