Disappointing Anime of 2012


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While there have been many very good anime series this year there have also been a number of disappointing ones, series that had a lot of potential, but for one reason or another failed to live up to it. Such series aren’t necessarily terrible, but because they suffered from numerous problems ultimately never lived up to the potential that their stories or characters had. In fact there are a few of these series that I really enjoyed watching, or at least enjoyed parts, but their flaws were too much for me to really like them as a whole. I never really ‘hated’ these series, largely because hating an anime series seems to be an exercise in futility, although there are a couple of exceptions, series that were just terrible and what little enjoyment I got from them was short lived. This is a list, but not in any real order since it seems a little silly to try and order the disappointing anime in the same way as you would order your favourite anime (and I even find that pointless).

Sword Art Online:

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Sword Art Online was a disappointment for me, it was a series with potential, but never lived up to it, and instead stayed as a mediocre, if often enjoyable anime series. Sword Art Online suffered from an inability to decide what sort of story it wanted to be. There were large sections of the series that were similar to action films, with lots of fight scenes and random action that often defied the general laws of physics or even common sense. However, there was also a darker side to the story, one that we are quickly introduced to in episode one, unfortunately nothing is ever really done with this darker element. When Sword Art Online tries to move from the action film scenes into the darker scenes a lot of the potential is lost, it is a series that cannot decide if it wants to be one of the other and instead tries to be both. However, to really explore the darker side of this virtual world and really look at the danger that apparently lurks around every corner, much of the ridiculous but entertaining action has to be toned down and changed to fit with a darker story. That these two types of stories are largely irreconcilable and cannot really work together became one of the central flaws of the series. Kirito effectively being immortal and having the strength of boss monsters was silly, but easily ignored in the context of an action adventure, but when you try to look at the darker elements of Sword Art Online his ludicrous strength suddenly becomes a flaw. The first half of the series was enjoyable, with a relatively dark world, although it suffered from the numerous side stories that took time away from world building and situating the characters in Aincrad. It was the second half where things ultimately fell apart, with a horrible antagonist, and a relatively shallow story and world that never really amounts to anything. I rather enjoyed watching Sword Art Online, although there were a few sections that weren’t particularly fun to watch, however, as a series it remains a disappointment because of all that wasted potential. Further thoughts found here.

Guilty Crown:

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Guilty Crown suffered from similar problems to Sword Art Online. It was a series with plenty of potential, but one that ultimately turned out to a terrible disappointment, with a badly written script and a story that made little or no sense half the time. Guilty Crown was one of the most hyped series of the Autumn 2011 season, with the staff of Death Note and Code Geass collaborating on the project, along with designs by Redjuice and music by Supercell. In a sense this was an anime dream team, with all the ability, imagination and knowledge to create a brilliant original series. Unfortunately it turned out to be a classic case of ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’, with more ideas than could ever fit into each episode. In a sense Guilty Crown was destined to fail before it even began, largely because the expectations were simply too high – the show was never going to be as good as people were suggesting. As a series it had an almost schizophrenic approach to its story, changing direction and tone almost constantly, with entire sections of one episode becoming meaningless as soon as they had finished. The void system was actually rather fascinating, and could have easily been explored to create an interesting and actually quite intelligent series. However, any information that we were told about these voids essentially became redundant almost as soon as it been said, largely due to the stories inconsistencies. Much like with Sword Art Online the best moments were in the first half, culminating in what was arguably the true finale to the series during episode eleven. Then we got the second half of the series, one that was more akin to a completely different story, and one that completely ruined what little good will most people had been keeping for it until that point. It was a mess, with random Old Testament references thrown around like they were squash balls, with the series culminating in some sort of random ballet dance that was as ludicrous as it was pretty. I actually rather enjoyed the first half of the series regardless of how stupid it was, but once again it was the second half that ultimately destroyed the series for me. This is just another case of a series that had so much potential but fell flat in its face due to a terrible script and a complete lack of a coherent story or plot. Further thoughts on the series can be found here:

