[G-Man] What makes an anime Good?

Okay.. I know I haven’t posted for awhile and I have a really good excuse for this. But I’m not going to tell..lol…. Anywho…back to my long winded diatribe about anime, otukuism, culture and life. The topic of discussion this time juxtaposes beautifully with my last entry on the incredibly non-existent, or limited, merits of the superiority of the anime Naruto. If you haven’t read the post, shame on you and fly a kite off a bridge! For those of you who have read my post, this will be a follow up to the last post and will examine the characteristics an anime should manifest in order to be classified as decent or quality anime.

Yeah, the question is pretty vague, but that didn’t stop Aristotle from dissecting drama in the poetics, so why should vagueness stop me now? So what makes for a good anime? Of course, we have to allow for the inclusion of different genres which may skew any serious critique of what makes a good anime. Since it can be reasonably argued that every particular genre of anime should be judged by a separate standardized distinct rubric. But that would just take too long, and I have a life to live!! So how about we just lump all anime together and hash out what makes an anime give you that warm gooey feeling inside.


I mean you would think this is obvious, but from what I’ve seen, tons of animes (and films) do not have a coherent, cohesive, intricate plot that gives to true sophisticated inspection. This is not to mean that all animes should be heavy on sci-f, or philosophy, but it does mean that when you see a typical anmie it’s usually the same ol, “you are the chosen one who must save the world”, or, “I have a crush on so and so because he or she is super cool”, or,” we must defeat the evil blah blah”, or” The power of friendship and love conquers all”,or…you get the picture. For instance, let’s compare two animes and let’s see which one has a plot that is well tuned vs. a plot that seemed like somebody just threw together in a hurry, added spectacular long stylistic battles, and super duper power ups. I’m going to choose *drum roll please* Bleach and Gintama.

Gintama vs Bleach

I’ll confess that I’m completely bias in regard to my general assessment of these two animes. Gintama happens to be one of my favorite animes of all time, and while I do watch Bleach, I probably would never admit it openly. Now, being the sophist that I am, I can always make up reasons for being a shame of Bleach which may, or may not, have any validity, but for this semi-scholarly exercise of wit and humor I will attempt to be as impartial as possible. Let’s begin, Why does the plot for Bleach suck? Yeah, it’s kind of harsh to say the plot of an anime sucks, but words fail me at the moment to properly describe the horrendous excuse for a plot that is Bleach. For those of you who have been living under the proverbial rock, Bleach is one of the most popular animes in otakudom. The plot can be summed up quite simply in that it centers around the main protagonist, Ichiago, who one day saves a shimigami (death god) and then becomes one himself, protecting the world from evil spirits called hollows. The plot “thickens” when Bleach introduces you to a whole new world called soul society, where things like common sense, consistency, and reason doesn’t matter because after all that would mean the writers would have to develop the plot further and that would take away from precious fighting scenes. To put it simply, Ichiago encounters powerful new villains, who have really vague reasons for being villains, and is forced to do battle with these god like beings who usually pummel him the first time around, but when faced with immeasurable odds Ichiago will either save the day some how or get saved by someone else. Cool..eh? I mean think of the depth and complexity involved in the development of this drama..don’t you see it!? If we take a look at Gintama, what we find is an anime that completely goes against the pervasive tendencies of animes to have a plot that centers on the protagonist’s ad hoc development. Instead, what we have with Gintama is a plot that ranges from philosophical introspection to down right zany comedy, allowing for a unique and intriguing viewing experience. You simply don’t know what to expect, and that is the workings of a masterful plot.

