So as I said in the Heaven’s Feel – Presage Flower review, I don’t give myself the chance to talk about old anime all that often because of how much I like staying in the present combined with how a lot of today’s anime fandom really isn’t interested in looking back on the past.
Well okay I’m exaggerating somewhat. There are a lot of anime fans still discussing some of the big hits of yesteryear like Code Geass and Gurren Lagann as well as reviving interest in series that were once thought to be long dead like Planetes or Sora no Woto. Yoko Litner cosplay is never going to die anytime soon either. But if we were satisfied with just going back to the past for anime, we wouldn’t be complaining about Netflix’s refusal to simulcast shows outside of Japan now would we?
And even with all of the attention we still give Lagann to this very day, most fans of today would rather watch a Youtube video about how Aggretsuko is a kids’ show for adults than another attempt to make GAR a relevant meme again. Nostalgia doesn’t quite work the same way in anime as it does in video games, and if I’m being honest, it’s a viewpoint that I support. We should all learn from the past, but we shouldn’t be chained down by it. Because when you do, you get whiny nostalgia-blinded assholes who talk about how anime has gone to shit and there are no good studios anymore and how Akira is the only film worth watching. Oh yeah, because Brainpowerd was totally worth watching, wasn’t it? Hey, you want to watch Fushigi Yugi? It totally holds up. Honest!
But even when we move on from the past, we shouldn’t forget it. Especially not the mistakes that were made, because otherwise how would the industry learn? It’s important to remember the positives too of course, but one thing that’s great about anime is how it can surprise us with something we didn’t expect, and sticking to what worked is a quick and easy way to sink yourself into mediocrity. Just look at all of those godawful Evangelion clones that littered the anime charts in the early-00s if you want proof of that.
Since it’s going to be a while before the next review and I’m feeling somewhat nostalgic at the moment, I decided to take a look back at the year 2009 (aka the year where anime was in the middle of a dead period that began in 2008 to my knowledge and most of my colleagues from my generation got their start) to remind myself what anime was like back then and holy crap did the nostalgic waves of excitement and disappointment flood into me like the Atlantic Ocean after the Titanic decided it was better to try avoiding the iceberg than it was to crash headfirst into it.
To keep things short, in the image displayed above this paragraph, I have a list I’ve made of all of the big anime from that time using Anichart and some of the anime ranking sites, most of which aren’t popular anymore, and when you look at this list, a majority of you will probably wonder how any of these were ever popular in the first place. Trends and tastes change with time of course, but were our options so limited at the time that Princess Lover (the non-hentai version) would be a hit? And how many of these things that we loved back then actually hold up now?
I dunno what to say, but I do know that it’s time to have some fun with this list, and what better way to look back on the past than with good old top fives? Now I never made top lists for anything prior to 2015 when I brought them back, mostly because I didn’t take watching anime seriously enough to fill those lists accurately before then. Plus, looking back on those lists, I feel like I could have done better with reviving them. But you know what I realized? If I just restrict myself to what was big at the time, I can easily make top lists for the anime of yesteryear. Not sure how far back, but enough to get out of the 2010s from the look of things.
And when you get down to it, it’s as good a restriction for a top list as any. Whenever I make a worst anime list, I hardly ever put something that’s too obviously bad on it because, well, what were you expecting from the anime equivalent of shovel ware? On the flipside, I rarely like anything that’s not a hit despite many people claiming in the past that I have “edgy opinions”, which is a viewpoint on me I will continue to argue against despite the futility in doing so. Let me be frank: I hate it when people settle for mediocrity that was made to satisfy low goals just because the rest of the playing field is enormously shit. Yes there are some under appreciated anime I wish got a lot bigger than they actually did, but we can go into more detail on my feelings regarding that another time.
For now, let’s start with beating down the inexplicably popular crap first, because it’s best to get the hate over with so we can end things on a good note. Also, similar to when I changed up the anime reviews starting with Made in Abyss, I’m going to experiment with a new writing style for this top five list in order to make it stand out from all of the other rankings that are littering the Internet, and if it goes well, I’ll keep using this style in the future. You guys ready? Let’s count down the top five worst big anime of 2009.
So let me ask you guys this: have you seen this trailer?
