I think i mentioned it somewhere that it wasn’t until 2007 that i first began watching anime and reading manga with gusto, having had little exposure prior, precluding YuGiOh! which is devoured with intensity during my earlier years.
Sufficing to say my approach to anime and manga is a little different now than it was a few years back, a little less discerning; it was probably because my exposure to anime back then was so limited that i pretty much devoured whatever i encountered-so long as it fell within specific battle oriented categories.
Only now, with my tastes slowly expanding and transforming, can i say that i have gathered a pretty intricate perspective on anime, at least based on what i have watched and read; and its only now, after so many years that i can begin to appreciate just what anime and manga has to offer as a pretty unique medium of entertainment and, more importantly, all the flaws that it has been known to present to its viewers.
Though that description might in itself present some issues; after all how do you separate a fault, a failing, from an attribute; it’s like complaining that no one ever dies in comic books, not taking into account that the triviality of death is a deep rooted attribute and characteristic of the comic book universe, if it is to continue down its current structure of story telling.
In this post i attempt to cover all those elements and factors of anime and manga that i have found irksome and irritating over the years.
Though i would qualify that by saying that not every element or attribute mentioned in this post is applicable to anime in general, but rather specific facets, types, genres of anime that i have come across.
Equally important is the fact that the negative nature of some of the elements mentioned is only determined by their usage; in other words certain elements might prove irksome in one scenario but brilliant in another; most times it comes down to execution.
So, without further delay, what irritates me, sometimes even downright infuriates, me about anime:
1. NAKAMA POWER- I intend to elaborate on this issue in another post, but for now i will say that there is probably no bigger sin that has ever been introduced in anime than this irritation known as nakama power. The idea that the outcome of battle would be determined by the feelings and positive hopes one one party makes my blood boil.
I was highly amused while watching this one anime in which, after spouting a grand speech on heroic ideals and determination and wanting to protect others, the hero found himself soundly defeated by an enemy that went on to remind him that no amount of resolve could close the distance in strength between them.
Even within the fictional world of anime one expects a level of logic and realism to prevail; and there is no plausible realm in which great resolve can translate into raw power and skill, and 99% of the anime that utilize this concept are completely ruined by the presence of Nakama power.
Notice that even Dragon ball z, the cliché of cliché’ anime, somehow managed to avoid the use of nakama power, instead depending on ridiculous power ups, a silly tool still way more justifiable than Nakama power.
Note worthy examples include almost everything in Fairy tail, One piece to an extent; though bleach [sort of] escapes this category, instead finding its poison elsewhere. Not forgetting Guilty Crown
Acceptable uses of the concept can be found in Gurren Luggan and History’s Strongest Disciple. Though series like Blood+ and Fullmetal Alchemist has proven this concept largely unnecessary.
2. RANDOM POWER UPS- I HATE random power ups almost as much as i detest Nakama power, and while it fares more positively in comparison Nakama power, the sudden emergence of hidden abilities, earth shattering powers, never before hinted upon weapons will destroy the credibility of an anime (at least in my eyes) faster than the dumbest plot holes.
And the coincidence of all such circumstances, always timed to unleash in time to contend with some unstoppable force, rendering any strategy or battle plans meaningless.
And yes i consider Ichigo’s sudden uber hollowification against Uluquiora to be a random power up, just one of the few that worked but only because the Esparda’s defeat by any other means would have been, as otaku like to say, an ass pull.
And here’s where i appreciate series like Naruto and One piece that showcase a primary protagonist’s slow rise to power; because the majority of shonen anime depend upon sudden power ups to turn wimpy incompetent heroes into formidable opponents to near invincible villains.
One wonders why they create such powerful villains if rationally defeating them will eventually prove impossible outside some previously unknown super saiyan mode.
And am now hearing rumours that Hunter X Hunter does just this with Gon during the Chimera ant arc; though one can only assume that, given Togashi’s track record, he, along with the likes of Gurren Luggan, will be one of a few that can pull this off brilliantly.
3. GENIUS PROTAGONISTS- Its difficult to believe that some years back many Naruto fans were floating the idea that the series would have been better off with Sasuke as the lead, which doesn’t make sense because natural born geniuses in anime strip the tension out of most story lines, making things seem too easy.
There is no place for geniuses in anime and manga outside of support roles or as antagonists; thought its worth mentioning that those anime which effectively utilize genius protagonists balance them out with even smarter villains and acceptably challenging obstacles. Just look at Death note where no victory was achieved without considerable struggle.
