Mediocrity VS. Squandered Potential

(Not-Good shows VS. Good shows with Bad Parts)

Some shows make you angry

My review for Guilty Crown got me thinking about this issue I have in rating anime, so I figured I’d expound upon this conundrum I frequently come across in giving ratings. Let me tell you the story of two very similarly scored shows. The first is Your Lie in April, which I scored at 8.0 / 10, and the second is Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online which I scored 8.1 / 10. YLiA is a beautiful, artistic, and emotional journey with beautifully poetic symbolism, imagery, and music. It’s a deliberately framed story that uses music – particularly classical music – as a vehicle for a raw examination of character growth exploring the effects of trauma, illness, self-confidence, and love.

Seriously, watch YLiA if you haven’t

SAOO:GGO is a short spinoff of Sword Art Online with fun militaristic tactics and action, coupled with good animation, a decent soundtrack, and a little bit of SAO’s signature “virtual avatar vs. real life” examination. On paper, YLiA is a lot more mature, artistic, and can be called a work of art, whereas GGO is a piece of decent entertainment: a diversion, nothing more. And yet GGO has a slightly higher rating.

I rated SAOA:GGO higher, but you can take it or leave it. Wait, what?

That’s because GGO doesn’t have anything in it that I would deem as “bad.” There wasn’t anything that detracted from my enjoyment of it. There were no moments that I felt were done poorly, that distracted from other elements of the show, or otherwise were upsetting/disappointing. While there wasn’t much to GGO that made me do deep introspection, or sit in awe of artistic beauty, I never rolled my eyes.

YLiA on the other hand was chock full of distracting tidbits that were very bothersome. First there’s the use of the general “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” trope. Then there’s the undertone of “Child abuse is done out of love,” then there’s the tonal dissonance of many moments of “anime comedy” that are clearly targeted toward middle schoolers that come across as very obnoxious and make it difficult to invest yourself emotionally.

This is later explained as “her way of showing love.” Yeah, no.

In short, YLiA’s score is a “penalty” score or a “made me mad” score.  Without the parts I disliked, YLiA would be close to a 9.3 or 9.4. If you removed the parts I disliked from GGO, it wouldn’t change much. The good in YLiA is much better than the good in GGO, but with how often YLiA dropped the ball and had clumsy moments, my overall experience at the end of the day was that it was just a bit less enjoyable.

Even mediocre shows can be more enjoyable if they don’t actively have bad parts.

There are lots of shows that I give these “penalty scores” to. A lot of people don’t notice or aren’t bothered by those things, and that’s great! Here’s a list of some shows and what things prevented them from getting a higher score from me.

Is it better to have a good show with bad parts, or just a mediocre show with no bad parts?

Penalty Zone

5 Centimeters Per Second – Squandered potential; a good setup without the follow through. Could’ve taken this from a 6.1 to a high 7 or low 8

.hack//SIGN – Poor animation, Poor audio balance, poor pacing. Improvement on those could have taken this from a 2.5 to an 8.5

A Certain Magical Index (all installments) – Recycled “jokes”, excess of exposition, lack of creativity in fight dynamics, bland protagonist, overly complex and complicated, tasteless ecchi. Given a 4.0, could’ve been a mid 8.

Angel Beats – Tonal whiplash of serious/emotional and childish nonsense, as well as contrived ending. Given a 6.6, could have been a low 8.

Castlevania (in general for all seasons) – Tries hard to prove how adult it is which has the reverse effect, simple animation (for scenes with no action) feels very stiff, comedic relief is generally stale. Was mostly in the 8.0 range, could have been 8.8

Charlotte – Similar sins to Angel Beats, milked an emotional moment too far that cheapened it. 7.3, could have been 8.0

DanMachi – Ecchi abundance can get tedious, Hestia is obnoxious, and the bouncy ED ruins emotional endings of episodes. Is 7.9, could be 8.6

Evangelion (as a whole) – Goes too far off the rails for too long without re-grounding. Average of 8.6ish could have been average of 9.6ish

Fate/Stay Night – Poor animation, obnoxious chauvinist self-important protagonist. Was 6.9, could have been low 8.

Fate/Stay Night[UBW] – Protagonist has the same “why are you good” conversation with no actual depth multiple times, causing me to not care as much for the protagonist because I find less admirable about him. Was 7.8, could have been mid 8. 

Flip Flappers – Final few episodes feel like they toss out what’s been established thus far. Was 8.6, could have been 9.2

Guilty Crown – Too many characters with great backstory and motivations get completely disregarded in exchange for cool moments. Character whiplash of being actually evil, but actually good. Raises stakes too high, changes the entire premise of the show multiple times. Animation is stiff yet art is great. Was 5.8, could have been high 8, low 9.

Helpful Fox Senko-San – Strong pedophilic overtones and reinforces toxic ideas about consent and entitlement. Uncomfortable fan-service. Was a 4.8, could have been a high 7

Monogatari Series (as a whole) – Frequent ecchi (often with 14 and 15 year old sisters of the protagonist) that faces no consequence. Varies in the 5-8 range, could otherwise be high 8s.

Naruto – Obnoxious protagonist, SO MUCH FILLER, and frequent complete forgiveness for mass murderers. Is a 6.7, could have been a low 8.

No Game No Life – Protagonist is a disrespectful, arrogant, ass of a human. But since he’s So Smart from playing games all day, everyone worships him and his rudeness and recklessness faces no consequence. 7.1 that could have been a mid 8.

Overlord – Too many narrative threads get started and then never resolve; it’s hard to know where any story is actually going. 7.6 that could have been mid 8.

Plastic Memories – Squandered potential. What seems like an interesting exploration of humanity and emotion (a la Westworld) becomes a cheap romance with tropey characters. Was 7.3, could have been 8.4ish.

WorldEnd (SukaSuka): Tries far too hard for immersive worldbuilding that ends up being very cluttered and distracting, leaving no room for emotional development or connection to characters. Was 5.6, could have been high 7.

Sword Art Online (Most installments): Too often villains are over-the-top Pure Evil with little to no humanity and it’s too easy to absolutely loathe them that it isn’t interesting. There’s also the frequency of using sexual assault as proof of their villainy that it’s very uncomfortable. Often in the low 8, could be low-mid 9.

WWW.Wagnaria – Too many relationships develop too quickly, and with unlikeable characters. Was 5.7, could have been mid 7.

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