As this season of anime draws to a close I find it easy to lose sight of just how great it was. As I inevitably fall behind on shows Which Are Good But Not That Good, and even shows that are nailing everything can end up lost in my Crunchyroll queue, it is pretty easy to instead look to the next season and hype up how good that is looking. Despite that, I’d still be inclined to say this season, like those before it, has been wonderful. Anime is good, no matter what Miyazaki memes may suggest. However, it is relatively easy to be disappointed in even a good show. After an entire season of a show there will inevitably be episodes that stand out, be they good or bad. The ‘3 Episode Rule’ may be incredibly reductive but it is an influential rule that many follow. And because of that, it can also be quite easy to see people calling shows which didn’t start strong bad, even if later on it had some great episodes. So this week, I’d like to posit my own ‘rule’, if you could even call it that. It isn’t a rule that protects your time, nor is it a rule that ensures you only watch Good Anime. Instead, it’s how I try, even with shows that are disappointing me, to find some greatness.
Last year a show called Ranpo Kitan aired. It was a show aiming to celebrate the horror/mystery writer Edogawa Ranpo. It took his almost a century stories and used them as a base for modern era stories. It was ultimately, a mess. Almost universally acknowledged as a disappointing show. It lacked polish and sparkle. Visually the show was occasionally interesting, but a by-the-books director and subpar animation detracted from the strongest parts of the show. Similarly, despite being based on some incredibly influential stories, the plotlines of the show where often thin and uninspired. Primarily reflecting dated and surface level fears, when the premise of the show promised more. When it became clear that, despite me enjoying what the show could do, the show would be disappointing at best, I could have dropped it. In fact, most of my feed at the time did end up dropping Ranpo Kitan, relatively early on. Instead I decided I would hold out hope. Not that the show would ultimately be good, that ship had long since sailed. Ratherthat the show would just have one solid episode. One episode that perfectly captured the strengths of the show without being dragged down by terrible themes.
Eventually Ranpo Kitan delivered. It had an episode where it’s central themes worked well and didn’t feel dated at best. It may have lacked visual flair, but it had a heart I could respect. It had an episode that I felt worked. And even if it didn’t. Even if it didn’t have an episode I felt I could unabashedly call Good, I would still have found things to like in the show. Anime very rarely has Bad Shows that are entirely bad. With the amount of people working on each episode of a show, there’s a lot of potential for good things. Be they simply nice cuts of animation, some interesting shots, or just “Things that are Bad in this Anime but could be Interesting elsewhere and are thus interesting to talk about.”. Looking for the good in a piece is almost always a good thing, provided you are capable of doing so. Looking for One Good Episode is a good way to do so.
A more interesting case of a mediocre show delivering a phenomenal episode would be Chivalry of a Failed Knight. Chivalry always was a surprising show. Airing in a season with multiple other super powered battle harem shows, what made Chivalry refreshing was how earnest it was when it came to the thirst in it’s cast. Whilst I didn’t care for the fights or the over-arching plot of the show, the way Chivalry depicted it’s cast of teenagers as… well… horny teenagers was impressive. I never finished the show, and I don’t really have any desire to go back to it, but it did have one incredible episode.
Towards the latter half of the show, an episode aired that was someone disconnected from the general flow of “present character -> explore them a lil -> main guy fights character”. Instead there was a much more laidback character centred episode. The main ‘couple’ were having issues. Not typical shounen drama misunderstandings. Not idealised fighting over anything somewhat real, like money, grades, or their actions. The issues the episode focussed on were far more abstract, and in another sense, far closer to adolescent romances than most shows get. Both parts of the main couple were feeling bad about having sexual feelings for each other. They felt there was something ‘wrong’ about wanting to make out and touch one and other. As if they were breaking some fundamentally rules by feeling that way.
It was a weird take on purity culture that just doesn’t tend to come up in most shows of this type. It wasn’t the guy being a lech. Nor was it objectifying the girl’s sexuality for the viewer, contrary to how most of the show was. It was literally just two dorks, struggling to express to each other their feelings in a very real very teenage way. The subplots of this episode were similarly on point. As this show featured the obligatory “definitely blood related sister who wants to fuck her brother” but actually let her exist as more of an archetype. It let her exist in such a way that she understood and was making efforts to move past such childish at best feelings. I was legitimately stunned by how great this episode was.
Not every show is going to have One Good Episode. Not every show is going to be good. But even this season, of the shows I’ve grown to be disappointed in, I can still look at them and go “that episode was really good.” even if it never reached those peaks again. New Game, Days, Sweetness and Lightning… None of those shows are particularly bad though they all have their weaknesses. But they’ve also had some really brilliant episodes. Some brilliant episodes I may have missed out on if I obeyed some flippant 3 episode rule, or if I hadn’t otherwise powered through despite being annoyed at their various issues.
This reasoning doesn’t help you decide what to actually watch. It doesn’t help you prioritise your time well at all. That still is going to come down to you. But I feel that looking at what really great episodes exist in even shows you aren’t too happy with, is a good way to look at things. It’s far too easy to end up very negative over certain shows, and at the very least, life’s more interesting to look at what great things they did instead of just the bad.
So what otherwise mediocre, or even bad, anime have you watched which have had some remarkable one off episodes?