I’m writing this in late December so we’re just starting to get all those BEST and WORST anime of the year posts, videos and threads going around. Just the other days on Twitter, I saw that only WORST anime was trending which sort of shows you how negative 2021 has been for some people.

And you see, I don’t like these types of threads. I guess I can see the fun in picking a favourite. That’s fine. And there are all these awards shows that draw in an audience. I can’t deny that people like assigning value to entertainment no matter how arbitrary it may be. But why do we have to have a “worst” anime of the year?

and why is it so popular?

I admit it, I’m part of the problem. I clicked on that and I rarely click on anything in Twitter. For the record, the only specific 2021 anime I can remember being singled out right now is Horimiya. This is baffling to me. What is there not to love about Horimiya? Clearly, the person or people who thought it was the worst did not watch it with Moya because that made my experience thoroughly delightful!

But the actual choice in anime doesn’t matter. These types of posts or threads are always going to attract the edgy contrarian types who will name whatever anime happens to be most popular on principle. At the end of the day, the results are just as meaningless as with the BEST anime threads, if not more so.

What caught my interest more, was the tone of the conversation. Like everything that went on around people throwing out titles. For one, I remember a person giving 4 titles of pretty well-liked anime from recent seasons and adding, just to name a few, I could have really added them all, nothing but cr*p comes out. I cleaned it up a bit and cut out the follow-up rant. And this is a sentiment that was echoed here and there.

A few years ago I may have argued the point. I might have discussed how both animation techniques and narratives are getting more sophisticated and that of course masterpieces remain few and far in between but I don’t see any evidence of an objective lowering in quality. I realize now that such a response is useless. These types of rants have always existed and always will. They aren’t necessarily related to the anime either so there’s no merit in trying to argue on that basis.

don”t listen to them! You’re doing great

However, unlike the heated and sometimes slightly scary arguments I have seen online over… well mostly over fanservice. We’re a bit of a one-track mind community. I guess occasionally over BL but most people have gotten over that it seems. Unlike those, this conversation was cold and clinical, and really dour.

People were just out there shouting out anime they didn’t like, often without any additional comment. Just something like so and so was the worst. Worst anime ever. Stuff like that. And for the most part, people weren’t interacting at all. They simply ignored everyone else, shouted out their hate for a show and went on with their day. No passionate protection of a series, no productive or even unproductive debates, nothing. Just plain, sad, dissatisfaction.

And well, what’s the point? Why do we do that?

I’ve seen it in post form as well. A lot of bloggers give out their best and worst of the year. Now some of them do a great job. They detail exactly why a certain series let them down. They give constructive criticism or write out an actually funny paragraph so that the disappointing exercise of watching an anime one doesn’t like has some type of positive outcome. I get that. I fully stand behind that type of post if it’s what the blogger wants to do.

go for it!

But sometimes, those posts just end up being either very short. Like the Twitter thread, the blogger just names a show or a bunch of shows they didn’t like without much commentary at all. Or they are an excuse to simply dump on a series (occasionally one that is perceived to be popular by the author). And to me, those posts read as depressing.

By that, I mean that they don’t seem fun to write. Unless they aren’t genuine they seem like the author is just making themselves angry or disappointed all over again and not much else. And I’m not sure they’re very fun to read either.

It’s possible that something is going over my head and I’m just not the audience for these types of posts. I do remember that YouTube had an entire very popular genre a little while back of “angry critics” and the schtick was for them to get unnecessarily and disproportionately angry at whatever medium they were reviewing. But those were skits, right? Like they didn’t actually dislike the stuff, I’m not even sure they actually played or watched it. It was just comedy. As far as I understand. I never watched those. Like I said, I’m not the proper audience for it.

I guess maybe that’s what WORST anime of the year content is trying to reproduce. But it’s often so dry and dispassionate so I’m not sure.

comedy is subjective after all…

In theory, I can see a lot of reasons to write a WORST anime of the year post. Not just the cynical ones. And I do have to begrudgingly admit that people seem to click on these posts, myself included. Like I mentioned before these could be a good faith exercise in constructive criticism. They could be a way for a blogger to get some closure when a show they really thought they would love disappoints them. They can be a satirical or comical essay that is honestly only meant to make the audience laugh. They could also be an honest exploration by the author, trying to figure out why others enjoyed something they did not.

In practice though, the posts don’t always turn out that way. And when they end up just being a listing of shows someone didn’t like, I wonder why we still read them. Especially since a lot of anime fans get hurt when their personal favourite is called bad, let alone the WORST!