Character Development

If you watch alot of movies these days, you probably encounter a very eire and strange event that left you bewildered and disillusioned. This is what probably happened:  you went to go see the most recent head lined blockbuster filled with CGI, A-List actors and all the hollywood fixings and the strangest thing occurred to you at the end of the film. What occurred, you may ask? Well, you realized that you didn’t care. The main protagonist could of died and you would of cared less. Feeling empty and cheated you probably left the theaters vowing never to return. This scenario plays out time and time again in film as well as animes, because writers forget a crucial facet of creating compelling works of imaginative lure. Which is, “That you must create characters who people buy into and care about”

Example #1 -Bad Character Development

Take a character like Naruto for instance. Sure, in the beginning you sympathize with underdog who wants to prove his ninja coolness. You root for him and hope he can do at least something right. But after awhile, and i mean 150 episodes later, it becomes quite apparent that Naruto is as shallow as a curb side pond on a hot summer day. Why do I say this? Because his maturity is stagnant, his understanding is simple and vague, and depth of perception is quite limited especially in regards to ascertaining a complete over view of any situation.

Example# 2: Good character Development

Death Note’s L had such stunning character development that it left audiences mystified long after the anime has been completed. I mean its to the point that they’re creating a live action movie featuring L as the main protagonist. Now why is L so fascinating? Well, consider his allure: he is enigmatic, shockingly insightful, unpredictable, strange, charming, and yet still retains a hidden depth to him unbeknown to us all. When the audience get just a glimpse into what’s behind his dumb founded gaze, we’re met with an individual who exceeds our typical classifications of mere introverted emodom, no L is a dude with purpose and passion. Sadly, L dies by the hand of the only person he considered a friend, and what compounds the situation is that he knew all a long that he would die by the hand of his “so-called” friend…damn you L! I can’t quit you!!

Further Considerations

In order for a plot to really have legs and start moving, there should always be riveting conflict. The kind of conflict that makes audiences lean to the edge of their sits with captivation, obsessively staring to see what happens next. The most tired and true way to create such conflict, is through the creation of a compelling antagonist. What many people seem to forget is that the antagonist tends to be the alter-ego or antithesis of the protagonist. But this should in no way negate the attention and care that should be taken to forging a solid character for your antagonist. I mean take Othello’s Iago, this guy obviously had some deep seated issues! But his treachery was so deep, refined, and unsettling, that it has immortalized his shrewed villainy for all time.

Example#1: Good Antagonist  Development

In the manga/anime Monster, readers/viewers are introduced to a antagonist that simply boggles the mind. Johan, the anatagonist, is not just your average sociopath with deep seated issues caused by his mother (I kid..its always the mother), in fact, he’s a brilliant master mind that has completely lost faith in human kind and wants nothing more but to end it all. Though on the set it sounds tripe, I mean a villain who goes crazy and wants to destroy everything isn’t the greatest example of character innovation. But what we do discover as Monster‘s story develops and plot thickens, is that Johan when viewed consistently with the information you receive from the manga/anime is understandably irate and is a complex individual who grapples with the confusion as to life’s purpose and meaning , in addition to dealing with resentment and inferiority complex caused by the acts of others who were instrumental in his childhood. A brilliant mind like Johan is undoubtedly sensitive to the information it receives, and interprets them quite differently then a normal mental process would otherwise be engaged, resulting in what may very well be the creation of a villain who is indeed marred by the acts of others, and though is still responsible for his/her acts, becomes an object of pity instead of contempt. That’s some good bad guy development….

In Conclusion

I believe we anime viewers as a community should demand more from the products we choose to consume. Of course I know this isn’t possible since many otakus are content with enjoying  sub-par anime franchises. So why write this article? Well, for starters, to vent at the absurdities I see in animes on a regular basis and to encourage others to support higher quality media outlets in hopes that some change may occur in the entertainment landscape. Until then, there’s always Gintama!!

I am G-man!!!

16 Responses to “[G-Man] What makes an anime Good?”

  • “L” as the personification of good character development? It’s been a long while since I read the manga, but I don’t think I can agree with that. With him, what you saw at first glance is what you got for the rest of the show. He likes to sit in weird positions, is super-intelligent, highly pragmatic, and has poor posture. He never “develops” much more beyond that. He essentially was a quirky 1-dimensional foil to Light…not that it’s a bad thing, since he was entertaining to watch after all. I just don’t get how he, of all people, would be your poster-child for character development.

