It DOES get better (sometimes)

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.

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*slurp*

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

TANAKA

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13 thoughts on “It DOES get better (sometimes)

  1. can confirm…akashic records episodes 1 and 2 are like night and day. personally, i think ive always embodied the principle of “you are in no position to criticize something unless you see the whole thing”, so i dont tend to drop shows.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think my train of thought is somewhat in between yours and Kapodaco’s. So I think it’s very true anime can improve over time, in fact I think that’s sort of the point of a tv series, to get better with time.

    But I think that even the start of a show (99% of the time) sets the ceiling it can reach. I’d point to Jojo in this case. I don’t think anyone would call part 1 their favorite but without it there isn’t a base on which to build the better and bizarre-er adventures. This can also work the other way around, ike you mentioned with AoT the premiere set a ceiling so astronomically high that a lot of people are disappointed when it fails to come close.

    Is episode 1 of Madoka even that good without looking at it in retrospect? But of course the rest of the show could not be as great as it was without it’s deceptive opening. Same as gakkougurashi! But the difference is that these premieres are decent on first viewing and great on retrospect.

    The first episode is a seed for your show and if it’s bad you limit it’s potential even if the rest of the show makes up some ground.

    My thoughts are a bit unfocused cause they’re just coming off the top of my head so I hope I got my point across.

    Nice post, looking forward to the big one though!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I’m assuming Kapodaco holds the “it never gets better” mindset? 😀

      Jojo is actually a very good example of this. I’d definitely say that the series drastically improved over time, although it was never “boring”, it just went from fun and bizarre to totally awesome and insane.

      Madoka and Gakkougurashi are funny examples for me, because I knew what they were going into them. But I can definitely see how they would apply here if you didn’t know the twist of each of them.

      I definitely agree that planting a bad seed in the beginning can indeed have a bad effect on the overall show even if it gets better. It’s unlikely I’d ever want to rewatch a good chunk of the early material of Reborn despite the show being a favourite. I’ve never tried actually. Maybe I should.

      No worries! This post in general was unfocused and came off the top of my head as well, so it’s fitting (you seemed clear to me though!)

      Thanks a lot! I’ll try to get that big post done by the weekend. I’m looking forward to sharing it with everyone!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m glad you can get enjoyment and feel rewarded for sticking to shows under your strict principle, but for me, it doesn’t matter if it does get better or not, especially if it’s as long as Hitman Reborn. My mindset revolves around constantly being aware of my finite amount of time, the inevitability of death, and using those two facts as a basis for deciding if something’s worth my time. Heck, I’ll even drop shows I DO like regardless if they’re too long (or if the manga’s better).

    Not here to ruin your enjoyment, and I don’t mean to project this tone onto your piece, but I am so used to (and sick and tired of) people recommending long lists of things for me to watch, play, read, listen to ON TOP of all my already exceptionally long list of things to do.

    Dropping things just makes that daily stress a lot easier and I can say that I feel much more relieved in adopting this new mindset in the last year or so. It helps me focus on other things I’d rather spend my time doing and get around to watching stuff I’d much prefer watching and get more out of than sticking to the ones that tortured me (hyperbole for bored or physically pained me) and induced Stockholm syndrome in me.

    Again, if it’s something that works for you, I’m not here to criticize. But when I see these sort of arguments to try and convince people to stick to things they’ve dropped (correct me if I’m reading the message wrong) I just feel that’s nobody’s business but the person who dropped it, and that they have made no wrong decision in doing so (even if it’s something I personally like / love).

    You’re not wrong in saying things get better (not always, but they often do), but if it takes dozens of episodes (or half the series in the case of 12 / 13 episode, etc. shows) it just doesn’t feel worth it in my opinion.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. First of all, no need for apologies. I understand and respect your viewpoint and it’s one that’s shared by a large amount of people, so I get where you’re coming from.

      While I myself have a painfully limited amount of time on my hands to do anything, I guess the major factor in everything is I don’t really let it bother me all that much. Sure, my time on this earth is limited and I’ll die eventually, but if you haven’t noticed already I’m a pretty laid back guy. I don’t really view things with a sense of urgency or let myself get too stressed out. That being said, if things ever did get to that level, I’d likely be the same as you. Probably.