Yeah, this is the preview for PA Works’ upcoming action anime next summer. It doesn’t have very high pre-airing popularity, but there are a fair number of people who are eagerly awaiting its arrival. I mean it’s PA Works doing a vampire action show. Sure the studio hasn’t had a hit in years, but they’ve maintained strong trust over time due to the cult fanbases that developed from their under-achieving shows. And this isn’t one of their usual slice-of-life outputs either. It’s a full-on action series with pristine animation and vampires that don’t sparkle. They’re actually trying something new, living up to their full name as Progressive Animation.
…Oh wait, this isn’t new. They did actually do an action show before. It was even directed by the same guy who’s doing Sirius the Jaeger. And it sucked.
Fifth Worst: Canaan (P.A. Works)
Canaan is actually one of the few anime that I watched as it was airing during a time period where I didn’t really bother keeping up with the latest stuff because I would rather watch my Clannad or South Park DVDs for the sixth time. And even with my lower standards almost ten years ago along with the fact that Canaan is a show about hot women shooting each other, I stopped watching it five episodes in, and had to finish it four years later with a watch group I’m no longer in contact with. Why? Because despite all of the flash, it’s an incredibly boring mess that’s lacking in anything resembling excitement.
Apparently it’s an anime-original sequel to a visual novel scenario by Type-Moon, which in itself is part of an old game that’s actually getting re-released by Spike Chunsoft in the near future. I’ve heard a lot of good things about the original game, but this follow-up was just a badly written mess. It has a lot of the usual problems that accompany anime based on visual novel writing in that it takes way too long to establish the story and there are way too many characters to keep track of, all of whom are poorly developed and act more like one-note jokes than anyone who can ground the audience into what’s going on. As for the plot when it does show up…well do you guys want to know who wrote this anime?
Considering PA Works is the studio that also made Tari Tari and Glasslip whenever she wasn’t around, and have also supported Jun Maeda’s anime adventures to boot, I can’t call Mari Okada the worst writer they’ve ever employed, but my god does her childish view of the world not meld at all with most of the goals she sets for herself. When I’m not getting distracted by the jarring tonal shifts that are the equivalent of putting Wile E. Coyote in the Terminator universe, I’m wondering how the hell this poor excuse of a plot ever passed the editing phase. To put it lightly, it involves a mysterious virus that runs more on bullshit than it does actual logic and that’s pretty much all you need to know to understand how much of a waste of time this show is unless you’re in the mood for something that’s emotionally cold and utterly retarded.
Let’s hope P.A. Works remembered this show during the creation of Sirius the Jaeger, because I honestly don’t know how much more of Masahiro Ando’s retarded works I can take before I fly over to his place myself and kick him in the balls.
Considering that the majority of 2009’s anime selection have long since been forgotten by the masses, Bakemonogatari stands out alongside K-On as one of the few shows to not only survive in the fandom’s cognition to this very day, but actively grow and evolve into one of anime’s biggest franchises.
I know I’ve name dropped this anime a lot in recent times, but Bake’s popularity back then and how it’s grown since really reminds me of Darling in the Franxx now and how it’s eventually going to grow over time assuming the ending doesn’t piss off the fanbase, ERASED-style. A lot of people watched Bake solely for Senjougahara and eventually grew to like the other elements of the show in the process, similar to how many Franxx fans admit they’re watching for Zero Two. And just like Zero Two, I can’t see the appeal of Senjougahara. Also like Zero Two, she’s just a standard anime chick with an improperly implied air of mystery and the narrative just doesn’t give her anything to do after getting together with the main character.
But even though I didn’t like Bakemonogatari due to my inability to see anyone in the show as proper characters, at least it was trying to push something of importance forward underneath the janky animation (at the time) and go-nowhere romantic chemistry. You want to know what a light novel adaptation that just coasts on banal romantic chemistry without putting effort into anything resembling actual story direction or a sense of importance is like?
Fourth Worst: Spice and Wolf II (Brains Base)
Yeah let’s all gush over the shallow wordplay and forced dramatics that is the romance between Holo and Lawrence, the previous generation’s Kirito and Asuna from Sword Art Online. Let’s research economical trade and then just use it as kindling for stupid third wheel drama and idiotically conceived “my love for you is more important than my dream” subplots to distract from the fact that the story isn’t moving forward at all.
