I love you but you're terrible

Dragonball Z

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The prototypical Shonen anime. Taps directly into the power fantasy mindset of boys. If you haven't at least heard of DBZ... I'm surprised.

Why it's on the list

People usually bring up all the badass moments from this show, but that's not what gets it on the list for me necessarily. Behind all that is some great character stuff. When the show drops its angry pose, it can be really funny. I love the episode where Goku and Piccolo get driver's licenses. Hail Satan.

Why it's not higher

The show spends too much time being self serious for me. But more than anything, the show spends too much time with NOTHING HAPPENING! Few shows drag the way DBZ drags. There's a joke that all you really need to watch are the previous episode recap and the next episode preview with DBZ, but even that is generous at times. Still, when it can keep its head out of its own ass and if you can tolerate the generally slow pace, there's a lot to love here. It's just not delivered very well on the whole.


Yu-Gi-Oh

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Shonen tropes applied to a trading card game. Has a lot of the same strengths and weaknesses as DBZ. But once they actually built the card game and had to give the battles rules to follow (In the second major act) it becomes more interesting to actually watch a card game play out.

Why it's on the List

Character interaction and stupid funny moments are what make this worth watching. That the card games eventually gain structure and aren't just total nonsense is a big plus for me.

Why it's not higher

Gets stuck up its own butt. Too self-serious near the end of most of its plot lines, especially the final arc. Also, spending 4-5 episodes per card game gets ridiculous. The show's heartfelt message literally gets revealed as bullshit magical cheating at the end. Which is hilarious, and yet...


Kare kano

Directed by Hideaki Anno on the heels of Neon Genesis Evangelion. And like Evangelion the show became mired in behind the scenes issues. This is a teen romance story, and one Anno was using a bunch of minimalistic techniques to tell, so when it falls apart, it basically ceases to exist. Although there is a later episode where they give up on animating and just show hand drawn cutouts tapped to Popsicle sticks, which is amazing.

Why it's on the list 

These are believable teenagers, which also makes them kind of terrible. Although you still root for them. Not only for their romance to work but for them to grow up. They make each other better as they learn to feel empathy for another person. Also, again, the popsicle stick figure puppet episode is amazing.

Why it's not higher

About halfway through Anno jumped shit, apparently spurred by complaints from the original mangaka that the show was emphasizing too much humor and not enough romance. Which is crazy to me because without that humor, which shows an understanding of how shitty these kids can be, the show would be completely insufferable. Which it still kind of is to me honestly.


The Vision of Escaflowne

One of the most frustrating shows on this list. There are a bunch of great elements here, but I hate so many other elements. Ultimately that's what defines this tier: Shows that I really like parts of, that really stick with me, coupled with large chunks that I completely hate. 

Why it's on the list

A great hero who pilots a great mech than transforms into a dragon. A cool intimidating villain and another bat shit crazy villain. Blends Shonen and Shoujo tropes in an interesting way. Planted the Japanese phrase for altering fate completely in my brain forever.

Why it's not higher

Other than a few characters, I hate everyone in this world. Including the main character. HATE. It's not that the main character is annoying or obnoxious personality wise. I hate her because of the things she does. Mostly that she spends a lot of the show's run time in love with a piece of shit who actually is my least favorite character. The big bad has one of the most laughably terrible plans I've ever seen. (Which honestly ends up kinda being a plus) Also possibly the dumbest example of the main character returning home at the end of the magical journey trope.


Digimon Adventure 02

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Digimon was one of my favorite shows as a kid, so spoiler warning: it will show up again. This is a sequel series, but the 02 in the title actually stands for 2002, the year the story takes place. AKA the future, by about a year and a half from when it came out. This was a jarring shift, because there was no production break. 02 started the week after the Finale of Adventure aired. The time skip was disorienting, but more importantly the rules of the show had changed, continuity errors abound, and it was immediately clear that the magic of the first season wasn't quite there.

Why it's on the list

But sometimes it is. The idea of an evil DigiDestined was a great one and the show ran with it right off the bat. The very end of that arc is this season's high point for sure. The Dub writers did an admirable job of cramming in puns and dumb jokes that honestly saves much of the early episodes, which would otherwise be pretty boring. They even add in character stuff that honestly should have been there in the first place. It's all in line with the animation and the tone of the show for the most part so it works.

Why it's not higher

Even if you ignore the bizarre continuity issues this series has, a lot of it is just bad. The evil DigiDestined becomes much less interesting once he's turned good. One of the other new kids for this season is perfectly enthusiastic and dumb, one is uninteresting and one fucking sucks and I hate him. The most interesting subplots fall by the wayside without a satisfying conclusion, the ending is bad, and the epilogue has a special place in the Bad Epilogue Hall of Fame. (Up there with the Harry Potter Epilogue and the second epilogue to War and Peace)


X

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By some sick twist of fate I would up watching the first seven episodes of X three times in a row trying to show it to a friend. It wasn't really worth it. But X has one character that I completely love, and his story is great. The show hilariously gets by with basically only one song, but it really works for the show.

Why it's on the list

The second to last episode is really great and the show has enough good parts to make it worth getting there.

Why it's not higher

The last episode on the other hand is a big turd, since the interesting story has already ended. The show has plenty of other questionable or uninspired episodes, including an episode that is 90% aimless walking by a character from another series who we've never met in this show before.


Violinist of Hameln

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The classic story of young man comes of age and discovers that he has a devil inside of him. Cloaked in medieval fantasy stuff and musical instrument theming. The style of the show is very dark, which is pretty weird because the manga was lighthearted fun.

Why it's on the list

Does what it does very well. Has a really good noble villain character. That fact that it is as watchable as it is is impressive because...

Why it's not higher

This show had NO budget. The last two episodes of Evangelion have more animation than this. The show is mostly stills, That it works at all is impressive.