You know how once in a while an anime comes along that you just can’t quite gauge. You can easily imagine someone calling it a masterpiece or a piece of trash and both are just as justifiable. There are a few titles like that, where I seem to hear both extremes and I always find it intriguing.
These are animes that are divisive but not due to controversy or delicate subject matter. Simply the very nature of these titles seems to be thoroughly enjoyable for some fans and the exact opposite for others. The opposite of enjoyable is disagreeable. I just looked it up.
I like to give these shows a watch because often they’re really weird, and I’m a general fan of weird. I admit it’s always a gamble, but the experience tends to be unique. These are the top 5 animes that tend to be beloved or reviled by fans.
5) Mirai Nikki
Personally, I have no strong feelings about this anime. I enjoyed the premise and a lot of the elements of the story but found it fell short in execution at some points. However, the fan community is a lot more passionate about this title, in no small part due to the enduring popularity of yandere prototype Yuno!
To be honest, my personal experience would not have led me to add this title to the list. I’ve only directly heard people either say good things about the series or tell me they haven’t seen it. But a lot has been written about the divisive nature of Mirai Nikki in general and Yuno in particular and I can understand why. There’s a lot of competing tropes and drives being illustrated there, and it’s bound to leave fans feeling either one way or another.
The fact that the series still comes up so often in conversation is at left proof that it left an impression!
I have to admit I didn’t care much for the anime. I quite liked the beginning but honestly, I got pretty bored by the end. So bored that it has kept me from giving the manga a try despite having been told it is far superior.
There are actually two aspects that tend to resonate strongly with fans. One is the abstract nature of the narrative. Some find it a brilliant philosophical horror rich in subtext while others consider it a pretentious mess that never manages to get even close to being as clever as it thinks it is. This point is somewhat difficult to argue since said subtext does depend on how well you resonate with the main character and therefore are able to empathize with his anxieties.
The second element is more objective and that is the production choice to use rotoscoping as an animation technique. It’s definitely striking and lends a unique flavour to both the art and movement of the characters, but it can also be off-putting. I’ve seen articles hail it as a brilliant artistic exploit just about as often as I’ve seen it called ugly (which is very sad considering it looks like real people) and difficult to watch due to the twitchy, jagged animation. One thing’s for sure, once you see it, you tend to remember it.
3) Free and/or Yuri on Ice
The funny thing is, I’m actually fairly neutral to both these series. But oh boy are the fans NOT. I actually haven’t ventured too deep in either of these fandoms so it may be unfair of me to have grouped them together but I seem to notice similar arguments on both sides for these shows.
For one the fans tend to really Really like these series. They have devoted die-hard fans who create expansive fanfiction and art and keep the memes alive for years. It’s actually impressive. I have heard from people that are self-described fans of these shows that the fandoms can get rather toxic in fact and tend to react aggressively to anything that doesn’t completely match their way of thinking.
On the other hand, detractors of these series are just as hostile. I’ve heard massive insults flung at both these series and any fans thereof and a slurry of 1/10, worst show ever ratings on aggregators. I wouldn’t call either a masterpiece but for my money, there are definitely much worse anime.
I touched on the divisive nature of the series in my review for the show. In short, I fell in love with the series, but I could tell it wouldn’t be for everyone. It was just such an odd assortment of elements and outlandish production choices that there was no way it would appeal to everyone. One look at the MAL reviews proved me right.
The actual reviews for this series and there weren’t many, rate it either as a 10 or 9, or as a 1. Considering MAL’s scale, that’s as divisive as you can get. I’m not saying it’s impossible for someone to be fairly indifferent to this series. It is in fact rather nuanced and doesn’t do anything too overt, so I don’t think fans are likely to be offended by it. What I’m saying is that this show isn’t controversial or trying to be, it’s just very unusual.
And unusual things tend to get this type of love them or hate them reaction out of people. When one is not yet so use to a style or format to have a type of default reaction to it, one tends to express their reactions in a stronger way than they normally would. But even if you do end up hating it, trying something new has its own value!
Neon Genesis Evangelion
***It should be Neo!***
Nowadays, Eva is pretty much considered a masterpiece. I know it certainly made a pretty strong impact on me and over a decade after I last watched it, I still remember it fondly and in surprising detail. But even to this day, there is an innerotaku debate over the ending of the series. And it is passionate. For the record, I like the ending of the original Eva. Come at me!
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya – Endless Eight
There’s a small chance that Endless Eight isn’t so much divisive as I’m the only one in the universe who liked arc. But heck, I liked it enough for all the rest of you! So there. It’s getting on my list! There’s a chance you’ll love it if you happen to be me!
School Days the visual novel is a somewhat unsubtle but very effective subversion of the ecchi harem genre that dominated those games at the time of its release. It was done in such a way that you could get a completely traditional experience out of it, but certain choices would lead you down unexpectedly gruesome paths. Many years later Toki Doki would do something similar in spirit but at the time School Days was almost unique in this. That, coupled with the fact that it hadn’t been universally spoiled yet and that you could play it through without ever realizing it was a subversion, made it a hit with fans. I can understand why. Unfortunately, I knew all the details by the time I got around to playing it, had I gone in blind, it would have been an unforgettable experience.
Eventually, the game got the anime treatment and, in my opinion, got desperately lost in adaptation. In an attempt to capture the most sticking of the potential paths in the story, and what really set School Days aside, the production team simply skimmed over the common establishing route and then hit only the major points of a few of the more shocking routes. This meant that instead of having hours of interactive dialogue to get to know the characters and seeing them in all sorts of situations from repeated replays, we only had a few episodes to get then entire escalation in. As a result, people acted erratically and without logical motivation. Side characters were barely developed, and the entire storyline was a bit of a hard to follow mess.
A lot of people deeply dislike the anime. Either because of failing to do justice to a rather influential game or just because they found it to be bad on its own merits. And I thought that was simply the general opinion. Until I saw a lot of people, I follow on Twitter unironically (I think) defend this series. Calling it brilliant and woefully underrated. One of the best anime they had ever watched. From what I know thee people have not even played the visual novel, so they are basing their entire opinions on the anime. I’ve watched entire threads get quite heated on the back and forth for this show and it seems everyone one who’s seen it has an opinion on it. Do you?
There you have it, 5 animes that have fans either falling in love or bitter and unhappy. That may be a slight exaggeration… slight. I’m happy to have seen all of them, even those I did not enjoy. I just like being able to make my own opinion on them and be part of the conversation, I guess.
Have you seen any divisive anime and which side of the debate did you fall on? I’ll add them to my to watch list. It’s already 5 years long so what’s one more?