We were Spoiled. This Season isn’t Bad, it’s just Worse than the Golden Age.

You guys can try to help, but I’m finding it real difficult to come up with a better anime made in the past 2 years than Darker than Black, and it’s especially thrilling to see the 2nd season shaping up to be even better than the first, which is quite the rare occurrence as well. If you check Wikipedia and search for anime by year, you’ll find the lists of anime which were made in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Out of the, it’s interesting to note the decreasing quality with time, but that’s another issue altogether. Only Baccano!, Dennō Coil, Gurren Lagann, Eden of the East can be considered extremely good, that is, good enough to be spoken of nostalgically "BEST SHOW EVAR" style. while there were still a handful of excellently entertaining shows like the various sports anime (Major, Inazuma 11, One Outs etc), comedy (actually not that much good comedy has been made in recent years) and fighting shows (Shigurui).

Unless of course you’re a moe-mongering otaku idiot who thinks K-ON and Lucky Star and 8 identical episodes of Haruhi were hell good.

Contrary to popular belief, the 90s were not the best time for anime. The sheer quantity of awesome shows actually reached their peak in the early and mid 2000s, where advances in technology and the promise of a global market helped spur the anime industry on. We all know it went tits up after that, for various reasons and now it’s more or less DVD-sales that are the main objective and thus more moe-shitty fanservice shows are made.

In this season, there are actually a few show that are watchable, a few that are good and one which is really really good. Yet, to most of us this is unacceptable. In the 90s, this ratio would’ve been thought of as great, because then there weren’t that many anime and people just watched whatever they could. This season is a hell worse than those we enjoyed in the mid 2000s and so people are angry.

Why not let us take it positively? I now have more time to do other stuff because I don’t have much anime to watch. At least we have Darker than Black 2, ongoing ones like Gintama and Cross Game and decent new ones like intriguing suicide bomber show Book of Bantorra, cat whispering Nyankoi and er ok that’s about it.

42 Responses to “We were Spoiled. This Season isn’t Bad, it’s just Worse than the Golden Age.”


  • Anonymous Coward

    Hello, what about Kaiba? IMHO that was one of the more thought-provoking series released in recent times.

  • Imho baccano was abit if a letdown..but yeah it was super watchable..
    as for eden of the east, the plot seemed to be cut off too suddenly..the finale was good though..

  • If Gurren Lagann can make the list, then Shin Mazinger Z should too; it’s an equal in every way…except perhaps in actual audience numbers -_-;

  • What are you talking about? The best time for anime is *right now*. You wouldn’t be able to watch Nyan Koi or Darker than Black II otherwise, on top of everything else the past has to offer!

  • Miha, that doesn’t make sense. It’s like saying “The Golden Age of China” was not the Tang Dynasty, but right now because we still have the vases they made in the past.

    Snark, Mazinger is stupid. Gurren Lagann is good because it also makes fun of the super robot genre, on top of being a super robot genre anime.

    Kaiba is arguable. Unfortunately, I didn’t like it that much, but I guess it could be considered one of the best.

  • You forgot Bakemonogatari !

  • Let’s see, there are Casshern and Bounen no Xamdou. Both are very solid efforts whose only real fault is the lack of Yoko Kanno. That said, because anime is not a genre, but a medium, naming “the best” show is meaningless. One might as well try to decide on the best food only to get bogged down by the difficulty of comparing strawberry parfait to a roast beef.

  • Sure, you could always divide up anime into genres to grade, but there are glass ceilings for certain genres that automatically rule it out of contention for best show ever. Harem genre for instance. If you set a hedonic rating scale and go by that to decide which are your best anime, as I did, then it works across genres.

    Bakemonogatari… I never finished that cos I went to Japan. I guess I should soon. Also, Xam’d isn’t that good. The 2nd half was quite bad actually, would’ve been an epic 52 episode anime though. Casshern is unfortunately really dull too.

  • Yes it’s not all bad, lots of good stuff today.

    No I would rather live in China today and not Tang dynasty.