    In my view, character development means depth in terms of emotional/psychological growth, and/or a revelation behind the character’s motives and ambitions that make him/her more understandable as a person. “Good” character development means all that is brought to us in a natural and believable manner, and fitting of the show’s constructs and themes.

    Thus, personality traits like “enigmatic” or “smart” aren’t really character developments, because while they tell you “who” the character is, they don’t tell you “why” he is.

  • I’m guessing you’ve seen Brokeback Mountain……

  • First off, you’ve spelt “Ichigo” wrong. :P

    Second, although I love Gintama too, I don’t think you can really say the series has a plot. At the most, there are the occassional story arcs (like the Benizakura arc), but bascially, the story revolves around the Yorozuya and its customers and many episodes can stand alone.

    Third, like Sagacious1, I think you chose your example for good character development poorly. L has not changed at all since the beginning of the story. Sure, his unique characteristics are revealed little by little, but that’s different from emotional growth/maturation. The funny thing is, your example of bad character development would be a better example of character development. Not the best example of good character development (Clannad and true tears have a few good ones), persay, but he has changed a bit since the beginning. Naruto’s matured into someone who is less self-absorbed and more focused… not to mention less annoying, lol.

    And finally, if those are your standards, what are your favorite anime? Why? Maybe that could be a follow-up post to this one :D

  • Your caps of the ‘G’ for the word ‘Good’ made me realise what your nick means.

  • Lol. Now I know why you are part of the Riuva team!

  • ghostlightning

    i think we need to distinguish between good characters and good character development. you can have good and even great characters, without having to develop them any further. in some cases, the development may even take away from what made the character good in the first place.

    take darth vader, for example. in episodes 4 through 6, some character development did happen for him – as he is revealed to have goodness in him and he is redeemed by his turning against palpatine. however, i do think that he would be as iconic as he ever would be if the series ended with episode 5. that’s the darth vader most fans remember fondly.

    furthermore, i argue that episodes 1 through 3 took away a lot of what was cool and mysterious about vader. i did enjoy all of the movies, but i stand by this opinion of the value of vader’s character development.

    i think this applies to the discussion of L. i agree with sagacious1. L was already everything he would ever be the moment he was introduced. it was just a matter of what cool thing he would do next against an opponent such as light. he did not have life-changing epiphanies or significant behavior changes – these i would think as milestones of character development.

    good character development arcs in anime include:

    takemoto from honey and clover.
    simon from tenggen toppa gurren lagann.
    suzaku in code geass (although his development is backwards, the fact that i hate him more and more at the same time wanting him to redeem himself is a testament to the quality of his characterization)
    char azanable from uc gundam (great swings from 3 series: ms gundam, z gundam, and char’s counterattack)
    ichijou hikaru from sdf macross

    good anime without or has minimal character development include:

    lucky star
    cowboy bebop (don’t be fooled by the reveals, they are what they are from the episodes they were introduced)

    i do love reading posts like these that somehow attempt to rationalize enjoyment of culture. while i think the exercise is futile, i do think that the exercise is fun in itself.

  • People throw arounds words like “plot” without knowing what they mean. Gintama has not a continuous story arc, but it certainly has a “plot”, defined in the sequence of individual story events. Miki.

    Naruto has more character development than L, that’s for sure. I hate both of them anyway.

    Ghostlightning makes a great comment, but Lucky Star has some character development for Kagami.


    Ultimately, different people have different needs so different animes suit different people. It’s that simple!

    You wanna know how I get these scars??

  • Magic trick?

  • Hikaru no Go should be used as an example of good character development.

  • Wow.. interesting feedback. First of all, let me apologize to all of your for not being clear as to what I meant when I used the words “character development”. I see must of you thought I when I spoke of Character development, that I was speaking about a character’s change to his or her dynamic during the course of a narrative. When actually, I was talking about character creation. I apologize for my ambiguity and not being clear. Ok now on the answering these comments:

    @Sagacious1: Yeah, I agree that L had little growth through the series. But as I just explained, I’m not talking about a characters developmental growth, I was talking about the actual creation of the character and the intricacies that make the character who or what they are. It is in these regards that I laud L’s dynamism.

