Tuesday’s Top 5: Disappointments 2018

Tuesday's Top 5

More Top 5 lists for 2018 and now we’re diving into shows that I, for whatever reason, had some kind of expectations of and for whatever reason they left me feeling a little disappointed. I started this sort of list in 2016 where Kiznaiver took my top spot and did my second list in 2017 where Sword Oratoria swept the floor (that one actually hurt a lot) and I’ve been wondering which titles would end up on the list in 2018 because there have been a number of shows I really was looking forward to this year.

Now, as always, this is a personal list. These are shows I started watching and I had expectations for them that they didn’t quite meet. In some cases, they are actually still reasonable anime in their own way, but they didn’t end up being as good as I hoped.

So, without further delay let us get into the shows that decide to crush my hopes under heel in 2018 and then I’d love to know what shows ended up disappointing you this year. What did you wait for with baited breath only to have the wind knocked out of your sails (and there is a mixed metaphor and a half)?

Please Note – Potential spoilers below.

Honourable mentions this week go to: Devils’ Line and Record of Grancrest War

Number 5: My Hero Academia Season 3

And yes, I know My Hero Academia season 3 is actually not a bad anime. I am well aware of that. However, season 2 was an amazing season. It kept me thrilled from start to finish even though it had a tournament arc for half its run time (which normally is something I can’t stand). Season 2 worked and blew me away and cemented a real fondness for this show inside of me. And then season 3 happened. It wasn’t bad, but a lot of the thrill and fun seemed to be missing as things came across more than a little flat. Season 3 had its moments. Certainly All Might’s final fight was one of the truly epic moments of any shounen anime (I say with authority despite not watching a lot of them). But looking at the season as a whole, there were definitely more episodes I walked away from wanting more and that’s why I’ve given My Hero Academia my number 5 spot on the list for disappointments.

Number 4: Junji Ito Collection

Maybe it is just that horror doesn’t translate very well from the manga to the screen, but really this one was talked up a lot and I even checked out a lot of the art behind some of these stories online before hand and I was really kind looking forward to a solid horror anime (something we get so few of). Instead I got a fairly weak viewing experience with a few oddities, a little bit of eye-brow raising, and a few grotesque moments, but nothing that really managed to hit me with a major horror vibe. It was all just a little ordinary to be honest and while some of the concepts were cool, the execution was lacking. This one gains a place simply because it is a genre I love, there was so much hype about the source, and ultimately it just didn’t deliver much of anything.

Number 3: Devilman Crybaby

Maybe it was just that the internet exploded with hype after the release of this one, and maybe it was because again the source was fairly well spoken of, but this Netflix release really underwhelmed. It wasn’t strictly speaking bad, but at the same time, after watching it I ended up fairly indifferent to it. I get that it was over the top violence and sex and the conclusion they were aiming for, it all works in its own way, but I just didn’t feel it. The characters weren’t developed enough and I felt like the show spent too long trying to tell me things that I was meant to be feeling rather than giving me a reason to believe they were true. Basically I ended up thinking ‘is that it’ rather than being blown away by this one and that’s probably a good reason why I shouldn’t pay attention to internet hype.

Number 2: Angels of Death

Really, this one shouldn’t be too much of a shocker. Again, fans of the source really talked this one right up and then it kind of went splat. It wasn’t the obvious game dialogue, the shifting tone, the characterisation that didn’t sit right or even the plot that just didn’t seem to be connecting that ended up killing this for me. Nope, what killed it was that episode one promised me one tone and idea and then it was all taken away and replaced by other elements that were nowhere near as good. What had been intriguing in episode one evaporated leaving me with only elements that bored and even the fans of the source seemed to go quiet once the anime started rolling out so I guess a lot of people found the adaptation a little less than amazing (that said I do know a number of people who made it through this one, well done). Also, another fine example of why I shouldn’t listen to internet hype because I might have low-key enjoyed this if I had gone in expecting nothing.

