It is a tale as old as time. An anime comes along and knocks you over with its charm or an exciting premise and then as the story continues some of the magic begins to fade.
I love starting a new anime. There’s a fresh feeling that all possibilities are open and even if I go in suspecting I’m not going to like something; I plan on giving it a chance to show me what it can do. Sometimes it doesn’t work out and I’ll move on and other times I’ll be curious but largely on the fence about a show. Still, there’s a few anime every season that manage to really just hit hard and it is almost instant love. The really special ones manage to keep you feeling this way for the whole season and beyond. But what happens to those anime when future seasons just don’t live up to the same level of charm?
Sometimes it is just inevitable. You get older but the anime, particularly if it is a long running one, is still catering to a younger audience and so you just move on. Often though you have to wonder just what has changed. Why doesn’t the anime still have that spark for you? Have you become to jaded or expect too much? Was it never really that good to begin with and you are now seeing the flaws? Or is it more that there really has been a dip in quality?
Either way, you can’t help but feel genuinely disappointed in an anime that you expected to love forever when the newest season rolls out and your response is somewhere between tepid and indifferent.
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I think the anime that first did this to me while I was watching it was Death Note. I loved Death Note. I still do, up to a point. And that point is that critical moment where one of the main characters is ultimately killed. For me that is kind of the end of the story and I would have been satisfied with that outcome because the duel between the two genius characters, Light and L, had been resolved and one had become victorious. Sure there were other plot threads to explore but none of them were as interesting.
That the ultimate final episode did have a wonderful conclusion doesn’t really change the fact that the final leg of this series is a slog to watch and by and large when I rewatch Death Note I skip from the climax between the two characters to the final two episodes or I just stop watching once we get to that point.
It isn’t that the writing suddenly got worse or that the anime lost sight of its tone or themes. It is just that for me the most interesting part of Death Note was the mental cat and mouse between Light and L. Without that, despite new characters coming along and introducing new conflicts and intrigues and even a look at how the events would change the world, I just never felt as connected to the anime as I had early on. The change in OP’s didn’t help either with the second one being one that I skip every time.
Usually though it is the second or third series where this disconnect occurs for me. Or possibly the various spin-offs of a franchise that feels like it has gone passed its use-by date. Sword Art Online was one where I went through all the stages of a legitimate break-up. I loved the Aincrad arc, didn’t mind Fairy Dance though wanted a better villain. Phantom Bullet and Mother Rosario both had their moments but also had aspects I was starting to feel a little tired by. The movie Ordinal Scale was fun but lacked something. Then we had the spin-off with Gun Gale Online which utterly fell flat for me as I was pretty much bored from start to whenever it was I dropped it. Finally we moved into Alicization which so many people talked up online as being the best thing that could happen to SAO and then I watched week after week and waited for the brilliance to appear and when we got to the end of the first season of it (and oh boy, that ending) I realised I was done. Sword Art Online and I were going to part here.
That said, I still love the original arcs and I still go back and watch particularly the Aincrad Arc and quite happily recommend it to others to watch. My feelings about the later direction of the franchise haven’t made me dislike the earlier entries. Though I do have to wonder if I’d watched Alicization back when I ran into Aincrad would I have liked it more or would I have still felt it was bloated, poorly paced, and ultimately didn’t do enough with any of its cast? And that’s really hard to say.
Food Wars was another show that I actually really loved initially for its zany and over-the-top food reactions and just the intensity of the cast. Yet rinse and repeat is what killed it for me. The consequence for every encounter seems to be expulsion from a school that seems to not actually focus on teaching but more just whittling down the student numbers and given everyone who gets in can already cook masterfully it seems relatively pointless as a concern given they could all open perfectly functional restaurants already. More than that, when you are already creating amazing wonders in the kitchen and the reactions of the tasters are already pretty orgasmic in season one there’s really no where to go. You can’t dial up the over-the-top any higher so you end up just making longer arcs and filling time with backstories of side characters but everything else just stays the same. Food Wars didn’t get worse. Season 2 is just more of season one and the little bit of season 3 I tried was more of the same again. I just had already had my fill and so moved on.
Most recently, The Promised Neverland Season 2 has left me feeling… not quite disappointed but more a little bit like we’ve drifted apart. What I wanted from a second season of Neverland hasn’t been delivered and while I am sure some fans are still loving it for me the spark and magic that hit during season one have been absolutely absent for most of the duration of season 2.
How anime fans react when a follow-up lets them down varies. Some feel betrayed or angry. Others will feel that even the previous seasons are now tainted because of it. Others still simply sigh and move on realising another franchise has gone in a different direction.
Ultimately, it will depend on why you are falling out of love. Something like One Punch Man changing studios had a bit impact on how the second season played out and there were definitely some fans who fell out of love very quickly with what that delivered. However sometimes it is simply that the show moves in a direction you didn’t anticipate or want.
Whatever the reason, when you fall out of a love with a beloved series it definitely leaves you disappointed. Fortunately, there will be something else to fall in love with very soon as the new season rolls out.
Images in this article from:
- Sword Art Online Alicization. Dir. M Ono. A-1 Pictures. 2018.
- The Promised Neverland Season 2. Dir. M Kanbe. Cloverworks. 2021.
- Food Wars. Dir. Y Yonetani. J.C. Staff. 2015.
- Death Note. Dir. T Araki. Madhouse. 2006.
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