Some retro anime truly stand the test of time – even after so many years, and with so many newer shows that built upon their example, there’s something about them that keeps bringing people back. These... are not those anime.
Maybe the art style or the animation is tragically dated. Maybe the themes and characterization don’t hold up anymore. Or maybe they’ve just been replaced by newer series that do the same thing, but far better. Today, we’re looking at 5 anime that didn’t age well.
5. Saint Seiya (Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac)
Now, before the Saint Seiya fans kill us (we know that it was very important in Latin America), let us just preface this entry – as well as the rest of the list – by saying that we don’t begrudge anyone for still enjoying these anime. Whether it’s for pure nostalgia’s sake, or because you still genuinely love the show, we aren’t here to take your favorite anime away from you. That being said, as far as long running shounen anime go, Saint Seiya isn’t one that we’d recommend spending over 100 episodes on.
From the janky ‘80s animation to the filler to the endless conundrum of what is and isn’t canon, this anime is a bit of a mess. It’s in desperate need of a remake that can consolidate the best parts into a more polished package, but with the icy reception that the 2019 Netflix reboot got, we probably won’t be getting new Saint Seiya content anytime soon...
4. Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (Higurashi: When They Cry)
Oh, Studio Deen. Their animation quality, particularly in the ‘90s and 2000s, could best be described as... rough... and it drags down the impact of Higurashi: When They Cry’s first season significantly. Though the oddly proportioned character designs are still an improvement over the original visual novels’ mitten-handed sprites, that’s not a very high bar to clear, and the off-model expressions can ruin dramatic moments by being unintentionally hilarious. And since this series is all about dramatic, shocking moments that recontextualize the whole central mystery, that’s a big problem.
Luckily, the animation gets better in later seasons, but you sort of have to suffer through this one to understand the rest of it. It makes the entire Higurashi franchise a hard sell to new fans, which is a shame because its psychological horror elements and complexly woven continuity make it well worth your time. Just try to focus on the story and save your favorite bad screenshots for reaction memes – it’ll all be worth it in the end!
3. Love Hina
Love Hina is a very important anime – it was the first to be entirely animated on computers, the first with a digitally distributed fansub, and a codifier of many harem genre tropes that would live on for years to come. But just because Love Hina did these things first doesn’t mean that it did them best, as shown by the many, many harem romcoms that built on its success and are infinitely more watchable because of what they did differently.
The milquetoast MC who stumbles into sexy scenarios, his utter obliviousness to the gaggle of eligible bachelorettes in love with him, incestuous undertones with his younger sister... it’s all here. But the biggest element that we’re glad most of today’s harem anime have dropped is the constant physical and verbal abuse from resident tsundere/main love interest Naru. Slapstick humor at the expense of someone who did nothing to deserve it, particularly in a series that isn’t a pure Looney Tunes style comedy, just doesn’t work in a modern world where abuse is treated more seriously. It may be best to praise Love Hina for what it accomplished, and then leave it in the past where it belongs.
2. Fullmetal Alchemist 2003
Fullmetal Alchemist is one of our favorite manga of all time, and we absolutely adore the 2009 “Brotherhood” anime that faithfully adapts the full story with the gorgeous animation, music, and voice acting that it deserves. The original 2003 version, on the other hand, is a bit of a different beast.
Mangaka Hiromu Awakawa wanted to avoid the filler episodes that plagued anime in those days, so she allowed the first anime to branch off from the original plotline about 1/3 of the way through. It’s still a good story, and some people may prefer it over the manga/Brotherhood version, but we feel that it lets down the source material. New villain Dante shifts focus away from the Elric brothers to fixate on Hohenheim, the increased anti-religious rhetoric feels very “2000s edgy teenage boy”, the homunculi’s added backstory feels muddled and unfocused, and the movie’s ending is... a lot. Fullmetal Alchemist 2003 is still worth watching if you’re interested in another perspective on what could’ve happened, but otherwise we’d recommend the manga and/or the 2009 version.
1. Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya)
If you were an anime fan in the mid-2000s, you knew all about Haruhi Suzumiya. There was no way you couldn’t – she was the God Emperor of Anime! From cosplays at conventions to amateur videos of the Hare Hare Yukai dance to the fountains of memes on forums everywhere, this sassy teenage girl (who may or may not be a reality-altering deity unaware of her own powers) was basically the mascot of the entire industry. So why is she MIA these days?
Well, part of the problem is that the second season devoted over half of its runtime to a time loop that was almost exactly the same for eight episodes straight, but the bigger issue is that Haruhi herself is just such a jerk. She routinely threatens people, molests poor Mikuru, and puts others in danger just to stave off her own boredom. And since her powers could destroy the world if she doesn’t get her way, she pretty much never faces consequences for this behavior. Like Naru from Love Hina, Haruhi’s charm wears off once you think about how impossible it would be to actually spend time with her.
We could also include more filler-filled shounen series like InuYasha and Rurouni Kenshin, as well as other anime like Fullmetal Alchemist 2003 that have been superseded by their remakes, such as Fruits Basket 2001, Devilman 1972 and 1987, and Dororo 1969. But what anime do you think didn’t age well? Do you agree with our list? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!