    TJ is lol, Miha has a point, Golden Ages are for civilizations, not for animu.

  • Anime is civilisation for otakus!! Obviously, we’re talking about a production golden age, so it’s not about whether one can consume anime anytime, but whether the creators can make it.

  • Saying that mediocrity incarnate like Gintama is supposedly “decent” show nullified the rest of your post.

  • In that case you should revise your premise because the 90s were a certifiably better time for animators than it is today. Part of it is because the top animators today are all OLD and can’t work as hard as they did 10 years ago. Ghibli’s Miyazaki is a good example. And we’re not sure who can take the place of these animation giants once they retire or pass away (RIP Mr. Kanada).

    Of course, there are a lot of mitigating factor, since the industry is still growing and there are more animators now than 5 years ago…

    so I’m not sure if what you say has anything to do with your post.

  • “Snark, Mazinger is stupid. Gurren Lagann is good because it also makes fun of the super robot genre, on top of being a super robot genre anime.”

    Um… the new Mazinger also makes fun of the super robot genre, on top of being a super robot genre anime…

  • >>omo
    Actually, the anime industry seems to be in slow decline..

  • so I’m not sure if what you say has anything to do with your post.

    Look, we aren’t looking at working conditions, sales or anything else. We’re just looking at the total number of good series produced per year, where “good” is defined by me lol and thus subjective, but this is mitigated by the fact that “good” is generally agreed upon, while “BEST SHOW EVARRR” is somewhat more arguable. You understand that my hypothesis is that in the early 2000s, your veteran animators were senior enough to have creative output, and were aided by young whippersnappers with computer technology they previously did not have in the 90s. And they had high budgets due to projected market growth.

    I’m sure someday, when animation outside Japan is of a comparable standard, we’ll get much better shows, even if it’s voiced in English, Chinese, Korean or whatever language.

    I stand corrected on Mazinger, cos I watched only the first episode and I thought it sucked. Also, the people I know with the worst taste ever in anime liked it so it is natural to assume it sucks.

    karry is trolling again lol.

  • I think the other half of the negativity we see is just the normal interest cycle taking effect. Combine that with the absolute decrease in the overall quantity of anime made these days, and some feel like the sky is falling. I’m with you in the sense that this just gives us more time to catch up and appreciate what we have, since personally I haven’t been able to keep up with all the “good anime” as it is. If I have 3 really enjoyable shows to watch per season, I think it’s that’s good enough.

    That being said, I think there’s one almost-universal truth at play here as well. No matter what the era, there will always be a) a group of people who believe that it this is the best its ever been, and b) a vocal group who believe that it was better “back in the day”, whatever “the day” was by their definition. This hasn’t changed for as long as there has been anime (or broader, perhaps arguably for as long as there have been human beings, barring the occasional moments of either great turmoil or great progress). So while I think you could make a legitimate case that, from a production perspective, the early-to-mid-2000s was the best the industry has seen, a few years from now I guarantee that a vocal group will say that they wished they made more anime like they made in 2009. And another group that will in turn tell them to get some freakin’ perspective because it was way better in (x). I guess that’s just life.

  • Aha, I’ve got you tj_han! Let’s go through the hedonism you claim to rely on. For simplicity, let’s assume that there is only one kind of pleasure/enjoyment. This means that whether it is harem or mecha they stimulate the same thing: pleasure. This is important assumption because if there are several types of pleasure (one for each genre), you will end up with either subjectivity or inability to compare.

    Let’s make a second simplification: there are a finite number of qualities that each anime has such as production values, animation, music, etc. Each quality is lies within an closed interval (better yet the domain of each quality variable is a compact set), for example 0 to 1. Note that this is not a limiting assumption because you can fit infinitely many animes into interval from 0 to 1 since there are infinitely many numbers between 0 and 1.

    Final assumption is that there is a value of pleasure that corresponds to each combination of qualities. Thus, if Mazinger quality scores are (0.5, 0.1, 0.8, 0.3) there is a single value of pleasure that corresponds to these scores.