Natsuyuki Rendezvous:

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Natsuyuki Rendezvous is a tale of two halves, it was an excellent series right up until episode six, at which point things started to go very wrong and it slid down into the pits of mediocrity. This is not to say that the series was not enjoyable, because it was, however, there were some distinct decisions made during this series life that ultimately slightly ruined the whole experience. There are precious few mature romance series, most anime are set in high school or junior high school, with the protagonists often having to deal with other issues such as family circumstances or teenage angst. A romance series that takes place during a work or university environment, or at least have a more mature feel can be incredibly fun to watch and help to provide an alternative view of romance without the teenage angst. Honey and Clover, Nodame Cantabile, Paradise Kiss, Ristorante Paradiso and Eikoku Koi Monogatari Emma are a few of the small number of such titles. What is so wonderful about these series is how they tell a story about romance, but without the angst, school references and other elements that pepper high school romance stories. There is still drama and elements of angst, but it is being used from a different perspective, and while there are still problems to overcome, they revolve around the needs of the everyday rather than problems with tests and the (apparent) innocence of youth. Unfortunately during the second half of the series all of the character and relationship building was completely destroyed. In its place we got a body-swapping arc that essentially wrote Hazuki out of the story and turned Rokka from an interesting, and strong widow into one who seemed to spend the majority of her time moping and reliving the past. It was such a wonderful series to begin with, but this second half dragged on and ruined what could have been one of my favourite series of the year. Further thoughts found here:

K:

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K was a beautiful anime, and one that got and honourable mention on my best of 2012 post, however it was not without its faults. Chief among them is the complete lack of any real story, something that continued up until around episode ten when things began to make sense. Unfortunately as a series this was largely too late, and much of K’s potential had already been wasted by the lack of a proper story. However, this didn’t take anything away from my enjoyment of the series, and it remains a favourite of the year with brilliant animation and a wonderful, if one-dimensional cast. As a series it is a classic case of style over substance, with the animation and fighting scenes tacking precedence over character and story development (what little of it there was). K remains a series that I greatly enjoyed watching, but it also wasted the majority of its potential on the stylised animation instead of trying to tell an actual story.

Eureka Seven AO:

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Eureka Seven AO was a mess, a horrible, inconsistent, messy mess. It was a series that completely ignored everything about the original that was good and instead tried to forge its own path in an alternate world where everything is backwards and characters actions mean very little to the actual story. This is a series that greatly disappointed me largely because it felt like it was almost deliberately contradicting everything from the first series. It arguably should have never been made, although it still had the potential to be rather entertaining and well produced. Further thoughts found here:

Accel World:

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Accel World was a mixed bag, bringing together some brilliant fight sequences, along with exposition heavy episodes that often ended in tedium, and topped off with problematic characters that never quite managed to stay entertaining throughout. Although this is not strictly true, there were numerous characters that were great to watch, providing some interesting insight into a world that at first appears overly simplistic, but soon turns into something that may be too complicated for its own good. However, one of the central, if not the biggest flaw with Accel World is the lack of proper antagonists. As a series it lacked that all-important element, an antagonist that is both entertaining, while also being as evil and nasty as possible. This coupled with the protagonist often dissolving into angst and tears could make various episodes and sections painful to watch. It has become clear from both Accel World and Sword Art Online that Kawahara Reki cannot create proper antagonists or ‘bad guys’, with none of his main bad characters have the charisma or brilliance necessary to keep them interesting. Furthermore, he has a habit of introducing a potentially interesting plot point or new antagonist only to abandon them for a few volumes – such as the sudden disappearance of chrome disaster. Noumi is merely a plot device – and an unpleasant one at that – designed to engendered feelings of hate and distrust in the characters and viewers. The problem is that his character makes the majority of the second part of the series unpleasant to watch, thus spoiling what little interest that can be gained from the series.

