A thoughtful response to current anime.

Sun Tzu’s Anime Recommendations List, Organized by Flaw

This anime season seems to be shaping up to be pretty weak, so there’s no better time than the present to check out some anime from the past!  Here are some of my favorites.  They’re all really good, but I’ve grouped them together based on the problems I have with them.  That way, you can give priority to the ones with problems that you don’t care very much about, and leave until later the ones with problems that are likely to really bug you; plus, when you go to watch them, you will already be prepared for the worst, so you can only be pleasantly surprised.

Please remember as I explain the problems with these shows that I really like all of them!  Don’t get offended if your favorite show is on one of these lists, because it’s also one of my favorite shows!

Slow Start: These shows take their time establishing their settings and premises before they become awesome, which might leave you bored during the first part before the payoff comes.  The king of this category is Legend of the Galactic Heroes, which takes about thirty episodes to get off the ground.  But when it does, boy oh boy!

  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes (Sci-Fi/Literary)
  • Shin Sekai Yori (Fantasy/Literary/Thriller)
  • Monster (Thriller/Drama)
  • Shiki (Supernatural/Horror)
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica (Magical Girl/Thriller)
  • Planetes (Sci-Fi/Drama)
  • Fullmetal Alchemist (Fantasy/Action)

Melodramatic Escalation: These shows put so much emotional energy into every scene, each one competing with the intensity of the last, that it can lead to burnout and fatigue in the viewer.  When everything is super ultra important, nothing is.  The king of this category is Death Note, which is famous for trying to make the act of eating a potato chip badass.

  • Death Note (Supernatural/Thriller)
  • Kaiji (Thriller/Drama)
  • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (Supernatural/Mystery/Horror)
  • Kimi ga Nozomu Eien (Drama/Romance)

Boring Characters: Not all the characters are boring, of course, or I wouldn’t be recommending these shows at all, but there’s serious unevenness in the quality of the characters in these shows. The king of this category is Bakemonogatari, because the only arcs that were any good were the ones Senjougahara was in.

  • Bakemonogatari (Supernatural/Mystery/Romance)
  • Michiko to Hatchin (Action/Drama)
  • Honey and Clover (Slice of Life)
  • Genshiken (Slice of Life)
  • Kanon(2006) (Romance)
  • Kuragehime (Romance)

Hard to Follow: It’s one thing for a show to make you put some effort into understanding what’s going on – that’s just a good workout for the brain.  It’s another thing if there’s no reasonable way to figure out what’s going on by watching the show.  The king of this category is Umineko no Naku Koro ni, where basically everything that appears on the screen is a lie.

  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni (Mystery/Horror)
  • Baccano! (Thriller/Horror)
  • Eden of the East (Thriller/Romance)
  • White Album (Romance)

Serious Plotlines Spoil The Fun: These shows are really enjoyable when they don’t take themselves seriously, but for whatever reason the plot writers felt like they should occasionally write a plot into the show.  The king of this category is Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita, which had a jarring transition toward the end from fairy funtime to a horrible school bullying story.

  • Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita (Comedy)
  • School Rumble (Comedy)
  • Ouran High Host Club (Comedy/Romance)
  • Hanasaku Iroha (Slice of Life)

Not Enough Music: It is a music anime, and yet there are things other than music?!? What the heck. The king of this category is Sakamichi no Apollon, which had like four or five instances of jazz total in the whole series, geez.

  • Sakamichi no Apollon (Drama)
  • Nodame Cantabile (Slice of Life)

Under-exploitation of Premise: These shows have a lot of cool ideas in them! But they greedily grab more ideas than they can fully explore, letting some of the implications rot on the vine and tempting the viewer down the dark path of Fan-Fiction.  The king of this category is Mirai Nikki, which introduced and dispensed with concepts at a rate of three per episode by the end.

  • Mirai Nikki (Supernatural/Thriller)
  • Steins;Gate (Sci-Fi/Thriller)
  • Fate/Zero (Supernatural/Thriller/Action)
  • The World God Only Knows (Supernatural/Romance)

Culture Shock: These shows expect more knowledge of specifically Japanese cultural elements than I as an overseas fan have.  There were parts of these shows where I was certain I was missing some important reference that would allow me to make sense of a particular scene or punchline, and I cursed my gaijin-hood.  The king of this category is Muteki Kanban Musume, which is built around a specifically Japanese shopping-district culture and set largely in the sort of ramen shop that we don’t really have here in the US.

  • Muteki Kanban Musume (Comedy)
  • Arakawa Under The Bridge (Comedy/Romance)
  • Doujin Work (Comedy)
  • Tatami Galaxy (Literary)

Hard Act to Follow: These shows are really great, so great that any sequel would be a pale unsatisfying reflection of their greatness. The king of this category is Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu, which is The Best Anime, and then the sequel was Endless Eight.

  • Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu (Supernatural/Comedy)
  • Minami-ke (Comedy)

I plan to update this post as I watch new flawed anime to recommend, and also as I write reviews that go into more spoily depth about what was good and bad about each of these shows.  Please leave a comment detailing what’s wrong with your favorite shows, if you would!

2 responses to “Sun Tzu’s Anime Recommendations List, Organized by Flaw

  1. MetsThe2 July 18, 2016 at 5:51 pm

    Welcome to the NHK

    There is one part of the anime which is overly melodramatic / unrealistic / anvilicious IMO (for people who have seen this anime, I’m thinking of the island). Also, there are a few places where the animation quality is terrible, though it is generally fine.

    Despite that it’s my favorite anime. Somehow it feels very real, perhaps because the main character is a hikikomori as was the author.

  2. pipsterate March 23, 2017 at 1:10 am

    I came here to check if LoGH was on the list, and I was very happy when I saw it was right at the top. I think I can trust this website.

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