While there are always people complaining about every season being a huge disappointment, this was easily the worst I’ve personally encountered in a few years. Thankfully there were two or three shining beacons of hope, but I was often left questioning my life choices. I’ll properly start the list of shows I did watch to completion tomorrow, but until then, here are the ones I just couldn’t finish (ignoring series dropped after couple of episodes).
Cynical mode: Activate!
Ore Monogatari – Dropped (6-7/24 Episodes)
I guess it’s time to face facts and accept that I’ve moved past shojou romances. Not that I think they’re all inherently bad, but I know what to expect at this point: shy, stoic, misunderstood and/or naïve girl meets dullard/asshole – cue contrived drama and wheel spinning for however many episodes the show feels it needs before they get together. The End.
I suppose I should give Ore Monogatari credit for attempting to alter the formula up somewhat by making the lead protagonist a rather… unique looking guy (face it, he’s hideous by standard anime levels of attractiveness) and by having most of the show take place after they get together, but ultimately very little has changed. It’s essentially the same awkward interactions between two clueless people, while the rest of the world and their dogs try and get involved for ‘REASONS’. Granted, Takeo is a pretty fun character, with his brutish-appearance belying a sweet & dopey personality, but his charm can only go too far. He’s just too one-dimensional to carry the show on his own. As part of a large ensemble focusing chiefly on comedy, sure; it served Harima Kenji in School Rumble pretty well. However, with a story that mostly focuses on individual conversations, it highlights how much of it is held together by trite stock-dialogue. Not to mention that Rinko, the love interest, has pretty much no personality other than being all blushing and happy; being your standard super-pure waifu archetype, so there’s no sense of rapport beyond the two of them thinking the other is nice.
It’s something I’ve noticed about romance series for a while now. Even looking back at shows I used to enjoy (eg. Kimi ni Todoke), it becomes apparent how the central romance is often moved by plot strings, rather than a tangible sense of attraction. At least this is far more upbeat and fun than some stories tend to be, but it doesn’t stop the actual core of the show feeling any less empty. Shoujo that integrates the romance into the background of larger stories like Akatsuki no Yona or Chihayafuru usually tend to be more effective by not forcing the issue and letting bonds develop naturally, rather than being the sole focus.
General ranting aside, one thing that really bothered me was the habit of following standard romance tropes for the majority of an episode, only to suddenly veer away and do something completely ridiculous (eg. the construction site collapse or the fire during the group date), in order to have a bit of fun and show Takeo off as a badass. There’s clearly some meta-humour going on and while I have no problem with a show being self-aware and joking around with the tropes of its genre, there feels too much a divide between when it plays the story straight. While the likes of Ouran or Nozaki-kun were able to masterfully blend giving the shoujo genre a good-natured ribbing while remaining faithful to its roots, Ore Monogatari’s switch in tone often comes across as too drastic. When most of an episode plays things with little hint of irony, only to suddenly make a joke out the subject, it begins to feel pretty disingenuous.
I definitely don’t think that’s the intent, but it still feels that by suddenly laughing at the drama of proceeding events, it’s also laughing at those genuinely interested in the story, while those waiting for the comedy have to wait while the setup is treated with sincerity.
The Heroic Legend of Arslan – Dropped (12/25 Episodes)
I’ve already written a long enough post detailing the issues Arslan has in portraying its story, so I’m not going to bother repeating my set of grievances. Suffice to say, I can’t help but feel having Hiromu Arakawa adapt Yoshiki Tanaka’s original novels into a more traditional shounen series doesn’t really play into either of their strengths. As a result we get a tale that constantly struggles between deciding to be a serious drama or a superficial action series, the end result being an awkward to and fro between both styles that lacks the depth and nuance of the former or the excitement and rising action of the latter. Add to that a pretty lacklustre effort adapting it into an anime, and you end up with a show lacking any defining hook.
It doesn’t help that Arslan suffers from a bad case of poor timing. We’re hardly suffering a dearth in fantasy titles of late, whether traditional or mmorpg inspired, and as a result the show struggles to lead much of an impression. Akatsuki no Yona in particular aired a few seasons back and followed a similar historically-inspired premise, managing to balance its comedy, adventuring and political intrigue far more successfully, not to mention having a more entertaining, nuanced and relatable cast. Sadly in nearly every aspect, Arslan feels like the lesser of the two works. Which isn’t to say it’s terrible by any means, but I’ve never really anticipated watching it, seeing the show as more of an obligation than a requirement.
That isn’t enough for me anymore; a show can’t just be good enough to sit through. I need to actually enjoy what I’m watching, rather than view it as an acceptable use of time.
Fate/Stay Night: Infinite Blade Works – Dropped (21/25 Episodes)
I always knew I was going to have massive issues with F/SN, but it was only during Shirou’s four-episode long spell of pushing his nonsensical, doomed beliefs onto Archer, that it dawned on me how little I cared. Not even enough to drag my way through the finale, trying to find entertainment from what a poorly thought out, ponderously dull mess it was.
It’s my own fault really; I’d already major issues with the original anime adaption, Fate Zero, and Garden of Sinners, but bought into the hype that this would be the show that finally did the visual novel justice. All I really discovered that there is no polishing a turd, no matter how faithful it may or may not be.
The Fate universe honestly seems anathema to someone like me, always seeing their premises as camp entertainment, put under to a dark and edgy filter and relying on an overabundance of exposition and in-universe terminology to make the works seem more complex than they actually are, desperately trying to disguise how daft the whole idea is. I mean this series is ostensibly about wizards (sorry, magus, get the definition right fb!) summoning heroic spirits from the past, present and future to fight over a magical cup that grants wishes – how on earth does anyone think of that and see brooding drama, not a ludicrous Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure or Aquarion EVOL style excuse for fun and spectacle?
So yes, I think it’s fair to say the style of writing in Fate/Stay Night isn’t one that appeals to me. There’s way too much focus on pedantry and indulgences into the minutia of its universe, instead of developing the story naturally or attempting competent characterisation and thematic analysis. Instead we get excessive dialogue that ultimately serves to say very little, coming across as bloated, pompous and nearly entirely of substance. A better show could use body language alone to convey what F/SN spends episodes trying to describe. Zero also had many of these issues, but at least had a competent writer at the helm, creating interesting talk points such as Saber, Rider & Gilgamesh’s discussion on the nature of rulership and sacrifice, as opposed to people shouting their flimsy ideals past each other.
I may hate the likes of Sword Art Online, No Game, No Life and countless other visual and light novels out there, but I can at least understand their appeal to certain groups. Fate/Stay Night, on the other hand, makes no sense to me. It seems to be a franchise created solely for database junkies that love to pick apart the lore, rather than the craft itself, a concept largely alien to me. You could pen a thousand pages of ancillary or background information on any one thing or person and I still won’t care if the show doesn’t present it a way that’s emotionally resonant.
At least the animation, particularly background and battle scenes were spectacular, even if the actual character models look like meticulously drawn budget VN designs.
You know, the original Deen adaptation may have been ugly, sluggishly paced and screwed with the novel’s sacred continuity, but at least it attempted to adapt it’s arc into a self-contained story, rather than a third of one. If it came down to the lesser of two evils, I’d honestly pick it as the better of the two adaptations. At least I could finish it.
Consider that a glove thrown.