Overall Accel World was a disappointment, yes it has some fascinating elements, but it never really explored them, and instead focussed on a fighting game that apparently has world changing consequences. The ideas surrounding the importance of the virtual or online world are all but forgotten in the heat of battle, and while the first half explored the relationship between Haruyuki and Kuroyukihime, it was utterly forgotten during the second. Some of these problems are clearly due to the ongoing nature of the Light Novels, but at the same time, the lack of proper antagonists, along with the pushing the interesting elements to one side in favour of exposition ultimately leads to a messy and often very boring series. The relationships in Accel World, especially between Haruyuki and Kuroyukihime remain the most interesting aspects of the series, but they are often forgotten about or ignored. I did enjoy parts of the series, but like with Sword Art Online and Guilty Crown the second half largely ruined the series and damaged my overall opinion of what could have been a rather interesting series. Further thoughts found here:

Sankarea:

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I really enjoyed Sankarea, and it remains one of my favourite series from the Spring season, and got an honourable mention on my best of 2012 post, but it is not a series without flaws, chief among them its none-ending that completely spoiled what had been until that point an exceptional series. Sankarea was a fascinating series, one that had excellent episodes and story arcs, while also unfortunately having a few places where the plot also meandered and not gone very far. The exploration of Rea’s family life and what it means for her to escape her fathers control. It was a story as much about loss as it was about discovering new things and living through new and exciting experiences. The central irony of the series was that Rea must become the most unnatural girl possible in order to live the life or a ‘normal’ high school girl. Her family life and the constant presence of her father have shut her off from the outside world, isolating her from everything that could be considered to be normal. While the boys at Chihiro’s school may talk about her as being the perfect ‘oujo-sama’, that is little more than an a mask, something that was in part created by her everyday existence as a Sanka. The series was fascinating and while not perfect still produced some outstanding story telling along with interesting characters and a more in-depth look at the things many of us may take for granted. Unfortunately it was let down by a none-ending, with the final episode starting a new arc that was supposedly meant to be completed in an ‘unaired’ episode included on the first Blu-Ray Disc. All my posts on Sankarea can be found here:

Hiiro no Kakera:

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Both seasons of Hiiro no Kakera had potential, but were ultimately ruined by the terrible male protagonists and their apparent inability to do anything for themselves, and even blame Tamaki for their own problems. It was a series with beautiful artwork and a fascinating story, but the characters let it down. Posts on Hiiro no Kakera found here:

Fate/Zero:

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How is it possible to turn a grail war involving ancient heroes and magic into one of the most tedious and dull experiences ever? Well, Fate/Zero manages that and does it in style with a brilliant soundtrack and wonderful animation that neither the story nor characters (with the exception of Waver and Rider) could ever match, that it became a series of monologues and discussions about who was the greatest instead of the heroes trying to chop each others arms of reinforces why this was a disappointing and largely boring series. Further thoughts found here:

Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam:

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I love the steam punk aesthetic, and I love Last Exile, a series that marries the brilliance of steam punk design with a story set in a fascinating world on the brink of collapse. Last Exile Ginyoku no Fam on the other hand was a shambolic mess that took an equally fascinating world with brilliant ship designs and wonderful animation, and turned it into a largely dull, and oddly bland series (considering how colourful it was). Everything was there to make a good sequel to one of the best anime series ever made, but due to terrible characters (thank you Fam, Giselle and Millia) all that potential was wasted. I did at least enjoy watching it a second time, but too much time was spent on Fam, a bland and actually rather annoying lead character that was wasted in the role. Further thoughts found here:

About illogicalzen
An Illogical anime fan in a very Zen-like way.

7 Responses to Disappointing Anime of 2012

  1. Robert Tene says:

    Do you honestly think Fate/zero was a disspointed anime? I think it was one of the best this year.

  2. DivineHand says:

    I want to disagree with what you have year since I tend to get upset whenever I see someone down Accel World for stupid reasons like main character is fat or make up bullshit like its too predictable but i can’t since what you have here is spot on. Hopefully the writers of these series reads this post

  3. Horia says:

    Really,Sword art online was dissapointing?