4. BATTLE GENIUSES- Back to picking on the big 3; I am talking about characters that, while barely average in intelligence, will walk onto the battle field against a superior opponent and almost always emerge victorious, always adapting in the last instant against a power initially overwhelming to them.
And this pretty much describes Ichigo, always spending the better part of an hour getting skewered and battered, only to discover the opponents weakness through pure observation when challenging an invisible attack, or gaining that extra boost of speed to match a demonically fast enemy.
It’s always the same dumb nonsense, that an ability to adapt in the field can literally serve you against any and all enemies, one wondering just how discovering your enemy’s weaknesses after an hour’s battle will aid you at a point in time where you should be in no physical shape to achieve victory.
It’s probably why i appreciated Jiraiya’s death so much in Naruto, that even after discovering the enemy’s true power, he found himself incapable of doing anything other than sending this information off to his pupil, dying in the process.
A lesser mangaka would have eliminated that particular plot, instead having Naruto display uncharacteristic intelligence in the midst of battle.
5. NAKAMA- Maybe there was something initially endearing to this concept upon its conception who knows how far back, but i am tired of anime and manga that possess little to no plot outside of the protagonist’s need to defend his nakama.
This term has been severely misused in story telling, the topic of many grand speeches to justify one unnecessary conflict after another.
6. FAN SERVICE- It would be a strange otaku that would complain about the presence and level of fan service in Queen’s blade, because that’s pretty much all the series is about. However one such Otaku would be more than justified in making the same complaint against a series like Freezing Vibration, essentially attempting to take a darker tone with its story but ruining the tension created by attacks that do little more than rip cloth and expose flesh.
Fan service has its place in anime, and a few splashes here and there in even the most serious anime isn’t likely to disparage its quality. Unfortunately most fan service proves to be quite unnecessary.
I should also probably mention the weird and unrealistic body sizes and proportions.
7. WHINY VILLAINS- I have elaborated on this fault in a separate post detailing the traits of a great villain. And reiterating those complaints, i have just about had it with villains in anime and manga whose primary purpose in life seems to be to elicit sympathy from the audience.
That so many villains these days have to berate use with a sob story about their lives, that we are expected to forgive and relate to fiendish characters whose only saving grace is the ridiculously unrealistic levels of torture they underwent during their youth; that almost all anime today end with the hero and villain weeping incessantly over the course their lives took. It irritates me to no end, that anime cannot bring to us some truly evil villains.
Tortured pasts and complicated origin stories do not necessarily make great villains.
8. GRATUITOUS VIOLENCE- I have come across what i would refer to as some considerably strange otaku who will not touch an anime unless it spills blood and guts in liberal amounts. I don’t get the appeal.
Action series devoid of blood in any form are unrealistic and make absolutely no sense. However there are series whose only selling point is the glorious amounts of blood spilt in each episode.
Too many anime series use gore for shock’s sake, attempting to keep fans glued to the screen with the promise of a thousand unique and gruesome deaths. It’s the reason i failed to watch Final Destination, which is just one massive death fest.
Great offenders here include Afro Samurai and Shigurui. Again i understand the place gore has in anime; however more than half of the bloody anime i have come across felt like they were forcing gore for gore’s sake.
9. LENGTHY BATTLES- I wrote a post on this particular topic a while back, comparing short and long battles in anime. And i remember concluding that both forms of battle had a role to play in an anime, and how positive a long or short battle proved to be was always determined by the the circumstances in play.
In other words there are times where lengthy battles are indeed a necessity. This unfortunately doesn’t apply to most anime, who have no problem allowing duels to run into the dozens of episodes at a time.
Most such anime simply fail to keep the clashes fresh, and over time the battles become repetitive, basically bringing to the screen too many of the intricacies of the fight, basically a blow by blow telling.
10. COMPLEX TERMINOLOGY- One of several reasons mecha as a genre simply doesn’t appeal to me; the idea that an anime would waste precious minutes explaining to us viewers the intricacies of some of these scientific and engineering concepts simply baffles me.
I understand the need to create realism in one’s story, but do we need to waste time listening to characters blurting out gibberish about how the central triflorating coil impacts the heating of the semi concrete switch.
90% of all mecha and sci-fi series feel the need to fill us in on how their false science works. Outside of actual elements of an anime that are key to understanding the concept that drives a series, they all need to stop.
11. UNYIELDING PROTAGONISTS- During my first two hundred episodes of One Piece is seriously considered dropping the series, not because of its quirky style but primarily due to Luffy, a hero that, no matter how many times he was decimated by his enemy, always got up, again and again, ready to take loads more punishment.
Now am not saying that Luffy never went down during those initial 200-400 episodes; I am saying that when he did go down, he still stood up to face his opponent once more, most definitely unconscious but none the less indomitable.
