When it comes to Anime, first impressions are kind of a big deal. With so many different shows to watch and so little time in most of our lives to consume it all, we tend to be pretty selective about what we spend our limited watching window on.
If an Anime series doesn’t grab you immediately or seems pretty bland and uninteresting by the time you’ve completed the first episode, then there’s a chance that this may always be the case. After all, surely something that is worth your time should be engaging from the get go, right?
This seems to be the attitude of many, and while I do think it’s completely justified to have this mindset, it’s something that I personally, have always struggled to get behind.
The attitude of “it never gets better” has always been weird to me because a good chunk of shows that I consider to be my all time favourites only became favourites because I persevered and gave them a chance to improve over time, which they did.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer that a show should always be pulling out all the stops to engross its audience as early as possible. It’s part of the reason why Attack on Titan is one of the most memorable shows to come out in recent years because that first episode did everything right. It immediately set the tone for the series and had everyone itching to know what would happen next. It was spectacular.
However, there are plenty of shows that don’t do this and initially come across as trashy or boring, despite the fact that they drastically improve in quality later on. A recent example of this being the currently airing Akashic Records of Bastard Magical Instructor, a show that had a pretty poorly received first episode that caused a large number of viewers to drop the show immediately. Yet, in its later episodes, the show has evolved into something fairly unique and subversive that has a lot of heart to it while doing a lot of interesting things that set itself apart from shows it was being compared to after the airing of its premiere episode. It’s a show that has dramatically improved over time, despite originally seeming like a cookie cutter, magical high school series we’ve come to expect every season. If you dropped Akashic Records after episode 1, I’d suggest giving it another whirl.
For me personally, this has happened with many shows over the years. It’s not always true, and there have been plenty of Anime that I’ve continued watching in hopes that they’d get better and they either didn’t improve at all or actually got worse. But whenever it has happened it’s been a very rewarding experience. In the end, it was time well spent.
As many of you are already aware, I’m a huge fan of the Anime, Katekyo Hitman Reborn. It’s one of my favourites and it’s one of the few shows I’ve given a perfect score to on my MyAnimeList page. It’s a show that’s very dear to me and I won’t be forgetting about it any time soon.
But funnily enough, I used to hate this show. By the end of the first episode I was incredibly bored. The story was episodic, the characters were irritating as hell and the jokes just didn’t land at all and never made me laugh. The show was boring and uninteresting, so much so that it almost made me break my “no drop” policy.
But I’d heard good things about Hitman Reborn from people I trusted and because it’s a Shounen Jump title I assumed that, like many of its peers, it was simply off to a slow start and would eventually pick itself up.
19 episodes later and the show was a little better. The characters began to grow on me and the once unfunny and irritating humour finally started to strike the right note on occasion, but it was still nothing spectacular and I honestly just wasn’t having fun with it. But I finally got to the end of the first story arc, so I figured “Why not try this next arc and see how it goes?”
So I tried the next arc and to my surprise it was good. In fact, it was really good. We finally dropped the episodic, high school shenanigans in favour of a core storyline with actual dramatic stakes and tension, just like the shows premise had promised. The characters also started to get some development, particularly the protagonist Tsuna who up until this point in the story had been one of the most insufferable leads I’d ever seen from an Anime series.
To cap it all off, the final battle of this second arc was both an amazing spectacle of pure awesomeness and a fantastic climax that I never saw coming. It was incredible and served as the biggest turning point in the series and from this point on the series just kept getting stronger and stronger. The story became a lot more involving and serious and more and more interesting ideas kept being introduced with each new story arc. The later parts of the series even managed to make me care about the events from the first story arc that I initially didn’t care for by sentimentally calling back to them. In the end, Katekyo Hitman Reborn, a show I despised with every fibre of my being, became one of my all time favourites and has remained so for the last three years.
If I never approached Hitman Reborn with the mindset of “maybe it’ll get better”, I’d have missed out on one of the best Anime I’ve ever seen, and I’m glad I didn’t miss out. I’m really glad.
Perhaps it’s because of my uncanny tolerance for bullshit that’s caused me to never drop a single Anime during the many years I’ve been an Anime fan, but I always feel there’s a chance that something can get better.
Not everything is guaranteed to be a hit from the beginning and not everything is necessarily going to improve over time either.
But sometimes things do get better.
And when they do, you’re met with something glorious.