  4. Branden says:

    I’ve only seen SAO, and to me it is simultaneously the best and worst anime of 2012.(but it’s the only anime I saw last year XD) I personally loved it as it was shown through episode 14, and in my mind that’s where the series ended. I have surgically removed the remainder of what they showed from my mind, and deemed it to be mediocre fan fiction.

    I was fine with the side story approach of many of the first 14 episodes, The episodes weren’t even really from Kirito’s POV, which ,at least personally, has been something I’ve sorta wondered about in anime. Having a typical epic story told through the eyes of someone witnessing what was happening. I’m sure that was not intentional, and that effect was subtle at best if that is what was intended, but that is at least partially why I was ok with them as they were. I was also ok with the fact that they touched on many dark subjects, but didn’t totally darken the tone of the show. As Mary Poppins once said, “A spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down.” I think the general light-hearted atmosphere helped such oppressive dark themes be shown, but also dealt with. The show was paced and written in a way to never leave you in despair, it had a commentary on the dark subject matter that was optimistic. I don’t think you need to wallow in darkness to understand the dark elements. (the .hack// series sorta claimed that) I personally felt the the message it had to say about thriving even when hope seems lost was far more important than dwelling on darkness( which was more of a platform for discussion rather than the point of the story). I would be willing to agree that this approach is not for everyone, but I think it was a design choice rather than an oversight by the author.

    I do however do not defend anything that happened after episode 14, and any criticism you had for it is totally deserved, should be amplified by 1,000,000, and I want to never ever think about that part ever again I hated it so much lol!

    • illogicalzen says:

      While I do agree that having the series wallow in the darkness wouldn’t have necessarily helped it, I dont quite agree with the idea that it went in the right direction by merely skirting around the darker elements of the story. I liked much of its light-hearted approach to the story, but for me the world itself and all the other people within it was essentially abandoned, or forgotten about. Because of this much of the dread and the ever-present sense of danger was lost, which is unfortunate when the characters were apparently stuck in a proper life or death virtual world. The optimism was fine, and arguably needed for the story, but by largely ignoring the world, any sense that they were living within a dangerous virtual world was lost which somewhat spoiled my enjoyment of the series. In many respects it was because Sword Art Online couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be a light-hearted action series or a slightly more series action series, and it is this sort of disconnect and indecisiveness that often spoiled what could have been a better series.

      I quite enjoyed the side stories, but felt they were added at the wrong point, we never really saw the progression from episode one through to later episodes since the series started and suddenly Kirito and everyone else are high level and very powerful. This sort of time gap somewhat stunts the shows ability to add character or story progression since such a large chunk of time has been missed out. The major issue that Sword Art Online had of course was the second half with the introduction of Suguo, a classic example of Reki’s apparent inability to create an interesting antagonist. I quite liked parts of that second half since it showed us more of the world, but it was also the most boring arc with very little about it that could really be called good.

      To me the series slightly failed or disappointed because it couldn’t decide what sort of story it wanted to tell, and was indecisive about it having elements of light-hearted action, but darker parts as well that didn’t quite work together in any real way. From previous experiences Reki seems to be an author with a lot of ideas, but never quite uses them properly, something that may be largely due to the nature of what he is writing and the format that it takes. Light Novels (or broader light fiction) by their very nature are light fiction and rarely have the same sort of depth of character or story that a proper ‘book’ would have. I think the lack of proper darker elements is partly down to choice, but also because Reki missed his chance and instead focussed too much on Kirito and Asuna, since I think the lighter and darker elements of the story could have easily worked together. If we look at stories by Terry Pratchett for example you see lots of great humour, but also a darker and more serious edge or tone to them. However, regardless of whether it was choice or oversight, the terrible antagonist has to be because of Reki’s apparent inability to write good antagonists (same problem in Accel world). It was what I suggested it was, a series with a lot of potential that it never used, a disappointment.

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