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!


4) Flowers of Evil

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.

To Be A Heroine 3-7 (185)

2) To Be A Heroine

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!

Honourable mention

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

1) School Days

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?

anime combing hair

43 thoughts

  1. While I have seen these series often come up on similar lists I haven’t actually seen any of them. My five would be Suzuka, Btoom, Saikano, Daily Lives of Monster Girls, and Gundam Seed Destiny

  2. Few thoughts on this:

    No Sword Art Online? Bold choice. That’s a series I would have immediately come up with to put on here. The debate for that show is something that has caused years’ worth of flame wars. Another show I would potentially put is Guilty Crown. I’ve seen lots of debate around that one, as well, with casual viewers enjoying it and cynical viewers obliterating it out of their subconscious.

    Yuri On Ice is considered love-or-hate-it? From what I know, that series is more generally enjoyed than otherwise. Toxic fanbase aside, I haven’t seen much to have YOI be considered divisive based on the content of the series. Unless people are homophobic or something.

    Aku no Hana’s manga is superior, as someone whose experienced both. Eva’s ending is appropriate, though actually sitting through it is a bit of a chore. You introduced me to To Be a Hero/Heroine, so I’ll be sure to check those out. Good post!

    1. My readers really chewed me out about SAO. I’l make sure to tr not to forget it exists agan

  3. Flowers of Evil was almost a five star series for me, I docked half a star for episode 8 being comprised of the two leads just walking about and doing nothing. I get why people might not like it though; I had heard so much negativity about it I was dreading watching it when I got the review discs, but once it got going I was hooked.

    You really can’t predict people’s tastes – I found Flowers so unique and resonant I loved it yet people think the same about the Monogatari universe, which I personally can’t stand. Horses for courses and all that…. 🙂

  4. Ah yes School Days, I’ll admit I like to pretend that one never existed. I watched it in middle school and I was into the relationships and just wanted the kids to be happy, but boy oh boy! The ending confused the crap outta me. Like it was supposed to be disturbing but because it just bad, I ended up being confused. I definitely agree that school days is a love it or hate it, and it’s definitely a hate it for me lol.

  5. Love Mirai Nikki. Flowers of Evil, well, no super strong feelings, but I guess I liked it more than I disliked it. Really, same with Free. And School Days. I like them slightly more than I dislike them. Oh and I also enjoy watching the endless eight of Haruhi. xD

  6. I’m fairly sure I said it before, but I’ve really enjoyed the Endless Eight. When I came to it, I’ve never heard about it, so at first I thought they made a mistake and uploaded the same episode twice. Then I thought, wait a minute, they caught a different beetle last time, didn’t they? And then I started to pay more attention. I marathoned the whole thing and was never bored.

    I distinctly remember a screenshot guessing game:

    Me: Haruhi Suzumiya, season 2.
    Host: Which episode?
    Me: Grrr….

    Good times.

    The irony is, aside from the honorable mention, there isn’t a single show on the list I love, and there isn’t a single show on the list I hate. I find that each of these shows has things to recommend them, but neither of them are perfect. Out of those, I like either Mirai Nikki or Flowers of Evil the most.

    Also, I didn’t know To Be Heroine was controversial. I only ever saw people praise the show (to a mostly indifferent audience who made polite noises to the tune of “maybe I’ll check it out later”.) I find the show was mostly ignored. Which is a pity, because if anything it’s its own thing, and if you would have liked it, there’s no real substitute. I’m not surprised its controversial, though, since a lot of the Chinese-Japanese co-production seem to get that reaction.

    I often don’t know if a show’s the love-it-hate-it type, so there’s that.

  7. I also really liked the end of the original Eva. It was abstract but it really summed up the character well and gave us closure on his mental state and while I absolutely had no clue what happened to the story I really enjoyed it when I first watched it.
    This was a great list and really fun to read.

  8. Really surprised SAO didn’t get on this list, it’s the classic “we watch cause we have a hate boner” anime.

    And School Days, I really wish that had come out now, or they did a brotherhood remake of it. It’s the ReZero like “comedown” that the ecchi/harem genre needs.

    1. I have to admit, I just never think of SAO. I sort of forget it exists but I know it has a ton of fans

  9. When ‘Space Dandy’ first came out there was so much hype over it that I really wanted to like it – the range of animation styles and the whole approach to the storytelling was so unique, and it had a lot going for it… but about 6 or 7 episodes in, and I realised it was a show that did not like women at all. Every female character was there either for titillation or as an annoyance to the main characters. Dandy even tells a young girl that he doesn’t care about her unless she grows up and gets curves like a real woman, and by the end of the ep she tells herself that’s exactly what she wants to do.

    It took several years for me to go back and watch the whole thing. Even now, I wish it had been better in that respect. But no one ever seems to talk about that aspect of it – I feel like voicing my distaste for it would only lead to people yelling at me that I was missing the point or being overly sensitive. It’s a show I want to love but I can’t get past my hate.

    1. I have no doubt people would whine but you have a perfect right to dislike something for your own reasons. I also get annoyed at shows that treat all female characters like furniture. It rarely makes for very interesting characters.

    2. 6 – 7 episodes in is precisely when I dropped Space Dandy, although I was annoyed with the macho tone from episode 1 onwards, so that by the time the young-girl episode came along it ended up one of my favourites, because I had that aspect on auto-ignore (I use auto-ignore a lot when watching anime; it allows me to enjoy a lot of stuff). I can’t say I hate Space Dandy, but unlike you I never came back for the rest (I mean there are two seasons).

  10. Cytrus beat me to it, but I was going to say that any objective list of polarizing anime pretty much has to include SAO. Even now, if that show comes up in discussion during anime club, half my teens are pumping their fists and the other half are gagging.

