With each passing year, anime grows more popular among international audiences, and alongside this growth comes a slew of fantastic titles, many of which are rightfully considered artistic masterpieces. However, for every ground-breaking work like Attack on Titan or Demon Slayer, there are countless series that barely scratch the surface of the genre’s potential.
While most of these poorly received titles are best left untouched, a few not-so-great ongoing anime are entertaining enough to justify checking out. Regardless of whether they suffer from shoddy narratives, boring characters, poor production value, or some other shortcomings, fans can still find plenty of enjoyment in these below-average series.
10 Sword Art Online’s Reboot Could Be A Sign Of Improvement
Sword Art Online took the world by storm when it was released in 2012. The adventures of its protagonist, Kirito, introduced many anime fans to the isekai genre. Despite the series’ significant decline in originality/quality after the first season, it has remained one of the most popular franchises of the past decade.
As is the case with many other popular anime as of late, SAO has been attempting to cash in on its success at the theatrical box office. Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of a Dark Dusk, is scheduled to be released later this year and will provide a floor-by-floor reboot of the show’s first arc.
9 The Irregular At Magic High School And Its Spin-Offs Are Light-Hearted Fun
Even the most staunch supporters of The Irregular At Magic High School will readily acknowledge that the series is defined by its polarizing themes and tropes. The show suffers from a ridiculously overpowered protagonist, whose talents effectively render any challenges in the series a moot point, on top of several other consistently occurring problems.
However, despite its poor handling of female characters and annoying long-winded dialogue, there is undeniably something fun about the series. The Irregular At Magic High School seems destined for at least one more season, so hopefully, 8bit Studios can focus on what makes it a hit moving forward.
8 The Rising Of The Shield Hero’s Relatively Dark Tone Saves The Series
If any anime genre overutilizes tropes more than shonen, it almost certainly has to be isekai. The Rising of the Shield Hero certainly lends credence to this belief, following in the footsteps of Sword Art Online and numerous others by thrusting its meek protagonist into a video game world where they suddenly transform into an unbeatable warrior surrounded by adoring fans.
The Rising of the Shield Hero does offer one thing that makes up for its otherwise banal presentation: a darker tone and subject matter. Most isekai don’t engage with more mature themes, but this show at least attempts to address them, even if it is to varying degrees of success.
7 Fairy Tail Gets Better As It Continues
Whereas many of anime’s most-criticized series suffer from specific issues, Fairy Tail has instead become infamous for a separate problem: middling mediocrity. The wizard-filled shonen did little to distinguish itself from the pack during its original run, but with the announcement of an anime adaptation of the 100 Years Quest arc, fans of the show have plenty of reason to be excited.
Fairy Tail was never one of the shonen genre’s crown jewels. However, given its fanbase, which was comparable to more critically-acclaimed series, it seemed to be judged by an unfair set of standards. Perhaps the show’s revival will be able to reinvent its reputation in the anime community.
6 Tomodachi Game Borrows From Other Fictional Works To Varying Success
Tomodachi Game draws many similarities to the Saw franchise and the 2021 breakout hit, Squid Game. However, where those works succeed with their nuance and ability to generate emotion, this shonen series falls well short. Its five main characters, trapped in a game designed to test their friendships, are held back by their one-dimensional nature just as much as they are by the show’s poor pacing.
Although Tomodachi Game doesn’t execute the win-this-game-or-face-the-consequences formula very well, at least it’s drawing inspiration from a narrative structure that lends itself to being entertaining. Given that the show’s manga contains plenty of content yet to be adapted, it might be worth picking up as a future investment.
5 Boruto Could Rebound When It Incorporates More Manga Canon
The Naruto franchise completely changed the anime landscape. So, there were understandably high expectations for its sequel series, Boruto: Naruto Next Generations, upon its release in 2017. However, up to this point in time, the next generation of Hidden Leaf shinobi have largely been a letdown… at least in terms of watchability.
Boruto‘s 250+ episodes almost entirely consist of anime canon and filler, providing at least one clear reason why audiences have perceived this product as lesser than the original. Given Naruto‘s immense legacy, shonen fans can’t help but root for the series to eventually correct the course.
4 Orient Shares Many Similarities With Another Franchise
Shinobu Ohtaka was the creator of the Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic franchise, and in many ways, her 2022 series, Orient, attempts to capitalize on her best-known work’s success. The show’s characters hark to Alibaba and the Magi crew, and even though they are slightly lesser creations, the cast is fun to watch.
Despite some clear issues with Orient‘s animation quality and narrative structure, the samurai-centric series possesses plenty of potential. Ohtaka’s world-building chops are evident throughout each episode, and as it continues to be released, there should be more and more incentive to bring in prospective viewers.
3 In The Land Of Leadale Is Predictable, But Refreshingly So
Yet another in the long line of inoffensive, rinse-and-recycled storylines that dominate the isekai genre, In the Land of Leadale begins with protagonist Keina Kagami being reborn as “Cayna,” her playable character from the series’ titular video game. Using her skills, Keina navigates the game’s setting, meeting its NPCs, and learning about the history of Leadale.
If this description sounds like a familiar one, then viewers will be unsurprised by the show’s overall progression. However, for all of its stereotypical elements, there is something endearing about watching the kind-hearted Cayna travel through the game she inhabits. Not every show needs to push the boundaries, and In the Land of Leadale demonstrates why there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a little comfort food.
2 Tokyo Mew Mew New Falls Just Short Of The Original
Tokyo Mew Mew New is actually a reboot of an older title, Tokyo Mew Mew, yet, despite drawing from an established formula, the series has actually been received worse than its predecessor. A variety of changes and cuts were made to the reboot, and as a result of these creative decisions, Tokyo Mew Mew New falls a bit flat when compared to the original.
While the mixed reviews for Tokyo Mew Mew New are worthy of mention, it isn’t completely devoid of Tokyo Mew Mew‘s trademark charm and cuteness. Modern animation and new character designs allow the 2022 title to shine, making it a fun watch for returning fans and new viewers alike.
1 Berserk’s Legacy Deserves A Better Anime Adaptation
No manga series has a more tenuous relationship with anime adaptations than Kentaro Miura’s dark fantasy, Berserk. First released in 1997, Berserk has been sidelined due to the slow pacing of its manga, placed on hiatus because of production issues, and most notably, criticized for the horrible quality of its 3D-animation reboots.
There is no arguing that Miura’s iconic manga possesses more than enough substance to produce a worthy adaptation, but it remains to be seen if the task will ever be completed by any studio, let alone one with the ability to put together a decent product. The Golden Age Arc trilogy of films is receiving a recut for Japanese television, meaning there is still a glimmer of hope for long-time fans of Guts and his Dragon Slayer blade.
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