Number 1: SAO Alternative: Gun Gale online

This one should be no surprise to people who have followed my posts. I love SAO. I really do. I was a little wary when I found out this spin-off was going to be set in GGO, my least favourite of the SAO worlds. Then I started it and met the characters and discovered the lack of anything resembling a forward moving plot. While I appreciate there’s an audience for pink bunny girls with guns playing a game in a kind of slice of life style thing with a story slowly developing in the background but four episodes in I was bored, still didn’t know where it was going, and didn’t really have any reason to watch. SAO Alternative went the way of Sword Oratoria in 2017. A spin-off for a show I loved that just missed everything about the original that I loved.

And that is my list done but next week I’ll turn it around and look at the shows that caught me by surprise. Where my expectations were zero and I ended up having a great time. In the meantime, remember to let me know in the comments which shows left you disappointed in 2018?

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Karandi James
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Tuesday’s Top 5: Reasons The Anime of Spring 2018 Have Been a Bit Disappointing

Tuesday's Top 5

I normally try and keep the top 5 posts pretty upbeat, but I can’t deny I’m a little disappointed with the last season of anime. No, it isn’t a sign that modern anime are dreadful or that seasonal watching is the problem. It is just that there were a lot of anime that just didn’t live up to their potential or deliver. As the season comes to an end, I’m reflecting on reasons why I was so disappointed this season.

Whether you liked the season or not, I’d love to know your thoughts on the anime from Spring 2018 so be sure to leave me a comment below.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Number 5: Sequels and Spin-offs That Just Didn’t Land

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Whether it was the debacle that was the continuation of Tokyo Ghoul (reverting to the story in the manga without providing explanation for anime viewers) or the disappointment of SAO Alternative: GGO where viewers were asked to watch a pink bunny girl play a game without much in the way of stakes and were expected to care, the Spring 2018 season has definitely had its share of mis-fires with sequels and spin-offs. Even if we look at the ending of Cardcaptors, most people are expressing a general sense that it just didn’t manage to live up to its predecessors and My Hero Academia took a fair while to get going (though fortunately it has now gotten going and it has certainly stepped up).

Number 4: Scattered Viewership

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Normally with seasonal viewing there’s the couple of shows that everyone is watching. Spring 2018 hasn’t had one of those unifying shows that has ignited the entire community. Instead we have small groups of people proclaiming a love for Megalo Box while older mecha fans have been rejoicing over the return of Full Metal Panic, some people praising SAO Alternative: GGO for not being SAO and a few who have gone for one romance or another. But there’s been no single show that has gotten everyone really excited. With so many big titles out that would seem really odd and yet nothing has really captured the masses this season.

Number 3: Controversy and Fan Idiocy

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While I like to avoid the fandoms are toxic debates, some of the stories going around this season really do emphasise that sometimes people just go too far. Death threats to writers and voice actors just should not be a thing. I know I don’t want someone coming into my workplace and threatening my life just because they disagree with how I go about doing my job, or spamming my email or twitter feed for the same. And then of course we have the issue of post plagiarism sweeping the blogosphere with quite a number of bloggers impacted. The last few months have not been great for community spirit and like it or not, it does impact on the enjoyment of the medium when the community is very much focused on some of these more negative aspects.

Number 2: Recaps, Fillers and Gaps

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How many shows this season have done recap episodes or fillers? And how many have skipped airing one week or another due to some event of the like? It has made following shows more challenging than normal as episodes are delayed or skip a week, or worse they put out a recap episode four episodes in as if the entire community suffers from short term memory loss. While I get production delays happen and that sometimes schedules do go awry with broadcasting, the Spring 2018 season feels like it has just been one interruption to the schedule after another making it even harder to get into some of the shows on offer.

