It’s happened to all of us. The heartbreaking experience. You read the synopsis for a show that’s about to air and you think to yourself: “OMG this sounds AMAZING, I can’t wait to watch it!” and then *sad horn music*
One way or another, the series manages to completely squander and amazing idea and/or universe. You thought you were about to discover a new favourite but you end up with a forgettable mess. Alternatively, you can still have a good show that simply fails to take full advantage of its own backstory, either because of narrative structure or lack of time (as is often the case for adaptations).
All things considered, your life is going pretty great if you consider disappointing anime to be one of your problems. Here are 5 of mine!
For ease of reference – I have included the My Anime List synopsis of each of these shows.
5. Soul Eater
Death City is home to the famous Death Weapon Meister Academy, a technical academy headed by the Shinigami—Lord Death himself. Its mission: to raise “Death Scythes” for the Shinigami to wield against the many evils of their fantastical world. These Death Scythes, however, are not made from physical weapons; rather, they are born from human hybrids who have the ability to transform their bodies into Demon Weapons, and only after they have consumed the souls of 99 evil beings and one witch’s soul.
Soul Eater Evans, a Demon Scythe who only seems to care about what’s cool, aims to become a Death Scythe with the help of his straight-laced wielder, or meister, Maka Albarn. The contrasting duo work and study alongside the hot headed Black☆Star and his caring weapon Tsubaki, as well as the Shinigami’s own son, Death the Kid, an obsessive-compulsive dual wielder of twin pistols Patty and Liz.
Soul Eater follows these students of Shibusen as they take on missions to collect souls and protect the city from the world’s threats while working together under the snickering sun to become sounder in mind, body, and soul. – https://myanimelist.net/anime/3588/Soul_Eater
I figure I would start things off weird. That’s usually how I end things as well.
Long time readers might know that I actually really like Soul Eater. I even did a 30-day anime challenge on the series. It remains dear to me. BUT the anime has this incredibly rich universe, which it largely uses only for flavor. The complicated political machinations between the Witches and the DWMA are briefly mentioned but never really explored.
The idea of sentient weapons – more than that people and even children used as instruments of death, combined with the notion of having to kill witches simply to create Death Scythes, bring about some very heavy moral implications which are hardly even mentioned.
Although there is an effort made to show the grey morality of the series, portraying the protagonists as using less than noble methods to dubious ends, that’s quickly pushed aside in favour of action-packed adventures and big unstoppable baddies.
There is a lot about the Soul Eater universe that is completely unique, but since the story is presented in a very traditional fighting shounen way, those aspects are never given much room and end up pretty superfluous to the entire thing. More or less the exact same story could have been told in a realistic setting with law enforcement students and criminals.
4. DRAMatical Murder
Some time ago, the influential and powerful Toue Inc. bought the island of Midorijima, Japan, with the plans of building Platinum Jail—a luxurious utopian facility. Those who are lucky enough to call it home are the wealthiest citizens in the world. The original residents of the island, however, were forced to relocate to the Old Residential District; and after the completion of Platinum Jail, they were completely abandoned.
“Rib” and “Rhyme” are the most common games played on the island. Rib is an old school game in which gangs engage in turf wars against each other, while Rhyme is a technologically advanced game wherein participants fight in a virtual reality. To be able to play Rhyme, you must have an “All-Mate” (an AI that typically looks like a pet), and the match must be mediated by an “Usui.”
Aoba Seragaki has no interest in playing either game; he prefers to live a peaceful life with his grandmother and All-Mate, Ren. However, after getting forcefully dragged into a dangerous Rhyme match and hearing rumors about disappearing Rib players, all of Aoba’s hopes of living a normal life are completely abolished. –https://myanimelist.net/anime/23333/DRAMAtical_Murder?q=drammatical%20
I guess the most surprising thing here is that I think DRAMatical Murder had a great premise – or indeed any premise… But at its core, it’s pretty much the hallmarks of classic dystopian fiction. A false man-made utopia where citizen blissfully (and somewhat willingly) ignore the pain of the less fortunate, even when they are the direct cause. A mysterious video game with addictive drug like qualities and serious real-world ramification. Genetically altered children created by a shadow company for unknown reason and all of it pointing back to one of the worlds richest and most powerful corporations.
Even the original game had moments of true insight – you know – between the hardcore sex scenes… When deciding to go PG, the anime could have used the opportunity to double down on the grim steampunk elements and come up with a modern Blade Runner. They did not. This was a bad show!
3. Dakaretai Otoko 1-i ni Odosarete Imasu.
Saijou Takato’s five year reign as the “Most Huggable No. 1” has been snatched. Stealing his thunder is the newbie actor with a three-year debut, Azumaya! Toward the stuffy hostile Takato, Azumaya’s sincere sparkling smile starts to become effective. Even as Takato sets his alert level on MAX, Azumaya catches Takato in his shameful drunken state and uses it to blackmail him! In exchange for Azumaya’s silence, Azumaya states, “Please let me hold you…?! Embrace me, who was the Most Huggable No.1?” What the heck is he saying?! This series also includes a large quantity of other high suspense erotic stories. (https://myanimelist.net/anime/37597/Dakaretai_Otoko_1-i_ni_Odosarete_Imasu?q=dakaichi)
Once again, I should say that Dakaichi wasn’t a bad series. I quite enjoyed it to my own surprise. However, the base premise held a lot more promise than was ever delivered. The idea of a still popular but somewhat waning star in a relationship with who is essentially his replacement offered up so many interesting possibilities.