    To reiterate, each anime has associated continuous variables – qualities – that describe that anime. The domain of these variables is a compact set. There is a continuous function – pleasure function – that maps the qualities into pleasure. The series are judged on their level of pleasure.

    This is the hedonism you were talking about. A simple bit of mathematics tells that there exists at least one “best” series, though there may be several equally good.

    So where, you might ask, is the problem of your hedonism? The answer lies in state dependence. Imagine that there is another variable called state of being. For simplicity, let it be discrete i.e it consists of various states like happiness, sadness, drunkness, being in company, being alone, sunshine outside, etc.

    Now, if we assume that this discrete variable is a part of the pleasure function, i.e. effects out enjoyment of the series, then hedonism falls apart because you can’t separate the “true value” of the series embodied in the qualities and effect of your state when watching the series. You can’t remedy this problem by rewatching the series while in different state because your previous experience of the series is a state by itself, thus it effects all you future viewings. Thus, what you take as hedonism, in fact evaluation highly dependent on the state of the world when watching the series. And this renders moot the question of the “best” series.

    Note that this is not the same as subjectivity because the difference in perception of qualities does not come from difference in underlying preferences, but from objective difference in state.

  • @Deckard:
    Maybe it’s just my “state of being” at the moment, but somehow that actually makes total sense to me. And if you throw subjectivity into the mix (inherent bias?), it supports my underlying contention that there is actually no “objective” way to rate or measure anime, because even one’s own objectivity is, in a sense, subjective (subject to bias and variation based on changing factors). The theory would then follow that in order to make a personal judgement based on someone’s “review” of an anime, you would need to understand the anime, the viewer, *and* the viewer’s state of being. (If you understand at least two of these factors, you can probably infer the third.)

    This is sort of one of those “what have we just uncovered here” moments. ^^;

  • 2 relentlessflame: my mistake; I wasn’t explicit about this, but a major point of my argument was that subjectivity as difference in preferences is unnecessary to render moot the question of best anime. Introducing subjectivity vs. objectivity makes things too simple.

  • Yeah, but that’s a big assumption you started off with. LOL we sound like economists, with our numerous assumptions. Anyway, we can’t assume that everything gives us the same pleasure. A harem show, a scifi show and an action show are all pleasure-giving in their own way, so I get the previous comments on how we can’t compare them. Partly true. Now, can we all agree that something like Ghost in the Shell is superior to Love hina? Both of them were pioneers of their respective genres, ie Cyberpunk anime and harem anime. So why do we think GitS is superior?

    1. Does this anime make me learn or think?
    2. Is this anime exciting/interest-capturing in terms of plotting?
    3. Does this anime have good, round characters?
    4. Does this anime have beautiful designs and animation?
    5. Is this anime groundbreaking in some form of originality?
    6. Can this anime be shown to non-anime fans and have them nodding in approval?
    7. Does this anime achieve what it sets out to achieve (eg make us laugh, have erections etc)?

    So these are the 7 questions we can roughly judge an anime by, regardless of genre. Combining all of them into one imaginary score, scaled against other anime, allows us to say whether Darker than Black is better than Ouran High School Host Club.

    So relentless flame, that factor is also true. If I saw something like Genshiken back when I was a nooblet, I wouldn’t like it as much too. If I watched Nyankoi after I just got scratched by bastard cats I would find it less good than I do now. As such, that is why we take large sample sizes to nullify such natural variances.

    Thanks guys for taking the time to think about it though lol.

  • The original Darker than Black series fails 5 of those questions in my opinion though. You have shocked me with no mention of Letter Bee, which I think has better potential to be the best this season than Darker than Black 2, Yin notwithstanding.

  • …ok trying to think at 4am really sucks…but DtB seriously failed 5 of the7 questions u posted…

    personally, I think ef is deserving of praise too…but then again i’m a SHAFT fanboy…

  • This is getting more and more fun! :) I do admit that if you eliminate “state” as variable, the hedonism is consistent method of establishing the best series. In fact, what you proposed is to establish 7 “quality” variables and eliminate “state”, though you reintroduce them briefly near the end.