Number 1: Broken Narratives

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Whether it is Record of Grancrest War, Darling in the Franxx, or even the abomination that is Devils’ Line, there are so many anime this season that just make no sense in terms of how they have structured and delivered their story. Maybe they are trying to avoid the label of generic but we’ve got time skips, random characters dropping in and out, reveals that make no sense, themes that get built up and then abandoned, and all and all its just a mess. This hardly makes for a satisfying viewing experience. There’s a reason narrative structure is almost identical in every culture, and that’s because people figured out a long time ago how to deliver a story in a way that made it interesting. A lot of these shows need to go back to basics and just figure out what they wanted to be because honestly Spring 2018 has definitely been a bit of a miss in terms of delivering anything resembling a compelling story line.

So those are my reasons for feeling a bit disappointed. I’d love to know if you were disappointed with the season and why, or whether you ended up loving the season and why. Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Also you can vote for your favourite and least favourite anime of the season below.


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Karandi James

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Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online Episode 3: And We Reach The Beginning?

At the end of episode 3, we reached the beginning of episode 1. Okay then. What next?

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 I get we sometimes start a story in the middle and then find out how we got there. Sometimes that’s to ensure it grabs our attention early on or it makes us interested in something that we need to learn later on. GGO doesn’t seem to have done that. This anime dropped us into a decontextualised battle royale with characters we knew nothing about. We then spent two episodes seeing how the pink bunny girl got there and it wasn’t exactly a thrilling tale.

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About the only point of interest is that they are strongly implying that Pito is the singer that LLENN likes and that letter LLENN sent seems like it would be a sure give-away. Whether that ends up being the case or not, I don’t think I care. From next week I’m going to swap out these episode reviews for something else. I might watch a bit more of this, but I’m not interested in reviewing it at the moment.

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Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: Is Brand Familiarity Influencing Our Anime Viewing?

Spring bloomed with a whole pile of new anime to watch and as usual, more than a few of these are returning franchises with spin-offs, sequels, and reboots a plenty to be found in the line up (of course there’s plenty of new titles as well to be found across the various streaming services). However, when I was reading various first impressions I just kept wondering if some of these premieres would have gone so well without the brand recognition behind them.

There’s no doubt at all that brand recognition is having an influence. Prior to the season beginning, some of the most talked about anime were the returning shows such as My Hero Academia. A week into the Spring season and if you sort the titles on MAL by score, of the top 5 Spring anime, 4 of them are returning franchises. And while there’s nothing wrong with people being excited that a franchise they love has come back, I have to wonder whether there were some other first episodes that maybe did a better job of setting up the season that were overlooked due to the power of some of these brand titles.

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So let’s take a look at some of these first episodes and what they did and didn’t do. I’m going to look at My Hero Academia, Tokyo Ghoul: Re, and SAO Alternative: GGO. I’d look at Steins;Gate Zero but I’m honestly still trying to figure out whether it actually was a good start to the season or not. Keep in mind, I’m not bashing these shows. All of them have ended up my watch list and I anticipate varying levels of enjoyment from all of them, and some of them have actually delivered slightly better in their follow up episode, but I’m just going to focus on the first impressions we had of these returns. However, I’m aware that if I’d watched these first episodes cold, as an introduction to a series, there were some definite issues that lesser known titles would never have gotten away with.

My Hero Academia Season 3

With the exception of the opening song, which some viewers quite liked but for me just fell completely flat and kind of set the tone for the episode, My Hero Academia returned with its usual excellent production values including great animation and a vibrant colour palette that makes the whole thing just easy on the eyes. MHA is always a high energy and really engaging watch, even when very little is happening and this first episode was not an exception. So for those already hooked on the series and those who had waited with held breath for the return of their favourite class of super heroes, realistically it makes sense that the anime can get away with not doing much.

