So, there’s a show you like, or that at least shows some real promise in the first few episodes. You’re hooked, you’re excited, maybe you even follow it for a substantial period of time. And then it starts to decay; it makes decisions that send it spiraling down in quality. Before you know it, the show sinks to rock-bottom and becomes infamous for its utter failure.
This kind of disaster forces me to approach every show I love with cautious enthusiasm. Even Castlevania, which has so much promise in its first three episodes, could go downhill really fast through some very hard to avoid pitfalls. Though I’m desperately hoping not; there’s so much bad-ass metal in one place here.
More of this, I beg you
But what exactly are these dangerous mistakes that cause anime to trip and fall into the pit of despair? Probably several, but there are at least four I can think of that are almost always a death sentence. They aren’t easily avoidable, nor are they out of nowhere. But they are most certainly bad moves.
Doesn’t Know When to Stop
I’ve covered this once before, a very long time ago. In a post I titled “Survive or Stagnate,” I talked about what happens when a show overstays its welcome without good stories to compensate. However, if you can provide some decent action and characters, you can ususally keep it going. But even those shows have a point where a story has reached its “end,” and any stretching past that point will be nothing short of horror.
Yes, even One Piece is starting to stretch its welcome a little (pun intended).
Thankfully, the two shows with greater guilt in this category finally packed up and moved on… mostly. Both Bleach and Naruto were infamous in being excruciating in length, which meant awful decisions for the plot, characters you can’t be bothered to remember, and so many subplots woven into the main plot it’ll take forever to unwind. And Naruto has made a comeback no one asked for by continuing with the second generation.
In short, if you can’t keep your audience entertained for umpteen episodes – and it takes some serious chops to do so – you’re better off cutting your losses as soon as possible.
Plain Old Bad Story Decisions
Making an anime out of a good, but unfinished, source material can have some unforeseen consequences. What a manga can accomplish in a few chapters a show can do in a single episode, maybe two. It’s very common for anime to bypass the source material, but they have to keep the show going. So they often create their own plots that anger their audiences.
Damage control ensues
The picture is apropos, as I feel Fullmetal Alchemist’s 2003 iteration is a perfect example of what not to do when you run out of manga and have a looming deadline. The show made significant changes to the story that, while green-lighted by the original mangaka, were horrible narrative-wise. It changed around major character motivations, completely altered the personalities of others, and introduced new ones that were utterly pathetic in comparison. I won’t spoil much more, as there are likely still some who wanna see it themselves, but most anime consumers hold FMA 2003 as a prime example of adaptational mishap.
Expanding Where Expansion Wasn’t Needed
Sometimes, an adaptation is a great place to play around with characters and ideas the source material didn’t. However, sometimes it risks wasting the time of your consumer when the expansion is not only unnecessary but ultimately adds nothing. Warning: the next paragraph will contain a spoiler, though, not one of great significance.
But still, if you do care, skip to the next section. I understand.
Now, the anime for D. Gray Man was starting to lose me for quite some time. About midway into the anime, things began to drag real bad and the plot was starting to make me twitch with its treatment of The Noah. The final cherry on top that made me quit came in the form of a single episode dedicated to the backstory of the minor character, Daisya Barry. It wasn’t a bad episode by any stretch, but it became utterly useless and pathetic when, in the beginning of the very next episode, Daisya dies.
Now, I may very well try this anime again, but this move was just cheap. There’s plenty of organic, tear-jerker moments in the anime; attempting to wring out extra just feels like a manipulation of my emotions. This poor excuse for shock also served no narrative purpose in the end and I don’t approve of my time being wasted.
Tonal Changes are Not Your Friend
Finally, we come to the biggest and, in my opinion, the most heinous of pitfalls for a good anime to traverse. Because, at the end of the day, the tone of the adaptation is what I judge more than anything.
“Tone” is a dubious concept in media, but everyone can agree that it refers to the overall theme of a media piece. If an adaptation can successfully capture the same tone of the previous work than I’m likely to be more forgiving, even with some story changes. Hell, I can even forgive a small tonal shift if it keeps with the same overall feel of the source material. But what I don’t usually forgive is a tonal change that is the antithesis of the starting point. If the original work was actively working against this kind of theme, then I shouldn’t see it in adaptation.
You know, like a Death Note adaptation about an angsty teen ruining his life as opposed to two geniuses in a cat-and-mouse fight for the world.
Of the anime I’ve seen, Hellsing’s original incarnation drifted into this territory the worst. The manga was never intended to be super-serious horror or a slow-build horror; it certainly never wanted to be “deep.” It was more of the Evil Dead variety, with a high body-count, bat-crap crazy characters doing increasingly ludicrous things, and a crazy-awesome but oddly spooky plot. The first anime, however, aimed for a more traditional horror feel; it leeched out most of the blood and practically sedated the violently insane Alucard.
Oh yes, do tell me how seriously I take my job
At its heart, Hellsing was never meant to be taken seriously. Trying to make a story about an overpowered, fight-hungry vampire mowing through a nazi-army serious is a failure waiting to happen. Fans couldn’t clamp down on the OVA fast enough.
In The End, There Are No Easy Solutions
Whether it be a want to keep the popular show going, or just a lack of material on hand, it’s inevitable some kind of problem will arise. And while I can’t provide any “easy solutions” to avoiding these problems, I can say that I respect any show that acknowledges its mistakes, knows when its welcome is over and takes in feedback rather than putting itself in a tiny bubble. When all’s said and done, all we can do is sit back and hope the writers are on the ball for as long as it takes.