    However, the way you introduce them is incorrect. By omitting the “state” you introduce an omitted variable bias and this is not remedied by sample size. In fact, the omitted variable bias decrease the variance-covariance matrix of the estimator. Large sample size – under most circumstances – simply enables the use of asymptotic properties of the estimator which is important since finite sample properties are usually unknown. Large samples also enable the use of bootstrap/jacknife and Monte Carlo methods. Also, the problems with variance structure (autocorrelation, heteroscedastisity) do not cause bias, but rather inefficiency of the estimators.

    Incidentally, in your though process you still use a single variable to measure pleasure this implies an assumption of a function that maps the many pleasures into a single index i.e. single pleasure.

    Now, I would not claim that Hina is superior to GITS, although I know some people who claim Hina is superior to GITS 2. :) Ouran and DtB are more contentious example because Ouran has brilliant pieces of comedy if you are in the right state to enjoy them; hence the importance of the “state”.

  • OMG Xak…what show were you watching? Because it certainly wasn’t anything close to DtB going from your comments.

  • @Deckard: You’re right; I sort of co-opted your point to make a different point. ^^; It’s sort of like the difference between common-cause and special-cause variation. Your argument was that even if you remove subjectivity, one’s personal opinion is dependent on circumstance as well. I co-opted that realization to point out that if you re-introduce subjectivity in addition to circumstance, you have something which, as tj_han rightfully pointed out, can only be truly judged on the aggregate (and even then, it isn’t such a good indicator of personal enjoyment). But yes, anyway… I know, that wasn’t what you were getting at, so sorry. :p

    @tj_han:
    Ironically enough, I recognize that people regard GitS as the superior anime, but I personally just can’t get into the show. And I realize that’s a “what?! how can you not like GitS?! it’s a classic, man!” sort of comment to make… but yeah. So while I’m not necessarily going to say that Love Hina is “superior”, at least I was able to watch it and enjoy it for what it is. This is where that variation and the need for aggregate samples fits in. But, even so… a show being critically and publicly acclaimed doesn’t necessarily translate to any given person’s enjoyment. I suppose if I were starting from absolute 0 and all shows were equal, then I might conclude that, statistically speaking, I’d have better luck if I started with the top-rated shows. But from my perspective, those top-rated shows aren’t “better anime”. The “best anime” to me are, of course, the ones I most enjoyed, and everyone else be damned.

    So I guess really, to be honest, I do judge anime according to that one simplified variable called “enjoyment”, and everything else is a function of that. The seven points may or may not have any bearing, nor do I necessarily see why I should care. It’s more of an intellectual exercise in trying to break down one’s enjoyment into factors that can be objectively compared, but that’s removing the subjective and the circumstantial from the equation, and my theory is that you need to know at least two out of three factors to understand the applicability of someone’s opinion.

    Anyway, all this is why I don’t believe in the value of ratings of “good/better/best anime”. If what ultimately matters is enjoyment, and enjoyment is personal and variable, these seven factors and the resulting rating don’t tell us anything worth knowing (unless you just so happen to find that your own favourites always seem to coincide with majority rule). Liking anime that the majority consider “good” is, like most of this discussion, simply academic.

  • This season is boring.

  • @GlenGrimLoch no i’m quite sure it’s dTb XD

    1. make me learn or think? learn, no; think, maybe a little…just maybe…
    2. exciting/interest-catching? for me, yeah, but my standards are seriously low…a show needs to be utter shit for me to drop it…but dTb was only so-so in this department…
    3. good, round characters… nothing new…so-so again
    4. beautiful design and animation… not bad, nice fights, but not epic
    5. groundbreaking… no
    6. it’s typical…nothing exceptional
    7. does it achieve… well i like Yin, so all’s fine XD

    @LianYL haha it’s a season of S2s, but interesetingly enuf, i think this is the best season for this year… and for me this is THE ULTIMATE SEASON ever har har har

  • Haha my head is spinning from all of the replies :P Can’t make it simpler and more understandable? :P

  • wth is this ???? an arguement of econs and stats???? this is the most serious business ever since…. umm…. last year??????

    let me formulate an arguement over my studying of my econs quiz before i comment

  • Sorry guys I went to sleep last night, cos it was 5 am for me.