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But think about it. How many anime would get away with an almost entirely flash-back filled first episode with some minor filler story-line connecting the recap? No doubt this was high quality filler. There were some amusing antics, some reasonable character moments, and if you just wanted to re-engage with the cast it certainly succeeded. It even managed to hint at a direction for the upcoming season, though kept its cards fairly close to the chest so the specifics of what the season will focus on were still pretty much a mystery. But high quality filler is still filler and recaps are always best done as ‘specials’ rather than legitimate parts of the season. And episode 1? Really?

Couldn’t they have taken a page from Kimi ni Todoke and had an episode 0 for the season where we had the recap, if a recap was in fact needed?  The other excuses for recap episodes where the team have fallen behind don’t hold water when it is episode 1. This was planned recap. I know I’m letting my bias show here, but I just felt that after months of waiting for a new season this show needed to do more than this. Fans of the franchise don’t need a class roll call to remember the cast and newcomers won’t be jumping in at season three so this essentially served no viewers’ purpose.

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I’d have to compare this episode of My Hero Academia to the first episode of Lostorage Conflated WIXOSS. Also a returning franchise and also running a fairly recap heavy first episode, WIXOSS managed to do a lot more in its twenty minutes than MHA. For instance, some of the flash-backs were actually new sequences that gave us additional information on events that had happened during the last round of card games. Also, the sequences in-between recollections and exposition of past events set up a very clear direction and conflict for the coming season. While I didn’t really need the reminders of what had happened prior in this anime either, I felt it was far better integrated into a new plot and the episode as a whole just felt more meaningful. Not as fun, but then again an anime about a magical card game that essentially plunges all its players into misery isn’t exactly aiming to be high energy fun.

Tokyo Ghoul: Re

Alright, again we had a well produced episode that showed off some quite decent animation as well as the general dark tones we expect from Tokyo Ghoul. We also meet the new characters, set up a current conflict, get hints of political tensions within the organisation, and at the end of the episode get a strong hint of the character drama to come. All and all, a pretty decent first episode.

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No, Tokyo Ghoul: Re is on this list because it kind of assumes viewers have read the source material. Jumping from Season 2 of Tokyo Ghoul to this is sort of jarring and you are having to make a lot of assumptions and guesses about what has actually happened because season 2 didn’t follow events in the source and Re isn’t even trying to help fill the gaps. It’s just charging ahead full steam with its plot line. While fans of the source material are probably rejoicing that this has returned to the ‘story’ people following the anime are left more than a little confused and wondering if we’re going to get the explanations we need further down the track.

Then again, it is Tokyo Ghoul and it isn’t as though the first season wasn’t riddled with narrative and character issues, so maybe I should just make my assumptions and watch things unfold as they will without giving it too much though. The anime seems to go down better when you stop trying to make it be more than what it is.

Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online

From reading other viewers first impressions of this, I’m guessing I was overall in the minority of people who found it kind of lacking. There were many reviews singing the praises of this new version of SAO. The regular descriptors included fun, ride, exciting, etc. One common comment came up again and again. SAO without Kirito. It must be better. Which I guess if Kirito is your main reason for disliking the original SAO that might be an appealing trait, but does that actually make the anime any better?

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Possibly it might. That’s assuming of course that any of the new characters have interesting characters. Which is impossible to tell from this first episode. Basically, the first episode is like watching someone play a shooter. They are in a tournament and we follow a team of two as the discuss tactics and execute their plans. That’s it. It’s well produced with music, animation and visuals all working well enough and it all fits in with the general aesthetics established by SAO so this isn’t a jarring deviation from the anime and source that this has of course sprung from.

But after episode one, I had no idea what this show was actually about. Okay we have a girl playing GGO. I know from the synopsis she has a complex about her height. I still don’t know what the overall complication or direction for the story is going to be. In fact, I don’t even have a hint. There was absolutely no narrative construction in this first episode. It was watching two people play a game. We don’t know why these two are teamed up, or what they want, or whether there was any overall grand picture. All we know is, they played the game, and the pink bunny girl has got some moves – you know, she reminds me of someone.