I think the thing that pissed me off the most about this sequel when I saw it back in grad school was how the show couldn’t give Holo anything to do. She literally just tags along with whatever scheme Lawrence has gotten himself into, she never gets to transform, and she’s not even on screen for a good chunk of the show, meaning Lawrence has to carry Spice and Wolf himself.
And on his own, Lawrence is really boring. Just another standard male protagonist (except he’s an actual adult) with a dream that he gives up for the sake of a girl who looks ten years younger than him. Yes, I understand that all relationships have compromises and such, but how about showing the consequences that come from those compromises instead of just realizing you’re in love with the girl you sold and then bought back? Or, I dunno, make the economical stuff actually interesting to watch?
God I hate light novel writing. And I still can’t believe we haven’t realized after a decade that this series is bad. Especially since the original novel series is as of this time of writing still going concurrently with the sequel series focused on this couple’s daughter. If that’s not a sign the author himself doesn’t know where the story is going, I don’t know what is.
My opinion of Bones has gone all over the place over the years. I personally think they’re one of the better animation studios now, but they still have a habit of not always living up to their promise, and my god was their miss rate high back in the day.
They were never the worst production company around, but they were like the anime that aired on the noitamina timeslot in that a lot of their output was incredibly mediocre and only got as much attention as it did because the rest of the playing field set the bar so low. That and tunnel vision. It’s so easy to praise something when the bad stuff is so forgettable that you don’t even remember it exists, right?
Well that’s part of the reason why I’m making these lists. I’m not asking you to remember what actually happened in these bad anime since there’s too many things in life you’d probably want to retain memories of in their place. I’m asking the fans to remember that these bad anime existed. And were in fact bad. And when Bones made anime for noitamina, the term “wasted potential” couldn’t define them more.
Third Worst: Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 (Bones x Kinema Citrus)
Now technically this isn’t just a Bones anime, but Kinema Citrus was pretty new at the time Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 came out, and a lot of its members are former Bones employees, so it might as well be. Either way, they’re both talented studios with a lengthy history of underperforming, and this poorly executed attempt to examine earthquake disasters is one of the worst examples to defend the noitamina timeslot’s reputation I’ve ever seen in my life.
Like most terrible anime with a high concept, Tokyo Magnitude’s main problem is that while a lot of effort was made into the aesthetics of an earthquake – although it has that usual anime problem of everything looking remarkably clean despite all of the disaster happening around you – the story only acknowledges the many issues that can occur from such a terrible natural disaster with token nods that I knew about earthquakes when I was nine. But even more than the socially shallow satire, I put the majority of this show’s failure towards the slipshod personal drama.
Mirai from Kyoukai no Kanata was and is still annoying, but the Mirai in this series was just plain unlikeable from beginning to end. There is literally no context to her abrasive attitude other than so she can learn to lighten up by the final episode, and the way that journey is executed is, to put it lightly, a poor man’s Violet Evergarden. I don’t think there’s one episode that doesn’t feature someone crying to the point that the earthquake is no longer an excuse. A lot of the characters’ personal demons are so disconnected from the disaster to the point that it becomes more of a padding mechanism than anything. And that’s another problem by the way: despite being shorter than the average anime series, this show is way too long. You really did not need to devote entire episodes to victims that aren’t properly characterized and we’re never going to see again.
I can understand liking something more for the idea than the execution, but what ideas does Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 even offer? Oh no, people die in earthquakes. Oh no, traversing disaster areas is really hard. Oh no, really bad plot twists involving ghosts can make people change. Yeah, I’ve seen the Gingerbread Man offer more imaginative ideas than this, so naturally this became one of the biggest critical darlings for bloggers upon airing. I’d like to say standards were different back then, but a recent anime (that admittedly wasn’t a hit) called ACCA had most of the same issues this did and the critics loved that as well. I don’t get you guys.
You probably have some questions regarding the big anime of this year by now like “how did this ever get popular” or more likely “wait this anime was a hit? How come I never heard of it?”. Well not all bad anime are Sword Art Online in terms of staying relevant. It’s not that hard to become big within the span of three months or even a year, but having lasting power beyond that is a very tall task. No one talks about Clannad anymore and that was one of the biggest anime back when I was in college. Hell, even Attack on Titan is losing people’s attention now.