I am curious. Medically speaking if i snatched a club up and knocked a human being down, unconscious and all, would it be within their ability to rise up none the less and continue engaging in battle? Because i might be wrong and Luffy could well be within the limits of reality.
12. BATTLE MONOLOGUE- I understand why combatants would choose to express themselves in battle; what i don’t understand is why any being of average intelligence would decide to reveal the secrets of his ability to his enemy.
I mean, isn’t that part of the strategy, keeping your enemy guessing and basically ambushing them during a fight? I get that we the viewers need to understand what is going on in a given scene, but writers could be smarter about educating anime fans.
It’s probably for this reason that i still appreciate the old Samurai X anime, that each major clash included a bystander that basically provided us, the viewers, a blow by blow of the fast paced events occurring on the battle field; that’s actually a more believable tool that Kenshin simply spilling to Sato the rational of his legendary skill.
13. INBALANCED CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT- Krillin says it all. I would have had much greater appreciation for Ichigo’s growth during Bleach’s progress if there was anything akin to favourable development for support characters such as Rukia and Sado.
Anime series, especially those with large casts, need to learn to provide balanced development to all core cast members of any given stories. The idea of a single character driving the success of an entire story is long obsolete.
14. THE ONE- This harks back to my 13th point; the idea of that so called singular hero born and bread and chosen to rise, rule, save the world has a tendency to turn me off. Though, as i have mentioned before, certain series have the uncanny ability to pull tropes such as this off brilliantly.
Again it all comes down to execution; and anime that choose to gush over a single core character at the expense of all other important characters will kill an anime for me.
15. AMATEUR HEROES- Now this isn’t necessarily a criticism, but more of a…consideration. I understand the idea of anime, especially shonen, being targeted primarily towards certain audiences; but i can’t be the only one to notice that 95% of all heroes in all anime universes a younger than 12 years of age.
The idea that, on a vast planet of diversely skilled individuals, one ten year old stands as the best hope of humanity against one threat or another. This was my problem with copellion (Anime), whose organization had the opportunity to engineer their heroes into being rather than simply choosing them from the masses.
And they still chose to create restrictively skilled high school age girls and boys. I sometimes find myself rolling my eyes at the idea of a 7 year old acting no different from a 30 year old, commanding great power and respect and displaying even greater wisdom.
And again this isn’t always a bad thing; after all i love Naruto. But some of these kids shouldn’t even know how to tie their shoe laces, yet i am supposed to believe that they can concoct genius level strategies and pilot super robots?
16. WHINY CHARACTERS/CONFLICTED HEROES- I think most Otaku will have at some point encountered these most irritating of characters. More often than not, the most conflicted heroes are also the most whiny. You know them, those protagonists that simply cannot make their minds up, will spend most of the series fleeing from responsibility or a calling, whining and crying about their supposedly poor lives, before finally making an appearance at the end.
I can probably accept a little whining, but characters spending nearly two thirds of the series weeping extremely irritate me.
17.USLESS FEMALE CHARACTERS-
I have to confess; i have come across very few female characters in anime and manga that i actually like; and it has nothing to do with the fact that so many of them play little more role than the damsel in distress…okay maybe that’s partly the problem.
However i am most irked by how useless most of them are to the plots of their respective series, besides contributing to fan service and ecchi components.
18. BEACH EPISODES-
I get it; they’re filler, supposed to allow us a glimpse into the lives of our protagonists as they wind down from the stress of daily life, should be funny, supposed to be enlightening, but i am sick to death of them.
If every anime chose to strike these beach/camping episodes from their structures, i would be greatly pleased. The only exception i have found is Another, which actually used the beach episode to pull off a shocking death.
19. CONTRADICTING AGES- Characters with 12 year old bodies that are supposedly several years older-for the record, i am not talking about vampires and the like, but basically human characters; this goes back to my complaint about a silly abundance of teen and pre teen heroes, which is what most such anime do, supposedly bringing older and more mature protagonists to situations, but still determined to bring a child like attitude and atmosphere to the series.
20. PAEDOPHILIA- There are certain anime series that can pull off some innocently funny situations between considerably older and considerably younger characters. Most however come off as quite disturbing.
And that’s it for this rant about those dark sides of anime that infuriate me; though strangely enough, its because this is anime we are talking about that i am not actually advocating for any of these to get eliminated from basic anime story telling.
Anime has a reputation for taking the mundane and squeezing magic out of it; i am certain that, by putting their heads together, anime writers, producers, creators can take any of these elements and transform them into items that can generate considerable entertainment.