As anime has grown into an internationally beloved art form, so too has the visual quality of the titles that it’s producing. Over the past few decades, innumerable series have been released that dazzle viewers with their animation quality, resulting in an entire subculture of fans whose primary reason for watching anime is the visual appeal.
However, for every great show with stellar animation like One Punch Man or Attack on Titan, there are countless others who lack the narrative elements to match their production levels. Among these lackluster series, a few stand out as being particularly unworthy of their animation.
Released in Spring 2016, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress centers around a young male protagonist and his attempts to save the world from the Kabane: semi-human abominations that have driven humanity to hide within giant walls for survival. The series’ production company, Wit Studio, also produced the similarly-themed Attack on Titan.
However, all the nuance of Attack on Titan is lost in this derivative title, resulting in a slog of a narrative that never gathers any steam. whileKabeneri of the Iron Fortress does little in terms of storytelling or world-building, it does offer visually pleasing scenes on a regular basis. The show’s steampunk atmosphere is a welcome reprieve from the more overused settings of the genre, and it also gives Wit Studio a chance to demonstrate their status as one of the best production studios in the world.
9 The Rolling Girls Showcases The Talents Of Wit Studio
For a show set in the wake of a politically-fractured Japan, The Rolling Girls possesses a surprisingly colorful and gorgeously feminine aesthetic. In reality, the societal backstory present in the series’ setting is, at best, a loosely addressed element that’s only purpose is giving The Rolling Girls‘ cast an excuse to visit new locales.
Wit Studio consistently releases anime with incredible animation and art, but more so than any of their other titles, the company’s desire to wow with visual spectacle is the sole driving force behind The Rolling Girls. This show is nothing more than a treat for the eyes, making it a huge disappointment given the studio’s track record of producing high-quality material.
8 Fate/Stay Night’s Ostentatious Fight Scenes Are All It Offers
Combat-driven anime were not always known for having beautiful art — thankfully, series like Fate/Stay Night became famous for bucking this trend. However, Fate/Stay Night‘s grandiose fight scenes only do so much to alleviate what feels like a jumbled, oversaturated mess of a narrative. Based on its successful light novel counterpart, Fate/Stay Nights anime adaptation attempts to cover the same breadth of narratives as its textual predecessor.
Were this done across a larger amount of episodes, perhaps it wouldn’t have been such a failed endeavor, but with only 24 episodes, the show ends up rushing over so many plot points that the viewer needs to consult a Fate/Stay encyclopedia just for context. While its overall story may be a let-down, at least the show provides some of the best-looking fight scenes in recent memory.
7 Celestial Method’s Narrative Fails To Match Its Visual Splendor
Produced by 3Hz — the studio set to release season two of The Devil Is a Part Timer!!, Celestial Method follows a group of friends seven years after they attempt to summon a flying saucer that would grant their wishes. Spoiler: it eventually shows up. Most fans would expect the Chekhov’s Gun of a UFO to be thoroughly explored at some point, but despite the saucer causing many of the issues that the characters must address, the show unsatisfyingly fails to shed much light on it.
Though much of Celestial Method is plagued by unrealized potential, the series’ never drops the ball in regard to its visual presentation. Although its character designs are nothing to write home about, Celestial Method expertly transitions between vibrant, breathing locales and gloomy, stifling landscapes.
6 God Eater Falls Victim To Overused Tropes
2015’s God Eater is one more in the long line of series blatantly inspired by shonen giants. As is the case with many derivative titles, it falls well-short of emulating the success it aimed to capture. A blatant rip-off of the “humanity trapped within large walls” trope, God Eaters characters are somehow even more banal than its dreadfully overused plot devices.
The show’s production studio, Ufotable, has become renowned for its visual prowess, having released stunning series like Demon Slayer, Fate/Zero, and others. In that regard, God Eater is another feather in their cap, but unfortunately, the rest of the show doesn’t hold up to this standard.
5 Nichijou – My Ordinary Life’s Animation Is So Good It Occasionally Feels Misplaced
Nichijou – My Ordinary Life is by no means a poorly made series — in fact, it’s one of the more endearing slice-of-life comedies to come out in the 2010s. It has a simple premise, understated character designs, and a wholesome overall tone, all of which work in its favor. However, those are not the traits of a series deserving of the ostentatious animation that Nichijou receives.
Scattered throughout the show are sequences that prove just how talented Kyoto Animation and its staff are. While many of these scenes are hilariously juxtaposed with the Nichijou‘s minimalist character designs, a fair share of them feel like the production company simply decided to flex its creative muscles.
4 The Garden Of Words Captures Natural Beauty
When a film depicts something as problematic as the relationship between a 15-year-old boy and a 27-year-old woman, the hope is that its creator approaches the material with requisite nuance and maturity. sorry, The Garden of Words falls short of this task. The film’s central romance doesn’t get enough time to develop in a mere 46 minutes, resulting in a hurried relationship that errs on the wrong side of being problematic, regardless of its potential.
Despite the film’s shortcomings, its creator, Makato Shinkai, is wonderful at generating narrative without dialogue, and The Garden of Words is no exception. With its breathtaking landscapes and intimate use of deep focus cinematography, this film is visually generative enough to make up for the vast majority of its shortcomings.
3 Guilty Crown Lacks Any Originality
Art naturally draws inspiration from their predecessors, and while there is nothing inherently wrong with trend, series like Guilty Crown are perfect examples of how this approach can be taken too far. An obvious amalgamation of popular shonen tropes, this Production IG (the company behind Haikyu!! and Psycho-Pass) title suffers from a contrived plot and overall unoriginality.
For all the pitfalls of this show, its production element is handled with absolute grace and consistency. Guilty Crown‘s scenes are dynamic, cinema-quality pieces of animation, and its excellent choreography results in fluid action sequences. If there is one thing that makes the series feel unique, it is almost certainly its visual spectacle.
2 Hanebado!’s Plot And Characters Are Consistently Underwhelming
Although sports anime aren’t necessarily known for their wonderful animation, Hanebado! certainly demonstrates the visual potential of the subgenre. Liden Films is known for their infamous 3D animation in 2016’s Berserk reboot, but their work on this badminton-centric series is some of the best in the past decade.
Centered around the adventures of Ayano Hanesaki, Hanebado! presents a tepid plot featuring a protagonist whose latent talent takes away any suspense that the underwhelming series would have been able to offer. What little commentary it does offer is the same hard work-versus-talent conversation used in every other anime, leaving only its visual spectacle as a reason to watch.
1 Sword Art Online Is Mediocre Minus Its Fantastic Production
Sword Art Online took the anime world by storm upon its release in 2012, but after the show’s initial pop subsided, it quickly started to lose favor with audiences. Following the release of its poorly received sequel, the franchise’s shoddy narrative and unbelievably talented characters finally became too much for audiences to handle, resulting in a huge drop-off in popularity.
One realm where the series doesn’t struggle, however, is its visual presentation. Sword Art Online‘s video game setting allows for some mind-blowing landscapes and structures, and the show’s villains feature some of the best designs in recent memory. Were the entire series as well-handled as its production element, then its protagonist Kirito, and his adventures would likely still be in favor with audiences.
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