Do You Need Great Animation In Your Anime?

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It might seem odd to question whether anime should be well animated but with Evangelion coming out on Netflix it has reopened a lot of the discussion around its status as a great anime. While there are plenty of complaints and comments about the story and characters (there are also plenty of people praising the exact same elements) one of the regular points raised as a means of reducing Evangelion’s status is the animation itself, or rather, the lack of animation in a lot of scenes.

Certainly there were a lot of interesting choices in the direction of Evangelion and a lot of these can be identified as a means of saving money or time. Ultimately, while some of the fighting sequences might be very well animated by and large you would have to agree that the animation in Evangelion isn’t exactly the benchmark for good quality. Not with so many almost entirely still shots or panning sequences over still images as well as reused animations.


But for me that doesn’t actually take anything away from Evangelion as a classic work. For me it has always been the story and ideas with Evangelion that have appealed and I actually like a lot of those weird lingering elevator sequences that nicely contrast the characters and show their current relationship with barely any words or movements at all. While it isn’t a style I’d like all anime to take on, for the weird and wonderful work that is Evangelion it kind of fits.

Then again, when I think about myself as an anime fan, while I’ll notice particularly good animation or direction and I’ll comment on particularly poor efforts of the same, generally speaking the animation isn’t what I’m looking for in an anime. And that just sounds wrong, but for me the appeal of anime are the stories being told and the characters we’re introduced to. If it manages to look really pretty while doing it that can certainly elevate something that is fairly average to being more enjoyable but it won’t compensate if the story isn’t interesting in the first place.


I’m probably going to get some criticism for this but I didn’t manage to finish Violet Evergarden. In fact, I didn’t make it beyond the third episode. I didn’t get to the end of the third episode. Episode one did nothing for me but because so many rave reviews had come out I gave myself a break and then tried it again, this time with a friend. We watched the first episode, shrugged and pushed into the second. Mid-way through the third we just kind of turned to each other and said, ‘want to watch something else?’.

Great animation just wasn’t enough.

Violet Evergarden has great animation - beautiful to look at, but is that enough?

Now Violet Evergarden is a good anime. By a lot of people’s standards it is a great anime. Even though I didn’t like it very much I will absolutely confirm that the animation is truly fluid and beautiful and the direction is lovely. But none of that made me want to keep watching it when I felt no reason to care about the main character two and a half-episodes in.

Similarly I did watch and enjoyed both Kenja no Mago and Midnight Occult Civil Servants when they aired. Neither of these are particularly well animated. Actually you could argue that both are pretty rough looking with a lot of off-model character shots and way too many scenes with characters standing or sitting very still with practically no animation at all. Throw in the fact that Midnight Occult Civil Servants is also pretty dark and dull to look at and we are not talking about two anime that could be praised for their efforts in visuals, direction or animation.

I don’t know what this was supposed to be but it is ugly. It was worse animated.

Now in an ideal world we could have it all. We could have stories we enjoy, with characters we care about, while the visuals and animation blow us away with their polish and shine. Unfortunately we don’t live in that world and considering the speed at which anime episodes are made it seems unlikely we’ll ever really live in a world where every show aims for excellence.


That doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t enjoy what we get in the meantime.

I know for some viewers an anime not having good animation is a deal breaker. I recently read a review where someone dropped a show after multiple issues with the shot composition and perspectives. And there’s no problem with someone doing that. Because we’re all watching anime to be entertained and if poor animation makes something painful for you to watch then you aren’t going to be very entertained.


Then again, I have a high tolerance for poor visuals given my background in B grade horror movies. So many terrible monster costumes and over the last decade or so we’ve moved to terrible green-screen or terrible CG. Ultimately how bad it looks mostly just adds to the laugh factor in these kinds of stories. So coming from that background, an anime where the characters seem like they are walking impossibly slowly, where their head swivels in a way that isn’t possible, or even an anime that just kind of pans over still images during large chunks of its fight sequences isn’t going to put me off.

Admittedly, it probably won’t be making a list of my very favourite anime any time soon but I’ll still probably watch it an enjoy it.

Attack on Titan - Season 3 - Episode 2 - Levi

Over to you though: Do you need great animation in your anime?

