Ubu Roi’s Worst of 2007

Side note: A lot of fansub material is in the .mkv format these days. Unfortunately, for some reason, in the middle of prepping this article, Zoomplayer decided that all screenshots would be of the first frame in the file, no matter what. This has limited the caps from certain series. I wish Power DVD would add .mkv compatibility, so I wouldn’t need multiple player programs…

Well, thanks to a lack of planning skills, procrastination, and other issues, I am finally getting around to writing my “worst of 2007” post. Betcha thought I wasn’t going to do one this year, didn’t you?

Yeah, me too. Although now that I look at the dates, I’m mostly on schedule compared to last year. Everyone else did theirs before 2007 ended though, so I’m not exactly catching the wave here. Well, I’ll live. If this flu doesn’t kill me first, that is.

Unfortunately, it’s going to be a bit difficult to do it, compared to last year. For one thing, I didn’t follow nearly as many series. I’ve got a huge backlog of obligation buys to work through, and somewhere along the way, I need to pick up a few new things to watch. Adding a lot more to my buy list just wasn’t going to happen; and to top it off, I don’t think I was a tolerant of crappy animé this year. Is that cause or effect? A casual perusal of other bloggers indicates that there may have been an increase in the amount of crap, which should make it easier to write this article, shouldn’t it? Well, given that the list isn’t exactly scientific, I should be able to work up something — even if, for the rambling reasons above, I don’t expect this list to be up to the quality of last year’s pair of posts.

However… the reason I’m making all the excuses is because I’m doing the list a bit differently this year. Last year, the whole thing was in good fun. This year, I’m being halfway serious about it. After drawing up the two lists, I did some shuffling around, and the “Worst of 2007” is actually made up of things that I think were actually done poorly, rather than things I just want to poke fun at. Not to say that I didn’t poke fun at them, though.

In part, this change was forced by a complete lack of entries for the categories of “Worst Tactical Moment for a Yuri Scene” and “Worst Animation of an Unripe Cantaloupe.” What can I say? It’s an off year, but at least we do have a cabbage horror to poke fun at, so it’s not a total loss. There’s still humor and some of the selections poke fun at the genre or events of the year. Never fear, though; that just means that the silly and humorous selections got concentrated in the Honorable Mentions! Expect those in another day or two.

So, to start off the fun… (NSFW below the fold.)

10. Worst “You Got Your Plot In My Fanservice:”
What else? Goshuusho-sama Ninomiya-kun. (There, I think I’ve hit every variant spelling now!) I’d say Nagaserette Ariantou, but that show’s premise was so stupid it couldn’t be said to have a plot. (And the fanservice was too limited, also. This is generally not a plus in a fanservice series.) Anyway, after a really stupid head-fake that pissed me off, GSNK got on with the real story, which was nothing more than Shungo’s amnesia and the “which succubus does he chose” conflict. Ok, so it wasn’t much of a plot, but it was a lot of fanservice, stopping a pubic-hair short of ecchi. Look, there’s two mistakes that can be made with fanservice. (Well, three, but we’ won’t mention Eiken here. People might be eating at their computers.) First, you can insert fanservice that distracts from a serious plot and misleads people as to the nature of the show. See Divergence Eve. Second, you can insert a thin and poorly done dramatic plot into a fanservice series, and that’s the mistake made by GSNK.

Thin farcical plots are just fine: see He Is My Master. Thin serious plots are not good. If the whole show had been done in the spirit of the beginning omakés, this would have been a very good series, IMHO.

If there were any justice in the world, this would have been a magic girl transformation scene, instead of one of the omakés.

9. Worst Programming Decision:
What a difficult category, with a pair of really strong contenders. Kyoto Animation should win it, for following Kanon with two more 26-episode series (Lucky Star, Clannad) , neither of which was a Full Metal Panic series, let alone the next Haruhi Suzimiya series. Somebody shut down Key’s visual novel division, so KyoAni can get back to business, ok? Instead of giving us Disappearance of Haruhi Suzimaya, we had a bunch of really crappy live action bits made by actresses that I would say needed to go back to acting school, except I don’t think they ever went in the first place. Rumor continues to have it that this programing error will be fixed in 2008. We can only hope.

As bad as that was, though, this was the year that brought us a third Negima?! series; live action, no less, and nothing can top that. What, did the Japanese have a writer’s strike before Hollywood started theirs? Watching the live action series would probably have sent me screaming from the room, but I was afraid if my brain cells died too fast, I wouldn’t be able to move my legs in time to escape. Apparently the same fear prevented fansubbing — which may have saved an entire generation of English-speaking otaku.

Yeah, so being live means that it’s not animé and technically ineligible. My list, my picks. 😛 Personally, I prefer the fourth series….

8. Worst Series Planning:
Code Geass gets the nod. The fact that a Fall 2006 series can make it into a 2007 list is your first hint that they screwed this up. After producing 24 episodes of confusion, including no less than three recap episodes, we get a two-episode “summer special” to tie up the first season by throwing about 25% of the series continuity straight out the window, introducing a new major character, and putting Lulu’s army into the worst 4th quarter collapse since, oh, October 1st in Detroit. (Just to show that Jason’s not the only one that can pull out stupid sports metaphors.) Exactly how the summer special would have been “since” the football game, when the game was after the special, is something I’m not sure of, but it probably involves Yuki Nagato and the International Date Line.

