Friday’s Feature: What a Waste

Have you ever had that feeling of disappointment that comes along after you’ve read a really cool premise or a story seems to have an incredible setting and then literally nothing is done with it?

Well for me, 2017 really delivered a lot of these sorts of shows where you had to wonder why they even bothered. While many anime are set in the generic school type setting or average Japanese city/town, others try for a more ambitious set up, but if the story doesn’t utilise it basically all the show ends up doing is waste its time trying to explain concepts that don’t amount to anything.

This was a major issue for Knight’s & Magic. Forget the fact that the majority of the show takes place in a fairly generic fantasy setting that is largely indistinguishable from any other. Also, forget the fact that we’re introduced to monsters that need to be fought off (the justification for the Knights’ existence in the world at all) but by about three episodes in you’ll never see another monster (okay, slight exaggeration). No, Knight’s & Magic just had an overly complicated premise which fizzled into nothingness more or less the instant the show actually started.

Now, I noted this in my series review of this, but Knight’s & Magic isn’t a straight fantasy but rather an isekai story. Meaning the main character is transported into another world. But Knights Of The Incorrectly Used Apostrophe isn’t satisfied with just opening a portal or whatever. Instead it feels the need to kill off Joe Average computer programmer (in a fairly uninteresting manner) and then have him reincarnate as a genius in the magic world due to his memories of programming. About all we learn of him prior to him dying is that he programs and is kind of respected by his colleagues and he likes robots.

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And that sounds fine. You want a character to be exceptional in a fantasy land so give him advanced knowledge of programs. Only, other than one or two comments about magic being similar to a program, you could almost forget this was the premise after about half an episode. Which means the show wasted precious time establishing a premise that it never used. And given there is at least one other character in the fantasy world who seems to be almost equally a genius, unless later developments claim he was also reincarnated, the entire point seems pretty trivial given the amount of set up time it ate early on in the series.

Now the obvious direct comparison of this premise would be the currently airing Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody. While there are plenty of things you can criticise about the show (and believe me, I have been in my episode reviews thus far) one thing I appreciate is that Satou never lets us forget he is a visitor in the world he has found himself in.

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He reacts with surprise to information that is surprising to someone from modern day Japan, complains about things like bathing outdoors, and he uses his working knowledge of the games he was assisting with in his life before getting transported into the game to essentially cheat the system. So while I would argue that Death March is in any way a better show than Knight’s & Magic (both shows have plenty of other issues), I would argue that the premise is actually better utilised and so the set-up actually feels meaningful.

Essentially, if we cut out all of the other world stuff from Knight’s & Magic, you would barely notice the difference, whereas if you cut it out of Death March, you’d have to be confused as to what the main character was thinking.

But Knight’s & Magic wasn’t the only show last year that had me scratching my head about it’s premise. Sengoku Night Blood (another show that wasn’t exactly a genius work either) really has me wondering about a few points. Specifically, why an alternative history take on the warring states era?

It isn’t as though this era is new to anime premises. It may in fact be the most overused era for historical anime. But alternative history by turning the warlords into vampires and werewolves? I’ll admit, I was kind of intrigued about what they would do with this.

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However, I’ll save you the anticipation. They did nothing. other than two of the vampire boys biting the girl, the only consequence of the characters being vampires and werewolves was that they had pointy ears or dog ears. Literally the only thing that changed was cosmetic. All the plot points were essentially identical even if they had left the characters human (about the only thing that would have changed I guess is they wouldn’t have bitten her but maybe given her a kiss for that power up at the end).

It is almost as if they had a planning meeting to discuss how to make their generic warring states anime feel fresh and new and someone plucked the word vampire out of thin air. But then they did nothing with it. The characters run around in daylight, they eat a normal diet, they are all perfectly pleasant human beings, and essentially this is the single most throw-away premise that 2017 delivered.

The problem with shows that do this is that it makes them feel worse than they are. Because they had ideas, and they threw those ideas in front of their audience, and then the audience was forced to watch them just sit there and have nothing done with them episode after episode. And it begs the question of why include these elements if they don’t want to use them or don’t have time to develop them? Why not trim your show down to the parts that matter and deliver them well?