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Is It Magic, Art, Or Science? Why do some first episodes in anime appeal and others leave you reaching for the escape key?

First Episodes in Anime

I recently read Irina’s post on ‘That Brand New Anime Feeling‘ where she discussed what she is looking for in the first 10 minutes of an anime. It made me wonder what it was about first episodes in anime that can appeal or cause me to walk away.

Now I have previously listed the top 5 signs you’ve been completely charmed by an anime’s first episode though that definitely discussed behaviours of people who had fallen in love with a show after the first twenty minute episode was finished. I’ve also quite facetiously listed my top 5 draws when deciding what to watch but I’ll note that given I through the presence of dragons on the list and dragons in anime usually don’t go well I probably need to have a more serious look at this topic.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 1
First episodes in anime

Because, as a seasonal viewer and an anime reviewer, I’m watching a lot of first episodes. Way more than ever appear on my blog. And twenty minutes (twenty-four minutes) isn’t really a long period of time and yet for a lot of us, the first episodes in an anime are the only episodes we’ll ever watch because there’s just too many shows premiering each season to watch them all and there’s always anime to catch up on from previous seasons.

Why do some first episodes in anime appeal and others leave you reaching for the escape key?

For each viewer, the decision of whether something appeals or not is going to be different. There are genre preferences, comparisons to other recently watched shows, expectations going in, hype, and so many other factors that ultimately play a role in that final decision a viewer will make. That’s before you even actually look at the quality of the first episode in question.

First episodes in anime

First episodes in anime are doing a lot of heavy lifting for the brief length of time they run. They are establishing their cast, setting, plot, setting up the tone, usually trying to cram in some of the standard tropes, and depending on the genre they are trying to end the episode at a point that makes the viewer want to keep watching so usually some kind of dramatic reveal or conflict (though slice of life and episodic comedy anime are probably an exception here).

Certainly there is a basic science behind writing the orientation of a story. And anime has some well established conventions and tropes that more or less help them take short cuts in establishing their genre. Also, other than the really big titles, most anime aren’t going for universal appeal but are rather trying to appeal to a specific niche audience and they know what that audience is looking for in a story.

But whether the first episode has all the requisite ingredients to be interesting doesn’t actually mean it will be. Nor does it mean that the anime is going to necessarily be good. That’s where the art comes in.

Tesla Note Episode 1

Weaving all the elements together into something that actually works and causes the audience to get sucked into the story is definitely a unique skill and two stories could have almost identical elements in their openings but elicit very different responses.

Then there’s that little something extra. The magic of having everything come together with the right story with the right visuals and the right music and all just at the right moment for the viewer. Anyone who has ever dropped an anime and then returned to it months or even years later and realised it was amazing will know that sometimes timing is everything. There’s nothing the people making the anime can do about this factor. It is entirely dependent on the viewer and their mood and mental state at the time of watching.

Or maybe they just watched too many slice of life anime the previous season and weren’t up for another. Or maybe they recently went through a bad relationship so aren’t ready for that romance.

Banished From The Hero's Party Episode 1

Magic happens when all the elements come together for the viewer and then a first episode can really sweep them away.

Of course, as I say that, I’m looking at the current line up for the Fall 2021 anime season and I’m not really feeling swept off my feet, yet (there’s still plenty of first episodes to watch).


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Example First Episodes in Anime

Jobless Reincarnation wasn’t really a first episode as we jumped straight into the second cour of the story without preamble, so it doesn’t really count.

Mieruko-Chan intrigued me. I won’t deny I was kind of curious about where it would go and I kind of liked the feeling that it was similar to Natsume in that the main character was trying to not stand out and was pretending she couldn’t see the ghosts. I suspect though that unlike Natsume, this isn’t going to be a story about a girl learning to accept herself and the supernatural. Given the comedy tag, I think this is going to be an ongoing gag and may wear out its welcome.

Still, as a first episode, it had some good moments. Then it also had some weird voyeuristic camera angles that felt totally out of place and for an anime tagged as comedy the laughs were a little absent.