Part of why I started really thinking about this though, is because I read them. I did mention that at the beginning. I want to make it clear that I don’t blame anyone for either reading these lists or writing them. I read them all the time. Then I get a bit bummed out. Either because someone hated a show I loved or because there is a sort of implicit dislike of anime in general. And on a human level, it sort of sucks that someone spent so much time watching shows they weren’t enjoying. It’s not the end of the world but man, I know how frustrating it can be to get through a show you’re stubbornly refusing to drop but aren’t having fun with. It’s a real slog. I would hate to have to do that for basically half the shows I watch.

So honest question, if you write or read WORST anime posts, what are you hoping to get out of them? Do you enjoy a particular format more?

27 thoughts

  1. I spent many years during the earlier portions of my blogging “career” writing on Worst lists and various showcases of terrible media, slightly for the same reasoning you brought up in the post. It’s a powerful feeling to hate something, and all the more to feel you’re justified in it. I’d argue it’s a power dynamic that gives some manner of validation to your words. I feel it fuels one’s arrogance as much as it conditions their ability to critique.

    While I don’t feel I’m active enough in most of my hobbies anymore to have adequate material for both Best and Worst lists, I’ve kind of shied away from doing Worst lists without having something more to say about them, outside of “They’re bad.” If I could write up some satirical post about how things that are clearly horrendous are actually the greatest things ever, so be it. But given my history with cynicism and outright hostility, I’ve found that it can oftentimes fuel that toxicity of spite and vitriol that a lot of people you described on Twitter often get from being overly contrarian.

    Though I liked the time you took within the post to address what can be taken from those kinds of posts. Constructive criticism is always great—outside of just trolling, it’s crucial to be able to detail the steps for people to be better with future works. That, more than anything, I think is the “point” of Worst lists. It’s just on the author of said posts to keep this in mind, as well.

    1. I appreciate that it can be very difficult to write a constructive post. It’s always impressive when someone can pull it off but you usually have to care about the show or t least anime in general to be able to put something like that together

  2. I’d say for me it’s a bit different based on whether I’m writing or reading a worst anime of the year type post. (I’ll typically do worst of all time as opposed to worst of the year though) For writing it, I just go in on what I see as a lot of missed opportunities and like talking about whether it was a trainwreck at the start or at the end. Was there animal violence that destroyed the anime and it could have been good otherwise? (Just saw a movie where the first scene is an animal being eaten alive and I knew immediately that this set a bad tone for the rest of the movie) I also just like going in on an anime because it’s just fun, particularly if there’s a lot to discuss. I had a field day with titles like Dimension W, FLCL, and others like that. I wouldn’t say it’s more fun to write a negative review than a positive one but it’s close. My favorite reviews to write are for titles that I love (9/10 and higher) but I prefer writing a review for titles I dislike (3/10 and under) versus titles that are just decent or good. (5-6/10)

    For reading worst anime of the year type posts, I feel like I get to understand the blogger more. This may be placebo but I sometimes feel like people put more heart into those posts as they really explain why they didn’t like it. When you read a best of post you’ll typically see titles like AOT, Bebop, Deathnote, etc. but it tends to be pretty much the same scenes and positives noted so you feel like you’ve read it before. Each blogger can put their own spin on it but half the time you feel like you’ve read this before.

    I’ve never had the same experience with a worst of list. It always feels really personal and I feel like the blogger had fun with it. It’s the same for me with video reviews, I tend to gravitate towards the negative ones first when checking out a new channel and if it’s an enjoyable watch then I’ll check out their other videos.

    My only pet peeve is if the negative review had the reviewer start bashing fans of the series. Like there’s a big difference between saying “Gintama is awful for XXX reasons” vs “Gintama’s such a bad series and people only like it because it has big action scenes” When they start doing that then I tend to exit the video

    1. Maybe I should read more. With a few exceptions, most o the worst of the year posts I saw this year were very terse. I didn’t get much sense of the author from them at all.

  3. I don’t do “worst” lists or “best” lists for that matter just my personal faves, which is what a year end list should be since our enjoyment or lack thereof, as you rightly assert, is subjective. I might mention anime which didn’t make the grade with a quick comment as to why, otherwise I feel lists should be positive and celebratory.

