5 Stories From My Dropped List
One of the first articles I did for this blog was taking a look through the laundry list of shows I had dropped over the years and offering explanations for what motivated me to stop watching them. I don’t quite know why I kept it limited to 5 though; I had plenty of material to work with.
So let’s revisit this idea and talk about 10(!) more anime that I brutally abandoned. And, to keep it interesting, I am going to focus mainly on shows that are generally regarded to be pretty good or even amazing. There’s not much point in talking about all the terrible ecchi anime the world has long since forgotten about.
My opinion on the Fate series has always been shaky. I see a franchise that comes with multiple conflicting flowcharts that need to be updated almost yearly, and I am suddenly reminded of all the shows I would much rather watch. Even so, I eventually bought and quite enjoyed Fate/Stay Night. It wasn’t great and probably didn’t come close to summarizing the whole 60-hour visual novel, but it was a decently watchable action series.
I tried Fate/Zero next and just couldn’t get into it. Zero acts as a prequel to Stay Night and features another grail war, which didn’t excite me much after just concluding a show about the same thing. Even worse, since this anime tries to take on a lot of the backstory that was implied (or perhaps cut) from Stay Night, the outcome of this epic battle between historical heroes and the magi who control them is already completely predetermined, robbing action scenes of excitement and the plot of surprise. You know from the start who is going to be relevant in the end and which characters are just there to be stepping stones.
Not helping matters further is the return of my old nemesis Gen Urobuchi, whose storytelling is undoubtedly smart and psychological, but to whom pacing remains an alien concept. There was so much exposition and setup dumped on me in those first 4 episodes that I decided to bail when even the fight scenes weren’t that engaging.
3 episodes is all it took for this acclaimed drama anime allegedly rich in character development and tragedy to completely fall apart for me. The show opens up on introducing viewers to a big cast of miserable little shits; an entire group of depressed children that share the role of protagonists among them.
But you know what’s worse than a show where you can’t stand a single character? A show where you can guess the entire direction of the plot within the first hour of it. I started getting suspicious very early on and was so certain of my case by episode 3 that I decided to consult Wikipedia. I read the synopsis and it turned out I was mostly correct.
Obviously, I wouldn’t feel like watching more of a show I just spoiled for myself, but I also didn’t want to just sit and watch these events unfold naturally. It’s not like I was on the edge of my seat trying to unravel an anime’s mystery; I was contemplating if I wanted to spend 8 hours on a show that I strongly suspected was going for twists and tropes that I would resent.
Hunter x Hunter
Watching Hunter x Hunter together was the bright idea of my girlfriend at the time, perhaps intended to help me find the next shounen series to fall in love with after she also introduced me to Fullmetal Alchemist. Needless to say, this didn’t turn out to be a success.
Whereas I loved the European steampunk fantasy setting of FMA and the amazing characters from diverse age groups and origins featured in that show, I had trouble getting into the generic anime-style fantasy world that HxH offered. I also didn’t feel any click with Gon and Killua, the two young protagonists who are both inexplicably skilled and powerful despite looking to be about 8 years old. There were some side-characters that I kind of enjoyed, but I was skeptical about how much screentime they would get in a plot this massive and filled with so many characters.
Where the show then finally lost me for good was in an episode where characters were forced into 1-on-1 battles. Gon’s battle sees him getting royally beaten by his opponent Hanzo, who is subjected to jeers from the crowd of side-characters for his heartless abuse of the show’s protagonist. What made this offensive to me is that, thus far, the show established its world as a cutthroat place where characters were in fierce competition and human life was hardly sacred. Competitors in prior episodes died by the dozens, often senseless deaths you wouldn’t wish on even your worst enemies. Nobody in the cast even so much as squeaked at all that, but now that the main character is getting slightly hurt, suddenly everybody is offended at the cruelty of it all.
This show comes up quite frequently to this day, often accompanied with people bemoaning the lack of a season 2 to conclude the story. Its popularity eludes me, because I was so very tired of this show I couldn’t imagine wanting even more of it.
To be fair, I very much dislike shows that I tend to label as “misery porn” and Deadman Wonderland is certainly one of those. It’s the kind of story where everything is always as terrible as it could (im)possibly be, to the point of defying any kind of logical sense. It’s about a young kid thrown into a prison that doubles as a theme park where the inmates are forced to play lethal games for the amusement of a public that somehow believes it’s all fake. The entire premise felt incredibly weak, it’s just an overcomplicated variation on the typical battle royale story, of which dozens of better examples exist.