Mieruko-Chan Episode 1

But if we look at this as a first episode for me it built a connection to a character I’d previously loved in that the protagonist here had a similar trait. It also used the horror/supernatural genre elements at its disposal to really build some solid scenes. The bus-stop sequence in particular was awesome. The memorable character reaction (both during and after the encounter) really sold it.

So while I was left with reservations, Mieruko-Chan ended up firmly on my watch list for the season.

Compare that with something like Banished From The Hero’s Party where I don’t actually have any stand-out moment to discuss and really this one was just kind of comfort food. It didn’t do anything wrong but it also wasn’t really pulling out all the stops to appeal. It is kind of comfortable in being this mid-tier fantasy slice-of-life. They did throw in some fan-service but otherwise this first episode was unpretentious and decently executed without being exceptional.

Banished Ep1 3

There’s so many anime like this each season that just are genre pieces and are happy doing their thing (or at least seem like if from their first episode). For fantasy fans or those who wanted a slice of life set in a fantasy world, Banished From The Hero’s Party is competent and doesn’t seem to be trying to be anything more or less. That also means a lot of viewers will move on because time is limited and this one doesn’t seem set to make any waves.

First episodes in anime can also be incredibly divisive. Platinum End seems to be one such title with some reviewers identifying it as juvenile, edge-lord material (summation of multiple reviewer comments and not attributed to any single review) and others have found it an intriguing set up for what is going to be a shounen story (so it is aimed at teenage boys).

Platinum End Episode 1

I fell in the camp of those who quite enjoyed the set-up for what it is and am curious about where the plot will go. I’m not under any illusions about this story actually being masterful, but the first episode in this anime established the tone, main character, and premise and whether viewers like what it is offering or not will end up being an entirely subjective choice.

I wonder though how viewers would feel about Platinum End if they’d never seen Death Note (by the same creator) or if they’d never watched Future Diary (similar premise). Would they be as critical of it or would the same first episode have had a wider appeal?

Hard to say and you can’t second guess. Platinum End is coming out in 2021 and long time viewers of anime have seen many similar stories and set-ups. Whether Platinum End will break free of the comparisons and establish its own identity is something that the first episode alone can’t tell us.

What are you looking for from the first episode of an anime?

If we go back to the initial question of whether it is magic, art or science, the answer really does end up being some combination of the three. First episodes in anime can set the internet on fire for good and bad reasons, others will fly under the radar and almost not make a ripple on the overall consciousness of the aniweb and some will find their core group of loyal viewers and that’s all they were ever aiming for.

Idaten Ep1 8

From my perspective, the one quality that a first episode must bring to the table is that it must make me curious. Whether it is curious about the characters or curious about where the plot will go, I need something that makes me want to ask questions and makes me want to watch more. Of course, that does mean I sometimes watch multiple episodes of obvious train-wrecks like Tesla Note because I am curious about where the plot is going despite the obvious issues with it as an anime. But that’s okay.

As they say, “Time You Enjoyed Wasting Is Not Wasted Time”. While I’m still enjoying watching an anime, even if it ends up not being good, I don’t feel too bad about it. Of course, in the rare cases where I watch an anime I’ve clearly ceased enjoying I often wonder why I wasted those precious minutes.

Be sure to leave me a comment letting me know what it is you are looking for from the first episode in an anime.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Why I Love A Good Yokai Anime

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Having watched anime for a lot of years now its become fairly clear I love yokai in anime. Whenever a new story begins and I find out its featuring yokai of more or less any sort I eagerly jump right in. While at times this leaves me feeling a little frustrated or disappointed when an anime fails to pan out (Elegant Yokai Apartment Life) for the most part I end up finding another cast of characters to love and adore and to fill my desktop background with for a time. So what is it that appeals to me about yokai anime?

And no, it isn’t just the very attractive looking fox boys oozing sex appeal that these sorts of stories pull out again and again. Whether it is Kamisama Kiss, Kakuriyo no Yadomeshi, Inu x Boku or any of the other pointy eared males who’ve made me screen cap like crazy, they aren’t the entire appeal of these shows. After all, Natsume Yuujinchou remains my favourite yokai themed anime and there isn’t a single hot fox boy to drool over in sight. Though, there is the single cutest little fox character but that’s a whole different appeal.