    I’ve never watched any of these five (six), though I wouldn’t disagree with any of them based on the discussions I’ve seen. Definitely your honorable mentions both qualify. I think Kaguya-sama could go on this type of list too. A lot of people loved it, including me – that 8.5 rating on MAL didn’t score itself – but it seems like just about every blogger that I follow didn’t like it at all.

    1. I haven’t seen Kaguya but the blogs I followed just kind of seemed to get over it at about the mid-season point. A lot of the bloggers I read have stated dislike for comedy, I’m not sure if that plays into it

  11. Honestly, on this rewatch I liked the original tv ending of Eva also. It just works with all the themes of the anime and with the mindset of Shinji.

  12. I haven’t watched any of the top 5 anime unless you count the pilot School Days OVA which came out long before the TV series.

    I think some of the most divisive anime series I could think of would be EVA, Gundam Wing (especially with Universal century vs. the others), Niea_7, Excel Saga, and .Hack.

      1. Where I’m from people were debating about how good of a series or how lame it was especially since there surprisingly not enough action despite most of the characters carrying weapons. Wouldn’t .Hack also be the original Sword Art Online in some weird way?

          1. That’s what I heard. Granted, I wasn’t that much of a fan of .Hack even though Liminality was better than I expected and the music is certainly gorgeous.

  13. I just made it through the Endless Eight, and while I love the idea behind it, I really think they needed to make more minute changes on an episode basis to make it a little more fresh. After 4 episodes it just becomes a total drag to see the exact same sequence of events with only changes to their outfits. Even if each episode just focused on a different summer event, like one on the festival, one on the fishing tournament, etc. would have been great.

    I don’t know anything about the game, so maybe this isn’t true or intended, but I always saw School Days as a deconstruction of the harem genre. Like a really extreme example of what would really happen if a guy tried to juggle multiple relationships at once, with the guy becoming more heartless, and the girls becoming more.. extreme? And from that angle, I’ve always thought that School Days was a decent anime, because it does a good job at making you angry at the protagonist as the show progresses.

    1. I will love endless 8 for you!
      School Days was written explicitly as a deconstruction of the harem genre indeed. Personally I found the character arcs in the anime to be too garbed and rushed to make the proper visceral impact but I was coming from the game so it’s obviously going to cloud my judgment. Then again Steins Gate also gutted character progression in the adaptation to anime and still managed to give decent development so, it’s feasable

  14. The Free/Yuri on Ice situation sounds a lot like Hetalia was a few years ago. A lot of weird infighting and vitriol there that I prefer to stay out of.

    I’ve never seen Flowers of Evil, but I know it makes those worst of lists. It really does look ugly to me, but then I prefer to get a more typically anime look in my anime. I have to look at real people all damn day, and I don’t enjoy it much.

    On the subject of hated adaptations of great VNs, Tsukihime and Umineko both got awful anime treatments. They seem to be almost universally hated though.

    1. Yeah, pretending the Tsukihime anime doesn’t exist has been a running joke with Nasu fans for years.

      When I think of polarizing VN adaptations, as opposed to outright hated ones, the others that readily come to mind besides School Days are Air, Little Busters, and Aokana.

  15. Mirai Nikki might be the best-written piece of trashy fiction I’ve ever read. The intricacy of the Yuno mystery blew my mind, but the author doesn’t care about appearances and the small stuff at all, does (s)he? Crazy.

    Only saw a bit of flowers of evil. It’s ugly and tries too hard to be dark. Can’t take the “people look like that” argument seriously. I consider 80% of people out there beautiful/handsome (and thus have trouble following the type of conversation where folks rank or judge others by appearance). But the technique in flowers looks like they took real people and fuzzied them out to make them uglier. Ugh.

    Free/Yuri on Ice are just solid shows. No controversy there. The controversy is born along the fujoshi and LGBT axis, where those groups are extra enthusiastic about the shows and their opponents are up in arms about it. But all that exists outside the show and isn’t the show’s fault so whatever.

    No idea what To Be A Heroine is. Never heard people arguing about it either.

    School Days I have a soft spot for. It’s always difficult to say with this show, since the characters are intentionally shown acting in reproachable ways. When people say they hate the characters, do they just hate jerks (perfectly understandable), or do they hate how the idea was executed?

    Generally, the love/hate dichotomy is high for all compulsory reading series. You bring up Eva/Haruhi, and Madoka/Bebop and the like also apply. Since everyone gets told they HAVE to watch those, and they HAVE to like them or they are not true fans or whatever. Pretty sad situation, especially since most of those series have their spots well-earned, but people end up jaded against them.

    Objectively speaking, the no.1 love/hate series might be Sword Art Online. There was a prominent youtuber out there who came out with the numbers and demonstrated that making videos hating on SAO was one of the best revenue-generators for his channel. But that’s only happening because the series has such a huge and loud fanbase to begin with.

  16. The only one I have watched on this list is Mirai Nikki, and man, this anime… this @#$% anime! I honestly do not even know what to say. I watched it three years ago after my friends raved about it. I watched it and the premise immediately hooked me. As the anime went on, however, it lost me. The characters became annoying and some moments were just nonsensical.

    One friend said he liked it because everyone got what they deserved, and I agree with him. The visuals were nice and I liked some of the moments, but I guess this one was not meant for me. I do not hate it, but it is not one I will watch again anytime soon.

  17. If you didn’t like the Flowers of Evil anime I don’t think you would have enjoyed the manga either. The art style of the manga is less divisive, but the unanimated chapters don’t really go anywhere. It’s not bad, but if you got bored after a while nothing happens later on that would change your mind.

    1. I usually don’t mind unresolved narratives or lack of concrete events but the narrative timing didn’t work for me. Not sure if it would be better in written form but it’s not on my priorities to read

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