To top it off, it tries to spin a mystery out of the identity of an enigmatic figure that murdered the protagonist’s classmates and got him convicted of the crime, despite him being a wimpy 12-year-old. Like with Bokurano, I found this so easy to guess that I wasn’t even sure if this was meant to be a plot twist or something. Considering the anime was apparently left inconclusive, I am glad I didn’t bother to finish it.
Read “The Circus is Here” by Junji Ito. It’s basically the same idea, but actually handled well.
I was so enchanted by the idea behind Joshiraku and its fantastic character designs. It stars a group of girls who work together at a rakugo theater and it shows us their performances, as well as their interactions backstage. An interesting setting that could be utilized to teach viewers about this obscure bit of performance art, which Joshiraku promptly decides not to do.
I have certainly seen anime and read manga that would be filled with notes to explain various jokes that only made sense in the original language, but Joshiraku is all of that minus the explanations. Almost every one of its comedy segments hinges on puns or cultural references that make no sense to a foreign audience and might even be questionably relevant to Japanese people themselves.
Rarely have I been so confused while watching an anime, which is a real shame. The few scenes where it has jokes that play around with the characters’ personalities were pretty good and offered some brief moments of sanity in this otherwise incomprehensible show. I kept sticking around hoping the anime would shift its focus and include more such moments, but by episode 7 I finally gave up; this show was never going to make any sense to me, no matter how long I waited or tried.
Kiss Him, Not Me
The premise for this show was a fun one, but it shows what happens when you overstretch a good idea and lose sight of where your story was going.
Kae Serinuma used to be a fat otaku with a fascination for yaoi and a tendency to ship the various boys in her school. After losing a ton of weight, all those boys are suddenly enamored with her and begin competing for her affection, all while she is still in love with the idea of them sweatily plowing each other instead.
The anime is fun for a few episodes, but begins to go downhill soon after introducing Shima Nishina, the final main character in this bizarre harem. Because what really is the moral we’re trying to sell here? What’s the message the show wants you take away from it? What are these characters about? The answers seem to change from episode to episode.
Case in point, Shima is introduced as a potential love interest who is a better fit than any of the boys because she is unrelentingly supportive of Kae. This is played with in an episode where Kae regains her weight and the boys are left stumped, unable to figure out how to treat her now or what to do. Only Shima is unfazed about it and sticks with Kae despite the sudden change, while the boys cook up an elaborate plot to get her exercising until she’s pretty again. Shima is established as a character who is supportive, intelligent, talented, and understands Kae in a way that the boys can’t.
Then in episode 6, Kae and Shima get into a fight because they disagree on a shipping in some new, seasonal anime. Shima proceeds to outright bully Kae by challenging her to a fanfiction contest, even though she is a professional author, and mocking her when she loses. It completely goes against her established character and now the boys have to be the mature party and lecture Shima until she goes to apologize. On a side-note, an early episode already addresses fans disagreeing on shipping, which showed Kae and her friend joking about their difference in opinion without causing such a fight. Why is this suddenly an entire episode?
Don’t worry though, in episode 8 everybody gets high on mushrooms and has an imaginary battle with samurai spirits. This show is a beacon of coherent storytelling.
Now And Then, Here And There
I don’t have much of an elaborate story for this one. It was recommended to me as “the best retro isekai you’ll ever see”, which was a tough sell after I literally just finished Escaflowne. I had to really force myself through the first episode and then quit midway through the second one.
It’s hard for me to relate to young, teenage protagonists. There have been some notable exceptions over the years, but this show’s protagonist embodies exactly everything I dislike in these kinds of characters.
Episode 1 kicks off and Shuzo Matsutani is eating breakfast like a literal pig: spitting food unto the table, drooling, meat and rice on his face, it’s disgusting. He then rushes off to school and knocks over damn near everything in his parents’ store without batting an eye or stopping for even a second. The entire first episode does not nothing but establish him as an irredeemable nuisance, a dim-witted, hyper-active moron without a single admirable quality to him. Perhaps to later twist that around, show Shuzo’s hidden qualities, or to create a massive contrast to look back on after 13 episodes of character development. I hear this anime gets quite dark, so perhaps this was the intent.