The Little Fox from Natsume Yuujinchou
Little Fox

After thinking about this for awhile I’ve come to the conclusion that yokai stories remind me very much of my childhood and fairy tales. Where sometimes characters travel to other worlds where fantastic things happen (such as the Underworld in the Morose Mononokean) or strange things are occur in the mundane world but only some people can see them (Natsume Yuujinchou). These stories can be sweet or a little bit scary but ultimately they bring about a sense of childlike wonder and recapturing that feeling is amazing. It is no surprise that so many of these anime leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Fuzzy - The Morose Mononkean Season 2
Okay, I didn’t just make that joke.

It also helps that each one of these stories takes their own approach to exploring yokai characters and worlds. Where some are more human and concerned with more ordinary matters such as attending school (Inu X Boku) others, despite being set in the human world are more action focused and have fantastical powers and battles (Nurarihyon). Some are coming of age stories about finding yourself (Natsume Yuujinchou) or are just about the daily lives of supernatural creatures trying to amuse themselves (The Eccentric Family). They all have their own feel and tone which means despite saying I like yokai anime, each one is very distinct.

The Eccentric Family Season 2

However, one commonality that I’ve noticed from time to time (and it isn’t across all yokai stories) is that the yokai are typically depicted as more beautiful or colourful and striking than humans in the stories they are a part of. There features are regularly striking and a little bit disconcerting. At a glance you can tell that the character is something different or other.

While some stories delve into the darker side of yokai and the character designs reflect that, even then the characters are quite clearly distinguished from the human characters through the use of colour and movement.

Natsume Yuujinchou - Hinoe
Guess which one the yokai is?

It is that aspect of The Morose Mononkean that I have come to really love. While the human world is fairly ordinary outside of the occasional yokai Hanae and Abeno encounter, the Underworld is a rich and vibrant setting teeming with life and colour. While many of the yokai they encounter are not human-like in appearance, each one manages to be expressive. Given one of my favourite parts of the anime is the appearance of Fuzzy, a character who does not speak at all, they have managed to convey so much of what Fuzzy is feeling or thinking through his appearance and actions and honestly I just love him.

However, the contrast is clear when looking at scenes in the human world compared to the Underworld in The Morose Mononkean. In the human world the colours, outside of the yokai and the two main characters, are all fairly muted. The sky is blue and the grass is green, but they are pastel and pale versions of the colours. Seeing the characters under the sky in the Underworld and looking at the buildings, the colour palette is far bolder and more striking creating a rich contrast between our reality and the world the yokai inhabit.

Natsume Yuujinchou takes a similar approach in that Natsume’s mundane human life and friends are fairly colourless. The school uniform is perhaps one of the least striking anime uniforms ever and the buildings are all very simple and for the most part unadorned. It is only really when Natsume is out in nature or with the yokai that scenes spring into a far wider array of colours, sounds and movement.

natsume group

From a darker perspective, Nurarihyon did a similar thing with Rikuo’s character design. In his human form he was quite ordinary and dull in his design but as a yokai he was a fairly impressive sight to behold. Even Rikuo’s school with his human friends was very grey in tone whereas his house, full of yokai, always seemed to have a sense of energy and was surrounded by colourful characters and the garden.

Again, guess which one the yokai form is?

While I don’t really know why yokai in so many stories are depicted in this brighter and larger than life style, but I imagine it is similar to why fairies in western stories are usually in some kind bright and sparkling colour flittering about scattering glitter and the likes. If you are going to imagine a world beyond what we can see, surely you’d want it to all feel more alive. Or maybe I’m still just that little kid playing in the garden and checking under the leaves for fairy houses.

Kamisama Kiss
You have to admit though, hot fox boys are kind of hot.

Watching yokai anime awakens that child in me and opens my imagination up. For a short while the practical realist in me gets laid aside and I get swept up in stories about ‘what if’. While a story doesn’t necessarily need a supernatural creature in it to have that affect, there’s definitely something nostalgic and wonderful about returning to these kinds of stories. Hopefully there will continue to be more of these to enjoy, hopefully they will each bring their own flavour to the table, and hopefully they will continue to rekindle the child in me.

Do you like yokai anime? Which ones have you seen and enjoyed?

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