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?
30 thoughts on “Top 5 Anime That Were a Waste of a Great Premise”
One of the biggest disappointments for me about Mayoiga is that a lot of the promise for me came from it being directed by Tsutomu Mizushima, who has directed some tremendously good shows, like Girls und Panzer, Shirobako, and Witch Craft Works (some people would also include Prison School, but I didn’t continue watching it). So shows that had great coherence from even really ridiculous premises that delivered a tremendous watching experience. And it had Series Composition by Mari Okada, who I think usually does a very good job.
But Mayoiga didn’t show any of that kind of touch, it was just kind of a mess, without really any coherence or message or central drive. And the characters just felt like they thought they were in a high school production (like half a step above that student film in Hyouka).
I like the student film analogy. That made me smile. Thank you for that
Definitely agree with Un-Go and Dramatical Murder, granted I didn’t shit about the latter going into it lol. But Un-Go was something that sounded so interesting to me and then it fell flat. I was utterly disappointed.
And it looked great too! it really could have been a classic
To be honest, Mekakucity Actors is much easier to understand if you chase up the various parts of the franchise and then put the story together, like a jigsaw puzzle. The last few episodes of the broadcast version of the anime look absolutely terrible, which is just another problem to add to that.
…I still have no idea what’s going on with Mekakucity Reload, though.
I exaggerated a bit in my description you do know it’s a grimm fable retelling it’s just so disjointed that it’s very easy to lose track of characters motivations. Maybe I’ll watch the vids at some point. I tried at the time, but I failed
I love the list (and the “sad trombone” gave me a good laugh when I needed it).
I pretty much agree with the entries, although even in doing so I really liked both “Un-Go” and “The Lost Village” (though in the case of the latter I know I’m definitely one of the few… the very few).
I enjoyed Un-Go as an examination of dystopian government censorship. I thought it was interesting how it was presented as a reinterpretation of some classic Japanese literature, but chose to speculate on what the aftermath of some major terror attacks might be – the government clamping down on all sorts of things, and some detective being smarter than the police (but never getting credit since it would undermine the establishment). At least, that’s how I recall it 🙂 (It’s been several years).
Lost Village… well, it’s definitely a bit of a dumpster fire in many ways. I think it showed a lot of people hiding behind their false personas being forced to finally choose one of two paths – cope with their trauma head-on and enter back into the real world, or avoid their trauma (and start to lose their sense of self) by staying in the village.
… I should probably just write about these on my own, lol.
Thanks for the good read 🙂
You really should.
I actually did not dislike Un-Go but I kept feeling it could have been so much more..
As for the village, let’s not start.
I definitely agree with the entries on your list Irina, especially with Un-go. I watched about two episodes and dropped it because I couldn’t make sense of it.
I did go into Mayoiga, thinking it was going to be an exciting horror anime, but I became frustrated with it instead because I disliked the cast of characters. It wasn’t memorable and I’m kinda glad that it wasn’t.
The thing about Mekakucity Actors is that if you were into the vocaloid music and talked with everyone about theories concerning the music videos, you had a better chance going in and understanding what was happening than if you jumped into it. It definitely needed a few more episodes to let the story breathe.
From the top of my head, I feel like I could say Shakugan no Shana because watching the first few episodes made me confused when I first saw it and so I dropped it. The concept of having people from another world draw on the life force of people in our world and reduce them to becoming just a memory was cool, but I think the explanation in the first episodes wasn’t clear enough for me. Perhaps I should give it another try.
Oh tha does indeed sound cool. Man too bad it isn’t executed well
The biggest waste of a premise that I actually sat through all the way to the end was Comet Lucifer. The story had some interesting ideas that could’ve been polished into a really good series, or even just a really fun series (in a Fifth Element kind of way) if it chose to aim a little lower. What it needed was 24 episodes and an experienced mecha director like Kazuki Akane (Escaflowne, Noein) or Tomoki Kyouda (Eureka 7, RahXephon) leading the project. Instead, 8bit chose to hire the director of Absolute Duo to make it in 12 episodes. And as anyone reading the phrase “hire the director of Absolute Duo to make it in 12 episodes” could have predicted – except, apparently, the producers at 8bit – it ended up being a total mess. It wasn’t boring, at least, which is why I was able to finish it, but it had so many problems I wouldn’t even know where to begin listing them all.
I’m with you on Comet Lucifer. I barely remember the show now but I remember it started out with some really good ideas and then just kind of turned into a chase sequence. It really didn’t deliver.
It did give us dancing vegetables, though. Can’t ever forget that.
I actually had forgotten that until I saw the picture.
I never even heard of it but that title is tacky.
I remember thinking Sword Art Online had an interesting premise. It didn’t take long to find out I wasn’t going to watch this for the SF content.
I don’t often have high expectations from a premise alone, and it happens even less now than it did back in what 2012? 2013? And when it does happen I get that “well, what did I think?” reaction, and I pretty much forget it straight away, so I don’t remember the few premise disappointments that I had. (I think I only remember SAO, because it became so popular, and I found myself saying “but it didn’t really do anything with that premise,” quite a lot over the years.)
I get excited over pretty much everything… I don’t know that much about SAO…
For me the biggest waste of potential for an anime came with the anime adaptation of Love Pistols into a two OVA anime. The manga series has some of the most intriguing and interesting world building and in depth characters I have ever read in a yaoi manga, so when the anime was announced I got really excited. The anime however, rushed through too much plot for two episodes without giving proper explanation as to what was going on, including skipping many important scenes that did explain how the world worked and the characters in the anime adaptations came across as very bland and one note. If they were only going to do the two episodes then it would have been better to focus on just one romance from the beginning of the series, mainly the first one but what they made was just a jumbled mixed up mess. The only good thing that came out of the anime is the theme song and even that is pretty forgettable.
I hate it when that happens. You get so worked up and nothing…
I love DMmd!!! I havent finished the anime adaptation of it though! <3
It’s disappointing – stick to the game
Of these, the only one I’ve seen is Soul Eater. While I did enjoy it, it really felt to me like they rushed the ending more than anything. The manga was far more satisfying in that regard.
I actually think the Manga wastes it’s premise a bit as well. It takes advantage of the backstory more but still doesn’t know what to do with the unique setting.
That’s fair enough. Were there any parts of the setting in particular that you would have liked to see get some focus?
Personally I wanted to know about weapon biology and a bit more about wave resonance.
The interplay between the disease of order and the disease of Chaos. Exactly how big is Death’s family and did kid essentially reabsorb him. What about the other fragments. What’s different, physically and intellectually between a witch, a meister, a weapon and a normal person.
It was a shame about Mekakucity Actors. The art, cast, and story were going so well and then someone just put the pedal to the floor and everything happened too fast. One of those anime that definitely needed another 3+ episodes to get it right.
I agree. It was also just trying a bit too hard to be innovative I think. Some triks really added nothing but made the experience cluttered
Wait, Dramatical Murder was an eroge?
Wow, I’m dumb, I just thought it was a generic yaoi anime with a weird title. Interesting concept, too bad smut > story.
In it’s defense, the smut was well done. Nitro+ generally does decent VNs