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All and all, this first episode of GGO left me with a pretty bad taste in my mouth. Sure, it has potential to be quite good. They could introduce the characters and have some overall plot going on, but realistically this first episode gave us nothing to go on and not even any reason to think maybe there’s something going on. As much as people like to criticise the original SAO I at least left the first episode knowing the basic personality of the protagonist and what the overall goal was for the story. It was pretty straight forward but it worked.

So what?

Ultimately, this isn’t news to anyone that brands and franchises influence our perception. There’s a reason the various super-hero movies keep making major money at the box office despite varying quality between them, and there’s a reason sequels, prequels, spin-offs, origins, and whatever-elses keep getting made from recognised titles and characters. They sell.

And when something is known to sell, it is more likely to be suitably funded in the first place. Bigger budget leads to bigger spectacle, so even if the story isn’t as rock solid and the performances and characters not quite as nuanced, the overall quality of the production will be there and sometimes that’s enough to keep people watching and happy. Plus, its entertainment. Provided it is entertaining, does it really matter if it isn’t the be all and end all in storytelling?

As much as I would love to be blown away by a narrative populated by incredibly diverse and fascinating characters who consistently hit their mark, I can’t say that I’m not happy just watching the kids from MHA play at the pool, or the ‘not-Kaneki’ reconnecting with himself, or even pink bunny girl going all rambo against professional soldiers. These were all fun first episodes in their own ways. But, I think sometimes even while having fun, it is worth stepping back and wondering what more something could be or do and more importantly, whether some of those dodgy first episodes with poor animation due to less experienced teams or smaller budgets, might actually have delivered a somewhat more solid narrative.

But that is probably a long enough ramble from me. I’d love to know your thoughts on the big franchise anime that have come out this season and how they’ve started.


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Karandi James

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Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online Episode 2: So, No Plot Then?

Other than tall girl enjoying playing gun game as short avatar, is there actually a plot in this anime?

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What happens when you take an anime focused on life or death in an alternative reality and instead cast an insecure girl and take out the life and death part? Well, probably this. LLENN is adorable as the pink devil and all but other than watching her freak out over various avatar designs before dancing happily because she finally got a short avatar and then watching her show prodigious skill at ambushing more experienced players, I still know pretty much nothing about her or the point of this anime. Sorry, she likes music. Including movie soundtracks.

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I can kind of see that this will appeal to some viewers quite a lot, but it isn’t SAO. Not by a long shot. And as I’m really not finding any connection with the main character and still have no clue what the story is actually going to be, I’m not convinced that I’m signing up for a whole season of watch girl play game. I’ll give this one more episode, but if no story emerges I’m going to drop this, much like I did the DanMachi spin-off. If you take out all the parts of the franchise I actually like, regardless of whether you put that name on the product, I’m still not liking the product.

I can kind of see where people who weren’t as in to the original SAO might prefer this though. Still, so far not really to my taste.

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Karandi James

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Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online First Impressions

While I love SAO, I have to say Gun Gale isn’t my favourite part of it. Mostly because of the whole gun thing rather than swords. Still, this wasn’t a bad start. What did you think?

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Well, if we wanted to know what the actual plot of this spin-off series was going to be, this first episode isn’t exactly big on revealing. Mostly it seems to be intent on distinguishing itself from the whole sword and magic fights of the main stream SAO and plunges us straight into a gun battle just to show us how COD it can be (or pick your favourite shooter game).

That doesn’t make it bad as visually it was fun to watch and I kind of love the main character’s pink outfit and matching gun (inappropriate thought it is), but if I wanted to explain to someone what this is about so far all I’ve got is shooter game fantasy. A little bit more of an idea about the character or plot development to come might have been appreciated.

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Still, despite not being a fan of shooters, this is part of SAO and so I’m pretty much signed on to watch it unless it becomes totally abysmal and this first episode was actually pretty reasonable (most enjoyable if you actually like watching gun fights). I guess I’m signed up for a season.

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Karandi James

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