Takato is already a petty and jealous character. They could have pushed him to constantly be suspicious of Junta despite his attraction. Created an All About Eve type scenario where the audience was never sure whether the younger man was sincere and Takato completely paranoid or whether Junta really was trying to usurp his place in the industry. Image how interesting that could have been.
Even if they had decided to go for a more straightforward romance. Having the conflict in the story come from professional jealousy and the pressures of a highly public and unpredictable business rather than the usual personal insecurities and romantic rivalries, would have provided us with a much more original story.
I think it was a real missed opportunity that the show stuck largely to traditional romance tropes instead.
In a dystopian future, detective Shinjuurou Yuuki—known by some as the “Defeated Detective”—solves mysteries throughout Tokyo. Aided by his odd associate Inga, Shinjuurou’s insight and ingenuity in cracking cases, particularly homicides, lead to numerous mysteries solved and culprits caught. However, his partner seems to have some other, more sinister intentions for the people they catch, and the truth of the assistant’s identity and motivation is shrouded in secrecy. (https://myanimelist.net/anime/10798/UN-GO?q=u)
There was so much to unpack in this series and a lot of it was fascinating. A huge terrorist plot with political involvement slowly unfurls in the background as punctual mysteries get solved every week. On top of that we get hints of some great cataclysm that happened a few years ago without ever knowing all the details and drops of supernatural elements are scattered throughout. Un-Go is nothing short of fascinating.
Sadly, rushed and scattered story telling made the story too confusing to ever become immersive and in the single season that we got, there simply wasn’t enough world building to create a sturdy base to fill in the blanks by yourself.
On top of that, fairly bland and underdeveloped characters made it difficult to connect with on an emotional level leaving what should have been a deeply interesting series merely as a time killing exercise.
On the hot summer day of August 14, Shintarou Kisaragi is forced to leave his room for the first time in two years. While arguing with the cyber girl Ene who lives in his computer, Shintarou Kisaragi accidentally spills soda all over his keyboard. Though they try to find a replacement online, most stores are closed due to the Obon festival, leaving them with no other choice but to visit the local department store. Venturing outside makes Shintarou extremely anxious, but the thought of living without his computer is even worse. It’s just his luck that on the day he finally goes out, he’s caught in a terrifying hostage situation.
Luckily, a group of teenagers with mysterious eye powers, who call themselves the “Mekakushi Dan,” assist Shintarou in resolving the situation. As a result, he is forced to join their group, along with Ene. Their abilities seem to be like pieces of a puzzle, connecting one another, and as each member’s past is unveiled, the secret that ties them together is slowly brought to light. (https://myanimelist.net/anime/21603/Mekakucity_Actors?q=Mekakucity%20Actors)
I mentioned this in my review but Mekakucity Actors always seemed more unseasoned than bad. I’m not putting it in my list because…well.. most of the time I had no clue what was going on, but I really wanted to understand. Somehow, I could instinctively tell there was a good story somewhere under there. That’s gotta be worth something.7
A bus full of eccentric individuals is headed towards the urban legend known as Nanaki Village, a place where one can supposedly start over and live a perfect life. While many have different ideas of why the village cannot be found on any map, or why even the police cannot pinpoint its location, they each look forward to their new lives and just what awaits them once they reach their destination.
After a few mishaps, they successfully arrive at Nanaki Village only to find it completely abandoned. Judging from the state of disrepair, it has been vacant for at least a year. However, secrets are soon revealed as some of the group begin to go missing while exploring the village and amidst the confusion, they find bloody claw marks in a forest. As mistrust and in-fighting break out, will they ever be able to figure out the truth behind this lost village? (https://myanimelist.net/anime/32438/Mayoiga?q=Mayo)
Guys, is it possible to bully an anime? Cause I’m pretty sure I’m bullying this show. I have long forgotten pretty much all of it by now. Except that is for the bitter sting of disappointment. I cannot express enough how much I was looking forward to this series. All of it had “Made for Irina” written all over it.
Eccentric, morally suspicious characters. I love it! Grim mystery with a deserted village and all sorts of potentially disturbing revelations to come. Bring it on baby! It even looked pretty and just the style I like. I had decided this was going to be my favourite way before I watched even a single minute of the series…
I was NOT my favourite. It was not my favourite at all. As much as I would love to catalogue for you all the ways in which it failed, I simply can’t remember it at all. I just know it failed and I’m angry at it. (There’s a tiny chance it’s super good and I need to rewatch it, but I’ve decided to completely ignore this possibility as my concept of reality relies on Mayoiga = bad…)
There you have it. These are 5 series which I personally believe could have done way more with their premise. They aren’t the only ones of course. Are there any shows that have disappointed you on a story level?