    Thankfully I know Xak in real life enough to know his tastes are wildly different from most people. A good example is how he was raving about how good Mai Otome was when everyone was hating on it. I’ve only seen the first ep of Letter Bee, I might watch more, but it just really isn’t very interesting. It sounds like the type of show that attracts the more “sensitive” guys and girls, similar to whatchacallit the Death God show.

    Deckard, less jargon would be useful in putting across your point lol. I don’t think anyone here understands your last comment. When posting on a laymen blog such as this, I try not to use technical jargon as often as possible, because it defeats the whole purpose of blogging.

    Relentless: The majority like Naruto and Bleach. I wonder if it’s because they haven’t had the chance to try other anime, or that they really do like orange ninjas. I do read the manga for both, and Naruto is not bad while Bleach is shit but I’m pretty sure the majority like these only because they haven’t yet come across better ones, even in the same genre. My point is that, most people generally can tell what is good or bad, and rankings are subjective, but not THAT subjective. A good example is Rotten Tomatoes, the review site. The good stuff get high ratings, regardless of genre.

  • Part of what makes a show good is its ability/potential to transcend demographics and redefine genres, no?

  • So darker than black is the best show for you? Well, each to his own I guess… Yeah sure I like it too (5% grading)

  • I thought the 8 eps of Haruhi were awesome to be honest.

  • 2 tj_han: My apologies, that technical paragraph was aimed at you because I selfishly assumed that you had knowledge of statistics. You have probably understood the meaning of the jargon and the point of that paragraph; however, here it is in simple terms: having many animes to compare does not help in being unbiased. Oh, and Toy Story and Toy Story 2 are both in “best ever” top 10 on Rotten Tomatoes, now how am I supposed to take that rating seriously? :)

    2 Jon: For a given definition of good. Many of the films shown at Cannes, though considered good, hardly ever get watched outside of the festival halls. You can take GITS: Innocence as relevant example. Popularity isn’t the same as quality.

    2 Exiled_Gundam: I’ll leave relentlessflame and tj_han’s ideas to the authors, but mine was something like this: even if you and I have absolutely the same tastes, if I watch My-Otome before My-Hime, I will immensely enjoy the former. Where as if you watch My-Hime first, you may well end up underwhelmed by My-Otome (though I think Otome is great fun despite watching it second). Hence we can’t possibly agree on the best show even though we have exact same tastes.

  • While I like statistics, I’m not exactly a specialist in it. Like most uni science students, we know enough to conduct our experiments, and enough to analyse news articles which make use of bad statistics to make false points. Anyway, I think you mistunderstood my point on sample size, I meant it in reference to Relentless’ point that different people have different ratings for the same show when in different state of minds. Note it’s the same show.

    This is similar to sampling of a food product, to use an example I’m more familiar with. If you get a large sample of panelists, your final result will be more representative of the whole population than a small sample, obviously, since this “state of mind” variable will be evened out.

  • “Popularity isn’t the same as quality.”

    True. I’m suddenly reminded of a certain wildly popular series of novels about *ahem* sparkly *cough* vampires *snort*. I digress..

  • Shin Mazinger is not stupid, its the most awesome anime this year to have graced my screen.

  • i’m surprised clannad clannad after story are not mentioned. wat happened to animes tat make us shed manly tears?

  • “Unless of course you’re a moe-mongering otaku idiot who thinks K-ON and Lucky Star and 8 identical episodes of Haruhi were hell good.”

    I see plenty of those kind of guys running anime blogs and swooning over Saimoe. Says a lot about the otaku stereotype, eh?

  • The lack of mention of Kaiba, Terra E, Mononoke is disappointing. Anyway, we’re not spoiled, this season is terrible.

    /argument.

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