Toons of the 2000s: Anime We Hope Never Come to America
Japanese animation has hit many high notes over the years and in this decade. Yet for all of that success, any anime fan that’s been paying attention to Japan’s latest knows that a lot of anime gets made that is flat out mediocre, if not downright terrible. For lack of better ideas, fanservice is too often used as a crutch, and sometimes you get an original idea that’s so wacky that you just can’t understand how it ever got off of the drawing board. Have you ever heard of this anime where a soda can turns into a girl after it gets drunk? No? Excellent. Continue to be blissfully unaware. Needless to say, there are no shortage of Japanese cartoons we are better off without. Here, we have set our sights on five particularly (un)deserving anime that the U.S. market has been mercifully spared. Come with us as we take a wrecking ball to the lame, the perverted, and the absurd duds of anime. With any luck, they will continue to stay on the other side of the Pacific.
5. School Days
It started off so innocently. Makoto, a first year high school student, is falling hard for the bookworm beauty Kotonoha. While they both make the same commute to school, she hardly knows that he exists, and Makoto can’t work up the nerve to approach her. Before long his outgoing friend and classmate Sekai catches on to the crush and successfully manages to play matchmaker. Makoto and Kotonoha start to date, and all seems well…until it’s made abundantly clear that Sekai has feelings for Makoto at the end of the first episode. Ah, romantic drama. Unfortunately, this 12 episode series fails to improve at all from this relatively normal starting premise. Still, there are a lot of unremarkable anime out there that simply fail to distinguish themselves and get labeled as “generic” by critical fans. So what makes this case truly awful? The answer is that School Days isn’t generic. It doesn’t just fail to improve; it takes the selling points of its genre and then unapologetically executes their exact opposites.
Likable characters falling in love? Nope, sorry, it doesn’t ever really happen. Here most characters are rather messed up, and Makoto isn’t written for laughs. He isn’t your standard dumb klutz, nor is he a straight man to a harem of women that he can barely keep in line. In this situation, that is truly a massive shame, for here is a character in need of humbling. He’s with Kotonoha and gets bored with her when she holds off his aggressive advances, so he switches to Sekai behind her back. What follows is a revolting downward spiral of idiocy as Makoto has his way with Sekai and at least six other secondary characters, with everyone either fooled or all to willing to take it off for Makoto, since the writers willed it to be so. Poor Kotonoha, meanwhile, resists obvious evidence and suffers immense stress as she spends most of the series trying to convince herself that she’s really still together with Makoto. Why must this be? Who knows. Needless to say, forget about humor and fun; there is literally none to be found here. This is 100% bad soap opera drama all of the way. Now for drama, Rumbling Hearts is pretty serious and depressing, but unlike School Days it has serious emotional weight since it actually remembered to write its characters like real people. As if all this weren’t enough, everything ends with one character completely snapping and brutally murdering Makoto for his duplicity. After this, one of the girls is killed, and I’ll spare the details as this site is family-friendly. Yes, that’s really how it ended. Not only that, but the visual novel this came from had 21 different endings in its canon, some far better than others. But that trainwreck of a story was the one they inexplicably decided to adapt.
Sex, constant betrayal, twisted writing, and murder – I suppose one could be charitable and say that this is a big lesson that being a philandering neanderthal that manipulates people’s feelings doesn’t pay off, but let’s be honest: there is no real entertainment value to speak of here, let alone redeeming value. If you enjoy watching human beings at their worst or like final episodes that appease some dark corner of your soul, School Days is for you. Otherwise, it’s an awful mess that doesn’t have any business sitting on a store shelf in the United States.
Contributed by Karl Olson
The elements that make up Chokotto Sister: a sister complex, a harem setting, lots of fanservice, lolicon pandering – these aren’t by themselves reasons to claim the show should never come to the US. After all, the same elements are pretty much found throughout Funimation’s Moonphase and Bandai’s Please Twins. That itself, however, is a warning sign, as those series didn’t fare well with either anime critics or consumers. No, the problem is that Chokotto doesn’t even manage to be as interesting and well-executed as those titles.
Plenty of anime have absurd settings, particularly harems, but Chokotto Sister leads off with Santa Claus (a sexy Santa Claus at that) dropping off the little sister the lead protagonist asked for about a decade after the protagonist had asked for said sister. Rather than use that as a springboard for some surreal, sharp comedy, it usually tries to take itself seriously while maintaining a very, very regular stream of fanservice. The service not only distracts from and undermines their attempts to give the series a thoughtful side, but it gets in the way of good pacing and direction. Further still, the attention to detail put into the fanservice results in mediocre animation elsewhere throughout the series. Thus, even when the viewer might finally buy into a piece of backstory, they’re often jarred out of the show with a very detailed, half-naked, full-body pan of a elementary school girl (gross). There are attempts at humor too, but again, these are over-shadowed by the service and/or undermined by weak direction. To put it another way, it’s not even a good adaptation of the source manga, which at least was visually consistent and fairly concise.
In short, between the lukewarm reception of better titles and the overall creepiness of the show, Chokotto Sister is better off never turning up here.