  4. I frankly don’t see the point in writing a “worst of” post, mainly for the reason that if I dislike an anime series or feature, I simply stop watching it and it sinks into oblivion in my mind. Nor have I seen anything in a series or feature that was so blatantly egregious (such as overt racism or homophobia, for example) that I thought it justified writing a post calling out said series/feature on that point. I also suspect that my own viewing is so out of synch with what everyone else is watching that there wouldn’t be much point anyway, as a lot of the stuff I watch originally aired years ago, so that kind of makes it a moot point.

    That said, I did once write a post about anime that I ultimately ended up being bored by – but that was an exercise in personal regret, because in most of the cases I cited I started off originally enjoying/being engaged by said anime before boredom set in. But even then, I wouldn’t have said the anime in question belonged in a “worst of” list or that I even “hated” them, necessarily…

    1. Oh that’s the saddest. When you don’t hate it but just stop being interested in something you hopes you would like.

  5. I still write a worst list and there are two reasons for it. The first is that it is actually fun remembering the anime I sat through from start to finish and failed to at any point make the objective decision to stop watching. I ask myself every year why I don’t learn to drop anime that have clearly not delivered.
    The second reason is far more cynical but true, the worst anime of the year post outperforms my best anime post but a fair margin. It only took 3 days to reach same number of views and comments as the best post did in over a week. Not to mention, a lot more interaction on social media.
    I am not a fan of being negative for the sake of it around my hobby. I love watching anime, even when it isn’t so great. But I think a worst of post an give people a chance to talk about which series haven’t quite achieved what they set out to do and where they think they could have been better. Okay, some comments will just bash on something but a lot of people in the community take the chance to explain why they thought one of the anime worked or what they found lacking in another title.

    1. Ill be honest, I had this post written and scheduled wat before your worst list came out and I felt bad. Although I was pretty confident you would be one of those that thoughtfully parses through what didn’t work for you instead of just being negative for its own sake.

      I just felt that this year, the anime community seemed particularly focused on the worst instead of the best and I wondered why. I think a lot of folks are tired.

      1. I agree a large chunk of the online anime community has become very much focused on the worst and what has gone wrong with things. It is why I wrote that post about sweet anime being what we needed because so many of my best viewed posts in the last few months have been the more negative leaning ones and that the focus of my blog. I would much rather celebrate and enjoy.
        But I think you are right. People are tired. It’s not been a great couple of years for anyone.

  6. I really like how you differentiated between different motivations for writing a “worst” post. I think that’s important.

    I seldom read “worst” posts anymore, though if it’s clear the writer knows their opinion is subjective and they’re lamenting why, as you said, a show disappointed them, then that’s something I can embrace. I like learning how someone really thinks.

    But now I completely ignore Tweets about “worst.” Reading those left me feeling as you described. I just don’t want that.

    Some of it comes down to me wondering how the animators, writers, or producers feel. They’re creative people, for the most part. They poured their hearts and souls into their work. If I were in their shoes, I might not like a reasoned critique, but I could learn from it. But the pure venom that I see in some of the “worst” posts or videos (before I bail out) would have to hurt.

    I just don’t want to do that to anyone.

    1. You and Scott are some of the most positive reviewers I know and that’s great. reading your posts invigorates my enjoyment of anime. That’s worth its weight in gold

  7. The main reason is money. Multiple anitubers and game tubers have noted that their “worst of” videos often have at least twice the views than their “best of” videos.

    1. Is that actually true? That probably says something about our current society. Oh well, at least it’s a little less depressing than people want to be angry and sad.

  8. I know that I didn’t want to create any sort of negative list because I don’t like doing it. I also don’t like the fact that I wrote the vivy and moriarty posts this year with Elaina as well the previous year. But I guess I had strong enough feelings to the point that I just hated them and had to do something to get those thoughts out of my head.

    I feel like the negative posts are always going to get more attention because negativity is easier to tap into. It’s why people create them I feel other then people being so certain that they want other people to know why. It can create a lot of discussion if handled properly and just chaos if done wrong…and yeah…

    1. I’m not sure I can imagine you being just flatly negative. I know you don’t just blindly like everything but even when you are discussing something you didn’t enjoy, you tend to try to see the good side and at least try to be constructive. I really enjoy that

  9. Venting against disproportional praise can lead to hyperbole. Train-wreck effects can make you marvel at the fact that finished anime A when you dropped the much better anime B. And so on. Almost all “worst” anime out there aren’t actually the worst: the term “worst” occurs in some sort of context. For example: “worst” could mean “enjoyed the least”, or “annoyed the most” or any such thing. And when you’re just venting you’re probably not in the mood to investigate the details of your mind-set. And it’s not such a stretch that people want to share negative experiences as much as positive ones.

