One of the most frustrating things about being an anime fan is having high hopes for a new, promising anime, and then watching helplessly as it craps the bed right in front of you week after week. Maybe it did a terrible job adapting high-quality source material, had a creative concept that got buried under bad production values or studio mandates, or dumped its best story ideas like a sack of disappointed potatoes, but the end result is always the same – a lackluster mess that could’ve been so much more. Let’s check out 5 bad anime that were almost brilliant!
5. Magia Record: Mahou Shoujo Madoka☆Magica Gaiden (Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story)
The original Madoka Magica anime was a masterclass in succinct storytelling – it established its world and gave each of its five main heroines fully fleshed out character arcs with just 12 episodes of runtime. Magia Record, on the other hand, tries to do the same thing in the same amount of time... with over fifteen magical girls.
It’s based on a gatcha game, so it sort of has to cram its cast with as many marketable characters as possible, but the story could’ve focused on a core group and littered the background with cameos if it wanted to capture the magic of the original without seeming scatterbrained. Still, Magia Record does nail the franchise’s trademark surreal, ominous atmosphere, so you can tell that there were at least a few passionate artists on this project.
4. Persona 5 the Animation
Persona 5 has a striking art style, entertaining characters, and is considered by many publications to be one of the greatest RPGs ever made. And CloverWorks, the studio behind the adaptation, has shown some above-average animation chops with shows like The Promised Neverland, Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai, and Fate/Grand Order. So how on Earth did this mess happen? Persona 5 the Animation is a poorly paced bastardization of the original that shaves off much of the story’s nuances and forces the unique visuals to exist as choppy, hastily traced versions of what they once were. It’s perfectly possible to make a great game-to-anime adaptation, but unfortunately, nobody cared enough to do it properly.
3. Kitsutsuki Tantei Dokoro (Woodpecker Detective’s Office)
Flighty auteur geniuses are difficult to portray sympathetically in fiction since their dedication to their work often outweighs their empathy for other people. Such is the case with Takuboku Ishikawa – Meiji era poet, protagonist of Woodpecker Detective’s Office, and all-around toxic human being. He constantly manipulates his best friend Kyousuke Kindaichi for money and emotional support, which Kindaichi puts up with out of some twisted sense of duty. This could be a prime opportunity to explore the nuances of such a strange relationship, and this anime almost gets there in a few episodes, but the boring mystery plot takes up so much screentime that this storyline falls by the wayside. Why??
Babylon is a political thriller/psychological thought experiment along the lines of Psycho-Pass, Monster, or ID: INVADED. The first seven episodes weave a complex world of corruption and mystery surrounding a person who can seemingly force people to kill themselves, but then episode eight and beyond (released after six weeks of hiatus) completely destroy that goodwill by endlessly debating an in-universe suicide law that could never exist in real life. Viewers who wanted more cat-and-mouse thriller antics were disappointed at the shift to End of Evangelion-style introspection, and even fans who liked that sort of thing dismissed the last few episodes as pseudo-philosophical circlejerking. Maybe the cursed year of 2020 is to blame?
1. Tokyo Ghoul
There’s something to be said for the appeal of “edgy” anime like Soul Eater, Mirai Nikki, and Death Note. They’re dark and subversive in a pleasantly juvenile sort of way and they can serve as gateway shows for alternative teens looking to join the fandom. Tokyo Ghoul has all the makings of a perfect edgy anime – sexy monster people with cool powers, PG-13 gore, and catchy emo music – but it’s stuck with Kaneki as the main character. Kaneki makes every wrong decision possible, taking valuable time away from worldbuilding and other characters’ actions just to accommodate his incomprehensible whims. And, of course, the inconsistent storyline between anime seasons makes all of this even harder to deal with. Just stick to the manga or fanfiction!
We also can’t forget to mention Berserk 2016 and its sequels (although they were doomed from the start by being saddled with bad studios), Another, and Summer 2020’s own Gibiate. But which anime do you think belong on this list? Do you disagree with the ones we chose? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!