Plus, in 2009, not only were our options more limited, but people actually had a lot more trust in light novel adaptations. Kino’s Journey. Spice and Wolf. Crest of the Stars. Full Metal Panic. The Irresponsible Captain Tyler. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. They were all decent hits that most people to this day still claim are great, defining the fandom’s cognition of what light novel adaptations were capable of at the time.
There were crappy ones that lots of people were vocal about hating like Shakugan no Shana and Zero no Tsukaima as well, but despite also being hits, they were easy to filter out of our minds so we could ignore how bad light novel writing can get. However, people were starting to notice around this year that there are a lot of novels where the author would literally write “and then he walked in on her changing, causing her to scream ‘baka’ before hitting him so hard he flew over the sun”. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking they were adapted from a hentai game. And we watched them anyways. Because our morbid curiosity knows no bounds.
Second Worst: Kampfer (Nomad)
Yes, believe it or not for those who remember this show, Kampfer only made it to #2. And we’ll get to what popular anime I could have seen that was possibly worse than it in a moment, but let me make it clear that this show was utter shit then and is forgotten shit now. Even the creators knew it was destined to be forgotten over time. Why else would they end the series with an incredibly fanservice-y pile of fluff consisting of breast-biting and cheap titillation? You’d never see Steins;Gate do something like that, because most fans actually expect quality writing from those shows and would have rioted if Okabe turned into a female and acted out some deluded fangirl’s yaoi fiction. Remember the backlash the Hero Academia creator received when he drew the girls in swimsuits? If that’s not a good indication of where people’s priorities lie, I don’t know what is.
It looks ugly, the characters are trope-y to the point of annoyance, the story might as well not exist, and I think the only reason this show stood out at the time was the whole gender-bending. Literally no one liked the lead character when he was male. When he was female though? Oh boy did the confetti fly. The show basically ended right after a big reveal that everyone saw coming from a mile away and no sequel was ever made for a very good reason. And thank god for that.
Now before we get to my pick for the worst of the year, let’s take a look at some of the other crap of 2009 that either weren’t awful, popular, or watched enough by me to make it onto the list but deserve some scorn from me and probably you anyways.
Seitokai no Ichizon (Deen)
You know, I don’t exactly understand the appeal of having a harem. From what I can tell, it’s incredibly expensive, you never get any sleep, you have to deal with a lot girl talk, and eventually they’ll realize they’re better off fucking each other than they are fucking you.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya S2 (Kyoto Animation)
I’m honestly surprised that KyoAni’s reputation took until 2013 to start sinking with the majority of their fanbase. Their big hits this year weren’t good, and Endless Eight was probably the biggest middle finger they’ve ever made.
Trapeze (Toei Animation)
Sometimes I think Kenji Nakamura needs to be sat down and told that there’s a time and place for levity. And it’s definitely not when you’re trying to sell stories about psychological problems that are about as insightful as a guy yelling on the streets “I swallowed too much viagra” followed by a mad doctor going “here’s what you’re suffering from. Here’s a cure. Good day sir”.
Eureka Seven Pocketful of Rainbows (Bones x Kinema Citrus)
You know, if more people had actually watched this movie, then maybe there would have been stronger support to convince the world that nothing good ever comes from milking Eureka Seven.
Also not popular. Although it had the decency to start off well, so it probably wouldn’t have made the list either way.
A Certain Scientific Railgun (JC Staff)
Oh hey. It’s throwaway cute girl antics but with superpowers. Because that’s fun to watch, right?
Literally the only reason Spice and Wolf II made the list and this didn’t is because I only watched one or two episodes of this show. If I had bothered to see the whole thing, it would probably have competed with Kampfer in regards to the #2 spot on this list.
Final Fantasy VII Advent Children: Complete (Visual Works)
When Advent Children first came out to the States, it made absolutely no sense. Five years and a narrative upgrade later, it still made absolutely no sense. *Sigh*. That Final Fantasy VII remake is doomed, isn’t it?
Samurai Harem (AIC)
Like all Love Hina harem-ripoffs, Samurai Harem is about a clueless male getting a bunch of shallow badly-drawn women to fall in love with him, which they mostly demonstrate through beating the shit out of him over and over. And the more you watch the show, the more you want the shit to get beaten out of him.
Valkyria Chronicles (A-1 Pictures)
A-1 Pictures, ruining my favorite anime games since the dawn of a new era. Fuck them.