What happens instead is that everything in episode 1 made me not want to see a second more of this kid. I couldn’t imagine a scenario in which anything would happen to him that would make me come around to liking the guy.
This one is probably the most controversial addition and one that surprises even me. I love Satoshi Kon’s work and here we have a TV series by him with Susumu Hirasawa on the soundtrack? SIGN. ME. UP.
I was so ready to enjoy Paranoia Agent and it left me heartbroken that I ended up just feeling bored with it. It’s a show about the anxiety experienced by a variety of different characters struggling to fit in with modern society, tied together with an overarching plot about a young boy on skates assaulting people with a bat. That sounded like Kon’s strong suit, but the characters involved I ended up finding mostly unsympathetic, their plights both overwritten and uninteresting.
There is an entire episode dedicated to a woman with a split personality who she is fighting for control. As she tries to marry and settle down, this alternate version of her is parading the town as everybody’s #1 prostitute. It’s only the focus for a single episode, yet manages to feel like it’s going in circles and taking forever to conclude. Don’t even get me started on main character Tsukiko Sagi, a graphic designer so timid and absent-minded I ended up sympathizing with her annoyed co-workers.
I also didn’t like the art direction of the show, which is mind-blowing to me. Kon’s work has always leaned towards realism, but still offered expressive characters and beautiful animation. I think back to Paprika, Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers, and immediately I got images popping into my mind and I can feel the emotions I associate with the art in these shows. Paranoia Agent has the opening song and then a whole lot of nothing. It’s a drab anime; the only pictures I associate with it are the characters looking bored and ridiculously underlit nighttime scenes.
They changed Seras’ hair color!?!?
The original Hellsing is an anime near & dear to me, as it’s one of the first shows I decided to watch when my teenage self finally pulled away from the big shounen anime for long enough to realize there were more than 10 anime out there. I loved Hellsing and was equally excited when people told me I was a dummy and should be watching Hellsing Ultimate instead.
While it’s undoubtedly a larger anime with better animation, I absolutely couldn’t stand its shift towards this edgy-shounen & comedy hybrid. A show I fell in love with for its dark and stylish presentation was now full of comedy segments and wacky characters. Exactly the kind of stuff I tried to leave behind as I entered a teenage phase where I wanted my anime to be “mature”.
I tried to return to the show now that I am older and wiser, to see if maybe I was being petty, but I still can’t get into this. I see chibi Alucard or an over-expressive Seras and I am just done, I needn’t see more of this.
One of the big inspirations for my original list on this topic was my experience with watching Angel Beats, where a plot twist and complete change of tone made me lose interest in an anime that I had been excitedly binging through just moments before. I don’t tend to like it when I find out what I enjoy in a show, only to then have it pull the rug out from under me and change what it’s about entirely.
I appear to be in the minority about this when it comes to Samurai Flamenco, as the part of the anime that most label as “boring” was actually what drew me to the series. It’s about a superhero-obsessed young adult who decides to become a vigilante and take on the injustices of modern society, starting with the pettiest of anti-social behavior. (Social) media begins to pay attention to him and provide legitimacy to his superhero career; soon, the entire city is talking about Samurai Flamenco and trying to uncover his true identity.
It’s a comedic story, but one that I feel had great opportunities to explore some good subject matter. What does heroism mean in a modern society? What should become of the police if media and the people begin backing the actions of a well-intentioned vigilante? I was especially fond of Flamenco’s friendship with Gotou Hidenori, a police officer who really cares for him and tries to get him to quit, but still shows up when he is most needed to lend a hand to Flamenco’s crime-fighting.
Then, the show decided to just be a superhero anime. Suddenly super-villains, henchmen, grunts in ridiculous outfits, hidden fortresses, and giant monsters are all real and nobody seems even mildly perplexed by this. The protagonists just start doing superhero stuff and save the world; it’s so bizarre to witness that I was fairly sure I was watching a dream episode until it just kept going. These guys were wrestling street thugs two episodes ago and now they are just fistfighting a robot rhinoceros.
How often does it happen that an anime that started as a parody just becomes the thing it parodied?
1 thought on “10 More Stories From My Dropped List”
I have actually seen some of the anime on this list. That would be Bokurano, Now and Then Here and There, and the original Hunter X Hunter series (I haven’t seen the remake). Paranoia Agent is also the only thing from Satoshi Kon I haven’t seen or reviewed and it’s part of my goal to cover his filmography since it’s the last one left.