Contributed by Karl Olson
And we continue on the sister complex trend. Kiss X Sis is visually solid, with a respectable pedigree. The source manga was written by Bow Ditama, author of the quintessential maid manga, Mahoromatic. However, where Ditama led the maid trend, he’s behind-the-curve with Kiss X Sis. Two sisters vying for the affections of the male lead? That’s Please Twins. The sisters are twins? That’s Futakoi. Weird, incorrigible parents? That turns up too often to pick one show.
To make matters worse, it’s a very faithful adaptation of the source material, and well, there was a good reason Gainax messed around with the arrangement and pace of Mahoromatic so much. Mahoromatic needed that to be an interesting anime rather than a clumsy fanservice fest. However, Kiss X Sis is left in the hands of a studio whose previous work had largely been animation assistance roles, and it shows here. Though it never really suffers in the animation department, the direction seems almost absent; the fanservice takes center stage, mitigating the attempts to give the characters depth. The character design makes the main characters look younger than they are, and the fanservice is sometimes surprisingly explicit, making it all that much worse. In short, with a little rearranging and restraint, it wouldn’t have made it to the list, but the absence of a more experienced studio nails the coffin shut.
Plus, Kiss X Sis, like other anime on this list, shares too much with various anime that have already come over to the states and flopped. We’ve been down this road, and it doesn’t lead much of anywhere even when it’s done right. Maybe the upcoming TV remake will make the changes it takes to not be “worst of the decade”-bad, but it’ll never be bold or fresh. Hopefully Charger Girl Ju-den Chan, another mediocre Ditama adaptation, also stays off US shelves.
So it turns out that this show is produced by a company known as M.O.E. The obvious jokes and jests about this delightful acronym aside, you really don’t get much more niche than this. What we have here is essentially a parody of the Tokusatsu genre and Japanese superheroes. On the most basic level, the story actually doesn’t sound too bad. Once upon a time, the superhero UFO Man (a homage to and parody of Ultraman) fought an evil giant monster – of course! – but inadvertently killed three girls who were foolishly trying to watch the fight up close. Being the hero that he is, UFO Man brings them back to life by sharing his powers with them. Naturally there is a catch; UFO Man loses most of his power and becomes unable to grow to the size of a building, so it’s up to the trio of girls to use their newfound gifts to fight evil.
So what’s the problem? By now, some of you might be remembering “Sugar, spice, and everything nice!” Unfortunately, this is no Japanese version of The Powerpuff Girls. We aren’t that lucky. You see, when the girls transform to fight, their costumes start to dissolve bit by bit until there’s nothing left at all. Why? Because humiliation and embarrassment are the emotions that awaken their powers and allow them to ultimately defeat monsters. There it is, that’s pretty much the hook for this show. Needless to say, it isn’t exactly surprising to learn that there was only enough material for 12 thirteen minute episodes. You can only get so much humor and cheap titillation from a giant-sized girl becoming progressively more unclothed. Its status as yet another forgettable vehicle for fanservice aside, it’s also limited by the fact that it’s making fun of a Japanese genre that even many western anime fans aren’t very familiar with. It’s too short, it’s too shameless, and it has little to nothing to offer to an English-speaking audience. Outside of Japan, this show is doomed from the start, and quite frankly, we aren’t missing out.
Contributed by Karl Olson
The manga this anime is based off of came within a hair’s breadth of sitting on US shelves. The translation was done, and copies were printed and ready to be shipped nationwide under the title Nymphet. However, it was pulled. Was it because it’s poorly done? No, both the anime and manga are well-illustrated, and though the anime is considered by fans to be poorly adapted at points, its technical aspects are solid – not great, but not bad. So what makes Kodomo no Jikan, a title that doesn’t have obvious technical strikes against it (unlike some of the others on this list), the top title we’d never like to see come to America? Let’s start with the plot description.
A newly-minted grade school teacher is romantically pursued by one of the 3rd grade girls in his class. Not just a little bit, but explicitly. As the plot develops, the girl ends up in a sort of co-dependent relationship with her oedipus/sister-complex having brother, much to the concern of the now perhaps-interested school teacher.
You can see why Seven Seas ultimately backed off the manga. Keep in mind, Seven Seas is currently releasing the fairly lolicon-heavy manga Dance In The Vampire Bund, and they felt Kodomo no Jikan was over even that line.
Since the anime tightly follows the manga, it’s definitely not a series for the US. To put it another way, 44 seconds into the first episode, you’ve got a whole classroom full of half-naked 3rd grade girls changing on screen, and that’s the broadcast edit. Unbelievably, it’s downhill from there in terms of creepiness. I mean, a lot of the titles on our list have had the lolicon element in play, but none of them come close to Kodomo no Jikan. It’s not only the girl doing the seducing: she does so with virtually no subtlety.
I mean, Kodomo no Jikan’s lolicon element is so exploitative and pervasive that, in the wake of a scandal where a school principal was revealed to be an notorious child pornographer, one of the networks slated to carry the anime actually backed out because they worried about possible public relations problems. Yes, even in Japan, Kodomo no Jikan is so close to over the line that one similar scandal was enough to cause second thoughts. As I mentioned earlier, lolicon titles really don’t sell in America as it stands, but Kodomo would get The National Institute on Media and the Family up in arms. The anime industry doesn’t need this soaking up animators and money, but in the US? Absolutely, positively not.