    I mean, if people were seriously trying to find the “worst” anime, I’d suggest the following methodology: First, eliminate all anime you watched. Then eliminate all anime that sound even slightly interesting. Then click start on everything that’s left. As soon as you catch yourself thinking, well that’s not all that bad, drop it. Eventually, you’ll have a few unwatchable shows. At this point you’ll have to give thought to your criteria. If for example an anime annoys you a lot: does that mean it’s worse than anime that don’t annoy you, or does that mean that it’s not quite as bad as the shows that don’t engage you at all on any level? The former would make your job easier, but the problem is that among the shows that had redeeming features, some might annoy you even more, so you might have to backtrack. On the other hand, if you go for boredom, watching a lot of boring shows to figure out which one is the most boring sounds pretty boring itself, so how do you correct for that meta-influence? And maybe at some point something in your brain flicks, and you start to see differences you didn’t see before, and that makes the shows less boring…

    Okay, I’ll stop here. Basically, the “worst” anime people still talk about is almost certainly not the worst anime, and talking about the actual worst anime is likely going to be unfulfilling.

    Then again, sometimes shows come along I hear people talk about – without ever hearing anything good about them. This years Ex-Arm appears to have been really bad. I mean, in terms of hearing bad things about it, it’s a step down from Handshakers (a show I’ve still occasionally heard defenses of, and which somehow got a second season – even if it wasn’t advertaised as such). Of course, I’m also reading less about anime these days, which might have been a factor. Personally I quit on Ex-Arm immediately: I don’t need shows to be technically accomplished, and even though I’m awfully biased against CGI, I can – on occasion – even watch bad CGI (e.g. Kemono Friends), but Ex-Arm? The show looked worse than a CGI-based PS2 game. I wish I was exaggerating.

    Mostly, contenders for “worst” anime are shows plenty of people enjoy, though: Sword Art Online comes to mind. Taken literally, that’s hardly a “worst” candidate.

    1. I completely agree, that worst rarely means worst. I do like your proposed methodology and I really would be interested in someone trying it out but I don’t think I have the heart to do so myself.

      I have noticed that this year a lot of people seem to be focusing more on the worse than the best in what, from an outsider observer, seems like a completely unproductive way. Maybe we’re starting to get a bit of general Cabin fever. I hope it goes back around to giddy.

  10. I started to read through this. I promise. Fully intending to break down why we need both a Best And Worst each year. Because even a media on the height of success can still learn from its shortcomings, and become better by embracing its lesser releases and learning from them.

    Not to mention that everybody lives something! Somebody out there loved Ghostbusters Answer The Call 2016. Somebody loved Men In Black International, or Hellboy 2019. Heck, I like Hidemari Sketch and that’s not a universally known series!

    So yeah. There is a lot to learn from a Best And Worst anything of each year. Even Anime. Because sometimes even the best needs to be humble, accept their shortcomings, and learn fron them. After all, as Michael Caine told us in Batman Begins… Why do we fall? So that we learn to pick ourselves up again.

    But then I realized you were on Twitter again. Irina? Staring at Cancel Culture, Puritan Culture, and media jealous of (insert name of better product) is going to start killing your brain cells if you look at it too long! Here! Intervention! Let me gently bop you several times with this metaphorical Officially licensed Popo the Bunny pillow (direct from his YouTube channel) and say to you NO! NO! Step away from the violent zombie Twitter bird!

    Seriously your going to lose brain cells if you keep looking at the Twitter. Don’t.

    1. I actually am curious about the drive to sit down and reexperience something one didn’t enjoy without any monetary incentive. I guess it could be cathartic but anecdotal evidence seems to point against it. And there are tons of worst lists on WordPress as I mentioned. It’s not a platform specific practice. Like I said, there are a lot of reasons to create worst lists but those don’t apply to simple lists, you know?

      I do appreciate that you started to read through the post! It means a lot.

  11. Even if I was able to see even half of what gets released in any given year, I don’t think I’d opt for a ‘Worst of the year’ list myself.

    As a reader, it *might* help me decided about checking a show out or not… but it’d depend on the writer, and whether they were able to articulate *why*, yeah.

    1. That is a good reason to read them! I have some odd tastes so it doesn’t always work for me. I often see anime I really like on those lists…

      1. Same! I can’t think of a specific show, but I know that when someone says something like ‘episodic’ in their review and they’re unhappy with it, I grow more interested in the anime 😀

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