(This is Part 5 of my 2015 Anime Review series. See Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 and Part 4 on more awards on as well as for certain background information and disclaimers with regards to this series of posts.)
Its finally back to what must be the most controversial part of the entire award series thus far. Be aware that my writing tone may be a little more .. harsh than normal. Onward!
*note: determined by its ratings in the online anime community, specifically MAL vs how much it deserves that rating.*
What it means for an anime series to be overrated is probably one of the more objective exercises in this award-giving process. Theoretically, it is measured by comparing the difference between how much an anime is talked about and wowed at by the general online anime community, and independently assessing the quality of the series without being influenced by the tastes of others. Naturally, there will be a few certain series in the lineup that are obvious candidates for this, and the results differ in the second part of the process – where one looks at this series alone, and thinks “So, how good is this?”
Of course, narrowing the pool down right at the start carries its own controversies. One may say that by limiting one’s choice right at the start, it pushes these talk-of-the-town names to the forefront even further, making fairness and unbiased judgment an even more futile goal as the more talked about a series is, the more inevitable it is going to labelled as being ‘overrated’.
To be honest, I wish I could flip this argument on its face by bringing up something that is not One Punch Man. Unfortunately, the hype it has generated is like the force of a tsunami wave, sweeping up all in its way – that it was impossible, right from before even experiencing the series for myself, not to expect something of Attack on Titan or Code Geass proportions. Even so, those acclaimed series had a fair share of haters, and rightful detractors, those who were able to logically and rationally argue why many flaws exist – which was inevitable, seeing that these series took themselves seriously and were ambitious enough to aim that high – where the way to the apex of the mountain is fraught with many obstacles, mostly in the form of narrative and pacing flaws, or overt otaku pandering in the form of fanservice, and of course, critical viewers who pounce on these nuggets of gold and present them proudly to the world.
Perhaps it is precisely because One Punch Man is inherently a satirical series that invites its viewers to poke fun of it, while laughing at itself, that it is harder to find flaws in it. Which is why the only arguments that detractors can make are probably more along the lines of – it is good but not good enough to warrant this cult-like following. Thus, this is probably the extent to which I can substantiate my view in that One Punch Man is probably the most overrated series of the year.
One Punch Man is an excellent series. It delivers top-notch entertainment through satirical humour, a refreshing hero protagonist, and interesting supporting characters that are foils of each other. It is also deep enough to draw social allegories in slightly thoughtful one-off lines about what heroism is meant to be, or how strength can be manifested in different forms, or even reflections of society in the form of the hierarchies of the Hero Association. It provides quality entertainment for both critical and non-critical audiences – two important requirements for immense, shoot-up-to-the-top-of-the-charts popularity.
This is probably why the hype surrounding is pretty understandable. But is One Punch Man really that good to garner a 9.04 rating in MAL, or to reign at the top of the list in IMDB? (I assume that the extent of its popularity extends towards all other anime discussion and rating platforms in the English language at the very least. Bear in mind that Chinese and Japanese audiences have vastly different tastes in anime.) Somehow, though both the (a) entertainment and (b) plot development, pacing and characters checkboxes are checked, there aren’t any overwhelming qualities for it to rise beyond being ‘solid’ or ‘good’.
To be fair, One Punch Man is not the single most obvious overt choice for this category. Your Lie in April was a slightly puzzling choice for Top 40 best anime of all time, as it’s more removed melodrama, that was comparable to say, Nagi no Asukara (which I LOVED), remained in the exclusive domain of the teenage years without the necessary literary and emotional connections to a slightly more mature audience. While we are at it, one of my favourite series ever, Kuroko no Basket Season 3 was probably more driven by its characters’ aesthetic appeal and associated fujoshi fandoms than the quality of its story, which was believable at best and overthrew its own standards of the proportions of its ‘supernatural effects’ at worst.
Perhaps I prefer a higher amount of depth or emotional connection, or relatability in my anime. Perhaps beyond awesome comedy and exciting action, I am searching for more – likely because this does not have to be done by anime. Perhaps this is merely a matter of subjective preference, and this is as far as I can go in objective evaluation before I end up in the swamps and marshes of my murky inner thoughts.
Winner: One Punch Man
Honourable Mentions: Your Lie in April, Kuroko no Basket Season 3
*personal subjective rant incoming. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.*
To be extremely honest, 2015 was largely a year of disappointments. There are so many series I can cram into this category that it is not even a joke. Even the better ones that emerged out of the lot were not the best the anime world could do. Just look at 2013 with its wildly and legitimately popular Attack on Titan, the master of storytelling Shinsekai Yori, the highly underappreciated Zetsuen no Tempest, the thought-provoking Psycho-Pass, the epitome of dreams & romance Sakurasou no Pet no Kanajo, the one and only Sunday Without God, the mindblowing installment of Little Busters -Refrain-, the ridiculously entertaining Kakumeiki Valvrave … and I haven’t even finished naming them. I don’t even want to go on because … …
So where do I even start? Perhaps with Arslan Senki, of which I hesitated going into and where my worst fears were proven true? That the fact that if there was one genre in anime that has disappointed me thus far is historical political intrigue, and Arslan Senki merely confirmed that? The plot was too simple, and the characters were either too impulsive, were easily tricked, or one-dimensional in their motivations that even political intellectual sparring landed on the rather predictable side. Does anybody also think that Arslan himself is a little too lucky to have such a band of useful, smart people around him helping him to achieve his goal? I admit, though, that my tastes in this particular genre are too spoiled by the Chinese. I am going back to my Chinese novels for my historical military tactics and political intrigue. But I shall stop here since nobody reads those around here and there are few who can actually understand my comparison.