Okay, that’s enough of that. Let’s get to the worst big anime of 2009, shall we?
Visual novel adaptations are still around and visual novel writers trying to make it as anime writers was also big a short time ago, although I think that trend has gone into hiding for now. But back in the 00s, visual novel adaptations were basically what light novel adaptations are to us right now: an annoying overcrowded trend that set the bar so low to the point if one even seemed remotely different, fans would latch onto it like bees to honey. And they were definitely not fading out of existence in 2009.
And I’ll be honest, I had this really strange fascination with visual novel adaptations during my student years. Just the fact that someone would literally make an industry out of anime porn featuring teenagers taking censored (or uncensored) dick into their ass without any legal repercussions blew my teenage mind. Even Yahtzee Croshaw has admitted in the past that he used to download those games as a teenager just so he could see big animated cartoon tits. Since I was terrible at figuring out how to play those games though, I turned to the anime adaptations and hentai OVAs to satisfy my curiosity, and no matter how horrible they were, I just kept watching. School Days. Myself;Yourself. Da Capo. The Boin series. And of course the ones that people actually liked like Higurashi, Clannad, and ef-a tale of memories.
It was a dumb phase, but thanks to that phase, I’ve become incredibly knowledgeable about the general faults and strengths (but mostly faults) that come with adapting these sort of games. How they’re mostly cheap commercials. How the need to please the fans lead to incredibly awkward pacing. How they always seem to have time travel. But most importantly of all, I came to understand just how important sex and nudity could actually be to storytelling, despite the bad reputation that H-games tend to get in general. I mean a lot of our acclaimed live-action television nowadays is just rampant with nudity for a reason, although you can argue that said reason isn’t all that good. And when anime cheaply sanitizes the H-stuff from the original source in order to obtain mass appeal or try to incorporate it but fail massively at doing so, it’s aggravating in a way that’s both unwatchable and yet fun to talk about with friends, which is more than I can say for most light novel adaptations that tend to just strive for mediocrity in incredibly basic ways and just end up unwatchable.
What I’m getting at here is that I find bad visual novel adaptations to be generally more fun to talk about than bad light novel adaptations since they tend to stand out in more unique ways. But I definitely don’t miss the era when they were everywhere because it was truly awful. In order to talk about those bad VN adaptations properly, you actually had to watch them. And at their worst, bad visual novel adaptations are more painful to sit through than bad light novel adaptations will ever be.
The Worst of The Year: 11 Eyes (Dogakobo)
Honestly, I don’t really have any coherent criticisms of this show compared to everything else on this list, because what exactly is there to say about it? It’s just incompetently made in every single way, from Dogakobo’s horrendous animation to the poorly conceived attempts to make the bland male lead, his token best friend, and his gallery of personality-less girls edgy. Saying 11 Eyes is a mess is like saying Jake Paul is a very bad man, with the only thing I can even recall standing out was how the penultimate episode consisted of the lead and the only girl still alive at that point having sex, only for both of them to get killed by the time said episode was over. Except it turns out that it was all a dream and everyone was alive all along because this is a visual novel adaptation and they all come with either a reset button or time travel, don’t they?
I’d like to say this is one of those anime that would never have become popular if it came out today, but given some of the shit that has gotten big in recent times, I can’t say that for certain. All I know is that this was easily the most unwatchable of the big anime that I bothered to finish from this year, and that’s what made picking it for the top spot on this list so easy.
Disagree? Have your own picks for the worst big anime of 2009? Want to predict what gets on the next list? Let me know in the comments section and look forward to the upcoming top five best popular anime of 2009 list in the near future.
- Warning: the best list might not come for a while since I want to do my next planned review first, and I’m going to be swamped in anime conventions during the next few weeks.
- Actually, I’m not sure about the true status of the Spice and Wolf novels as I used Wikipedia to look it up, and I’m a little confused on why there’s a sequel series being written when the original series is apparently still going.
- In case you’re not aware, Asu no Yoichi is Samurai Heaven in Japanese. I wrote the list before realizing the latter was a better name.
- I know the opening Princess Lover image is low-res compared to the other images I used, but I think it’s the most fitting visual representation to start this post off whilst still being SFW. Because believe me, I could have used this image.