I don’t exactly know the answer to that but I’m going to turn this over to you and ask if you’ve ever been let down by the premise of a show?


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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37 thoughts on “Friday’s Feature: What a Waste

  1. That is certainly something Death Parade has going for it, it does understand what it is and how to utilize its premise. It is weird when that becomes a positive for shows these days when that should be a standard, but with things like Knight’s & Magic who knows. Disappointing anime to me that never fully capitalize on their premises are Mayoiga, They Were 11, and Owari no Seraph off the top of my head.

    Owari no Seraph certainly is the one that I feel had more of a chance to be at the very least enjoyable action fluff based on its premise of vampires capitalizing on a disease that affected human adults in order to create livestock of the ones left behind. I mean it sounds ridiculous, but still fun yet I feel like it eventually devolved into school hijinks to become the best vampire hunter (or fighting giant monsters…because of course?) and a whole Naruto and Sasuke relationship without capitalizing in its first season upon the world it set up in its premise.

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  2. I think the question with Sengoku Night Blood is not “why isn’t this thing doing something more interesting with its setting?”, but rather “what caused this thing to be a thing in the first place?” The source material is an otome game, so some of the tropes involved aren’t surprising.

    As for some shows that could’ve done more with their settings, I think Netjuu no Susume had some online mechanics cut out of its anime and Royal Tutor could’ve done more with the kingdom (both these cases have a “read the manga” problem, which is hardly surprising). On the other hand, the Reflection probably did too much with its setting and didn’t do enough with the characters, which for a story like it is pretty much a sin.

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  3. Well….it had already been mentioned above: but Kado was a really big disappointment. I can remember how excited we both were for this one..and in the end it was such a letdown. Such a shame as I absolutely loved the first few episodes of it.
    Another one…can I say it…can I say it….yeah I guess I can: Black Clover. A show that had enormous potential but then it was ruined by that screaming guy. I still haven’t continued watching it by the way. Have you?

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    1. Black Clover…
      Yeah, I’m done with it. I did try one more episode after Weekend and I stopped reviewing and I didn’t even get to the end of that episode. I’m still not sure how you make that basic premise which has been used a million times before that boring or make a main character who is supposed to be annoying, too annoying to actually deal with, but Black Clover succeeded on both fronts and I am done.

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      1. I have heard someone say it supposedly is getting better. If I am in a weird mood on sunday, I might actually bingewatch a coupe of episodes to see if it has changed…but yeah…I must be in a really weird mood if I am going to do that 😂😂

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      2. I quit black clover about 10 minutes into the first ep. I have gotten relatively good at identifying anime that are either not my kind of show or just another terrible POS aimed at teenagers with EMO problems. Those kids can have them. That’s fine for them, but there’s better stuff to watch out there, including decades of old shows with better writing, art, and characters. If you want good emo, watch Rah Xephon. That’s Evangelion done RIGHT.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Rah Xephon has good characters, beautiful animation, plenty of emo, and a good ending which actually fits the plot. It is often called “Evangelion done right” by anime fans because it is an accurate description.

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  4. Personally, the biggest waste of potential was Kado. That show was actually pretty interesting, and I couldn’t even imagine how it could go so wrong. All the previous depth was killed by grandstanding and hypocritical speeches.
    The finale to a show, that was basically economics, was a typical shounen fight against a boring villain, instead of a resolution brought through negotiation and mutual understanding, as the show had done previously…
    Why Kado! Why!!! ;_;

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  5. As a writer, this is certainly a sobering lesson: make sure the plot is just as interesting as the premise, haha! This is certainly one of my pet peeves in storytelling. Nothing worse than seeing wasted potential.

    Honestly, one of my biggest anime offenders for this was Sword Art Online. There are many elements I adore from that show… and many I hate. I think that might be part of why the show is/was so polarizing. But for a show that established how HUGE the SAO world was, we got to see so little of it. I really wish arc 1 had been all of season 1 if not all of seasons 1 and 2. Though I did enjoy some of the other content of the other arcs, I would have loved to see those arcs take place after I’d seen more of the SAO universe.