If you totally disagreed with my above choice (which is perfectly fine, because we were exposed to different types of literature after all), perhaps I would find some agreement with Plastic Memories. It was not an inherently bad story, but it merely chose to embark on the romantic comedy route instead of diving deeper into its intriguing sci-fi premise and tying it back to its characters. By the time the disappointment had set in so much that it became impossible to appreciate the blossoming romance, sweet as it was, but emotionally lacking due to cliched characterisation.
Or maybe, most of us would agree that Owari no Seraph had a fundamentally disappointing first season in Spring 2015. Its mediocrity persisted through its second season through insensible plot developments, but was still entertaining enough to satisfy shippers of relationships and those who buy it’s homosexual and heterosexual hooks and the emergence of the nakama i.e. teamwork theme. It is however, still, the successful utilisation of a sure-win formula, as it still remains popular enough amongst its viewers.
Tokyo Ghoul Root A also fell flat from its climax at the end of Season 1. By choosing to diverge from the manga storyline and diving into its own, Tokyo Root A felt like an abstract piece of art in its second season. New characters appeared and died, no explanation given, just lots of emo-posing and hair fluttering in the grey winds … coupled with the most artistically expressive final episodes that I have ever seen in an anime. Which is a good thing if it was art, but not really for an anime series.
Uta no Prince Sama 1000% Revolutions was also a personal disappointment for me due to the shock created by its divergence from its fundamentals. What started out as a series marketing the reverse harem tag and where its first two seasons focused on guy to girl interaction had developed into one with bromance or yaoi undertones. Not that I have anything against bromance – I love it as a theme in certain other anime – but it was a jarring transition for a series meant to showcase guy-with-girl interaction, which was entirely uncalled for.
Winner: – no, I don’t really want to mention those titles again –
Back to the positives after the above two ‘downers’! Two of the series I have watched for 2015 are obvious choices for being either the most misunderstood or underappreciated of the year. By the effect of the first few episodes in the series, most people jump to certain conclusions how the series is going to be and then drop it without a second thought. Most of the time, they may very well be correct. However, there are some exceptions to which there is a need to highlight amongst the other heralded series.
The first obvious choice is Cross Ange: Tenshi no Ryuu no Rondo, which is dissed by most people due to its bold move to introduce trigger-warning topics (*minor spoiler start* suggested yuri rape *minor spoiler end*) at the end of its first episode. Things were certainly not made better in the next few episodes, which delivered dollops of blatant yuri fanservice and slow pacing, coupled with a perpetually moody and pissy female protagonist who behaved like an angsty asshole. However, those who stayed past, say, episode 6 or 7 were duly rewarded. The amount of fanservice was drastically reduced, and the complex plot that the story is set in starts to come to light. Ange undergoes shocking and tremendous character development throughout the whole series, and the backstories and motivations of its side characters are duly given attention so that it all ties into one of the most addictive and entertaining series of the season. The plot twists were well-developed and very unpredictable ones. Reminiscent of Code Geass and Kakumeiki Valvrave, this became a clear winner for me when I reached its second half, partly because it gets rarer for anime to venture out of its sure-proof money-making formulas to make good entertainment, but Sunrise has done it yet again, reminding me of the very reason why I still stick around watching anime even when I was disappointed by just about 80% of the series I watch nowadays.
The second choice is not so obvious, and it comes in the form of Classroom Crisis. Yes, you didn’t read that wrongly. Due to a deliberately misleading marketing ploy – the PVs promoted it as a high school romance comedy – people came into the series expecting something entirely different from what eventually expected. The slow first few episodes with seemingly no direction, and the long exposition of the background that was thrown at viewers at the episode 2 further fed into discontent. However, those who stayed past it … well … probably got one of the biggest shocks of their lives. What we got was semi-political and corporate intrigue with rocket research math and tech whiz kids thrown smack in the middle of it. It also managed to yield one of most unpredictable plot twists in 2015, comparable to those of Charlotte and Cross Ange. In fact, the corporate politicking got so confusing at one point I had to rewatch certain segments of it, and most people joked that Classroom Crisis should be renamed as Corporate Crisis instead. Yet, Classroom Crisis still managed to yield an enjoyable viewing experience to its intended target, by making the characters rather likeable by throwing in a healthy dose of high school comedy and certain romcom cliches.
If I had to choose a winner, Most Underappreciated would go to Classroom Crisis , since Cross Ange is itself controversial enough to attract a fair amount of fans and haters, and those curious enough to give it a try (me). Charlotte has in fact lured in a fair amount of viewers from the start, so it ultimately belongs more in the Most Disappointed category, evidenced by the throng of highly disappointed KEY and Jun Maeda fans. Classroom Crisis still remains relatively unknown, and it simply is too much of waste for such a rarely explored theme of corporate intrigue to sink to the depths of the unknown just like that.
Winner: Classroom Crisis
Honourable Mentions: Cross Ange: Tenshi no Ryuu no Rondo, Charlotte
That just about concludes all the awards/’titles’ I have for all the 2015 anime I have watched thus far. Should I move on to Top Couples, Top Characters and Top Anime for 2015? I need an opinion from you guys 🙂 Nevertheless, thank you for reading and sticking with me thus far, and feel free to like or comment on anything!