7. Worst Pacing by a 26-Episode Series:
That numbers 7 and 8 are actually different can be demonstrated effortlessly by their different winners. Code Geass’ is a credible entry in the planning category, but it had decent pacing; there were only four filler episodes, and three of those were recaps caused by the poor planning. Pacing of Shakugan no Shana II was atrocious; it wins through the simple expedient of starting the story, then stopping it for ten episodes of heartrending, boring, tedious dreck. They really should have cut everything from episode 4 through 11, combined half of 3 with half of 12, likewise combined 9 & 10 into one episode, and gone from there. That would have mostly eliminated a hugely boring stretch during which not a damn thing of consequence happened. If four more episodes worth of crap can be scooped out of the last 14, we could have a 14-episode, tightly paced series instead of this 26-episode torturous angstfest.

6. Worst Adaptation Butchery of a Light Novel:
Tie — Zero No Tsukaima II vs. Shakugan no Shana II. In theory, ZnT II might have an edge, since I’m still watching SnS II, but then, the latter was superior material to start with. I think. (ZnT has already been approved for a third season. Maybe I should reconsider.) I’m given to understand that there was a special circle in hell reserved for animators that ruin good stories, but it had to be demolished to make room for Michael Moore’s mansion. What can I say? Fat people need lots of room to roast in hell.

5. Worst Decision Not to Make a Hentai Series:
Not a seriously contested category, although this one sees Zero no Tsukaima and Goshuuso-sama Ninomiya-kun fighting it out for supremacy. The nod has to go to GSNK though, because ZnT’s main qualification is that they botched the story so badly, everyone (well, ok, everyone at Derailed by Darry) thought the only way to rescue it was to just make it a hentai story. GSNK, on the other hand, makes it perfectly clear by the end of the series that:

  • Ryoko and Mikihiru are definitely having an affair, and
  • …Ryoko has a furry fetish, and
  • …they have trysts in, er, inventive locations (I mean, unless you can come up with a better explanation for the costume and ferris wheel…)
  • Furthermore, Ryoko is lesbian-raping Reika–it wasn’t just a one-off joke.
  • Per Mayu, Reika likes it. (Aside: Just how accidental was it when she kissed Mayu? Remember, Reika is in such denial, she created a second personality.)
  • One of Reika’s personalities is perfectly willing to tie up Shungo and rape him.
  • Several other girls in the class like to tie up Shungo and cocktease him.
  • Mayu may still have androphobia, but one of her treatments involves writing words on Shungo’s back… with her breasts.

4. Worst Spaghetti Bowl of a Plot:
Oh, but there are so many contenders this year. Dragonaut, with its inane mishmash of Boy Angst, Romangst, Big Secrets, Coverups, Monsters, Mechas, and formulaic writing is a strong candidate, and might have taken it in any ordinary year. Goshuuso-sama Ninomiya-kun, with its whacky hijinks, head fakes, messed-up relationships, and thoroughly unbelievable ending would have had a chance, but blew it due to its insistence on telling the story it hinted at from the beginning. Shana II was a pretender to the title, without even enough crazy plotlines to take first runner-up from Code Geass. I came very close to giving this award to CG, but in the end, I decided against it, because the central plot is and has always been Lelouche’s crusade to destroy Brittania, make the world safe for Nunnally, and find out who assassinated his mother. All the confusion comes from the myriad of side plots.

No, the trophy for worst trainwreck of a series has to go the the one to go to the one involving multiple resets, inexplicable time loops, and insane twins: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni takes the prize for two years running. Just goes to show that the only thing more confusing than a bowl of spaghetti is untangling a bowl of spaghetti…

2. Worst Angstfest (or “who put romangst in my horror drama?)
Shakugan no Shana II. Cakewalk, baby. Like I said last year, maybe there’s more angsty shows out there, but they were supposed to be angsty. Look, if you must subject yourself to Shana II, just watch episodes 1 & 2, fast forward through 3, skip 4-8, watch 9 & 10, fast-forward through 11 & 12… you get the picture. If I saw one more overlay of hands being held in ep. 12, or if Shana had choked for .005 seconds longer in confessing to Yuuiji, something would have gotten smashed. Don’t even mention the schoolgirl angstfest in episodes 4 through 7. Just. Don’t.

1.Worst Disappointment:
And the top honor has to go to Shakugan no Shana II. No surprise, seeing that it picked up no less than three of the lesser awards. After an excellent start, it plunged off a cliff into a bottomless abyss of angst. The first series rated a B-; it would have been higher but the romangst drug it down. So what else could happen, but the second series decided to wallow in the weakest parts of the first series? What made it even worse, was that the writers had the sense to chop all that crap out of the movie — so they know it’s unnecessary to the story. As a result, the second series is everything the movie wasn’t, and all the bad parts of the first series, amplified, with almost none of the good parts. The only villains to go after the heroes so far have been even more disappointing than last year’s weaklings. There’s only been two battles worth mentioning (one happened 70 years ago), and the bad guys are just too weird to be fearsome. Where’s Friagné when you need him? Oh yeah, dead.

Writer’s Lesson #1: never make your best villain be the one you off in the first story arc.

Yes, please do. You, and Yoshida and Konoe too. Yuuiji needs to zip it too, and all of you get on with kicking Tomogara butt, instead of being a bunch of whiny teenagers.

And that, ladies and germs, is my Worst of 2007 list. May the winners offenders learn from their mistakes.

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