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    1. I like that they finished the escape from Aincrad when they did in SAO, because I think any longer seeing them trapped in a death game would have felt like a drag, not really into watching characters grind levels either. However, where it really made a mistake was then jumping into a new game. I think it would have been better for SAO to still be the game, just without the death element and have future instalments of the story take place within that setting, so that we could see more of that world and do more with that setting. Instead we keep jumping games and having to meet new characters, avatars, skills, locations, and it just eats a lot of screen time for stories that ultimately aren’t as interesting as the first one was.

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  6. Aldnoah Zero made me feel the same way. I’m a huge mecha fan and the mech designs were pretty good so I gave it a shot, it was a mistake. The story starts off cool but eventually becomes moot when you find out the protag, Blandicus, can destroy world-destroying mechs in what is essentially an over sized action figure. I was on episode 6 or 7 when I realized there were so many better series I could be watching instead. But yeah, Knights & Magic was totes bad.

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    1. At least Aldnoah Zero didn’t forget about the war between Earth and Mars mid-way through. Admittedly, season 2 is still pretty bad as the character motives become really quite confused and they seriously over-reached, but at least the setting they established kind of makes sense from start to finish.

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  7. This is going to be controversial since this anime got good reviews when it came out, but I felt that way with Saikano. There was so much potential, but I found the main character to be way too much of a crybaby, the character designs are questionable, and it tries way too hard to be dark for darknesses’ sake because “instant drama!”. Ugh. That was one anime that made me question critics’ tastes forever.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I still haven’t watched that one. Most of the reviews I’ve read of it have been pretty positive, so thanks for the heads up that maybe it won’t be as amazing as people have made out. It is always good to go in with more level expectations.

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      1. Saikano, not to be confused with Saekano, is one of the most depressing anime ever made. Not the most, but in the top 10. I don’t recommend it to anyone. It might cause a suicide.

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  8. I thought of watching this anime before but after reading your review I am going to think one more time before watching it. By the way isn’t the wolf character kind of resembles CROWLY EUSFORD from Owari No Seraph.

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  9. I wondered about that myself, back in the day when Evangelion went off the rails from its premise, and then another series of shows, and I want to blame Geneon studios for this flaw you could best describe as “good setting, crap plot”. If you watch Last Exile, this is a great example of the same problem. Fascinating setting with airships, what looks like floating islands, steam powered rifles, seriously weird technology banned by some sort of ruling elven-gays who murder everyone who gets close, and a sort of combination of submarine and aircraft carrier ship to ship combat. Fascinating setting, and its a good show for around 5-6 episodes. Then it goes to crap and you face palm at them for ruining it, copying Wolfs Rain (another geneon failure). I think that the original author gets bullied by some animation studio marketing goon who insists that the story has to ignore its possibilities and copy the prior failures or it won’t get made into an anime. That guy, and its probably ONE GUY, who is screwing things up, and despite a long history of THIS GOING BADLY and causing fans to complain, they keep letting the idiot ruin anime. Right up to Knights and Magic. Sigh. I don’t know his name, but he’s got enough power to continue to ruin things.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I kind of liked Wolfs Rain and Evangelion. They’ve kind of got their own charm. Last Exile on the other hands is one I still haven’t finished because around episode 6 or 7 I usually start switching off and then I just never get to finishing it. I really should at some point just to see how it actually ends.

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  10. So much pain. Between all the shows that simply crumble under the weight or their ambitions or are cut off before the can realize their potential, we are left with so many fantastic might have beens and neverwas’…On a slight variation – I also hate when a show with little to know potential (boring story, bad dialogue, stunted progression…) has an absolutely outstanding character. You find yourself not being able to put down a series just for the one guy or gal and find yourself contantly thinking at how great they would have been in an actually *good* show.

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    1. I agree. Though for me it is usually a concept that keeps me watching but being disappointed. I really liked the idea behind King’s Game and while I enjoyed it for being a bad horror, I just kept thinking how easy it would be to make a really solid story around the concept.

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