      As far as recommendations go, I get how that can be tiresome, especially if you have a big list already. I’ve never really considered recommendations that big of a deal though and I rarely listen to them. I’m pretty comfortable with just choosing what I want to watch myself, outside of the Readers Recommendation series I do on here, and that’s more to help me pick from stuff I already want to watch anyway. I’m not closed off to recommendations, obviously, but I just don’t really let them bother me all that much. I’ll get round to it whenever. I’ll find time one day.

      It’s cool that your own mindset has helped relieve your stress and focus on other things.

      As for the “message”… I feel you’ve misinterpreted here. I’m not trying to convince anyone to keep watching things they’ve dropped at all. As I’ve said several times in the past, dropping shows is the healthy (and probably right) thing to do. I just can’t do it because I’m a completionist in every aspect of my life. All I’m doing here is presenting the idea that things CAN get better and that sometimes sticking with a show can have positive results, not “you should stick with X show because it gets better”. Sorry if the post came across as that, but that’s not my intention and it hardly ever is with these kinds of posts. I’m rarely aiming to change people’s minds, I just want to get my own thoughts out there and share my ideas with people.

      Overall, I get where you’re coming from and respect your take on the subject. You’re a sane person, and that’s cool.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to share your thoughts.

      Take care!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think that there are definitely times when series have slow starts or change in tone or quality in a significant fashion part-way through their run. This can be good or bad depending on whether a series improves or decreases in quality, and also depends on what a viewer likes (someone who loves and was expecting traditional magical girl shows may actually end up feeling ripped off or upset about the tonal change in Madoka for instance).

    I think that you can’t really judge a series as a whole from the first episode, or even the first few episodes (3 episodes is approximately 25% of a 1 cour series), but at the same time I recognise that everyone is not as time-rich as myself and they may not want to stay invested in something which is not grabbing their attention. To some extent, that’s why I think being part of an anime community is good; sometimes series do really improve part way through and positive comments from people whose tastes in anime are similar to our own can be helpful in giving a series a second chance. Kemono Friends is something which I watched from the beginning, but I know that many people became interested in the series after a few episodes had elapsed and it became clear that there was more going on than a simple ‘power of friendship’ adventure. Being prepared to stick things out can lead to some charmingly surprising results.

    At the same time, it is hard to get on board with people saying ‘this gets good after the first 15 episodes’, as instead of watching the equivalent of an anime series of something which people may not find engaging, I could be watching something that I find enjoyable with that time. Does that mean that I’m perhaps unfairly biased against longer, slower-starting series (where 15 episodes may not even come close to the 25% that the ‘3 episode test’ would give for a 12 episode series)? Perhaps. I don’t tend to drop things (I even keep telling myself I’ll come back to Bleach one day), but having to invest more time for a perhaps uncertain payoff (as I find that a general recommendation isn’t really an indication of how much I’ll like something) definitely makes me more reluctant to start.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Given the volume of anime I watch, I do drop things that really don’t grab me in the first episode or look like they are totally outside of any genre I’m interested in and I’m not in the mood, but I usually make a note to give these at least a second go at some point where I’ll try and push through 2 – 4 episodes in a sitting before making a final decision about whether to cross it off my potential watch list. Some stories start with a bang but then fizzle. Others just take awhile to get going. You have to try a lot to be sure you aren’t missing something.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m one of those people that almost never drops a show I started with. I do have to say that a show that has a good pilot episode usually tends to encourage mevto watch it faster, than a show that starts of pretty bland. Most series however whether it is anime, or a normal tv series always take some time to get up to speed. You have to get used to quite a number of elements. New characters, a new story, what is the story about etc. But dropping a show early can really rob you sometimes of discovering something really amazing. So yeah, giving up to early on a series is something that I almost never do. But the opposite is also true: sometimes it does NOT get better, and you might kick yourself for not dropping the show earlier. But that I guess is the risk you sometimes have to take. Great post as always! 😀

    Like

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