    @Llyke: Nope

    @miki: Sorry about the ichigo thing…lol. Tj-han response to you so eloquently and succinctly answers your comment regarding the lack of “plot” in Gintama. Indeed, Gintama is sooo profound that you have to look at it from a marco view to really ascertain the depth of plot. My standards are perfection and i will soon share them with the world. :-)

    @ghostlighting: Finally someone who seems to have an idea of what I was trying to explain in my post. There is a difference between “character development” and “character creation”. I’m not really concerned about a character’s development as I am about his actual characteristics. So like you said, A character like Darth vader is a good character in the onset, whether or not he develops any further. Another example would be Mugen from Samurai Champloo. And concerning futility, is anything we do her at Riuva not futile?

    @Loba: Are you a hippie? I mean what’s up with your relativism and subjectivsm. You don’t believe in standards and objective merits? You believe that everyone has their truth and that the world is simply populated by truths to which no one individual truth has greater claim? Really? is that what you believe? Sure people have different taste, but that doesn’t mean their shouldn’t be a standard by which we judge things. If we have no standards, there would be no rational explanation for why one thing is better the the next. We would simply be arbitrarily giving our affirmation and credence to different notions without assessment or examination. In the end, we would just be zombies of conformity, mindlessly groping around in search for light that supposedly doesn’t exist. So yes this is very serious. The foundation of our societies are actually built on post like mine.

    Further more.. I am G-man!!

  • To be honest, there isn’t anything ‘standard’ to judge if something is better than the other. Sure there are basics, but those are based on facts rather than opinion.

    If we’re talking opinions, then there is no standard. There are only guidelines, which change according to the times. Facts are stuff that are empirical.

    Anyway, let’s not delve into such heavy stuff. heavy stuff should be left for school.

  • My personal opinion on good anime also factors in production quality. I can’t watch it unless it appeals to my eyes.

    It’s really just you’re list and my picky eyes, in my opinion, that make a good anime. I always talk about plot, and how shallow some shows are (and predictable to boot) but none of my friends seem to believe me…. Good to know someone else thinks this way too.

  • I have to totally disagree on your comments made towards Loba. What he said was simple and exactly what I was thinking when first reading your post. You can’t really define what makes a good anime because it’s truly a subjective and objective discussion. We should all be able to enjoy your post while still agreeing to disagree. But to make the comment that because a person doesn’t find a specific formula an adamant approach to determining what makes an anime good (especially being that the aforementioned formula is an individual’s “opinion” in the first place), that is the most close-minded philosophy it can be. Loba didn’t say that you can’t have a standard. But that standard clearly changes from one person to the next, which only REINFORCES his original statement.

    I personally found your post interesting and a lot of fun to read, but I was a little disappointed by your attack at Loba’s post because you gave me the feeling that somehow you consider your assessment of what makes a good anime to BE the standard and I just think that’s a little presumptuous on your part. While I agree with a lot of your points, there are MANY other factors you left out and to be honest, while attempting to unlimit yourself by eliminating the dissection of individual genres, you, in actuality, completely limited the effectiveness of your overall post because the range of genre is TRULY what makes anime so great.

    I have a final point and this should sum up my overall meaning. I think what you’re trying to do here, whether obviously or subconsciously, is to define a specific formula that makes anime good. I have thought this way before myself, wondering what is the “magic formula” that I can use to make successful anime/manga stories. But the truth is, what makes anime so great is the fact that the Japanese don’t limit themselves to a consistent overall anime formula. That formula changes from genre to genre. It’s the reason why Americans are such big fans of anime because it offers something for everyone…the casual viewer, the die hard otaku, the imperialistic purist, and the sexually repressed afficianado….whatever you want, it’s got!

    In any case, I hope my post made sense and it’s not meant to be negative. If I’m in any way offensive, my apologies ,but that’s not my intent.


  • Vastolordefication

    I am an aspiring mangaka and character developement is very important to me so your example of L was on point in my opinion and plus I always thought a good action sequence makes a good anime :)

  • I think so.

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