A recurring theme I’ve noticed when reviewing series is that shows try to do “too much”. One of the most common pitfall, especially in shorter series, is that they introduce a bevy of elements and different plot points that they simply don’t have time to properly develop or resolve. As such, they inevitably create plot holes and unsatisfying conclusions. We end up having to rush through events or reduce certain characters to bare bones while giving time to elements that weren’t really required at all.
I have been watching this unfold in real time throughout Grancrest. The foundation of the story is decent but the constant need to introduce new characters and new conflicts has made everything feel shallow and inconsequential. How can I form any sort of attachment to a character when they happen to be one of the dozens introduced each week? Why should one battle matter more than the 50 other ones, especially as they are all epic and grand scale.
I’m much more tolerant when it comes to themes, after all Lain and Humanity has Declined are both favorites of mine and both tackle an impressive range of social and philosophical commentary but even I have to agree that you need to pick at least one central theme if you want to have any chance at getting below the surface in 12 episodes.
Recently I watched Alice and Zoroku, an anime that was delightful in many ways and that tried to explore familial bonds, coming of age from the perspective of a much younger character as well as concepts of alienation, identity, basics rights and responsibilities of sentience and ethics in scientific research. The ideas were interesting but because of the scope, the show could only successfully realize the exploration of nontraditional families and was by far at its strongest when following Sayaka and Zoruku interacting with each other. I mentioned in my review that the show would have been much stronger if the action and supernatural elements had been given more room to grow and get established and in turn the calmer exploration how we form relationships could have been lovingly and leisurely rolled out in a way that would have allowed us to savor everything properly.
After writing variations of “this show bites off more than it can chew” over and over again, I thought I was ok with an anime that doesn’t have anything in particular to say and where nothing really happens. When in doubt, err on the side of modest. But then…I was exposed to certain different genres…
One of the few animes I’ve seen in recent years that I actually dislike is Hinako Note. And one of the major reasons is that it doesn’t try to do anything really. It just exists. Ok it’s an ecchi show so it does try to do something, but there no commentary, no topics explored, the storyline is just a completely pro forma string of events that happen between sexually suggestive scenes but there’s also no actual sex.
As far as the practical art of anime goes, it’s not a bad show. It’s very well illustrated and decently animated. The voice acting, and sound design were all well done. No complaints at all. However, none of it was interesting or unusual enough to sustain my attention beyond a single episode on technical merits alone. And everything else was, as far as I’m concerned, completely hollow.
So I’ve been wondering, what’s the perfect balance, how much can a plot handle before it crumbles under its own wealth. It’s hard to tell. Let’s face it, some anime are just better written and can develop more plot points without feeling burdened. But as a rule of thumb, I like it when an anime has something to say. It doesn’t have to be many things or an important thing but at least one point to make that I can discuss with Buddy on my walks.
I realize that the answer is subjective. Sometimes you want deep provoking, borderline confusing plots to give you food for though and you don’t mind risking mental indigestion. Other time, you prefer to watch a show with your brain almost completely off. How about you, do you prefer heavy intricate plots or do you like light entertainment that’s not too demanding. Maybe like most people it depends on your mood?